The best all-around gun I ever had

I imagine that if you did a google search for “the best gun for x” you could spend days and days wandering forums and blogs reading thousands of different opinions and ideas on what the best gun for a given task is. But what if you only want one gun? What if you want the best all around gun that will be good for concealed carry, competition, home defense, hiking, and just be as good at everything as it can be. Good luck with that. However, here’s the best all around gun I’ve ever had.

Gen4 Glock 21

Surprise! It’s a Glock, but it’s not a 9mm. It’s a Glock 21 Gen4, which I think is the best .45 Glock has ever made and is definitely the best “all around” gun I’ve ever owned.

The Glock 21 in Gen4 livery is pretty much the ideal concept of what a modern defense pistol in .45 ACP should be. While I normally wouldn’t give a rip if it was 9mm or a .45, having a .45 means you can do some stuff with this gun that you couldn’t do with a 9mm. For example, make major power factor for gun games, or shoot .45 ACP +P loads that will take down deer and wild game. Plus, it’s pretty easy to shoot well:

I used that same Glock 21 at the IDPA match where I had my best finish in a division that matters (4th CDP at the 2012 Indoor Nationals)

And I also used it to put some decent times on the FAST Drill

That gun shot over 10,000 rounds of steel cased ammo as well, pretty thoroughly debunking the theory that steel cased ammo is harder on handguns than brass cased ammo.

Starting with competition shooting, here’s a big part of why this gun is so great. Here is a list of the different divisions you can shoot it in:

  • USPSA Production
  • USPSA Limited
  • USPSA L10

Glock 21 Gen 4

Obviously, it’s going to fit naturally into CDP for IDPA, because it’s a .45 ACP. Similarly, it fits quite nicely into L10 for USPSA. For the other divisions, a bit of work is needed to make it really work, but it’s quite easy to download .45 ACP to minor levels, and I have to tell you that shooting minor .45 ACP out of this gun is just a real treat. For Limited, you are at a capacity disadvantage, because even with an Arredondo magazine extension, the gun will only hold 15 rounds so on a 32 round field course, you’re doing two reloads.

The Glock 21 is not too big to carry. I carried one in a multitude of different holsters, but if I had to do it again I’d follow my advice from yesterday’s post and buy a Summer Comfort for it, and be done with the holster shopping. Problem solved, problem staying solved. It’s small enough to conceal with a modicum of work, but it’s still a full sized gun, which again makes it easy to shoot. For home defense, you can toss all manner of lights or lasers on it, the better to see stuff in a dark house. Plus, 13 rounds of .45 ACP is nothing to laugh about. Which brings me to the final reason why I believe it’s the best all around gun I’ve ever had:

The Caliber

Warren Rear sight Glock 21

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I don’t believe that in common self-defense loads, the .45 ACP offers any ballistic advantage over a 9mm. A 230 grain .45 ACP PDX/Ranger is going to do roughly the exact same thing as a 147 grain 9mm Ranger bullet. It’ll penetrate greater than 12 inches and expand to a diameter of over 0.60 inches. However, where .45 has an advantage over 9mm is the number of different things you can do with a .45 ACP. You can load a .45 down to minor pressure levels to shoot production or just have a pleasant bit of range time.

Depending on your state’s laws, you can buy factory .45 ACP +P that’s perfectly legal to hunt deer and other medium sized game with. Buffalo Bore’s 185 grain +P load with a Barnes all copper bullet, for example, would be perfectly legal in South Dakota for deer hunting. Would be an ideal hunting handgun? Probably not. But again, we’re not looking for a gun that’s best at one thing, this gun is just really good at a bunch of different stuff. .45 ACP also lends itself very well to suppression, so again you’ve got a gun that can do a lot of different stuff very well. A suppressed Glock 21 with night sights and a light would make one hell of a home defense gun; swap the barrel and recoil spring and you’ve got a deer pistol, go to a different RSA and you’re shooting IDPA CDP or L10 like a sir.

It may not be the best at any one thing, but if I could only own one gun for the rest of my life, it’d be a Glock 21 Gen4. Good thing I don’t have to only own one gun, though.


