P3at - good choice or bad choice


March 1, 2007, 12:33 AM
There is nothing as small, light, or economical as the Keltec P3at. I know the .380 round is at the low end of acceptable. To many, it is far below acceptable. My question is not about the caliber (although any opinions on Corbon's DPX in .380 would be appreciated). My question is...is the P3at a reliable and durable firearm (say for 5000 rounds), or is it a great idea poorly executed.

I ask because I have spent close to a year trying to figure this out. I have held them, shot them, cleaned them, read all I could find in magazines and on line, spoken with friends who have friends who carry them, etc.

I get the same info (or lack thereof). Some would never carry one because they are unreliable (but they never owned one). Some love theirs (but have only put 160 rounds through it). Some have heard nothing but good things about them, some have heard nothing but bad thing about them. You get the idea.

I know KelTec has a lifetime warranty, but that is small comfort if my P3 goes tango uniform when I need it, or if the company folds in a few years.

Should I just buy something close, but with a proven record? I would if I could. The J-frame is too bulky for my needs, and I know from experience that revolvers are not as malfunction-proof as some would believe. Mainly, I don't like the size efficiency. I could buy a PM9, but they are not cheap and I have heard just about as many complaints regarding their reliability as I have heard about the P3, and Kahr does not have as good a warranty. I could buy the MK9. It has the reliability issue down, but weighs far more than I want, and still costs 2 1/2 times what the KT costs.

Why not just buy the P3 and experiment? I've done that, but lately I keep thinking about what I recently heard - the P3at works great right up until they don't.

So my questions remains...is the P3at a reliable and durable gun or an exercise in wishful thinking.


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March 1, 2007, 12:53 AM
the P3at works great right up until they don't.

True of EVERY tool ever made, not limited to pistols.

Seems like you answered you're own rhetorical question... if nothing else comes close in size or power, then you have no choice. Reliability depends on Your commitment to maintaining the pistol, choosing reliable ammo, and practice. You can't take other peoples word for it, You have to make the decision if you're comfortable. IMHO the Keltec perfectly fulfills the role it was designed for, as a Bug, or for carry when you can carry nothing else. It was not intended to replace a primary weapon.

I don't know if the 3at can hold up to 5k rounds, but I know I couldn't :D

March 1, 2007, 12:55 AM
Wow, you're letting this get to you too much :uhoh:

Remember that on forums you tend to hear the very good and especially the very bad about guns. So take it all with the grain of salt.

bottom line:

Reliabity, out of the box and follow-on
1. J frame
2. Kahr P9
3. Keltec,

However, the KelTec isn't that bad. They've sold a bunch and they are pushing the design parameters so they can have problems. I had a 1st gen and it had ALOT of problems. I lost all confidence in the gun after 2 trips back to factory. I wanted to try other guns. I got the Kahr P9 and it's been flawless and I have a J frame and it's been flawless but nothing fills the niche of a true pocket gun for the money as a KelTec. For a relatively low threat environment it's a good choice. Get one, run it, if it's good, it's good. If not, work it out with KelTec. The 2nd Gens are turning out to be FAR more reliable. I just got my 2nd gen and it's so far so good although I won't consider it for carry untill I get to 200 or 300

Remember a high end Kimber can run bad out of the box.

Then, after you get the Keltec, get either the Karh or the J frame for IWB or for carrying in larger docker style pockets.

God Bless

The Amigo
March 1, 2007, 01:06 AM
2nd generation owner of a Kel Tec p3 with no malfunctions and over 500+ rounds cycled. Im happy with mine and its my everywhere gun.

March 1, 2007, 06:26 AM
if you want reliablity and a better service dept. and warranty than KT, buy a NAA. A little heavier, a little smaller, and VERY reliable. If you ever do need service of ANY KIND, it will be done fast, the first time, and courteously.

A little more pricey, but worth every penny.

Roll Tide

March 1, 2007, 07:16 AM
Hi moonshot

I've been considering getting a Kel-Tec PF-9

Calibers: 9mm Luger
Weight unloaded (no magazine) : 12.7 oz.
Loaded magazine : 2.8 oz.



March 1, 2007, 07:55 AM
As was stated, and I am sure you realized from your research, the P3AT is a purpouse designed gun. It is a BUG, true pocket carry, and built with the idea that you would only use it when you NEED it. It is not a plinker, competition gun, or intended for high-volume, extensive range trips.

