2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

From hand cannon to mousegun...

Damn, I finally got around to taking a picture of all of my firearms together and I have to go ahead and get another! And this time I went from a large caliber revolver in my last purchase to a very small "mousegun"!

Another "funny thing happened on the way home" story here. In the same gun shop that I had my J-frame hammer bobbed he had just gotten in a brand new Kel-Tec P-3AT .380 pistol. He was asking $249 for it. I had looked at getting one of these or a Ruger LCP before, but when I had looked at them initially supply was scarce and I ended up getting my Bersa Thunder .380. I still love the Bersa but seeing as it is getting much warmer here in Ohio with Summer coming on strong, I wanted something even smaller to pocket carry when all I had on would be shorts and a light t-shirt. The Bersa is fairly compact, but not enough to shove in a pocket without a noticeable bulge and sometimes IWB/OWB carry is not practical. And I hate those waist packs that you see some people use. They scream "carrying" to me, especially the ones that have the Bulldog tag on them and such.

Kel-Tec P-3AT .380 ACP


Anyway told Chuck, the proprietor, that I liked it and would think about it. He cautioned me that those pistols did not last long there and not to think about it too much! I went home that night and found a way to finagle $300 from my limited gun fund accounts and called him the next day at lunch to ask him to hold it for me. Since I had dropped some cash in his store the day before he was happy to oblige me. After work I stopped by to pick it up and he said he had it sold 3 times before I got there to guys who had the cash and wanted it when they saw it behind the counter but he kept it safe for me. Now in some stories this is where I would say that he said that the price had gone up that day due to demand, but no. Chuck kept the price at - what I consider reasonably priced in today's market - $249. I took it home then and there and even got a interesting look at what goes on when they call in a background check as he did it right in front of me. Name, age, height, weight, birth date and location and current address and the folks on the other line could approve me right then and there. Hmmm, wonder why it takes so long at other places? It should be noticed that he also had a Ruger LCP in stock that I could of had if I so desired but I decided to stay with the P3AT for some reasons I'll outline later.

Kel-Tec P-3AT, if it looks similar to the Ruger LCP it should, they are basically the same design. The Ruger has a better fit and finish and a slide lock. I am able to "get by" with what this pistol offers though, it is more than adequate for the task designed for it.


The P-3AT is manufactured in Cocoa, Florida by Kel-Tec industries. The company makes some decent firearms to include the SU-16 series rifles and Sub-2000 carbines. They are well known for their CCW line that includes not only the P-3At but also the P-32 .32 ACP pistol, which the P-3AT is directly based upon. By the way, you have to love the marketing in the name P-3AT (P .380, get it?).

There are a ton of great reviews on this pistol available from such places as The Mad Ogre, Guns And Ammo and Gunblast, so I will try and keep this piece down to just some basic facts and my impressions of the pistol itself as it applies to yours truly and my experiences with it.

First some general info from Kel-Tec's own website:


"The P-3AT is a semi-automatic, locked breech pistol, chambered for the .380 Auto cartridge. It has been developed from our highly successful P-32 pistol with negligible increase in weight and size. The slide stop has been eliminated and the magazine capacity reduced to 6 rounds due to the larger cartridge.

The firing mechanism is double action only. The magazine has a 6 round capacity. The KEL-TEC P-3AT is the lightest .380 Auto pistol ever made. Thanks to its locking dynamics and superior ergonometry, perceived recoil and practical accuracy are comparable to much larger guns.

The P-3AT is mainly intended for plainclothes police officers as a secondary weapon, or for concealed carry by licensed citizens. The small grip size and light trigger pull make the P-3AT ideal for female shooters.

From the very beginning of the design and development, computers have been used exclusively. All machined components are also made on modern high speed computerized equipment. Equally advanced quality control equipment and test procedures ensure a firearm with uncompromising quality in materials and workmanship."
From the moment I first picked up the P-3AT the most noticeable trait about this pistol is the size. It is down right small compared to anything else I own. That's perfect considering the reason that I purchased it. The second thing I realized was "holy smoke! handling this is going to be a challenge!" I could barely keep my middle and ring finger on the lower part of the grip. What about the pinky? Forget about that! Still, the frame left plenty of room to assume a two handed grip with the pistol so part of that issue is solved. The trigger squeeze if very long. This is part of the safety mechanism for this pistol, much like a double action revolver. The trigger does noticeably stack about 3/4 of the way through that you can stage your sight picture at. Recoil coming from such a small pistol as it is generates the type of recoil that you would expect. While I do not consider it harsh by my standards, it is "snappy" to say the least when it is fired. A decent amount of skill is required to generate follow up shots with this pistol and training time on it should not be underestimated.

