Gaston Glock's Model 17 9mm Parabellum pistol was first
introduced to the Ametican public by Soldier of Fortune
magazine almost six years ago (see
"Plastic Perfection," SOF, October '84). Since that
time more than 2,000 U.S. local and federal law enforcement
agencies have adopted or authorized the Glock as duty
weapons. In addition to Austria, the armed forces of
both Norway and the Netherlands have adopted the Glock.
Law enforcement agencies and military units in Belgium,
Canada, Ecuador, Hong Kong, India, Jordan, the Philippines,
Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela and West Gennany issue
the Glock as their standard sidearm. Tens of thousands
have been sold to the American public, and hundreds of
thousands have been sold worldwide.
Now, at long last, this highly acclaimed handgun has been
chambered for America's justifiably famous .45 ACP
cartridge - mating 21st-century technology with an
octogenarian of combat-proven effectiveness.
Dubbed the Glock Model 21, it is very similar in size to
Glock's previously announced Model 20 10mm pistol. In
fact, the frames appear to be identical. SOF's test specimen
of a prototype Model 21 has an overall length of 8.27
inches, a height, with sights and inserted magazine, of
4.85 inches and a width of 1.2 inches (at the grips).
The barrel length is 4.6 inches. The weight is 29.5 ounces
with an empty magazine (almost 10 ounces less than a
Colt Double Eagle or M1911A1). Almost 85 percent of this
mass is accounted for by the steel components.
While some of the smaller components are interchangeable
with the 10mm Model 20, you cannot assemble a Model
20 slide group to a Model 21 frame, as the locking block
has been altered to prevent this. As with the other models
in the Glock series, there are only 35 parts including the
magazine. Glock says there are 33, but I count the sights
and trigger spring cups as two components each. Of small
consequence, as in either case this is still fewer than half
the number of bits and pieces found in competing designs.
The Glock's remarkable success in just six years is matched
by its even more remarkable design - the salient features
of which are afl retained by the Model 21. Glock's only
concession to conventionality is the pistol's method of
operation. Short recoil operated, the barrel is locked to
the slide by a single lug that recesses into the ejection
port, in the manner of the SIG-Sauer series. During the
recoil stroke the barrel moves rearward approximately
3mm until the bullet leaves the barrel and pressures drop
to a safe level. The barrel then drops downward, separating
from the slide and terminating any further motion. The
slide's continued rearward movement and counter-recoil
cycle are those of the Browning system.
Hammerless and striker-fired, the Glock's trigger and
firing pin mechanisms are innovative and mostly unique.
There is no manually operated thumb safety or decocking
lever. A so-called "Safe Action" trigger system, patterned
after that encountered on the Sauer Behorden ("Authority")
Model 1930 caliber 7.65mm pocket pistol, constitutes the
first failsafe. A wide, serrated, outer trigger encompasses
a small, spring-loaded inner trigger, both fabricated from
polymer. The outer trigger cannot be actuated, such as
by contact with a holster, unless the inner trigger is
depressed first. Thus the trigger can be pulled only from
the center, not the edges.
A spring-loaded firing pin safety in the slide blocks forward
movement of the striker, and is raised and deactivated
by a projection on the sheet metal trigger bar as the trigger
is pulled to its final rearward position.
When the trigger is in the forward position, the firing pin's
spring remains lightly compressed. As the trigger is pulled
about 10mm through its fust stage (with a pull weight of
approximately 2.2 pounds), its full compression is almost
complete. Removal of the finger from the trigger at this
time will return the firing pin spring to its partially compressed,
"relaxed" and completely safe state. Continued pressure
at this point will 1) draw the fning pin fully rearward and
its spring into complete compression; then 2) draw the
T-shaped end of the trigger bar to its final rearward
position in the trigger housing's stepped safety notch; so
that 3) it is free to drop downward away from both the
"connector" (sear) and a projection at the end of the
striker to release the firing pin and fire the round.
The firing pin is rectangular in cross-section with a
chisel-shaped tip. Although primers are left with an
instantly identifiable indentation, the striker's unorthodox
configuration produces less drag on the primer
(eliminating the possibility of firing pin breakage)
and concentrates its momentum onto a smaller area
to insure positive ignition. Fluted firing-pin spring
cups, which permit the Glock pistol to be fired underwater,
are available to legitimate government agencies only.
A stamped sheet-metal ejector, with an odd-looking
inward cant, is permanently attached to the polymer
Further explanation of the connector is required. This
sheet-metal component also serves as a disconnector.
