Range Report -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact pistol (ongoing)

Range Report -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact pistol (ongoing)

This is a discussion on Range Report -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact pistol (ongoing) within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; 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 ...

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Thread: Range Report -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact pistol (ongoing)

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    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).

    Enjoy.

    - Michael
    Last edited by ccw9mm; August 27th, 2006 at 10:19 AM.
    StormRhydr and bmcgilvray like this.
    Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
    Thoughts: Justifiable self defense (A.O.J.).
    Explain: How does disarming victims reduce the number of victims?
    Reason over Force: The Gun is Civilization (Marko Kloos).
    NRA, SAF, GOA, OFF, ACLDN.


  2. #2
    Member Array estimber's Avatar
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    Excellent report. I have been carrying a 2G P3AT with a Hard Chromed slide as a BUG for about a year +/-. I have almost 1000 rounds through it and have had ZERO malfunctions, problems, hiccups, etc since I bought it. When I bought it, I took it straight to the range and put 100 rounds through it without cleaning it or oiling it. I have also not changed any springs since I have had it nor have I performed a Fluff and Buff either. My 1G never made it to this point. Kel-Tec got it right this time!
    If we treat every gun as if it was loaded, then why not treat every individual as if they are armed.

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact -- Range Report #2

    Gun -- KelTec P3AT 380ACP sub-compact polymer pistol, with factory 6rd magazines.
    July 27, 2006 -- Second range session.
    Rounds -- 60 rounds this session, consisting of 48 FMJ and 12 JHP +P. 160 total.
    Failures -- None, today.

    • Goal -- Continue the break-in process on this gun, to evaluate for possible use as a go-everywhere concealed carry weapon.
    • Initial Field Strip and Cleaning -- Decided not to do an initial field strip and cleaning. As I left the range yesterday, I did run a bore snake through it, wiped down the rails, and re-lubed everything. Figured that was enough for today's session.
    • Feel -- My hand took a pounding during the last range session, so today's session was fairly short. The tiny grips and vertical grooves on the front strap make for a little slice-o-matic in terms of wear & tear on the hands. Got to be careful about that. Feeling better in the hand. Still have a few sharp areas of plastic "flashing" to knock down with sand paper. Otherwise, everything feels great.
    • Ergonomics – Definitely below average, but for me the compromises are worth it. Ignoring for a moment the 380ACP chambering, the diminutive size provides for a degree of concealability unmatched in any other gun I have found. The feel, fairly natural pointing, reasonable accuracy and ability to handle 220 ft-lb rounds mean it's a sufficient package (for me) as a BUG.
    • Shots -- 48rds Federal / American Eagle FMJ, 12rds MagTech JHP +P.
    • Usage –- 10 magazines of 6rds, today, with no fanfare. Simple load and go. 6rds, not 6+1 with topping off. All worked flawlessly.
    • Aim / Accuracy -- (Left-handed shooter, BTW.) Point of aim (POA) seems a bit high and to the left, with the resulting strikes being low/right. Confirmed again today. Adjusting the POA by an inch @ 10yds seems to do the trick. (It's completely possible I'm simply masking my own triggering/handling problems. We'll see.)
    • Recoil / Kick -- Got to love aloe vera lotion and hand massages, eh? If you're looking for a low-recoil unit, this ain't it. With basic range rounds, it's manageable. However, a solid +P round will shove the back of the grip down into the web of the hand (between the thumb and forefinger). For me, it strikes bone and causes some pain after a few dozen rounds. So, it's definitely going to be shot lightly with +P rounds. Shoot little; carry a lot. Yup.
    • Ejection -– Below average. Right over the top of my head. Some ejected with not much power and landed on my head/back, while most ejected behind me. Brass was absolutely everywhere, today. This is the first gun I've shot that has a "spray" pattern larger than a parking slot at the corner market.
    • Slide Action -- Smooth sliding, smooth racking, smooth operation. No issues.
    • Failures -- Zero. None. Perfect operation, so far.
    • Cleaning at Range -- None, relying instead on the brief lube at the end of the prior range session (yesterday).
    • Wear and Tear -- None to speak of, yet. Minor discoloration on the exterior of the barrel. Minor marks inside the slide to show where the barrel is riding. None along the rails, either on the slide or frame. Minor scuffs where I was digging at the disassembly pin, during field strip the other day, but otherwise no ugly marks anywhere.


    Nice gun, for what it is. Possibly underpowered with the 380ACP chambering, but 220 ft-lbs is plenty for me in a BUG. It's a bit early to tell, but if reliability continues then this has a good chance of becoming the BUG of choice.