  1. Been looking for a hi cap .45 for heavy metal division. You may have just sold me. Keeping with your theme here I know it’s not the best fit for that division but with most fun purchases I love the idea of being able to do a lot of different things with it.

    1. Another good point would be that you could chop the grip to a 30 for carry, and use a mag sleeve for other uses. Though, competition might be hindered by altering the grip.

  2. Do you have any experience with the Glock 41? I like that it’s narrower than the 21 without the slide cutouts they do in the 34 and 35. I don’t know enough about division requirements to know if it is eligible for as many games but that seems like a big part of the existence of the 41…

    1. I’ve got a 41. I love it.
      It will compete in all the the same divisions as the 21. Because of the slimmer slide, it also has the advantage of fitting into Glock 9mm holsters.

  3. I got my first G21 in 1992, I don’t remember the Gen that thing was, but that pistol served me very well and it was super reliable and accurate with every load I put in it.

    I own a G21, 3G SF now and I really like it.

  4. For some reason .45 seems to shoot subjectively more accurately than 9mm for me.

    I have no data to back this statement up at all, but for some reason .45 seems to land better hits. Even between two basically identical pistols like a 21 and a 17, the 21 seems to put more rounds in the bullseye. I have no idea why this is, or even if it is really happening, but I like it.

  5. Anyone know anything about maintance issues (like the whole replacing the recoil spring on the Glock 22)?

  6. Why not a G20? 10mm has a wider range of available power than 45. It’d be better for hunting and just as good for self defense and competition. I suppose it’d be more expensive to shoot and a bit harder to get ammo for, so maybe this is why?

    1. If you’re willing to use a conversion barrel, you can shoot .40 S&W for practice and competition, which is cheaper than .45. And 10mm is a better hunting round.

    1. The g20 is ineligible to compete in IDPA CDP thereby making it less “all around”

  7. I just want to say that I’ve posed that same hypothetical question to myself: If I could only keep one of my guns, which would it be? And my answer is my Glock 21, first generation, which I’ve had for 20 years and counting now. My reasons are pretty much the same as yours. Maybe not the absolute best for anything in particular, but good for an awful lot, and I have complete confidence in it. The only modifications from stock are a set of steel Heinie sights and a steel guide rod, which I installed after the head of the plastic rod chipped (although it still worked in that condition). I shot USPSA regularly with it for several years, and it’s had I don’t know how many thousands of rounds through it by now. The only time it’s ever malfunctioned has been with some grossly out of spec reloads and once when I was experimenting with an unusual shooting position that led to an extreme “limp wrist” situation. It’s accurate enough for anything I need to do with a pistol, and I’ve shot it enough and developed enough muscle memory and confidence with it that shooting it is almost a Zen experience.

    1. Just to clarify, before someone calls me on it – When I said my pistol was first generation, I meant that it’s one of the early production Glock 21s; it’s a “first generation” 21 but a “second generation” Glock. I should have been more careful with my phrasing in my initial post.

  8. But Caleb, I thought you were short, and the 21 was only sized for linebackers and larger?

    /trollingtoo (because I think I may be shorter than you!)

    I’ve shot one as well, and liked it, just not well enough to swap my XD-45 for it. Now, if I ever get around to modifying an ambi-safety for my old Kimber Poly Custom, I’ll have the same capacity, shootability, AND a kick-ass single-action trigger to boot!

  9. Whatever works for you is the best one to keep and carry. My best all around is a Model 24 Smith and Wesson. Its not the best, hottest fastest and it is a wheel gun but when things go bump in the night or a fresh target appears on the range position that needs to be perforated the big N frame is what I want to feel in my hand.

    (No tupperware comments or 10mm bashing here. )

    Shoot what you like and like what you shoot!

  10. I’m looking for a pistol that the wife can carry on a hike. We have sizable critters here. I have shot a Glock 17 in 9mm. Love the gun. Accuracy was surprisingly good for someone that does not shoot a pistol regularly. My friend recommending reading this article. I like how the Glock 21 in 45ACP sounds. Will this combo be the best for a woman compared to a 9mm in regards to control, kick and comfort. Is the 9mm a better option? Is the smaller gun like a model 17 a better option for carrying or not worth the tradeoff?

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