Range Report -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact pistol (ongoing)
KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact -- Range Report #1
This is intended to be an ongoing history of working my new KelTec P3AT 380ACP pistol at the range. It will be similar to the other range reports I've got going, on the CZ P01 and the Kahr PM9. I will track the number of shots, jams/failures, goal while at the range, general comments on ergonomics and performance, and cleanings ... over the life of the pistol, from new. Each range session, I will come back and post further comments as to performance, what I'm trying to achieve at the range sessions, how the gun's parts are holding up, how recent gunsmithing changes are working, and so on.
Hopefully, someone will find this useful, either when considering purchase of a P3AT or as a reference for reliability.
Gun -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact polymer pistol, with factory 6rd magazines.
Purpose -- Evaluating for possible daily concealed carry.
July 26, 2006 -- First range session, after purchase.
Rounds -- 100 rounds, including half FMJ and half JHP +P.
- Goal -- Begin the break-in process on this gun, to evaluate for possible use as a go-everywhere concealed carry weapon.
- Initial Field Strip and Cleaning -- Disassembled prior to range session and fully cleaned the gun. The disassembly "pin" takes the place of a traditional slide stop. You don't press this out; instead, you slip a 380ACP cartridge lip underneath the edge of the pin, then lever the pin out of its socket. Strange, but effective. (I just hope this pin never comes out when unwanted.) With an oiled patch, cleaned the barrel, rails, guide rod, magazine well, all magazines and followers. Wiped down all surfaces with a dry cloth. Re-oiled all friction surfaces with a lightly-oiled patch. Cycled slide 10x.
- Feel -- Extremely lightly built. Likely, this won't take thousands of rounds of +P ammo, as KelTec suggests it won't. However, stout loads today showed it's manageable and handles it fairly well. Simple mechanisms. Seems to feed very well. Ejection angle is odd and variable. Harsh on the hands, after 100 rds. It's a very, very small gun. Conceals well. Extremely flat against the body, due to its slim-line design. Is far smaller than a S&W 442 Airweight revolver, and looks positively diminutive next to a "compact" Glock. Overall: meant to be shot little, carried a lot.
- Grip -- Slim, slim, slim! And short. Did I say it was slim? It definitely needs a decent extended magazine or Pierce-style finger grip a la the P-11 9mm, otherwise it's a bit hard to maintain a positive grip. The grooves on the front strap bite into the hand fairly harshly after 100rds.
- Slide -- Very smooth operation and easily racked. Feels as though it has already been broken in, as it slides "like buttah." Unexpected, though nice. Easy to manipulate, even in the dark. Edges are enough to grab, but not enough to bite or snag. Has a grooved channel for the sighting, with no add-on sights. Field stripping the gun showed the slide/frame rail contact to be very smooth and straight. No gouges, deformation or any wear seen after the session.
- Magazines -- I have several of the factory 6rd magazines. I did purchase one of the 7rd "extension" magazine kits, but these suck buckets of donkey sweat, and that's a fact. The base, 6rd mags are made by MecGar, and the extension kit replaces the base/butt with an extended butt, new/longer spring, and this silly little piece of metal that is the devil's own joke on us. These 7-round mags (via extension kit) simply won't stay together during shooting. Having a mag fall apart during shooting and emptying its rounds onto the floor is an exercise in patience and forebearance, I can tell you. Go with the 6-rounders. You'll be happier. One minor tip on the 6rd mags: break out a piece of sand paper, to knock down the knife-sharp plastic flashing edges, on the base. Your hands will thank you.
- Magazine Eject Button -- Unobtrusive and out of the way. Works well.
- Ergonomics – Below average, given the sizing impacts shooting ability. However, this is definitely a compromise pistol. In exchange for the too-small sizing, you get go-everywhere concealability. Worth it, IMO. 380ACP, so perhaps it's a bit under-powered, but +P rounds can be handled for brief periods. Points reasonably naturally, though a bit higher than I thought it might. It's got a carry "melt" job that would make Clark Custom Guns take notice. Smooth edges everywhere. Nothing to snag. Long, long trigger pull, though it's silky smooth.
