Gun Review: GLOCK 21SF

Over the last year, I’ve been helping law enforcement agencies with Tactical Combat Casualty Care instruction, patrols, fugitive recovery and warrant service. One of the departments I work with insists I carry a .45ACP full-size GLOCK 21. So my new duty weapon is the GLOCK 21SF . . .

Glock 21SF grip (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

A couple of years ago I shot a GLOCK 20 for the first time.  I found that large framed GLOCKs fit my hand far more securely and comfortably than my first choice for GLOCK-flavored concealed carry (the G19). When it comes to getting a grip on the gun, the G21SF (for Short Framed) is darn near perfect.

I know people complain about the GLOCK “bar of soap” feel. I’m not getting that here. And I like the finger grooves. (GASP!)

In fact, I have no desire to change the pistol’s grip in any way. I don’t need some new texture. I don’t need to get rid of finger grooves. I don’t need to undercut. Either single-handed or two-handed, this GLOCK 21SF is right at home in my size large hands.

GLOCK Confidence ad

Mind you, the G21SF doesn’t seem to work for people with smaller hands. At all. I asked a few different people to shoot the G21S. Every women (and one man of smaller stature) complained that the G21SF’s grip felt too big in their hands, with a resulting loss of . . . wait for it . . . confidence.

Glock 21SF sights (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Prior to the Gen 5, stock GLOCK sights were ripe for replacement. And for good reason. They’re small and work best in bright light — when you have a minute to find them. They’re also straight up plastic, highly vulnerable to marring and deforming.

If your goal is a body mass mag dump at 15 yards, the G21SF’s U-shaped sights work just fine. If precision or low-light shooting is the order of the day, consider one of the many replacements available on the market.

The GLOCK 21SF’s trigger is even more notorious. Luckily, I’m not serving and protecting in New York City, where The Boys In Blue must attempt to cope with a 12-lbs. trigger pull. The stock G21SF pull registers right at the advertised 5 1/2lbs, with a lot of stack and a good amount of squish near the break.

Glock 21SF parts (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I was trained for a long, long time to never use the slide lock as a slide release. Then, after a class with Bill WIlson, I’ve trained myself into using the slide lock as a release. Only not with this gun.

During reloads, I missed the G21s minimal slide lock/release over and over again. It’s difficult to use even when not under stress. For the G21SF, releasing the slide by pulling back on the slide and letting it go is the only practical solution.

Note: be careful not to ride the slide forward or you will likely cause a malfunction. Yes, a malfunction. That said . . .

Unlike my G19s, I couldn’t “limp-wrist” the G21SF to jam. Holding the gun in my right hand fairly loosely and firing it across my body sideways, the gun cycled every time. I did the same drill on my back, which almost always causes my G19s to short cycle. Not with the G21SF. If I was holding the gun in a remotely safe manner, it cycled just fine.

Glock 21SF right side (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I had a little trouble with this gun’s reliability. But only with two new GLOCK-brand GLOCK magazines, and only for the first few strings of fire. After that, the gun ran like a champ.  Those same two magazines had trouble in another gun, but the one magazine supplied with the pistol had no issues at all.

After the first few magazines, I had no issues to load, fire, or eject. The magazine never failed to seat and it never failed to drop. I put 500 rounds through the GLOCK 21SF for this review. I have at least twice that through the gun now. Running completely stock, the G21SF performed flawlessly, fed a wide variety of ammunition brands, types and weights.

Glock 21SF gap (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

This brand new gun rattles a bit, though not as bad as an old Colt 1911 or a new Ruger SR1911. There’s also a good amount of space between the slide and the frame. As far as function, that doesn’t concern me much. But it’s a great place for dirt, snow and mud to find its way into the recoil spring and the action.

For a fairly lightweight .45, the G21 doesn’t have a problem with recoil. The recoil impulse is fairly mild and easily controllable. The slide goes back and forth on the rails with minimal muzzle flip. Keeping the muzzle down in fast fire for controlled pairs or the Mozambique Drill wasn’t a problem. Great but . . .

Glock 21SF groups (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The G21SF let me down in the accuracy department.

Firing Hornady’s Critical Defense 185gr FTX round off bags at 25 yards, I scored a fairly consistent 3″ average five-round group. Shooting the classic Winchester white box 230gr FMJ, I generated the exact same results. The winner in the accuracy department: Remington Ultimate Defense 230gr JHP round, delivering 2 3/4″ groups.

Is that ok? Sure, but it’s nothing to brag about. The mediocre accuracy in controlled, braced slow fire partially explains my lack of accuracy in fast fire.

I ran the Bill Wilson 5X5 test over and over with this gun, never scoring anything better than Sharpshooter. My average time was 31 seconds. I can score 10 full seconds faster with my Beretta 92FS, sometimes even better. I score in the mid 20s with my stock Colt Government 1911.

