Glock 21 .45 ACP, by Pat Cascio

The Glock 21 .45 ACP pistol is under review in this article. I was most fortunate to have been able to test one of these pistols before they even came on the market, when I worked for the late Col. Rex Applegate.

Handguns for SHTF

Many people believe that they can get by, when the SHTF, with just a handgun. Maybe they can and maybe not. I’m inclined to think that a handgun is an up-close and personal defensive weapon, not one that was designed for offensive use. However, a good handgun can perform both duties, given the limitations of the round that the gun is chambered for.

Many readers will, no doubt, have a favorite handgun that they consider their “end of the world” handgun, and I have no problem with that so long as it is a well-built firearm, chambered in a man-stopping caliber: 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, or one of other similar handgun calibers. Like most, I have my own ideas about which handgun and caliber are the best to have around when the SHTF. My thinking on this doesn’t come lightly. As a gun writer with more than 25 years experience, I’ve had the chance to fire thousands of firearms over the years and have formed my own thoughts on this subject. I’m not saying I’m “right” and you’re “wrong”, not in the least. I’m just saying I have a lot of experience in this matter and have formed my opinion based on a lot of things.

Looking at New Guns With Col. Rex Applegate

When I worked for the late Col. Rex Applegate, for close to three years, I was privy to a lot of new guns. We were sent prototypes of some new firearms on a regular basis, before anyone else had a chance to see or test them. Applegate would often give me some of these new firearms to take home, test at my leisure, and to form my own opinions. After that, Applegate would quiz me on my findings, along with his own, and do an article on the gun.

It was quite an honor to work so closely with a world-famous authority on firearms and police and military tactics, and I learned a lot. Applegate received both the Glock 20 in 10mm and the Glock 21 in .45 ACP for testing and review. I liked the idea of 15 rounds of potent 10mm ammo on hand. However, the 10mm Glock 20 didn’t balance as well in my hand as did the Glock 21 in 45 ACP. The 10mm Glock 21 was a bit muzzle heavy to my way of thinking, compared to the Glock 21.

The Glock 21

I recently had the opportunity to test the Glock 21, with a dark earth colored polymer frame and a Cerakote slide in the same color. One thing you will no doubt feel when picking up the Glock 21 over say the smaller Models 19, 22, (et cetera) is that the Glock 21 is chunkier in the hand. It is bigger in all dimensions; it has to be to hold 13 rounds of fat .45 ACP ammo in ta double column magazine. The overall length of the Glock 21 is 8.22 inches and width is 1.27 inches, but it looks thicker than that. Its height is 5.47 inches, and once again, it looks taller than that. Barrel length is 4.60 inches and looks longer than that, but it’s not.


Unloaded weight is a hair under 30 oz, which is not too bad for such a large pistol. Trigger pull is 5.5 lbs and mushy, like all Glock triggers are, but they smooth out over time. There is the passive safety lever in the middle of the trigger, and you have to have your finger on that in order to pull the trigger so the gun will fire. There are a few passive safeties inside of the gun that you don’t have to worry about. They are passive; it doesn’t require any thought.

We have the white outline rear sight, and the front sight is a big white dot. Just put that white dot in the white rear sight and pull the trigger. It’s easy enough to do. My sample Glock 21 was a Gen 4 model, with the larger magazine release button. And, it came with two additional backstraps, which only make the gun feel a lot chunkier in the hand. If you have super large hands, you might enjoy the chunkier feel. I have large hands, and the gun is good to go without one of the backstraps.

Chunky Glock 21 Best For Large Hands

Now, speaking of the chunky feel to the Glock 21, it’s something that you can easily get used to. It just takes a lot of gun handling, with an empty gun of course. I’ve found that it takes me about two weeks to get used to the feel of some handguns in my hand. Such was the case with the Glock 21. Many people, especially with medium to small hands, will just not like how chunky the Glock 21 feels, and they won’t shoot it well either. Even with the reduced dimensions of the now standard Small Frame (“SF”) generation, they still feel fairly large. So, this large handgun isn’t for everyone.

