Kel-Tec is an innovative company with many interesting and light weight weapons. When I was looking for a pocket .380, I specifically chose the P3AT over the more locally manufactured Ruger LCP because I thought KT deserved my business for innovating the category, and the Ruger looked like a more refined, more expensive copy cat to me. I loved the gun’s size and weight. Sure there were rough edges to the plastic frame, but they easily sanded off. In love, I bought a few accessories: extra round magazines, pinky extensions, belt clip. This was fun! And then .  . .

My P3AT died. After about 100 rounds, it was FTF uber alles. I fluffed, I buffed, I lubed, I ran more and varied types of ammo through it (erasing any price differential to the Ruger). I checked the Kel Tec message boards for tips. I replaced parts with parts kindly sent out to me from Kel Tec, eventually replacing everything but the frame. I had a local gunsmith work on it to no avail.

Finally after messing around with it too long, I sent it back in to KT, along with a detailed email/with accompanying printed copy in the box detailing everything I had done to the pistol.

Six weeks later, nada. No communication.

Today, I received what looks like an entirely new gun. It appears to be Parkerized instead of blued (nice upgrade). The P3AT arrived without notes or any other documentation. Not a word about what was wrong with the old gun. Just an entirely new one with new serial number similar to my old one adding an “A”.

That was fine with me. I had no confidence in the old one.

When I disassembled the new piece it looked completely dry, no lube at all on the rails or barrel. The barrel appears to have been test fired, but uncleaned. I don’t know what I expected, but I hear many internet lauds for Kel-Tec’s terrific customer service. Color me unimpressed. Their service is . . . . adequate.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad they gave me a “no questions asked” new gun. Maybe this one is a shooter. Right now I feel like showing some tough love towards the thing. I figure I’ll shoot this P3AT to oblivion and replace it again if necessary. But I will not put a bunch of time into tweaking/amateur gunsmithing it. I may lube it occasionally if I have some time and feel like it and have nothing better to do.

It’s a shame. Kel-Tec has so many innovative products that I want to love and buy: PF-9, PMR-30, SUB-2000, KSG. The reality, however is that their products seem to be cheap junk (judging by my sole P3AT sample). I’m very hesitant about buying another Kel-Tec even though I really, really want an PMR-30 and KSG.

Still . . . What was that about marriage being the triumph of hope over experience? Like that.

37 Responses to Kel Tec P3AT PITA

  1. I had dealings with Kel-Tec when I purchased my P11. This was a few years ago, but they took care of a new slide and new barrel in a week, with a confirming phone call.

    • thats good, but i don’t think you should even need a new slide and barrel. it seems like a lot of KT buyers end up dealing with customer service for problems, which I think is unacceptable given that (in the case of the P3AT) they make weapons that are supposed to protect your life.

      • Well when you get morons that dont pay attention and run +P or steel case ammo through these when they warn not to, and then they cry waaah its a pos! Lol (old post i know sorry)

  2. Bingo.

    It’s a good thing for a company like LLBean, for example, to have a good reputation for customer service because buying clothes by mail/internet is inherently dicey due to the differences in people’s body sizes. And when you hear stories like “I sent my 30-year old pair of boots back and they replaced them no questions asked” you feel all warm and fuzzy, because boots aren’t supposed to last a lifetime, but that’s a company that will replace them anyway.

    Firearms, however, ARE supposed to last a lifetime. Or two. Or three. When a company that makes firearms has a good reputation for rapidly addressing manufacturing and design errors with their firearms, what that tells me is that this company makes lousy firearms. Period.

    I’d rather buy from the company that has terrible customer service because they don’t get a lot of practice dealing with returns, than the one that has returning and issuing refunds/exchanges for defective guns down to a science.

  3. Bought the P3AT about 5 years ago. Have probably put a little under 1000 rounds through it. Never an issue. (Well, I did have one stovepipe — but pretty sure it was my fault…)

  4. My one and only Kel Tec Firearm was a P3AT. I traded it in towards something else because I always felt like I was carrying a toy and could not get past that feeling. Many believe that you need to fluff and buff it just to get it to be reliable, and this gun has a cult following. I am not part of that cult anymore and would simply never ever trust my life to a kel tec. If you want a cheap gun to play around with and it does not matter whether it fails or jams, then so be it, but if you want a reliable self -defense firearm, select something else.

  5. After a “break-in” period of about 200 rounds, both of my Sub 2000’s are rock solid. They’re the only Kel Tecs I have any experience with though.

  6. My Sub2K is rock solid also. Like anything else in life, a company can make good products and not-so-good products. Pontiac at one point made the GTO and the Aztek.
    After the success of my Sub2K and playing with the KSG, I think Kel Tec is getting more right than wrong.

