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New Glock, more sock: the 21SF put .45 ACP power in a frame that more shooters will find to their liking.

In the early 1980s, law enforcement was afire with the latest thing: pistols in 9mm. No longer would a police officer have a six-shot revolver. He (or she) could walk the streets with a reliable pistol. Glock had just thrown gasoline on that fire in the form of the G-17 when it all came to a screeching halt.

On April 11, 1986, FBI agents attempted to apprehend two armed bank robbers. When the dust had cleared, the robbers were dead, as were two agents, with five more injured. Based on the incident, the FBI would have no more to do with the 9mm and instead placed its confidence in the 10mm. Everyone scrambled to make a suitable pistol. Glock designers essentially scaled up the G- 17, and while they were at it they offered the same size pistol in two calibers: 10mm and .45 ACE Shooters were not entirely pleased because the larger pistols were too big for all but those with the largest hands.

The faith the FBI had in the 10mm was not well-founded, but not because the 10mm or the Glock was lacking. No, the problem was that FBI agents aren't gunmen, and asking them to qualify with the full-power 10mm was asking too much. By the time the FBI scaled back its power (originally, a 200-grain bullet at 1,200 fps) to a manageable level, the .40 S&W was born, and the race was on.

During the decades of the 1990s, no one--not even Glock--could make enough .40 caliber pistols to satisfy the demand. Glock focused on making .40 pistols for law enforcement and those carrying for defense and left the models G-20 (the 10mm) and the G-21 (the .45) to languish.

During that time, if you wanted a Glock in .45 and didn't have "strangler's hands" you could send your G-20 or G-21 off to Robar and have the frame whittled down--thereby voiding the gun's warranty. Through all that time Robar was kept busy because there are a number of shooters who don't want just a ".45 Lite" (as the .40 was termed by some back then); they want the real thing.

Glock recognized that, and once it had a chance to catch up in .40s it offered the .45 GAP as an alternative. Many were pleased. After all, the .45 GAP is a .45 caliber cartridge in a G17/22 frame. However, the armed forces were not among those pleased. In military circles, there is only one .45, and it's spelled ACE

During the on-again/off-again military trials to replace the current Beretta 9mm sidearm, military specs called for a solid, reliable .45 pistol. In an effort to make the cut for the trials, Glock had to make the changes it would have made in 1990 if the .40 S&W hadn't burst on the scene. I don't blame Glock for the delay; the company did what the market asked back then. But now people want .45s again, and this time Glock is ready.

At first glance, the 21SF (SF stands for Short Frame) is a bit odd. If you're used to seeing and handling a G-22, the 21SF looks a bit large, but not too much so. If you're used to shooting and handling a G-21, the 21SF looks like someone shrank it from too much heat in the dry cycle.

At the SHOT Show back in February, I was practically dragged into the Glock booth by someone who exclaimed breathlessly "It feels like a G-22!"

It is close, real close, but it isn't a G-22. It is, however, a whole lot easier to wrap your hands around than a G-21. When gauging the size of any pistol, you should use your own hands as a reference point or scale. Grasp the pistol in question in your firing grip and notice how much your thumb overlaps your second finger, if at all.

For me, the reference point is a 1911 with standard grips. With that gun, I can get the tip of my thumb to the first knuckle of my finger. With a G-22, my thumb falls to the same spot, so for my hands the 1911 and the Glock 22 are the same diameter. The G-21SF is a bit larger, and the tip of my thumb comes a quarter-inch short of where it does with a 1911 or the G-22.

In effect, the 21SF is a 1911 with fat grips. The original G-21? It's all I can do to get my thumb to touch my finger. So the G-21SF is really close but not the same as the G22--which is great news because that "1911 with fat grips" holds 13 rounds instead of the seven or eight that a 1911 holds. So for the same size as a very slightly portly 1911 you get twice the ammo. What's not to like?

While they were at it, Glock engineers tended to other aspects of their design. The G-21SF has an ambidextrous magazine release-not just one that can be switched but one that works from either side. To get that, they had to change the magazines.

The new 21SF magazines have a new locking slot, on the front of the tube. The buttons pivot the latch out of that slot. The tubes also have the old-style locking slot, so they will work on the many G-21 pistols out there, but the old magazines won't work in the new 21SE When I mentioned that to one of my test-fire crew his reply was classic: "Yeah, like Glock magazines are so expensive it will break the bank to buy new ones."

My G-21SF came with three magazines. Guns sold to law enforcement will come with three mags, and commercially sold guns will come with two.

Another change is a Picatinny-spec rail on the frame. Unlike the previous rail, the new rail meets all the dimensional standards for mil-spec attachments. Not that the older rails won't, but this one is a full-on Picatinny rail, so you needn't worry.

Interestingly, I have some early Glock promotional material for the 21SF that shows the pre-production prototypes or photo samples using the earlier Glock raft.

