It’s called “experiential marketing.” It’s try before you buy for both the brand faithful and potential converts. It’s all the rage in the firearms industry, what with dozens of brands offering a wide range of models in an assortment of barrel lengths and calibers. That and the fact that today’s guns are pretty much of a muchness. Seriously. When someone asks me “what handgun should I buy?” I say choose anything that feels comfortable that costs more than $350. But try before you buy. Experiential marketing. Like GLOCK day at Houston’s Athena Gun Club . . .
When Athena’s jefe invited me to attend, I thought it the ideal opportunity to pit the GLOCK 43 against the GLOCK 26. Newborn GLOCK vs. Baby GLOCK. Low-capacity (6 + 1) vs. higher-capacity (10 + 1). Slim Johann vs. Chubby Hans.
The Austrian gunmaker’s single-stack 9mm got a lot of press when it finally emerged, Athena-like, from the Austrian gunmaker’s Georgia HQ. A lot of press. Here on TTAG, Dan the Man Zimmerman awarded the GLOCK 43 five-stars, calling it a “small, reliable, comfortable, acceptably powerful everyday carry gun.” Not the most effusive praise I’ve ever heard, but Dan carries a 43 now. As does Foghorn.’Nuff said?
Way back in the winter of 2013, TTAG reviewer Zack Pike took a shine to the Gen4 GLOCK 26. He reckoned the diminutive, if portly pistol was an excellent choice for appendix carry. He reminded readers that G17 magazines fit in the belly of the beastie, offering a not-inconsiderable 28 rounds of 9mm for anyone sensible enough to carry a spare mag. Pike pegged the GLOCK 26’s overall rating at five stars as well.
The 43’s arrival put the 26 into the proverbial shade. Fair enough? I journeyed to the City Too Humid To Hate to see if the GLOCK 26 was getting short shrift. In an almost completely unscientific study, I asked ten shooters to shoot both guns and rate them on four variables. The survey said! . . .
Question G43 G26
Which one did you shoot better? 4 6
Which would for carry? 6 4
Which one did you prefer? 5 5
Which one would you buy? 9 1
OMG there are a lot of variables accounting for these results – other than the obvious lack of a sample size large enough to draw any valid conclusions. Anecdotally, I can report that the 26’s fatter grip made up for its lack of pinkie extension in the shooting accuracy department. Did I mention that the 43 had the extended pinkie mag thingie? There you go. Another excellent reason to reject this survey. [NOTE: I sold my G26 when I discovered that its extended magazine pinched my finger.]
The discrepancy between the 50 – 50 overall (incredibly vague) preference stat and the the 9 – 1 “I’d buy that for a dollar” stat reflects the fact that the 43 is the more practical firearm – for carry. Six of the test takers already owned a full-size GLOCK. The 26 falls between two stools: really small and big enough. So there is that.
The one guy who’d choose the 26 over the 43 took a long time to reach that conclusion. And he rated the 43 as the more accurate gun (for him). “I want the extra capacity,” he opined. Copy that. Clearly, shooting accuracy wasn’t a determining factor for selecting a carry gun. NOTE: the test subjects were shooting at seven yards. All shooters achieved “minute of bad guy” accuracy, say, a five-inch group.
I’d also like to throw in the “famous” factor. All of the shooters came to shoot the GLOCK 43. None of them had the 26 on their radar. Three didn’t even know it existed. As my GF likes to say, it’s all about the marketing. A fact born out by the astounding lack of perfection on display.
Fed Winchester White Box ammo, not one but two 43’s failed to cycle. The GLOCK rep blamed bad thumb placement (activating the slide stop) for the first gun’s – Athena’s house mule – failure to feed. (A problem I reproduced easily enough.) Dirt may also have been a factor. It may also have been the infamous magazine catch issue, a problem that bedevilled early samples, solved with sandpaper.
More worryingly, the second gun had a squib load. Only one of our shooters – a woman considering replacing her SIG SAUER P938 with the GLOCK 43 – was put off by the performance, or lack thereof. In sum, I can state without reservation that the best way to rate the 43 vs. the 26 are the sales stats. The GLOCK rep says the 43 outsells the 26 by a laughably large margin.
Personally, I prefer the 43 because I only use it as a business suit or backup gun, a role better served by the smaller pistol. If I want concealable capacity in 9mm, I carry an FNS-9C (12 rounds and a 17 round spare mag) or a SIG SAUER P229 Legion Series (15 rounds). Your thoughts?