Gun Review: KelTec P17 .22LR Pistol

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

I have been interested in the KelTec P17 for several months, and have finally managed to get my hands on the pistol and give it a thorough test. Verdict: I like the pistol a lot. That doesn’t mean it’s a great all-around handgun or exceptionally accurate. I am at the age that every handgun in the safe doesn’t have to have a well-defined mission. I just have to like it.

The P17 has a niche I will discuss later besides that of being a fun gun to shoot. When the P17 was introduced there was a lot written about it by people that maybe handled the pistol once or twice. Another fellow wrote a review, but, funny enough, the write-up used only manufacturer’s beauty shots. None of his own.

The Kel Tec P17 is a polymer frame pistol that builds on the principles of affordable construction that KelTec has pioneered.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

The P17’s slide release lever is located just above and forward of its ambidextrous safety. It also has a paddle-style ambidextrous magazine release. (Virgil Caldwell for TTAG)

The P17 rimfire pistol is a polymer frame job. No surprises there. When we say frame we really mean receiver in this design. The pistol uses a recoiling bolt rather than a true slide for operation. It works well. The frame is nicely textured on the gripping area. The magazine release is a paddle type at the rear of the trigger guard and works well.

The manual safety lever is mirrored on each side of the frame which should please lefties. This ambidextrous lever is easily operated with a swipe of the thumb.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

The KelTec P17 has an easily visible fiber optic front sight and adjustable rear sight. (Jeremy S. for TTAG)

The slide lock — actually, it’s a bolt release — is a neat design. It’s not ambidextrous and is located just ahead of the safety near the top of the frame. It’s small, but works well. All in all, the KelTec P17 is a model of good ergonomics. It is very easy to use and use well.

The semi-auto P17’s barrel comes threaded for a suppressor, a nice touch on an affordably-priced handgun. The sights are well designed and easy to use. The rear post may be drifted for windage adjustment and the front sight features a fiber optic insert. Well, it used to. The fiber optic fell out at about three hundred rounds. This isn’t unusual. It should be heated and melted into place if you purchase one of these firearms. Not certain yet if I will replace it. The pistol is still easy to fire accurately without it.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

The P17 comes with three 16-round magazines standard. (Virgil Caldwell for TTAG)

There are three very distinctive features of the P17 pistol. Unlike just about every other .22LR pistol on the market, the P17 has a magazine capacity is sixteen +1 rounds of ammo. That is a lot of ammunition in a very compact space. The pistol doesn’t look as if it would carry that kind of load, but it does. Oh and KelTec includes three mags with each P17.

The second outstanding feature is the semi-automatic pistol’s weight. The P17 weighs in at a mere ten ounces. That’s feather-light.

The third feature is its excellent trigger. The internal hammer-fired P17’s trigger breaks cleanly at a mere 3.0 pounds. That’s a very light and pleasingly crisp. Reset is sharp and audible in dry fire.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

The P17 comes with a threaded barrel and Picatinny-style accessory rail standard and three 16rd magazines. (Virgil Caldwell for TTAG)

hols

The pistol also features a short length of Picatinny rail for mounting lights or lasers. Disassembly is easy. Press down on the two GLOCK-like levers on each side of the slide frame, then pull the bolt to the rear and off.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

After handling the pistol and dry firing it, I have to admit I was excited to actually shoot this thing. I am used to dealing with many types of firearms and some are expensive, accurate, or powerful and sometimes all three. The KelTec P17 is what I might call a neat trick; it’s just a fun gun.

I resolved not to make any comments on its suitability for any particular mission until I had fired it a good bit. And fire it I have. I began with the Remington Golden Bullet. This is a great load I have been using for more than fifty years. My grandfather told me as long as I used Remington ammunition my self loading .22 would work well. He was correct.

A brick of rimfire later, there have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject. I have also fired the Fiocchi copper plated round nose, CCI’s Mini Mag, and the CCI Stingers. Surprisingly enough — as after all this is a .22 rimfire, which isn’t known for its consistency — there have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject, even after failing to clean the pistol for more than four hundred rounds of what I have come to call standby loads.

I also tested a couple of loads I don’t usually use. They were all I could find in the current shortage. I fired fifty rounds of PMC Zapper. Function was uneven. I experienced a number of failures to feed in the form of short cycles, perhaps one every five or six rounds. The PMC pressure curve just didn’t work in the P17.

Next up was a box of Aguila Super Extra solids. These are advertised as faster than most high velocity loads. They clocked 977 fps from the KelTec’s 3.8 inch barrel. That’s fast and function was one hundred per cent. The P17 definitely likes hotter loads.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

At this point I had a good idea of the capabilities of the pistol. The KelTec was more reliable than I would have thought, but then most .22 caliber self loaders are as reliable as the ammunition they are fed. Misfires, failures to fire, and the heel based bullet moving around in the case can impede reliable function.

