Friday, September 21, 2007

Kel-Tec P-3AT Pistol Review

I bought a P3AT shortly after they started selling hard chrome models. My experience was a bit of a disaster.

The Good:
The little Kel-Tecs are very easy to conceal, with very little weight or bulk. They are also very inexpensive.

The Bad and Ugly:
On the 2nd or 3rd round fired, the little bracket that the guide rod slides through fell out and disappeared. I’m told that Kel-Tec now makes slides without this piece, the bracket is a part of the slide, rather than a separate part.

I called Kel-Tec and explained the failure, and they sent me 3 of the brackets. The response I got was, “that doesn’t happen too often.” I superglued one of them into the niche on the slide, and it never happened again.

Within 250 rounds, I had two failures to feed. It’s been a while now, I don’t remember exactly what happened, but it wasn’t simply a matter of pushing the rear of the slide a bit.

When it was working, it was rather unpleasant to shoot. The trigger pull is long and heavy. The recoil of even the relatively mild .380 ammunition in a pistol so small and light is similar to shooting .357Mag ammo from a lightweight snubnose revolver. About the best accuracy I was able to get out of it was 5 or 6” groups at 7 yards, while I can shoot 3" offhand groups with a Glock 26 all day at 10 yards shooting controlled pairs.

At around the 250 round mark, the mainspring broke. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. The mainspring is made of very thin wire, and is constantly under tension. I felt that this was the Achilles heel of the pistol, and I’m not sure that there is any way to fix it without a major redesign.

I replaced the spring, and fired maybe 20 more rounds through it to make sure I had reassembled it properly (cough), and then I sold it to a moderator at the KTOG forums.

Besides all this, the metal frame inside the grip was getting peened at the assembly pin holes, and where the recoil spring guide rod seated. The barrel was peened where the assembly pin passed through it. I never even fired any +P ammunition through the pistol.

I put the little bit that I got from selling the Kel-Tec toward a Kahr PM9. Although some report having reliability problems with the PM9 and PM40s, I got a “good one.” The trigger pull is much better. It’s not hard to get 3” groups out at 10 yards and beyond. When stoked with 147 grain Winchester Ranger ammunition, it is quite potent, while still being very controllable. It is larger than the small Kel-Tec pistols, but I still pocket carry the PM9 all the time, and I trust the Kahr.

1 comment:

zebulonsmith said...

Not sure if you had a 1st or 2nd gen P3AT. I sold my 2nd gen because, like you said, it shoots like crap. No reliability problems if I kept it clean, and I did do a bit better with my groups, but it wasn't a gun I felt I could trust.