(Reprinted from Guns & Patriots, 8/2/11)
Kel-Tec produces compact, light weapons
A look at the polymer wonder gun
Small, thin, light weight pistols are in. That is because carrying them hidden is more comfortable and easy than carrying thick heavy ones. However, conventional wisdom used to say that such pistols would kick too much and be too difficult to control to deliver accurate shots. So, up until the last 10 years, serious shooters and concealed carry practitioners avoided them. Then, a relatively new company introduced a polymer .32 little wonder gun dubbed the P-32. That company was Kel-Tec.
Kel-Tec’s Ultra Hideout Guns
Kel-Tec’s P-32 became so popular, that at first, they couldn’t fulfill orders for their new little gun fast enough. So, Kel-Tec increased production to meet the demand, and within a few years, Kel-Tec did what was considered almost impossible at the time. They created a more powerful version of their little gun in .380 caliber which they named the P-3AT, of the same dimensions and almost the same weight as their P-32 pocket pistol. Kel-Tec had ushered in a new paradigm in pocket guns.
The Kel-Tec P-3AT Pocket Pistol
The 8.3 ounce Kel-Tec P-3AT is a double action only, locked breech semi-automatic pistol with a polymer frame, steel slide, 2.7 inch barrel and a 6 + 1 capacity. Like the P-32, the P-3AT is an ultra-thin, attractive, trend setting gun; again the first in a line of ultra-modern, ultra-compact, ultra-light, polymer .380 semi-automatic pocket pistols.
Almost exactly the same size as its older sibling, the P-32, the P-3AT has slightly greater perceived recoil and a slightly heavier but roughly equally as smooth trigger. For such a little gun, the Kel-Tec P-3AT has remarkably good accuracy out to 7 to 10 yards, although it is intended for much closer in work.
To accommodate the relatively larger and more powerful .380 cartridge, and keep the same dimensions as the P-32 pistol, Kel-Tec eliminated a slide stop and reduced the pistol’s magazine capacity from 7 to 6 rounds. Sans slide stop, the P-3AT does not lock open on an empty magazine, but nevertheless, rapid magazine changes are relatively easy to accomplish making combat or emergency reloads possible.
I have owned several of these little guns since they were initially introduced into the market. As is the case with Lays potato chips, I liked my first Kel-Tec P-3AT pistol so much, I felt I needed another one. And once I had two of these guns, I wanted three. After all, these little guns do not take up much space, so they stow and go anywhere. And I take mine places—well let us just say a lot of places--because the Kel-Tec P-3AT is the ultimate hide-out gun in a relatively potent caliber.
I have also spent a lot of time on the range plinking and combat shooting with my Kel-Tec P-3AT pistols—shooting them as if my life depended on them at that moment. I have found my P-3AT guns to be robust, utterly reliable and actually fun to shoot. Their little white sights are visible and thus usable, and mine have eaten practically everything I have fed them in .380 ACP. I have run over 1000 rounds out of each of my three P-3ATs, using assorted hard ball and hollow points, such as Speer Gold Dots, Federal Hydra-Shoks, MagSafes, Winchester Silvertips, and Corbon DPX, without any hiccups and without any cleaning—not that I recommend not cleaning your guns. This was done to test their limits and all three of mine passed my torture tests. The Kel-Tec P-3AT is also eminently affordable. Its street price new runs under $275.
Both the .380 ACP Kel-Tec P-3AT and its .32 ACP sibling, the Kel-Tec P-32, fit into the same pocket holsters, and the good news is that there are a lot of affordable pocket holsters available for these guns. My personal favorites are two high end, hand-made custom leather pocket holsters. One is made out of top grain cowhide by Matt Del Fatti of Del Fatti Leather (www.delfatti.com), and the other is made by Kramer Gun Leather out of horsehide (www.kramerleather.com). These comfortable holsters keep the gun sitting straight up in your pocket and totally disguise the outline of the gun. Furthermore, these pretty and robust pocket holsters stay in place in your pocket when you draw your gun out of your pocket.
On the production end, there are also some very functional and eminently affordable pocket holsters available from Don Hume Leather Goods (the Model 001 for a front or side pocket and the Model 002 for a back pocket, both in tan leather), as well as from Gould and Goodrich, Uncle Mikes, and Blackhawk.
Thin is in. The innovative and remarkably thin Kel-Tec P-3AT pocket gun described in this article covers every property needed in a true pocket pistol. It is small, light weight, well constructed, ergonomic in the hands, reliable, comfortable to shoot, accurate enough for close in work (under 15 feet), affordable, and fires the reasonably potent .380 cartridge (although this may be debatable). It is also pretty and it comes with a lifetime warranty from Kel-Tec, its reputable manufacturer. This gun and its smaller sibling, the .32 ACP Kel-Tec P-32, are both strongly recommended as an everyday pocket companion, or as a deep cover backup.