I’d been eyeballing the new GLOCK 43 (street price about $450) since the NRA Convention 2015 when I first fondled one. It looks and feels, unsurprisingly, like a skinny GLOCK.
Now, I’m a GLOCK guy. I like them, at least in 9mm flavor, and I can’t tell you how many I’ve lost in boating accidents over the years. I’ve had the full-size 17, the “compact” 19, the “baby” 26 and have enjoyed them all. Right out of the gate, they all get a 3.5# trigger and tritium night sights. Outside of that, mine are stock and run great, performing flawlessly as my self-defense tools. They’re all quite compatible with me and I shoot that baby GLOCK just as well as the larger models.
Through some good fortune, I won a GLOCK 43 at a Guns Save Life meeting. GSL gives away a gun at each meeting location every month. I mention this in the spirit of fair disclosure: GLOCK didn't give me this gun for testing and evaluation and I owe them nothing.
The 6 + 1 capacity had always kept me away, but winning one on a $5 ticket at the Chicago Guns Save Life meeting is hard to beat. (I confess, I bought $60 worth of tickets.) Chuck’s Guns in Riverdale, Illinois (Mayors Daley's and Emanuel’s favorite gun shop) provided the very popular pistol to GSL. When I picked it up, I bought three additional G43 factory magazines and a holster. I intended to be “carry ready” with it after taking it on a test drive for comfort and reliability.
The gun felt OK at best. It’s a little on the small side for my hands, but someone with smaller paws might find it just perfect. The sights are the ubiquitous factory standard and the trigger is classic GLOCK.
The gun, frankly, seemed just a little too big for a dedicated back-up gun. I toyed with carrying it in a pocket as an everyday carry backup, but it didn't fit comfortably in my 5.11 cargo pockets. But it fit like a dream under my suit and concealed very nicely.
As with the other guns in the GLOCK family, there’s no external safety. Some insist that their semi-autos have safeties, but I’m not one of them. Keep your booger picker in your nose and off your trigger and you’ll be completely safe if you observe proper holstering protocol.
I still felt luke-warm on the 6+1 carry capacity as a G19 plus two spare mags has been my everyday carry for at least a decade and a half. That’s 46 rounds of loving for you non-GLOCK aficionados. My 19 by itself packs the ammunition of 2.5 G43s, and there’s no need to reload.
Firing the single-stack GLOCK for the first time was...not exactly pleasant. The gun weighs in at under 18 ounces empty, and a couple of more with bad-guy stoppers in the magazine. Some might call it snappy, others might call it spicy or "exciting." All of the above describe my experience.
With Winchester Ranger 124gr JHP +P rounds, I found it bordering on unpleasant. Not as much a handful as a .380 micro pistol (Kel-tec P3AT, S&W Bodyguard .380, or Ruger LCP...take your pick), but it wasn’t far off. I
wouldn’t want to would never run through a 500-round training course with it, let's put it that way.
Even though I'm a decent pistol handler and long-time instructor, I felt myself picking up a flinch after a couple of six-round mags and had to concentrate on a crush grip and deliberate trigger squeeze to overcome it. By the time I'd gone through over two boxes of shells, my hand felt beat up.
Accuracy? The gun showed it was far more accurate than I am. It wasn't easy to pound out a ragged hole at five yards, but it was possible. I admit that I really had to concentrate to shoot it well.
Reliability? The first problem came in the first magazine of self-defense ammo. A failure to feed four rounds in. Then on the second mag, another FTF three rounds in. A tap on the rear of the slide brought the gun into battery in both instances, but I shouldn’t have to do that.
Thankfully the last three mags of hollow-points ran flawlessly, but I was concerned: two malfunctions in 31 rounds of Winchester Ranger premium self-defense ammo? That’s a 6.45% failure rate - worse than the Hi-Point 9mm pistol!
Was I limp-wristing it? I doubt it, particularly shooting from two-handed isosceles as an experienced shooter. I can’t recall the last malf I had that was attributable to me limp-wristing any other GLOCK. Lube issues? I didn’t lube it out of the box, but heavy lube is a no-no with GLOCKs and it didn’t feel or sound dry in my earlier manipulations.
A number of mags of 9mm ball (Aguila) ran fine, but I’m not carrying ball ammo to save my life.
I will say after a thorough cleaning and generous lubrication, I took it out again a couple of weeks later. I ran through about 70 rounds of the Winchester Ranger 124gr JHP+P ammo without a hiccup. Another two boxes of Aguila FMJs went through flawlessly, although only about a third of those were shot by me. Some others at the range tried it out.
Unfortunately for GLOCK, I shot the 43 side-by-side with a S&W Shield and a Ruger LC9s Pro after that first trip to the range. The Shield was noticeably more comfortable to hold and shoot, and the Ruger LC9s Pro, while being a handful on recoil, has a factory trigger that rates an A+ right out of the box. I would carry either before I'd carry the G43.
I didn't enjoy shooting those 70 rounds of +P though Gaston's single-stack product, and life's too short not to enjoy shooting a particular gun. Hence, I sold the G43 to one of my fellow instructors for a song.
Summary: In my view, the G43 isn't a good gun for beginners...it's too snappy. If you’ve got a spot in your heart for a petite, skinny GLOCK and legitimately have the skills to run a “hot” little gun, and can get it to run reliably with your choice of self-defense ammo, this gun might work for you, especially if you speak fluent GLOCK. Otherwise, I'd take a pass.