In January of 2014, Glock introduced two markedly different pistols, a subcompact .380 ACP and a .45 ACP with a 5.3-inch “Practical/Tactical” barrel/slide configuration. Let’s look at the little one first.
The concept of a super-small pocket .380 with a polymer frame, pioneered by Kel-Tec with its P-3AT and popularized by Ruger’s bestselling LCP, has been taken to the heart of America’s pistol-packers. Many other makes and models have followed. Now comes Glock, the industry heavyweight whose polymer-frame pistols absolutely dominate venues from American law enforcement to the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), with its own entry in the .380 “pocket pistol” field.
Ultra-Compact Glock 42
Behold the made-in-the-U.S.A. Glock 42, which has a 6+1 capacity of .380 ACP. On my calipers, the Glock 42 measures barely more than 0.8 inches across the slide. The weight of this 6+1 capacity .380 ACP comes in at 13.76 ounces unloaded, a bit less than an Airweight revolver that can hold five rounds of .38 Special ammunition.
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In silhouette, it’s only a little smaller than the conventional “Baby” Glocks: the Glock 26 9mm, the Glock 27 .40, the Glock 33 in .357 SIG, the Glock 39 in .45 GAP, or even the Glock 28, the smallest .380 Glock had produced thus far. (Glock has for many years made the compact-sized Glock 19 pistol in .380 ACP as the Glock 25, and the Glock 26 subcompact configuration in .380 ACP as the Glock 28. They have not been imported into the country for sale, however. That’s partly due to imported firearm restrictions dating back to the Gun Control Act of 1968 and partly due to the fact that Americans didn’t generate much demand for pistols that size in .380 ACP when they could get them chambered in 9mm and larger.)
But, that is looking at them from the side. Now put the pistols beside one another and look down at them from above. The Glock 42 is dramatically thinner than its Baby Glock predecessors. For people who place a premium on minimum bulge for concealed carry, that’s important.
There’s another important dimension to look at here: trigger reach. This is the distance between the center of the face of the trigger and backstrap, just below the tang. On the hand, it’s measured from the web of the hand, in line with the long bones of the forearm, to the point at the index finger where the shooter wants to make contact with the trigger. The .380 ACP cartridge is a couple of millimeters shorter in case length than the 9mm. Its lighter bullet is also shorter than that of the same-diameter 9mm. This results in a distinctly shorter overall cartridge length, and that, of course, means that there can be proportionally less distance between the backstrap and trigger face.
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This gives the trigger finger much greater reach to the trigger. On the Glock 42, the reach is so short that with my normal grasp, my finger came halfway between the distal joint and the median joint on the trigger. By flexing my finger just slightly outward, the distal joint was centered on the little Glock’s trigger. This spot on the trigger finger was known as the “power crease” among old-time double-action revolver shooters because it gives maximum leverage without pulling the muzzle to either side as the finger brings the trigger back. On a shorter hand than mine, as we found with a five-foot-tall female on the test team, this allowed a much more advantageous trigger finger placement. The result: She shot it remarkably well and loved its shooting characteristics.
Our test Glock 42 came with two six-round magazines. The Glock design allows drop-safe carry with a seventh round in the firing chamber. If you put this gun in your pocket, make sure you carry it with a pocket holster. Glock is emphatic that its pistols should be carried with the triggerguard completely shielded. I could not agree more.
The magazine release has the configuration of the Gen4 series of Glock’s larger models; it’s easy to operate when you want to and not likely to be inadvertently activated—the best of both worlds. This pistol also has the dual recoil spring assembly that Glock introduced in its subcompacts in the mid-1990s and later incorporated into its larger Gen4 models.
.380 Range Time
With the low-power .380 ACP cartridge, combined with the dual recoil spring assembly and locked-breech mechanism, the nasty recoil experienced with some super-small .380 autos simply is not present with the Glock 42. There was some recoil, but it was negligible. For the shooter sensitive to recoil, these factors make the Glock 42 one of the most promising pistols out there.
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Some feel that the standard 95-grain FMJ should be used to achieve adequate penetration. If one takes that route, none seem better than the Winchester USA brand, which has a flat nose that should deliver more impact instead of just piercing through like an icepick. Off a Matrix rest on a concrete bench at 25 yards, the Glock 42 put five Winchester FMJs into 3.6 inches, measured center to center on a Caldwell Orange Peel aiming marker. The best three of those hits were in 1.6 inches. (I include the “best three” measurement because it seems to factor out enough human error to predict what the same five shots from the same gun would have been likely to do from a machine rest.)
