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By ShootingTheBull410

This is the second of my three-part series on evaluating the terminal performance capabilities of the GLOCK 42. In Part 1, I determined that the G42 (when using the ammo that won my .380 Ammo Quest) delivers enough penetration and expansion to meet the FBI minimum penetration threshold for ammo performance. The GLOCK 42’s longer barrel meant that the ammo expanded more and penetrated a little less than it did from the 2.8” barrel of a Taurus TCP. But the overall penetration was still in excess of the 12″ minimum requirement . . .

In my original .380 Ammo Quest, I found there were several types of ammo I fired from the TCP that just didn’t perform consistently. Sometimes bullets would expand, sometimes they wouldn’t. One example in particular was the Buffalo Bore 90-grain JHP (item 27G/20). Three of the rounds expanded nicely and penetrated fairly well. Two didn’t quite meet the 12” standard but they came close. However, two of the rounds failed to expand and grossly overpenetrated, so I ruled the Buffalo Bore 27G out of contention for use from a 2.8” barrel.

My assumption was that the 2.8” barrel was delivering velocities just a little too low to ensure reliable, consistent performance.  But the GLOCK 42 may be a different story. It has a barrel that’s almost a half inch longer than the TCP’s at 3.25”. Would the additional velocity from that longer barrel be enough to turn the Buffalo Bores from an also-ran into a serious contender for daily carry? Only one way to know. I set out to the range with some ClearBallistics gel, a chronograph, and the G42.

The results were a classic case of good news/bad news. The good news is that yes, indeed, the G42 delivered additional velocity (an average of 1016 feet per second, vs. 937 fps from the TCP). And yes, that velocity increase puts the Buffalo Bores above the threshold for consistent expansion and performance. All five test shots expanded to a huge diameter (for a .380). It also means a big bump up in kinetic energy. The TCP produced about 175 ft/lbs with this ammo and the 42 produced 206 ft/lbs.

That was the good news. The bad news is that while we got consistent expansion and performance, the bullets spent that additional energy on expansion rather than penetration. In fact they ended up penetrating even less than they did from the TCP.


The performance was very consistent, much more like what we want to see. But the penetration came up well short of the 12” minimum that I greatly prefer ammo to accomplish. That said, 10” isn’t bad, it’s just not quite deep enough to ensure that the bullet can hit vital organs from any angle or through an intervening arm. But if you’re taking a straight-on shot, yes 10” is enough.

I prefer the minimum of 12” (as determined by the FBI) because in a self-defense encounter, you don’t get to pick and choose your shots. You can’t just stop the gunfight and ask the attacker to please turn toward you with his arms out to his sides to ensure that you get a nice, clean shot at his chest. For those reasons, I prefer ammo that reaches at least 12” through ballistic gel.

So how could the results have been actually shorter penetration, from the longer barrel? The answer lies in the expansion.


The Buffalo Bores expanded magnificently, growing to a five-shot average size of well over half an inch (.516”). That’s quite a bit bigger than the .472” of expansion from the TCP. But the larger the bullet, the more drag it exhibits. It takes more energy to push that larger bullet through the body tissue. And that’s where all the additional kinetic energy went – into expansion and into trying to push that bigger bullet through the body.

GLOCK 42, 3.25” barrel            Taurus TCP, 2.8”-barrel

Kinetic energy                                                     206 ft/lbs                                     175 ft/lbs
Velocity                                                                  1016 fps                                      937 fps
Expanded Diameter                                                   .516”                                          .472”
Penetration                                                                 9.90”                                          11.33” (but 2 failed to expand)

My hope was that we would have gotten the same expansion, and that the additional kinetic energy could then have been used to push that bullet deeper. But that’s not what happened; instead we got bigger expansion, but shallower penetration.

My final conclusion then, is this: the Buffalo Bores were a good, but not great performer from the GLOCKk 42. They definitely performed more consistently than they did from the TCP, and if I had to choose a gun to use them from, I would choose to shoot them from the G42. But they didn’t meet my standards for penetration. So while they were more consistent and the G42 was able to make them perform better, it’s clear that careful ammo selection remains just as important with the G42 as it is with the smaller pistols.