That poor score isn’t because I shoot too slow with the G21SF. It’s because I shoot too fast to remain accurate. I really struggled to stop this gun and keep it stopped when it came time to pull the trigger. I ended up with a lot of rounds just outside the target circle.

It’s not the grip angle. Yes, when I draw and present the gun, that was a big change I had to get used to. But I’ve been shooting GLOCKs heavily for a little over a year now. I do my daily dry-fire with a G19 and I put at about 350 rounds a week at the range through some GLOCK. I’m starting to get it.

The challenge: odd grip angle and more of a less-than-ideal trigger pull, combined with a fairly light weight front end. The combination makes it too easy to move the gun in fast fire.

Glock 21SF slow fire group (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Here’s a pic (above) of my best full magazine: 13 rounds in 13 seconds standing at 25 yards. Note this is my best attempt. You can see that the gun isn’t over any of the bullet holes and that they are well spread out in the target circle. Several are outside of it entirely. One round a second isn’t necessarily slow fire, but it’s not burning up the clock either.

Combine my difficulty keeping the gun still through the trigger pull with the mediocre basic precision of the gun, and I end up with a gun I’m not ready to count on in combat. Yet. But I’ll get there.

Glock 21SF magazine (photo courtesy of JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The GLOCK 21SF is the duty pistol more or less forced upon me. I could do a lot worse. I have a lot of work to do before I’m really comfortable with the gun, but the basics are there for a reliable duty pistol, or a suitable gun for personal defense.

Specifications: GLOCK 21 Short Frame

Caliber: .45ACP
Length: 8.03 in.
Width: 1.27 in.
Length Between Sights: 6.77 in.
Height: 5.47 in.
Barrel Height: 1.26 in.
Barrel Length: 4.60 in.
Weights: 29.30 oz. (unloaded)
Barrel Rifling: right hand, octagonal
Magazine Capacity: Standard, 13 Optional, 10
MSRP: $640 (on Brownells for less)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * *
The finish on the G21SF’s slide is even throughout, with no obvious tool marks or unevenness. It largely resembles a diving board from the top. The frame is a just blackish plastic in multiple geometric shapes. It works, but it’s not pretty.

Customization * * *
No changing the back straps on this one and there isn’t nearly the aftermarket support for it enjoyed by owners of the G17, 19 and 34.

Reliability * * * * 9/10ths
There were some magazine related issues at first, but cleared up quickly. The gun ran flawlessly after the quick break in.

Accuracy * * *
3″ groups were the norm. On a pistol this size, that’s exactly average.

Overall * * *
The GLOCK 21SF is a relatively inexpensive and reliable pistol with reasonable accuracy (when coupled with consistent training.) It’s also a known quantity, simple and easy to use. It defines the phrase “good enough for government work.”

comments

  1. avatar jwm says:

    I’m not a fan of Glocks. They’re very functional, the S&W model 10 of today’s world, I just don’t care for them. Mostly it’s the plastic brick feel of them.

    But of all the Glocks I’ve handled and shot the 21sf is the one I would have if I was required to buy a Glock. It manages to fit my hand better than the others.

    I don’t remember the model number but the .40 cal with a can was my worst, by far, experience with a glock.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      The S&W Model 10 is a great revolver, a true classic.

      I liked the G21 (regular frame) that I use to own (traded for a G19) other than the fact that the grip seemed just a hair large, and the whole gun seemed pretty big for CCW.

      I bet I’d really like the SF version of the 21, though I’d probably go for a 20 in 10mm instead (bears you know). The G21 seems like a good duty gun. Were I a police officer, I’d prefer the G21 to the G22, or G17.

  2. avatar Joe R. says:

    Good review. Thank you. Like seeing shot targets more than “out of the box” reviews.

    Definitely with you on the slide / frame ‘gap’ issue (one of my biggest pet peeves about polymer framed weapons, don’t like strikers, don’t like the rattle). You’d think some after market company could cure that for them.

    I don’t know why 3″ groups are the ‘norm’, my (burnt / non-swimming) Taurus PT1911 stock could do better (by almost half?). Once I put in a threaded precision barrel, it did even better.

  3. avatar little horn says:

    hmm a glock i might actually buy, i like the SF alot.

  4. avatar David says:

    Reliability is the key factor in why Glocks took over the pistol market. Until they came out semi-autos weren’t considered reliable enough for police work. Sometimes accuracy suffers to get that reliability. But this is only a sample size of one and there are many people who get better accuracy from their Glock.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      But somehow semiautomatics were reliable enough for the military where they were more likely to be used in combat? I think you drank too much Glock Koolaid. The reason that police departments switched to semiautos was that the bad guys did. Classic arms race among those who can’t shoot straight.