Jim Rawles Carries On Rural Homestead

I know Jim Rawles, who is the founder and senior editor of, carries a Glock 21 on his rural homestead in the American Redoubt. It’s a great choice, if you ask me, where he might run into some large bears without warning. The Glock 21 isn’t the easiest handgun to carry concealed, but then again it wasn’t designed as a concealed carry handgun. However, with the right holster and clothing, you can conceal it, most of the time. It is more of a tactical handgun and is best carried and deployed from an open-carry type of holster.  Jim tells me that he often uses a Fobus brand Glock 21/30 holster.


My Testing Process

During my testing, I fired about 400 rounds of various .45 ACP ammo through the Glock 21, without any failures to feed, fire, or eject the empty rounds. I would have been surprised if the Glock gave me any problems. All accuracy shooting was done while resting the model 21 on a sleeping bag over the hood of my Chevy Avalanche, and the target was out at 25 yards.

Ammo For Testings

From the nice folks at Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 185-gr FMJ FN low recoil standard pressure load, 160-gr Barnes TAC XP all copper hollow point, low recoil, standard pressure load, 255-gr Hard Cast FN +P Outdoorsman +P load, 230-gr FMJ FN +P, 200-gr JHP +P, and their 185-gr JHP +P. From my friends at Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 230-gr FMJ load, 200-gr Match Semi Wad Cutter, 230-gr JHP, 230-gr JHP +P, 185-gr Barnes TAC-XP all copper hollow point +P, and their all-new 135-gr HoneyBadger load. You have to see it to believe it.

Accuracy Results

If I was on my game, all the time (and I wish I were), I could keep all five-shot groups around three inches. That’s not bad at all, as many experts consider anything four inches or smaller as “combat acceptable.” There were some stand outs in the accuracy department, though. The Buffalo Bore185-gr JHP +P load would give me groups right at 2.25 inches, if I did my part. The Black Hills 200-gr Match Semi Wad Cutter load would just about tie the Buffalo Bore load, again if I did my part.

You have to understand that, when I shoot groups for accuracy, I don’t just shoot one group and call it that way, I sometimes shoot half a dozen groups– some are larger, some are smaller than the others, but I think it’s a fair test.  Best accuracy was the 185-gr FMJ FN low recoil standard pressure round from Buffalo Bore. It gave me one group, just ever so slightly larger than an inch, and recoil was nothing to speak of. It was a very pleasant recoil. The Black Hills HoneyBadger 135-gr round, well it is an attention getter in the noise department, but the recoil is very light. After all, it is only shooting a 135-gr bullet.

No Concealed Carry Holster During Testing

I didn’t carry the Glock 21 concealed as part of my testing, because I didn’t have a suitable concealed carry holster. I did have a couple other folks helping me with my shooting, and it was the usual complaint– “the gun is too fat…”, but it didn’t affect their shooting at all. Everyone loved the way the Glock 21 handled recoil. Even the super-stiff Buffalo Bore 255-gr Hard Cast FN Outdoorsman load wasn’t bad at all to shoot. Note to self: ask Buffalo Bore for some more of this one; it is “the” load you’ll want to stoke your Glock 21 with in big game country and dangerous big bear country.

Feel Well-Armed

I’m not sure if the Glock 21 would be my go-to, end of the world handgun, but if that was all I had, with half a dozen spare 13-rd magazines, I’d feel well-armed, for sure. I have another Glock model in mind for this purpose, and I’ll be covering it soon in an article.

Check out the Glock 21, or if you are inclined, the Glock 20 in 10mm at your local gun shop. And don’t let the chunky feel turn you off. It takes a little bit of time to get used to how the gun feels in your hand, about two weeks of handling it. And, there sure isn’t anything wrong with having 13 rounds of potent .45 ACP on tap, with one more in the chamber. Or are you stuck in a state that only allows 10 rounds? You could do much worse than the Glock 21 or Glock 30. (The Glock 30 is the smaller 10-round variant of the Glock 21.)

I only had the Glock 21 on loan for a short period of time, but I’m thinking real hard about getting one for my own use, once funds permit the purchase of one. That is an endorsement, if ever I gave one.