    • This is good to know from both you, Brett and Derek. The primary arm from Kel-Tec (besides the RFB I wish I could afford) is a Sub-2000 in .40S&W. Your point about the GTO and Aztec is a very poignant and valid one that applies to most companies that offer a wide array of products. Just like kids, they all can’t be winners.

  7. I put the P3At down about 5 seconds after picking one up at the gunshop during my quest for a .380. I have nothing against KT in general, but that little gun (as well as its brothers the P32 and PF9) feel cheaper than airsoft toy guns I’ve had.

    Ended up with a Sig P238, more expensive but I’m happier with my purchase. And that’s all that matters right?

    KT makes some interesting and innovative products, but they sometimes seem cheap and unrefined. I get that they’re going for a certain market that doesn’t want to spend $600+ on a pocket pistol like I did, I’m just not a part of that market.

  8. Kel Tecs are ridiculously cheap and their customer service is excellent, but their ‘out the door’ QC leaves much to be desired. 

    Since Kel Tec has always been this way, I think they’ve found their own balance between the alternative costs of quality control and customer support. And it seems to work for them, as long as nobody expects a Kel Tec to function perectly out of the box. Not all of us are happy about that, I have to say. 

  9. lubed up my p-11 with miltec oil …1000 rounds later still going strong…..now murphy’s law is going to rear it’s ugly head…..

  10. I have never owned a Kel Tec firearm and I probably never will. I agree with most of the other posts here; they have some very innovative designs (such as the folding .223 rifle) but I would rather trust my life to a firearm that does not have such a checkered history.

    If you are going to carry something carry a gun that has an established history of reliability. While I drank the Beretta Kool-Aid years ago I feel safe in recommending them or Sig Sauer. Those firearms work, the first time every time.

    I do not understand the desire to purchase, and carry, the latest greatest toy on the cover of the Gun Rags. When you can have a similar firearm, with older proven technology, that will go bang every time.

    But YMMV

  11. I just passed 1,200 rounds with my Kel-Tec P3AT and still, I’ve experienced only one malfunction to date (a FTF within the first 20 rounds that I ever fired through the gun).

    Yes, it feels cheap and insubstantial in your hand, and yes, it’s not very comfortable to shoot. However, mine has been 100% reliable with every type of ammo you could imagine, regardless of whether it was clean or dirty. Couple that with the fact I can consistently shoot two-inch groups off-hand from 21 feet, and you can see why I trust it as my everyday-carry piece.

    Still, P3AT owners who share Eric’s experience aren’t a rare breed, and I can only imagine their frustration. Hopefully Kel-Tec’s quality control will improve. In the meantime, I think the gun should be judged in light of the fact that it really pushes the technological envelope from the standpoint of size and weight, doing so at a price (mine cost $239) that most people can easily afford. I hope his new one turns out to be as good as mine.

  12. What Don said.

    Yes, the P3AT “feels cheap,” which is another way of saying “light.” I used to carry an all-steel J-frame and have on rare occasion carried a G19 and a Bersa Thunder 380. I’m a small fellow and those just do not work for me. I have considered moving up (to a Kahr PM9). But I can’t get around the fact that: 1) I can carry my P3AT no matter how I’m dressed, even when running; 2) it has never malfunctioned on me. I was going to buy an LCP, but chose the “proven” design with the touch checkering instead. It’s worked for me. It’s a shame it’s not universal.

  13. Sorry to hear your gun s*** in the bed on you. I had great luck with the P11, I still regret selling it in fact.
    I’ve noticed that most everyone I know that’s owned a P3AT has had some form of problem with it. I can’t say the same for the PF9 or my personal favorite the P11.

  14. The mintute I tossed a new magazine baseplate on my keltec, I had nothing but trouble. The tolerances aren’t exactly tight in the magazine well. If that’s one of the parts you’ve upgraded, drop it. Even though it makes the gun handle A LOT better. Also, factory springs don’t seem to be on par with the latest replacements from keltec. I was working with 1/20 failure to feed with the mag extension, and 1/125 with the old springs. Since I changed both I’m 0/300. Good luck

