Glock 42 Review – The Thin American

Introduced with much ballyhoo, the Glock 42 appears to have taken the US market by storm. It seems I run into more and more people who have picked up one of these little guns for concealed carry.

I was working on another project that required me to obtain a G42 pistol for some photography. Once I had what I needed for that, I decided I would give the gun a good workout and report my findings in a review here.

I’ll tell you up front that when the pistol was announced, I was less than impressed. However, I gave this gun a fair shake on the range, and I was pleased by it. I don’t think it is a perfect gun for all people and for all circumstances, but it is extremely reliable, easy to shoot and makes a lot of sense for the needs of many people.

Overview

Announced just ahead of the SHOT Show in January 2014, the G42 is the first 380 ACP pistol available from Glock for the US civilian market. The company’s existing G25 and G28 pistols have only been available for government buyers due to the oddities of US importation regulations.

woman shooting Glock 42

Like all of the Glock pistols, the gun uses a striker instead of a traditional hammer. The frame is a black polymer and the slide and barrel are made of high-strength stainless steel with a matte black finish. The guns look a lot like all of the other pistols the company makes.

Where other Glock pistols tend to be a little thick to accommodate double-stack magazines, the G42 is much thinner as it uses a single stack magazine. A single-stack magazine tends to hold fewer rounds, and the Glock 42 magazines hold six rounds. With a chambered round, a shooter has a total of seven rounds ready to go.

Standard sights are typical of Glock pistols: a white dot front sight with a white outlined rear sight.

Glock 42 sights

The suggested retail price of $475 is in the ballpark of what I would consider typical for this kind of handgun. Few guns sell at the manufacturer’s suggested price, so most people are picking them up for a lot less than that.

Probably the number one feature that most people are looking for in this pistol is the name Glock. Glock pistols are widely regarded as being very reliable handguns with a tough finish and a dead-simple design. Although this gun is not merely a shrunken copy of its bigger brothers, it works in the same way millions of Glock users have come to know.

G42 Proof Mark

Unlike the vast majority of Glock pistols sold in the US, the G42 is actually made here. Manufactured in the great state of Georgia, the gun is a domestic product. There are even proof marks on the barrel and slide that use the state’s shape. That is a welcome sight, and one I did not imagine I would ever see.

Let’s talk about some of the gun’s other features in more depth here.

Caliber

Georgia Proof Mark on a Glock 42

Depending on who you ask, the 380 ACP caliber is either a strength or a weakness in the G42 design. Many people love it for the lower recoil and smaller guns that can be built around it. Others hate the caliber because of a perceived lack of stopping power.

When Glock announced the model 42, a lot of people bemoaned the caliber choice. I know that I have yearned for a single-stack 9mm pistol from Glock since the mid-90’s. I was a bit put-off when the G42 was announced as a 380 ACP pistol, and said so at the time.

Fortunately, a few readers put me straight and I reconsidered my position. After all, the gun should be judged on its own merits and not by some notion of what I think Glock could have made. So, I have considered this pistol as a subcompact 380 – not as a gun that should have been something else.

Glock Function

If you know how to run a Glock, you know how to run the G42. Functionally, it is identical to the other pistols in the company’s catalog. Like any other Glock, there are no external safeties to fiddle with. If you want to keep the gun from firing, don’t press the trigger.

Glock uses a locked-breech design in this pistol, which sets it apart from some other compact handguns chambered in 380 ACP that use a straight blowback design. Examples of blowback designs include the Walther PPK and the SIG P232. Prior Glock .380 pistols, the G25 and G28, used a blowback design variant. However, many of the modern .380 designs use a locked-breech design like the G42..

Gen4 Style

Gen4 Styling

When they were introduced, the Gen4 pistols were one of the most significant changes for the Glock line since the introduction of the very first G17. Although the function of the guns remained much the same, there were a number of updates made to the guns including a new grip texture, interchangeable backstraps and a larger magazine release button.

The G42 does not have swappable backstraps – it’s one size fits all with this model. Fortunately, the gun does have the improved texture and magazine release from the Gen4 line.

Holsters

Holster manufacturers quickly developed designs for the G42 after it was announced. Nearly every major manufacturer makes at least one rig for the guns, and most of the smaller companies are also supporting the guns with their own designs. I have assembled a large list of holster options, please click here to see it. Currently, there are more than 25 companies making holsters for the Glock 42.