Gun magazines and many police departments seem to have come to the conclusion that a 4-inch group for five shots from a bench or machine rest at 25 yards is “acceptable combat accuracy.” It is widely presumed that short-barreled pocket pistols like the .380 under discussion should only be tested at shorter distances—sometimes 15 yards, sometimes 7 yards, sometimes even shorter. The reasons I question this presumption are a topic for another time, but note that this .380 pocket pistol achieved the full-sized service pistol accuracy standard at 25 yards with inexpensive Winchester “White Box” practice ammo.
Among those who worry about .380 ACP penetration, many of the experts have gone with the hard-cast lead flat points offered by Buffalo Bore. We tried the standard-pressure version, rated for 975 fps and 211 foot-pounds of energy (fpe). The recoil was still mild. One errant shot—which may have been an unnoticed error on the part of the shooter, me—spread the group to 6.05 inches. However, the other four hits were within 3.85 inches, with the best three in 3.25 inches.
In hollow points, the brass-jacketed Golden Saber JHP designed by Dave Schluckebier for Remington is a popular choice because its brass jacket and its heavy-for-caliber weight give it more penetration than many other .380 JHPs. The Remington proved to be the most accurate of the 25-yard test. The five shots clustered into 3.55 inches, with four of them in a much tighter 1.45-inch group and the best three in 1.2 inches.
All groups, whether from the bench or from off-hand, tended to be a bit left of the point of aim, but were okay for elevation. It was no trick to drift the fixed rear sight of the Glock 42 to bring them center. The bottom line: This is one of the most accurate subcompact .380s you’re ever going to find. At 7 yards from a two-hand Isosceles standing position, carefully squeezing the trigger, seven rounds of Winchester ball ammo went into an inch in the head of the target. Running faster and aiming at center-mass with a reloaded magazine, all six were under 3 inches and four of the hits were in a cluster less than half that size.
Glock 41 Gen4
Take the most popular department-issued .45 ACP in American police service today, the Glock 21. Make it in the Gen4 configuration, with secure grip texturing, interchangeable backstraps and a more ergonomic, reversible magazine catch. Replace its “upper” with the slimmer, 5.3-inch barrel configuration of the Glock “Practical/Tactical” models, and don’t make a lightening cut in the top of the slide. You have just created the Glock 41 Gen4.
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The longer barrel adds velocity. When we chronographed my favorite .45 ACP duty load, the 230-grain Federal HST +P, it averaged 966.28 fps out of the Glock 41, sometimes breaking 980 fps. The same ammunition from my Glock 21 Gen4 averaged 938.34 fps. Remington 185-grain JHPs averaged 1,010.3 fps from the standard-length Glock 21 but 1,041 fps from the Glock 41 Gen4.
What about its accuracy? From the 25-yard bench, the Glock 41 Gen4 put five rounds of the 230-grain Federal HST +P ammunition into a tight 1.95-inch group, with the best three grouping into exactly 1 inch. The Remington JHPs exactly equaled that five-shot group at 1.95 inches, with the best three a little tighter at 0.9 inches. Five Winchester 230-grain “White Box” FMJs created a 2.55-inch group, while the best three clustered into 1.45 inches.
All our test shooters either were already very familiar with the Glock 21 or shot one side by side with the Glock 41 if they weren’t. Only one could tell a difference in recoil, and that shooter—IDPA five-gun master John Strayer—felt there was a slight advantage to the Glock 41. Glock pistols in .45 ACP have always been “soft for their caliber” in recoil, and the Glock 41 Gen4 was no exception.
Even holding the Glock 41 Gen4 with only the thumb and trigger finger, and bending and relaxing the wrist and elbow, we could not induce “limp wrist jams” with the Glock 41. Like the little .380 caliber Glock 42, we couldn’t make the .45 caliber Glock 41 jam. Roughly the size of a Government Model 1911 in length, though thicker, we were still able to conceal the Glock 41 comfortably in an inside-the-waistband holster from Elmer McEvoy of Leather Arsenal in Middleton, Idaho.
Our testing of the Glock 41 Gen4 and Glock 42 showed them to be accurate, extremely reliable and very “shootable.” I’m sure these two will become very popular options.
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