    In another couple hundred rounds, I'll begin looking into the "fluff & buff" polishing procedure, as well as spring replacement. At the moment, though, it needs nothing.
    Last edited by ccw9mm; August 27th, 2006 at 05:41 PM.
    Your best weapon is your brain. Don't leave home without it.
    Thoughts: Justifiable self defense (A.O.J.).
    Explain: How does disarming victims reduce the number of victims?
    Reason over Force: The Gun is Civilization (Marko Kloos).
    NRA, SAF, GOA, OFF, ACLDN.

  4. #4
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    Although Im not exactly crazy about a backup in .380, Ill be the first to admit that its better than not carrying a better gun due to weight or concealability.

    That being said, I voted yes based on your report. I've shot the various versions of the Keltec and all of them seemed to take care of buisness.

    They are very concealable...I may have one yet...
    I would rather stand against the cannons of the wicked than against the prayers of the righteous.


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  5. #5
    Senior Member Array '75scout's Avatar
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    I have a Kahr PM40 that even though it is very small, I could see having some situations where it would still be too thick. Not to mention the polymer frame has some rough spots and gouges that I don't know where they are coming from.

    I also had alot of reliability problems when I first bought it, its been 100% for the past 200 rounds. But, when a gun doesn't start out 100% it takes alot of rounds before I trust it.

    And it sounds like you have a gun you really like and have total confidence in. Thats something. And you won't find a gun you can conceal any better. I might actually consider buying a KT P3AT and maybe eventually get rid of my Kahr. We will see

  6. #6
    VIP Member Array frankmako's Avatar
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    i love my p3at. it is one of the first 2gen guns. it took some work on it to get it to shoot. i had problems with fte, kel-tec mailed me many parts. i am glad to see that they have got better. the gun is my weekend gun and sometimes i carry it as a "bug" on duty. it is also the m/c gun, fits in the front jacket pocket. get the belt clip you will love it.

  7. #7
    Member Array shaggykb's Avatar
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    great thread guys! Been thinking of this for a BUG myself and after reading this I will be making the purchase. Thanks!

  8. #8
    Member Array xsquidgator's Avatar
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    I just today bought a used one after renting one. Only ran a couple of magzines through it (bought an extra 6 round one with it) and it worked ok. I noticed that if I don't FIRMLY seat the magzine it may well slide partway out and not chamber a round when I jack the slide back. The rental P3AT I shot at the range worked just fine with at least half a box of whatever 380 ammo they gave me.

    After reading all this I think I'm going to be extra sure to practice well at the range as soon as possible. Want to convince myself that this thing won't jam if I have to pull it out. But, this is a great little gun to get used to using my CCP, more than 4 years after I got it.

  9. #9
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    Great report. Some sand paper can help the rough spots. I feed mine Cor Bon DPX. If the Combat Commander ever goes down, I would completely rely on the ambidextrous P3-AT. I can't wait till their slim 9mm comes out.
    Liberty, Property, or Death - Jonathan Gardner's powder horn inscription 1776

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  10. #10
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    Thumbs up

    DITTO: Phenomenal Gun Report. Incredibly thorough and informative.
    Liberty Over Tyranny Μολὼν λαβέ

  11. #11
    Member Array 02PSD4ME's Avatar
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    I have been carrying my P3AT for over 2 yrs. I have over 2,000 rds thru it with no problems.

    It is My GO EVERYWHERE Gun!
    02PSD4ME

  12. #12
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    My P3AT...

    is a first generation going on its 3rd or 4th year with me. As soon as I bought it, I had a little 'buff and polish' done...I have never had a problem with mine.

    Most of the time I carry a .45, but once in a while I will take the .380.

    It has proven itself to me...

    OMO

    ret
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  13. #13
    Member Array Laserlips's Avatar
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    Excellent report...

    I don't have the P3AT, yet, but I do have a P32 & P11. Both of my KelTecs have been 100% reliable and reasonably accurate at self defense range.

    I want a PF-9 when they finally get it right (which is NOT at present), but I might just buy 2nd gen P3AT after this positive, test report..

    Best Wishes,

    J. Pomeroy

  14. #14
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    I carry one (oftentimes two) P3ATs with me at all times (that it is legal). I have put over 1000 rounds down range through these little pistols the last few months. They are reliable and remarkably accurate for their purpose (self-defense range of 15 yards or less). I wouldn't hesitate recommending one (or two) to anyone who wants an accurate, reliable, adequate SD caliber, and easily concealable CCW pistol.
    KJ

    Member: NRA, GOA

    "The more you sweat in training, the less you will bleed in battle" - Navy Seals

  15. #15
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    Two thumbs up!!!!!!!!!

    I am in love with mine. I carry it all year round inside my jeans front left pocket. I did buy the clip but have not put it on, but plan to. I run into friends constantly that carry this "answer to a daringer" Thanks for the report..

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