Updated: March 17, 2011
What makes the Kel-Tec P-3AT the ideal pocket gun?
1. The P-3AT is a very light weight "mousegun." I define a mousegun as a pocket gun that weighs less than 16 ounces, unloaded. The P-3AT weighs only 11 ounces loaded with a full magazine of 6 .380 cartridges, plus one in the chamber. (There is also a 9-round magazine extension, that some people like.)
2. The P-3AT truly is pocket size." Neither the Kel-Tec P-11 nor the newer PF-9 are really pocket guns (though they can ALMOST work in a large cargo pants pocket). The P-3AT is only 5.2 inches long, 3.5 inches tall, and .77 inches thick. It will easily fit in your front pants pocket. I carry my P-3AT in my front pocket, in the "rug" that came with it (1st generation model).
Here's a photo of my 1st generation P-3AT on some 1" square graph paper:
Newer 2nd Generation Models come in a plastic foam-lined gun box.
(All Kel-Tec firearms come with only one magazine.)
3. The P-3AT cartridge (.380 ACP) is adequate for firepower. The .380 cartridge is less powerful than a 9mm "luger" round, however it is twice as powerful as a .32 or a .22 magnum. Newer hollow points made by Corbon and Hornady seem to expand, at least sometimes. (I still recommend FMJ "hardball" in the P-3AT.) The P-3AT holds six in the magazine, and one in the chamber, for a total of seven rounds. FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) "hardball" gives deeper penetration than hollow points... See the "Old Coots" tests for precise ballistics information. I prefer to carry FMJ instead of hollow points for better penetration. Here's a photo of a P-3AT magazine:
Here's a photo of my 1st generation Kel-Tec P-3AT, before I installed the Hogue Handall Jr. grip. (Actually I've taken the Hogue grip off again. Seems to work better and draw easier from the pocket without the sticky rubber grip.)
4. The Kel-Tec P-3AT is an attractive firearm. (Now, some will disagree about this, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder!) The factory-finished slide may be blued, parkerized, or "hard-chrome" finish (not shiny). Grips come from the factory in black, gray, blue or olive drab. Some people "duracoat" the frame/grip to other colors to suit their taste. (I have seem them colored red, pink, orange and ivory!) Here are some photos of a second generation P-3AT featuring a chromed slide and a gray frame/grip. I think it looks good!
5. The P-3AT will be reliable if you treat it right. The P-3AT is not meant to be shot day after day as a range pistol. If you don't keep it clean and well-lubed, it may jam. You may need to polish the feed ramp, and do a little "fluff and buff." If it still won't work right, you can Fed-Ex it back to Kel-Tec for adjustments. I sent mine back, and Kel-Tec sent me an entirely new P-3AT, which works perfectly. This is such a useful small gun that it is worth taking a little time and trouble to make it right. After you get it running 100%, then "carry it a lot, and shoot it only a little." The purpose of this gun is strictly self-defense, not contest shooting. The 2nd generation P-3AT with the external "Frankenbolt" extractor is even more reliable than the 1st generation model.
6. The P-3AT has an enthusiastic following of owners that help each other with any technical/gunsmithing problems that may arise (there is no such thing as a perfect gun that never ever fails). There is a very large and busy forum especially devoted to Kel-Tec weapons: The Kel-Tec Owners Group. These friendly and knowledgeable people can answer any P-3AT related question that you can think of.
Here's a photo of the other side of my 1st generation Kel-Tec P-3AT:
7. The P-3AT comes with Kel-Tec customer service and a LIFETIME warranty to the original owner. Kel-Tec is famous for customer service that is quick and effective. If your P-3AT has a problem, Kel-Tec will fix it, and make sure you have a good gun. Even if you are not the original owner, they will often help enthusiastically.
8. The P-3AT is relatively inexpensive and not too difficult to find. It usually sells for under $300 at your local gun shop. (Competition with .380 ACP pistols is lowering prices. I bought a brand new P-3AT on March 1, 2011 for $229.) All gun shops do not carry the Kel-Tec brand, but many do. Kel-Tec is one of the larger handgun manufacturers in the United States.
9. The P-3AT is a safe gun to carry. The action is "double action only," which means it takes a long deliberate pull on the trigger to fire the weapon. This single pull both cocks and then fires the pistol. The P-3AT simply will not fire unless you really attempt to shoot it. The trigger is lighter than that of the Kel-Tec P-11, but heavier and longer than a Glock trigger. (I consider it dangerous to carry a cocked GLOCK in your pocket. The trigger is too sensitive.) Warning: keep your P-3AT in a holster (I use the gun rug that came with the 1st gen P-3AT) that covers up the trigger, and don't carry anything else in that pocket, ever! Also, if you drop the P-3AT, it will NOT fire when it hits the ground. (Incidentally: a safety note here...If you drop your firearm, DO NOT grab for it. Let it go! When you grab for it, you may accidentally grab the trigger and make it fire who knows where. It is much safer just to let it hit the ground.)
10. The P-3AT is time-tested and proven. Kel-Tec is THE PIONEER in modern .380 ACP firearms, and has been imitated many times these past few years (especially by the Ruger LCP). So much so, that .380 ammo became scarce in 2010. .380 ammo is plentiful again in 2011, but the price is double what it was a year or two ago. Kel-Tec has been constantly adjusting, tweaking and improving the P3AT since its introduction in 2003. It is a mature platform, and works well. Bugs have been eliminated. If you have troubles with your P3AT, you can count on KT to give great customer service. It sells for half or a third the price of the .380 Sig, Kahr, Seecamp or Rohrbaugh .380. (The Ruger LCP is "prettier" and about $50 higher in cost, but it is not a better pistol.) If you want a .380 pocket-pistol, Kel-Tec gives the most bang for the buck!
I took my new P-3AT to the Shooter's Depot firing range on March 16, 2011, to make sure that it functioned, and it did: 100%. Here is a scan of one of my targets. This group was typical, and was shot off-hand and rapidly, not really trying to test accuracy so much as function. As you can see, practical combat accuracy is no problem.
Disclaimer: I have no connection to the Kel-Tec company, nor am I making any promises to you about any weapon that you may own or purchase. If you buy a P-3AT and get a lemon, which can happen with any make of gun, please don't blame me. Get in touch with the Kel-Tec people, and I am confident they will make it right.
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