The .380 ACP is a challenging caliber from which to get proper performance. There’s too much energy for FMJs (they overpenetrate far too much) but there’s not quite enough energy to make most hollowpoint rounds perform well. It’s a tricky dance the ammo designer has to do between expansion and penetration to achieve a good overall performer.

I would still recommend a smaller-expanding bullet for use with the Glock 42, to ensure sufficient penetration. That includes pretty much any load that uses the Hornady XTP bullet (examples include Hornady Custom, Fiocchi Extrema, HPR, Precision One, Underwood, Wilson Combat, and others) or perhaps the Federal Hydra Shok. All of these performed quite well from the TCP, and the Precision One loading of the XTP performed best in Part I of this series. If you’s rather get your ammo from a bigger company and a bigger brand name, I would recommend Fiocchi Extrema or Hornady Custom.

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  1. I have to ask: how relevant is this advanced testing to the Average Man?

    Do not get me wrong, I like a gun test from a hobby perspective, but in a lot of ways this reminds me of people who blueprint motors for high performance use. You don’t need a forged bottom end on a car motor to drive to work in expressway traffic.

    So it would seem to be for firearms. To convince a thug to not shoot you at two yards at a gas station , one need not have a bullet comparable to Thors Hammer . If most bad guys beat it at the sight of an armed ‘victim’ and said person carried a .380 instead of nothing at all, mission accomplished.

    • The argument against yours is gonna be (I’m guessing) – if you carry – carry the best you can. Unless you are like the guy who just replaced my kitchen floor.. . then half assed is “good enough”…
      For many I think it will come down to – if the “reveal” doesn’t drive the thug off and you have to pull that trigger – you want the biggest bang for the buck in terms of odds in your favor for ending the incident.

    • You’re absolutely correct. Actual ammo performance and caliber are among the least likely factors in avoiding attack… but like the saying always goes, guns are like parachutes, if you need it and don’t have it, well… you’ll never need one again.

      So — attacks are stopped by numerous reasons, among them:
      1. An attacker may choose to discontinue bothering you if he SEES a gun.
      2. An attacker may choose to discontinue if he sees a gun pointed at him.
      3. An attacker may choose to discontinue if he hears a gun fire (even if it misses him).
      4. An attacker may choose to discontinue if he gets shot by a bullet.

      Now, in all those cases, it doesn’t really matter what the gun is, or what the caliber was, or what type of bullet it was… in all these cases, we’re talking about a psychological stop, where the attacker voluntarily chooses to discontinue. And, I’d dare say, this covers a huge percentage of defensive gun uses too.

      But — there’s those cases where the attacker WON’T choose to stop. Whether they’re hopped up on meth, or drunk, or so enraged, they will not stop until you FORCE them to stop. And it’s in that scenario that ammo selection becomes crucial. If you’ve got great aim and you put a bullet on target, but the bullet is weak and doesn’t get the job done, guess what — the attack will continue.

      In that light, it’s important (to me, at least) to be properly armed and properly prepared for any scenario. If I’m going to draw my gun, I’d like to think it’s only going to happen if it’s a life-or-death situation. And in that situation, I want ammo that will have every possible advantage in stopping the attacker. I hope (fervently) that the attacker would be discouraged by items 1 through 3 above, but … if not… then at that point, I’m literally betting my life that the ammo will do its job. So to me, it’s important to test it to know for sure, that from this particular type of pistol, this particular type of ammo will perform properly.

        • Yes, that video quite graphically illustrates how pistols are simply not in the same class, league, zipcode, or galaxy as rifles are.

          And, yes — we are taught in the movies that whenever someone is shot, they either fall down or are lifted up and blown through the store window behind them. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. If you are called upon to defend yourself or other innocent life with a handgun, you should use the best ammo you can and enough shots to incapacitate the threat as quickly as possible.

    • It all seems like much to do about nothing, in my opinion.

      I don’t think shooting anything other than living, flesh, bone, blood, and tissue is going to tell you much.

      Rounds are capable of doing all kinds of weird things based on weather, clothing, angle, distance to target, location of entry, wound path, the person’s body, (ie mass, muscle, fat,etc), and the list goes on.

      But, one could argue it’s good that people are doing this, it at least creates a standard of measure for a given round’s effectiveness. Other than actually shooting human beings, of course.

