Actual Kel-Tec P-3AT Review

Some of you remember my lamentations over Kel-Tec’s customer service.  Well, my barrel finally arrived in Friday, with a nice 2007 date on it, so it’s not like Kel-Tec was behind in manufacturing, they just take a while to get around to looking at service send backs.

So I put the new barrel in and took the gun to the range.  I am able to hit a 7 circle pretty reliably with it at 10 yards.  In that sense, it does what it’s supposed to do.  A few things though:

  • Damn, is it brutal to shoot!  I sent 60 rounds through it and I got a blister on two of my fingers from where it contacts.  Any pocket .380 is going to have this problem, though.  With almost no size and weight, the impulse as to go somewhere, so it goes into your hand.  With not much to grip on to, even with a death grip you have to readjust your grip every round to fire a comfortable shot.  But I did rip through a few magazines just to make sure I could do it, and land on target, and I can.
  • It really needs to lock back when empty.  I like my pistol telling me when it’s empty.  The Ruger LCP improves on the pocket pistol design by providing this.
  • It beats up the brass something fierce.  I’m not sure any of the .380 I recovered is reloadable.
  • The pistol is reliable.  I didn’t have any malfunctions.
  • With Corbon JHP rounds, the flame from the barrel is pretty noticable.  This could be problem in low light use.
  • Cleaning the pistol takes all of 10 minutes.  It’s a pretty simple design.

Overall, it’s living up to expectations so far, though I wish I could have gotten it up and running a bit sooner after purchasing it with a defective barrel.

16 thoughts on “Actual Kel-Tec P-3AT Review”

  1. Yea, I found out quick with my KelTec that you need to have a good grip – one of the shots knocked the damn thing about 30 degrees off target.

    That fireball was there with every ammo type I used (I used two or three different brands, to see which it liked best. No problem with anything).

    With the flashes and the shortness of the barrel, it’s not much of a precision shooter (either that, or I’m just not hitting that precisely with it). Everything hit within the right areas of the silhouette, however.

  2. The Ruger LCP doesn’t lock back when the last shot is fired. The slide lock has to be manually locked.


  3. Shoulda held out for the LCP. Mine is dandy, and I purchased a Crimson Trace laser sight for it this weekend. Its two pieces clamp onto the trigger guard. It sits under the chin of the barrel with the ON button on the front of the grip, just under the trigger guard, where it belongs. Tastes great, less filling.

    And, Jim is correct. The slide does NOT automatically lock back when the last shot is fired. But it does lock back manually, which makes loading it 6+1 quite easy.

    A hint: Get a firm grip, then grip it much harder. Center the pad of the trigger finger on the trigger and keep the last joint of the finger well outside the trigger guard.

    It’s a handful, but it’s a nice handful.

  4. “who reloads 380? C’mon.”

    I reload for mine. Even with virgin components I can make a round that equals the “self defense” loads for close to half the price.

  5. SayUncle’s right: you definitely need one of the Hogue grips. A mag extension (either pinkie or extra round) would be good, too. As tempting as a laser is, if you need a laser then you’re already out of realistic range.

    What might be nice is some after-market kit that prevents the slide from going out of battery if the muzzle is pressed against something.

  6. “As tempting as a laser is, if you need a laser then you’re already out of realistic range …”

    … or your eyes are old enough that their focus is fixed at distance and you need reading glasses to focus on the the miniscule sights that are milled into the top of the slide, even with luminous sight paint added thereto, so when seconds count, picking up the sights at all is just wishful thinking.

    I have this limitation, and laser sights overcome it quite well.

  7. How about a third pary candidate? I like my Kahr PM9. More power, but still small. Fits in a jeans pocket nicely. It disappears in cargo pants, and even my wife can’t tell I’m wearing it with a belly band. It’s also a handful to shoot, but I haven’t gotten any blisters. My palm is sore after 200 rounds, for about a day.

    It’s far more accurate – it stays in the 10 ring at 10 yards. Plus, the slide locks back after the last round. It’s a simple design, similar to a Glock striker, with the only external switches being a slide lock and a mag release.

    Granted, you can buy 2 Kel-Tecs for the price of one Kahr, but you get what you pay for.

  8. Just get a P-11 instead. Better cartridge, not that much difference in size. 9mm.

  9. “It really needs to lock back when empty. I like my pistol telling me when it’s empty. The Ruger LCP improves on the pocket pistol design by providing this.”

    The LCP does not lock back when empty. It just has a manual lock you can engage.

  10. Wolfwood, what pistol has the battery-lock you mentioned? The only ones that would fit that bill are locked breech pistols such as the AutoMag. You can achieve this feature with any pistol by buying/having built a barrel that extends past the slide. In the heavy calibers, barrels with muzzle brakes are usually available, but I’ve never seen one in a pocket pistol.

    You might fit a Walther PP barrel on a PPK to get the extra length.

    BTW, I own and carry both the P3AT and the P-11. The P-11 is really just a 7/8 size Glock 19. It’s pretty fat, an inch wide. The P3AT is only 6/10ths wide, IIRC. The P-11 is MUCH easier to shoot accurately, in fact I qualified with it (Possible!) on a multi-stage police course recently. I doubt if I could qualify with the P3AT, which is really a belly gun. The P-11 has 3-Dot sights, and the P3AT has only a rudimentary sight. I will not ever try to aim the P3AT, only point-shoot with it. Make the first shot a low, then walk the other 6 rounds up the target. I ALWAYS carry a spare P3AT mag on my belt (in an old Leatherman multi-tool case modified for it, so everyone thinks it’s just a knife). I never carry loose magazines in pockets, they tend to snag and get full of pocket gnurds.

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