How the New GLOCK G21 Revolutionized the Gun Industry in 1991

Gather around kids, we’re going to take a trip back into the past so you shooters coming of age today can understand how good you have it.

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In 1991, the gun industry was, to a degree, a stagnant, faltering, lethargic beast that couldn’t innovate its way out of a wet paper bag. Designs moved forward at a snail’s pace. There was the jump from revolvers to semi-automatics, but the layout and designs were still mostly cemented in old ideas.

Metal-framed, double action/single action, hammer-fired guns. SIG SAUER, Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, CZ, etc., pretty much mirrored each other when it came to the 9mm platform.

Make a gun that’s basically a Hi-Power in size, with similar capacity, and make it double action capable. Even HK trying to be different at the time was still pushing their amazingly expensive and complicated P7 series.

The .45 ACP market was largely the same. You had companies look at the basic idea and layout of the 1911, make a double action-capable pistol, and other than that, don’t change much.

GLOCK, however, was the outlier. We all know the story by now. Lightweight, polymer framed, striker-fired, higher capacity compared to the competitors at the time, yadda, yadda.

Why did I mention the year 1991? Because in 1991, the .45 ACP was still a popular duty round and a number of law enforcement agencies still wanted it even though .40 S&W was released a year before.

The problem with .45 ACP was capacity. That was always an issue and one reason why .40 S&W did so well. But back to the topic at hand Prior to 1991, .45 ACP was mostly relegated to single-stack guns with seven and eight round capacities. They were big, heavy beasts, too.

But in 1991 two new guns were released. One that was clearly an outgrowth of the old mindset and one that wasn’t.

The Ruger P90 was released in 1991 and was a fine representation of how staid most companies were in their designs. Here was another a DA/SA pistol, as complicated as a 1911 with its swing link, as large as a 1911, with a seven round capacity and a weight of 34oz.

Yes, the P90 was a reliable gun, but it was a beast. The ergonomics were only OK and the gun was covered in sharp edges. The trigger pull was average for the era…9 to 10 lbs in double action and 3lbs to 4lbs in single action.

By 1991, the market was screaming for higher capacity. It was the era of the cocaine and crack epidemics, high violent crime rates, and a perception that cops were being outgunned by bad guys (which to a degree, they were).

And what Ruger released for the .45 ACP duty market was a heavy, low capacity gun to compete with the other dated designs like the S&W Model 4506 (8 rds & 41.6 oz), SIG P220 (7 rds & 30.4 oz), the Colt Double Eagle (8 rds & 41.52 oz), and of course the 1911 Government model (7 rds or 8 rds & 40 oz).

That same year, GLOCK released the G21.

Here, you have a .45 ACP pistol that held 13 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition, and weighed 26.0oz. That’s almost a half pound lighter than the P90 with almost twice the capacity. The gun was smooth for the most part, with no rough or sharp edges and had a constant trigger pull weight of 5.5 lbs.

GLOCK found a way to make them affordable and pass the cost savings to the consumer. The overall design was simple and worked extremely well. The G21 got a lot of attention and cannibalized the sales of every .45 ACP on the market. The 4506, P220, P90, and especially the 1911 were lumbering dinosaurs waiting to be killed off by the fallout from the G21 asteroid strike.

To put things in perspective, the G21 weighed less than a Beretta 92FS, SIG P226, S&W 5903, and all of its other contemporary Wonder Nine-era competitors’ designs and offered harder-hitting .45 ACP.

It was that radically different at the time and the G21 took the law enforcement market by storm. My first agency was a firm believer in the G21 as were many others in Florida. The G21 was simple and supremely reliable.

Most shooters coming of age today have no grasp of how revolutionary that was. The arrival of GLOCK in the 80s and early 90s completely changed the designs and mindset of the handgun industry.

Some new shooters today complain about a G21 being big or heavy. It they only knew…. And I say that as a fan of those DA/SA Wonder Nines and boat anchor DA/SA single stack .45’s. But they’re all outdated and GLOCK is the reason why.

And let’s head off the comment entries asking how a GLOCK can be Perfection if it requires hundreds of dollars to fix.

GLOCKs don’t need fixing. They’re a very easy platform to customize, which is where a lot of the confusion comes into play. Because they’re easy to customize and there are dozens of choices in aftermarket products, lots of people upgrade them. I pretty much keep mine stock except for night sights and a factory 3.5 lbs trigger connector bar. But that’s not “fixing” in my book.

Whether you like GLOCKs or hate them, the market wouldn’t be what it is today without them. So take solace in knowing that the massive abundance of other excellent, dependable, boringly reliable, polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns like the SIG P320, S&W M&P 2.0, Walther PPQ and others exist because of GLOCK and how they revolutionized the market a generation ago.

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