By Trampas Swanson

One of the most popular topics in the U.S. firearms industry over the past 10 years has been concealed carry and what works best for most situations. With programs such as the USCCA and NRA Carry Guard, concealed carry continues to gain even more support across the country along with the training needed for added safety. While there is no definitive answer to the perfect carry pistol, firearms manufacturers have been working diligently to answer the call for light weight, compact pistols to fit the CCW niche.

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Last year at the industry elite SHOT SHOW held in Las Vegas, Glock decided to toss their hat in the ring with the introduction of their smallest frame to date in the form of the 6 + 1 capacity Glock model 42 chambered in .380 ACP. Legions of Glock fans flocked to their local shops to get a look at this new venture by Glock. Sales sky rocketed causing retailers to become back ordered for months. Due to the immediate popularity, hundreds of reviews flooded publications on how wonderful the G42 .380 must be and not how they actually performed over a decent span of time living with it day in and day out. In doing reviews, it is easy to fall in love at first sight with the new shiny toy in the window, but I have always believed it is how you feel about one over time is the true weight of an over view.

In February of that year, I was notified by Glock there would be a G42 on its way for review within the week. After receiving it along with a handful of other Gen 4 models, I spent several days and hundreds of round of ammunition testing and evaluating each one. By the middle of that May, a review of the Generation 4 style of Glocks including the G42 was posted. While I received fantastic feedback from the honest and straight forward opinions I gave in the review, the .380 was the only pistol I didn’t not have years of experience with from a former generation. Since the time I took receipt of the guns, I decided to replace my Ruger LCP pocket pistol with the G42 and carry it daily for well over 18 months now. In this review, I will look at how this small Glock has served as my daily “go to” pistol and any modifications I considered necessary for it to better fit my needs.

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First Look

When I first laid eyes on the model 42 Glock, I remember wondering to myself: “Where is the rest of it?” Prior to the model 42’s release, the smallest Glock on the market was the Glock model 36 chambered in .45 ACP. I dare say, there was a noticeable difference between the model 36 and 42! Other than the return to a Gen 1 style two pin system such as the one that has recently reappeared in the Gen 5 9mm pistols, everything else on the 42 was the old familiar Glock parts only smaller.

Specs

  • Caliber .380 Auto
  • Magazine Capacity 6 + 1
  • Overall Weight 13.76 oz.
  • Overall Length 5.94”
  • Sight Radius 4.92”
  • Width .94”

Carry Choices

The first order of business was to figure out how to carry the new Glock and what was on the market available to carry it in. I convinced John Phillips from Survivor Creek Tactical (www.survivorcreek.com) to make a custom kydex holster designed to carry the Glock 42 in the front pocket of my shorts. Living in the “Sunshine State” of Florida, shorts are pretty much the attire for about 300 days a year, so options in carrying concealed comfortably are limited. As stated in previous articles, the kydex holster designs from John’s shop have always been second to none in comfort and security.

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On the occasion, my attire has called for carrying the Glock in a different position, the Ankle Glove by Galco Holsters has served very well when spending long periods of time seated in a vehicle with long pants. During these times, drawing from a pocket just isn’t feasible in a smooth and timely manner. With the premium saddle leather holster anchored to your ankle by a wide neoprene strap with sheepskin padding, it is a surprisingly comfortable rig. Although Galco offers a separate support band which straps to your calf and helps hold the weight, it has never crossed my mind to need it. Retailing at $98.95 US, the Ankle Glove is a tough as nails option for those whose day to day attire requires pants.

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Upgrading the G42 Sights

After posting my initial review, I decided to purchase the sample Glock 42 and give it more one on one time apart from the other pistols. For over a year since then, the little Glock has rode concealed everywhere I chose to go in one capacity or another. One issue I pointed out in the first review was my distaste for the factory Glock white outline “U” shape rear sight and white front sight. The great folks at Trijicon were happy to help out with this problem in the form of the Glock HD Yellow Outline Night Sights. As one of the first companies to see a need in the market for better G42 sights, Trijicon immediately offered night sights. As the manufacturer of most of the tritium in the industry, it would make sense to go with the folks who know night sights best!

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With a wider “U” shape rear sight and two dots, the front sight easily comes into view day or night with the tritium front sight surrounded by a highly visible yellow outline. These sights are made of steel to endure harsh punishment and sit up slightly higher on the slide to catch not only your eye’s attention, but to help with hooking the slight forward curve of the rear sight on a belt or pocket edge for one handed slide manipulations in emergency drills. In low light, the green tritium glow is clear without being distracting while acquiring your sight picture. I felt confident in making the $160 US investment for the sights due to a very pleasant and long history with their company’s products from my law enforcement days. While the tritium lamps come with a 12 year warranty, I know from first-hand knowledge, their sights stay bright and visible for many years after that. With the new sights installed, it was time to hit the range for some testing.