      • I’m not big on using gel and other types of canned tests to tell you much of anything about how ammo will perform in the real test, so to a point, I agree with you.

        However, controlled tests DO give a point of comparison. Taken as nothing more than that, they are helpful. You can say, “In gel tests, x bullet expanded more than y bullet did” or whatever.

        There are a LOT of unknown and unpredictable variables in real world shooting of living flesh as any hunter knows.

    • If the thug leaves then I would have to agree, mission accomplished, aside from seeing to it that the incident is reported. But I find the argument of display in the hope that said thug leaves is a dangerous one for the displayer and adds that glint of hesitation that might turn disastrous. At the same time that argument is reminiscent of the one by those who use .357 snub nose revolvers for personal protection over .38s in the hope that the loud noise and flash will unsettle the thug. My opinion is that both thug and victim would be unsettled by the loud noise and flash thereby making it more dangerous for the victim. I think it would be much safer for all concerned if they were to give much less emphasis to scaring off a thug during a violent encounter and much more to quickly reducing its blood pressure to as close to zero as possible by using the most effective projectile.

    • I think the idea of the bad guy beating feet at the mere site of a gun is overstated.

      Or, at least William Aprill has commented on this topic in a way that’s thought provoking. He points out that violent criminals, those with experience, see guns all the time. Why would it intimidate them all that much?

      Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and all that…

      • Remember, a criminal is a businessman who sees weapons as cost and risk imposition. Just because he bugs out doesn’t mean is afraid. He is making a rational decision to find a less costly target for his activities.

    • Cause if you have to use it, it should be adequate enough to stop said threat. And this test gives you a rough idea on how it would perform.

      • Not really. Gel tests are gel test; good for comparison.

        There’s no “magic bullet;” Just because a loading passes some bureaucratic standard doesn’t mean it will work in the real world. If there were even an approximation to the best set up in the real world, you would not see the variety you see in hunting ammo – even within what is used for one species under similar conditions of range, brush, etc.

        Gel tests provide a baseline for comparison in controlled testing, but nothing more. Real world shootings are nothing like “controlled.”

    • au contrair, the best idea is the firearm that you are best with and will always carry. A keltec .32 in your pocket is always more useful then the Kimber .45 you leave at home.

      • Another aphorism that doesn’t mean much. Did you leave your 1911 at home because you can’t handle less than pound difference between it and Glock or did you leave it home because you can’t dress appropriately and carry? If it is because “its too heavy” then you don’t treat self defense all that seriously. You cover the dress and environment by having alternatives that fit the environment better. “Fear the man with only one gun” is another meaningless aphorism.

        • I realize I am commenting on a very old post, but hey, I’m reading an old post! 🙂

          A 1911 is by far a much better option than a pocket 380. However, A loaded 1911 magazine weighs more than a TCP/LCP/P3AT. These guns are easy to carry. Always. 1911’s are possible to carry always, but they are NOT easy to carry 24/7.

  2. Nice expansion… how’d that feel in terms of recoil? Cause I’ve been hearing that the fact that it’s a soft-shooter is what has everyone happy about the glock.

  3. This is one of the reasons I like velocity information. JHPs – and all expanding bullets – have an operating range. The lower velocity through the TCP barrel failed to propel the 90 grain round with sufficient speed to ensure expansion. While the longer Glock barrel achieved sufficient velocity to expand pretty well for a .380 it didn’t have sufficient penetration.

    Shooting the Bull and I also agree on one of the fundamental weaknesses of the .380 caliber – that it finicky in pushing typical 80-105 JHPs with sufficient speed to satisfactorily expand and penetrate 12-18″. The 9mm / .40 / .45 class is much more forgiving in ammo selection.

    I appreciate this testing, and will directly apply it in load selection if I buy a Glock 42.

    I’m also curious what, if any, reliability issues STB has had with his Glock 42, and I he trusts it enough for everyday CCW.

    • The G42 I used was borrowed, and I didn’t put enough rounds through it to qualify it for everyday carry. I did have a couple of FTF’s with Remington UMC, but those same Remingtons also choked in the TCP, so I’m chalking that up to the ammo, not the gun.

