For most of my life I have carried what some refer to as big guns. The Chief’s Special is a backup. The Commander .45 is a carry gun. And I am familiar with practically every light pistol made in the past century, from the Harrington and Richardson SLP to the Walther PP Super. Some work better than others. Very few have service-gun reliability.
The very nice, slick SIG P230 is a great handgun, and there are not many others I trust.
And frankly, compared to the current crop of compact 9mm handguns, the P230 is not that small.
Enter the GLOCK G42, a long-awaited and much heralded pistol. The GLOCK G42 is a slim, light and reliable .380 ACP pistol. To its credit, GLOCK did not attempt to build a pistol that stuffs 10 rounds into the frame.
There really is not anything quite like it.
The GLOCK G42 bears a resemblance to the Generation 4 GLOCK, with the same grip texture and magazine release, although it does not have the light rail or interchangeable back strap.
Features of the GLOCK G42
The pistol is a fresh design, building on proven GLOCK principles. The G42 is a 6-plus-1 capacity pistol, thin, very thin, with a 0.95-inch frame and 0.825-inch slide. The pistol is only 4.25 inches tall and just short of 6 inches long and weighs 12 ounces unloaded. While some pistols pretend to be pocket pistols, the GLOCK G42 .380 ACP is a true pocket pistol.
An important difference between the GLOCK 42 and the other .380 pistols is that the G42 is not a blowback pistol. In these handguns, the slide blows to the rear off of a fixed barrel. The locked breech is the stronger system and is seldom used in pistols of this size and weight. An advantage of that operating mechanism is recoil and pressure are controlled more efficiently.
The pistol features dual recoil springs in the modern spring-within-a-spring GLOCK design. Another advantage of locked-breech design is that handloaders may load the cartridge a bit hotter. I do not wish to contribute to the delinquency of handloaders, but another locked breech .380 ACP pistol, once very popular, was the Star S Model.This was a strong locked-breech with which I experimented a few decades ago. However, .380 ACP ammunition has improved somewhat in the past decade, as I discovered while testing the G42.
The pistol features a six-round magazine and comes with two magazines (supplying a pistol with only one magazine is ridiculous). The pistol’s trigger action, sights and appearance are typical GLOCK, and it feels good in the hand. I have never thought the GLOCK has a natural point; this pistol is an exception. Another exception is that it is made in America. Imports, exports and tariffs are heady political discussions, and the bottom line is that GLOCK has given a lot of good folks in Georgia honest work. I like that.
The pistol operates in the same way as every other GLOCK. When you rack the slide, the trigger partially cocks, or is “prepped” in GLOCK parlance. The striker partially draws to the rear, and a long press of the trigger completes the job of cocking and releasing the striker, resulting in a 6-pound trigger compression. In my experience, the GLOCK trigger action may run from 5 to 6 pounds. The G42, however, feels lighter, which may be a result of the leverage of the small handgun. The RCBS registering trigger compression gauge does not lie.
The mechanics of the pistol are similar to the full-size GLOCK, with slight differences, such as the springs in the takedown lever and the slide stop’s design. That is understandable when the pistol is downsized to this degree.
Firing the GLOCK G42
After initial familiarization, I fired the G42. I had on hand no less than six types of .380 ACP ammunition. Considering the present ammunition shortage, that is a goodly amount.
- Three types from Fiocchi, one ball load and one using a standard JHP.
- The Extrema line, using the XTP bullet.
- The CORBON DPX load, using the all-copper X bullet.
- The new Winchester Defense load, using the PDX bullet.
- The Hornady Critical Defense loading.
I will remove the suspense—there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject.
The G42 is very comfortable to fire. In my experience, small guns are less reliable than larger pistols. There is simply a more crowded platform that invites the fingers to interfere with the slide stop or trigger. The GLOCK platform is businesslike and manageable, even in this small pistol, and the G42 is never uncomfortable to fire. There was little difference between firing the hottest loads and the mildest ones. There was more push and more muzzle flip with the CORBON loading, yet nothing uncomfortable.
In my mind, that is the rationale for the light .380 ACP pistol; it is lighter than the 9mm and should kick less. I do not mind mastering a hard-kicking big bore, although when carrying a light caliber, the recoil should be light as well. The bottom line is that the pistol should be reliable. The GLOCK G42 meets all of those criteria.
Ammunition performance was an eye opener. As an example, the CORBON 80-grain DPX load averaged 1070 fps. That is impressive because the G42 barrel is a stubby 3.25 inches. The CORBON loading breaks right at 200-foot-pounds of energy. The heavier bullet loads exhibited respectable velocity. A defense load must demonstrate a balance between expansion and penetration. None of those loads fundamentally change my mind about the .380 ACP, and they do make the most of the caliber.
I found it interesting that the G42 is accurate enough to invite recreational shooting. Small sticks and the usual range bric-a-brac were easily addressed to 15 yards. It is accurate enough to serve for pests and reptiles at a reasonable range. The G42 is fast from concealed carry and comes on target quickly. I find it the best-handling and most accurate .380 ACP in my recent experience.
GLOCK has a winner in the G42.
Ammunition Test Results
|Load||Velocity||15 yard group|
|Fiocchi 95-gr. FMJ||902 fps||2.5 inches|
|Fiocchi 90-gr. JHP||908 fps||2.65 inches|
|Fiocchi 90-gr Extrema||870 fps||2.0 inches|
|CORBON 80-gr. DPX||1070 fps||2.75 inches|
|Hornady 90-gr Critical Defense||881 fps||2.25 inches|
|Winchester 95-gr. Defense||915 fps||2. 6 inches|
Do you have a GLOCK G42? What do you think of it? Or, if not, do you plan to check it out? Share in the comments section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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