When the slide moves forward in counter-recoil, a
thumb above the rail on the right side pushes the
connector away from the trigger bar to prevent another
round from being fired until the trigger is released and
the trigger bar moves forward. The angle between the
connector's upper face and its bottom face determines
the trigger pull weight of the second stage. An angle
of 90 degrees will produce the standard pull weight of
5 pounds. A pull weight of 8 pounds is achieved by
increasing the angle to 105 degrees (this connector is
stamped with a "+"). A pull weight of 3.5 pounds, available
only with the Long Slide Target Model 17, is obtained
when the angle is reduced to 75 degrees (stamped with
a "-"). At the request of the New York State Police, a
small polymer and steel component has recently been
designed that increases the trigger pull weight to
approximately 12 pounds when it is inserted into the
trigger housing. That's too heavy for me, but should
prove ideal for law enforcement agencies in transition
from double-action revolvers. If the pistol is to be stored
for any length of time, the trigger should remain in the
retracted position to remove all tension of the firing pin
This triple safe trigger mechanism is housed in a high-impact
polymer frame that initiated the pistol's unjustified controversy
(all the more strange as Heckler & Koch's VP70z and P9S
pistols, both introduced more than a decade ago, were
fabricated with largely polycarbonate frames). Four
steel guide rails (about 0.4 inches in length) for the slide
have been integrated into the injection molded frame -
in pairs at the rear of the frame, and above and in front
of the trigger guard. To meet BATF regulations, a steel
plate carrying the serial number has been embedded into
the frame in front of the trigger guard. The trigger
guard has been squared off, recurved and checkered, but
those who fire from the correct Weaver position will not
employ this useless feature.
The grip-to-frame angle of the Model 21 remains that of
the Glock 17/19, which is somewhat steeper than competing
designs. There is a non-slip, stippled surface on the
sides of the grip and both the front and rear straps are
grooved and checkered. As there are no separate grip
panels, the grip portion of the pistol, while larger in
circumference than that of the Glock 17/19, accommodates
normal-sized hands despite its large magazine capacity.
The locking block, which engages a 45-degree camming
surface on the barrel's lower lug, appears to be the Glock's
only investment casting. It is retained in the frame by
the same steel axis pin that holds the trigger and slide
stop. The trigger housing is attached to the frame by
means of a polymer pin. A spring-loaded, sheet-metal
pressing serves as the slide stop, which is protected from
accidental manipulation by a raised guard molded into
the frame. The slide lock, operated by a single bent flat
spring, engages a step on the front of the bartel's locking
lug to prevent the slide and frame groups from parting
company during the counter-recoil stroke. The magazine
catch-release, another polymer component - located
where it belongs, on the left side of the frame, directly
to the rear of the trigger guard - is held in place by an
uncoiled piece of spring steel. Both interior surfaces of
the magazine-well's mouth have a beveled contour to
assist in the insertion of magazines.
Rectangular in shape, the slide is milled from bar stock
using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery.
Three hardening processes are employed on both the
slide and barrel. The final tenifer finish, .04 to .05 millimeter
in thickness, produces a patented 69 Rockwell Cone
hardness just below a diamond) by means of a nitride
bath at 500 degrees Centigrade. Scratches, which are
in this instance no more than deposits from the other
object, can usually be removed with a cloth and solvent.
This matte, non-glare finish is 99 percent salt water
corrosion-resistant and meets or exceeds stainless steel
specifications. It's also 80 percent more corrosion-resistant
than any hard-chrome finish.
Milled into both the top and right side of the slide,
the Glock's large ejection port enhances functional
reliability. A large claw extractor, fitted to the slide
at the rear of the ejection port on the fight side,
maintains its tension from a spfing-loaded plunger,
which, together with the firing pin assembly, are held
in place by a polymer backing plate. Cocking serrations
on the Model 21's slide are cut deeply and provide
an excellent purchase when the slide is retracted.
As both the Model 20 and 21 are now manufactured
in the U.S. at Glock's new Georgia facility, they are
no longer issued with fragile adjustable sights (still
an option, however) to meet BATF import regulations.
High profile, combat-type, fixed sights are now standard.
Four rear-sight heights are available: 6.1mm (lower
impact, 6.5mm (standard issue), and the higher impact
6.9mm and 7.3mm. A rear sight mounting and adjusting
device can be obtained by certified Glock armorers.
The polymer front sight carries a white dot and the
rear sight has a white outline. However, best of all,
in my opinion, are the self-luminous, tritium,
low-light-level sights with which the Model 21 can
be fitted directly from Glock, Inc. These tritium
crystals will last more than 10 years. Sight radius
of the Model 21 is 6.75 inches.
Glock's hammer-forged barrels are also innovative.
Called "hexagonal," the rifling lies somewhere between
conventional land and groove and H&K's "polygonal"
bores. The rifling's hexagonal profile (in cross-section
a series of six small arcs connected by flat surfaces)
provides a better gas seal, more consistent velocities,
superior accuracy and ease of maintenance. The
direction of twist is right-hand. Although not yet
specified at the time of our test and evaluation, I
expect the rate of twist will be close to the standard
1:16 inches for this cartridge. A single-coil spring under
the barrel rides on a polymer guide rod, which is hollow
to serve as a cooling air pump.
The Model 21 magazine is of the single-position-feed,
staggered-column type with a capacity of 13 rounds.
With one up the snout, that gives you 14 rounds of
.45 caliber medicine. Magazine bodies, followers and
floor plates are fabricated from polymer. The magazine
bodies have steel liners and indicator holes starting
with round No. 4 up to the capacity of the magazine.
