Austria: Armed for Business

In the Alpine Republic, gun ownership is heavily regulated, while its producers are happy to ship around the world

News | Grigory Borodavkin | June 2011

When you think of Austrian exports, what are the first things that pop into your mind? Sausages? Beer? Those little round chocolates with Mozart’s portrait on the foil cover? All of these are valid answers.

But if you didn’t think of the Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol with short recoil, locked breech and a tilting barrel, possessing an effective range of slightly over 50 meters and the possibility of inserting up to a 33 shot clip, you are seriously missing out. It’s light, compact, plastic (making metal detectors irrelevant) and has the capability to fire in burst mode. It’s the gun that makes you feel safe – unless you don’t own one, that is.

Glock. It’s a name brandished in intimidating rap lyrics, flashed on the silver screen in the flawlessly manicured hands of movie stars and, hopefully, kept neatly holstered by New York’s finest, not to mention Special Forces teams in more than a dozen countries around the World. And with the announcement that the company plans to release two brand new Generation 4 models in 2011, made during this years "Shot Show", it looks as though the sky’s the limit for Glock Ges. M.b.H.

"When I placed the grip of a G-21 in my hand for the first time, I knew I had found something special," declares Mark Rogers, a blogger on the resource. "The gun was not flashy, but black, blocky and without pretense. There was no wasted buttons, bells or whistles."

Constructed by Austrian engineer Gaston Glock in the early eighties, this light semi-automatic pistol became a godsend for American law enforcement at a time when the lucrative crack-cocaine trade was in full swing, and criminals were armed better than the authorities. Quickly becoming the perfect substitute to the heavy steel-barrel-wooden-grip six shooters that were uniform, the gun satisfied a need, landing Glock their most profitable account to date – the U.S. Government.

The efficiency and deadlines of the weapon has granted it a cult following over the years, as the Internet grew abundant with websites dedicated solely to the gun, coining the phrase "In Glock We Trust."

With all of these satisfied customers, spanning from state governments to conspiracy theory-fueled militias, it is no surprise that there had been a couple of, how should I put this, "bad apples"?  Apart from Saddam Hussein clutching onto the G-19 model while hiding in his cave (the gun was later framed and put on display by President George W. Bush), it has also been used in the Virginia Tech massacre by Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in 2007 and by Steven Kazmierczak in Northern Illinois University in 2008, where five were slain.

The most recent instant of the Glock being used in a brutal rampage was the Jan. 8 shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, that saw six people shot to death, including a Federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and 14 more wounded.

Today, Giffords, a fellow Glock owner, is recovering slowly from a bullet to the brain that probably ended her political career. Shooter Jared L. Loughner had gone to a Sportsman’s Warehouse on Nov. 30 and purchased the Glock-19 for $499, which he later used in the devastation of Jan.8.

Cho of Virginia Tech got his within a month, even though it wasn’t a secret to any of his peers that he was a deeply disturbed individual. The ease with which Austrian guns can be purchased in the United States, but which require strenuous psychological tests to own back home, forms an awkward picture of a Austria’s  double standard when it comes to arms proliferation.

The United States and the European Union have imposed rigorous arms proliferation restrictions on countries where the weapons might fall in to the hands of human rights abusers, terrorism supporters or passed on to "undesirable end-users." Regions like Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Eastern and Central Asia are designated as the no-go areas, but the "undesirable end-users" at home don’t seem to be considered an issue worth dealing with.

Over 70,000 "pocket rockets," as they are referred to by Glock enthusiasts and gun salesmen, are manufactured in the U.S. alone, with approximately 77,000 more being imported from Austria, making it the second largest EU firearms dealer, with a whopping $87 million (€61.5 million) earned annually, falling short only of Italy, that enjoys a $200 million (€141 million) revenue each year. According to, the EU has a 16.6% slice of the $2 billion (€1.4 billion) arms market in the United States, where 44 million people own 200 million firearms (15% of the population). In the days following the tragedy of Jan. 8, gun sales have skyrocketed.

The day after the shooting, some 263 pistols were sold in Arizona, constituting a 60% increase in state sales and 5% increase nationally, compared to the previous year, according to FBI records obtained by Bloomberg. But the superstar of the sales spike has proven to be the Glock. Its famed 33-shot clip alone – the clip that Loughner used – has seen a 400% spike. Apparently, there is nothing like a senseless massacre to increase gun sales, as the same thing happened after both the Virginia Tech and Illinois shootings.

The latest incident, combined with a fragile economy and a Democratic President who is threatening to crack down on gun rights, seems to inspire fearful collectors to run down to their local gun store and stock up while they still can. It becomes quite clear that arms dealers are not in the "morality of proliferation" business; they’re in the gun sales business.

And business is a-booming.


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