Range Time

Once I arrived at my local range at Second Amendment Guns and Range in Yulee, FL, I had the range to myself for the first hour. My first test session would be based only on white box Winchester .380 95 grain ball ammo in the 100 round value packs due to the lack of availability at the immediate time for other ammo brands. The first thing I noticed after shooting the initial 6 shots was the previously mentioned new sights. The sight change really paid off. The lane I was on was poorly lit due to a burned out over head bulb but the sights quickly came into view along with the target. Running the gun at 15 yards, the narrow front sight and wide rear sight allowed me to see the target on both sides of the front by being framed with the rear. Shot after shot, I was pleased with the predominant view I had on target which translated to a very acceptable 3 inch group at a brisk pace.

The Glock 42 was very controllable despite its size and stayed on target for quick follow up shots. The trigger pull was a consistent 5.5lbs just like Glock’s larger models. One detail I really appreciated was the fact Glock did not try to make the smallest .380 on the market. Instead, they built the model 42 to be easily carried in a pocket but yet large enough to deliver a soft and very manageable recoil. At defensive distances of 5 and 7 yards, all hits placed well at a brisk shooting pace within the vital zones of torso targets. For the naysayers that discredit the .380 platform as a viable defensive caliber, they obviously have spent more time looking at “numbers on paper” rather than experience seeing the damage inflicted with gunshot wounds in the real world. I have seen several cases that with the right .380 performing just as well as 9mm at close range defensive situations.

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Although the original test rounds were surprisingly accurate from such a small pistol, I often wondered after the first range day how it would perform with higher grade defensive ammo. After a few emails and phone calls, I was able to obtain a few hundred rounds from Remington, Speer and Critical Defense. Both the Speer Gold Dot JHP and the Critical Defense FTX came in 90 grain, the Remington Golden Saber offered a 102 grain round. Starting at 10 yards, there was very little noticeable difference between the three brands at all with respectable 2 inch groups starting to form. Moving 5 yards further back, it seemed the Remington Golden Saber started opening up closer to the 3 inch mark than the other two. An average free hand shot group done at a mild pace seemed to stay around 2.4 inches. For cost effective training purposes, the Winchester ball ammo does its job well. Currently, the Critical Defense FTX has won the job of daily carry ammo for the G42.

Since the start of my evaluations with the Glock 42, I have now used close to two dozen different loads from various manufacturers with relatively similar results and almost no failures to feed or fire. This is almost unheard of previously in the .380 genre. The only issue with any brand I have encountered was from Magtech. Using their 95 grain Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP), I noticed almost a full inch variance in groups when tested on the bench at 25 yards. These loads have always proved reliable and accurate in my Ruger LCP but did not compete with others tested in the Glock.

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Over the ammo selection testing, I had a difficult time with my thumb working the slide lock located on the left side of the pistol. Due to its small size and flat design against the frame, there was very little for my thumb to gain grip on. I decided to make one final upgrade and add an aftermarket Vickers Tactical Slide Stop with a small shelf for aiding in better thumb purchase. The result was the new slide stop did its job perfectly and now a “must” for anyone who wishes to purchase a model 42 in my opinion.

The longer I carried the Glock 42, the more its reliability became more apparent. Day in and day out, the Glock rode in my front right pocket inside the custom Kydex holster. In months of range time, I would start to notice small flecks of fire floating around the gun during recoil as I shot. This was not anything from the gun or unburnt powder due to its relatively short barrel but rather burning pocket lint collected by the pistol. In tearing down the pistol afterwards, lint was found built up in the crevasses and hollow space inside the grip. While the bits of fire and built up lint were disturbing, I did reassure me the pistol would clearly function as designed even through built up debris even at the cost of a few burnt knuckle hairs.

Final Thoughts

With a MSRP of $480, the street price was overly inflated to close to $600 in some small shops around the country due to the demand in pre-sales. Now, prices have dropped sharply as the mystique of a .380 Glock is over as well as the release of the larger sub-compact Glock 43 chambered in 9mm. So far, the small .380 pistol has been an absolute pleasure carrying the new little Glock daily. The extended evaluation period has helped me understand just how well products like Trijicon, Galco Holsters and Survivor Creek Tactical have prepared to help the new owners of the model 42 get acclimated to everyday carry with proficiency and confidence. As more products make their way onto the market for the Glock model 42 .380 and the following Glock model 43 in 9mm, I will certainly keep an open mind in testing new ammo and gear.

Based on the performance and reliability the little .380 pistol has shown me thus far, it easily forced my Ruger LCP into early retirement. Over the extended testing period from my initial review immediately following the Model 42’s release, I have not only purchased the test sample, but also a second one exactly like it for dual carry on days I am not carrying my Model 19 9mm. Why? Because a second gun is always a fast reload and great insurances against one gun going down in a fight. Moving forward, I look forward to seeing more progressive and effective ammunition coming to the market to help the .380 platform become a greater formidable defensive caliber. For now, the Glock model 42 is a top pick for those looking for a daily carry pistol that will fit any attire or style of carry for men and women alike.