Will it last for 5000 rounds, sure, but it should probably take you 10 years or more to reach that.

I fire 7 rounds out of mine every range trip (at least once a month). I clean it WEEKLY even if I do not shoot it. I found ammo that it likes (Speer Gold Dots) and exclusively use that ammo. Mine stays loaded 24/7 and lives in a night-stand safe when not in my pocket.

I have 100% faith that should I need it, it will work. That is not to say I have never had stoppage. But since I realized what it was for and used it in those parameters, it has been flawless in performance.

In case you were wondering, mine is a 1st gen, just under 4 years old with just over 1000 rounds and has been stoppage free for the last 3.

March 1, 2007, 08:10 AM
I've found that if I do my part and keep it relatively clean (pocket carry is dirty. pocket lint gets everywhere), mine will be fine. I have also found that your chamber should be cycled once per week or so, or the chambered round gets 'sticky' and can result in a 1st-round FTE. This seems both logical and reasonable to me, given the electrolytic action between two dissimilar metals, so I don't mind doing it. Some do not find it so and complain about reliability. Both my wife and I have 1st gen guns and though hers has been perfect from the get-go, mine needed a trip home first (though it would fire & function, the trigger pull was about 30#. The reciever needed to be re-broached. Being a Toolmaker, I understand tool-pressure issues, and gave it no further concern, and the piece has been fine since. Would I do it over? You bet. Wonderful little guns, and if I aim carefully, I can shoot those small fruit2o bottles at 25 yards!

March 1, 2007, 08:16 AM
I think the KelTecs are great pistols, for what they are.

They are light, cheap and easy to carry.

They are not service weapons.

My first P3AT cracked like an egg at 300 rounds, right thru the frame pins. Sent it back to KT and they had it fixed and back in my hands in LESS than 2 weeks. Great customer service.

Would I buy a P3AT and shoot hundreds of rounds every week out of it, NO. There are many with 1000+ trouble free rounds out of these guns and there are some who cant go 500 without breaking or failures galore. It has a somewhat iffy track record, you've done the research Im sure your aware of it.

Go over to KTOG forums and you can read that even some of the KT lovers have to send their guns back 3 or 4 times before they are right. Some are flawless right out of the box.....again its hit or miss.

I carry a KT when I cant carry any other gun, in that right its the best gun in the world. ANY gun is better than NO gun.

Its not expensive so try it out, you may get a great one....if not keep plugging away at KT till you do. If your not one up for experiments or sending a gun back irritate you I suggest you pass.

If your looking for something similar with a better track record check out a NAA Guardian, they are only .32acp and heavier but they are actually a bit smaller if I remember correctly - its been 6 months since Ive had one in my hands.

March 1, 2007, 08:42 AM
There are many with 1000+ trouble free rounds out of these guns I am one of them. I have 1000+ through my 1st Gen, yes, 1st gen and have never had a stoppage. I don't keep it cleaned, oiled and whatnot. I treat it like a cop treats a Glock. And it's never failed. I could be lucky, but my P11 is the same way.

March 1, 2007, 08:44 AM
Mine has been nothing but superb for what it is. I am very accurate with this out to 7 yards. No malfunctions yet. As has been said, it fits a hole in my CCW needs so I bought it. The .380 is an exceptable SD round if you do your part. Of course I'd rather have my .40 or 45 but wouldn't feel at a disadvantage with my P3AT.
I think it would take me 10 years to get to 5,000 rounds with this gun and by then I am sure I would want something else.

March 1, 2007, 10:39 AM
Thanks to all for responding. I know how tiring it can be to see these posts over and over again. I am not trying to get others to make me feel better about some decision, or make that decision for me. I have already made it.

When I can have a larger firearm, with a better caliber, I do. When I wish to have something truly small, I have the P3. So far, through about 150 rounds, it has been flawless.

My fear is that as I continue to read about the experiences of others, I continue to hear of problems which seem to occur after break in, but well before a high round count. As an example, many have said that they experienced problems with the trigger, either the return spring broke or the pin behind the trigger worked loose, after only a few hundred rounds. Recently I am reading (and seeing pictures) of enlarged recoil guide rod holes allowing the inner recoil spring to work out the front of the slide, tying up the gun.

These are the types of problems that can a) get you killed if they occur in a real self-defense situation and b) shouldn't be happening at all.

