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Reviews : Arsenal

Glock 21

This .45 ACP auto pistol fights like a rabid rottweiler but recoils like a tame puppy.

June 01, 2002  |  by Roy Huntington

The arguments will go on ad nauseam until someone actually invents a phaser pistol. Is the 9mm as good as the .45 or not? And to further muddy this increasingly opaque stream of consciousness, how exactly does the .40 S&W fit into the great scheme of things, anyway?

The bottom line is almost always the same, though. Put a .45 into someone's hand and they feel like, well...they feel like they're holding a serious fighting pistol.

And that's probably why Glock brought out the Model 21 in, you guessed it, .45 ACP. The Model 21 was introduced about 10 years ago, but sometimes, old news is still good news.

Science and street shootings have pretty much proven the 9mm, .40, and .45 are about equal when used with high-performance ammo, but this isn't about logic. This is about what feels right, and a .45 can feel pretty good when the channel gets changed and you're not in Kansas anymore.

There’s something serious about that “.45 Auto” roll-mark on the Glock 21 slide.


Since taking the law enforcement community by storm in the early 1980s, Glock has continued to grace the holsters of cops of every rank and service. From their first steamroller sales efforts in the American market with the Models 19 and 17, to today's ultra-compact versions, Glocks have always been kind of different.

Plastic frames, squared-off slides and that "funny" trigger can take some getting used to. But when the dust settles, a Glock is still usually running just fine. You either love 'em or hate 'em and there are few "on the fence" types when you say Glock. Either duck, or hold your head high, as the case may be. In either case, a fair warning: If you love ivory grips and engraved blued-steel-look elsewhere.

As is the case with many of today’s semi-autos, the virtual “straight-in” feed angle makes feeding almost a sure thing on the Glock 21.

Out of the Box

Our test gun was a brand new Glock 21. Right out of the surprisingly chintzy box (thin, flexible plastic), it functioned well, with all the controls working in the proper order. Magazines were a bit tough to load at first but all smoothed out in that department as the test evolved.

What can be said about  Glocks that hasn't already been said before? They're black, they're plastic, they're authoritative, and, historically, they run as reliably as the 3:07 out of London's Victoria Station. When it comes to a duty semi-auto, all of these virtues make up the equation of the golden rule of gunfighting: It's gotta' work. Every time. Period.

Right off the bat, the girth of the slide was obvious. The 21 doesn't display the svelte lines of the 17 or the comfy carry options of the smaller 19. This is a brute of a handgun, and when you pick it up, you know you've got something serious in your hand. If you're petite or have munchkin-sized hands, stay away. The 21 is made for full-sized people. Having said that, however, we found smaller shooters could handle it, but most felt uncomfortable doing so and readily admitted it was simply too big for them to manage with a high level of confidence.

Of course, all that size pays dividends at times. The high grip and the fact the slide sits so low in a shooter's hand turns much of the 21's recoil impulse into a straight-back proposition with minimal muzzle flip. Combine these features with a slight frame-flex due to the polymer frame, and the broad back strap and suddenly the fearsome .45 is turned into a tame puppy. Recoil, even from stout 230 gr. .45 ACP loads, seemed soft and manageable.

Perhaps Glock reached the pinnacle of fit with the 17 because most models that followed often felt like compromises in fit in order to perform a certain function. That's not always bad, just reality. When you think of the Model 21, picture a Model 17-but pretend you "biggie-sized for an additional 79 cents."

Fit and finish are typical Glock. Black. The machined-steel slide is coated with a Glock "impervious to about everything" finish called "Tennifer" and most are then phosphate coated. The phosphate can, and usually does, wear off to leave a slight silvery-sheen to the slide. That's simply the natural color of the Tennifer and there is naught to worry about. If you simply can't live with it, Glock will refinish the slide and barrel for around $60.

There were one or two sharpish edges around the ejection port of the test gun, and the serrations on the rear of the slide were just a bit rough on the fingers. This is fairly typical of most Glocks and nothing that the judicious application of the corner of a stone or a Swiss file can't repair.

CONTINUED: Glock 21 «   Page 1 of 2   »

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Edward Shattuck @ 11/14/2016 11:39 AM

I'm glad I came across this article. It reinforced what I'd always thought about the 21. With so many articles focused on smaller handguns, this article was refreshing. There are still those among us who advocate the larger handguns and this article hit the spot nicely. It was straightforward and honest. It gave the reader the courtesy of being honest in it's evaluation. A great piece for anyone still interested in big bore carry.

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