Kel-Tec .380 opinions, please.


September 16, 2004, 11:40 PM
I will pass on the S&W (Sigma) .380; I think I have enough terrible reviews, thank you so much! Nice to have friends!

What is the general concensus of the Kel-Tec .380 model? My local shop guy says he'll never have another one of those POS guns again. Are they bad, also?

I am looking for a good pocket pistol that is flat, lightweight, and in the .380 realm. I had a Colt Pocket Nine, and I just didn't like it. Too small a frame for the snap of a 9mm, for me. So, I know not to consider a Kahr, either, nor a true 9mm for simple pocket lining. I will accept suggestions...

Thanks, Mikey D...

Oh, and I am considering a Colt Gov. .380; would that fit the light, flat disappearance factor I'm looking for?

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September 17, 2004, 12:08 AM
Mikey- try It's a Kel-Tec forum, and you can get all the info- good and bad- over there.


September 17, 2004, 12:22 AM
Here's a detailed report ( I posted on KTrange about my experience with my P-3AT. In short, I have been very pleased.

(By the way, I'd also posted this to KTOG, but KTOG was recently hacked, causing the total loss of the old forum! A wealth of information must now be rebuilt.)

September 17, 2004, 12:50 AM
You may get a good one then again. There QC is some what lacking but their service dept is a B+ They will fix what ever is wrong . Colt Mustangs are going up by the day better find one ASAP.:D

September 17, 2004, 12:50 AM
I wasn't all that pleased with my P3AT. I had a trigger failure at about 500rds. Compared to my P32 with 2000+rds through it and still going strong, the P3AT didn't impress me. If you do get one, I'd highly recommend the "ramp-ectomy" if Kel-Tec hasn't addressed the "smiley-face" issue yet. Put simply, the bottom of the feed ramp would impact with the nose of the second to the top round of the magazine, after the spent casing was ejected, and while the top round was being chambered. Using FMJs you could fire you first round, then remove the magazine and see a nice clean dent in the bullet of the top cartridge. now the problem with that is thas some people were measuring cartridge compressions of over 1/10 of an inch. Compression = Higher Chamber Pressure. I've not heard of any P3AT KaBooms but I would be willing to bet that the excessive pressures lead to early failures of the gun. The "ramp-ectomy" will solve this problem, and it's easy to do.

I sold my P3AT after I got it repaired, then bought 2 more P32s.

George Hill
September 17, 2004, 01:13 AM

September 17, 2004, 06:05 AM
Ok, another one to stay away from... thanks, guys...

Mikey D...

September 17, 2004, 07:27 AM
I think you reached the wrong conclusion. There have only been a few replies to this thread, and the only people who happened to respond made negative statements about the gun.

I have no doubt that some P3AT's have had problems. I have one with about 300 or 400 rounds through it now, and it has never had a problem at all. I don't find it hard to shoot, and it is certainly a pleasure to conceal.

For the price, I think it is a good deal. If you happen to get one that doesn't work, send it back to Kel Tec and they will either repair or replace it with a new one. You don't really have anything to lose with their customer service.

Also, If you get one, send the slide back to them and swap it for hard chrome. This only costs $20, and the chromed slide is much nicer for carry than the blued one.

September 17, 2004, 07:41 AM
Lone_Gunman, thanks. My local guy has one, factory refurb, it says, for $200 OTD. The barrel has a chunk out of the end; it needs a new barrel, obviously. He's the one that says they're just awful. What would your opinion be, just given this little info. Is it something I should consider? How much would a barrel be? And the fact it's like that AFTER a factory refurb bothers me.

Mikey D...

September 17, 2004, 10:39 AM
Lone_Gunman: They weren't all negative - you forgot about me! :) I have been very happy with mine.

Steelharp: IMO, $200 for a broken P-3AT is high. I paid $229.99 new, a price I've seen at gun shows and elsewhere. I'm not sure, but I might have even seen one selling for $219 at a show.

Kel-Tec will normally honor their warranty unconditionally, regardless of who owns the firearm, or what's been done to it, so you could probably get a replacement barrel at no charge. However, with shipping etc. on top of the $200 price, you might end up spending about the same as you would for a factory new unit.