Now that's not much gun for the caliber!

Basically, my index and middle finger are all that is gripping the pistol.
These diamond shaped serrations in the grip are uncomfortable, but they provide excellent traction on the grip and provide a secure handling when drawing from a pocket.

One of the two holsters I picked up for the P3AT, this Fobus paddle holster is marked for the LCP, but works for the Kel-Tec perfectly.
The other holster is an Uncle Mikes size 1 pocket holster, when worn inside my work khakis the pistol simply disappears from sight. Only a bulge that could be a wallet, blackberry or any other benign object gives it away to a casual observer.
My CCW pistols (clockwise from lower left) S&W 637 .38+P w/ bobbed hammer, S&W M&P 40c, Bersa Thunder .380, and the Kel-Tec P-3AT. You can really get a good feeling of how small the Kel-Tec is in the pic.

Thickness comparison between the S&W 637 (left side) and the Kel-Tec, this gun rides so flat in my pocket that I forget it is there sometimes.

Sorry for the dirty rag as a backdrop. The takedown of the pistol is fairly straight forward, one the take down pin (to the left of the trigger guard) is removed, the pistol breaks down like almost any larger semi-auto.

I have already spoken on other posts about the .380 ACP round that this pistol is chambered for. While at the lower end of the defensive spectrum, it none the less is a lethal round and should be treated with respect. I use the new Hornady Critical Defense rounds with the "rubber" tip that provides penetration and expansion per Hornady's claims. It packs 6+1 rounds for use, though I only usually use the 6 in the mag for daily use.

Hornady Critical Defense ammo fills the magazine for me.

The magazines are fairly well made in Italy and are steel. There may be some overmolding on the plastic parts which can be quickly remedied with a little sandpaper or Dremel tool.

The sights are VERY basic, phone booth range as they used to say when we still had phone booths.

Despite the sights, the pistol is capable of some good groups. These were fired off hand (except for the group on the upper right) at 5 yards, which is what I consider a realistic distance for this pistol. The group fired from a rest (upper right) measures only .75"!

Overall, this is a great CCW piece. It is no wonder that Ruger basically took the design and refined it a bit and has sold a boat load of them. Kel-Tec has done well - saleswise - by this pistol. It fulfills 2 major criteria for the class, it is very concealable and it carries enough punch to get the job done. I do not feel "undergunned" while carrying this piece. Its big plus is that due to its size it is a pistol that you will want to have with you as much as you can, it is unobtrusive to most activities and will be there when you need it.

16 comments:

SuperFrikinAwsome said...

If I recall, you called me moneybags about a month ago! Look at all your new goodies!!! Cute gun though. It does seem Really small though. I'd be afraid of it jumping out of my hands! I wouldnt mind having a S&W .40 compact like yours. I think id prefer a .45 though. In due time i guess! So many guns... So little money.

Huey148 said...

ah, this was "cheap", only $250, paid cash, the other new aquisitions went on the old credit card to be paid later.

The reoil on it is hard to describe, I would avoid the words "harsh" or "sharp" but instead use "snappy". It certainly jumps when you pull the trigger, but doesn't feel as bad as other calibers. The big thing with this pistol is in warm weather with nothing on more than a t-shirt and light shorts I can have a very concealable piece on me that shoots a decent caliber. As soon as fall hits with jeans, a sweatshirt or light jacket on I will be back to the .40.

James R. Rummel said...

Good post.

Anonymous said...

I have had a P3-AT for several years ($225 used with several hundred rounds thrown in) and it's great as a CCW. And since my expected range is across my car or the front door of Bojangles when some nut comes in, fully accurate enough.

I can put six rounds into a body sized target at 14 feet in <3 seconds. That should be long enough for the guys hiding 45's under their tum-tums to haul them out and put some real lead downrange.

Or so goes my theory.

I have put +2K rounds through and am starting to see some stovepiping which I think is the universal "new spring" requirement. No, it's not dirt,though this is a sensitive gun and needs to be kept relatively clean and Hoppe'd.

-XC

Huey148 said...

