Smith & Wesson and Glock are both staples when it comes to reliable handguns from reputable manufacturers. Both companies make great choices for concealed carry guns that are trusted by law enforcement, militaries, and countless private concealed carriers all over the world. When I was asked to take a look at the Glock 43, it seemed only natural to compare it to my carry companion for the last several years, the S&W Shield 9 Subcompact. Here are my thoughts on how the two stack up to each other.
Both guns are subcompact, single-stack, polymer-framed pistols with very similar specs. The S&W Shield 9 comes in shorter both in overall length and in barrel length, while the Glock comes in as the lighter of the two. The Shield 9 has the advantage in capacity, with 7+1 mag options and an extended mag that holds 8+1. The G43, on the other hand, only has a 6+1 capacity and no branded option counting higher than that. Lucky for Glock fans, there is plenty of aftermarket support if they want to add a round or two to their EDC lineup.
The Pros of Each
Both the S&W and G43 are small in stature and lightweight. That makes both of these modern guns ideal for deep concealment. I used to work with a guy who would tell me "the G43 is the gun I carry when I don’t feel like carrying a gun." Indeed, these guns disappear under a cover garment but that's not what makes them ideal carry guns.
The reason that these two guns happen to be so popular is their reliability. In the thousands upon thousands of rounds I’ve put through my Shield 9, I can’t remember a single failure. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been any, but they were so long ago that I’ve forgotten about them. Certainly, in the last 2,000 rounds, I can’t remember a single failure. While I’ve only put a fraction of the rounds through the G43, the reputation of Glock reliability is legendary. I have no doubt it would function much the same way as the S&W even after high round counts.
The biggest pro between both of these pistols is reliability. Simply put, they both go bang every time you pull the trigger, and they should be able to be trusted in a self-defense situation. Coming in a distant second for the pro category would be the availability of aftermarket support for each gun. Every holster manufacturer worth their weight should have a holster available for either of these guns due to their popularity. Further, if you want to add new sights or a better trigger, these options are available, whereas on other concealed carry guns they may be missing.
Controls and Ergonomics
If you’re someone who likes aggressive grip texture, then these guns might not be for you unless you want to pay extra money for a custom stipple job. On the other hand, you could go the cheaper route and apply grip tape, but that has its own issues when carrying concealed. However, if you’re someone who likes minimal grip texture, then either gun would be great. But the Glock gets the nod for the most minimal grip texture. As for me, I like my grip texture to be more aggressive, but they both are able to get the job done.
All the controls of the gun are easy to access and actuate with one hand. I have no issues operating the slide or mag release with a one-handed grip. The slide serrations leave something to be desired on both guns. The S&W serrations are very light in texture. When training over long days on a hot range, it can be tough to get a firm grasp on the serrations every time. Glocks, while slightly better, are still fairly light serrations.
While both the new M&P Shield 2.0 and the Glock Gen 5 guns have forward slide serrations, both of these older models are lacking them. Each gun fills the hand well, but the pinky extension on the S&W eight-round mag is certainly appreciated because I can get a full grip on the pistol. In contrast, my pinky feels a bit on an island when I hold the G43 with the six-round magazine. Thankfully, Vickers Tactical makes +2 basepads, and this used gun happens to come with one. That makes gripping the gun a lot more comfortable.
When it comes to getting a proper two-handed grip on the pistol, the S&W works a bit better for me. The grip seems slightly fatter, which allows me to get more of the meat of the support hand on the actual grip of the pistol. On the G43, most of the support hand goes on top of the strong hand.
At the Range
Let’s start by saying neither of these guns is going to overly impress you. You’re not going to saddle up to a buddy at the bar and exclaim, “Guess what? I got to shoot a G43 today!” On the other hand, neither is necessarily a pain to shoot. There shouldn’t be anything that is overly annoying or uncomfortable about either gun.
The G43 has a slightly nice trigger.
Both guns have triggers that leave something to be desired. They aren’t the worst triggers you’ll ever pull, but they certainly aren’t the best either. Out of the two guns, I prefer the Glock trigger slightly more than the Shield 9 trigger. They both seem to have similar pull weights. The Glock just feels slightly “cleaner” on the pull, and the reset also seems shorter and more pronounced on the G43. Both triggers feature integrated passive trigger safeties.
The Shield 9 holds more rounds and comes with an 8 round magazine.
One of the biggest complaints that you’ll find about both pistols is their sights. For starters, they both use plastic sights that feel a little cheap when compared to the rest of the gun. The G43, being used from the Guns.com Vault, already has some aftermarket Trijicon night sights installed on it. I found these to be really helpful during target acquisition. They were head and shoulders above the Shield when compared to the original three-dot white sights I still have installed. In fact, the sights on this G43 have made me consider the small investment to make my old, faded three-dot sights better on the Shield.
If you’re looking for a concealed carry firearm that will disappear under a cover garment – one that is easy to carry and will go bang every trigger pull – then look no further. Both the S&W and Glock have a reputation for being some of the best carry guns around. There is good reason for that. They are reliable, conceal well, and make for nice entry level guns to the world of concealed carry.