For the vast majority of people out there, the issue of carrying a concealed firearm is more of a logistical issue rather than a moral one. Anyone can carry covertly when wearing a parka or a baggy sweatshirt but what about shorts and a tank-top? What about while out jogging? Or what about small framed men and women that find even sub-compact 9mm/.40/.45s a challenge to carry?
That’s where a pistol like the Kel-Tec P-3AT comes in. The cleverly named mini gun (P-3AT, say it out loud, 3AT = 380) is chambered for 9mm’s baby brother, the .380. I’m not going to even talk about the 9mm vs. .380 issue here since it can be found all over the internet and the variety of opinions all have merit. I will say that when you need to go slim, the .380 is better than a whole host of other popular sub-compact options (.25, .22 LR, .32) that people carry every day. It’s funny because James Bond carries a Walther PPK and it comes in all four of the mentioned rounds. Enough said about that.
This gun is SMALL. I have a Beretta Bobcat .22 and the Kel-Tec is smaller in almost every way, especially in width. It’s silly how wide the Bobcat seems next to the P-3AT. My buddy keeps this pistol in his pocket almost all the time and I haven’t ever noticed it printing or giving away its presence. Ergonomically, the gun feels really good in your hand. It’s actually comfortable to hold. I said comfortable to hold…
Fast forward to now. I’ve had several opportunities to shoot the Kel-Tec P-3AT and love the little fella’. At distances 25 feet and under I can easily hit a torso target seven out of seven times in a an acceptably lethal group. The double-action only trigger isn’t too hard to pull but the gun is so small it makes the trigger feel heavier than it really is. Even though the pull is very smooth, the effort causes you to fight to keep your hand firmly clasped on the small grip.
Kel-Tec did its research well and really aggressively checkered the polymer grip to help you keep a hold of this little gun. The first thing you notice when you fire the pistol is that it kicks harder and is louder than you’d think (on looks alone). As the muzzle flipped up my trigger finger got pinched between the bottom of the trigger and the trigger guard - every freakin’ time. Look at some of the Kahr Arms trigger guards. I’ve noticed that they have a bend in the guard and have wondered if that’s to eliminate the “pinch” (see photo to the left).
The gun does its job well. With brass ammo Doug rarely experiences any misfires of failure-to-feeds. BUT the gun will not feed aluminum ammo like Wolfe or Blazer. I’m not talking about an occasional jam; I’m talking about every shot! Maybe this is unique to his gun but he only feeds his Kel-Tec brass, stainless or nickel cased ammo and it eats it up with aplomb.
Like most little guns, this one has little sights. The good news is that Kel-Tec put a bright white square centered on the rear sight and a white triangle on the front to make lining things up quick and easy. Just set the triangle on the box and pull the trigger. To Kel-Tec’s credit, they’re much better than the Ruger LCP’s plain black sights. While I haven’t shot the LCP (yet), the ones I handled at a gun show and gun store lacked in this area.
Speaking of the Ruger, the Kel-Tec has been so successful and so popular that Ruger has started manufacturing a close copy of the P-3AT. Side-by-side they look almost identical. If Ruger’s copying you, (of which they do a lot) you have something really special.
Back to the Kel-Tec. Here are my impressions after shooting several magazines through the gun on several different occasions. The gun isn’t fun to shoot. No fun at all. After just 14 total rounds, I was ready to stop but for the sake of this review, I shot a few more mags. The hard polymer grip is so small and so aggressively checkered that it’s like shooting a tiny .45 with sandpaper grips. The trigger pinched my finger over and over (though it doesn’t pinch the gun owner’s finger) and .380 ammo is almost as expensive as .45 ACP!
Fun or not, this gun could save your life. In the stress-filled seconds you’re fighting for survival, you won’t notice any of the unpleasant side-effects I just mentioned - none of them. All you’ll notice is how grateful you feel having some form of defense in your pocket.
If you own a Kel-Tec P-3AT, you WILL carry it. You won’t have a single excuse for leaving the house unarmed. This gun is perfect for a slim neoprene ankle holster, a belly band or dropped in your pocket. There’s even an ink-pen like clip option that allows you to clip it directly to the inside of your waistband without a holster. Shorts, swimsuits or even wearing those silly cycling shorts (I cycle so…) you can go armed.
Since my first exposure to the Kel-Tec P-3AT, I’ve learn a lot more about the company and the other options they offer. The popular company has a solid commitment to manufacturing small, easily concealed pistols.
So, how much has my opinion changed? I want one. Actually, I want the Ruger LCP but I see the benefit in owning a small, sub-compact pistol for those occasions when it’s not practical to carry a my Kimber Ultra Carry.
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