Update: Kel Tec P-3AT PITA – The Saga Continues

Not to sound like a broken record, but the new replacement P-3AT that Kel-Tec sent me to replaced my first constantly malfunctioning P-3AT is now on its merry way back to the factory. If only I could earn UPS frequent-shipper points. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the gun to cycle cleanly through a full magazine without the failure to extract jam seen in the photos accompanying this post. Read on for the latest installment in my mouse gun tale of woe…

To head off the obvious question, yes, this happened with both mags and various ammunition brands. What’s more, the problem seemed to be getting worse the more ammo I put through the gun. All together, I fired around 300 rounds. I attempted to fix it by replacing the extractor per Kel-Tec customer support’s suggestion. No such luck.

Whatever the cause of the FTE malfunction, it’s identical to what occurred with my first pistol. Kel-Tec customer support, though, acts as if they’ve never heard of such a thing.

Seeing that I have had two P-3ATs fail in exactly the same supposedly novel fashion has caused me to look in the mirror. Am I limp wristing? Is there some error in technique I’m not aware of? None that I can discern, and none that two different pistol instructors could find either. The finicky mini didn’t discriminate – it failed for them in exactly the same way.

Anyway, this two week old gun is now on its way back to the factory on my dime. KT says they’ll reimburse me, so I sent the receipt along for the ride. I inquired about a potential buy-back on this pistol – or perhaps a swap to a PF-9 – but they weren’t buying that (ha!).

Stay tuned to this channel for more updates when the pistol returns….

comments

  1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    Glock 26. ’nuff said.

  2. avatar pastubbs says:

    Its a cheap gun I think you complain too much about it. Also I may be a little behind on your journey with the Kel-Tec how many rounds did you go through the first time before it started to fail. Because if its like a 1000+ rounds then I think it fills the void of the average buyer just looking for a self-defense gun not a range gun. Most people that buy these little cheap guns nvr put a 1000 rounds through it. Now if it failed within a few 100 rounds then yeah its a piece of crap.

    I’d like to see a reliability test between the Kel-Tec and Hi-Point. Say what you want about Hi-Point but my cousin has had one for years shot well over a 1000 rounds and has nvr cleaned it mostly because the take down is too time consuming.

    1. avatar HSR47 says:

      Hell, I generally go through at least 200 rounds every range trip. Minimum.

      1. avatar pastubbs says:

        Well see your like me I go to the range at lest twice a month. What I was saying is that most of the people buying these cheap carry gun nvr go to the range after they buy them. So to have failures after 1000+ rounds is not really a failure of the product but a failure of the buyer. If I want a nice carry gun thats small, concealable, and can go round after round I’d go with a sub compact Glock or S&W M&P not a Kel-Tec. not saying I wouldn’t buy a Kel-Tec but it wouldn’t be a range gun just something I’d fire a few times at the range and carry because its so small. And true be told I’d really only carry it in the summer other wise I’d carry my P99.

        OMG PA sold his G30, the grip was just too big

        I have girly hands so

        1. avatar Eric says:

          Note: Kel Tec on their website states the expected life of their firearms is 6000 rounds or more. Just sayin’

          http://www.keltecweapons.com/faq/#nul

  3. avatar LC Judas says:

    This is frightening. I mean I know a friend carrying this thing every day and if he knew how lame they could be he would go with a Kahr for sure.

    Here is hoping that they either send one that works or catch enough sense to send you a refund/alternative weapon.

  4. avatar Jason says:

    Jason: I pushed the wrong button and accidently edited your excellent comment. Working on getting help to restore it if possible. Sorry, Eric

    1. avatar Jason says:

      Oh, and P3AT ejectors are not pinned in. If you’re not careful, it’ll fall out when you take it down for cleaning, and as it’s a small part, it’s easy to lose, and reassemble the gun without it.

    2. avatar Eric says:

      Good tips.I checked the ejector. I actually replaced it in my first gun. I am familiar with their ability to fall out of the gun. It is in place. This particular case came further out than they usually do. Typically, the case has not cleared the chamber completely.

      1. avatar Jason says:

        Extractor’s slipping off the rim then. I don’t know what the correct tension for that gun is, but that’s likely wrong. Might also check the chamber for rough machining. If the brass expands into grooves inside the chamber, it’ll stick, and even a properly tensioned extractor won’t work.

        1. avatar Eric says:

          My prior gun I actually had a gunsmith smooth out the bore, etc, but I agree the issue is the extractor pulling off the rim of the case. I am not sure if the case is getting hung up on something or the extractor is just weak. maybe a little of both.