George Hill
September 17, 2004, 10:43 AM
The P3AT that I reviewed for my article that I linked to above... it came back.
I had returned it because I was finished with it for the purposes of the review. Evidently they thought I returned it for service and worked some serious magic on it. The paper in the box said “REPAIR WORK ORDER – Malfunction type: Jams. Repair: Replaced slide and barrel assembly, test fired.”
I can tell you one thing for sure – they did more than just replace the slide. The trigger is now about (I don’t have a trigger scale here to measure) 6 to 8 pounds and breaks crisp and clean. All the problems with the trigger I mentioned before… gone. If this trigger was on a S&W revolver, you would be well pleased and the corners of your mouth would curl up into a smirk. But this isn’t. This is on a tiny little pocket auto. So instead of a smirk you would be wearing a big Cheshire class grin.
This is not the same gun I sent back… can’t be. I had to double check the serial number to be sure it was the same gun. Yup, it is. If I was a Kel-Tec owner and this was my gun… I’d be doing a Snoopy Style Happy Dance.
The gun was delivered to them, according to Fed-Ex tracking, exactly 2 weeks from yesterday. They blessed this little gun and sent it back over night in only 2 weeks. That flat out impresses the hell out of me. Last gun I sent back to the maker, Springfield, took a month and 4 days. This kind of service, if this is what Kel-Tec customers get on a regular basis… this raises the bar.
Two thumbs up.
Now, I really don’t want to sent this gun back yet I am obligated to do so. This gun, is not mine and remains the property of Kel-Tec CNC.

September 17, 2004, 10:58 AM
I'd offer to buy it if I were you. It's not as if it's a super secret prototype or something else special.


September 17, 2004, 11:40 AM
I have had one for almost a year and no malfunctions. I think they are great for CCW purposes. I paid $239 and I know I could have gotten it for $219 if I had driven 50 miles. $200 for a used/broken one is a rip. Get a new one.

September 17, 2004, 12:16 PM
I have one and love it. Not one problem shoots everything I feed it. :D

September 17, 2004, 12:46 PM
Mikey -- as long as you understand what the Kel-Tec is all about , you can't go wrong with one of these little powerhouses. By that I mean that they absolutely push the outer edge of the design envelope for a low mass (weight), high (relatively speaking) power pistol...a semi-auto, recoil-operated, locked breech (read +P capable), semi-decent caliber handgun that comes in under 7.5 oz (10 oz loaded)!

This is one heck of an engineering feat...if it was easy, other folks would be doing it too. But, to make it work you have to be aware that you are perilously close to fooling Mother Nature, with respect to the laws of physics. To make sure that that low mass is reliably recoil-operated, the pistol must be cleaned with some regularity, lubricated with some care, and gripped with some authority (to ensure that what recoil energy is available in the low mass slide is converted to the work necessary to operate the action, not dissipated by throwing your wrist all the place). Most of the problems that have been reported with the P3-AT are related to ignoring one or more of these factors. But being punctilious in your maintenance and technique seem to me to be a small price to pay for such a great combination of concealability and power.

Kel-Tec also pushes the limits on price/value ratio, and yes, there are occasional new production and quality control problems reported. (Mine OTOH, has been a flawless performer from the outset). But the consistent thread I hear from Kel-tec owners is that this company has uniformly outstanding customer support and the best warranty in the business...couple that with the low initial purchase price and you begin to understand why these little gems are selling like hotcakes.

I'm a 1911 guy, but I love my P3-At and treat it just like an American Express card

September 17, 2004, 12:46 PM
I've had mine for a month or two, and have put around 250 rounds downrange. Only one FTL -- and that was in only the second magazine to go through it, so no big surprise. Since then, no FTL, FTE or problems at all. I did the $20 HC exchange, and would recommend that for both asthetic (looks nice) and quality reasons (the exchanged barrel/pin/slide will likely be of newer production than the one of the pistol). Granted, I don't have a large number of rounds through it since it's not exactly pleasurable to use this as a range gun, but enough to create assurance for me that it's a reliable carry gun...and when it comes to carry, there's nothing more comfortable than this little pocket rocket (at 3/4" wide and 7 oz. + loaded mag) in a good pocket holster.

