A .380 That Seems to Be Worth It: The Glock 42

          I wanted a gun that I could easily carry in the summer. I thought long and hard about what my options were. I did a lot of research, read about a lot specifications, watched a lot of YouTube videos and browsed a lot of online gun retailers. Ultimately, I choose the first option that I seriously considered. The humble Taurus Spectrum… I mean the Glock 42.


          To me, the Glock 42 seemed like a good choice for concealed carry ever since I first fired it which was about five years ago, though, determining a “good” concealed carry firearm at that time was not done so with much actual knowledge of concealed carry technology. At any rate, my Glock 42 has done pretty well in the way of reliability and it was reasonably inexpensive, in fact, the Glock 42 is often the cheapest, factory new Glock that firearms retailers keep in stock and many can be had for less that $425 shipped. Another fact for you; the online sporting goods and hunting gear liquidator, CDNN Sports, was selling all black Glock 42’s for less than $350. I bought mine from a local gun store for $427.99, after sales tax of course ($399.99 pre-tax).

There it is, pre-sight change and pre-stippling.

          Here is a list of specifications for the Glock 42 

  • Chambering: .380 ACP
  • Semi-Automatic, Recoil Operated
  • Striker Fired
  • Barrel Length: 3.25”
  • Barrel Twist: 1:9.84″
  • Overall Length: 5.94”
  • Overall Height: 4.13”
  • Slide Width: .83”
  • Max Frame Width: 1.01 ”
  • Empty Weight: 13.8 oz.
  • Loaded Weight: 16.2 oz. (6+1 rounds, 100 gr.)
  • Sighting Arrangement:
    • Fixed, white FRONT dot 
    • Windage adjustable, white REAR “U”
  • Manufactured in Smyrna, Georgia

Some additional features include…

  • Right-Handed Slide Stop and Magazine Release
  • Tactilely Verified Loaded Chamber Indicator
  • Rear Slide Serrations
  • Bladed SAFE ACTION® trigger. According to Glock’s website, “The SAFE ACTION® System is a fully automatic safety system consisting of three passive, independently operating, mechanical safeties. All three safeties disengage sequentially as the trigger is pulled and automatically re-engage when the trigger is released.”, “This safe, simple, and fast system allows the user to concentrate fully on shooting without having any additional actions to disengage and reengage safeties. This means it is safe if it’s dropped, and additionally it functions at temperatures from -40° to 122° Fahrenheit.”
  • Comes with…
    • Two 6-Round Magazines (LRBHO)
    • A Universal Gun Lock
    • A Hard-Plastic Pistol Case
    • Plastic Barrel Brush

Reliability

          At the time of the writing of this article, my Glock 42 has fired approximately 1,546 rounds. In that 1,546 rounds, 7 malfunctions occurred. However, there is more to those 7 malfunctions than what you might be thinking. Of those 7 malfunctions…

  • 3 were ammunition induced failures
    • 2 failures-to-cycle on a fully loaded magazine using Ruger ARX® (Copper-Polymer Matrix) 56 gr. .380 ACP
    • 1 failure-to-fire due to a dead primer on a round of LAX Ammo .380 ACP
  • 3 were magazine induced failures
    • 1 failure-to-cycle on a fully loaded ETS 7-round magazine (stiff initially but later it broke in)
    • 2 failures-to-cycle on fully loaded ETS 12-round magazines
  • Only 1 malfunction was a gun induced failure
    • Glock 42 failed to fully eject one round of, normally reliable, Freedom Munitions 100gr. RNFP
Not quite “Glock Perfection” happening here with typically reliable, Freedom Munitions 100 gr. (newly manufactured) .380 ACP. Just don’t do it again, Glock.

          Malfunction causes considered, my example of the Glock 42 “personally” choked 0.00064% of the time. Though, it is not perfect, I will still accept that kind of reliability from a defensive firearm. The kinds of ammunition used mainly consisted of Freedom Munitions new and remanufactured 100 gr. RNFP .380 ACP, LAX Ammo 100 gr. RNFP .380 ACP and, in much lesser quantities, Ruger ARX®, Hornady Critical Defense, and Underwood Ammo Xtreme Defender (in both standard pressure and +P). All of the ammunition types I tried cycled mostly fine and shot reasonably accurately for self defense distances. However, I do not recommend Ruger ARX® .380 ACP in the Glock 42 solely on the basis that the 56 gr. ARX® bullet, in combination with its propellant, does not produce enough momentum and/or kinetic energy from firing to reliably cycle the slide to overcome the resistance put on the slide by the a fully loaded magazine.

          Being that I literally carry this gun for defense of innocent life, I had cleaned this gun very thoroughly about six times in its current 1,500+ round count. That is probably more than necessary as stoppages didn’t seem to occur due to having fired more than 250 rounds. My cleaning method consisted of removing carbon and copper/lead residue from various parts of gun with a nylon brush and Gunzilla CLP. Next, I would lubricate the metal-on-metal contacting parts of the barrel with Slip2000 EWL and then lubricate the slide rails with Slip2000 EWG. Another area of cleaning you may want to consider when you make this apart of your everyday carry gear lineup is to remove any excessive lint build up in the crevasses of the gun and in any spare magazines, especially if you carry a spare magazine in a pocket. 

