Easily the two most talked-about handguns going into Shot Show 2014 were the Remington R51 and the Glock 42.

While the R51 was a no-show at SHOT, I did have an opportunity to handle and fire the Glock 42. The grip shape was such that it swung like a dowsing rod in my hands and I had a very hard time shooting with it, but it functioned just fine with the ball ammo provided and I wrote off my experience as just a physiological issue. Not every gun grip shape will work for every shooter’s hand, after all.

Others, however, are reporting a rash of problems with the oversized .380 as it is finally appearing on the market in quantity, and Lee Williams has been bird-dogging the story. If his latest reader response is in any way representative of the new pistol’s faults and the brand’s ability to address the issue, the Glock 42 could reduce the company’s “Perfection” tagline to mockery:

I have had a G42 for about a month now.  In each trip to the range I have had repeated FTE’s and FTF’s.  This happens with both mags included with the gun.  It happens with two brands of 380 FMJ ammo.

What I have noticed is the problem happens when the magazine is fully loaded.  Consistent problems.  Using tap and rack clearing has produced a number of type 3 malfunctions. A type 3 malfunction is very rare in most guns and really hard to produce.  Not so with this gun.  In short this handgun is thoroughly unreliable.  This is unacceptable in a defensive handgun.  Shame on me for buying one of the early models.  My serial number is 390.  I should have known better.

I have contacted Glock and they were supposed to send me authorization to return it to the factory.  Three days have passed with no authorization yet. Based on what I am reading, I suspect if I get to send it back they will look at it and tell me it is within specifications.

For those of you not familiar with the term “type 3 malfunction,” he is referring to a double-feed, when the pistol tries to feed two cartridges into the chamber at once. Typically, one cartridge is fully or partially chambered, while the slide is attempting the strip a second round from the magazine, causing it to nosedive and jam the gun. It can be one of the harder malfunctions to quickly clear under stress, as it typically requires dropping the magazine, racking the slide to clear rounds obstructing the barrel, and requires reloading the magazine and re-racking the slide.

Encountering problems in a new product is hardly unusual, which is why early adopters of any technology (firearms, computers, cars , etc) typically expect to encounter glitches, and sometimes relatively serious ones. We’ve had our hands on the other new “buzzworthy” pistol of the year in the R51, and found it to be problematic as well. Do we think either design is irrevocably tarnished by a problematic roll-out?

Not in the slightest.

If Remington and Glock are responsive to the problems encountered by customers, provide excellent customer service, and fix the problems so that these handguns become reliable, they may both may go on to long-term success in their respective market niches and can create brand loyalty in the process by customers who are impressed that the company seemingly went that “extra mile” to ensure they are satisfied.

What troubles me about the letter-writer’s response about Glock customer service is that I’ve already read of the infamous “the gun is performing within specifications” letter. Such a response essentially tells customers that they are imagining the problems they are encountering.

It may be 100% true that Glock isn’t able to duplicate these malfunctions in factory testing, but if that is true, it rather strongly suggests that the problem is that Glock’s factory testing isn’t up to real-world standards.

A brand that asserts a problem is “operator error” can get away with that to a certain degree if the errors are infrequent and difficult to duplicate. If a significant pool of users is encountering the problem, however, it is a real problem for your brand, and you better find a way to address the user’s concerns, and do so quickly.

We’ll continue to keep an eye and this story, and see what develops with the problematic roll-outs of both the R51 and the G42.