September 17, 2004, 12:50 PM
have had mine for about 4 1/2 months. approx. 300 rnds without a hiccup of any sort. did the feed ramp mod and polished the chamber. nice trigger. 4 different ammo brands thru it. a delight in the pocket holster. {azrial budget] couldn't ask for more!;)

Wilson 17&26
September 17, 2004, 02:47 PM
If My P-3ATs had slide stops they would be perfect but they are so cute you just over look it.

Johnny Guest
September 17, 2004, 06:35 PM
About 100 rounds through mine. Two failures to extract may be attributed to some cheap ammo.

I took it to the range and ran about 92% on our off duty/backup gun qualification course. Not great, but better than a lot of guys did with their S&W snubs and far larger .380s.

I agree that this is NOT a fun plinking pistol - - Not very comfortable to shoot, and, frankly, I question how long it would hold up if I WANTED to put 50 rounds a week through it.

Overall, I refer to carry a Commander, or maybe a High Power. sometimes you need something smaller. Heck, sometimes, I need something smaller than an Airweight Chief. This is where the tiny Kel Tec comes into its own.


Safety First
September 17, 2004, 08:01 PM
Steelharp..couple of things. First This is a gun that I would buy new, not used. The later production models have been improved significantly yielding many more positive comments on the gun. I would opt for the Hard Chrome Slide which only a 20.00 premium. The Hard chrome slide has only been available for a few months and will assure you that you are getting a late production model. It also improves the appearance of the gun considerably and also comes with a orange colored sight. Granted a very small and somewhat insignifcant sight but better than the standard gun.

One other thing, many like the Speer Gold Dot 380 jhp in this gun. They seem to feed and eject with out failure as consistently as any round I have seen reported on. I really love mine and am hoping to put a few rounds thru it this weekend. This gun weighs 10 0z loaded and is 3/4" wide, there is nothing like it for the money and you will forget it is even in your pocket.


September 17, 2004, 08:02 PM
Mr Hill, I was a little surprised when I read the first half of your review and than, I read the rest of the story.

This is my experiance with two P-3ATs.

I puchased an early P-3AT and had the takedown pin come loose.

I returned the pistol to KT and had it back in less than two weeks.

KT replaced the frame due to elongation of the takedown pin hole from the pin wobbling around when it was partially out.

I have fired over 2000 rounds through this pistol since it was repaired by KT and the only failures I have had have been with Wolf ammo.

I liked this pistol so much that I purchased my second P-3AT 4 months later and it is my CCW gun and it has been perfect through about 500 rounds.

The only thing I have done to these pistols is to buff the feed ramps and I did do the Flyer rampectomy (to eliminate the smiley problem) to both pistols. I also did notch out the takedown pins where the retainer spring fits.

Accuracy at 7 yards is better than I expected and I have no problem with the recoil as long as I do not shoot more than 75 rounds at a session.

Wilson 17&26
September 17, 2004, 10:44 PM
In Texas P-3ATs can be had NIB for $220, so I wouldn’t pay $200 for a used P-3AT. Now if you could get it for $175, you could send it to Kel-Tec for the $20 hard chrome exchange (slide & barrel 'as parts' are $90 and $110 respectively) and get a brand new slide & barrel plus any other needed up grades. In fact if you buy ($20) a new grip (Black, Gray or OD Green) they will likely stamp your old serial number on a new pistol and send it to you.

September 17, 2004, 10:46 PM
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I have a zillion pistols and holsters, and I am now carrying a P3AT with a clip.

I cut a hole into the watch pocket of jeans from the inside, and the clip goes from inside the pants to inside the watch pocket. At the rear of the pants big pocket is a Buck knife clip and in the top of the watch pocket is my car key.

No bulge is visable from any angle, no matter what I am doing. The eye just picks up the keys and knife trying to peak out.

The weight of the pistol is so light, I can't feel I am carrying it.

I have worked up some 9mm +P+ loads with 90 gr Gold Dots and 110 gr. JHP that are reliable, but bulge the case a little.

George Hill
September 18, 2004, 12:50 AM
"Mr Hill, I was a little surprised when I read the first half of your review and than, I read the rest of the story."

How so?

September 18, 2004, 03:37 AM
Well... you guys have got me rethinking... new for sure, not used...

Mikey D...

September 18, 2004, 09:08 AM
Just a few thoughts on this gun.

