Sunday, December 27, 2015

Between a Glock and a Hard Place - The Glock 21 in .45

I'll be honest. I had never been a fan of guns made out of polymer. But then I added a little S & W to the stable and liked it, and heard the praises of the Glocks from many of my colleagues.
When I saw my first Glock as a young woman back in the late 80's, the 1911 style .45 auto was THE defensive pistol to have when things went south in a hurry. I still felt that way most days, so when one of the Indy gun bloggers first brought one of the smaller Glocks to the range I had to try it.

I wasn't sure what to think.  I mean, It's PLASTIC.  When I thought of going to a gun show and buying one and coming home with friends asking "what did you get!" all I could think of is the Charlie Brown Halloween special . . .(heavy sigh) "I got a GLOCK".  Because frankly folks, to me anyway, most plastic guns have the the aesthetic appeal of a sippy cup.  Face it, I love revolvers. I love 1911's  I love a gun with some character. I love old weapons, period. I love tools as well. Put a wood handled tool in my hand and I just want to craft something with it or at least take a chunk out of one of my fingers so I can practice some new words in the shop.
But I love such things. Especially guns lovingly crafted with steel and rosewood, intricately machined forgings, polished flats and arcs cleanly intersecting, beautiful bluing and straw tempering, it is hard to find anything in a plastic pistol that speaks to me. Give me something made of fired steel and sweat, to be carried through generations, passed on from father to son, older brother to little sister, mother to daughter.
The history of personal weapons is one of honor, family, sacred duty, prestige and adornment. Warriors were buried with their swords, or they were handed down through generations. I have blades forged hundreds of years ago, as sharp as the day they were made. Somehow a personal weapon with the soul of toaster oven seems wrong. Besides, when you draw that 1911, John Moses Browning is probably looking over your shoulder, smiling.

I wasn't a fan of those first Glocks I fired, only for the feel of the grip than the quality or the handling. But then I got a chance to shoot one of their Glock 21's.  It soon made its way to the Range to make a home because frankly, compared to Glock's I'd fired, the 21 was still a barrel of fun but it didn't have that "blocky" feel to the grip I sensed in other models I'd tried with hands which have a small palm, but really long fingers. I was also a much more impressed with the trigger pull than on other models I'd tried.   Honestly, the first day out, the 1911 started to get jealous as I couldn't put the Glock 21 down.
I've always been a fan of single action automatics rather than striker fire, but if you are too, this firearm may change your mind.

This is not a small firearm.  The Glock 21 weighs in heavier than other full sized Glocks at a little over 29 ounces but that is still relatively lightweight for a .45.  If you want to compare - the 9 mm Beretta 92 in 9 mm, a common service pistol, weighs around 34 ounces and offers 15 rounds of the less effective 9 mm cartridge.  The average full sized 1911 weights in at around 36 ounces, giving the 1911 nearly a half of a pound more recoil-absorbing weight without additional size.

Like many large frame 45's the size of the Glock 21 might limit its usefulness as a concealed carry piece for someone of my build or smaller.  My 5 ' 8 female frame doesn't have enough real estate (except for those large "tracts of lands" which don't help for concealed purposes) to carry it very discretely.

