This Slim, Reliable Pocket .380 Offers 6+1 Rounds of Backup Firepower
Before I begin discussing the merits of the Glock 42, I have a few sentiments to get off my chest. To start, there is a long-standing philosophy in the tactical world: Two equals one, and one equals none. This concept is one I sing loudly in all of my courses. While many will relegate this to SWAT or SRT units, my biggest focus is on patrol and plainclothes officers. The item I focus on most often is the backup gun.
Backup guns have long been a staple for most officers and agencies. From the ancient days of utilizing the “New York reload” with a snub-nose revolver to modern semi-auto pistols, the backup has been a welcomed friend to anyone professionally carrying a gun. Some of the most storied gunfighters in the world carried two guns. The law enforcement world is full of stories of how a backup gun saved a life or saved a very bad day. These are the stories I use to convince officers that it is always a good idea to carry some extra help.
I have run more than my fair share of backup gun qualification courses and found most officers suffering in accuracy. The main culprit is time on the gun. In many cases, I see officers issued a semi-auto, striker-fired pistol as their primary and a snub-nose .38 revolver as their backup. While not always the case, it is indeed a very common sight. In short, the backup gun is sufficiently different enough from their primary that it affects accuracy. Different triggers, sights, and operating procedures can limit even the best shooter.
With the ongoing trend in limiting range time, I see officers spending little if any time training on their backup weapons. They simply have not taken the time to “learn a new gun.” This can have lethal consequences.
Glock’s Pocket Auto
Enter the Glock 42. This Glock in particular is a major departure from the “baby Glocks,” such as the Glock 27. The Glock 42 is truly a compact pistol with concealment as its calling card. Chambered in .380 ACP and holding a six-round, single-stack magazine, the Glock 42 is slender, to say the least. While some met the announcement of the gun’s release with skepticism, I immediately saw it as an answer to a long-standing problem—size.
I had the pleasure of testing this gun and quickly became a fan. I found it to be extremely manageable, reliable and accurate. While its detractors rallied around the fact that it fires a .380 round, those who look at weapons through the prism of application see more. The cliché is that the .380 is simply a 9mm set on stun. Oddly enough though, I have yet to find anyone who will willingly let me “stun” them with a .380. This is much ado about nothing, in my opinion, as people are blurring the lines of what the pistol is designed for. My longtime motto has always been “Better a small gun than no gun.”
The single most profound strength that the Glock 42 brings to the table is familiarity. For all intents and purposes, Glock has made a miniature version of the most widely issued law enforcement sidearm in the world, the Glock 22. The function and manipulation of the Glock 42 is the same as most officers’ standard pistol. More importantly, the trigger of the Glock 42 has the same feel and function as its big brother.
Everyone familiar with the compact pistol market is aware that its greatest challenge has been the trigger. Heavy triggers with excessively long resets have made them questionable as effective backups. But that’s not the case with the Glock 42. With a trigger weight of approximately 5 pounds and a standard Glock reset, it is simply the best on the market. It has the same feel as triggers in full-sized Glocks, which helps shooters deliver very accurate shots.
Another noticeable advantage that the Glock 42 has over its pocket pistol relatives is its lack of “snap.” While tough to quantify, the Glock 42 is very easy to shoot and does not have the trademark snap experienced with so many other micro blasters. An interesting point to make is that the Glock 42 is not listed as a Gen4 pistol, and it does not come with interchangeable backstraps. The back of the grip does, however, run all the way down to the back of the magazine well, which protects the mag and allows it to fall free. Most people will overlook the importance of this feature, but it is a critical component of a fighting gun. It has texturing similar to the Gen4 guns, but not quite as aggressive.
Glock has obviously listened to its law enforcement patrons and added general improvements to the gun. This is not Glock’s first rodeo with the .380 round. The fabled but rarely-seen-in-America Glock 28 has been in the Austrian stable for years. Honestly, I believe the Glock 42 will serve the U.S. law enforcement community better than its bulkier European cousin.
Glock 42 Design
The first item of business was the fact that the Glock 42 weighs in at a solid 12.7 ounces less than its’ Glock 27 counterpart. The tape tells us that the Glock 42 is half an inch shorter and less than an inch thick. That, combined with Glock’s standard finish, makes this a solid addition to an officer’s gear. In a perfect world, the size of the new Glock 42 wouldn’t really matter.
Everyone would dutifully carry their backup guns every day—no complaints, no hesitation, just commitment to being prepared. That simply is not the case, however. Size does matter, and the lighter the gun, the more readily an officer will carry it. Many a locker is shut each shift with a backup pistol left behind. Carried in a well-made ankle holster or deep-concealment holster, the Glock 42 will be one of the lightest safety blankets an officer can have.
As with the release of any gun, the aftermarket world jumps at the opportunity to offer add-ons and improvements. While there is not much on my “to-do” list for the Glock 42, there are a few things I suggest to officers. First is the addition of night sights. Any real-world fighting pistol must have quality night sights. There are already a couple of versions of these sights on the market, and I would expect to see more.
The second order of business is to get the gun to your armorer for a polishing of the internals. Understand that this is in no way designed to lighten the trigger. It is simply a process where a professional de-burrs and smoothes all of the internal metal components associated with the trigger. The byproduct of manufacturing is small metal burrs and rough spots. Even in a quality builder like Glock, it happens. Gone untouched, the parts would eventually smooth themselves out as they rub against each other. This is what most people call the “break-in” period. The trigger may feel gritty and not quite as smooth as a well-worn pistol. With that being said, any weapon that hits the street to protect an officer must be in the best condition possible. When bad things happen, it will not be the time to start breaking in a new trigger.
Little But Fierce – And More Popular Than Expected
So what was originally called “the gun nobody wanted” has quickly turned into the gun that everybody is trying to get. The ramp-up to a large industry trade show back in 2014 was almost a painful experience, as every “expert” on social media declared the Glock 42 a boondoggle and demanded the head of whoever thought of such a thing. The deafening silence that followed the show was a sign that maybe some had judged too soon.
A quick check of the gun shops around me saw the Glock 42 priced about 20 percent above the suggested retail price. That is based purely on demand. In time, supplies will catch up with demand, but for right now, it is a hot ticket. Yes, I would like to see Glock make a single-stack 9mm pistol. I believe it would do extremely well in the current market. Until that day, I will express my pleasure with the Glock 42 and recommend it to students and friends in the law enforcement community. It has made its way into my ankle holster, and I believe others will follow suit.
Specifications: Glock 42
- Caliber: .380 ACP
- Barrel Length: 3.25 inches
- Overall Length: 5.94 inches
- Weight: 13.76 ounces
- Grips: Polymer
- Sights: Fixed
- Action: Safe Action
- Finish: Black, surface-hardened
- Capacity: 6+1