The Glock 42 was once big news. It was the company’s first 380 ACP caliber model offered to the American market, and the first micro-compact Glock for Americans as well. Released in 2014, the G42 was an instant hit, being the first widely available gun of its size to have the features and operation of a full-size or compact semiauto. It was enthusiastically adopted as an EDC gun by many experts and beginners, myself included. Is it still a good choice today? I believe it has a place, but that place is no longer at the top of my personal EDC choices.
Let’s take the time machine back to 2014. The only really small guns on the market require compromise. There are plenty of five-round revolvers, mostly in .38 Special, that are small but chunky and heavy. There are very concealable 380 semi-autos as well, and a smattering of 32 ACPs of the same size. Some, like Ruger’s LCP, have so many safety features that they’re nearly impossible to operate in a timely manner and discourage training because they can’t be dry fired. Their sights are mostly molded into the slide and so small as to be impractical to actually use. Many have a double action trigger pull that feels like a long walk, making accuracy difficult. Some have no slide lock at all or, again in the example of the LCP, one so small that most users never realize it’s there. Some have magazines that were intended to be ergonomic but actually cause pain when inserted properly. If you could find it, Kahr had a micro- compact, 6+1 CW that was, and still is, a functional double action option. It was released less than a year before the Glock 42, but remains relatively unknown.
In the pre-2014 concealed carry dark ages, carrying concealed meant choosing between one of these mostly terrible “mouse guns,” packing a one- or two-shot derringer, or finding a way to lug around a larger “compact” gun such as the Glock 19.
As an early adopter of the G42, I was very disappointed in the reliability of my first one. Grip can always affect the performance of a 380 pistol thanks to its relatively weak blowback. Even with that not being a factor, the gun would fail to cycle properly, most often offering either failures to extract or failure to feed a follow-up round with exasperating frequency, about one round in six. This happened with a variety of ammo brands and types. Without publicly announcing it, Glock apparently remedied something after the initial run of 42s were in circulation and complaints began. The newer ones identified by having advanced serial numbers, run much better. My own 42 was traded in for a newer model, which I still have.
To my mind, it is wise to consider the G42, and other 380s for that matter, a step up from a derringer, but inferior to today’s micro-compact 9mm guns like the Sig Sauer P365 and the many others that followed in its footsteps. Why? The cartridge is inherently weak compared to 9mm, requiring a solid grip and being less likely to stop threats wearing heavy clothing or a thick fat layer. Its point of impact is less predictable where distance shots are required, ballistic performance-wise. Finally, I remain distrustful of the G42’s reliability to some extent. Perhaps this is unfair but it’s based on the single sample of a student who brought her excellent-condition used 42 to the range. After about 500 rounds over two days of shooting, the gun simply doesn’t work well. It’s been cleaned more than once and is well- lubricated. But across two brands of FMJ and one brand of JHP we’ve tried in it, and three different magazines, one of which is mine so I’m sure it’s never been modified, the gun won’t run through an entire magazine without at least one failure. This may well be a magazine issue; we have used factory magazines only. This student insists her gun is the only one for her, so it has been my job to ensure she has an efficient malfunction clearance habit to accompany it (something every concealed carrier should have, but few bother to learn).
In the days when I carried a 42, I felt compelled to carry a second magazine. Six-plus-one is anemic, in my view. That was inconvenient but it was the order of the day. A handful of companies made higher- capacity magazines or replacement floorplates that extended capacity of the 42. I was provided one of these, which extended capacity to eight in the magazine and provided a place for the pinky to grip. Alas, the gun will only work with seven rounds in this contraption, and the aftermarket mag interferes with concealability, so I rarely use it.
After all that negative talk, I still have my 42. It serves as a back-up concealment gun in case my mainstay is ever broken or seized as evidence. Once in a great while, I wear it as a more concealable choice under a tight shirt. I feel a lot better with seven well-concealed rounds on me than I would a two- round derringer, and the G42 is lightweight and more suitable for hiding under clingy or thin fabrics. It fits in the holster-tights made by Springfield / DeSantis I covered in another article here, making it wearable while exercising. I’ve learned to appreciate the polymer sights, magazines, and mag release on any Glock because they don’t rust when exposed to sweat. Most importantly to me, the G42 works like any larger polymer-lower semiauto. The trigger feels close to the same, and though its slide and slide lock are small enough to require fingertip strength to use, these controls are just the same as my hands are used to. This reduces the practice requirement to run less-available and more expensive 380 ammunition.
As with most popular handguns, there are many choices of aftermarket accessories and holsters for the G42. My own copy has night sights rather than factory ones, the brand of which I’ve forgotten. Streamlight TLR-6 is a great choice of a weapon-mounted flashlight and/or laser for this gun. There are also numerous frame and slide color combos on the market.
If a micro-compact 9mm simply cannot fit into your wardrobe but something a little smaller will, and if you won’t or can’t compromise on that wardrobe, the Glock 42 may be the gun for you. In my opinion, it remains “best in class” even if the 380 class is less than ideal for self-protection. Accept its limitations and be prepared to deal with them. As of this writing in May 2023, market price base is around $400, with custom color models going as much as $100 more.
Specifications: Glock 42
- Caliber: 380 ACP
- Magazines: Two 6-round; one with pinky wedge
- Barrel Length: 3.25 inches
- Weight: 15.87 ounces
- Overall Length: 5.94 inches
- Overall Height (including magazine): 4.13 inches
- Trigger Face to Back of Grip: 2.7 inches