We thought the polymer-framed Model 21 ran more reliably than Springfield’s Standard Wide Body PB9707.
The game of Practical Shooting demands a gun that can be drawn fast, shot with abandon, and reloaded quickly. Referred to as IPSC competition for the organization that governs it (International Practical Shooting Conference), the courses of fire vary from event to event. At the 1997 National Championship, the course featured multiple open targets at close range. This was meant to reflect an armed confrontation, which according to statistics takes place most often within 7 yards. The Golden Gate Championship in Richmond, California, annually features unusually long field courses with astronomical round counts.
In these and other cases, contest layouts often favor the shooter who doesn’t have to reload as often, which gives the edge to high-capacity guns. Extra reloads add time and the liability of shooter error. Performance Shooter had the IPSC game in mind when we purchased two different pistols with high-capacity potential. We chose the Glock 21 and the new Parkerized Springfield Standard Wide Body PB9707. We bought the Glock for $668, and the Springfield retails for around $659.95. Both guns are chambered for .45 ACP and store ammunition in a two-column double-stack magazine. Each gun was shipped with 10-round mags as per current legislation, but pre-ban magazines and replacement components that can effectively construct high-capacity mags are still available.
Despite the .40 S&W; round being at the forefront of current competition ammo, we chose guns chambered in .45 ACP. The only reason the .40 S&W; became popular is its smaller-diameter case, which allowed more rounds to be stuffed in the mag. But the .40 is pressure sensitive, and there are fewer reloading components to choose from. Ted Bonnet won World Shoot X in 1996 with a Para-Ordnance .40, but his 1996 shooting season leading up to that match was typical of those switching from other rounds to the .40. It took all year to perfect a load, and he still experiences an occasional case separation. In fact, Bonnet was out of the running all year, right up until World Shoot because of ammo and gun malfunctions. These are some of the reasons more wide bodies in .45 ACP and not .40 S&W; are showing up on the market.
How We Tested
To begin, we set up paper targets 25 yards downrange of our Ransom Rest. Testing was outdoors with 12 o’clock winds gusting up to 15 mph. Our three test loads were factory target ammo by Winchester (185-grain Auto Super Match), defensive-type hollow points from Federal (185-grain Hi-Shok) plus handloaded moly-coated 200-grain semi-wadcutters from Precision Bullets over 4.6 grains of Hodgdon’s Clays powder. Lot number 381862Y135 appeared on the Federal boxes, but Winchester showed no identification beyond the style number X45AWCP. Bullet profile was that of the semi-wadcutter variety with a shortened tip, encased in a copper jacket that looked like it had been melted on. The handloads featured mixed brass that had been reloaded more than five times and is typical of nonmatch practice ammo found in the bags of most IPSC shooters between major competitions.
In the battle of five five-shot groups from the Ransom Rest, the Glock 21 shot the best overall group at 1.7 inches using the Winchester ammunition. The second-best group was from the Springfield at 2.3 inches using this same ammo. The biggest difference seemed to be the Springfield was less willing to feed the Winchester .45 Auto Super Match. Best groups per ammo per gun were much the same for the Federal and the handloads. The Glock was slightly better with the handloads, 2.4 inches to the Springfield’s 2.8 inches, but with Federal the 1911 from Springfield edged out the polymer-bodied Glock 3.0 to 3.2 inches.
Testing accuracy from 10 yards standing without support to simulate match conditions, we found the guns yielded competitive results. At this distance the handloads were far superior to the factory rounds. We tried to shoot best groups with 10 rounds, but the Glock mags would not load all ten rounds. The mag would hold the tenth round, but it bulged the lips of the mag, preventing the round from chambering. Thus, the Glock’s best nine-round group standing at 10 yards was 1.27 inches with the handloads. Two fliers in the Springfield’s group expanded an otherwise good 10-shot group from 1.7 to 3 inches.
Other performance characteristics of the guns are noted below.
Glock Model 21
The only serious threat to 1911 dominance in IPSC competition has come from Glock pistols. Initially, Glocks were frowned upon in Practical Shooting circles because of their polymer construction and lack of available aftermarket performance parts. In response to this, the company formed the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation (GSSF) and held its own national competition. Now, the list of go-fast parts grows longer by the day, augmenting the solid performance of the out-of-the-box Glock as accurate, reliable, high-capacity firearms.
One of many companies manufacturing and installing competition parts for Glock is AroTek. AroTek offers an Ultimate Combat and an Ultimate Competition package with more than 14 different aftermarket parts installed. These range from magwells to titanium strikers to speed locktime and shorten trigger pull. The necessary leather for a hasty draw and reload are also now widely available.
In our examination of the Glock 21, we found the gun to be on the borderline of comfortable in the hands. The trigger has a revolver feel in that it is curved and double-action only. The trigger is hinged at the top and at the middle. The middle hinge is a safety mechanism, but it causes no noticeable delay in takeup. The gun will cycle as fast as you can pull the trigger. If you favor a revolver, this is the semi-auto for you. The first trigger pull is slightly longer than follow-up shots, and split time between shots number two and three, and so on, can be improved upon by learning the proper distance of trigger return.
