Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Glock Model 42 and SIG P238--Pocket Sized .380's

OK, the summer's over half gone and maybe you've been trying to carry a larger handgun but find you're leaving it behind too often because you can't dress around it.   Here's the good news: for most of the country it will still be pocket pistol weather for the next two months and we're going to look at two pocket pistols worthy of your consideration.  

Both the SIG P238 and the Glock 42 are chambered for the .380 ACP round which, in the not too distant past, would have been considered too weak for self defense.  Well that changed during the last decade.  Credit Kel-Tec for bringing out their Micro model P3AT .380 ACP, which was widely accepted by gun buyers. This caused other manufacturers to bring out micro .380's which caused the ammo manufacturers to whip up more effective defensive ammunition.  The modern .380 ACP is still not a .45 ACP but is isn't your father's .380 either!

The .380 ACP cartridge is valued by people who can't handle the recoil of a more powerful cartridge and the .380 micro pistols are sought by people who need a deep cover pocket pistol.  There are small 9mm pistols on the market but none yet that are as small as the .380 micro guns.  I have several 9mms that will fit well into the pockets of some of my jeans but they will not fit the pockets of most of my other pants.  Their are either too large or too wide.  For the days when I must wear those pants the .380 Micro pistol is invaluable.

As you can see from the specifications below the G42 is less than half an inch longer and slightly taller but that is negated by the addition of the finger grip extension on the P238 (more on that later).

SIG P938
Glock 42
.380 ACP
.380 ACP
Trigger Pull
7.5 LBS
5.5 LBS
Overall Length
5.5 inches
5.94 inches
3.9 inches
4.13 inches
1.1 inches
.94 inches
Barrel Length
2.7 inches
3.25 inches
15.2 oz
13.76 oz
7 + 1 rounds
6 + 1 rounds
SIGLite Night Sights
Fixed White Dot

Let's start with the SIG P238

The P238 that I obtained is in desert tan (being the fashion maven that I am it matches perfectly with my khaki shorts and pants).  It also has a one round finger extension on the grip which pushes the overall height of the pistol to 4.4 inches in height.  Lastly, the desert tan version comes with a nice set of Hogue rubber grips with palm swells.
In my opinion there is a point of diminishing returns with the micro pistols and that point is reached when the pistol swims in your hand when being fired.  As good as the modern .380 ammo is there is still a very good chance that your assailant will not go down with your first shot so an accurate follow-up shot is essential.  If the pistol has relocated itself in your hand then you have to correct your grip which will cost you time and could ultimately cost you your life. The other advantage of the thicker grips is that they help with trigger finger placement.  The extra width assists in keeping you from using too much finger.  The finger extension and the palm swell grips make it feel like you are actually holding a real pistol unlike many of the micro pistol on the market today.  

The SIG P238 also comes with three dot, drift 
adjustable night sights that are large enough to be useable.  The night sights, the finger extension, and the rubber palm swell grips all help make this pistol eminently shootable.  

Now, the P238 is a single action only pistol that is designed to be carried cocked and locked.
Deciding to purchase and carry this pistol require a commitment of focused practice due to the different manual of arms between a Single Action Only pistol and a revolver or striker-fired pistol.  You have to make the operation of the safety a part of your muscle memory so that the disengagement and engagement of the safety is an automatic response when you present or holster the pistol.  If your normal carry pistol is a 1911 then you already have it.  If not you need to develop it and that means that when you practice you need to put the safety on after you have fired each string and remove it when you go to fire the next string.  Too many people go to the range with their 1911 and never practice engaging and disengaging the safety.

That leaves the trigger.  As you can see from the above listed specifications it comes in at a stout 7.5 pounds.  Now 1911 aficionados may be looking for the same light trigger pull as they have on their full-sized 1911's.  I have heard some decry that they would have nothing to do with the P238 because it does not have the 3 pound pull of their favorite 1911.  However realistically, you don't want a 3 pound pull on a carry gun.  You are leaving yourself open to be adjudicated as negligent due to having a hair trigger on your pistol.  Also, it just can't be engineered on a micro gun.  The 1911 trigger is a sliding trigger which is what gives it the smooth and light pull.  There is not enough room in the micro frame for a sliding trigger so the P238's trigger is hinged.  I can attest to the fact that it is smooth with very little take-up and is in the realm of a trigger on a well tuned revolver.  It is just fine the way it is.

Let's move onto the Glock 42!

It's a Glock.  There's not a whole lot more to say.  It is a Glock through and through.  If you like Glocks you'll like this one.  If you don't like Glocks you're probably going to hate this one as well.  About the only thing different between this micro Glock and it's bigger brothers and sisters is it's width and height.  So let's talk about those two points.