      I borrowed the G42 to do ballistic testing, but I wasn’t intending on doing an entire review on the pistol; I knew Dan was going to do that. I probably should have taken the opportunity to throw a few boxes through it for reliability testing, but that wasn’t what I set out to do, so — I lamed out on that one…

      But I am strongly considering getting one for my wife for EDC. She loves Glocks, and passed her CHL test with a Glock 21 .45 ACP… I just don’t have one small enough to fit her wardrobe & lifestyle. She’s been carrying the TCP, but maybe the G42 would be the ideal candidate. I’d rather she was carrying a 9mm, but we haven’t found the right combination of size, easy-to-rack slide, comfort, and weight for that yet.

      Why oh why isn’t the G42 in 9mm… sigh.

      • Because they’ll sell a lot more pistols by releasing this now and the 9mm in X number of months… everyone who buys it now and wishes it was 9mm and everyone who wanted to hold out will snap them up like mad!

  4. This kind of testing makes me wonder why we don’t see more ammunition designed for specific guns, or at least specific barrel lengths.

    Seems like designing the ammo for a specific barrel length would allow you to design your bullet to penetrate and optimally expand as it takes velocity variables out of the equation.

    • Me, too. I wonder what the ideal barrel length would be. Academically speaking, would a PPK or a PPK clone be ideal over a TCP or G42 to get the desired expansion and penetration with the most controllable recoil, for example? Certainly, some brands/loads of ammo would fit best to certain brands/models of pistols.

    • I totally agree — I’d like to see the “muzzle energy” spot on ammo boxes replaced with “suitable barrel lengths” or something useful that the customer could actually benefit from.

      I did a test on Gold Dot .45 Colts. From my 6.5″-barrel RJM, they were a stellar performer. Huge expansion, ideal penetration, great consistency, everything anyone could want from a bullet. I then tested them in my 2″-barrel PD, and 4 out of the 5 failed to expand — and the one that did, didn’t expand properly.

      Speer says right on the box “velocity: 750 fps”. From the 6.5″ barrel, I got those types of velocities. From the 2″ barrel, I think they ranged from 600-something up to almost 700. So, in a way, Speer was trying to tell us what the appropriate velocity would be, but they didn’t let us know that if the velocity fell below a certain level, they basically turn into FMJs (sort of).

      But it doesn’t always work that way. I’m working on a test of PDX1 from .45 Colt, and the results are the exact opposite! The 2″ barrel results in massive bullets at great penetration level, but the 6.5″ barrel imparts so much velocity that the bullets almost look like they’re melting and coming apart. The result is a thin narrow bullet, overpenetration, and it becomes just a lump instead of a nicely-defined big wide sharp-edged projectile.

      Barrel length matters. Or, well, put another way, “velocity matters” — and with velocity, it’s not a case of “more = better”. You need the right amount; too little or too much leads to bullet failure.

      • While barrel length might be one of the biggest contributors to velocity, it’s not the only significant one.

        But yeah, it’d be great to see that data on the box (or at least the online spec sheet).

        Maybe if they did this, it would be one step closer to getting shooters to accept the fact that there is not one single “best” at any part of the equation.

        Also, I will continue on my quest to get shooters to try lots of different ammo in their own firearms to find what is ‘best’ for them. I cannot stand those recommendations on forums where someone says “x is best” especially followed up with “it’s all I ever use.”

        Accuracy and performance is a never ending process with the upside being that it means doing a LOT of shooting along the way.

      • Speaking of which, I really appreciate the fact that Buffalo Bore posts figures for several different guns of various barrel lengths for most of their ammo. Heck, they even post carbine data for .357 and .44.

    • Those of us that handload do exactly that. We tune the ammo to specific firearm, and not just barrel length. It’s a whole “system” (sorry to use that overused term)…length of barrel, barrel metallurgy, slide weight, springs, shooter grip, shooter weight, etc, etc. At some level of desired accuracy, it all matters.

      The manufacturers are never going to do this, though. Their profitability comes from economy of scale. Unless and until everyone truly owns the same firearm, they just cannot offer ammo per gun.

        • Wasn’t that for snubbie revolvers?