1. It is not a 'target' gun, or a plinker.

2. It was built for a reason, and if you remember that, you'll be well served by it.

3. The "Smiley Mod", or "rampectomy" is an essential step before firing it, IMO. You will also not ding magazines up if you do this.

4. A thorough cleaning out of the box is also necessary.

Other comments:

~$230 seems to be the street price, NIB, at least in my area and some others (see above).
Recoil is more than tolerable.
Trigger on mine is fine, and it's capable of perfectly acceptable accuracy, remembering #1 and #2 above.
It is a backup gun, or a "carry in tight places" gun. Meant to be used at relatively short range. It may perform better, in the hands of a good shooter, but it does do what it was built for rather well, for the money.

In summary, it's light, small, and 'relatively' powerful. It can be very reliable if properly prepped, and it is worth the slight effort required to prep. Given that you do the prep, it'll do the job when you need it. As always, YMMV.

September 18, 2004, 09:35 AM
"How so?"
The first part of your post sounded like you did not like the P-3AT, but reading on I found you did like it once it was made right by KelTec.

September 18, 2004, 10:19 AM
What exactly IS the "Smiley Mod", or "rampectomy"?

Mikey D...

September 18, 2004, 03:39 PM
Mickey D, instead of me trying to explain it, GO HERE ( and you can read about it and how to do the "rampectomy" to correct the problem.

It took me about 20 minutes per gun to do the rampectomy.

September 18, 2004, 06:36 PM
I bought one about a year ago and have found it to be very reliable, particularly when using Speer Gold Dot ammo. No, it isn't fun to shoot, but it isn't suppose to be. It is a lightweight carry gun that you can stick in your pocket and not even know it is there, all day long. Ditto on the $220 NIB. I like mine and carry it everyday.

September 18, 2004, 06:42 PM
Ok, I can get the used one for $175 OTD. Yes or no? And does the $20 slide deal include a new barrel?

And thanks for the info... I will check it out.

Mikey D...

September 18, 2004, 07:11 PM

Wilson 17&26
September 18, 2004, 08:43 PM
See for exchange details.

September 18, 2004, 11:39 PM
Wilson 17&26, thank you. I am calling KT Monday morning to check part availability, and I am picking up the .380 (3AT) on Wednesday.

Trapshooter, thanks for helping with perspective. Sometimes, somebody just has to smack me upside the head about the obvious... just ask my wife! :D

kokapelli, if it needs it after the replacement of parts... I just might send it to you so it's done right!

txgunslinger, thanks. I get the feeling it will be in my pocket all the time, as well.

Mikey D...

September 19, 2004, 12:48 AM
I've had mine about 3 months and put about 300 rounds through it.
I get some jamming. Not sure of technical terminology but when 1 bullet is fired the next tries to come up and jams the 2 together. I guess the spent shell isn't getting enough time to eject. First 50 rounds were fairly smooth.

Before I criticise I'm going to give a detailed break down and thorough cleaning. And send in for the chrome slide. I was told when I bought this in July there were no chrome slides.

This is no target pistol for sure. Then it wasn't meant to be either. But when put to practical use (man size targets at reasonable ranges) it does fine. In other words It will kill a man at 10 yards.

I'm currently carrying it because at work I'm not supposed to and I do work around some whackos.

I like having 7 strong rounds in my pocket all time and no one knowing the difference and having no encumberrance. This little puppy redefines concealed carry.

So much power so little gun and yet no recoil to speek of.
I had expected it to feel like a firecracker going off in my hand but it didn't.

I've heard there customer service is excellent I'm deffinately going to take the time to "work the bugs out" of this little dandy.

Yea, I'd rather carry a 1911 or even my Makarov, but as long as we have to conceal, this baby is it.

September 19, 2004, 08:55 AM
Jedi_7.62, your jamming problem may be due to limp wristing!

The P-3AT is a super light gun and needs to be held very firmly.

September 19, 2004, 08:56 AM
I have two of them. One for each front pocket. One has over 400 rounds, with no failures. The other one has not been fired yet. I own many guns, and the P3AT is the one that I carry the most. The Kel-Tec P-11 9mm gets carried second most. Have one for each front pocket. The P-3AT has its limitations, but until somebody comes out with a gun that is lighter, smaller, thinner, as powerful, and more reliable, I will carry a Kel-Tec.

