Maybe you're in the market for a subcompact pistol. Maybe you already have one and want to expand your options. Or maybe you got a Glock 43 as a gift. Is it a good gun? What does it have going for it?
Let's look at what the Glock 43 and its larger sibling the Glock 43x has to offer.
Every tool we carry has a purpose and the handgun we choose is no different. This means we have to figure out what we need the gun to do and what environment we are going to be in.
Where does the Glock 43 fall in the spectrum of handguns on the market today?
The Glock 43 and 43x are subcompact options. They are designed for those who want deep concealment. This means full sized and even compact pistols might print or stick out more than one of these smaller options.
These pistols also fall into the realm of possibilities for those who don't want to carry a large gun all the time and don't want to deal with revolvers and all of their nuances.
Since these guns fall into a similar category as small frame revolvers let's look at their specifications to see just what we're getting in the semi-auto package as compared to the revolver.
The Glock 43 was designed as a continuation of the Glock 26 mentality. Its major difference is that it is a single stack semi auto compared to the double stack of the Glock 26. Both models are featured in 9x19 Parabellum, also known as standard 9mm.
Since it can only accept a single stack magazine, this limits the capacity of the pistol to a 6 round capacity. This is on par with small framed revolvers (which we are using Smith & Wesson's Model 642 as our baseline comparison which features a 5 round capacity). However the ability to carry spare magazines and easily swap them out is not found on most revolvers. Revolvers tend to use either speed strips or some type of moon clip/speed loader to quickly reload the pistol.
The process of reloading a Glock 43 is the same as reloading larger pistols. This helps keep consistency with any larger handguns that might have been trained with. The reloading method used on most revolvers is more involved than the simple dropping of a magazine and inserting a new one. This lessens the training curve needed to become proficient with the gun.
Next we come to the grip. Since it is a subcompact, the Glock 43's grip is rather small. This means getting a high grip on the gun is harder to do without “slide bite” which is why a beaver tail extension is featured on the standard model. The grip is sized so that roughly two fingers are able to fit. While this makes a very small gun it can lead to grip problems. These are addressed with the 43x (which we will get to later) and the ability to add the appropriate back strap to the pistol to fit your hand on Gen 4 and Gen 5 models.
This brings us to the trigger. The Glock 43 features a rather standard 5lb trigger pull. This isn't a bad weight but it is extremely better than the average 9 to 10lb trigger pull on the 642. This trigger weight tends to be about standard on most small revolvers because of reliability issues. Due to the large aftermarket for Glock products there is no doubt that a fine tuned drop-in trigger for the 43 exists or very soon will exist. This allows for slightly easier modifications to the performance of the gun rather than having to have a gunsmith work on the gun.
Next we have the frame and size parameters. The frame does not have a rail mounting under the barrel. There isn't enough space for one to reliably fit anything under it and the addition of it brings the gun away from the deep concealment aspect of its design. The 642 also does not feature a rail but then most older model revolvers do not feature any rails.
The overall length of the Glock 43 is 6.26 inches. This is in the same size as the 642 which comes in at 6.3 inches. The heights are also similar with the 43 being 4.25 inches including the magazine while the 642 is roughly 4.2 inches depending on the grips installed.
The barrels vary greatly with the Gen 5 Glock Marksman Barrel coming in at 3.41 inches on the 43 and the 642's barrel being 1.875 inches. This brings in an interesting factor. Since the barrel of the revolver is fixed it will have a higher probability for consistent accuracy. This is because of the moving parts of most semi automatics don't return to the same position with 100% accuracy. The minute variance does make a difference. The fixed nature of the barrel also allows for contact shots to be made.
On the 43 the longer barrel allows for better stabilization of the bullet. It also allows for a longer slide and better sight radius than the 642. This also means contact shooting is not “safely” attainable since the slide can be put out of battery.
This brings us to the sights. The 642 has rear sights that are basically a groove cut into the top of the frame. The easiest part to change on it is the front sight but any other meaningful upgrade to the sighting system is extremely expensive and some would say unnecessary as the 642 is meant to be used at very close range.
The Glock 43 on the other hand features three base sights from the factory. There are a polymer version of the standard “cup and ball” Glock sight, a steel version, and the Glock Night Sights with tritium inserts. The aftermarket will also be able to provide many different sights to suit the end user's preferences. These all can be easily swapped like most other Glock handguns. Each of the factory sights feature a sight radius of 5.16 inches to 5.24 inches depending on the model. The 642 has a roughly 4 5/8 inch sight radius.
The longer radius allows for a better sight picture and better accuracy. This allows for the Glock 43 to be able to push beyond the “bad-breath” range of pistol usage that the small frame revolver shines in. This allows for more versatility while aiding deep concealment.
But what if we want even more versatility? What if we want more of a grip and a better capacity? This is where the Glock 43x comes in. Some may want an extremely small pistol, but some may want a small pistol with more full-sized features.
The Glock 43x is very much the middle of the road option between deep concealment and a compact option. Almost everything on the Glock 43 is on the 43x but there are a few differences.
This is mostly in capacity and dimensions. The Glock 43x is slightly longer in the slide than the standard 43. The 43x comes in at a 6.5 inch overall slide length while the 43 only has a 6.26 inches overall slide length.
Another difference is the height of the guns. The 43x is 5.04 inches in height while the 43's height is 4.25 inches. This comes from the larger grip that the 43x has. The larger grip makes for a more normal grip area. This also increases the size of the magazines that it can use.
While the 43x can only use single stack magazines, its standard magazine has a 10 round capacity which is a significant step up over the capacities of the 43 and most revolvers.
The changes are significant. So significant that there is very little interchangeability between the 43 and the 43x. They cannot use the same single stack magazines and they already could not use any of the double stack magazines of other Glock handguns. The added size of the 43x's magazine gives the end user a more secure grip. It also adds to the capacity which pushes it ahead of the 43 as an option unless deep concealment is the primary goal.
Conclusion on the Glock 43
Are the Glock 43 and Glock 43x good options? Yes. They are lighter and smaller than most full-sized and compact handguns while providing the reloading and capacity benefits of a semi-automatic. Another factor to consider is that the remedial drills for getting the pistol back in action are better than those for small framed revolvers.
While a properly maintained revolver is a very reliable tool, it takes gunsmith level attention to fix anything on it, whether that be cylinder timing or opening the gun if it catastrophically jams. A semi-automatic generally just have to have the magazine dropped and the action run a few times to fix most of the problems it encounters. This makes it a better option if you are going to be carrying only one gun.
Of the two variants, the 43x is the better option purely from a capacity and grip stand point. It packs a decent amount of firepower in a subcompact package. However the 43 wins for overall compactness.
Keep in mind the role of the 43 and 43x is to get you out of a bad situation and not to win a potentially drawn out gun fight. It's there to buy time for you to escape while still being a viable tool. But they do not stack up to the performance of a full-sized handgun, which they are not supposed to meet. Keep that in mind when selecting these pistols.