Review of the Glock Model 43 subcompact

By Michael R. Grigsby

The Glock Model 43 is a subcompact version of the larger Glock Model 19 and the compact Glock Model 26, only with a single stack magazine. This is the latest version of the Glock pistols to be introduced in the US Market.

In 2014, Glock announced the release of a single stack .380 billed as the model 42. Subcompact Glocks were prohibited in the United States, specifically the Glock Model 25 380. This is due to the criteria set regarding imported guns under the Gun Control Act of 1968. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) has a point system that determines the importation of a handgun. These points are awarded based on criteria including the gun's length, height, weight, caliber, construction, safety, features, sights, and grips. [1]The subcompacts failed these criteria and were prohibited from being introduced in the US due to the BATF regulations on the importation of small “Saturday night specials”[2]. Enter the Model 43.

This is Glock’s latest attempt at a pocket-sized pistol to compete with the vastly popular S&W Body Guard (Model 49) and various S&W Shield models. The Glock 43 overcomes one of the shortcomings of the Glock 42. This pistol was met with mixed results, to say the least. There were some fans; however, it was still not a 9mm such as the S&W Shield. The G42 drove the demand for a single stack 9mm subcompact. After personally testing the model 42, I was disappointed and relinquished it to a fellow LEO, who still carries it to this day. Finally, after roughly a year on the market, Glock announced they would give customers what they genuinely wanted, a single stack 9mm, which would be the model 43. I, of course, had to have one.

Some people overlook some things when selecting a handgun for defensive purposes; the first rule is to have a reliable gun with you. Many people purchase their first handgun and the advice of friends, or worse, something they see on TV. The large frame autoloader that never runs out of bullets and is like concealing a box of Cheerios is usually what they end up with. This leads to a violation of the first rule of a gunfight, HAVE A GUN. If the gun you purchased lays in a safe or gun cabinet because it is too heavy, it will be of little use when the SHTF…

So maybe you have looked around and decided that a sub-compact is what you needed. Years ago, the advice from any sage gun expert was a J-Frame five-shot Smith and Wesson revolver or any of the countless clones. Nowadays, modern thinking and technology have changed that. Today, most semi-automatics offer a fair degree of reliability that was always an inherent factor with semi-autos of yesteryear.

In 1981, Gaston Glock introduced the Glock, an Austrian-made pistol that stormed the world.[3] Recent polls show Glock is the predominant service pistol for most US law enforcement agencies, comprising over 65 percent of the department issues weapons in use.[4]

The success of this series of pistols has been phenomenal; to that end, we will look at the latest entry in the market from Glock, the Glock Model 43. The standard Glock Model 43 is the focus of this article, not its larger sibling, the Glock 43X.

The Glock 43 is a subcompact option for everyday carry. These weapons are designed to minimize “printing” under a shirt or sticking above for deep concealment. The G43 provides a viable option for those who do not want to carry a full-size firearm all the time and are unwilling to deal with revolvers along with all the nuances that come with the wheel gun.

Since the G43 falls into a similar category and as small (J-frame) revolvers. Our comparison weapon for this article will be the Smith and Wesson Model 36, in 38 SPL. This model, commonly known as the Chief’s Special, is a five-shot small-framed, concealable revolver that has been popular with concealed carriers since its introduction in the mid-1950s at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention.[5]

The manual of arms for the operation of the Glock 43 is identical to all other Glock Models, as is take down and disassembly. The one inherent danger to all Glock series of pistols is that one must pull the trigger prior to disassembly. This is a non-issue if one observes the standards ten commandants of firearm safety. However, this can be disastrous if inattention of carelessness creeps into one’s thought process when handling this firearm. The Glock 43 is based on the same concept as its bigger brother, the Glock 26. The apparent difference is the magazine. The G26 will function with any larger 9 mm caliber magazines handling from 10 to 32 rounds. The Glock 43 significant 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 six-round capacity. This gives a one round advantage over the small-framed revolvers (which we are using Smith & Wesson's Model 36 as our baseline comparison firearm, which features a five round capacity). However, the ability to carry spare magazines and easily swap them is a full advantage over most revolvers. In addition, revolvers tend to require dump pouches, speed strips, speed loaders, 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 one might have been trained with. It also make the motor skill memory reloading method used on most revolvers is more involved than the simple dropping of a magazine and inserting a new one. This simplifies learning of reloading skills to become proficient with the firearm.

The grip angle of the Glock is the same as all other Glock models. So, individuals with large hands may find it difficult to get a solid grip. This means getting a high grip on the gun is harder to do without “slide bite”. This has been an issue with several handguns of this size, most notably the Walter PPK. The grip is sized so that roughly two fingers can fit. This leads to an exceedingly small package but makes gripping difficult. 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 the standard 5 lb. trigger pull. This is common with the Glock series of pistols, but it is hugely better than the average 9 to 10 lb. The frame does not have a rail mounting made into the frame 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 36 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 the same size as the Model 36, which is about 6.3 inches. The heights are similar, with the 43 being 4.25 inches, including the magazine, while the 36 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 36'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 do not 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 a better sight radius than the 36. 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 36 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 36 is meant to be used at very close range.

The Glock 43, on the other hand, features three base sights from the factory. There is 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 features a sight radius of 5.16 inches to 5.24 inches, depending on the model. The 36 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.


Is the Glock 43 a good option? Yes. It is 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 mirror the larger Glock series and are far are better than those for small, framed revolvers.

While a properly maintained revolver is an exceptionally reliable tool, if there is something that goes wrong, 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 must 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.

Other than its size and “shootability,” the G43 has the advantage of having basically the same manual of arms, disassembly, and trigger pull as most other pistols from this company. This means a shooter new to the G43 platform but familiar with any other Glock will have an exceedingly small learning curve to become proficient with this pistol.

In closing, the G43 packs a decent amount of firepower in a subcompact package. Keep in mind the role of the G43 is to get you out of a bad situation and not to win a potentially drawn-out gunfight. This firearm is only there to buy time for you to get to a better weapon or 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. As with any firearm designed for daily carry, there will always be tradeoffs in size, reliability, accuracy, felt recoil, and magazine capacity. The perfect handgun is the one that balances these tradeoffs the best for your specific application. Overall, if you are looking for a great carry pistol with an exceedingly small footprint when concealed, the G43 comes highly recommended.

[1] (Gun Control Act of 1968, 935(d)(3)).

[2] 18 U.S.C. § 925(d)(3); 26 U.S.C. § 5845 (b)

[3] Barrett, Paul M. (2013). Glock: The Rise of America's Gun. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-307-71995-9.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jinks, Roy G. History of Smith & Wesson (Beinfeld Publishing,1977), p. 225.

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