I can manage with a loose fitting jacket (as I won't carry striker fired in pocket or purse, only holstered.) Still being chambered in .45 ACP with a magazine capacity of 13 rounds, its purpose for me is self defense in the home but it would work very well for someone with a larger build than I for concealed carry. I'm happy to have it nearby. Should someone kick in our door one night, this firearm, with laser sights, is within hands reach. Going shopping or running errands outside of the big city, on my frame, I'm more likely to carry something with a bit smaller frame and simple iron sights.
Size wise the grip is slightly wider (front to back)  than your typical M1911 and the thickness is a little less than the usual M1911, and you can really tell the difference if you compare the profiles of the Glock against other 45's.   This is likely due to the double stack magazine, which requires quite a bit of space resulting in a grip cross section that is more square than that of a single stack magazine firearm.  That gives is a perimeter that's roughly .87" larger than the M1911 (ignoring the ergonomic ridges).  As a complete surprised after feeling the grips of other Glocks I was really pleased with how it felt in my hand.  I love my M1911 but even with fairly large hands for a female, it just didn't feel quite "meaty" enough so that my hand fell in the right position.  The extra perimeter of the Glock 21 grip put my trigger finger in the right position without any special maneuvering, cursing or checking on the phase of the moon. It's an extremely comfortable fit.
The exterior appearance goes for functionality rather than looks with a matte black finish on the metal parts and texture molded into grips. The upgraded sights show up well against the dark slide. The inserts glow brightly in low light, so much so that I can spot it from it's  bedside hidey place easily when the lights are out.  Laser sights were added.  That being said, they weren't sights made for a Glock 21, but rather, the 17, 19, 22, 23, 34 and 35 from the fine folks at Crimson Trace.  After a hot date with an exacto knife and some custom files it had a laser sight that works great. However, for the average lay person out there - I'm going to make the standard disclaimer that I recommend seeing a professional gunsmith for modifications :-)

Functionally, there isn’t much in the way of exterior controls. You have a slide release and a mag release in the normal positions plus the take-down catches just in front of the trigger. The slide release is slightly smaller than on the M1911 but was big enough to be usable.  One thing I did not particularly like was that the slide stop sits a bit more flush against the frame than I expected making it a little bit harder to depress than small framed guns.  I might consider replacing this with an extended slide stop from a company such as TangoDown. The mag release button is sizable and easy to find without looking. Both are rounded enough to keep them from snagging on anything while being drawn.
Out of the box it functioned perfectly but I was not surprised as Glock has earned its reputation for a reliable firearm, which is why they are a favorite among Law Enforcement Officers..

The point of impact is aligned with the top of the sight at about 15 yards, slightly lower at shorter ranges, but not enough to bother compensating.  It's easy to point and quite accurate as evidenced by a two or three inch group at 15 yards straight out of the gate.  Naturally the groups open up considerably when stringing shots, but it’s easily accurate enough to shoot steel or use for personal protection.
The muzzle flip is pretty standard, though it does vary every so slightly over the course of a magazine because of the difference in weight when empty as opposed to being loaded with 13 rounds. Even at its most severe it’s more controllable than your typical compact 45.

The trigger is much better than I had expected.  The stroke was smooth and quite light, the break was very clean and the difference in resistance between the two was enough to allow two very distinct motions. By the time I had reloaded the second magazine, the act of drawing the trigger back and holding it just before the break felt so natural that it required no thought at all and I was able to switch back and forth between this and a single action trigger without hesitation.
I tried it out first with some standard velocity JHP loads.  Though a standard pressure round, it is still pretty hardy, with more muzzle velocity than the standard .45 ACP ball ammo.  The published ballistics claim a muzzle velocity of 935 fps, with a muzzle energy of 446 food pounds.  So after shooting I can probably say if you are a new shooter, you might wish to avoid +P ammo (or other loads in this higher power range) until you've got some rounds through it and time with it.  I've fired several kinds of ammo through it with no big difference in feeding or operation and outside of getting whacked in the forehead by a piece of flying brass a time or two it's been used without a hiccup.  The accuracy, there before the laser sights, was still well above and beyond what I got with my little .380 that day I first did a plinking with the Range 21.
Field stripping and cleaning is very straightforward. The first time I field stripped and cleaned my Ruger Mark 3 (my all time favorite .22), I was about ready to call the Dr. Phil Show for emotional help.

"This thing has more parts than I imagined?"

The Glock 21, however,  was extremely easy to field strip and clean.