I have the perception (comments please) that .22 Long Rifle ammunition has become more reliable during the past few years. It is still the nature of the rimfire beast to have a failure to fire from time to time, but I seem to be experiencing that less and less.

The P17 is plenty accurate at 7, 10 and even 15 yards. I enjoyed hosing down the target with no purpose save to perforate paper. I also evaluated the pistol for different chores. While .22LR self defense is a non sequitur, any firearm is better than no firearm. The KelTec P17 is easy to use well. It’s light trigger and minimal recoil make it possible to put a lot of lead into a target very quickly.

KelTec P17 .22LR pistol

Virgil Caldwell for TTAG

With its light trigger, I doubled the KelTec a few times, firing twice when I didn’t intend to. You need to understand the trigger. I suppose that the advice to have one gun and stick to it may apply here. That is an impossibility for most of us, I am certain.

The P17 is more than accurate enough to deliver two- to three-inch groups at fifteen yards. It would serve nicely for taking a squirrel out of a tree and it would certainly be useful for bedded rabbits. And for training new shooters, it’s a great training tool.

For many years outdoorsmen, hikers and campers have kept a .22 kit gun revolver at hand for mundane chores, plinking and dealing with small game. The KelTec P17 would fits the kit gun niche perfectly. Just the same I am not going to try to find a niche for this pistol to justify owning it. It is a neat little pistol that is interesting on both a technological and a practical basis. Plus, it’s just fun to shoot.

Specifications: KelTec P17 Pistol

Caliber: .22 Long Rifle
Capacity: 16+1
Weight Unloaded: 10.5 ounces
Overall Length: 6.7 in
Barrel Length: 3.8 in.
Height: 5.3 in.
Width: 1.2 in.
Trigger Pull Weight: 3.0 lbs
MSRP:  $199

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit and Finish  * * * *
The P17 is nicely finished for such an affordable polymer frame pistol.

Accuracy  * * * *
As my grandfather would have said, ‘it shoots true’ and to the point of aim, but its useful accuracy diminishes past fifteen yards if you’re handholding it due to the P17’s light weight.

Reliability * * * * *
The KelTec P17 is among the most reliable rimfire handguns I have used. It gets a high rating compared to every other rimfire in my experience. It isn’t GLOCK or SIG 9mm reliable, but for a .22LR semi-automatic, it is very good.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
You can do a lot with a small, light handgun that has such little recoil. All of the controls are easily reached and the pistol is sized to fit most hands well.

Overall  * * * * 1/2
When you balance the features against the price, the P17 offers a ton of value. It is a fun gun with much utility. It’s so amazingly light, you wont know it’s there when hiking or camping, but given its reliability and capacity, it just may be the best thing in the world if you need it.

 

 

comments

  1. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Hmmmm… Hop over at TFB had negative results with two different copies of this pistol.

    So 1 out 3 from the interwebz as far as reliability goes.

    On the trigger…I find that pulling and then releasing the trigger eliminates “doubling” and short strokes.

    To me – all guns are double action revolvers. I dont ride the reset….YMMV.

    1. avatar SoCalJack says:

      “It isn’t GLOCK or SIG 9mm reliable, but for a .22LR semi-automatic, it is very good.” But for reliability, this review gave it 5 out of 5 stars, huh?

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Floating scale I suppose.

        Very few 22 rimfire autos approach reliable.

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        SoCalJack,

        The scale that this website uses is a relative scale for each class of firearm.

        They award three stars for average performance in a given class of firearm. Of course four stars is above average and five stars means excellent/outstanding.

        A few clarifications about “class of firearm”:

        1) That tends to mean the caliber and platform although it can be somewhat fuzzy at times. For example a bolt action rifle chambered in .223 Remington is one class of firearm and a semi-auto rifle chambered in .223 Remington is a different class of firearm. Likewise, a semi-auto handgun chambered for rimfire ammunition is a different class of firearm than semi-auto handguns chambered for centerfire ammunition. (That distinction allows for the inherent difference in rimfire versus centerfire ammunition performance.)

        2) The fuzziness comes into play if we are talking about purposefully inexpensive firearms. A reviewer might not want to compare an inexpensive Heritage Rough Rider single-action revolver to an expensive Smith and Wesson double-action revolver — not because they are single-action versus double-action but because they are in a totally different league. (Rough Rider revolvers are available on sale for just over $100 whereas Smith and Wesson revolvers are usually several hundred dollars.) This is akin to automobile evaluations where you would never compare a Hyundai to a Lamborghini.

        3) Fuzziness might also come into play when evaluating “comparable” calibers in a given platform. For example AR-15s chambered in “comparable” calibers such as 5.56x45mm NATO and .300 AAC Blackout would be eligible for direct comparisons since they share the same everything (except for barrel — and even that can be identical except for a different chamber throat and bore with everything else about the barrels being identical).