          I took what these guys were referring to was a little finer grained “control.” Rather than one load for “long” (say, over 2.5″) and one load for “short” (2.5 and shorter, or whatever is the cutoff), why not a load per 1/2″?

          For some things, it matters a lot. It all depends on where one chooses to draw the line on the various compromises at work.

        • Speer does indeed make a “short barrel” version of some of their popular loads.

          I’ve tested the .45 ACP version, side by side with the regular version, and found it to be not much different. The velocity and weight were the same, with the difference being in how the bullet expanded (you could actually see a difference in the bullet itself; the cavity depth was noticeably different). Which is a perfectly reasonable way to approach it. I found that from the 3.3″ barrel Springfield XD-S, it was basically a toss-up between the two; I think the short-barrel version penetrated about an inch deeper. Maybe there would be a bigger difference if using something like the 2.7″-barrel Kimber.

          I am currently working on a test of the 9mm 124gr +p Short Barrel Gold Dot, vs. the 9mm 124gr +p regular Gold Dot, as fired from a 3″ barrel. The results are not what I would have expected. Haven’t done the measuring yet so … you’ll see that video here in the next few days or so, but the jury’s still out on the short-barrel versions so far.

        • Do you have any published tests on .38 and .357 snubbies? Seeing as how those are by far the most common…

          I’m also particularly interested in what kind of ammo is going to be most appropriate for Taurus View, with its ultra-short 1.41″ barrel. When you’re down to that little, even a small change in absolute number can affect the velocity significantly. I also suspect the muzzle flash would be quite impressive, so it might warrant the use of some of those “low flash” ammo like this:

  5. Anyone making a longer (threaded?) aftermarket barrel? Such a beast should not affect IWB concealability much, while providing better performance..

    • I’d keep an eye on Storm Lake. Nothing yet for the G42 (or 41) but it’s certainly just a matter of time.

  6. Excellent analysis and very helpful information. Great to see your contributions to this site continuing!

  7. I think this test confirms that the 380 is not a good self defense round. It is better than nothing but there are many easily concealable 9s on the market.

  8. I’m a retied former police SWAT guy and PD Sniper who worked in a high crime area. I was involved in multiple shooting situations and made hundreds of felony arrests. What follows is a very condensed version of some of the things I learned.

    1. Real bad guys aren’t afraid of guns, especially not SMALL GUNS. (Picture “Big Mike” in Ferguson.)

    2. Of all the shootings I was involved in as a cop, and also as a deer & elk hunter, the #1 cause of bullet failure was lack of sufficient penetration.

    3. On my department I’d estimate that 75% of the 100’s of shots fired at bad guys by cops missed (this was in the good old days when resisting felons were legal targets). I’ve won thirty-some rifle & pistol combat shooting trophies and even with all that experience I have missed a few bad guys. Think about it, it’s damn hard to hit a fast moving target in the dark, especially if he is shooting at you! It’s nothing like shooting targets at the range, which I never missed.

    4. To experienced cops 380’s are last ditch back-up pistols. When the SHTF on the street, especially if it involves multiple assailants, you are going to want the most effective high-cap pistol you can get away with carrying concealed, and a 380 isn’t it.

    5. Even when armed with a bigger more effective gun, you are likely to run out of ammo before you run out of bad guys if attacked in the ghetto at night.

    6. All the talk about bad guys running away at the first glimpse of a puny 380 is inexperienced nonsense. They are more likely to laugh at your pip-squeek little pistol and come after you WFO (once again think of 6’5″ 300# Big Mike in Ferguson who charged a police officer after being hit multiple times with 40 cal JHP’s).

    7. Having said all this my wife carries a 380 (legally) when out jogging with the dog, primarily because she dresses in skin-tight clothes and doesn’t carry a purse. The first several rounds are XTP’s and the rest FMJ’s. She has never yet been in a shooting situation, but has come close several times.

    8. Get this straight, 380’s are not very effective man-stoppers no matter what ammo you carry in them. Are they better than nothing? Sure, but if you can afford a 380 you can afford a “real pistol”. As for my wife, she also has a 9mm purse pistol with CT laser, so her 380 is only for when she doesn’t have her purse with her.

    9. Most important of all is your attitude and body language. Real bad guys can tell instantly if you are ready and willing to shoot them. If they sense any hesitation or reluctance at all they will attack, and you pointing a tiny pistol at them won’t make any difference.

