Firearms

G42 Review: GLOCK’s Small Yet Reliable Pistol

Most of the reviews I do here for Cheaper Than Dirt grow from a personal interest in the product, not from just “checking out” guns, sights, ammo or (you name it) that have been sent to me.

I like trying new things, to be sure, but I also think it’s a better service to you all to report on the ones I’ve had the most experience with, and, again, the ones I have the strongest personal interest in.

So here’s my take on the GLOCK 42 (with a Crimson Trace laser addition).

G42 right view
The G42: a small yet reliable gun from GLOCK. (Note the addition of the Crimson Trace laser.)

A Quick Backstory

The backstory of why I bought this gun is too much for the space here, but here’s the short version: I had a couple of run-ins locally in my very small town that were so unexpected, so out of place, that I realigned my ideas on what could be expected.

I decided the answer was “anything, anywhere.” Fortunately, nothing lasting happened, but it dang sure could have. Point is that, yes, I carried when I went somewhere that seemed warranted. Now I carry everywhere, even walking my dog on my own street.

I wanted a small gun because I’m a “shorts and T-shirt” sort of fellow, and I didn’t want to be a slave to concealment tactics. I also like the easy option of carrying at a moment’s notice—more about that in a bit.

GLOCK G42 overall shot
It’s a small gun. Under one inch in width, under one pound loaded. Even so, it’s got that familiar hand-filling GLOCK feel to it—there’s something to hold onto. I have proclaimed this the smallest gun I can still shoot well with. That’s valuable.

G42 Design Breakdown

The G42 is GLOCK’s “little gun,” the smallest in the Austrian-maker’s extensive lineup, and it’s a .380 ACP with a six-round capacity single-stack magazine (comes with two). This one has a Crimson Trace LG-443 laser sight, actuated by the shooter’s grip.

This G42 is out there in the mix of a horde of .380s that range in frame sizes, action mechanisms, and, no doubt, functionality (as well as build-quality levels). It was this last element that eliminated the most of them as an option for me.

No kidding: if you’re carrying a gun as a protective measure, it best fire as many times as you pull the trigger.

I had first picked a Walther PK380 because the “shooter” in me preferred its slightly larger frame to better fit my slightly larger hands. But, then I realized that, for my overall needs, the smaller size was better.

Comparing the G42 then to a good many others, I found the GLOCK a better fit. This is important! Back to the importance of functionality: it also best give a good platform to direct your shots.

G42 ammo
Get good ammo! The lackluster energy of a .380 ACP is substantially enhanced by better bullets. As with all my handguns, I routinely choose Hornady Critical Defense when it’s time to holster, and this one is loaded with their proprietary FTP.

There are smaller guns, but the GLOCK didn’t get entirely swallowed up by my shooting grip. So, in a way of looking at it, which was what at least partly happened, this G42 was the smallest gun I could still shoot well.

It’s got that squarish “GLOCK brick” feel to it, which in the past I didn’t like in the bigger models. But in this one, it was welcome.

There’s not enough size in such small frames to get ergonomic perfection, but, as suggested, the G42 grip was substantial enough that I could get good trigger finger positioning and still feel a connection with the chassis.

G42 Function and Functionality

Having experienced a good number of subcompact handguns over many years, a GLOCK is easier than most to operate/manipulate in loading and unloading. It goes without saying, but I’ll still say it: GLOCK firearms are simple—all of them.

So, too, are most other modern striker-fired versions within its competition. Load it, holster it and there it is, ready to go. The GLOCK “safe action” is entirely trustworthy. Trigger trip weight is a little more than five pounds, and it’s predictably consistent in feel and behavior.

Get a firm hold on the gun and the trigger is not going to miss a shot for you.

Sights are the common “three-dot” and they’re good enough. I especially like the front sight size and appearance, but the doggone rear notches are never wide enough for me. That’s on virtually all of their handguns!

I think this comes from some sort of manufacturer-miscalculated attempt at providing a “finer” sight picture potential. The human eye centers objects better when there’s at least something to center, not more space. That’s a fact.

G42 rear sights
Sights are pretty standard, and usable. I would like a wider rear notch.