Lasers & Accessories

G42 Laser

There are still a rather limited number of lasers and other accessories for this handgun. However, there are a few items worth considering. One of them is the LaserLyte TGL. The TGL is a red laser aiming device that mounts to the front of the gun’s trigger guard. I got one for evaluation, and I wrote up a review for it here.

Crimson Trace is also making a red aiming laser for the gun called the LG-443 Laserguard. Like the TGL, it mounts to the gun’s trigger guard. Instead of having a side mount on switch, the LG-443 activates from a remote switch that attaches to the front of the gun’s grip.

laser for Glock 42

Viridian makes a very bright green laser that mounts to the trigger guard as well. The Viridian R5-G42 offers an “instant-on” technology and even comes with a holster for the gun. It’s hard to beat that deal.

Who Is G42 For?

The product planners at Glock likely have an avatar – a perfect customer for whom this pistol was built. I do not have any inside information on who that customer is, but I can make some reasonable evaluations on who should consider this pistol. Here are some of the practical applications that I see for the gun.

Concealed Carry

There is no doubt in my mind that concealed carry is the #1 reason why people will buy this handgun. It is thinner than other Glock pistols, but still has a very familiar look and feel. Many people have decided that the 380 ACP caliber is adequate for their self-defense needs, so the reduced recoil – as compared to a service quality caliber – is appealing.

I found the gun is too large for regular pocket carry. It doesn’t seem to be a lot larger than some other choices like a J-frame revolver, but I could not make the G42 work for me. However, for inside-the-waistband carry, the gun was very comfortable to carry. Fans of the appendix location of carry will also likely find the pistol works very well for them.

Back Up Gun

back up gun

For a law enforcement officer, the G42 makes a lot of sense as a back up gun. It is flat and light, especially when compared to the G27/G27 pistols. This means it can ride on an ankle or vest more comfortably. The gun can also conceal in a jacket pocket without causing as much of a sag that one might get with a larger gun.

I would not recommend this as a primary handgun for a detective or other plainclothes officer. The 380 ACP is simply inferior to the 9mm and other service calibers in performance.

Glock Fans

field stripping the G42

If you are a Glock fan or collector, then adding the G42 to the safe makes sense. I am not aware of any special editions of the G42, so I think one is as good as the next. If someone knows about any G42 pistols that are especially interesting to collectors, feel free to leave a comment at the end of this article.

Less Than Ideal Uses

There are a few functions for which I would not select the G42. These include competition and home defense. Competition should be obvious, but some might disagree on home defense. Here’s my reasoning…

In a home defense situation, you are not burdened with the compromise of concealment or comfort. In these situations, the gun can be as large as you like. Full sized handguns are much easier to shoot, and they frequently have much larger ammunition capacities. Also, a larger handgun can easily shoot more potent 9mm rounds without a substantial increase in recoil.

Of course, an AR-15, Marlin .30-30 or Remington shotgun are all much more effective than even a full size handgun.

G42 Specifications

caliber.380 ACP
magazine capacity6
width0.94"
barrel length3.25"
sight radius4.92"
overall length5.94"
height4.13"
weight (unloaded)13.8 oz
trigger pull~5.5 lbs
MSRP$475

Wondering how the dimensions and specs of the Glock match up to similar guns from other manufacturers? Let’s take a look…

G42 size comparison

Slightly thicker and longer than the Bodygyard 380, the G42 was easier to manage when shooting.

380 ACP Pistol Comparison

 Glock 42Ruger LCPRuger LC380Kahr CW380S&W M&P Bodyguard
caliber380 ACP380 ACP380 ACP380 ACP380 ACP
magazine capacity66766
width0.94"0.82"0.9"0.75"***
barrel length3.25"2.75"3.12"2.58"2.75"
overall length5.94"5.16"6.00"4.96"5.25"
height4.13"3.6"4.5"3.9"**
weight (unloaded)13.8 oz9.4 oz17.2 oz10.2 oz12 oz
MSRP$475.00$429.00$449.00$419.00$379.00

* For the Kahr pistols, only the slide width is listed. For the Glock 42, the slide width is 0.84"
** For the Bodyguard 380, S&W does not this measurement.


When looking at raw measurements, the G42 does not seem to stand out one way or another. Yet, for me, the dimensions of the pistol do seem to fit into a sweet spot between concealability and shootability. Of course, your opinion may vary, and the best thing to do is to get a gun in your hands at the local shop to see how it feels.