    • >> All the talk about bad guys running away at the first glimpse of a puny 380 is inexperienced nonsense.

      This goes contrary to the published statistics for defensive gun use, which shows >90% of DGU cases not involving the victim firing the gun because the perp runs away at the sight of it.

      Your experience as a cop is not necessarily relevant to what a typical citizen would see. As a cop, you’re obligated to pursue them, and can use deadly force if necessary to stop them. This is not true for the rest of us, and those guys know that – that if they run, they cannot be shot in the back (because it won’t be qualified as self defense then).

  9. Int19h: Read the first part of my original post again. I began by explaining that I was talking about “REAL BAD GUYS”, i.e, not wannabe-wimps that run away at the first sign of a gun. And any “stats” I use are from my own and other officers’ real-world experiences in a high crime city, not from magazines or whatever. You should also bear in mind that my advice is for those who are determined to survive armed attacks in the real-world unhurt. If that’s not you, just ignore what I say and hope for the best when your time comes.

    • Sure, and how likely is your average citizen to run into a “REAL BAD GUY”? 1%? 0.01%?

      The stats are not from magazines, by the way, they’re from FBI. As for your experience, you might have heard about a saying that goes, “the plural of anecdote is not data”. And in any case, as I have noted, your experience is not typical for an average citizen. You’re actively going after those “REAL BAD GUYS”; the rest of us do not. Consequently, the profile of your typical threat vs the profile of my typical threat is significantly different.

      I mean, based on your experience, you might as well recommend people to always wear ballistic vests, carry at least four spare mags, and have a gunshot trauma kit at hand at all times. But somehow I don’t think that is reasonable.

  10. I bought a Glock 42 380 yesterday for a back-up. It was one of the latest versions, born 9/2014. Took it to the range today. Three different brands of FMJ worked flawlessly in it and were accurate with my 130# wife doing the shooting. She put every FMJ shot in a tennis ball size group at 10y and loved the pistol. She has had a Ruger LCP for several years and now she wants to dump it and get a G42. That’s how much more she liked how the G42 felt and shot.

    Note however, that Hornady CRITICAL DEFENSE 90gr FTX ammo jammed every single shot. Do NOT carry this ammo in a G42 without putting at least one full box through it with no malfunctions first!

  11. Int19h: Not all the shooting situations took place when I was a cop, although most did. A couple took place when I was an ordinary civilian or a licensed private detective. Never in any of those self-defense situations did I know in advance who or what I was going to be facing, and neither will you regardless of your reliance on your beloved stats. Some claim that, “ignorance is bliss”, but in real-world life/death situations blissful ignorance can often be fatal. I would respectfully suggest you learn from those of us who have actually “been there”, and toss your meaningless stats in the trash where they belong.

    • So where do you stop in your preparedness? Is a 9mm “enough”? Is .45 enough? Or do you carry an SBR under your coat, since a rifle is always better? Do you wear soft armor every day? Plates?

      The truth of it is that a .380 is “enough gun” for vast, vast majority of people out there. Most of them won’t even use it in a self-defense situation once in their lifetime. Those who will, will find that it works just fine. A diminishingly small number – like, one in a million? – might actually run into a situation where it won’t be enough, and having something bigger and better would help. The odds of that are so low as to be negligible though. A gun is just like insurance – at some point you have enough of it for any practical purpose, and buying more and better for the sake of covering those one-in-a-million chances is just silly.

      Speaking of insurance, my beloved stats are what makes it work. If you firmly believe that stats are meaningless (and math is hard?), I hope you don’t waste your time on insurance.

  12. Int19thh: If you really believed that you will never be attacked by “real bad guys” (since the 1 in a million chance of an attack you alleged really amounts to ZERO) a $5 Toys-R-Us squirt gun should be more than enough “insurance” for you to carry.

    What do I recommend as a primary concealed carry pistol for those who don’t want to trust their lives to phony odds, dumb luck or mouse guns? Any hi-cap 9mm, 40, 357 SIG, or 45acp that they can shoot accurately and conceal well. My personal preferences are Glock 19’s and 23’s loaded with premium JHP’s, plus at least one spare mag.

