For this Shootout, we decided to take two pistols often favored by the ever-growing number of shooters who are interested in suppressors and run them through the paces. These pistols are the Glock 21 SF and the Heckler & Koch (HK) USP Tactical. The suppressor utilized for these tests is the SilencerCo Osprey.
First, a note about the suppressor, as you can see from the pictures, instead of the typical tubular design, the Osprey’s shape is eccentric, allowing the bulk of the suppressor to hang below the pistols’ bore lines. Whereas standard round suppressors obscure the sights, requiring taller sights to be fitted to the gun. This can result in a slightly low point of impact. However, most of this is mitigated with the Osprey. The eccentric design also allows the standard factory sights to be used. Between the convenience of the unconventional design and the fact that the bushing which attached the suppressor to the test pistols was interchangeable (a must, since the two barrels have different thread patterns), the features of the Osprey came together to present us with a very user-friendly device.
Both pistols in this Shootout! are chambered for the .45 auto cartridge which, in its standard 230gr FMJ subsonic loading, is a fine choice to pair with a suppressor. The HK is an off-the-shelf model that is very close in function to the pistols used by military Special Forces when a suppressor is required. Aside from some non-slip surfaces added to the polymer grip, the gun has not been modified in any way. The Glock 21 has been fitted with a drop-in replacement threaded barrel from Lone Wolf Distributors (MSRP $139.95), but is otherwise in original factory condition.
Functionally, the Glock 21 performed admirably in our tests. This particular Glock has a very nice, clean-breaking trigger and is equipped with factory night sights. The G21 did not jam and we had no trouble with the aftermarket Lone Wolf barrel. In fact, in times of ammunition shortages these aftermarket barrels may be of special interest to anyone interested in shooting non-jacketed lead ammunition. Glock’s standard octagonal rifling makes for wonderful accuracy with jacketed bullets, but Glock specifically recommends that lead ammunition not be used as it causes considerable fouling and could eventually result in damage to the gun due to increased pressures. Lone Wolf barrels have standard land and groove rifling, which allows for the use of lead bullets with no noticeable reduction in accuracy. Standard rifling is a bit harder to clean, but with the price of bullets increasing and availability decreasing, simple lead cast bullets become more attractive all the time.
The only detraction from the G21’s otherwise-flawless performance is the fact that with the suppressor attached, the gun shot low, approximately two inches under the point of aim at fifteen yards. This is a common problem with suppressed handguns because the suppressor hanging off the end of the pistol alleviates the barrel flip that many handgun sights are regulated for. Even with this abnormal point of impact, there was no difficulty shooting good groups with the pistol, they were just a little lower than normal. However, because of the consistency this gun provides, it was simple to make adjustments for better accuracy.
The HK USP gave an excellent showing as well. This pistol, with its slightly elevated bore line, external hammer and familiar thumb safety should appeal to anyone experienced with 1911s. The USP is an extremely well made gun, with a lot of attention to detail. HK has enhanced the reliability and durability of this firearm by using steel in many places that other pistols have plastic parts, such as the guide rod. Both double and single-action trigger pulls on the USP are very good, and we obtained excellent groups with the pistol. One interesting design feature of the HK is that it uses an O-ring set in a groove in order to align the barrel inside the slide, instead of using a bushing. At first glance, this might appear to be a part with a very short lifespan, but upon closer inspection, it turns out to be made of a substance far harder and more durable than the rubber typically associated with O-rings. By all appearances, this “O-ring” should last as well as any steel bushing and will be less expensive to replace when the time comes.
There were no jams or other difficulties shooting the HK with the silencer attached, and the point of impact was just above the sight picture, which is only slightly lower than the point of impact sans suppressor. This makes sense, as the HK was built to accommodate a suppressor and the company probably assumes most of its use will be in conjunction with just such an accessory.
When it comes to declaring a winner between these two pistols most of the normal standards for grading can be cast aside. Both of these pistols will produce groups that form one large ragged hole over the course of ten rounds and both function flawlessly with or without a suppressor installed.
The Glock will appeal to anyone enamored with the new breed of simplistic polymer frame pistols that the company has spawned since the introduction of the Glock 17 long ago.
The HK will appeal to anyone who prefers manual safeties and the flexibility of an exposed hammer. While the USP looks a bit clumsy, it is actually a very easy gun to get the hang of after a just a few minutes of practice and points extremely well once the shooter gets used to its slightly odd-feeling grip angle. From a mechanical or accuracy standpoint, either of these guns would be a fine addition to any gun safe.
All other factors being equal, price is likely to be the determining factor when it comes to choosing between the Glock and the HK. You can purchase a Glock 21, like the one used in this review, in the neighborhood of $550 and a Lone Wolf or other aftermarket-threaded barrel will cost around $150, bringing the total to $700, plus or minus a few bucks.
We borrowed the HK USP Tactical from one of the local shops where it had a price tag of $1200, which is a bit lower than the new MSRP of $1352. Percentage-wise, even with a used HK this is a large price disparity and, as a result, the Glock 21 wins by decision. If you’re planning on getting your first suppressor, the Glock is a wonderfully cost-effective option that leaves you with enough money left over to invest in a well-made, practical suppressor like the SilencerCo Osprey without completely breaking the bank. On the other hand, you can’t take it with you, and with ATF wait times now exceeding six months for an NFA tax stamp, maybe you’ll have time to save up for both.