Sunday, October 28, 2007

Glock Model 21 SF
The Glock Model 21 SF is Glock’s Commander sized .45 ACP service pistol. The SF stands for Short Frame which is somewhat of a misnomer. To be technically correct they should have designated it the SGF for short grip frame. Many people, me included, have not been happy with the grip on the Glock pistols and the SF partially corrects this (more on that later). Glock has made a virtual handgun empire by providing reliable, high capacity handguns aimed at military service and law enforcement duty. The Glock model 17 gave the user a magazine capacity of 19 rounds of 9mm + one in the chamber for a total of 20 bullets at your immediate disposal. Along with capacity and reliability the frame is made from an advanced polymer formula that renders them very lightweight and nearly indestructible. Naturally, civilian interest is always very high regarding any pistol that the police and armed services are using. The high capacity quicly became a niche for Glock. The Big Dog of magazine capacity for many years was the 9mm Browning Hi-Power whose magazine held 13 rounds + 1 in the chamber. At that time the standard police sidearm was a six round revolver. I was working on the west side of Chicago in the early 80’s and saw many a 10th District street cop who sported a Hi-Power as a back up to their Smith & Wesson sixgun. The 9mm Beretta Model 92 then began to gain prominence with its 15 +1 capacity. First the military and then police departments gravitated to the Beretta. Sixteen rounds was a fair amount of firepower for a handgun plus the Beretta’s double action operation was favored by both entities. The military carried the 1911 with the hammer down on an empty chamber. To be put into use the soldier needed two free hands to be able to rack a round into the chamber. However, frequently the other hand could not be readily used because it was holding a rifle, other gear, an injured comrade, or the hand or arm itself had been wounded. Beretta’s double action mode of operation allowed it to be carried with a round in the chamber and could be put into action with only one hand. Up to this point law enforcement had stayed away from semi-auto pistols for a variety of reasons one of which was that they did not want to carry the pistol with an unloaded chamber and the only alternative method for the Browning Hi-Power or the Colt Model 1911 was to chamber a round and engage the manual safety to lock the hammer in the rearward position, thus “cocked and locked”. Cocked and locked was misunderstood by the general public who viewed the police officer as carrying the pistol in an unsafe manner (which was patently untrue) but the police neither wanted to suffer this perception nor spend all of their time explaining the mechanics of a single action semi-automatic pistol. Again the double action Beretta model 92 solved this problem.

When Glock first arrived on the scene in the mid-1980’s the predominant .45 pistol was the time tested Colt 1911 with a magazine capacity of 7 rounds (8 if you could get your hands on one of the scarce Wilson stainless steel mags). Glock’s model 21 brought a capacity of 13 in the magazine with one in the chamber and suddenly you had a double action pistol with the firepower of a Browning Hi-Power chambered in the more effective .45 ACP caliber. The drawback was the grip frame. The .45 ACP is a large cartridge which means that a 13 round double stacked magazine will require a large grip frame. Many people found the G21 a little too large to comfortably hang on to. Recently Glock has realized that a great many .45 shooters were procuring their pistols and then spending a lot of cash to have a professional shave down the grip. Quite a cottage industry has sprung up with individuals who have perfected the means to decrease the size and straighten the grip angle. The width and the severity of the angle have been my main problem with Glocks. The model 21SF addresses half of the problem by reducing some of the wasted space on the front and back of the grip and making it much easier to get a normal sized hand around. Unfortunately the grip angle remains the same. Regardless, I had such great success with the smaller Glock model 36 that I decided to give the model 21 a try.

Although my hand could tell the difference between the 21 and the 21SF this is still a large pistol all the way around. A double stack 13 round magazine is just going to require a large grip. On my first outing with the G21 I did not have the time to spend an extensive amount of time with it but walked away thinking that the small model 36 shot much better than this. At 21 feet 50 rounds when into a 4.5 inch circle. If the target had been set at 75 feet this would have been an acceptable group, but not at 7 yards.

Remembering that the model 36 shot just OK until I put on some fiber optic sights, I ordered a set for the model 21 from Midway USA. Along with it I splurged on a match barrel from Wilson Combat Technologies that was also listed on the Midway website. Wilson’s website boasted that this barrel would produce groups of substantially less than 2 inches at 25 yards. “Well”, I thought. That would put the put this pistol in the league with the finest custom 1911s costing two grand more than the retail price of the model 21.
Well…as they say; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. I put 750 rounds of ammo through it (which, with the way prices have skyrocketed is about $300.00 just for FMJ ammunition) before throwing in the towel. On the final day, I took along the original barrel and I will admit the Wilson barrel did outperform the stock barrel, but not by much. I also took along a completely stock (except for the stag grips) S&W 1911 PD for comparison. The targets shown below represent the best accuracy of the day at 21 feet.

As a point of reference, here are targets from the model 36 I shot for last week's range report. Both targets were set at 21 feet.

Here is the first G21SF target, with the stock Glock barrel, fired at 21 feet. 10 rounds each were fired at the center and lower left and lower right cross hairs:

Here is the second target, same distance, same number of rounds, with the Wilson match barrel in the pistol:

Now, one might say that the rear sights could stand to be moved to the right. They had been and even if they hadn't the pistol still did not group well.

Below is 8 rounds from the stock S&W 1911PD fired on the same day and at the same distance:

And, as another reminder, here is the best group from the Sig P220 Elite Carry fired a couple of weeks ago for another range report:

Now one might say, "Hey Randy, the 1911 PD and the Sig P220 Elite Carry are rather expensive pistols and you should expect more from them than you would the Glock". My response is that by the time you add the cost of the Tru Glo fiber optic sights and the Wilson match barrel you have reached the same cost plateau.

So, why would I want to keep the G21 in my battery? The answer is that I don't and it has already been traded away.