  1. I have owned multiple Glock 21’s. I think it is one of the best, affordable,reliable, and powerful hand guns available. But it is not a good concealed carry. You can buy it in a single stack (thus giving up capacity for a thinner grip), but I would not make that trade. Nor do I feel the shorter barrel as in the Glock 30 is a good trade either, because it sacrifices some accuracy (which I also own).

  2. I own both the Glock 30 and 41. The 30 is my normarl carry gun. I use a Crossbreed super tuck IWB holster for the 30, and as I don’t have a bulging waistline, it conceals very well. An advantage to this holster is the G41 also fits, and with the right summer clothing, it does not print (on me). Between the two, the full-size grip of the 41 is more comfortable, even in my somewhat smaller than average hands, but the shorter grip of the 30 provides enough area to shoot accurately. Since my hand size makes it impossible to press the magazine release with my right thumb without shifting the gun in my hand, I have installed oversize mag releases in both guns. Needless to say, both Glocks have been 100% reliable.

  3. Would like to have seen a review on a Gen 5 Glock 21 SF, the gun you reviewed has been out for several years. The main complaints you stated in your review about grip size have been addressed in the newer models.

    1. Glock currently does not offer the model 21 in the new gen 5 configuration. The gen 5 is only available in the 9 mm models 17 and 19.

      Hopefully, some time in the future, Glock will offer the gen 5 in .the 45 ACP models.

  4. Merry Christmas!
    The G21 was the first gun I bought when I got into shooting about 10 years ago. At the time I didn’t know much about guns so I wanted a name known for reliability and a model with stopping power.
    I have extra-large hands. The G21 felt perfect in my hands from the get-go. I love the amount of recoil this .45 gives: once a round is fired and the gun kicks, my G21 comes down almost exactly on target. I love the 13+1.
    For me this is definitely not a CCW gun – too big and heavy. it’s more of a gun I’d take to a fight that might become close-quarter. I have carried it as a backup weapon while hog-hunting in case I got chased up a tree by an angry boar.
    My CCW is a G42 (.380), 6+1. It fits nicely in my pocket and is plenty light enough. I originally had a Ruger LCP (.380) but I didn’t like Ruger’s double-action trigger and the magazine springs were weak, causing more than a few misfires. I should have just stuck with Glock to begin with.
    Lesson learned.

      1. I honestly didn’t mean to imply that I don’t like Ruger. I do and I own a Ruger – the Charger.
        The Charger is a .22 LR pistol with the chamber/trigger mechanism of the Ruger 10/22. It’s a take-down; you could actually substitute a 10/22 barrel for the Charger barrel.
        The Charger has –
        Picatinny rail (I have a red dot scope on mine)
        15-rd magazine
        I really love my Charger. In my opinion it’s a true survivalist gun – it’s deadly accurate and while it *might* not bring down a man, it’s perfect for squirrel/rabbit. Meat on the table!
        Based on the Charger alone, I’d definitely love to have a 10/22.

  5. For those that want a big .45 matching Glock quality and reliability, but can’t quite get their hands around the 21, I recommend the Walter PPQ 45. The grip is easier to adapt to, and the trigger is great right out of the box.

  6. I have two G21s and one G20. They are big guns, but you don’t need extra large hands to use them. Right now you can find police trade in Glock 21s as low as $330, most of these will have finish wear, but have been shot little.

  7. Having had a good number of years’ experience with the 1911, I became a convert to the ugly plastic guns the first time I fired a 21. Now own a variety of Gaston’s products in a variety of calibers and if necessary, would bet my life on any of them. I do favor the Ruger LC9s pro for CC tho. Semper Fi and Merry Christmas! Hallelujah to Emmanuel!!

  8. I have a Glock 20. Carry it in the car. I really hate the Glock platform, the 1911 feels better, points better, is easier to manipulate and, in my opinion, is a far, far better combat handgun than a Glock. I bought the 20 because it is a 10mm and, being a Glock, I don’t care if it gets dropped or dinged.
    All this being said, it will be a winner. Itg is a better platform for most. As much as I love the 1911 it is NOT a gun for anyone who is not very familiar with it. Many proclivities. HOwever, I have two who have over 30K rounds through them with absolutely zero malfunctions. NOt so the 20, which I have for the above reasons but do not trust it completely.