G42 Accuracy and Performance

Any defensive handgun’s accuracy is judged on how well and how quickly it can hit the center of a target, so it’s a combination of the gun and the shooter. No kidding: you are being judged more than the gun is!

I can tell you that this little GLOCK is capable of shooting a smaller shot group that most can muster. My one son, who is an outstanding competitive bullseye pistol shooter, can easily roll soda cans at 25 yards with it. Me, not so much. Tip: it’s mostly in triggering mechanics.

Recoil and rise are patently non-existent, and a dose of GLOCK engineering got the bore centerline down lower than many in this class of handguns, and that really helps. It’s easy to shoot well with.

It’s not at all intimidating, and that’s a huge factor in attaining competence, especially if this ends up being someone’s first handgun—and I know that small guns like this often do.

I’ve run over 500 rounds through mine, both low budget and premium. Zero malfunctions, nary a one.

g42 group target
Not going to win Camp Perry with this, but it’s the best group I could muster offhand at 15 yards. A good group with a pistol this small is more a test of the shooter than the gun (the gun will group). At least it’s centered!

Crimson Trace

I’m not at all a fan of lasers until I’m a huge fan of lasers. Lemme explain: I chose the Crimson Trace because there are circumstances, which are easily (and likely) feasible to encounter with a defensive use gun where the laser might save your life.

A laser can help land a good hit whether you can see anything associated with the sights or not. That’s incalculably important. Otherwise, no. I don’t like routine shooting with a laser. The laser dot is distracting, especially to a well-rehearsed shooter who’s learned to focus on the front sight.

However! There are also very beneficial training helps from a laser.

G42 left view
The Crimson Trace laser can help land a good hit whether you can see anything with the sights or not.

It’s “interesting”—which an esteemed colleague said is the word to use to describe something that either you really don’t know what else to say or you don’t want to speak the truth about—to watch someone shoot a laser-equipped handgun, where you watch the dot and then correlate its location with the report, and then the shot location.

Well, you can use the same sort of awareness to become a better shooter. I spend time using the laser in dry-firing on light switches. It’s a great confirmation exercise.

The Bottom Line

Not sure there truly is a bottom line, as there are too many good guns in this class. Do I think this GLOCK G42 is the best small handgun, best in this class? For me, yes, it turned out that way.

I can say with no reservations or hesitations that it’s a “real” gun, it’s a GLOCK and it works like a GLOCK (which is also to say that it indeed works). It’s a serious piece and provides serious peace. For me.

It’s also always there, wherever I am, wherever I need it to be. Combined with the Sticky holster, it can ride in my truck console, then go to my favored appendix placement for a walk, and then to my laptop bag.

Sure, I have a bigger gun—a whopping lot bigger gun—that I routinely carry on many occasions. (It’s stowed in a backpack that allows quick access.) This one, though, is for running errands, taking walks, being out and busy, and feeling confidently secure.

I don’t demean it because it’s “just” a .380 and I refuse to follow along with the “something is better than nothing” nonsense that often accompanies articles I’ve read written about these very small handguns. Nope. This is better than that! It will if you can.

g42 sticky holster
This gun goes along with me in most places most times. Carried in a Sticky holster, which is tantamount to magic. It’s secure, simple, adaptable, and fast as all get out. No belt, no loops, no latches, no fluff. Sticky on the outside, slick on the inside.

Note: The Crimson Trace LG-443 laser adds about $200-300 (or more) to the cost and adds 5.6 oz to the weight.

What’s the smallest gun that you carry? Let us know in the comments below.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. Bought a preowned 42 for EDC. It felt perfect for my medium-large grip when compared to the smaller feel of other brand models. It turns out the previous owner had upgraded to extended grip magazines before trading it in. I tried on a new one with the shorty mag. I’m not sure I would’ve purchased a 42 had I done this first. Also I’d like to mention the factory slide lock lever is tiny and even with my calloused thumb I could barely depress this without relieving the pressure by pulling back on the slide. I was pleasantly surprised when I took it to the range for the first time, and with it’s comfortable curves, it felt like an extension of my arm. It was effortless. After figuring out I was hitting low and left my grouping tightened way up. A little more time with trigger control and I was shooting with a smile. This thing is solid! As with all Glocks, field stripping is fast and easy for cleaning. After play time, I got online to see what else was available for my new favorite. There are upgrades from here to the moon btw.

