Another Forty-Five Faceoff: Ruger SR45 vs. Glock 21

The Ruger SR45 and the Glock 21 are big pistols and hard to hide. In cold parts of the country where owners bundle up like they’re ready to harpoon a few seals, either pistol would be somewhat concealable, at least until the parkas come off. In warm weather with no outerwear to disguise the guns, either pistol would be as obtrusive as a Class III goiter. They’re both heavy, too. So, is bigger better? Do we really want to carry oversized, non-concealable .45s? And if we do want gigantic hoglegs dangling from our duty belts, do we want either of these?

Point and Counterpoint

We compare every other handgun to a Glock because almost every other handgun is a Glock. The Austrian Empire (by way of Smyrna, Georgia) dominates the American handgun market the way Ella Kros dominates Tel Aviv. Because it’s Nummer eins in sales, there are plenty of other firearms manufacturers who would like nothing better than to snip the tip off Glock’s prodigious market share. The most common competitive tactic is to try to make a gun that’s kinda sorta like a Glock, rather than trying something original. Such an approach usually fails. People who want a Glock usually buy a Glock, not a Glock clone.

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, “New gun companies imitate; established gun companies steal.” Ruger, an established gun company, did neither in this case. The SR45 is as different from the Glock 21 as Metallica is from Mendelssohn. To put it mildly, the SR45 isn’t your daddy’s Glock 21. It’s a whole different pistol.

Starting with the appearance. The SR45 comes in two trim packages: basic black or brushed stainless. Our tester was dressed in brushed stainless, and looks sharp. The Glock 21 comes in any color you want as long as it’s Tenifer black, has all the style of a 1972 Volvo. Advantage Ruger.

 

Next: the handles. The G21’s stock is as blocky and bricky as all its siblings. If anything, it’s a bit pudgier to accommodate the staggered stacks of thirteen large cartridges. Glock’s Gen4 iteration (not shown) with its swappable back straps ameliorates the clumsiness of the handle to some extent. But handling the G21 is still not unlike holding a toaster.

The SR45 comes straight from Rugerville with a reversible rubber backstrap.

Changing the handle from monstrous to manageable requires knocking out a pin, easing the backstrap from the channel that holds it in place and flipping it over. Reversing the removal process changes the feel of the handle dramatically. It’s a small change that yields big dividends.

It takes longer to read about it than it does to do it. Since the backstrap always stays with the handle, there’s no losing it. That’s good. What’s bad is that rake of the handle. It’s just too upright. Advantage Ruger, but a small advantage. If Glock ever gives the G21 the Gen4 treatment, the SR45’s advantage in the backstrap department might be reversed.

 Ruger SR45 courtesy The Truth About Guns

The G21 mags in non-capacity limit locales hold thirteen rounds. Ruger opted for ten-round magazines everywhere for reasons best known only to Ruger. On the premise that more is better, advantage Glock.

The G21 is also four ounces lighter than the SR45 when empty. It’s a small difference but certainly perceptible. Maybe the SR45 is as overbuilt as the rest of the Ruger handgun line, or maybe not. Advantage Glock? Perhaps.

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Then there’s the field-stripping process. To clean many striker-fired pistols, it’s necessary to pull the trigger to disengage the sear. That’s one important reason why there are a disproportionate number of negligent discharges when cleaning striker-fired pistols.

An ordered universe depends on rules. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs? The one rule to rule all rules — the Golden Rule if you will — is to keep one’s freakin’ finger off the freakin’ trigger until the sights are on the target and the shooter’s ready to, you know, shoot. Not ready to clean, ready to shoot.

Yeah, I know that poor gun design is no excuse for an ND, but so what. Glock forces all of its owners to disregard a basic rule of firearms safety, and I consider that to be a design defect.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Some manufacturers are making their guns safer by making the owners safer, and this should be applauded. In pleasant contrast to the Glock 21, the Ruger SR45 does not require hazarding an ND to render the gun cleanable.