I am fine with the height even though it is a little larger than most micro pistols.  What I don't like is that Glock could only fit 6 rounds into the magazine.  With  the height of this pistol I really would have hoped for at least a 7 round magazine.

The width of the pistol is just too small for me.  It swam in my hands when I fired it.  Were I to buy this pistol (which I probably eventually will) I would add a Pearce finger grip extension and a Pachmayr grip glove.  That's about $40 that would be well spent.

There's not really any more to say about the Glock so let's see how the two pistols shot.

Glock Model 42 at 15 feet:
Whenever I shoot a new pistol with which I am unfamiliar I always start out with a target at 15 feet. I am not showing you the first 15 foot target because all of the 12 shots fell about 3 inches to the left of the bullseye.  I threw that target away.  I then drifted the the rear sight all the way to the right which moved the rounds closer to the left of the bullseye as can be seen above.  When I changed my point-of-aim to the right side of the target the rounds became more acceptable.  However even though I now had huge concerns about the accuracy of the G42 I nonetheless ventured forward with a target at 21 feet.

Even though the rear sight was all the way to the right the round now impacted to center mass with a center point of aim and my faith in Glock was restored.

SIG P238 at 21 Feet

At 21 feet the P238 shot to point-of-aim with the exception of one flier to the left which was always my first round.

SIG P238 at 30 Feet
At 30 feet the P238 still grouped in the center.

Glock 42 at 35 Feet
Even at 35 feet the Glock keep all rounds in the 8 inch bullseye with more than enough accuracy for defensive purposes.

SIG P238 at 35 Feet
With very concentrated effort I was rewarded with a very nice target at 35 feet.

So, here we have two pocket .380's one of which should appeal to 1911 shooters and one which would be acceptable to shooters who would prefer a striker fired pistol.  The Glock 42 should set you back about $427.00 and the SIG P238 should run you between $599.00 and $650.00 depending on how shiny you want the slide and what grips you prefer.  It's comforting to have one of these in your pocket as a back-up to a larger weapon or as a primary pistol if you cannot carry a larger one.


Anonymous said...

If you are looking for some snappy .380 ammo try the Buffalo Bore website. They have some jhp's +P that rate 288 ft. lbs. at the muzzle. Of course those wanting light recoil stick with the standard ammo. Sometimes you also get recoil spring issues as the spring may be too light for heavier ammo. So far I've had no problems with the PPK

I load their .380 hardcast in my PPK and can hit a plate out to 25 yds with regularity. The hardcast is rated at 294 ft.lbs. ME. Don't use unjacketed in a Glock without reading the Glock manual. As I recall Glock says unjacketed lead ammo fouls excessively in their hexagonal barrels. Maybe the hardcast not as much.

My next order I will probably get the jhp. Hardcast penetrates well for barrier purposes but don't expand. I'll load the first two or three rounds out the pipe as jhp and the rest hardcast. That's what Buffalo Bore recommends.

Its all on the high side at over a buck a round and a buck fifty a shot when shipping figured in. I don't shoot it often as +P hard on guns also. But I do load it for self defense.

Matt L. DeTectre

Anonymous said...

As a side note Glock makes two other .380acp pistols not available to civilians in the U.S. They are models 28 and 25. Made primarily for South American countries as I understand it. They do not meet the ATF points requirements for distribution here which seems bizarre.

The model 25 is about like the baby Glock 26 in 9mm and holds 10 rounds and the model 25 holds 15 rounds. These would be great guns for recoil sensitive shooters who want a high capacity pistol without the bigger recoil of a larger caliber. Of course the grips are slightly larger about like the model 26 9mm. Too bad the bureaucracy gets in the way.

Anonymous said...

A personal defense lawyer would have a feast if you shot someone with a bullet you loaded yourself. Self defense is absolutely the one area you want factory ammo. Peace

Unknown said...

Both very different feeling. I love the Sig p238 and it's micro 1911 theme with the safety and inspired trigger. It just looks like a micro 1911 should. I found a nitron model for as low as 539. The Glock feels good as well but I've always found Glocks harder to keep as accurate as my HK handguns and Sig Sauer models. That being said, Glock are still capable of incredible accuracy with practice and run like an animal. They eat every load imaginable and spit out brass like no one's business. In terms of micro handguns I really like the Kimber micro .380s as well. Kimber takes flack a lot the past few years, but I've never had any sort of malfunction or any issue with the fullsize or micro kimbers. But for the money the glock 42 Is the best bang for buck in the micro .380 world.