  9. When the Glock 21 was first offered in the early 1990s, a group of associates and I, had been considering switching to double stack .45 pistols.

    A relative, attending a social event, talked to a Navy SEAL, who said he had carried at Glock 21 during the First Gulf War (1991) and recommended it.

    So, now I have had Glock 21s for decades and fired tens of thousands of rounds through them.

    The Gen I had a problem with the pins, which would drift out while firing, and Glock had a free replacement upgrade for that issue.

    I had the locking block pin drift out, so I pushed it back in, using all my might, only to break the slide stop lever spring, which a local gunsmith repaired for $100.

    After that, I bought a Glock Disassembly Tool, and a DVD, Complete Glock Disassembly & Reassembly Glock Models 17, 17L, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23, Lenny Magill.

    I have had three trigger springs break, which takes the whole firearm down, so I would buy 5 spares.

    At one point, a round would fire normally when the trigger was pulled, but then fire again when the trigger was released, a new Connector fixed that problem, I always use the 3.5#.

    After tens of thousands of rounds, some being Chinese ammo (1990s), and others IMI surplus ammo (2000s) that smoked a lot, I started getting lite primer strikes. After a detailed disassembling of the slide, I found powder and debris fouling up the firing pin function. A good cleaning solved that problem.

    If you fire a hundred rounds of factory carry ammo a year, you probably won’t run into this problem for decades.

    Being a wide frame, for years there were problems finding holsters and mag pouches, initially, I had some custom made, but when buying, you need to make sure it fits.

    The rear sight tool needs to be wider as well, and is expensive, so if you need one, try to rent one from a gun shop. I always use the Trijicon night sights.

    Near the end of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994 to 2004), some of my mags were wearing, and used ones were $200 each on the Internet. So, when they go on sale for less than $20, I get all excited…

    After trying many mag extensions, I only use the KRISS or OEM 13 rounders.

    Competitions, penalize double stack .45s, trying to equalize the competitors, by making you load 8 or 10, instead of 13. 🙁

    For concealed carry, I use a Glock 30 when it is cold, and Glock 36 when it is hot, but always have a Glock 21 nearby with a clip on holster or belt.

    I’ve been satisfied with the Glock 21, after going through numerous iterations of pistols, to the point that I don’t even look at others.

  10. I carried the Glock 30 for years in a Fobus holster with Glock 21 mags. Several years ago I upgraded to the Gen 4 21 with a TLR-1 in a First Spear light bearing holster. My job requires that I carry concealed 8 hours a day. I also carry 2 extra mags, fixed blade knife, Surefire light, and handcuffs all under an untucked shirt–no issues with printing or weight. Get good holster gear and then shoot as many rounds as you can. Recoil for me actually seems less of an issue with the 21 than some 9mms I’ve shot. Thanks for the review!

  11. I have owned multiple Glocks since they came to this country. They all cause several problems for me. They all come to hand with a normal combat grip with the front sight high (Grip Angle), the trigger is poor in my mind, the sights are like lining up three refrigerators and everyone bites the web of my right hand (I now have a permanent scar). I carry the Gen. 4 for work and can complete the qualification course with a 300 everytime, but I really hate Glocks!!! I had hope for the replacement backstraps but the largest still doesn’t protect the web of my hand and makes the trigger reach unacceptable.

    The Springfield Armory XD series is a much better system, better grip angle, cicumfrance of the grip, trigger reach, trigger is good, sights are good and my personal XD .45 compact is really accurate with its four inch barrell.

    I just picked up a S&W Shield 9 and it fits my hand perfectly! one range session and Im hooked. Just need to put another hundred rounds through it before it rides my hip daily.

    Semper Fi and Merry Christmas, Pray for our President that he can start to bring this country out of its slide into mediocrocy.