 

An SR45 owner simply presses a small internal sawtooth lever to disconnect the sear, then pushes out the generously-sized takedown pin, et viola! That slide will come off faster than a stripper’s underwear at a frat party. Big advantage, Ruger.

 

Last but not least, there are the safety features. The SR45 has an active safety to go along with its passive ones, while the G21 has plenty of passive safeties. Shooters who want their duty piece to have an active safety will reach for the Ruger, while those who hate safeties will gravitate to the Glock.

And then there are the annoying touches that Ruger seems to lavish on its pistols: the “LOADED WHEN UP” chamber indicator; the cocking indicator that points the back of the firing pin at the shooter’s face; and who doesn’t love Ruger’s constant admonition to “READ THE MANUAL.” The only thing missing is “YOU’LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT.” Really, would you want to go to the range with Ralphie Parker’s mom?

Still, when all is said and done, guns are made for shooting. So how do they shoot?

The Shootout

With the current ammunition extinction now in full swing, I was relegated to shooting whatever I could lay my hands on. I scrounged fifty rounds of classy JHP ammo left over from a prior test, but most of the test shooting was performed with junky range ammo.

As we all know, a gun’s trigger is critical to accuracy. We were warned about the SR45’s trigger in the TTAG review last month. “[T]he SR45′s trigger has no appreciable breaking point. At some point in the squeezing process the thing just goes off.”

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After slow-firing my first 50 rounds with the SR45, I agreed. Indubitably. There was a bit of light take up and kaboom! Without warning, the thing went off like The Forty Year Old Virgin on his wedding night.

The indistinct trigger was disconcerting at first. Due to the complete absence of any tactile feedback during the trigger press, accuracy was more a myth than a rumor. Disgusted with the pistol and my own mediocre shooting performance, I fired off a burst of five as fast as I could in the general direction of the target. Lo and behold, the trigger that once seemed as vague as a Mitt Romney campaign speech exhibited impeccable rapid-fire manners.

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Blazing away with the Glock produced groups that were more difficult to maintain and not as well-centered. I could manage fine accuracy, but not at the same tempo as with the SR45. The issues were recoil and the trigger. Compared to the SR45, the G21’s felt recoil seemed a bit heavier, and the trigger pull was longer.

Here’s a representative 7-yard rapid fire target. The Ruger hits are labeled “R”, the Glock hits with “G.” Duh.

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The Ruger spread and the Glock spread were consistently comparable, in this case at around 2 3/8”. Neither gun would shoot groups tighter than the current ammo supply, but both were pretty accurate. Still, the SR45 was a lot easier to shoot rapidly. Not that the Glock was a slouch in the rapid fire exercise. The Ruger just did its business quicker.

It took a few more boxes of ammo to finally get the feel of the Ruger trigger, and when I did, I grew to like it a lot. Here’s a 7-yard target after slow-firing five from the SR45, offhand with a Weaver stance. It’s about a 1” group with three basically in the same hole.

 

Although the gun is heavy, it handles well even with one hand. Here’s the same target “filled in” with five more single-handed shots with no support. There’s one “flyer” at 9:00. Considering the entire target is only 3 1/4” across, that flyer is more like a semi-flyer. The rest of the second five went into the same cluster as the first five.

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The SR45’s trigger was like borsht – the more I tried it, the more I liked it. Shooting offhand at 25 yards, the groups opened up as one might expect, but accuracy was still fine. The G21 is also a capable handgun, but it required more attention to maintain the same degree of accuracy at 25 yards, and benefitted from a slightly more deliberate presentation.

Likes and Dislikes

So what’s hot and what’s not about these big service pistols? First, the SR45 has that sneaky trigger that rudely disguises its intention to fire. A shooter will either hate that or love it. I started out hating it, but it grew on me once I was able to feel — or possibly intuit — where the sear trips.

The articulated safety in the blade of the SR45’s trigger initially felt like pressing the edge of a butter knife. I didn’t get used to it so much as I just forgot about it. What I liked the most about the SR45 was the short trigger pull and a reset that was as clicky as an all-girls high school (yeah, I know it’s spelled differently).