September 19, 2004, 09:45 AM

Glad to help. Personally, I like the little thing, for it's concealability, and ease of carry. It's not a bad shooter, and I'm glad I bought it. Some people say that they don't think a new gun should need work. Maybe so. But this one, due to it's size, design, etc., just needed a little help, and I knew this before I bought it, having done my homework. Just as you are doing. Somehow, when you know the quirks of a particular gun going in, they are easier to deal with.

A couple of other things. The takedown pin is easy to lose, as it can snap out suddenly..:eek:

The guide rod guide and ejector are not permanently attached to the gun, so take care on disassembly that you don't inadvertantly drop them into deep carpet, under a bench, etc.

Hope you have as good an experience as I and some others have had. If not, I think Kel-Tec's customer service is excellent, and they aren't tough to dispose of.

Keep us posted.

George Hill
September 20, 2004, 11:29 AM
Some people say that they don't think a new gun should need work. Maybe so. But this one, due to it's size, design, etc., just needed a little help...
Exactly. That's what makes these little pistols worth a little extra effort on the part of the owner to make sure the gun is suitable for CCW duty. Because it is such a clever package. It is my new AOG... "Always On Gun".

September 20, 2004, 02:49 PM
Had a Kel-Tec .32 and a .380.....sold them both and bought a P11. I am not a fan of the 9mm, all my other semis are .45's, but as a bug, it's size and price are hard to beat. I am much more confident with the 9mm than the .32 or .380. More firepower, more rounds per clip. Mine shooting the rather starchy Federal 147gr. Hydrashock will group 2-3" at 15 yards........freehand. I have had NO FTF, FTE or any other problems in over 1500 rounds. JMHO!!!

September 20, 2004, 04:04 PM
I just bought a P-3AT (P-380) after thinking about it for months, and I just shipped it to Jack Fuselier to have the nickel-plating and F&B done on it (good deal for only $60+shipping). I haven't shot it yet, but just handling it and taking it apart, I was impressed. Design seems simple, and its just soooo light and small. I can still get most of my ring finger around the grip, it's very good on size/power ratio. I was hesitant because of the polymer frame, but the slide makes contact with the metal insert in the frame (didn't know that till I took it apart). And then theres the KT "history" of issues, but if they were junk they wouldn't be in business, and there are lots of success stories. But I decided to go through with it, heck I've sent in brand new guns that were almost 3X the cost for problems, but hopefully things will get worked out by Jack. I really hope it runs reliably because I love the really small size and weight (lack there of), in such a good caliber (for a TRUE pocket gun).

September 20, 2004, 04:12 PM
I tried to gain confidence in the .380, but just couldn't. I found that if I didn't concentrate on getting a strong (with emphasis) grip, a failure to eject was probable. I kept my P.32 and went back to a .38 snubbie; it hasn't failed to fire or eject. In my experience, the P32 is a big winner.

I was at the range and another guy was shooting his new P3AT. He was getting several FTE's and smileys.

Ran in to him again and he had made the same decision I did, but switched to a Kahr.

October 10, 2004, 07:35 PM
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6.5 gr 800X, .357" 110 gr XTP, .970" OAL, my stock Kel-Tec P-3AT .380 produces case bulges in mixed used brass between .0035" and .0115". Show here is a .0115" bulge:

October 10, 2004, 07:40 PM
I love mine. Got close to 1000 rounds thru it now and can hit a steel gong darn near every time at 20 yds. Only time it acts up is when it gets around 100 shots fired without a cleaning.

I love it so much that I dont want to send it to Kel-Tec for chroming.

October 10, 2004, 07:41 PM
This same bulge is so bad, I can see it on the inside.

The recoil and the bulge are intolerable, but that is not the IMR 380 load, but more like the 115 gr 1.10" OAL 9mm load. With the 5 gr lighter bullet and .13" shorter OAL, the pressure could be very high.

This would be a terrible carry load with the bulge and the painful recoil, but this does show that with some reduction for safety margin, I am getting real self defense from the tiny and light weight Kel-Tec P-3AT in hot rodded .380 ammo with 357 magnum bullet.

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