How Glock Became America's Favorite Legal Handgun

The handgun has been made popular by movies and television shows

ByABC News
December 19, 2012, 3:38 PM

March 22, 2013 — -- In an ad for one of America's most popular handguns, an attractive girl in tight pajamas settles in for a cozy night of TV, but -- cue the creepy music -- a scary man lurks outside. She grabs her Glock and the tension builds.

In the real world, one study found that women living with a gun were almost three times more likely to be shot to death while, in 2010, women were 16 times more likely to be killed by men they knew than by strangers.

But in the world according to Glock, just the sight of their fearsome weapon is enough to roll the invading stranger's eyes back in his head without even firing a shot.

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Glock's ad has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times online to mostly rave reviews in the comment section of YouTube. But in reality, this is a company that doesn't really need to advertise at all, for Glock is already America's favorite so-called "super gun" among good guys and bad, on screen and off.

It got Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval in "End of Days" and Tommy Lee Jones' in "U.S. Marshals."

In the '90s, Tupac Shakur was among the many rappers who sang the glories of Glock before the brand was used to murder him at age 25.

Rep. Gabby Giffords not only was shot by a Glock in Tucson, but she still carries one of her own.

Adam Lanza carried a Glock into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and it is also the standard-issue weapon of the FBI and around 65 percent of American cops.

What Colt and Remington were to America's Wild West, Glock is to this country's violent present. Its rise in popularity is a lesson in how difficult gun control reform could be, going forward.

It all began in the early 1980s in the suburbs of Vienna, Austria, when Gaston Glock decided to move from making knives and curtain rods in his garage metal shop to making guns for the Austrian army. He had never made a pistol before, so he asked expert shooters what they wanted. The result was a game-changing design.

By using composite plastic instead of steel, Glock created a weapon that is light and tough, with a very easy trigger pull and no cumbersome, thumb activated external safety, instead using a safer and easier to use trigger safety. His early models could hold 17 bullets, almost three times as many as the typical revolver, and when it hit the U.S. market in the 1980s, Glock made the decision to first offer them to police departments just when the crack cocaine wars were heating up and cops felt vulnerable.

"Cops were being outgunned in the subways and the streets and so, when I was the chief of the subway police, I fought very vigorously to get that weapon, the semiautomatic, to transit police," said Bill Bratton, a former New York, Los Angeles and Boston police commissioner.

The other group that showed early interest was Hollywood prop masters, who loved Glock's futuristic look. As author Paul Barrett wrote his book, "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun," shootouts on the set of "Law and Order" were soon featuring the new Austrian import.

"Some of the American companies were a little more persnickety, wanting to know, 'Well, will our guns be in the hands of good guys or only bad guys?' and Glock just said, 'Go ahead, put it in the movies,'" Barrett said.