@XC - yeah, I have read on some Kel-Tec forums that stovepiping means it is time for a new spring. I have only fired a hundred or so rounds through it so I tried not to comment about the reliablitly. Haven't had any issues other than a constant FTF issue with the first round. When I pull the slide all the way back and release it will correct itself. I think the feed ramp is a little steep due to the confines of the pistol length and full spring tension is needed to slam the rounds home. Other than that, no other feed issues.

And I agree, this pistol has good accuracy for its sight radius and barrel lenght, 15 feet and all the rounds would of fit in a pie plate on any target.

James said...

The other benefit of a Kel-Tec is their lifetime no questions warranty is just that. I wore one out by shooting it a lot and they replaced the entire gun for free. I am a lifetime customer.

Firehand said...

Look around, they make a replacement floorplate for the Ruger mags that also fits the Kel-Tec, I'm told. Ruger makes one that gives one more fingers-worth of grip, there's an aftermarket that- depending on the size of your hands, can give TWO more fingers.

And no, dammit, I've lost the package and can't remember the brand.

Huey148 said...

I know Pearce makes one for the P3AT, trouble is as soon as you put that on it limits its use as a pocket pistol I am afraid the extra length will snag taking it out of the pocket.

Guardian 32 said...

A gun ain't a real gun unless it's made out of stainless steel. You should have bought a North American Arms semi. Plastic should be reserved for trash bags and baby diapers.

Huey148 said...

well an opinion is an opinion and we're all entitled to our own..

As your profile name suggests I am sure you love your Guardian, they have certainly carved a niche in the CCW market with their line of small pocket pieces I've heard a lot of good things about the NAA Guardian, just have never actually seen one here locally to buy. As I stated in the post, this was almost a impulse buy so I didn't comparison shop around much.

As far as plastic not having a place in a pistol, I'm calling BS on that comment. Glock, S&W, Ruger, Taurus, Sigarms and many others have used and are using polymers in their pistols in calibers up to .45. They (and the millions that have bought them) can't all be wrong, can they? I remember reading about a similar comment being made about plastic being used in a US service rifle introduced over 40 years ago and low and behold, the plastic parts were never an issue with the rifle. Innovation is what has moved us forward. I love the feel of an all steel 1911 in my hands as much as the next guy, it just feels right, but for something that I want to have on me to carry I want that weight as light as possible.

As for posting on someones board and basically comparing their pistol to either a trash bag or a diaper, well the good thing about the 'net is everyone gets to say what they want...and the bad part about the net is everyone gets to say what they want.

James R. Rummel said...

Don't let the anonymous poster, who is also a fan of NAA autoloaders, get you down. The NAA Guardian goes for $200 more than your Kel-Tec. You can almost buy two of your guns for one of his!

SuperFrikinAwsome said...

Hell... now you have to go get another diaper cause its cheap!

Another Gun Guy Brian said...

Great post. I've been debating the P3AT vs LCP as a summer CCW pistol as my S&W 642 prints perfectly on even my baggiest shorts pockets (practically screaming GUN!), and I share your view of fannypack nonsense. I'd sure love to find one for $250. That's a win.

Best Credit Cards said...

;) Nice! This is really great. Thank you for posting images also where I could look at some bang! bang! :)hehe

ExurbanKevin said...

I carry a P3AT almost every day because it completely disappears in a pocket holster with my work khakis, and I've grown to like it quite a lot. I've also ran into the FTF issue with the first round, so it's good to know it's not just me. :).

Look around for the +1 magazine extension for the P3AT: It allows me to get my ring finger and even a bit of my pinkie on the pistol but doesn't really affect concealment or cause snagging.

And a few minutes with some sand paper goes a long way to take off the cheese-grater effect of the handgrip checkering. I also added a Hogue slip-on grip, though some old bicycle innertube works well, too.

The P3AT is a great little carry piece for people like me who live in hot climes and work in white-collar jobs, and I'd definitely recommend it to my shooting friends if they were looking for a small, easy-to-conceal CCW gun.

Huey148 said...

For the money I would go for the Kel-Tec. Yes, the Ruger is nicer to look at and is a bit more polished. And it does have the slide lock which is nice in some circumstances. But for something that I am going to stick in my pocket and not look at do I really care if its pretty? I used the money I would have spent on the LCP to get 2 holster. I use the Uncle Mikes for pocket carry and the Fobus for carrying in my vehicle so it accessible on my person and secured.