          The gun, in general, seems very durable. If I had to guess, the Glock 42 would probably outlast any other current product .380 ACP handgun of similar size. Also, the coating on the slide and the barrel seems very rugged and, in my case, had been subjected to sweat and humidity regularly most times that I carried it in the summer of 2018. All of the steel components on my gun have yet to rust. Another interesting thing to take note of is that Glock suggests that the recoil spring assembly be replaced between 3,500-5,000 rounds and that the factory 6-round magazine springs be replaced around 2,000 rounds.

Accuracy

          I will keep this short and sweet. I am not a good shot with the Glock 42. I think the Glock 42 is challenging to produce great handgun accuracy with. First off, the stock sights are annoying because the white front dot is partially covered up by the rear sight when you aim down the sights, but that is quickly resolved when you get aftermarket sights as I did. It’s trigger pull characteristics in combination with its short sight radius seem not very conducive for repeatable and accurate shot placement. That said, this sub-compact concealed carry handgun has a recoil impulse that is definitely less than that of a 25 ounce 9mm handgun and, at least in my hands, is accurate enough to readily hit the vitals of a bad guy within 10 yards. In other words, try not to be in a situation where you have to shoot a moving hostage taker from across a parking lot. As far as I am concerned, I will likely reserve the use of my 42 strictly for evil doers who are no more than 25 yards away.

For me, the Glock 42 best serves as a minimum for armed, on-body carry when I absolutely cannot carry anything bigger. When paired with a low ride holster, it is a great gun for the summer time carry.

Ergonomics 

          I find the Glock 42 to be comfortable in hand despite its sub-compact size. I can just barely get a semi-full grip on it because my fingers aren’t the size of brats. If you have thicker fingers then you may have to put up with a pinkie that does get involved in the griping process which is not at all ideal. Even with a magazine extension, a pinkie-less grip can reemerge as a problem during reloads as the bottom left portion of your palm may get in the way and inadvertently guard the opening of the magazine well which will require some finesse to fully seat a loaded magazine in one tap. Reload difficulty seems to be a standard trade off for sub-compacts. If you decide to rely on a similarly sized handgun for concealed carry, remember to practice changing out magazines so that you won’t fumble around and take 12 seconds to reload in a real defensive situation.

Sometimes during magazine removal or insertion I would have to move my middle finger out of the way to allow my pinkie to stay on the grip.

          In addition to being almost too small even for my thin hands, I often end up depressing the slide lock while shooting which prevents the slide from locking open after the last round is fired. I can avoid it if I pay special attention to thumb placement with my shooting grip but with a gun this small it is hard to not be greedy with how much space my hands ultimately take on it during firing. Which is not to say the slide lock is big, though, I can still reliably release it when I need to. On the other hand, the slide serrations are almost useless and do not offer much in the way of grip. For the most part, I don’t have any problems with the magazine release, but be careful not to rest your firing hand’s middle finger on it as that was my initial problem with it since I was trying to handle it as I would larger handguns which is something that I worked around as I modified my grip to accommodate the lack of grip area on the 42.

          Much like the nearly useless slide serrations, the factory grip texturing did not lend to positive traction when handled with gloved hands. I don’t know why the engineers at Glock thought the factory texturing was even vaguely appropriate but I very confidently assert that it is far too little texture to be practical and it reminds me of any other feature on a gun that a non-gun person would come up with… it is inadequate for no reason. At any rate, like any remotely handy/adventurous Glock owner I ended up stippling the grip with a soldering gun. My stippling job actually turned out to be very effective in increasing traction on the grip.

Functional stippling is not hard to accomplish on your own. If you decide to try it I would suggest you first practice stippling on an unwanted plastic accessory such as an A2 pistol grip.

Observations and Final Thoughts

          All things considered, I will continue to rely on my 42 and wouldn’t be surprised if it surpasses 5,000 rounds with very few malfunctions, let alone parts breakages. It is a great sub-compact .380 but it is not a perfect design. Like any sub-compact handgun, the Glock 42 gives up a lot for concealability. Versus a mid-sized 9mm handgun, it gives up some degree of ergonomics, speed/ease of reloading, sight radius and it down grades to .380 ACP. Despite such a trade-off, the Glock 42 earns its validity through reliability and (of course) by having a very small and slim form factor. If you absolutely cannot carry anything larger but are unwilling to trade up reliability then I would argue that the Glock 42 could fill that role nicely, but just be sure to train around its sub-optimal gun-to-hand ratio. 


          Thanks for reading this article. I put much effort into making sure it was well done and that it conveyed meaningful and accurate information in which to help inform your concealed carry handgun buying decisions. If you have any questions, criticisms, or comments then, by all means, put them down in the comment section below and I will reply to them as soon as I can.