I realize anything made by man can malfunction. I do not demand or expect perfection. However, this is not cutting edge technology. The problems which are occurring seem to me to be the result of either a design flaw, substandard material selection, or manufacturing errors. All easily corrected, but they seem to be continuing. The recoil spring issue seems limited to recent production guns - something which has prevented me from buying another P3. I called KT and asked if they could give me a serial # range to avoid, and they couldn't. This tells me they either don't know what went wrong, or havn't corrected the problem.

I understand this is a gun intended to be carried a lot and shot a little. It still needs to work, and I need to practice with it regularly. 5000 rounds was an arbitrary number I selected to allow for routine practice and still have a useful service life.

The argument that it is what one carries when in a low threat environment seems to me to be a false one. If there was no threat, you didn't need a gun of any kind. If a threat does materialize, than the threat level has just become quite high, and that firearm better be up to the task. You may not need a lot of rounds or have to shoot through cover, but that gun better work (great warranties not withstanding).

Again, on a positive note, nothing I have seen out there offers the same features as does the P3. I find shooting it to be pleasant, the recoil not bad at all. It is fairly accurate. It is easy to carry, and it all but disappears. With one in the pipe and an extended mag, I have eight rounds available before a reload. I wish the caliber were better (as in more versatile), but most ammo has improved in the last ten years, and I think the .380 has as well. I load mine with Corbon DPX, which seems to have a pretty good set of stats.

I just wish I had more confidence in the durability of the firearm. I do not expect it to be up to the task of my next LFI class. I do expect it to work the next time I pull the trigger. I have the gun, but I do not have the confidence in it that I was hoping to have. To get something bigger is not the answer. That just trades one set of issues for another (I gain reliability at the expense of carryability).

Oh well, life is full of compromise.


March 1, 2007, 07:38 PM
I have a P3AT and 2 P-32. Today I went out back and emptyed the 380 every round of DPX went fine and as usual the pistol was perfect. It been pocket carried for at least 3 mo with out being cleaned . Just a outside wipe down . The KT is normally my BUG but not always.
This isn't a range gun and 1 or 2 mag a mo should be plenty . To keep you familer with it. If it wears out at 5000 rounds KT will rebuild it.

I see no reason to worry and Corbon DPX and KT is a match.

Standing Wolf
March 1, 2007, 09:14 PM
In exactly one short word familiar to one and all: ugly.

March 2, 2007, 06:56 AM
"In exactly one short word familiar to one and all: ugly."

OK SW, and Glocks, AKs, and Mossbergs aren't? LOL You telling me you will only carry pretty guns?

March 2, 2007, 07:13 AM
The P3AT is a great choice if you want a pocket gun. It would be a bad choice for a high volume range gun. I can put about 100 rounds thru mine at a time before it starts rubbing a hole in the webbing of my hand. Mine has been 100% in 800 rounds.
Regards, Dalton

March 2, 2007, 08:07 AM
For self protection, the S&W 642/442 is head & shoulders above the p3at because of reliabilty..

March 2, 2007, 09:04 AM
I carry my 642 nearly every day. The P3AT is more easily concealed, but the 642 can be easy to conceal as well. I'd rather trust the reliability and the stopping power of a Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 135 gr +P 38 spl. in a J frame over the P3AT in .380 - Just my opinion. Check out this thread for more info on the airweight J frames. http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=138658
Good luck with your choice.

March 2, 2007, 04:07 PM
I read every thread in several forums, studied all the reviews of the P3AT, and with grave doubts bought one only because there is nothing else in the same size/weight in .380.

Do it, just go out and buy one! There's a reason they are in short supply, and it is not because they are pretty, or make good range guns.

Ala Dan
March 2, 2007, 04:35 PM
If your P3AT KEL-TEC .380 (or P-32 for that matter) un nerves you, then
may I suggest you ssek help in the form of Larry Seecamps LWS-32 or 380.
Yes, pricey- but well worth the cost~! ;) :D

BTW, just to follow up- I own just the standard, blue/black P3AT
.380, and what I did too help protect the slides finish, is that I
coated it completely with a thin coat of Blue Wonder Armadillo.
Folk's this is good stuff, and it works great~! Its like putting a
raincoat on your firearm; without damaging your weapon in any
way. I haven't had mine that long, but I carry it most everyday
in my back pocket. It looks brand new, even though you would
think the "wear and tear" would take its toll~! I highly recommend
its use for anyone that might find themselves in any type of
"hostile environmental" conditions; with ANY blued weapon~!

