Gun Review: GLOCK 42

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The G42 for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company.

With their oh-so-sly teaser ad campaign and the fact that it seemed like GLOCK hadn’t introduced a new gun since late in the first Clinton administration, the company did a marvelous job of whipping up loads of interest and anticipation for their new gun. Firearms folk had been hankering for a slim, single-stack, Tenifer-coated, easily-concealable nine since, well, late in the first Clinton administration. But Smyrna and their Teutonic overlords had other plans. In their judgement, what America really needed was a slim, single-stack, Tenifer-coated, easily-concealable .380. So when word broke that Gaston’s new gun was chambered in something less than full-blown 9mm . . .

the cries of shock and horror that rose from almost every corner of the gunosphere rivaled what you’d expect to get after a Miley Cyrus twerk-off. We’re talking wailing, gnashing of teeth, rending of clothing, predictions of dogs and cats living together, real wrath of God type stuff. But despite all of the sturm und drang, this is, after all, a GLOCK we’re talking about, right? Perfection. As the teaser ad claimed, the only other thing smaller than the G42 that fires every time is a freaking Zippo lighter. Only that’s not quite true. But more on reliability later.

A funny thing happened on the way to the clearance bin. When people actually got their hands on the new packable pistol, most were seriously impressed. Yes, it’s a little bigger than a P3AT or LCP, but it’s remarkably comfortable to hold and won’t bruise your palm at the range. Sure, it’s a little longer than most .380 carry guns, but it has real, useable sights. People (like me) with small hands loved the feel of the gun. And – whaddaya know? – GLOCK has been selling truckloads of the things since they first hit the stores. Maybe not everyone was as disappointed as it seemed.

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So in evaluating the GLOCK 42, talking about it being “only” a .380 – and the fact that it’s not made in the caliber “everyone” really wanted – is pretty much beside the point. You don’t buy a 42 to begin with if you’re not already OK with carrying a .380. You buy one because it is, in fact, a slim, easily-concealed, relatively light weight pistol that you’re likely to pack every day. And unlike some of its similarly-chambered competitors, being a GLOCK, it ships from the factory with a reputation for quality and reliability. Two rather important features everyone wants in their carry gun, no matter the caliber.

Make no mistake, the G42 is every inch a GLOCK. It looks kinda like they tossed a G19 in a dryer, turned it up to eleven and shrunk the hell out of it. While the 42 isn’t listed as a Gen4 gun, you’d expect it to borrow heavily from GLOCK’s latest design features and it does. No, there aren’t any interchangeable backstraps here. If your paw is too big to wrap around a 42, you’ll probably be happier with a 26, which is about the same size but significantly wider.

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The US-made .380 is a hair under six inches from stem to stern, a little over four inches high and .94 inches wide, but that’s at the slide stop. By my caliper, the slide measures a fairly svelte .83 inches. All the early gnashing of teeth that went on about the HUGE new .380 that GLOCK was foisting on the American market, it seems, was mostly over-hyped bleating by people who hadn’t even seen the gun yet.

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Kel Tec P3AT (with CT LaserGuard) on top of the G42

That’s not to say that the 42 isn’t bigger than, say, a P3AT…it is. I own a P3AT (I’m lucky to have one of the good ones) and I carry it a lot. Particularly in the summer, or when I need to pocket carry. Can you tote the G42 in a pocket? Absolutely, and I have. But it’s not as small or concealable as the little Kel Tec (or an LCP), particularly in jeans. While the 42′s length and width (G42 = .94″ wide, P3AT = .77″) are only marginally bigger, those extra millimeters do make a difference. At least they do to me.

A good illustration of the size difference is that I can only get 1 1/2 fingers on the P3AT (non-extended) grip, but can easily fit two on the 42′s.

P3AT 42 comparo

 

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As far as the pistol’s controls go, everything is GLOCK as usual. Safe Action trigger – check. Slide lock – check. Mag release – check. Takedown lever – check. It’s all right where it should be. And the field stripping process is exactly the same as it is on every other G-something you’ve ever seen.

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That’s not to say there aren’t a few differences. One is the grip.

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The 42 has Gen4-ish texturing, but it’s not nearly as rough as the bumps found on its bigger brothers. Unlike the big boys (but similar to the 26) the 42′s backstrap extends down almost flush with the bottom of the magazine. This gives you a little more palm room to hold the smaller gun and still ensures that the mag will drop free when your press the release.

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Another difference is in the trigger, though it’s minor. I side-by-sided the 42 with Dirk Diggler’s similarly-sized (but much wider) G26, the pistol that a lot of gunfolk will use as a comparison. The G42 is missing the 26′s vertical ridges on the trigger blade, probably because the blade is narrower on the .380. The 42 also has a slightly shorter re-set distance, too.

While we didn’t have a pull-weight scale, both triggers were close enough that any difference was negligible. And the G42 has the same characteristic feel – for better or worse – that GLOCK owners have come to know and love in their bangswitches.

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So with a few relatively minor differences, the GLOCK 42 is basically a shrunken head version of every other GLOCK you’ve ever seen or shot. And that’s a good thing. No matter what you think of their guns, if you pick up any GLOCK in the dark, you know exactly where everything is and how to use the gun. No fumbling, no feeling around – they all work the same. The 42 is no exception.

Which brings us to shooting this baby. Let’s get one thing out of the way first – the G42 is easily the most comfortably-shooting .380 I’ve ever tried. And it’s not hard to see why. The GLOCK is a little larger and slightly heavier than most other .380s. Two similar guns that I’ve compared with the G42 – the P3AT and Dirk Diggler’s P238 – were noticeably snappier (though the P238 was only slightly so) when using the same ammo. I’m not sure if Sheldon Cooper said it, but physics is physics. You can’t fool mother nature…or Sir Isaac Newton. A gun that weighs more and fills your hand more fully will yield less felt recoil.

