11.14.2004

Kel-Tec P-3AT

I bought a Kel-Tec P-3AT yesterday. It's a tiny little "pocket gun" chambered in .380.

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I dunno why I bought it because I've always hated little guns like this, but I'm an impressionable young lad with money to spare, thus now I have one.

I bought a box of .380 Hydra-Shok but was pretty pissed to find that they wouldn't even load. When I released the slide, it just jammed open with the round stuck on the ramp. I think with a good rampjob and dehorning it'll eat the Hydra-Shok, but I bought a box of flat nosed Winchester which it liked much better for now.

If anyone ever buys one of these guns the first thing you need to do is either get a slip-on rubber grip for it or file down all the edges and checkered grip before you fire it. Before I took it to the range I had played around with it for a few minutes to get a feel for it and just getting a firm grip and dry firing* it made my hands sore as hell. The frontstrap dug into my middle finger and the backstrap into my palm. I broke out the Leatherman and smoothed the whole thing down with a file, even the checkered side of the grip and the Kel-Tec logo. Sure, my brand new pistol looks a little worn now but I shot 85 rounds today and it didn't bother my hand one bit.

* (Oops, after dry firing the pistol a bit I read the owner's manual and it says not to dry fire this gun. I read up on it at the Kel-Tec Owner's Group and they say that the firing mechanism Kel-Tec uses propels the firing pin at "near subsonic" speeds and repeated dry-firing may wallow out the firing pin hole or something, so I guess you shouldn't dry fire it without snap caps to stop the firing pin normally.)

I took it to the range to find that this little sucker shoots much better than I would have imagined. It was hitting rapid fire shots on center mass rather consistantly at 10 yards. I was shooting five rounds at a time at an IDPA target and I was getting 3-4 either inside or very close to the center ring every time. It seemed like wherever my first shot would go I would put the rest in a 6-inch group around it. I seemed to do better by watching the holes rather than the sights, which are pretty poor and hard to see on this gun anyway. With a little warmup I could at least keep them all on the target at 15 yards. I would usually have three or so good shots and a couple low flyers which would have stopped an attacker just as well as anything.

This was all done in rapid fire because I figured that's all the gun is good for, plus it has such bad sights I wasn't really interested in trying to aim it very well. I only had one jam with the Winchester target ammo. It happened when I loaded the first round from a fresh magazine. I racked the slide to load it but it didn't close all the way so I slapped the back of the slide. It shot but didn't extract afterward. I think the extractor hadn't gotten a good enough grip due to the slide closing inproperly. Kel-Tec has upgraded the extractor (I just emailed them to inquire about getting one) so that may have something to do with it. It may also have something to do with the slide being so tiny. Sometimes it felt like I hadn't pulled it back properly before releasing it, but I only had a malfunction the one time so I guess I was doing ok the rest of the time.

All in all I'm actually fairly impressed with the little bugger. One minor complaint is that it kept trying to slide it's way up and out of my hand while I was shooting. I guess that may have something to do with my filing down the grip, but it beat having bloody fingers. I'd say a rubber grip is a must-have.

I would be pretty confident in using it as a carry gun as it is right now with two stipulations. First I would make sure to have a round firmly chambered to avoid whatever happened to cause the jam I just talked about. If it didn't chamber right or the slide didn't close properly I'd unload and try again. No more slapping the slide. Secondly I would only use target ammo until I can work out the hollow point feeding problem.

Having said all this, I don't forsee it replacing my good ole Glock 19 because I know my Glock well. I love it, and trust it. I've probably shot over 6,000 rounds through it in the past 6-7 months and I can pretty much empty a 17 round mag in less than 10 seconds and put 'em where I want 'em. How can that compare to 7 shots of puny .380 shot through a close range pocket pistol? Plus the Glock has only jammed once during that time, and that was a couple of weeks ago. I've dubbed the malfunction a "Fallujah stovepipe", a stovepipe that was laying flat instead of up. I figure it's good for another 5,000 rounds before another jam.



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