G42 vs BG380

The Glock 42 is slightly larger than the S&W Bodyguard 380 in several respects.

Range Performance

shooting the Glock 42Yeah, yeah – but how does it shoot?

In my testing, the G42 pistol shot exceptionally well. Including me, four different people shot this gun during the time I had it. Combined, we put about 700 rounds through the gun. All of us were experienced shooters, and the shooting was done over the course of four days.

None of us experienced any malfunctions. All of the ammo – from the extremely fast Civil Defense rounds from Liberty Ammunition to the plain Jane Remington UMC – ran fine in this pistol. That may bit a boring to anyone looking for a little drama in a gun review, but when it comes to self-defense pistols, I like them so reliable they are boring.

Accuracy was very good for a subcompact pistol. Hitting an 8″ plate at 25 yards was doable, and closer in work could be both speedy and accurate.

One shooter did have a small problem adjusting to the thickness of the pistol, and his initial shooting was not terribly accurate. Once he made some adjustments, he was on target and shot as well as anyone else.

Glock 42 review

Thanks to Paul Carlson of the Safety Solutions Academy and Grant Cunningham of the Personal Security Institute for helping me to test this gun.

Since the gun is relatively small, I found that magazine changes were fairly slow. The G42 only holds six rounds in each magazine, so the odds of needing to change magazines in a self-defense shooting are greater than if you were carrying 15+1 rounds in a Glock 19.

However, let’s keep that in perspective. Six (plus the one in the chamber) rounds is what I carried in a duty gun many years ago, and is more than what I have on tap in my S&W 642. The odds of needing more rounds than what is in the magazine are pretty low. Just keep in mind that if you do need them, the reload will not be as swift as it would be in a larger pistol.

Ammunition Performance

 velocityenergy
Armscor 95 gr FMJ875 fps161 ft-lbs
Glaser Silver 70 gr1084 fps183 ft-lbs
Liberty Ammunition 50 gr JHP1354 fps203 ft-lbs
Magtech Guardian Gold 85 gr JHP +P *944 fps168 ft-lbs
Perfecta 95 gr FMJ877 fps162 ft-lbs
Remington UMC 95 gr GMJ870 fps160 ft-lbs

A comparison of six different factory loads shot through the Glock 42 pistol. Performance measured with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital Chronograph at an approximate distance of 15' from the muzzle of the pistol. All measurements are an average of five shots.

* Magtech lists this load as "+P," however there is no SAAMI specified +P pressure limit established for the caliber. Since the +P denotes pressure exceeding the published safe pressures for the caliber, extreme caution should be used with this load.


None of the loads produced recoil that felt harsh. Since the gun is a locked-breech gun and not a blowback design, quite a bit of the felt recoil is absorbed there.

As an aside, I have run quite a bit of the Liberty Ammunition through this gun. I tested their Civil Defense line and got an average velocity of 1368 fps at that time.

Final Thoughts

G42 with Perfecta ammo

As I stated earlier in the article, when this pistol was announced, I was disappointed. I was wanting a different gun, and this wasn’t it. But, that was an unfair evaluation of this pistol. The Glock 42 deserved to be evaluated on its own merits. From that perspective, I think the gun is a winner.

Out of all the 380 ACP pistols on the market, I like the G42 the best. It isn’t as small as some choices, but tiny guns are a real pain to shoot and reliability is often not as good as it is on a larger gun. As I stated before, I think this new Glock is in a real sweet spot for sizing. If I was going to carry a 380 ACP for self-defense, this is the pistol I would pick.

The bottom line: If you are looking for a reliable compact pistol in 380 ACP, you can’t go wrong with the Glock 42.

Disclosures

Too many of the reviews in both print and online media fail to disclose any potential influences from the manufacturers or other entities. While many of these influences are benign, I prefer to fully disclose all relevant information so you can make an informed buying decision.

The pistol in this review was provided as a loaner to me by Glock. The pistol was loaned as part of another project, and not specifically for a review of the gun or the company. Since I had the gun on hand, I decided to do a full review of it. At the time of this writing, this is the only review of the gun I have done. If I decide to keep this gun, I will have to pay for it.

Neither Glock nor anyone else paid me to do this review. At the time of this writing, Glock is not a current advertiser, nor am I in any kind of discussions with them to be one.

As always, if you have any concerns about the review, please leave a comment below or contact me directly here.

Summary
Reviewer
Richard Johnson
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Glock 42 Pistol
Author Rating
4