Over the years I’ve tested most of the smaller, more concealable pistols to reach the market, with particular emphasis on ease of handling and concealment by partly disabled shooters. Almost all of them were comparable in terms of magazine capacity, available calibers and cartridges, accuracy, and so on. My ultimate criteria was always ergonomics; how well did the pistol fit the hands, grip and physical capabilities of the shooter? Since there are so many variations in shooters, I couldn’t say that any one model was better than another across the board. My personal choice for several years was Springfield’s XDS model, which fit my (rather large) hands better than most others, and proved very manageable in recoil, even in .45 ACP.
(That’s not to say that compact and sub-compact pistols don’t have problems of their own. I’ve written about them before, and my friend Tamara, who’s Handguns Editor at Shooting Illustrated, addressed them in this in-depth article. Recommended reading.)
When the sub-compact Glock 43 (reviewed in-depth here) debuted in 2017, I liked what I saw, but not enough to switch to it from my then-standard XDS pistols. However, the shooting public bought it in thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands. By the end of last year it had sold over a million examples, which is pretty impressive in anyone’s book. I was therefore intrigued when Glock built on that foundation to launch two new pistols early in 2019: the compact Glock 48 (initial review here) and the “hybrid” sub-compact Glock 43X (initial review here), which married the frame of the Glock 48 with the shorter slide of the Glock 43. The new guns can use all the aftermarket sights, and many of the accessories, already developed for the Glock 43, which is an added bonus. (Here’s a more in-depth comparison of the new models.)
My focus tends to be on sub-compact models for deep concealment, as mentioned above. I like the Glock 48 very much, and think it’s an excellent pistol; but it’s too big for the average pocket. It’s not what I would consider a deep-concealment weapon. The Glock 43X, on the other hand, is eminently concealable in a pocket (a very desirable feature in Texas in summer, where temperatures over – sometimes well over – 100 degrees Fahrenheit are not uncommon, making the use of cover/concealment garments problematic). In my favorite pocket holster, the DeSantis Nemesis, it slips right into the front pocket of my trousers, where it’s as close to invisible as it’s possible to get. What’s more, Glock managed to squeeze an extra four rounds into its grip (which is less than an inch longer than the diminutive Glock 43), so that the gun carries a full ten-round magazine plus an eleventh round in the chamber. That makes it a much more viable defensive package, IMHO.
The additional length of the grip enables me to get a full three-finger grasp on the gun in firing position, unlike the standard magazines in its competitors, which leave my little finger dangling in the breeze as I bring them up. The full grasp makes the Glock 43X much easier to control in aimed, rapid fire, almost as easy as the compact Glock 19 or full-size Glock 17 I’ve carried at other times. The longer grip also makes it easier to change magazines in a hurry. I can drop an empty magazine, slap in a new 10-rounder, and slam it home without worrying about trapping the skin at the base of my hand between magazine and gun. (I don’t recommend you try the latter. It’s . . . disconcerting, to say the least!)
I continue to think that in larger cartridges such as the .40 S&W or the .45 ACP, the Springfield XDS is a more ergonomic solution than the others I’ve tried (in my hands, at least), unless and until Glock comes out with a larger-caliber version of the 43X to accommodate them. However, I’m now satisfied that in 9mm. Parabellum, which has become the de facto standard in mass market pistols today, the Glock 43X is the new king of the heap. I’m impressed enough that I’ve bought multiple copies for Miss D. and myself. It’s a very good weapon indeed, and I recommend it.
Our friend Lawdog came up with an interesting “companion product” for the Glock 43X. Due to past injuries, Miss D. has difficulty coping with the recoil from full-power ammunition. Lawdog informed us that Hornady makes a “Lite” version of some cartridges in its Critical Defense ammunition line, featuring lighter-than-usual bullets at higher-than-usual velocities. The combination produces less felt recoil than standard rounds, but is still pretty effective on target. I’ve bought a supply of the 9mm. 100-grain round, and we’ll see whether Miss D. finds it easier to control.
Finally, what about Glock’s earlier Model 26, a shorter, fatter model that also came with a 10-round magazine, but was the same width as the Glock 17 and 19, permitting use of their larger-capacity magazines in the smaller weapon? I think there’s still a place for the 26, particularly for those who want magazine interchangeability (such as police officers, or anyone else who carries the bigger Glocks as a primary weapon and want the smaller G26 as a backup piece). However, if that isn’t a primary consideration, I think the new G43X will probably supplant the G26 in a big way. It’s just that much easier to handle, and more ergonomic.