Simply drop the magazine, check that the chamber is empty, check that the chamber is empty again, point in a safe direction (which is NOT your Single Malt Liquor Supply) and pull the trigger. Then pull the slide back slightly to take the pressure off the stop.
Pull down on both of the takedown catches located forward of the trigger and move the slide forward until it comes off. The spring, guide rod and barrel come right out of the slide and you have access to almost everything for cleaning. If you want to detail strip, you can and there is some good information online for the details. But for the occasional use, and considering the abuse Glocks just gobble up - you can manage most days by a simple field strip, swabbing the barrel and cleaning the rest out with a little CLP, making sure everything that should be oily - is. Note:  Not all cleaners are suitable for polymers.  Do your homework before trying different products.

Reassembly is even easier. Once you get the barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring back into the slide, just put the slide on the front of the frame and pull it all the way back. That's it!
Now for the personal preferences:

It's minor but it was still a bit of a detractor.  The magazine loader has a small lip in the front that keeps cartridges from engaging the lip of the magazine adequately, at least on my firearm. One minute with a pocket knife and you can put a notch into this which made it much easier fill the magazines.
Physical Safeties.  This is strictly MY personal opinion but something to be aware of if you are new to  defensive firearms. The lever in the trigger is not a true physical safety -  it is a drop safety intended to prevent inertia from moving the trigger if you drop the pistol. Glock pistrols are designed with three independent safety mechanisms to prevent accidental discharge.  The Glock safe-action trigger (which is actually a pretty nifty design) preps when you rack the slide, with the trigger forward under pressure.  The strike (firing pin) will be partially cocked at that point.  If you continue to press the trigger, the striker presses to the rear, braking against the spring pressure, thus flying forward and BANG.  As the slide recoils, the action partially preps the striker. Without this action the next trigger pull will not result in BANG. (Note  - You do have to move the slide if you get a hard primer that doesn't fire.)  Overall - it's very reliable and easy to learn, and it's always said that the true safety is between the ears.  But it's imperative that you keep you finger away from the trigger until ready to fire and carry it in a proper manner where it can't catch on something as it is drawn.
Does the fact that the firearm has no safety make it unsafe? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I own a number of non lawyer-ed firearms.  You just have to be cognizant that ANYTHING that pushes the trigger can discharge the firearm.  You count on your holster to keep the trigger from being pressed and you count on your trigger finger not to start twerking to where you end up shooting something you had no intention of shooting. (which includes ugly furniture, the yappy dog next door, or yourself and that only goes downhill from there, with you ending up in a YouTube video telling everyone how you shot yourself -assuming you didn't hit an artery which involves Darwin and not YouTube)

Again - I happily have one and will carry one, just make sure you understand your firearm in every aspect so that you can operate and carry it in the safest manner possible.
To sum up - had I fired a Glock 21 before earlier models I would have gotten one a lot sooner. It's an extremely  "shootable" piece that's built to be a reliable work horse.   It's very low maintenance, and the recoil is very manageable for .45, for either large or small framed shooters.  For shooters that don't have a lot of upper body strength, the slide is really easy to grasp and doesn't require The Incredible Hulk hands to work. If you've shot the 9 mm variants -  your transition should be pretty seamless. If you've said "no thanks" because you've got shorter fingers or small hands and had difficulty finding a good "fit" on other .45's you'll find this model has that slightly smaller grip made just for you.  The difference is small, but it is noticeable.

Another sale factor for me is where I might carry it and use it.  If you've looked at the YouTube reviews of the Glocks they have put them all sorts of torture tests on how many rounds you can fire without cleaning, what how much mud and sand and brownie batter (you've never camped with me have you?) it will eat without jamming and other types of wear and abuse that are far greater than what you experience in real life. Some of the silliness aside, if you are going to spend a lot of time outdoors, where your sidearm is going to be exposed to the elements and go for an extended period of time without a detailed cleaning, you can be pretty well assured the Glock won't let you down.  It's going to be one of my "go to" firearms for the outdoor/survival kit.