    For back-up I prefer airweight S&W 38 snubs, KAHR mini 9mm’s and (as of a few days ago) 380 Glock 42’s.

    • >> Int19thh: If you really believed that you will never be attacked by “real bad guys” (since the 1 in a million chance of an attack you alleged really amounts to ZERO) a $5 Toys-R-Us squirt gun should be more than enough “insurance” for you to carry.

      I believe that the chance of facing a bad guy who is not a psycho and who’ll run when faced with a real gun are high enough to warrant carrying; and the chance of facing a “real bad guy” is low enough to rely on something like .380 for defense and hoping for the best. A squirt gun has zero deterrence effect, and a real gun – any real gun – is still better than even the most convincing fake for that slim chance that I’d have to use it. Firing shots also has a deterrent effect, after all (a lot of DGU videos on YouTube shows perps running like hell as soon as the first shot is fired at them; I doubt they stop to check the caliber of the hole), and even if it doesn’t incapacitate the attacker immediately, the pain and blood loss give me that much more time to get away.

      Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with carrying, say, a subcompact 9mm or such. If you can, by all means, do so. The point is rather that different people have different requirements with respect to what is comfortable for them to carry. For example, I find IWB carry extremely uncomfortable (with several different guns and holsters), so I pocket carry. Pocket carrying a 9mm double stack subcompact is not really an option, they’re too fat for that. So for a long time I was carrying a Kel-Tec. Eventually I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade, and got myself a S&W 340PD in .357 Mag – it’s still light and compact enough for pocket carry, but packs quite a punch. But it also comes with a near-$1K sticker price. I can afford that much for “insurance”, but many people can’t.

      Now yes, there are also e.g. single-stack 9mm subcompacts (Kahr, for example, or Ruger LC9) that are also suitable for pocket carry – with sufficiently large pockets. So for a dude wearing mostly cargo pants, they’re fine. For less roomy clothing, not so much. In that case, a mousegun in .380 is a natural choice.

  13. DAN Z: I’ve studied your 380 tests and have reached a somewhat different conclusion.

    Bear in mind that as I’ve mentioned before almost all bullet failures I’ve personally seen on the street as a cop, and in the woods as a hunter, were the result of insufficient penetration. So deep penetration is #1 with me.

    After studying your excellent 380 tests I intend to carry Speer Gold Dots or Hornady XTP’s (depending on which are available and shoot the best in my G42) and probably Win or Rem FMJ-FN. The first 4 shots will be JHP’s, the rest FMJ’s. Why? Because if 4 of the much shallower penetrating JHP’s haven’t solved the problem I want to follow up with the deepest penetrating bullets that my G42 likes.

    I was a detective on a high crime, high officer involved shootings PD, and never once did any of the many police bullets that missed, or shot clear through a bad guy hit an innocent. So unlike many, I don’t get overly concerned about that unlikely possibility. I’m much more concerned about putting armed bad guys down before they can kill innocents.

    • Hi, Bob Lee,
      as an old st. louis cop, in the ghetto, I find your posts very believable and accurate.
      and reliable,
      take care and stay safe.

  14. Hi Paul!

    I worked the street for years in a South Florida city with a large black population and a high crime rate (31 murders per year per 100k population). I’m retired now and live on the Drug-Cartel-Infested Tex-Mex border. It’s so dangerous across the border that none of my local police buddies will take even one step across, and it’s getting pretty bad on the USA side now too. 5 officers here have been shot here recently, all by illegals.

    Stay safe!

  15. Int19h: Pocket Carry: What I do is buy jeans or slacks with WIDE & DEEP pockets. They are hard to find these days, and I get some funny looks going from rack to rack checking pockets, but there are some pants available with pockets big enough to conceal a G-23 or a LW Kimber 3″ 45acp. But you are correct, a thin KAHR CW9 or LC9 would be more comfortable. Plus, there is nothing wrong with packing a small 380 as back-up!

    By the way, my preference in 380 is Speer Gold Dots. As I mentioned before, my wife has had an LCP for several years so I agree they have their place. But I’d hate to have nothing but a tiny LCP 380 in my pocket when a killer armed robber walks in carrying a sawed-off 12 ga!