      1. avatar Don in AL says:

        The military has been using semiautos for some time, for the simple reason that you can field strip one for cleaning, and once apart, you can replace most parts. Not so with revolvers; if they jam up, it’s off to the armorer.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “Until they came out semi-autos weren’t considered reliable enough for police work.”
      David, many departments both in the US and abroad were using semi-automatic pistols for quite some time prior to the release of the Glock.
      Glocks became popular in police departments because they were reliable, easy to use, accurate enough, and just plain ol’ dirt cheap.

      1. avatar tdiinva says:

        JW:

        The notion that reliability is measured by a high round count was started by some prominent training gurus because of their observations from their classes. I have no idea how many rounds I can put through my carry guns without a failure because I keep them clean. I never get to the failure point. From a practical standpoint if you can put two or three magazines through a clean gun without a failure 100% of the time it’s probably good enough. If I knew that I was getting into a 500 round gunfight I won’t be relying on my handgun. I am bringing an AR and couple of buddies to the fight.

        1. avatar bob says:

          I believe what hes getting at is that before glocks came along, most semi auto pistols wouldn’t make it through a mag or two without a failure of some kind. Even the holy grail 1911 was only good if you shot 230 grain round ball from it, hollow points? nope.
          But when glock came out, it would eat nearly everything and do so without hiccups, so it really made more people aware of semi auto potential and pulled hard core old timers away from the revolver era.

          Not so much that it will eat 500 rounds without a cleaning.

        2. avatar tdiimva says:

          I don’t think so. It’s a myth. Hi Powers, Beretta 92s and 1911 were plenty reliable.

    3. avatar Specialist38 says:

      I thought it was because they were dirt cheap for departments to buy and that you worked on them with a dental pick and a hammer.

      Never underestimate the power of catering to a skin-flint, bean-counting, bureaucrat.

      Close is good enough for them.

    4. avatar DaveR says:

      “Sometimes accuracy suffers to get that reliability. But this is only a sample size of one and there are many people who get better accuracy from their Glock.”

      Yes, high grade tolerences decrease both intrinsic accuracy and production costs. But statistically there should be (and are) plently of stock Glocks floating around that are quite accutrate–these just happened to be assembled from components coming form the extremes of the tolerence range and that (purely by chance) resulted in a tighter fitting gun.

  5. avatar Joe Brown says:

    How did it have problems running with a few magazines but also run flawlessly? I think this is where the legendary reliability of Glock comes from, people forget when it malfunctions…

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I agree with you that many people forget, or maybe just excuse their issues with their Glocks.
      But in this case, I was pretty clear. The malfunctions only occurred with 2 magazines, not all magazines, and they occurred with another (non-Glock) firearm, and they only occurred for the first few magazine cycles. After that first few cycles, it ran for another 1,000+ rounds without issue. In this case “flawlessly” was warranted.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        There are plenty of semi-auto handguns that are flawless right out of the box without requiring any break-in period. So, I would state that reliability was “flawless after a break-in period of 50 rounds” or something to that effect.

        Also keep in mind that we are splitting hairs here since you were VERY clear as to what exactly happened and I give you the highest marks for being so forthcoming.

  6. avatar EGB says:

    Good review, did you go through a TX BLET program? Considering a local part-time program myself for a reserve support role, agencies require all members to be certified sworn officers. Considering your 68W background, I’m assuming they approached you.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I did not go through the TX BLET program. I did go through the full training and testing program required of all officers. The department has asked that I not name them. Yes, they approached me.

  7. avatar raptor jesus says:

    I am absolutely blown away at how the Glocks in .45 manage to soak up the intensity of that round.

    As far as the grip, I am the size of an average Japanese man (5’6″ 150 lbs) and I have small hands. I have trouble with the big frame Glocks, but the SF solved that problem – very ergonomic.

    However, I just sold my Glock 30SF because . . . . it was too chunky to conceal.

    1. avatar Wedge259 says:

      I had always considered my M&P 45’s to be the softest shooting 45 on the market, but I recently picked up a Gen 4 G21 and I think it has a slight edge!

  8. avatar Sean says:

    Glock perfection. Right.

  9. avatar strych9 says:

    Is the “No one is coming, it’s up to us” gun mat from 30 Seconds Out or did you make it?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Absolutely from 30 seconds out. They have a sister company, stencil tiger, where you can buy that stencil and many others.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        Oh God, not information a rattlecan junkie like myself should have…

        Thanks though.

  10. avatar Survivordude1090 says:

    I had a 21SF. For some reason, it wouldn’t work well for me. It had these weird hangups where the slide wouldn’t go all the way into battery and light primer strikes. I cleaned it multiple times and it never got through a range session without some kind of problem. Maybe mine was a dud, but I sold it for a FNX-45, and it runs flawless. I wouldn’t mine giving the 21SF another try though.