  5. avatar Matt in FL says:

    Robert: I screwed up Matt’s excellent reply as well. Eric

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      O.O

      I didn’t write that ^^

      I wrote about a paragraph about “out of battery” and “when it did go bang it shot well.”

      Somehow someone’s response to my post replaced my post? What the heck?

      1. avatar Jason says:

        Looks like the comment db is getting corrupted. Comments disappearing and getting mis-attributed.

      2. avatar Eric says:

        I edited/deleted some comments on this thread by mistake. (I didn’t even know I could do that!) Apologies. Please feel free to re-post your replies. It won’t happen again.

        1. avatar Matt in FL says:

          Well, at least you figured it out. 🙂

          The short version is that I went to the range and shot every .380 they had for rent, including the P3AT. I had two problems with the P3AT. First, I had to smack the back of the slide to put it the last 1/8″ into battery about every third round. Second, I experienced the exact same FTE that you’ve experienced on yours.

          I attributed it to being a dirty rental gun, but as you’re seeing it on a new gun, that may have been an incorrect assumption.

    2. avatar Eric says:

      My experience with the out of battery thing is that is improves with more rounds through the gun.

      Agree that it shoots nicely when it shoots.

  6. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

    Shot my P3AT at my local indoor range yesterday, and I realized…

    … I don’t like it.

    Even with a Hogue grip and a sanded-smooth edges, t’s a nasty little gun to shoot. Even with my little girly hands, there’s just not enough to hang on to as it discharges, and because it’s so small and light, it recoils like a @#$!!.

    Shooting it just isn’t fun, and with it’s pathetic trigger and useless sights, a P3AT is useful only as a “get off me” gun.

    I’m going to start to look around for an LC9 or similar little bitty 9mm or maybe a J Frame as a alternate pocket carry gun. I’m tried of owning a gun I don’t like to shoot.

    1. avatar Joe nobody says:

      Ha cfc e you heard the rumors that the sig p238 will soon available in 9mm thats one to watch.

      1. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

        Sig makes good guns and the P238 is a honey, but I prefer double-action or “safe action” pistols for self-defence.

        1. avatar Robert Farago says:

          I.e. the P238 is a 1911-style handgun (Colt clone). And I agree.

        2. avatar Jason says:

          Other than being a single action, the P238 has nothing to do with the 1911. No grip safety, totally different trigger mechanism and ejector, external extractor, no swinging link. It is a Colt clone though – a clone of the Colt Mustang.

        3. avatar Eric says:

          I have heard the Mustang may be coming back.

        4. avatar jbyrne says:

          The p238 has an internal extractor.

    2. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Yeah, it’s been said before… nobody is going to confuse any .380 with a “have fun at range day” gun.

      My little rental .380 adventure taught me a few things:
      Reliability struck the P3AT off my list.
      The Kahr P380 shot better than I thought it would, and was one of the more comfortable guns to hold & fire.
      The S&W Bodyguard .380 Auto was on my list ’til I shot it. The backstrap where it contacts the web of your hand has a very square profile, much more so than any other I shot. My hand was experiencing discomfort after one magazine, and was outright hurting after two. Even the P3AT was more comfortable.

      I wasn’t able to shoot a P238, as they didn’t have one for rent, so my quest is not yet complete. I’ve heard good things, but I’d also heard good things about the Bodyguard, so there you go.

      1. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

        The thing with me and the P3AT is that for 3+ years, it was my primary carry gun. Working in an office meant office casual and that meant pocket carry (at best).

        Now that I work from home, things are different.

    3. avatar Drew says:

      The J frame is a no brainer. Why are you guys so hung up on having a semi? The odds of needing to reload are slim to none, and that eventuality is far,far outweighed by the FTF rate of these crap micro semis. I’ve said it here before; in over 20 years of daily carry and probably close to 20 thousand rounds fired over those 20 years, I have never had a malfunction with a revolver using factory ammunition. Not one. Ever. Hell, your grandkids will still be firing your J frame. And you can buy them dirt cheap. My dealer has a Smith 10-5 for $225 right now, because it has some holster wear. Ammo is cheap, holsters are cheap, manual of arms is as simple as it gets, and it will work every single time. More reliable than a Swiss watch (much more actually, as any watch guy will attest).

      1. avatar ExurbanKevin says:

        My only thing against a J Frame is the bulk. There’s just no getting around the fact they’re thicker gun than the ultra-slim P3AT and LC9.

  7. avatar percynjpn says:

    This is why S&W .38 snubbies are still so popular – 5 reliable rounds are better than 6-7 with a high risk of failure IMO.

    Todd F.