Furthermore, I think the KEL-TEC line is a innovation that will be
around for awhile; as more manufactuer'ers are turning to the use
of polymer coated frames. As you know, I now sell firearms for a
living; and these little KEL-TEC's rank right along with the Kimbers,
Glocks, and Springfields in overall sales.

March 2, 2007, 06:25 PM
Ala Dan,

Do you sit on your Kel-Tec when it's in your back pocket? I've considered that mode of carry, but I'd be worried about the plastic frame cracking under my weight.

March 11, 2007, 10:54 AM
Dan, I am wondering the same thing. No cracking problems when carried in a back pocket? I'm not a heavy guy (~165) but I do have a bony posterior :neener:

Also, what pocket holster do you use in your rear pocket?

Mentioned above is the NAA Guardian. I have been tossing up whether to get the KelTec P3AT ($249) or the NAA Guardian ($419). The NAA feels much better in hand, more like a "real gun" but it doesn't disappear as well in the pocket; it's significantly thicker. It's smaller dimensionally LxW, but the thickness does make it less unobtrusive.

The NAA Guardians I looked at were in 32NAA and 380ACP, btw.

March 11, 2007, 11:12 AM
About the Corbon 90 grain DPX . . . it's a good round, but many who know their stuff and test a lot of rounds consider the Federal 90 grain HydraShok the best .380 factory loading.

March 11, 2007, 11:45 AM
I bought a P3AT about a year ago, looked loke a good gun to carry as a back up or when anything else was just too big. Shortly after I brought it home, I saw that some folks thought that they were unreilable, especally when dirty. I decided to see for myself.

100 rounds at 1 setting is my limit, so it took me several months, but I ran 1,000 through mine with out cleaning, all white box Winchesters with NO PROBLEMS. I decided that this was enough testing and cleaned it up. I've shot another 1,500 since, mostly hand loads, with NO PROBLEMS.

I find muself carrying it way more than I had expected, mostly in a DeSantis "Gunhide", enough so that I am getting a pocket holster from Milt Sparks for it. I have 3 magazines, with 3 more comming. It will never replace my bigger guns, but I'd sure recomend anyone interested to get one.

March 11, 2007, 12:11 PM

Nice, that's a ringing endorsement, for sure!

March 11, 2007, 12:26 PM
As I stated in an earlier thread, I wore one out and i don't know how many rounds. I returned it to the factory and they sent me a new one stamped with my old serial number. So, theoretically, one should last forever.

March 11, 2007, 12:58 PM
Let the flames begin!! :rolleyes:

The .380 Auto is a good SD round and so is the .32 Auto too. Don't listen to those who claim anything less than a .45 or .44 Magnum is inadequate for SD because it's not true. Like I have said many times, the 7.65 Browning (.32 Auto) has been used by European LEO's for over 100 years and it does a good job. If it were a inadequate round would the Walther PPK still be around in both .380 and .32 Auto? I think not... I have even heard some people say the .38 Special is inadequate for SD and the 9mm is barely acceptable, unreal!!

I have a P-32 and it is a great pistol for what it is. It states on the Kel-Tec web site the pistol has about a 6000 round life expectancy so go by that. I think either pistol will serve you well.

Ala Dan
March 11, 2007, 01:06 PM
OK Guys-

Back pocket carry probably isn't for everybody. I am 5'10" and right at
200 lbs, with plenty of meat on the posterior; so sitting on the KEL-TEC
P3AT isn't a problem. Thus far, I haven't experieced any problems with
frame cracking~!. I use an Uncle Mike's front pants pocket holster even
when carrying in the right rear pocket of my Carhartt jeans. Then again,
I have been known to carry without any holster. :uhoh: ;) :D

March 11, 2007, 01:20 PM
Thanks, Dan, good to know.

ArchAngelCD: I tend to think LEO's have different requirements than myself. They need to think very seriously about penetration, shooting through barriers, taking on potentially armored assailants, etc. I do believe the more effective calibers are indeed necessary for our LEOs.

I do find it interesting that 9mm has such a bad rep among many US gun enthusiasts, yet it's still considered a "major caliber" in Europe. The BG's must be made of different material over there ;)

For me, I'm comfortable with 9mm and 38sp. I'm getting comfortable with 380 auto. That's how I find myself in this thread, looking for something even more concealable than my J-frame and P239.

What can I say, I'm a reformed 45ACP addict, who has started to see the value in other cartridges. :D

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