    • In my case it’s not usually the pocket size – for jeans I wear Carhartts which have large enough pockets, but these days I mostly wear “tactical” cargo pants (like 5.11 or Tru-Spec) anyway, which have ample pocket space, certainly enough to fit a subcompact. It’s mostly the weight – even when it fits, lugging around a 25-oz gun in a pocket is not exactly comfortable. 15 oz is tolerable. 9 oz (which is the loaded weight of Kel-Tec P3AT) feels as if it’s not there at all.

      The other aspect is the thickness – thick guns print more. This can be partially alleviated by good holsters which are specifically designed to reduce the print. I found that the ones that are made to fit the curve of your hips are best at it – for example, for my 340PD I’m using RKBA revolver pocket holster, which is “pre-curved”, so no corners stick out and it looks just like a thick wallet. But having a thinner gun in the first place helps a lot, too. With pocket KT guns, pretty much any pocket holster will print small enough that no-one will notice even if looking for it.

      Obviously this is more of a problem for women, with the ongoing fashion for skinny pants etc.

  16. Here are my own reliability tests with a new Glock 42, all shots fired off-hand at 7 yards at white paper plates by my 5’4″ 130# wife (I didn’t shoot due to a medical problem). Shooting was done both one-handed and two-handed taking about 2-3 seconds per shot to test reliability, not accuracy.

    SPEER 90GR GOLD DOTS: 100% reliable, no malfunctions. Although not trying for perfect accuracy her best five shot Gold Dot group measured 3/4″ center to center with 4 out of 5 shots in one cloverleaf hole!

    HORNADY AMERICAN GUNNER 90GR XTP: 100% reliable, no malfunctions, 1 1/2″ groups.

    HORNADY CRITICAL DEFENSE 90GR FTX: 100% reliable now that the G42 has been broken in with +/- 100 rounds of various ammo. However, this same FTX ammo malfunctioned in the G42 when it was brand new. 1 1/4″ groups.

    CORBON 80GR DPX: 100% reliable, no malfunctions, 1 1/2″ groups.

    WINCHESTER WHITE BOX 95GR FMJ (FLAT NOSE): 100% reliable, no malfunctions, 1 1/2″ groups.

    ACADEMY SPORTS RUSSIAN STEEL CASE FMJ (will look up exact name and post below): Very weak ammo, malfunctioned almost every shot with fired rounds failing to extract all the way out of chamber. However this same ammo from the same box function properly in a Ruger LCP, making me suspect that the G42 doesn’t like low-powered ammo.


    (1) My wife liked the G42 so well that she said, “I don’t ever want to shoot the LCP again!” (She was shooting the same ammo from her LCP during these tests, and compared to the G42 the too-small LCP was very difficult for her to control, the trigger-pull was too long and hard, the slide too hard to retract and the practical accuracy wasn’t nearly as good.)

    (2) Speer Gold Dots will be what we will be carrying for self-defense in the G42, with Hornady XTP’s as our second choice.

  17. ADDENDUM: The Russian 380 ammo that was under-powered and malfunctioned every shot in the G42 was MONARCH 94GR STEEL CASE FMJ-RN.

  18. ADDENDUM II: I just re-read my posts and want to clear up several things that I maybe didn’t make sufficiently clear.

    1. I was physically involved in multiple shooting situations, but the vast majority I knew all the details of involved other officers or civillians.

    2. The 38 special 158gr RNL police loads @ 750fps of the past were very poor man-stoppers. If they hit a heavy bone they stopped right there and failed to penetrate far enough. If they didn’t hit heavy bone they penetrated all the way through leaving an “icepick” size hole and didn’t usually stop the perps with just one shot. This is probably similar to what a 380 FMJ at 900+ fps will do today.

    3. With only the rarest exceptions the few one-shot-stops back then involved 357 magnums and 12ga shotguns loaded with OO Buckshot.

    4. Conclusion: If you carry a 380 for self defense expect to have to fire rapid, accurate, multiple center of mass shots to stop an attacker, regardless of the ammo used.

    5. The Glock 42 is a reliable soft recoiling 380, that’s easy to shoot rapidly and accurately. In my opinion it is a much better defense pistol than any of the micro-midget 380’s.

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