The news that Glock was bringing out a 9mm version of the pocket-sized Glock 42 was not a surprise. Rumors were thick after the 2015 SHOT Show that the new model would be shown in Nashville, Tenn., for the NRA Convention. Reaching out to Glock’s Midwest regional rep. Mark Williamson, I asked if we could purchase two of the 43s to put them through a series of tests.
All good, except the pistols would not be shipped until the third week of April, after NRA. While waiting for their arrival, I contacted Johann Boden at Vista Outdoor to discuss ammunition selection for the short barrel 9mm. As a top shooter with a strong law enforcement and military service background, Johann is one of the most knowledgeable ammo guys in the business. I explained that we wanted to test a variety of 9mm loads and put the 43 to the test for functionality and accuracy. Not long after our discussion, 3,000 rounds of Federal 9 mm ammo arrived. Half was full metal jacket in 115, 124 and 147 grain loadings. The rest was a mix of Federal 115, 124, 124 p, 147 and 147 grain P in JHP, Hydra-Shok and HST duty loads.
Next, we called Heinie Specialty Products to get replacement sights. Dick Heinie produces some of the finest pistol sights, and the ledge model is what I chose for the test of the 42 last year. The plastic factory sights may work, but I want a far more durable set on a pistol that is carried daily and shot often. In the previous test of the .380 42, the Heinie all-steel tritium element Ledge sights were preferred by every officer who test fired the pistol.
Two days post-NRA Show, the pistols arrived from Kieslers Police Supply. On opening the boxes, the 43s looked very close to the 42, as the size difference is truly minimal. How much so? The slide is less than one tenth of an inch wider, slide and barrel length is ¾ inch longer, and grip size just that much larger to allow a 9mm-sized magazine.
A welcome add-on not found with the 42 is one of the two supplied 9mm magazines has a finger extension to allow for a full hand grip on the pistol. The flush bottom mag will not allow most shooters to get their little finger onto the frame.
- Fit: The 43 with the finger extension mag fit every hand size from the smallest to the gigantic. There were no complaints as to size. This is not true of many of the subcompact pistols. Getting the pinky finger onto a solid grip area adds a great deal to comfort and ability to shoot. Officers with smaller hands were able to use both the extension and flat bottom magazines, but all commented that their preference was using the mag extension for a full grip.
- Trigger: The 43 uses the new design trigger mechanism housing as found on the 42. With a measured trigger weight of 5.5 pounds, the 43 has a noticeable snap as the striker is released to fire at the end of the trigger press. Several of the reviewing officers, all experienced Glock shooters, commented on the feel of the trigger release and said they preferred the original trigger system. Like anything new, it takes time and practice to become familiar and comfortable.
- Function: Other than a full inspection of the new handgun and a very small amount of lubricant at the start, no further cleaning or lubrication was done for the first 800 rounds of both ball and hollow point ammo fired in each of the 43s. I don’t suggest or recommend that you treat your gear this way, but we wanted to see what could be expected when we ran the pistols in both slow and rapid fire, getting them very hot, dirty and dry.
As we started the test, four shooters loaded 11 of the sixround magazines. The order of the day was to fire a mix of slow and rapid fire exercises. This process allowed the group of shooters to more efficiently test fire the 43s.
The wide array of Federal ammo from 115 to 147 grain bullet weights and standard and plus p (p) velocity allowed for a significant test of both reliability and accuracy. The ammo table below shows the results of chronograph testing. The average of 12 rounds of each type of bullet is indicated.
All bullet weights and types, with the exception of the 147 grain full metal jacket functioned well. The 147 FMJ has a shorter overall length and a flatter end profile than the 115 or 124 grain FMJ. Combined with the very fast slide velocity stripping the round from the magazine, the 147 FMJ round repeatedly nosedived into the forward portion of the magazine and created a feed stoppage.
For practice and training, stick with the 115 and 124 grain FMJ loads. Other than the feed failures of the 147 grain FMJ ammo, function was extremely reliable. As we approached the 800 round mark, one of the hot, dirty and (purposely neglected) 43s failed to go fully into battery with several rounds. We did a fast clean and lube on both pistols and had no further issues. To be fair, no one one I train with treats their handgun this way. We purposely pushed them outside recommended maintenance levels to see what can be expected. Note: a fast run through with a bore snake and a touch of lube will keep your 43 humming.
- Recoil: The 9mm 43 has snappier recoil that the .380 42, as expected. The photo shows full recoil but it is very fast back on target. I had both our male and female officers fire full magazines at rapid fire and they had no problem keeping all rounds inside the center head at five yards. Both the .380 and 9mm have their place in the defensive pistol role. For the shooter who is sensitive to the increased recoil of the 9mm, the G42 .380 offers softer felt recoil and fast follow on shots. For those who are willing to train to the pistol and desire the increased power and variety of 9mm loads, the 43 offers increased ballistic performance in this very compact design.
- Accuracy: The 43 is designed for short range defense and it fills that purpose well as both a backup for law enforcement and a concealed carry choice for all handgun users. With a bit more than a 5-inch sight radius, our group of shooters showed that it is fully capable of distance accuracy. We started with an exacting accuracy dot target drill at three yards. As we say, the dots don’t lie. Center hits on the dot clusters require precise trigger work and properly adjusted sights. This drill demands that the shooter, pistol and ammunition perform to exacting standard. We then moved the distance to five yards for a chase the bullet drill on the head of a silhouette. The three groups represent more than 50 rounds fired at the eyes and tip of the nose. A step back drill from 3 to 15 yards followed. Finally, a number of officers from a firearms instructor class shot the two pistols at 30 yards, the furthest distance to the berm. With clay bird targets used for shotgun training, officers were able to get many hits. Missed shots were very close and the clay bird represents a center head-sized target. Torso-sized targets were successfully engaged. Not every shooter will take the distance challenge, but this shows that the 43 coupled with quality ammunition will deliver accuracy at a distance if the shooter is up to the task.
- Accessories: There is not much to add to the 43 to be carry-ready other than the upgraded Heinie sights. However, one accessory that Mark Williamson told us about is a really neat thin rubber grip overlay made by Talon Grips. The issue with any of the polymer handguns is that the grip becomes slippery when hands get sweaty. The Talon overlay adds little to the thickness of the grip surface but provides a very positive purchase when handling and shooting the pistol. Offered in both an aggressive texturized and rubber format, I recommend the rubber overlay as it does not tear up or abrade your clothing and is easy on softer hands. Offered at under $20 for many handgun types, the Talon offers a true upgrade in performance.
- Holsters: The 43 will not fit holsters designed for the slightly smaller 42. A number of manufacturers are producing holsters for the 43 that will soon be available. At the NRA Show, I saw an interesting design for pocket holsters from Recluse. The one-sided model is a no print, easy access pocket holster. Offered in both leather and Kydex, I am currently testing the Kydex model. For hot weather and deep concealment, these models show promise.
The Glock 43 is built to be more than a concealed carry handgun that at best is fired occasionally. It handles, shoots and performs like a duty pistol and can be used for a full day of range work and more. With the 43, Glock filled the one slot that was missing in their lineup. For those making their first Glock purchase, better late than never. Law enforcement price is $358 from Glock distributors.
Jeff Chudwin has written for Law Officer since the magazine’s inception. He is the 2009 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and retired chief of police at the Olympia Fields (Ill.) PD. He is the president of the Illinois Tactical Officers’ Association.