As noted above, accuracy for the gun is more than acceptable, in our estimation. To bolster accuracy with aftermarket parts, shooters rely mainly upon barrel replacement, because the slide is connected by metal skates set in the plastic frame. No Accu-Rail–type system is available. The grip is one piece, so a phone call to Hogue or Pachmayr for improvement is out of the question. One popular grip mod is a simple rubber sleeve slipped over the handle. We would prefer Glock making the handle’s exterior rougher on the sides. The mag release is far out of reach so an extended mag release is necessary for the speed reload. Also, in our gun, the mags would not drop freely, which would kill your match results. The Glock shooter would have to search for mags to solve this problem. Also, the two 10-round mags supplied with the gun would only hold nine rounds.
This is primarily a defense gun, but many of its features also work well in a match. The white-outline rear sight and stubby front sight were easy to read, even though they sit low on the slide. All the gun’s smooth edges facilitate a snag-free draw from concealment, and the 21 willingly feeds whatever ammo is available. The .45 ACP Model 21 is the softest shooting of all the Glocks, in our view, and it certainly shoots softer than the Springfield 1911. Despite the feeling of bulk, the gun steers quickly. With a few refinements, you could go out and be competitive with this gun right away.
Wide Body PB9707
Looking all business in a full Parkerized finish, the Springfield Standard High Capacity 1911 is the company’s entry into the wide-body market. The fat well was just thin enough to be comfortable, and some shooters with smaller hands may not be able to handle this gun without using thinner aftermarket grip panels. Sights on the gun are easy to use, sitting tall and displaying white dots front and rear. The mag release is a little out of the way, but we found it with the standard technique of rotating the gun quickly to the thumb in a counter clockwise and slightly upward motion. The safety release, despite being of standard size, was quick to operate and can be ridden with the right-hand thumb while firing.
We felt the gun cycled slightly faster than the Glock and registered less slide impulse. The mag well is not enhanced or enlarged with a guide nor is it beveled. This can be a plus if you plan to add an oversized mag well in the future. A mag guide is harder to blend into a beveled well where material has already been removed. The beavertail grip safety is a little thin and does not protect the shooter’s hand as much as we would like. Also, we think there needs to be a raised area on the lower portion of this mechanism for sure engagement. As reported, Para Ordnance mags do work fine in the Springfield, but any base-pad modifications for additional capacity must incorporate adequate clearance so the mag sits deep enough to be held in place.
As the gun got dirty in our testing, the trigger began to develop a creep, moving the necessary pressure to break a shot from just under 5 pounds to 61/2 pounds. Also, after a lot of shooting, the gun became balky and almost quit running. Taking it apart to clean was simple, as are all 1911s, single stack or wide body, but in our view, the gun was dirty but not so much so to stop it. However, the gun was dry. Very dry. Applying oil to the frame and slide and even the forward 3 inches of the outside of the barrel was like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it. We used Snake-Oil lubricant on these guns, and at $4 an ounce, this was getting expensive. The Parkerized finish, which not only covers the contact points of the slide and frame but more than half the outside of the chrome-moly barrel, drank oil.
Like a cast-iron skillet, these areas may need seasoning. Parkerizing, according to Springfield Armory, is a controlled oxidizing process (rusting) that is meant to improve the ability of the finish to hold oil. Based on our experience and the malfunctions we encountered, we question if it is a good idea to Parkerize wear surfaces that interfere with the smooth operation of the pistol. We can see no reason whatsoever to coat a chrome barrel with a rough texture, much less the rails.
Performance Shooter Recommends
In this matchup, our concern was getting from the store to the match as quickly as possible. Sadly, neither gun is ready to go out of the box.
In the case of the Springfield Armory PB9707 .45 ACP, we think the gun would require substantial work to be Limited Class ready. Ongoing malfunctions, which we lay at the feet of the Parkerized finish being applied to moving surfaces, disqualify the Springfield as a competition gun, in our view. Despite our best efforts, we could not get the gun broken in. It might work better with still more time on the range and just the right ammo, but in our view, if it’s fussy about ammo, the PB9707 isn’t a beginner’s gun. The focus here is to jump into IPSC with a gun you can spend the most time shooting. IPSC is more than equipment; you have to understand the game, and participating, not gunsmithing is the only way to learn.
Any run-and-gun product must be tuned with the right ammo and mags. The Glock 21 didn’t function perfectly in our tests, failing to handle the tenth round in a mag and not releasing mags freely. However, we believe that finding the right mags will solve the gun’s function difficulties—in contrast to the Springfield Standard Wide body in Parkerized finish. Anyone interested in getting into IPSC with a gun that is capable of not only holding more rounds but is reliable enough to use them should consider buying the Glock 21.