After hearing about the introduction of the Glock 42 at SHOT Show, I wanted to put one to the test. I made my purchase through Keislers, our law enforcement supplier. A month later I opened the Glock box and found a scaled-down, single stack .380 auto. In virtually all aspects, other than size and magazine capacity, it is the same Glock pistol that I have used since the late '80s. The Glock 42 comes packaged in the standard Glock box with instructions, cable lock, cleaning rod and brush, but no extra magazine. (Note to Glock: add two extra magazines.) A number of my training partners also made the purchase and we were off to the range for our live-fire testing. Here's what we determined:
Glock pistols have been highly reliable and served us well for more than 20 years, but as they say, past history is no guarantee of future performance. I take no one's word on reliability, nor should you. Test your pistol with what you will carry. Quality ammo is expensive but it's mighty low in cost compared to your safety. We scrounged up every type of .380 ammo we had hidden away, and with four different handguns fired more than 1,000 total assorted ball and hollowpoint rounds. Other than a single corroded case that failed to feed, we experienced no feed malfunctions. I am not surprised by this as the Glock pistols we have carried for years have been extremely reliable. Types of ammo tested included Corbon DPX, Corbon Pow'RBall, Winchester SXT HP, Speer Lawman HP, S&B FMJ, Winchester FMJ, Federal FMJ, CCI Blazer aluminum case FMJ and Hornady Critical Defense. Bullet weights ranged from 80–95 grains.
Here's some additional commentary on the Glock 42 from my former deputy chief (now a retired chief) and friend of many years, Randy Kickert: "I have shot approximately 250 rounds through my Glock 42 and experienced no failures to feed or extraction issues. I used a wide variety of ammo including CCI Blazer ball ammo, Hornady 90 gr HP Personal Defense, Speer Gold Dot 90 gr HP, USA 95 gr FMJ and Winchester 95 gr HP/SXT."
One can debate bullet caliber and performance endlessly. It is a personal choice and if you believe the .380 auto is not a satisfactory defense round and you want the Glock, you'll have to wait until the 42 is chambered in 9 mm. It will come someday, but for those who want the Glock system and desire a low recoiling and very easily managed concealable handgun, the .380 will have to do.
Twice a year during our firearms instructor classes, we put on the FBI ballistic protocol testing for both rifle and pistol calibers. No, the .380 does not make the cut on the IWBA/FBI ballistic protocols as it lacks the ability to penetrate heavy clothing and drive 12–14 inches into the ballistic gel. I have made the choice based on the attributes of the 42 and will go with the .380. If you also make this choice, the .380 cartridge is found in many different loadings with the bullet weight typically running from 80–100 grains.
The 42 is larger than deep concealment pistols such as the Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec P-3AT, but fits the hand far better than the tiny sub compacts. It shoots like a much larger handgun and recoil is minimal for a gun of this size. It isn't as easy to conceal as my Ruger LCP, but for people who are used to Glock pistols, it has the same sights and trigger pull that we have become accustomed to and, despite its smaller size, feels and handles almost like a full-size pistol.
This is a standard 5-pound Glock trigger with short reset and is far superior to what I have been using for my other backup guns. It felt heavier than the listed 5-pound connector weight, but this did not affect accuracy and we were able to deliver very accurate rounds from distances of 3–25 yards. You may ask, "Why bother with extended distance as backup pistols are for arms-length defense?" By the numbers, the short distance is the most likely, but if your life and safety depend on making an extended range shot, you need to know you can do it. My first round at 25 yards was a center hit on the target. At 15 and 25 yards, all rounds were solid hits and as my testing continued over hundreds of rounds, accuracy was far better than I expected from a short handgun.
One upgrade that I think is needed is a good set of steel sights. Richard Heinie (Heinie Specialty Products, Inc., Heinie.com), master gunsmith and designer of his excellent Ledge Straight Eight sights visited a recent concealed weapons class that I was presenting. I use his sights on all my carry handguns and Heinie said that he had just come out with a set for the Glock 42. One phone call later, I had two sets. They are night sights with a full front 90-degree ledge that permits one-hand slide operation. For me, these are the best sights going and I highly recommend them.
The Glock 42 meets my requirements for a backup handgun to carry with my full-sized duty pistol. The importance of having a backup weapon is made clear by our friends in Special Forces who laid out the concept of "two is one and one is none." I ask that you take that to heart. A backup is not a luxury any more than your vest or seat belt. I expect this is a pistol that can be shot extensively in training, and for me, that is important. I regularly shoot what I carry.
Our combined testing will continue, but to date, the Glock 42 has been fully functional and reliable. Glock will sell all they make, so a 9 mm version may be a wish and a hope.
• 13.76 ounces (unloaded)
• 5.94" (L) x .94" (W) x 4.13" (H)
• 6 plus one
Functions are same as any Glock handgun.
• Individual Officer: $319.
• Police Agency (no FET): $290.
Small Caliber Handguns for Law Enforcement
What role does a small .380 automatic have in police work? My answer: As a backup or hideout handgun. I have spoken with and written about officers who were in a life or death fight as the offender attempted to disarm them. They could not reach their duty pistols, or, in an extended fight, shot their duty handgun dry. As I began my police work, a salty old timer told me, "Kid, carry a second pistol, one day you will need it." He lifted his left pant leg and strapped to his ankle, over a white sock, was a Smith & Wesson Model 12 Airweight .38 snub revolver. I followed his sage advice then and do so now, four decades later. I have carried both revolvers and semi-auto pistols as backups and I continue to look at new designs to fill the role.
My requirements include:
- Safe and reliable design: The pistol and ammunition combination must run 100% of the time. The design must be simple to operate under all conditions.
- Fit to hand: As a concealment handgun, the size should not be too large but not so small as to make it difficult to shoot effectively.
- Effective caliber: .380 caliber or larger.
- Concealable size: Capable of fitting in an ankle, vest or pocket holster.
- Accurate with a good trigger and set of sights that combine to give reasonable distance capability.
- Durability: Designed for extended training (live-fire).