Pocket Pistol Shootout: Glock 42 vs. S&W J-frame M&P340PD

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S&W J-frame M&P340PD head-to-head with the Glock 42.

Many people prefer pocket-carry to using a holster for concealed carry. I’m in that group for a number of reasons. I’ve read that you get used to a pistol grip biting into your abdomen or back when carrying IWB and that concealed carry is a “lifestyle” that, if you’re serious about it, requires wearing shirts that are too big, wearing a jacket or hoody, buying pants 2″ larger than normal, and always having your shirt untucked, all in the name of personal protection. (Go on and try tucking your shirt in with a BMI greater than 28 and not printing!) Well, I don’t want to get comfortable with discomfort, and I have enough style issues that don’t need to be amplified by poor-fitting clothing! Call me soft. Call me uncommitted. I don’t care. I prefer carrying comfortably.

Why is comfort important? I wholeheartedly believe that you need to carry all day, all of the time. You are much more likely to do that if it is comfortable. If you ever run into situations where you decide not to carry because of comfort or style, I think you need to consider carrying something different or carrying in a different way.

Pocket-carry has its pros and cons just like any other method. Probably the biggest downside to pocket-carry is you are limited to what fits in your pocket. However, I believe the benefits significantly outweigh the disadvantages, and there a plenty of pocket-sized pistols out there to choose from. In this article, I’m going to compare my long-time carry companion, the lightweight S&W J-frame 340PD, to my new carry gun, the Glock 42. They are very different guns, each with advantages and disadvantages.

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Pocket pistols MUST be carried in pocket holsters for safety. An exposed trigger could result in an accidental discharge. Here, I’ve chosen the Desantis Nemesis for the G42 and an Uncle Mike’s Size 3 for the S&W.

As with most concealed carry weapons (CCW), thoughts first come to stopping power, reliability, and capacity. Those things are important to me too, but ease of carry also ranks equally for me. I believe that a CCW is only effective if you’re actually carrying it. When I’m choosing between two or more things and there isn’t a clear winner, I like making a “decision matrix” that allows me to weight attributes that are important to me and rank the items against each other using those attributes. See the table immediately below. Your decision matrix may look different based on personal preferences.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 4.39.39 PM My personal decision matrix showing why I’ve switched everyday carry to the G42. The TOTAL is the sum of Weight x Rating for each attribute. For Weight, a 5 means Most Important while a 1 means Not Very Important. Each pistol is rated on scale from 1-5 in each category with 5 meaning Excellent, 4 Very Good, 3 Good, 2 Fair, and 1 Poor.

Many shooters look at muzzle velocity and energy when comparing effectiveness of cartridges. One of my favorite sites for this is Ballistics by the Inch. You simply can’t rely on the data printed on ammo boxes for muzzle velocity and energy unless your weapon of choice has the same barrel length as the test weapon. Many would say the .38 Special has an advantage over the .380ACP, but when you consider my pocket j-frame has a 1.875″ barrel, that is questionable. According to the graph below, Federal 125 gr. Hydra-Shok, a very popular carry cartridge, has a muzzle energy of approximately 185 ft-lbs. with a 2″ barrel. In the .380 Auto graph below that, you can see that the popular Corbon 90 gr. JHP has approximately the same muzzle energy considering the Glock 42 has a 3″ barrel. Remember, snubbies produce below average velocities which is the most significant factor in the muzzle energy equation:

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Source: Ballistics by the Inch website

In my mind, ballistics between these two pistols are equal. In other words, stopping power is equal. Bullet diameter is practically the same along with energy. While many say the .380ACP is under-powered, compared to the .38 Special out of a snub-nose, it’s basically the same. The observant reader might be wondering why I don’t carry .357 Magnum in my revolver since it’s rated for it. I initially thought I would, and if I did, the ballistics comparison between these two pistols would be different. The recoil was simply too great with .357 Magnum due to the revolver’s light weight. My time between shots and accuracy suffered with magnum loads at the range, and I decided .38 Special was the right choice for me. You should do the same when making decisions about concealed carry…do what works best for you.

What about reliability? I wrote in an earlier post that reliability is king when it comes to concealed carry. Why do I rate the S&W a 5 and the G42 a 4? Is a 4 good enough? The reason I rated the G42 a 4 is because I had to try several types of ammo to find a couple that feed reliably. With a revolver, you don’t have to worry about ammo type. I guess you could say there’s some “hassle factor” with any semi-auto in that you MUST test your carry ammo extensively to make sure it will feed and eject reliably. My rule of thumb is 100 rounds without a malfunction. Having found ammo that is reliable in the Glock, I’m very confident in its reliability moving forward.

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Does size matter? Although the S&W is larger dimensionally, it is easier to draw from my pocket and is equally comfortable.

Some pocket guns are not easy to shoot accurately. My opinion is that a double-action-only revolver fits in that category for a few of reasons: a heavy, long trigger pull and a short sight radius. My M&P340PD came from the factory with a 12-lb. trigger pull. Now that’s heavy! I purchased an APEX j-frame trigger kit for about $25, and that lowered the pull weight to about 9 lbs., but that’s still almost twice as heavy as the Glock 42. I don’t think you should carry a light trigger in the pocket, so I balked on installing Ghost Inc.’s 3.5# trigger kit in the G42 like I’ve done with my home defense G30SF. At the range, my groups with the S&W are double the size of the G42 at 7-yards when shooting fast. Don’t kid yourself and shoot slow when practicing with your CCW because that isn’t realistic. The heavy trigger and short sight radius of the j-frame show their impact on accuracy when speed-shooting.

As for sights, I immediately upgraded the stock G42 sights to Trijicon Night Sights. The S&W has a night sight up front but the rear sight is a cutout in the frame. When comparing the two, the Glock is the clear winner. Don’t mess around when it comes to concealed carry. ALWAYS have night sights on your weapon. Note that considering the cost of the Trijicon sights for the Glock, it was still less expensive than the S&W.

If you’re the type who wants to carry extra ammo, there are real differences between semi-autos and revolvers. Reload times between an extra magazine and a speed strip are quite different. While you may see people on YouTube who have mastered the speed strip and are able to demonstrate it under 10 seconds, in reality, you probably would not be able to do it as fast under stress. In this case, the extra mag is much faster and easier, in my opinion. Of course, you can carry a circular speed loader which is faster, but they aren’t as easily concealed or as comfortable as the flat speed strip.

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G42 6-round magazine next to a Bianchi Speed Strip loaded with .38 Special Critical Defense.

There you have it. When it’s all said and done, the Glock 42 comes out ahead of the S&W j-frame, and that’s why I switched. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to carry a revolver if it was all I had because something is better than nothing.

In my next post, I’ll review the ammo trial for my Glock 42. Stay tuned!