      • Oh, I see. I haven’t had that ever happen to me. Although, my brother owns a p3at as well, him not being a gun nut, he was never able to put into words the exact type of malfunctions he was experiencing. I suspect they were of this type. I gave his the same treatment I gave mine the day I brought it home, which involved a near complete disassembly, including the extractor and leaf spring that gives it its power. The screw that holds it in also doubles as the firing pin retention device. There was plenty of gunk under the leaf spring, I cleaned it out and gave it a light polishing in there with flitz and a polishing cloth. Took the opportunity to clean and polish the firing pin as well slightly. For the barrel, concentrated my polishing in the upper part, the part of the top of the chamber visible when the weapon is assembled, the angled ramp section which will exhibit wear visible on older guns. During resassembly, have to be sure the notch on the firing pin is angled correctly for the retention screw to bite it, it may be necessary to use some small type of clamp to hold the firing pin under tension as you tighten it, otherwise it takes quite alot of finger strength. Also, as its being torqued down the last bit, I noticed that the leaf spring would tend to twist with the screw, I used a very tiny metal shim from my fathers machinist toolbox to hold it in position while I tightened it. This worked well for both of ours, however it shouldn’t be necessary, considering thier customer service. I however, am a control freak, hehe

  15. google “p3at” “hammer spring”

    P3at’s ARE junk regardless of people’s supposed flawless pistols. You’re trusting your life to a gun that…get this…hinges on a paper-thin spring that Kel Tec probably produces for 5 cents. You need it in order for the hammer to drop on the firing pin. That scrawny little POS spring breaks (and it will) and you’re left with a 9 ounce paper weight.

    You don’t bring a paper weight to a gunfight

    • That spring is hardly paper thin. I’ll bet that spring costs as much to make as most of the springs found in any Glock.

      • sure. All hammer springs are small. but it’s the smallest things that can fail and render the gun useless. Kel-tec just doesn’t care to make theirs reliable. I couldn’t find a single instance of an LCP having the same failure. Either the metal or what, but it’s a garbage part, and they’re still shipping them out with their pistols. And expecting their customers to put in for a replacement when it periodically fails. So you have a gun that periodically fails catasrophically. And people have these as their carry weapons. Tell the bad guy to be patient. Kel Tec customer service is “really good” and will have your gun working in a jiffy

      • Don’t matter. My experience was crap. Took them nearly a month to get my part to me. That’s unacceptable.

        • And it took almost 7 weeks to get mine from s&w! So whats your point? Lol old post i know, but if you dealt with firearms long enough, almost a month isnt very long at all.

    • Or maybe you were an unreasonable douchebag and they made you wait! Lmao im not sayin you were, im just sayin ive been at KT and seen them kick people off the property for bein dicks.

  16. Kel tec is making so much money they can replace every gun they sell and still come out a winner. At least they are meeting demand at a reasonable price. Think of it as buying an AR lower in 2008

  17. To everyone saying Kel-Tecs are all lemons-
    Remember they make 1,000 of each of their pistols a WEEK. That’s more than a lot of big-league players make in a month.

    If any other company made that many guns we’d be seeing just as many reports of bad guns from them, too. Every company lets lemons get out the door. With Kel-Tec, we hear about it more due to the huge number of guns they make. Its simply a game of raw numbers, NOT percentages.

    • Right, but we shouldn’t accept them as being a reliable firearm. “Remember they make 1,000 of each of their pistols a WEEK” sounds like an excuse to me. Personally I think that a lot of the kel tec hate is baseless, but only because people don’t provide reasoning behind it and just accept that they’re garbage. I KNOW that they are garbage because I put my hard-earned money down and received a typical kel tec. They probably use the cheapest parts they can or just don’t want to outsource to a company that can manufacture them well. You don’t trust your life to something that is thrown through manufacturing at the pace where more are sent out than could meet Quality Control or require “fluff and buff”, which is a nice way of saying manufacturing because it should have been sorted out then.

  18. I know this is old news, but for starters i love all these morons that bash companies they’ve never owned a product from, and have the balls to compare KT to sig or beretta or the likes. Come on. Anything mechanical will probably fail. My s&w has failed. My px4 failed. And yes even my sig has an occasional hiccup. (Except my 556r or 552 which have been flawless) however if my plr16 or su16 or pmr30 or ksg or p32 or p3at fail, i have the ease of driving about an hour north where they warmly greet me, take my firearms and problems, and return them to me repaired, replaced, or whatever the case may be. I trust KT as mush as my px4. (Not as much as my fnp45 tactical which hiccups too) but you get the point. Theyre a small company that blew up. Just a few months ago they were over 100,000 ksgs backordered. Theyve even put the rmr30 on the back burner for now. Its no different than the morons that stand in line overnight for the new iphones or ps4’s. Its gonna happen.

  19. I bought a P3AT a few years ago just because it was cheap. It has been stone cold reliable for me, I’ve never had a FTF, couple hundred rounds through it,it’s surprisingly accurate… I can’t wait to buy the 30 round .22Mag pistol

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