Another change is the box. Gone are the old frozen-TV-dinner polymer boxes; Glock has now given us a case with latches and a lockable handle. That may not matter to some, but those of us who travel and use the box handle aS a locking method, the new case is a plus.

The rest? Unchanged. The finger grooves and the molded-in checkering, the extractor-as-loadedchamber-indicator, the Tenifer finish-all remain the same.,

Of interest is the serial number: LDZ999. No "US" suffiX, and if Glock has faithfully followed the serial number sequence, this is at least number 8,115,999 in the production of Glocks. (Maybe even a lot higher, depending on how many custom serial numbers they did for various armies and police agencies.) I have to take my hat off to Gaston Glock; making more than 8 million of anything that requires hand assembly at the end of the production line in a 20-year period is quite impressive.

One need not take 8 million practice runs at something to get good at it. Indeed, Glock had it right from the beginning, as no one has faulted the pistols for reliability. And so it was with this one. I had only a short time to spend with it before the implacable deadline arrived, but I did my best.

I made severe dent in my .45 ACP supply and managed to create nearly 2,000 once-fired empties as well as a bunch of many-fired empties from my reload stash. In all that time the 21SF never failed to feed and failed to fire only once. There I cannot blame it, as that one round was from a bin of ammo that had already failed to go off after one attempt.

All in the box except that one ignited on the second attempt. Before anyone jumps on this and says "Ah-ha!" let me note that the failures to fire came from attempting to fire that ammo in another pistol, not the Glock. The 21SF actually succeeded where another brand had failed.

In testing I spent a lot of time pounding the falling plate rack, where I had no problems in taking the plates over back to about 25 yards or so. At that distance the smaller eight-inch plates started sneering at me. Many have fawned over the accuracy of Glock pistols, but I can't say I'm in that camp.

The 9mms are often spectacularly accurate. I have a G-17 that I use to win bets on shooting at (and hitring) 75- and 100-yard steel plates. But the other calibers have not greatly impressed me--although perhaps I've been spending too much time lately with high-end custom pistols. Still, the 21SF was quite able to print three- to four-inch groups at 25 yards off a rest. Since a group that size appears smaller than the width of the front sight, you'd have to be very picky indeed to complain.

I'm not complaining, just noting that I wasn't able to shoot any one-hole groups. I imagine that swapping the 5 1/2-pound connector for a 3 1/2-pound connector might have made the task a bit easier, but I'd be happy using a 51/2 connector in a tool used to whack bad guys.

Will there be a 20SF? Will there be ambidextrous mag releases for all the other models? Historically Glock is mum about future products, and the company personnel offered not even a hint on those two questions.

So what conclusion should we draw from the testing and study? First, if you have holsters and mag pouches for a 21, you can use them with the new 21SE as the only real change is in the back of the frame. While you can't use your old magazines in the new pistol, new mags will work in both, so stock up on new ones.

The reliability is everything you've come to expect from Glock, and the accuracy is certainly plenty good enough even for a picky gun writer like me. As the rest of the pistol is unchanged, you can shop 'til you drop on accessories for your new 21SF or use the existing ones you have for an old 21 to your heart's content. Should you get one? That depends. If you think the best handgun for use in a gunfight is one whose caliber designation begins with a "4," then yes.

If you adhere to the old rock 'n roll credo of "Some is good, more is better, too much is not enough," then yes. If you are a left-handed shooter who wants a big-bore pistol, then definitely yes. And if you always wanted a .45 ACP Glock, but your hands just weren't large enough for the old 21, then yes-right now.

I'm a member of the first two groups, and a Glock 21SF is now on my shopping list.

Glock 21SF

Type: recoil-operated, drop-barrel semiauto Caliber: .45 ACP Capacity: 13+ 1 Weight: 26.3 oz. Barrel length: 4.6 in. Overall length: 7.6 in. Width: 1.3 in. Height: 5.5 in. Trigger: DAO Safe Action System, 5.5-lb. pull Grips: stippled polymer Finish: Tenifer Sights: Fixed Price: $592 Manufacturer: Glock USA,, (770) 432-1202

                                      Avg.            Avg.
.45 ACP Ammo Type                Velocity (fps)   Group (in.)

Black Hills Blue 185-grain JHP         946            3.0
Magtech 165-grain SCHP               1,032            3.5
Corbon 230-grain FMJ                   712            3.0
Corbon 185-grain DPX                 1,042            4.0
Black Hills Red 185-grain JHP          960            3.5
Wolf 230-grain FMJ                     782            4.0
Armscor 230-grain FMJ                  783            4.0
Hornady 230-grain FMJ                  811            3.5

Notes: Velocities are averages of five shots recorded 15 feet from the
muzzle. Accuracy tested off a sandbag rest; results are averages of
three five-shot groups at 25 yards.
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Author:Sweeney, Patrick
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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