    1. avatar Wedge259 says:

      I had a G30s or sf with the same issue. I dug into it and it sounded like it was a trigger bar issue. Swapping them out for newer versions seemed to help for some people , but I sold mine before trying it.

  11. avatar Rocket scientist says:

    Glock makes a factory slide release with more of a bump that is a must. Why they don’t come with them stock is beyond me. It cures that one issue you mentioned perfectly and is still very unobtrusive. That and a 3.5 connector and call it done.

  12. avatar Specialist38 says:

    That’s a lot of challenge coins to have to carry (and rub).

  13. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I prefer the Glock 41 – easier to hit with for some reason. Maybe its the slender slide.

  14. avatar Jon in CO says:

    The slide “release” is a part labeled “slide stop” by Glock. Anyone trained by Glock is trained to slingshot the slide, but there’s aftermarket parts available, and an OEM bigger slide stop if you really want it. Personally, I hate more stuff on the side where my hands/fingers/thumb rest.

    The weird thing is the accuracy. I’ve had the complete opposite results. The G21/30 have been the most accurate Glocks I own. None of them are that bad to have 3” groups though. OEM barrels are cheap to replace if you feel you need to. Good write up.

  15. avatar JM says:

    I have a 20SF (same frame in 10mm). That is fine but echo some of the comments about the 21SF. However, my 21 is a Gen4 and it is a DREAM to shoot. I shoot that better than any of my other Glocks. The grip without additional backstraps seems a bit smaller than the SF and the double recoil spring seems to do the trick. Highly recommend you try.

  16. avatar Romey says:

    Seems like some people just don’t like Glocks. I have a few, a 30SF that I carry in colder weather. It has functioned flawless in the years I’ve owned it. Many malfunctions are related to magazines, I have been marking mags for years for that reason.

  17. Interesting.
    The G21 is one of the more accurate pistols I own, particularly at 25 yards.
    I mostly stick with ball 230 grain rounds.

  18. avatar Tom W. says:

    My 21 is affectionately called a railroad tie with a grip. Never an issue with any ammo and totally combat accurate.

    Plus it’s dishwasher safe, and pistol whipping approved.

    1. avatar Mikial says:

      Amen to that.

  19. avatar Big Joe says:

    Get some Talon grips, “sand paper” type…don’t worry they feel great and will help your grip on the gun. I have a gen 3 with Glock light and laser and it is my nightstand gun. You can also do the “25 cent” trigger polish job, many videos on that or it will usually smooth up over time. As someone else said their is an inexpensive slide stop made by Glock for easier engagement or you can go more expensive and get a “Vicker’s” version. Last, but not least when shooting, imagine yourself in a life or death situation and shoot a couple of mags that way. Like “Josey Wales” said, ” Sometimes you just have to get plumb mad dog mean and that’s just the way it is.” or something to that affect/effect…😂👍🍻

  20. avatar Mikial says:

    I have a G21 and a G21SF, and frankly I don’t feel a lot of difference between them. I love them both. I carry the G21 (and have since 2001), and the G21SF resides next to my bed with a light on it. I do not have large hands, but I don’t have any issues shooting tight groups with either of them. Yeah, I love Glocks, but I also love my 1911s, Jericho and Beretta 92. Glocks are just one of a lot of great guns available to Americans who love the Second Amendment and the freedom we have to protect ourselves and have fun shooting.

  21. avatar Pistol says:

    Geez. Didn’t read most of the comments but it really sounds like he’s down on Glocks. I have owned over 15 in most all calibers and they are the most accurate pistols Ive shot maybe with the exception of a few 1911 Colt’s or a Remington R1. The 21 SF IMHO is a fantastic gun. One of the BEST. I think this guy needs to shoot some more. Just Sayin!!

  22. avatar Tim McNamara says:

    Judging by the group shown, I would presume that the shooter needs to modify his strong hand grip. Looks like the gun is shifting slightly in his hand as he’s pressing the trigger.
    All my Glocks are more accurate than I am.

  23. avatar GeoInSD says:

    On the topic of limp wristing a 21SF, it can be done. A friend of my daughter’s came to the range with us and wanted to shoot with my 21SF since he shot with his father’s 21SF before. He would have a failure to feed every mag, very often more than one. Then I took it. Shot 2 or 3 mags worth with no trouble. He took it back, still having the same problem. The RO came over, disassembled it and lubed it. No improvement. The boy said he had no problem with his father’s 21SF. I suspect the difference is he shot using my handloads, which were loaded to “starting powder charge” from the loading table, therefore had a bit lower recoil. I told him to hold the gun really firmly. His failure to feeds didn’t completely disappear but they improved dramatically. So it is possible to limp wrist with a 21SF, but perhaps not with ammo not on the lighter side.

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