This is the third part of a three-part series exploring the ballistic performance of the new GLOCK 42. In this segment, I’m comparing the performance of the G42 against a comparably-sized pocket 9mm pistol, the Kahr PM9. Why? Isn’t it a tad silly to compare a .380 against a 9mm? Yes, yes it is. The 9mm is and always has been a significantly more powerful cartridge. So much so, that I consider the .380’s main benefit to be the fact that it provides the opportunity for firearms to be made smaller, lighter, and more-concealable. Given that context . . .
I think a .380 definitely fills a good niche – it’s capable of delivering a decent hit, and the pistols can be shrunken to tiny dimensions that make them almost disappear in a pocket.
The GLOCK 42, however, is a little bigger than your standard .380 micro-pistol. Here’s a Taurus TCP overlaid on top of the 42.
It’s not night-and-day bigger, but it’s enough of a difference that the GLOCK is, in fact, basically the same size as a pocket 9mm. Which raises the question – if you’re willing to carry a pistol that’s the size of the GLOCK 42, you could also accommodate a Kahr PM9 or Sig P938…so why shouldn’t you? What do you give up in terms of ballistic performance from the G42, as compared to a comparably-sized PM9?
Take a look at them side-by-side in the photo at the top. Since they’re very comparably-sized with comparable capacity, it seems reasonable to compare them in terms of performance.
The ammo selected for this test is Hornady Critical Defense. There are many reasons I selected Critical Defense. First, it’s available in both calibers. Second, it’s extremely popular. And third, it was an excellent performer when I tested it from a short-barrel 9mm. However, it was a rather lousy performer when I tested it from the TCP. So (along the lines of the question I explored in Part II) I also want to see if Critical Defense will perform better from the GLOCK 42’s longer barrel than it did from the TCP’s shorter barrel.
The question really becomes, if you can choose from two nearly-identical-sized pistols, both with identical capacity, and both carrying Hornady Critical Defense, how does each perform?
Check the video for the full test results, but the executive summary is: duh. While Critical Defense was indeed a better performer from the GLOCK 42 than it was from the TCP (gaining about a full inch of penetration depth), it still pales in comparison to what the 9mm delivered. The GLOCK 42 with Critical Defense delivered 9” of penetration, and the Kahr 9mm delivered 12” of penetration, with slightly larger-expanded bullets too. That’s a big, big difference.
However, let’s also consider that the results of Part I’s testing (using a Hornady XTP bullet in the GLOCK 42) were a solid 13” of penetration, even more than the Kahr 9mm delivers with Critical Defense. So it’s not like the GLOCK 42 is incapable of delivering that depth of penetration, it’s just that Critical Defense is the wrong round for the job.
Using Precision One ammo with the Hornady XTP resulted in over 13” of penetration from the GLOCK (and, I’d wager, so would Fiocchi Extrema, Hornady Custom, or any of the several other loadings of XTP bullets in .380 ACP). But even then, we have to consider that penetration is only one aspect of the story. The Critical Defense bullets from the 9mm expanded to a bigger size than the XTP bullets from the .380. And that means more tissue destroyed.
9MM Critical Defense .380 ACP XTP bullet
Barrel: 3.00” 3.25”
Velocity: 1100 fps 931 fps
Mass: 115 grains 90 grains
Expanded diameter: .52” .43”
Penetration: 12.00” 13.15”
Tissue destroyed: 35.58 grams 26.66 grams
More mass, more momentum, higher velocity, bigger bullet size, and 33% more tissue destroyed. All point to the 9mm being a substantially more powerful cartridge, from a gun that’s the same basic size and (in its less expensive CM9 variant) about the same price as the GLOCK 42.
Given that context, to me it’s pretty clear, you’re significantly better armed with a pocket 9mm than you would be with a same-sized .380, and the longer barrel of the GLOCK doesn’t make up for the inherent power difference of the 9mm vs. the .380 ACP.
I like the GLOCK 42. It’s a great little pistol. And if you like GLOCKs and have other GLOCKs and want to keep consistency throughout your collection, it could be a good choice. But as a micro-pistol it’s not as small as other options. And for its size it’s not as powerful as other options. If you can handle the recoil and blast of a pocket 9mm, I believe you would be better armed with one of those over the GLOCK 42.
It would take some specific requirements for me to recommend the GLOCK 42 over a pocket 9mm; primarily, if you need the softer shooting that the larger .380 pistol provides (and it is a very comfortable, very soft shooter). Or if you have weak hands and need its easy slide-racking ability. The G42 is far and away the smallest GLOCK and it’s a fine pistol in its own right. If you choose to go with a GLOCK 42, though, ammo selection is more critical than it would be with a 9mm. But if you choose appropriate ammo you can still get deep enough penetration to meet the FBI requirements, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.