When new, Glock magazines will drop freely from the
magazine-well. After use, however, the magazine walls
will set widi an outward bulge that requires their removal
by hand. In my opinion, this is a matter of small consequence.
If you haven't solved your problem with 14 rounds, a
pistol was an inappropriate choice for the confrontation.
Each Model 21 is issued widi two magazines, a polymer
magazine loader and cleaning rod and a nylon bristle
bore brush. The polymer storage box has been designed
for armory stacking and retention with a steel rod or
chain. Suggested retail price is $598.
While somewhat different from the norm, there is nothing
complex about the Model 21's disassembly procedures
and, unlike the Colt Double Eagle, no component will
part company from the slide or frame unless you intend
it to do so. First, remove the magazine and remove
any round in the chwnber. Then, and only then, pull
the trigger. Wrap the four fingers of the right hand
over the slide from the right side with the thumb wrapped
around the rear of the frame and retract the slide about
an 1/8-inch (any more than that and the trigger will
move forward to prevent separation of the slide and
frame). Pull the slide lock downward with the thumb
and index finger of the left hand. While the slide lock
is down, push the slide forward and off the frame. Push
the guide rod forward and remove the rod and recoil
spring. Push the barrel forward, lift up and pull it back
out of the slide. No further disassembly is recommended.
Do not attempt to manipulate the trigger system after
the slide has been removed or you may damage the
inner trigger's spring. Reassemble in the reverse order.
To disassemble the magazine, merely squeeze the side
walls at the base and slide off the floor plate.
There can be no question about the Glock design's levels
of reliability or durability. In its 9mm Parabellum version,
it has successfully passed tests every bit as rigorous
as the U.S. XM9 trials, involving hundreds of thousands
of rounds. That it was excluded from the most recent
XM9 trials is a commentary on the U.S. Army's conventional
mind-set, not the Glock design.
SOF's test and evaluation of the Model 21 did no more
than confirm impressions already formed from tens of
thousands of rounds fired through our Glock 17 and 19
pistols. There were no stoppages of any kind during
the course of the 500 rounds fired through our test specimen.
The frame's inherent elasticity dampens felt recoil
considerably. As the barrel's axis lies close to the hand,
the recoil momentum is perceived as an almost straight
rearward thrust with much less muzzle climb that of
either the Colt Double Eagle or a standard Govemment
Model. Target reacquisition times between shots are
minimal as the front sight barely leaves the point of
aim if a strong Weaver hold is employed. Quite muzzle
heavy, the Model 21 points instinctively and comes on
target with great speed. With its clean and constant
trigger system, the hit probability is high. There is,
of course, no hammer bite to distract the shooter. The
frame's grip ergonomics are excellent.
What about the accuracy potential? Most engagements
with a handgun will take place at 21 feet or less.
Firing a pistol from 50 yards off a Ransom rest will
provide information concerning its theoretical accuracy
potential, but nothing about its practical accuracy
in a stress scenario. We fired the Model 21 at camouflaged
combat targets from 21 feet in the Weaver position.
The ammunition used in SOF's test and evaluation
included Black Hills 185-grain Jacketed Hollow Point
(JHP) and 230-grain Full Metal Jackets (FMJ), 230-grain
U.S. military ball and 230-grain hard-cast round-nose
reloads with a powder charge weight of 6.3 grains
of Hercules Unique. Best results were obtained with
the Black Hills 185-grain JHP, which consistently
dumped a magazine of double-taps into a ragged
half-inch group. The ejection path was consistently
two to three feet to the right and rear.
I predict that the recently completed ammunition evaluation
and wound ballistics penetration analysis by the FBI's
Firearms Training Unit will deservedly draw attention
away from the 9mm Parabellum cartridge and focus it
once more on the venerable .45. The best 9mm load,
Winchester's 147-grain subsonic JHP, was 30 percent
less successful than the FBI/Sierra 10mm 180-grain JHP.
That's a significant difference in performance. Remington's
.45 ACP 185-grain JHP was only 2.5 percent less successful
than the FBI/Sierra 10mm load. That's an inconsequential
difference. Some law enforcement agencies, in copy-cat
fashion, will jump on board the 10mm bandwagon. In
my opinion, far more - both departments and individuals
- will re-examine the .45. Most of us already have access
to .45 ACP reloading dies and the components are plentiful.
Long-established and battle-proven, the .45 has an aura
steeped in the folklore of American history. The FBI tests
should result in a revival of interest in the .45, only moderate
acceptance of the 10mm and a waning of popularity in
the U.S. for the 9mm Parabellum.
Glock's Model 21 has arrived at the right place, at the
right time. With its large capacity magazine, brilliant
design and superb reliability, we can expect its surge
to the forefront in the wave of new popularity anticipated
at both law enforcement and civilian levels for an ancient
cartridge that makes a big hole and penetrates deep
enough. Let's hope a compact version of the Model 21
with a single-column, eight-round magazine in a truly
reduced envelope is shortly forthcoming.
First published in the June 1990 edition of
Soldier of Fortune Magazine