That means no problems at the range, right? Well, not exactly. While GLOCKs have the well-earned reputation for being able to shoot virtually anything you can cram in a magazine, that’s decidedly not the case with the G42. The babiest GLOCK has some very specific ideas about what it will and won’t eat. As some other shooters have already found, the vast majority of rounds work just fine. But heavier, higher pressure rounds and even some lighter stuff might as well be steamed brussels sprouts as far as the G42 is concerned.

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I’ve put over 500 rounds of various brands, weights and types through the gun so far, most of them, flawlessly. Everything from gun show bagged reloads to Russian cheap stuff up to Hornady’s best. But not everything works. Hickok45 found that super-snappy, 100gr. Buffalo Bore +P rounds tend to lock the GLOCK’s slide back with rounds still in the mag. Repeating the experiment, Dirk and I confirmed that for ourselves.

And if Buffalo Bore makes the 42 nauseous, Freedom Munitions 100 grainers makes it puke all over its shoes. On the other end of the spectrum, a relatively lighter shooting round like the Barnes XPD doesn’t seem to cycle the gun at all.

So it would seem that the 42′s recoil spring is rather tightly wound, so to speak. Meaning as long as your ammo of choice would please Goldilocks – not too hot and not too cold – you’ll have no problems at all. While GLOCK has had, well, difficulties with new springs in the past, the G42′s finicky nature doesn’t seem to be nearly as problematic.

The takeaway here is that the GLOCK 42 won’t shoot just anything you cram into it. The petite pistol will happily touch off most commercially available range and personal defense rounds out there, but if you select something that’s too far out there on either end of the weight/pressure spectrum, you may very well have problems.

Is that a deal-breaker? Hardly. Most guns favor certain ammo over others. While it’s not what we’ve come to expect from GLOCKs, I don’t have a problem putting in a little range time to make sure my carry gun reliably runs the ammo I’m putting into it. Hell, I’m going to do that anyway. And for reference sake, two of the .380 loads we tested that ShootingTheBull410 put in his top fiveHornady Custom and the champ, Precision One – worked flawlessly.

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As for accuracy…please. This is a soft-shooting pistol with excellent (for its caliber) sights. You won’t have any difficulty hitting anything toward which you point a 42 at a legally explainable personal defense distance.

I’ve never owned a GLOCK before because my hands are just too small. I wanted a G19, but I couldn’t shoot the damned thing as accurately or comfortably as I can my very GLOCK-ish single stack Kahr CW9. The G42 changes all that (and saves me more than a quarter pound of ballast on my hip). I’ve been packing the 42 religiously since I got it, either in a pocket or, most often, very comfortably in a SHTF Gear IWB holster. It’s light and wonderfully unobtrusive and (loaded with seven rounds of Precision One ammo) it’s going to be my go-to carry gun.

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Caliber carping aside, some will quibble that it’s on the large side for a 6+1 .380. Others will look at the the mags and wonder why they couldn’t have crammed at least one more round in there somehow. And plenty have already pointed out that there are other smaller options out there that pack the same number of rounds.

The fact is, for the vast majority of gun buyers out there, the G42 comes with instant credibility because it’s a GLOCK. The 42 will be one of the first guns most gun store proprietors plop on the counter when a customer strolls up asking for something affordable that they can comfortably pack every day. And for just about all of them, the G42 will be an excellent choice.

The G42 for this review was provided by The Kentucky Gun Company.

Specifications:

Length: 5.94”
Height: 4.13”
Barrel Length: 3.25”
Width: 0.94”
Weight: 13.8 ozs. (including unloaded mag)
Trigger pull: 5.5 lbs.
Capacity: 6+1
MSRP: $480

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability: * * * *
Unlike almost every other GLOCK, you can’t just feed the G42 anything your LGS has for sale and know it will go bang. There are some rounds that this pistol definitely doesn’t like. But those loads are a minority and once you determine that your carry round makes your G42 happy, you can be confident in typical GLOCK perf– reliability.

Ergonomics (carry): * * * *
This is a small, eminently concealable pistol that’s meant to be carried. It’s pocketable, though tends to print. Holster carry is a dream, though. That said, it’s also a little larger than a lot of other .380 options out there (i.e., Kel Tec, Ruger, Taurus, Kahr). Whether that difference is important will be up to the individual shooter.

Ergonomics (shooting): * * * * *
For small-mitted shooters like me, the G42 feels ideal in the hand and having real, useable sights on a .380 is a nice novelty. Shooting typical range FMJ and JHP rounds is smooth and results in only moderate recoil. If it isn’t the best-shooting .380 out there, it’s amongst ‘em.

Customise this: * * * *
While there aren’t a lot of options on the market yet (maybe a dozen holsters so far), it’s a GLOCK for God’s sake. You have to know people like Crimson Trace, Hi Viz, Lone Wolf and scores of others out there beavering away to fill the inevitable demand for sights, trigger kits, lasers…you name it. Patience.

Overall: * * * *
Again, don’t talk to me about the G42 not being a nine. That’s beside the point. As a concealable, personal defense .380 that you’re likely to carry every day, the 42 is a strong addition to the GLOCK pantheon. No, it’s not as small as some other .380s out there, but it also won’t beat your hand to a pulp when you shoot it. It will be interesting to see what the gun does with the inevitable replacement recoil springs and maybe a grip extension to let you get another finger into the fight. Still, if you’re like me and deluded enough to be comfortable packing a .380 (with good defensive rounds) as your carry gun, the GLOCK 42 won’t disappoint you.