  8. avatar bobby b says:

    My impression (having spent extended time in the KTOG forum) is that maybe 15%-20% of the P3AT’s are problem guns from day one. Sometimes, people hit upon the right combination of buffing and lube and ammunition selection and polishing to bring the gun up into the “shoots every time” group, but at least as often the gun just plain never comes around, and (I suspect) those guns go in a drawer somewhere and eventually turn into gun dust.

    I got one of the bad ones. The stock magazines hold five shots; in my first 1000 rounds, I usually had at least one FTE, FTL, or stovepipe per magazine. One shot out of five would not happen.

    On top of the firing issues, something inside was obviously slamming into the noses of each bullet as it came up into the chamber. If you fired a round, and then ejected the next chambered bullet and examined it, you could see a very distinct “half moon” dent across the front of the nose of the bullet. (I never have figured out if this is absorbing enough of the recoil/reload energy from each shot to cause interference in the reload process – i.e., maybe the gun is limp-wristing itself by wasting some of its energy on smacking the next-in-line bullet as it approaches. But even if this isn’t contributing to the firing malfunctions, it certainly can’t help either the ballistics of the bullet, or the breakup pattern of the bullet as it strikes something.

    From the forums, I followed the prescribed fluffing and buffing and lubing. I did the reshaping of the ramp area leading the bullets by their noses up into the chamber. I de-burred and polished and radiused. Then, I took it back to the range, and, as I quietly cursed and flinched at the malfunctions – the same kinds of malfunctions (stovepipes, FTE’s, FTL’s) at the same frequency (once per magazine of five) as before – as I jimmied cartridge after cartridge after cartridge out of the usually-jammed slide – I’d pause to admire the nice polish job on the interior assemblies.

    Sent it off to Kel-Tek. Came back pretty quick – for no charge – looking slightly different in some of the polishing profiles. Kel-Tek’s polishing work – aimed at reducing friction – did just that, freeing the slide assembly to rocket backwards quicker and faster, increasing the power of whatever it is that smacks into the noses of the bullets so that the noses are now clearly creased in and divided as they enter the chamber. That was the only effect that I could see from Kel-Tek’s work.

    Currently, I’m grinding the entire nose of the gun down into a sharp point, so that I can stab at people with it when it jams.

    1. avatar Eric says:

      Wow! That mirrors my experience in so many ways. Thanks for the write up.

  9. avatar GaryinVT says:

    1) How is Kel-Tec able to sell any of these when the Ruger LCP sits right next to it at every gun shop? Even the appearance of the two guns tells a story.
    2) J-frame for this guy, too. I imagine any self defense scenario I would be in will be all “asses and elbows” tumbling on the ground. I won’t have the opportunity to hold the gun properly to ensure smooth cycling. Revolver. Bang. Every time.

    1. avatar Tim McNabb says:

      I am slowly beginning to think that my .38 Smith is the best pocket gun for me. Five shots that will fire are better than getting off an unknown number thanks to a stoppage.

  10. avatar DigDoug says:

    Eric,
    Sorry if you’ve previously covered this, but I’m curious: Do the people at Kel Tec know that this pistol’s story has an audience? It seems like they’re doing OK, customer-service-wise, but I wonder if that’s because they know they’re on display.

    1. avatar Eric says:

      They have no idea. I have not told them I write for TTAG, I purchased this with my own bucks and am just sharing my story.

      This pistol was my first gun purchase ever. I bought it simultaneously with a Glock 26 (which is awesome) as a pocket gun for days when I could not carry the Glock. I chose the P3AT over the LCP because I felt Kel Tec should be rewarded for originating the segment and because it was an ounce lighter, and because I didn’t like the copy cat nature of the LCP. In retrospect, it seems Ruger has done it better.

      This has been a great learning experience for me being new to concealed carry. I have found that I can carry the G26 much more than I thought. I have also decided that a pocket gun should really be a snubbie.

      What scares me is that so many folks just buy these small pistols and never test/practice with them…ever.

      1. avatar Eric says:

        Oh, and the folks at Kel Tec have been generally pleasant and agreeable whenever I have called them, and have given me no grief at all about returns. From what I hear, they are like this with everyone.

        They are more than willing to ship small parts to try to fix the problem, and at least once swapped me a slide and barrel.

      2. avatar David Johnson says:

        My LCP was an inferior copy. That’s why I traded it on a CZ-82.

  11. avatar Tom says:

    I really have not heard real good things about Keltec. A guy was in a gun shop complaining that the barrel blew up and split on one of these pistols.

    I usually have better luck with revolvers over pistols.

  12. avatar Tim McNabb says:

    I bought a Jimenez .380 – new it is under 200 bucks. I only put about 100 rounds through it but had no FTE or FTF.

