Kel Tec P3AT Review

At this writing Kel Tec does not make "range handguns". Aside from a couple of exotic 22s it makes close range, highly concealable handguns for that purpose only. The Kel Tec P3AT is no exception and is probably to date their most popular handgun production.

Kel Tec's original claim to fame was that their guns in calibers from .32 to .9mm were smaller than anybody else's in the same calibers.

That no longer applies with most major manufacturers producing one or more models of similar size for "pocket carry".

I have shot several Kel Tec P3ATs, and have and gotten considerable input from a friend who owns one. I have also done tons of research on their production, function and performance.

Hard Reality Of Shooting The .380 Kel Tec

When I say that the tiny Kel Tec offerings are not range guns, you would just have to shoot one to see what I mean. When you first shoot a Kel Tec P3AT, the first thing you think after you go through a magazine is "that's enough".

It's a nasty little twirp of a gun that hurts your trigger finger to where you want to throw it down before you're finished. I thought maybe it was just me, but I consistently get the report of the extreme discomfort when shooting it. Sore trigger finger.

The gun's inherent accuracy is about what you would expect from a center fire pistol with a 2.7" barrel that weighs around 11 ounces with an empty 6 round magazine. Kel Tec claims a trigger pull of 5 lbs but the impression is it is heavier than that.

Learning to hit the paper that a 10" target is printed on is an accomplishment.

Here's the catch 22.

It is an unpleasant, undesirable, irritating gun to shoot, but requires considerable practice to achieve functional accuracy out to 21 feet. I would be most comfortable using it in a real life situation if an attacker was close enough for me to stick it in his eye socket to defend myself with it.

Concealment Achieved With The Kel Tec 3AT

That aside, what it is intended for which is extreme concealment, it accomplishes in great style. The gun can be carried in a jacket, small waistband holster, ankle holster, front jeans pocket or about anywhere else you could reasonably retrieve it from.

Weighing only 11 ounces unloaded makes for an easy to carry highly concealable handgun. And aside from my diatribe above, with some practice can be acceptable as a last resort, close quarters life saver.

Now comes the tough part.


And this, like nearly all guns of this size has issues in the dependability category. Kel Tec says the P3AT was developed from their "highly successful" P32 .32 ACP. When calling it "highly successful" they must be referring to sales, not the dependability of the weapon.

Kel Tec P3AT has about the same failure issue rate as the .32 cal version. About half of these guns come from the factory in pretty dependable condition. The other half...... well..... not do dependable. So, if you want a Kel Tec that works dependably out of the box, it's pretty much a roll of the dice.

Now to Kel Tec's customer service, reports across the board say it is second to none. To their credit, guns returned to them with dependability issues are returned to their customers in record time, usually with issues fixed. The obvious question is, why doesn't Kel Tec make sure they're right going out the door?

Without any controls on the gun and the absolutely plain function, there's not much else to say. If concealment of a gun this small is a person's only choice then they are available. But the dependability issues should cause serious concerns for anybody carrying this as their sole self defense firearm.

Kel Tec has produced a unique and potentially very valuable tool for concealed carry. Their customer service is second to none. It's too bad the reputation for dependable service out of the box is so poor.

Having shot both considerably, between the Ruger LCP and the Kel Tec, I would quickly choose the Ruger for reasons you find in that review.

That said, I don't want either one.