The .45 ACP round has been experiencing a bit of a resurgence in popularity. Honestly, it is as much a move away from the .40 caliber, since the 9mm is also regaining a strong following. Improvements in bullet construction have made all pistol rounds more effective, meaning the other factors are more critical—shot placement, complete reliability and putting the biggest bullet on target effectively. For those interested in capacity, the 9mm is fast becoming the first choice, but for those looking to move up to a bigger bullet, the .45 ACP is king.
With this move comes a need for a combat-reliable pistol. For many, that means a full-sized pistol with the capacity of a double-stack magazine. Many of these pistols, especially in the 1911 platform, are expensive and not always well suited to practical carry. The most reliable of these tend to be the most costly, putting them out of reach for many shooters. The best choice is often a polymer-based pistol, and that’s where the Glock 21 certainly delivers. Having carried my first Glock 21 on the streets some 15 years ago, I know this pistol well, and that same pistol rides in an officer’s holster to this day. Though there have been several opportunities for him to trade it in for a newer gun, he’s rebuffed them all with great fervor. Why? Because it works, and that officer knows his life depends on it doing just that.
Glock 21 Gen4 Legacy & Future
For many, the Glock 21 is the quintessential high-capacity, .45 caliber combat pistol. It has proven reliable, accurate and indestructible. With a 13+1 capacity, it provides easily accessible firepower in a proven caliber. It maintains the ergonomics and simple practicality of all the Glock pistols, and accessories, holsters and spare magazines are plentiful. For those making the move up from the G22, the transition is simple and easy. Available with factory night sights, the G22 is ready out of the box for duty, the range or anywhere else. And all of this is at about half the cost of many high-capacity .45s.
“The real difference here is in the backstraps. Unlike many systems that require you to use one panel or another, the G21 Gen4 starts with no strap…”
The G21’s only real issue was its size. It is a bit larger, and those with small hands often have some difficulty controlling it. The Short Frame model helped, but the changes featured in the Glock 21 Gen4 were really what made the G21 accessible to more shooters, providing other enhancements. Handling a new Glock 21 Gen4 pistol, I first noticed the textured finish on the grip. It is a nice modification to the rougher versions of before and fits in the hand well. It just feels less abrasive while remaining solid.
Next was the magazine catch, which is not only easily reversible but also much more intuitive. I found it easier to access without needing to shift the pistol in my grip. The catch also remains flush with the grip, eliminating many of the accidental release issues many after-market parts present. It is about as close to perfect as it gets for this platform. The finger grooves on the frontstrap are nicely contoured with matching checkering. The frame is cut high into the triggerguard, allowing for a solid grip.
More Glock 21 Gen4 Features
The real difference here is in the backstraps. Unlike many systems that require you to use one panel or another, the G21 Gen4 starts with no strap. In my “keep it simple” world, this is perfect. Leaving the grip as-is provides the shortest trigger reach on this frame size to date, with nothing to come loose. If you prefer the Gen3 feel, you can simply add the medium strap. (A thicker strap is available for those with even bigger hands.) With no grip panel attached, this pistol fit me just about perfectly, so I completed all the testing in this configuration.
To round out the Gen4 package, Glock added a dual recoil spring assembly. This tends to tame how recoil feels to the hand and can add significant life to the springs. The sights provided were the base versions, a simple white-dot front and the white-outlined U-notch rear. A rail is molded into the frame to accept tactical lights. Three magazines were provided along with the commensurate reloading tool, as well as the two backstraps and a tool designed to remove the grip-strap pin. Lastly, the finish on the slide is a bit less shiny and slippery. It is more of a dull gray, which lends itself to the pistol’s no-nonsense purpose.
Glock 21 Gen4 Performance
All of the G21 pistols that I’ve shot over the years are very accurate. Short of the G20, the G21 pistol is the most accurate standard-equipped Glock for me. Testing this pistol proved to be no exception. G21s are just plain accurate and some of the easiest double-stack .45s to shoot well. The shorter trigger reach only made this better for me. I accomplished the best accuracy with the Winchester Ranger 230-grain SXT rounds, with a group measuring 1.7 inches with a cluster of four shots within about an inch. The G21 put everything into around 2 inches at 25 yards. Having had pistols at twice the price display equal or less accuracy, that is pretty impressive.
For me at least, the most noticeable advancement in this generation is the magazine catch. It may not be the most technical, but it is the most used, at least in training.
Where this pistol truly shines is on the move and under stress. This gun just ran and ran without any issues. It remains one of the softest-shooting .45 pistols out there, making it much easier to maintain accuracy on the move. The shorter reach allowed for easier trigger control, and the textured finish really locks this pistol nicely in my hand. Fired both with and without gloves, it was impossible to lose my grip on the gun. It was easy to get a good, solid grip out of the holster. I tested the G21 Gen4 from both a tactical thigh rig as well as a similar holster in an OWB-type carry mode. The draw was smooth, and the sights came up quickly. For those in need of tritium, the pistol can be ordered from the factory with night sights.
For me at least, the most noticeable advancement in this generation is the magazine catch. It may not be the most technical, but it is the most used, at least in training. In the past, magazine swaps required a pronounced shift of the pistol in my hand to get a solid release of the magazine. The Gen4 catch makes this unnecessary. Granted, my hands are pretty big, but the catch could be easily reached without a shift, facilitating very fast magazine changes. It does so without adding any pronounced protrusion, making unintentional magazine releases unlikely. The maga-zines all dropped free easily, empty or not. Loading to capacity was a bit stiff on the last round, but time and repetition will likely loosen the mags up a bit.
While attending the Glock 25th Anniversary Class at Gunsite, I was able to spend a day with a G21 Gen4 utilizing a medium grip panel. Rather than change someone else’s pistol, I shot it as is. It was flawless and very accurate, making it through one of the most round-intensive days of the Gunsite 250 class. I greatly anticipated the chance to set this pistol up for my needs and really put it through its paces. Of all the Glock platforms, this is the one most often used in my career as a police officer. The G21 has always been my favorite. Even without the shortened frame, it fit my hand better than any of the other pistols.
“Having never been a big fan of the “new and improved,” my opinion is different in the case of the G21…”
Shooting the Gen4 version was better. The shorter frame only enhanced my ability to shoot this pistol well. The new textured finish is just about right, providing a nice mix of aggressiveness without the commensurate abrasion. The standard trigger was predictable and controllable. The new magazine release is perfect for this gun. Having access without the need for a pronounced shift of the pistol in your hand is huge. It makes fast and positive magazine changes possible without losing sight of the threat. This was especially evident when shooting on the move. You could really just move, shoot, reload and continue as necessary, staying focused on the threat.
Having never been a big fan of the “new and improved,” my opinion is different in the case of the G21. Everything changed only enhances the capabilities of this fine pistol. If you are looking for a solid and dependable double-stack pistol in .45 ACP, make sure you take a look at this pistol—it is sure to impress! For more information, visit us.glock.com.