Kel-Tec P3AT Review … The Little Gun That Could

In this episode of TFBTV, James gives viewers a brief rundown of why he likes the humble Kel-Tec P3AT as a pocket pistol for concealed carry.  At just $200, there aren’t a lot of features, but it works and it is certainly concealable. Watch the video for James’ explanation.

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James Reeves

• NRA-licensed concealed weapons instructor, 2012-present
Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, 2011
• “Co-Director” [air quotes] of TFBTV
• Former Regional Sales Rep, Interstate Arms Corp., MA
• Champion, Key West Cinco De Mayo Taco Eating Competition
• GLOCK® Certified Pistol Operator, 2017-2022
• Lawyer
► Instagram: jjreevesii
► Twitter: @jjreeves
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  • Bob

    Hmmmm, maybe it is my phone, but there appears to be no video. I suppose I could go take a look on YouTube…

    • oldman

      on my laptop no vid here either

  • Devil_Doc

    No video.. And I was looking forward to making snarky comments about James wearing an 8 year olds shirt.

  • bee O bee

    I Bought a Keltec PLR-16 a couple of tears ago and I like it a lot. Keltec started making them with hard chrome bores and chambers sometime in 2008. It’s light and pretty darned accurate. I’m glad I bought it.

  • Bill

    No features? What were you looking for on a pocket pistol?

    I disposed of a Nano because it lacked a slide lock, I guess those are features.

  • The P32/P3AT represented one of the most profound revolutions in the firearms industry, arguably the biggest in pistol tech since Glock popularized polymer striker fired pistols.

    Prior to the P32/P3AT, truly tiny “pocket pistols” were limited to either .22/.25, or high end, limited production all metal pistols such as the Seecamp ($800) and NAA Guardian ($450.)

    Then along comes Keltec in 1999 with the P32- a 6.6 oz, 7+1 shot .32 as thick as a pack of cards, and at a price that anyone could afford.

    However the real revolution occurred in 2003 with the P3AT. The same size as the P32, but 1 oz heavier, and chambered in the actually viable defensive caliber of .380. Now there was an honest to goodness “effective” gun that could be easily purchased, and easily slipped in a pocket. In short, the perfect CCW for the average human being, a ballistic pepper spray for the masses.

    The introduction of the P3AT coincided with the huge expansion of Shall Issue CCW in the US, and the rest was history. Now mini .380’s are among the most widely purchased and carried pistols in the US, with the market primarily dominated by Ruger, who created a nearly direct clone of the P3AT, but with slightly better quality control and a much better brand name.

    • Bill

      Extremely well-said.

  • rs

    I carried one on and off (depending on clothing choices) for the better part of a decade.

    It was not pleasant to shoot, Nor was it particularly accurate, but, it was completely reliable, and it was accurate enough to get the job done.

    I put several hundred rounds through it before trusting it, and have put at least a couple of thousand more since. It has seen regular cleaning, but has needed no other maintenance.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    Personally, price is at the bottom of my list when it comes to firearm purchases, especially for self-defense. If you’re going to be carrying a gun every day for over a decade, then you should get the gun that you really want. Personally, I’ll never carry a gun that doesn’t have a thumb safety. And when it comes to fit and finish, SIG is pretty high up there. That’s why my personal favorite pocket .380 is the SIG P238. It will fit anywhere that this Kel-Tec P-3AT will while being safer to carry.

    • Bill

      Safer to carry? Any decent holster that covers the trigger guard renders this questionable point moot. Fit and finish? Sure, the SIG has better fit and finish, and it ought to at three times the cost. Atrocious fit and finish? Who cares, it rides in an ankle holster or a pocket or tucked into my unmentionables. Cost? Really relevant for people on a budget, as long as it goes bang every time the trigger is pressed low cost isn’t a bad thing.

      I own full-size SIGs and a P3AT.

      • A Fascist Corgi

        Remember that story from a couple of years ago about a police chief that accidentally shot himself while holstering his Glock in a gun store? A string on his jacket slipped into the trigger guard while he was holstering. That could have been prevented if his gun had a thumb safety.

        • Bill

          That’s sounds like a pretty freaky accident, not the type to set personal policy from. It could have been prevented by sweeping the holster while reholstering. I’m fine with C&L and have carried a 1911 thusly for decades, but don’t believe that an active safety is any more or less “safe” than any other type.

  • J.T.

    “In the weeks subsequent to filming, prices for the Ruger LCP have dropped to ~$250”

    MSRP is only $259, anyone charging more than that is ripping people off. My LGS has them for $230.

    • I’ve seen them new for $199 frequently for the last couple years. Used for $180.

  • Paul O.

    My P32 has a last round slide lock. Curious that the P3AT doesn’t have one.

  • It seems like willful blindness not to acknowledge the real world prices and the fact that two superior clones have been on the market for over 4 years at essentially the same price. I regularly see both Taurus TCP 738 (my preferred), and Ruger LCPs at under $230. Frequently the plain blued only models are $180 with a couple mags and either a holster or a goofy pouch thing. The TCP can be had for $200 any day in black nitrided stainless with two mags. It has a better trigger, slightly better sights and locks open when empty.

    • RickOAA .

      All those guns (including the P3AT) I find to be fairly crappy.

      • YMMV. I think they are harder to shoot than bigger guns, but they fill a needed niche for a pistol that you never have an excuse not to carry.

        While I don’t trust the average kel-tek very much, the guns in this category are all reliable and effective with the right ammo. I’ve found both the ruger and the taurus to be shootable. Moreso the taurus. I can run any of the above better than a J-frame and get two extra shots. I like the Sig 380, and find it to be on another tier of quality, however the manual of arms is undesirable and I have actually experienced feeding issues with one. Kahr and Ruger both put triggers on theirs that make them awkward for me to shoot because the trigger breaks so far back I feel as though I am reaching inside my palm.

        For my two cents, I would carry a PPS or a shield 90% of the time and one of these the other 10%. If I could only own one of them it would be the 380, since it can be carried in situations where the others would be conspicuous. I don’t always mind being a little conspicuous, but there are situations where bulk really does matter.

  • Nocternus

    Just a couple weeks ago at a graduation ceremony in my home state a guy managed to shoot himself in the ankle and a woman nearby in the calf with this very pistol. Now carrying without a holster that at least blocks the trigger is a special kind of stupid. I suppose a selling point is it is thin and light enough to carry it in a sock. Albeit with the minor irritation of the new hole in your ankle.

  • Andrew

    Three times in the video he pulled the trigger and the Kel-tec didn’t fire. Was that because he forgot to chamber a round or were these actual malfunctions? If they were malfunctions that would seem to contradict his claims that these are reliable pistols that get the job done.