  13. avatar Brice says:

    I’ve never owned or shot the P3AT. However I do own 2 PF9s. They both required some massaging to get them to 1000 rounds between failures. At 6000 I cracked the frame on one and it was replaced by KelTec. I love my little KelTecs for carry. But they stay put away if either of my Sigs fit my wardrobe for that day.

  14. avatar Mogg says:

    With all the diffrent brands of pocket .380 mentioned,
    I haven’t heard anything about the taurus tcp.

    Mine has never had any sort of failure, and was taken
    directly from the gun counter to the range.

    No cleaning, no fluff and buff,
    and no failures to feed, fire, extract, or eject.

    Same story for the next few range trips with the little gun.
    Runs like a top.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      It wasn’t on the rack at the rental counter where I tried all the others. I’ll put it on my list of things to look at.

  15. avatar David Johnson says:

    Yup, you’re still limpwristing it. Clean it completely, use a little Tetra grease on the rails and lug, change your shooting grip, and the gun WILL work. I have thousands of rounds through my Kel-Tecs. My P3AT has never jammed. I’ve even shot Kel-Tecs that were jamming in the owner’s hands. When I shot them, they never jammed. Why? The owner was limpwristing the things. Once they fixed their shooting stance and hold, their Kel-Tecs stopped jamming. I guarantee I could do the same thing with yours.

    1. avatar Marky says:

      That’s a pretty arrogant statement. You can fix the issue that the not inexperienced owner, nor two firearms instructors could get right? Doubtful.

      In regards to there being no .380 that doubles as a range toy, I beg to differ with the P238. I can shoot 100+ rounds of factory ammo through mine and not only endure it but absolutely enjoy it! Good sights/trigger/balance and a fairly heavy (for a subcompact) frame make for a pleasant shooting experience.

      Also with regards to the gentleman sayin shooting 1000+ rounds through a gun is somehow a fault of the owner, is so absurd I figure it’s an anti-gun troll.

    2. avatar Marky says:

      That’s a pretty arrogant statement. You can fix the issue that the not inexperienced owner, nor two firearms instructors could get right? Doubtful.

      In regards to there being no .380 that doubles as a range toy, I beg to differ with the P238. I can shoot 100+ rounds of factory ammo through mine and not only endure it but absolutely enjoy it! Good sights/trigger/balance and a fairly heavy (for a subcompact) frame make for a pleasant shooting experience. My handloads feel even better!

  16. avatar NR says:

    I’ve got no dog in this fight, but looking at pictures, it seems that there’s an awful lot dirt on that jammed cartridge case.

  17. I think Bersa Thunder’s can be pretty enjoyable to shoot at the range. It’s the size & weight that make these little .380’s uncomfortable to shoot.

    I also had a P3AT that I had a number of issues with and ultimately parted ways with. Keltec was very good in the customer support, but I got tired of practicing with it since shooting it was such a chore. My next pocket gun was a PM9 which I really liked except for Kahr’s lack of support after over a year of ownership. I started getting scared it would fatally break after having over 5000 rounds and a couple years of ownership and being stuck with it. I then settled on a small revolver and have had decent luck with a Charter Arms Undercover .38, but just recently I had to send it back to them because of light hammer strikes. They repaired it and sent it back in about a week so no complaints with their customer support. I’ll have to put some rounds through it this week to make sure all’s good.

  18. avatar clamp says:

    I have a P3AT and a PF9…and a PM9. The only one I had issue with was the PF9 which decided it like to eject the magazine when fired. A trip to the factory and a new grip fixed that problem. Sorry about the bad luck. I’m satisfied with Keltec for the amount their products cost.

  19. avatar JJ Swiontek says:

    I hate to say it without taking detailed measurements, but it looks like the extractor tries to eject the spent round and the lip of the round catches on the edge of the port; fails to eject and the round ends up not moving. The recoil spring may be too strong for the energy being delivered to it. Or the slide may be catching. Or a bunch of other things… I would need to see it and give it a complete exam.

  20. avatar David Johnson says:

    I agree. I’ve called them many times. I have enough spare parts to rebuild my Kel-Tecs. I got the parts free but I’ve never had to use any of them. I have thousands of rounds through my P3AT and my PF-9.

    I bought an LCP as my first pocket gun. It was a 1st generation. I could never get more that 3 mags through before it would jam. Ruger stole the design from KT. The original works much better. I traded off the LCP right after I got my P3AT. I have put 400 rounds through my P3AT in one range session. Without cleaning or relubing it, the little gun never failed in anyway. It was filthy and took me an hour to clean but it was flawless. I’ve had far more expensive guns that weren’t able to do what my P3AT did that day. BTW, I’ve done the same thing with my PF-9.

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