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The G21 was every inch a Glock. What I liked best about it was the consistency of Glock firearms. Once you’ve shot one Glock, you’ve pretty much shot them all. That’s a good thing. Like every other Glock, the G21’s trigger was as mushy as a month old avocado, but the pull was reasonably light and I never had to wonder when the pistol would go boom. Perfection it isn’t, but the G21 is still a good gun.

Neither the SR45 nor the G21 will do for concealed carry. They are big, bulky pistols, best suited to OWB carry in open carry situations, or on-duty carry for LEOs and armed mall cops. Either pistol would be a fine choice for those limited roles.

Strictly as a range toy or nightstand comforter, the SR45 is hard to beat. Just keep it away from new shooters.

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The SR45 for this review was provide by The Kentucky Gun Company

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Ruger Specifications:

Model: Ruger SR45
Caliber: .45ACP
Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
Materials: Brushed stainless steel slide and glass-filled nylon frame
Weight empty: 30.15 ounces
Barrel Length: 4.5″
Overall length: 8.0″
Sights: Three dot “combat style,” rear adjustable for windage and elevation
Action: Striker fired
Finish: Two tone
Price: $529 MSRP

Ruger Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * *
The Ruger’s two-tone look is more appealing and less threatening than the hardcore gangsta version. Because concealment isn’t much of an issue, the flashy slide is no detriment. Like the Fiat 500 Abarth, the SR45 looks more expensive than it is. It’s also about the same size.

Ergonomics (carry) * *
A good duty holster and reinforced gun belt is a must. Carried openly, it’s comfortable despite its weight. Stuffed into an IWB holster at my preferred 4 o’clock position, it was as comfortable as a kidney stone.

Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
The reversible back strap worked well, completely transforming the handle and accommodating my medium-sized hands. The trigger is very much a love it or leave it affair. I loved it, but in this I may be a solitary voice in the wilderness. The handle needs more rake. The sights are excellent. During rapid fire, there was some recoil, but the pistol came back to target faster than a fat guy to a buffet line.

Reliability * * * * *
Flawless. I was unable to make the Ruger wet the bed.

Customize This * * *
It has a rail, so feel free to make the pistol even heavier by adding lights, lasers, an MP4 player or an industrial-sized rare earth magnet. The aftermarket for Ruger semi-automatics is not robust.

Overall * * * *
Anyone contemplating the purchase of the SR45 would be well advised to check out the trigger first.

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Glock Specifications:

Model: Glock G21
Caliber: .45ACP
Magazine capacity: 13 rounds
Materials: Stainless steel slide and Melonite® barrel, polymer frame
Weight empty: 26.46 ounces
Barrel Length: 4.6″
Overall length: 8.22″
Sights: Fixed plastic front and rear
Action: Striker fired Safe Action®
Finish: Black Tenifer slide, black frame
Price: $687 MSRP

Glock Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * *
Glock doesn’t do style. Based on the popularity of Glock pistols, their lack of style might even be a selling point.

Ergonomics (carry) * * *
It’s big and looks like it would be heavier, but the G21 is lighter than the Ruger SR45 and feels it. I’d rather shove a carpet knife inside my pants then carry this pistol IWB, but stuff it in a duty holster and you’re GTG.

Ergonomics (firing) * * *
The brobdingnagian handle will not fit small and medium hands. The G21’s trigger is fairly light but as squishy as grandma’s sponge cake. Recoil is quite controllable, but there was more of it than I wanted.

Reliability * * * * *
The G21 tester sported Glock’s trouble-free traditional Recoil Spring Assembly, rather than the trouble-prone Gen4 RSA. As expected, there were no reliability issues.

Customize This * * * * *
With its accessory rail and an aftermarket that’s ready, willing and able to sell any doodad that money can buy, the G21 is almost as customizable as an AR.

Overall * * * *
The G21 is the Charles P. Dutton of handguns – it’s big, bulky and a very solid performer. Unfortunately, the G21 has all the charm and visual appeal of a primitive farm implement.