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:
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.
"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."
Now that's not much gun for the caliber!
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.
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.