  12. Glock 21 with night sites has been my nightstand gun for years, I don’t even know how many rounds have been put through it without 1 single hiccup. Is it big and chunky? Yup, but when I’m reaching for it in the pitch dark of my bedroom because of some bump in the night, I want something big and solid that I know is there. Not some slippery single stack in 380. Just my opinion.

  13. I carry a Ruger LCP II .380 everywhere I go. The newer trigger design is MUCH better than the previous one. Everyone who own owns the first version and has tried dry firing this newer version is amazed by the new trigger. They say, “I’ve got to get one of these!”, My comment is that it is as smooth as warm butter.

  14. Please take warnings about concealment limitations with a grain of salt. There are some great holster systems out these days that really hug the contours of your hip or waist. After a lot of trial and dollars spent I can conceal a full size .45 for at least 6 months of the year until I get into hot humid southern summers. That said we’ve planned to switch everything over to one manufacturer (Glock) and caliber (9mm) for ease of maintenance, repair and ammo inventory. Our game plan calls for both full size G17s and more compact versions. However for whatever the reason I am very accurate with the 1911 .45 even while moving and shooting. I am going to need to give the G21 a try based on this review. While I truly enjoy shooting the 1911 I would prefer Glock simplicity if we are going to keep .45s in inventory.

    1. Chris, if you are test driving be sure to test drive the Glock 41 too. It gives you a longer barrel (same as your 1911) (nobody here has mentioned the greatly reduced velocity and muzzle energy from short barreled pistols), narrower slide, and longer sight radius. I also add a 3.5lb trigger connector to my Glocks, extended slide release,extended slide lock, Trijicon night sights, titanium nitride coated safety plunger, and tungsten guide rod. The connector and plunger make a spectacular difference in the crispness of the trigger break and trigger reset. The tungsten guide rod will never fail and helps to reduce muzzle flip.

  15. Tisk, tisk, tisk. Your all wrong. you need to drive a glock 22! it fits the hand better, fantastic ballistics, and all the man stopping you want. Plus it conceals better and is lighter and more rounds available without and extended mag.

    1. Re: 40 sw. Those fantastic ballistics have failed to materialize from paper to reality. Advancements in propellants and bullet construction have made 9mm King. I enjoy my customized 1911, and shoot it well. My primary is now a Steyr L9-A1. Glock fans, give them a look. I do like the large size of the G20/21, and they are reliable. Awful trigger and sights, though.

        1. Exactly right. The area of the entry wound of the .45 bullet is a whopping 60% larger in area than the entry wound of a 9mm. The rate of hydraulic flow through a 60% large pipe is MUCH larger. You also have a nominal 230gr bullet vs a nominal 115gr bullet. The primary advantage of a 9mm is recoil… something nobody notices in a gun fight.

          My uncle Lyle was a member of the original UTD 1 during WW2. He continued as UDT and then later as a “Frogman” through the Korean War until he went reserve in 1956. He told me that they had .38 special revolvers or the 1911 as side arms. In describing the difference in effect he said the following. “If a man is running and you hit him in the arm with a .38 round it will make a hole through his arm and he keeps running. If you hit him in the arm with the .45 round while running it will usually knock him down”.

          At Front Sight one of the things they are good about teaching is the “All handgun rounds are deficient in comparison to a rifle or a shotgun… which is true. A single round of 00 buckshot is the equivalent of a full magazine of 9mm rounds… and it arrives all at the same time. Nobody should ever purposefully take a handgun of any kind to a known gun fight. As another wise instructor said years ago “Your handgun is used to fight your way back to your rifle which you should not have left behind in the first place”.

          1. That ceases to be the defining data point when advanced hollowpoints supplanted .mil FMJ’s, rendering WW2-era terminal ballistics from pistols obsolete.

            I agree that a rifle or shotgun outclasses a pistol by a country mile regarding ballistics. That being said, those 9mm ‘equivalent’ shotgun pellets bear no resemblance to a Golden Saber or Hydrashok bullet. Velocity, Expansion and penetration data is far more relevant than entry wound diameter.

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