- Sights -- There are no sights added onto the P3AT. It's got a grooved channel running along the top of the slide. Natural sighting along this channel works, though accuracy is obviously a bit lower than with traditional sights. This pistol is obviously for close-in work and not designed to shoot much beyond 10-12yds.
- Shots -- 50rds Federal / American Eagle FMJ, 50rds MagTech JHP +P.
- Usage –- 16 magazines of 6rds, plus a few stragglers to finish the box. Most magazines were simply loaded then shot (6rds; essentially 5+1, after racking the slide to feed the first round). A couple of magazines were racked to feed the first round, then topped off, then shot. All worked flawlessly.
- Aim / Accuracy -- (Left-handed shooter, BTW.) Seems to aim a bit high. At 7-10yds, had to consciously aim an inch or so below the 10-ring. That worked very well, resulting in fairly accurate shot placement. Slow, aimed shots hit within 3-4" at 7yds. Faster shooting still was within a "pie plate's" diameter at 7yds. Its very long trigger pull will take a bit of getting used to; that has to be affecting the aim.
- Ejection – Fair. Right over the top of my head, with some landing on my right shoulder, a couple on my head, but most over the back of my right shoulder. Will have to research this. Perhaps it's a simple recoil spring management issue. Brass was in a "pile" 10yds wide, after the session. First time I've seen that in a gun. Always ejected, but it wasn't always over thataway, as can be attested by the half-moon "smiles" of powder on my shirt behind my right shoulder.
- Slide Action -- Smooth sliding, smooth racking, smooth operation. Seems as relaxed and smooth as my old Browning BDM @ 25K rounds on older springs. Very reliable operation, so far, so I don't have any complaints. It just feels broken-in already. Nice surprise, I guess.
- Jams/failures -- Zedo. Nada. No failures to feed, failures during racking the slide, failures to eject (except for the head/shoulder case ejects). Reliable, so far. The P3AT is rumored to need frequent replacement of the springs. Seeing as how thin and small the springs are, I don't doubt it. It's definitely not overpowered, from a spring standpoint.
- Holstering -- At the moment, I've got an inexpensive DeSantis pocket holster to carry the gun and one spare magazine. I've got a holster being made by K&D, which will be the carry rig.
- Cleaning at Range -- None, other than minor lube of the rails and outside of the barrel prior to shooting.
- Wear and Tear -- None to speak of. Removal of the disassembly pin does take a bit of doing, and it introduces some minor scratches along the slide while doing so. Minor price to pay. The frame material, however, is made of some material that will likely be found intact 5000 years from now. Tough stuff, whatever it is.
Overall, I like this little gun. It's definitely a compromise. The kick is significant, but controllable. The accuracy is above average, despite the kick. It is quite thin. One problem is that it's got sharp lines/checkering on the front strap that beyond 50rds begins to bite into the hand fairly harshly. But it's oh-so-concealable, and extremely light. So long as +P 380 rounds feed through this thing with 100% reliability, this seems an excellent BUG for when primary carry can't be done. All in all, I much prefer the shooting prowess and relative comfort of the Kahr PM9, which I'm also evaluating, but the simplicity, reliability and concealability of the P3AT has grabbed my attention. Yes, it's chambered in 380ACP. That's my main reservation, so far. I might have to shoot up a store-bought turkey or two, at the outdoor range this fall, to validate whether the 380ACP is enough for me. We'll see.
If interested, place a "vote" in the poll, above. Am interested in knowing what you think, given what I am finding during this range session. Put yourself in the shoes of someone evaluating this for possible use as a backup, go-everywhere piece, in support of a primary gun (not as the primary gun). Am fully aware of the concerns over the relatively light 380ACP vs. 9mm or larger, so try to base your vote on all other elements except for that ... since I'd like this poll to be indicative of the pistol's primary merits, instead of its one main failing (the calibration).