Gaston Glock: Inventor of popular handgun dies aged 94

Austrian billionaire Gaston Glock.
Image caption,Austrian billionaire Gaston Glock

By Annabelle Liang

Business reporter

Gaston Glock, the Austrian engineer who invented the Glock handgun, has died aged 94.

The Glock company said in a statement that its founder’s life’s work would “continue in his spirit”.

The weapon has been used by armed forces, security personnel, gun owners and criminals around the world.

Its rise was cemented by American pop culture and appearances in Hollywood blockbusters including science-fiction action film The Matrix Reloaded.

Despite the popularity of his creation, Glock has been described as a reclusive billionaire who spent most of his time at a lakefront estate in Austria.

He was rarely in the news, only making headlines when a book about his business was published in 2012, after a divorce from his first wife in 2011 and when a business associate tried to have him killed in the late 1990s.

In the latter incident, the hired attacker, a professional wrestler, beat him seven times on the head with a rubber mallet but Glock, then 70, fought back and managed to knock out his assailant.

“Gaston Glock charted the strategic direction of the Glock Group throughout his life and prepared it for the future,” the company said.

It added that its leader had “revolutionised the world of small arms” and “succeeded in establishing the Glock brand as the global leader in the handgun industry”.

A Glock pistol on sale in California.
Image caption,A Glock pistol

Glock, who was born in 1929, studied mechanical engineering at a college in Vienna. He later founded a consumer goods business in a town outside the Austrian capital.

In the early 1980s, the business branched into military supplies and answered a call from the Austrian army that was looking to update its pistols.

Glock designed and patented a lightweight 9-millimetre semiautomatic handgun, which could fire 18 rounds and be easily reloaded.

The gun gained a loyal following among military and police personnel worldwide.

Paul Barrett, the author of Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, wrote that the weapon had become “the Google of modern civilian handguns: the pioneer brand that defines its product category”.

Forbes estimated Glock’s personal fortune at $1.1bn (£863m) in 2021.

The Glock also found a place in US pop culture. “Get yourself a Glock and lose that nickel-plated sissy pistol,” actor Tommy Lee Jones said in the 1998 movie US Marshals.

American rappers Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan also worked the gun into their rhymes.

The weapon was also featured in Hollywood blockbusters including action films Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and The Matrix Reloaded.

A scene from The Matrix Reloaded
Image caption,Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix Reloaded featured the Glock

Over the years, gun-control advocates have criticised Glock for popularising a weapon which was easy to conceal, all while holding more ammunition than similar guns.

It has received its share of controversy. The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was found by US soldiers hiding with a Glock in a hole in the ground in 2003.

In 2018, a US Marine Corps veteran with suspected mental health issues killed 12 people in a busy bar in California, including a policeman.

Ian David Long legally owned a Glock semi-automatic handgun, which had an extended magazine that is illegal in the state of California.

Meanwhile, a US gun company faced backlash for producing a customised Glock pistol that looked like a children’s toy made of Lego.

Glock rarely responded to criticism from gun control campaigners. He also refused to join other weapon manufacturers who signed a voluntary gun control deal with the US government in 2000.

He is survived by his wife, a daughter and two sons.

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