    1. I have had my 42 for several years now. Great pocket gun. The Pierce 42+1 grip extension provides another round and an excellent purchase for my large paws..

  2. Bought a preowned 42 for EDC. It felt perfect for my medium-large grip when compared to the smaller feel of other brand models. It turns out the previous owner had upgraded to extended grip magazines before trading it in. I tried on a new one with the shorty mag. I’m not sure I would’ve purchased a 42 had I done this first. Also I’d like to mention the factory slide lock lever is tiny and even with my calloused thumb I could barely depress this without relieving the pressure by pulling back on the slide. I was pleasantly surprised when I took it to the range for the first time, and with it’s comfortable curves, it felt like an extension of my arm. It was effortless. After figuring out I was hitting low and left my grouping tightened way up. A little more time with trigger control and I was shooting with a smile. This thing is solid! As with all Glocks, field stripping is fast and easy for cleaning. After play time, I got online to see what else was available for my new favorite. There are upgrades from here to the moon btw.

  3. I loved seeing the phase “for me” when describing this handgun. You can have one handgun and the two people talking about it can have 8 opinions. My opinion is that Glocks are good reliable handguns with a size for everyone, but the triggers at best suck.

    Modern ammo has made the .380 an reasonably good self defense round at the expected range needed. My preference is the Lehigh Defense solid copper max penetraters that give near 9mm performance but are easy to shoot.

  4. Great review of the Glock 42.

    I purchased my 42 a while back when the 43’s were scarce as hens teeth. Really wanted the 9mm 43 but decided to go with the 42 in 380. After receiving the little gun I found it to be a great shooter.

    While there are a lot of 380’s out there to choose from I do believe the Glock 42 is a great investment.

    Good luck and stay safe.

    Doug Deutsch,
    Effort, PA

  5. My G42 has been an education. It has become my EDC. Yes, it is very trigger sensitive and without good discipline on each shot, I will shoot low left. Also, it shoots best with ammo rated at above 1000 fps AND 200 ft# energy.

  6. I carry a Glock 42 in a belly band holster…I also have a Khar cw380 that I carry when I go jogging… both are good shooting guns and comfortable to carry..

  7. I had a G42 but felt it was too big. My wife couldn’t rack the slide either. So we went to a S&W bodyguard. What a horrible little gun to shoot! It hurt. Then we found the Taurus Spectrum. Great little shooter and easy to conceal.

  8. Worst gun I’ve ever owned, I’ve sent it back to glock 3 times. Wouldn’t trust it to carry anywhere. I’ve tried 8 different kinds of ammunition, tried more lube, less lube, clean, unclean, even went as far to try different climate, indoor range, outdoor range, etc. Since the day I brought the g42 home it jams, glock has replaced parts and I thought surely after 3 times sending it back that it would be resolved but no. So it sits as a paper weight and painful reminder of why I will never own another glock.

  9. I have carried a Glock 42 for several years. Several thousand round through it and it still shoots as it should. It fits my large hand better than some full size offerings and fits well in pockets…

  10. I bet the Glock 42 is similar to my Glock 43 with crimson trace laser. I bought the original Glock 42 the moment it was out, but it had problems that were not solved. right away by Glock, so I traded it in and got the Glock 43 9 mm. It’s tad bigger, but also in my sticky holster is carried everywhere. I love that little Glock 43, it never misfires and is so accurate. Yes, like you, I have big guns too. Glocks 42, 30 and 19 My other favorite is my Glock 19, but when I put that on my waist after carrying the Glock 43, I say “ugh!” I did extend my Glock 43 magazines to 8 rounds, except for the carry mag which I left six for easy un-detection. Thanks for the review. I’m thinking of buying the Glock 42 for my wife. She now uses a Sig P380, which is sweet too. But Oh those Glocks are sweet!

  11. I was looking forward to using my new G42 for everyday concealed carry. Sadly, it malfunctions every couple of rounds. At best, at least one malfunction per magazine. I’ve tried cheap ammo, expensive ammo, ball, polymer tip, etc, you name it… No dice! It either fails to fully extract spent round, or or new rounds get stuck in the ramp, and the gun fails to go in to battery. What a disappointment.

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