        Personally, I think the bit of “fuziness” to the rating scales is totally appropriate.

    2. avatar Scott Couch says:

      Actually Hop did a follow up review with an updated pistol, the first run that came out had some spring issues.

  2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Nice article, but no thanks. Too many friends with stories of how their Kel-Tec broke. When they weren’t even shooting it.

    1. avatar lean4wardhereitcomesagain says:

      Um, ok…… I’ve seen Glocks, Sigs, S&W’s, Rugers, Berettas, and a freakin Dan Wesson revolver have reliability/malfunction issues.

      I owned 4 Kel Tecs: a Sub 2000, PF9, P32 and PMR30. No less than 500 rounds shot through each of them except the P32, which had over 200 rounds (was hard to find 32acp ammo at the time). While those might not be “torture tests”, none of the guns had any stoppages whatsoever. And even though I no longer have them, the fact that I sold/traded 3 of them to friends and practically gave one to my brother in law speaks to how good I feel about Kel Tec products (oh and those individuals still have those Kel Tecs, still shoot them, and they’re still working just fine). Some brand new Glocks and Rugers I owned had issues out of the box. A Sig P320 that was “certified pre-owned” had cycling issues and after a trip to Sig it had the same issues despite the factory telling me they replaced certain parts of the slide.

      Buy what you want, but to write something off as junk just because it costs at least $300 less than what you’re willing to pay for is tired old gun snobbery. This “No thanks yuk yuk my friends’ Kel Tecs broke when they looked at them yuk yuk” is the kind of crap that’s more cancerous to the gun community than helpful. Oh and I’m pretty sure I know how your friendsssss Kel Tecs supposedly broke: had to be because they tried using them as mirrors.

  3. avatar Lost Down South says:

    First two comments are unhappy.

    “BUT I WANT ONE!” comes to mind for me. Change your comments to favorable, and all will be well.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Knock yourself out. I have plenty of 22s, even some autos.

      I have two 22 autos that have never failed (outside a dud round).

      One is a Ruger Mkii standard stainless.

      The other is a S&W 15-22. It has never failed and never been cleaned (kind of a quest now). Over 7000 rounds through it.

      If I carried a 22 for defense it would be a revolver.

  4. avatar k1ll3rRS says:

    Nice, TY!

  5. avatar John Boch says:

    Outstanding photography Virgil. And a great article about a little pistol that certainly has my interest.

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    If I wanted a 22 I’d look at this. Even if most of buzz is Taurus and the much more expensive Glock. Under 200 buck’s is quite a hook!

  7. avatar enuf says:

    I’m pretty well set for .22 handguns and not planning on adding one.

    Will say that KelTec impressed me with their customer service. I sent in one of their centerfire pistols expecting to pay to solve it’s feeding and ejecting problems. It was a gun I bought VERY USED, and my efforts to get it to be reliable just were not up to the task. So off it went, with a letter asking them to call me if the charge would be over $100. I certainly was not thinking about warranty service, I bought the thing used after all.

    They did not call me.

    They kept the gun I sent them and shipped me a completely new one at no charge. After a number of years and many hundreds of rounds in various loads and magazines I have never had a single failure with the thing.

    So I’ve a good impression of how they handle guns with dietary disfunctions.

  8. avatar hawkeye says:

    Might be fun with soup cans and soda jugs, but 2″ at 15 yards won’t add many squirrel to your fricassee.

  9. avatar RedEagle says:

    Finally!
    The gun manufacturers are packing more ammo into smaller frames! Kel-tech is an honorable company that has my respect for taking chances and for one of these they can have my money!

  10. avatar sean says:

    I bought one a month or so ago.
    My experience is pretty much the same. About 500-700 hundred rounds of various ammo.
    I was shocked that I got NO malfunctions. I shot 300 rounds the first day, without stopping other than to reload magazines. Went bang every single time. Even when it got dirty. I loaned to a buddy of mine, who took it out to teach his kids to shoot a pistol. They loved it. He bought one too.
    The trigger is magnificent.
    It really does like the hotter loads. Aguilla SuperMaximum especially.
    Accuracy is ok, as the review states. A 3 1/2 inch barrel isn’t going to be great.
    But for the $169 I paid for it, it is a great fun little gun. So far, I am delighted with it.

  11. avatar Vitor says:

    When a sub-compact kel-tec comes with a match trigger better than 99% of the rifles out there.

    1. avatar TruthTellers says:

      Yeah, I think Kel Tec has really put a lot of companies to shame with their new guns lately, especially the .22’s. I got the CP33 and compared to the Ruger Mark and S&W Victory, it blows them away in price and design. No, sorry, I have zero interest in a 35oz FUDD .22 pistol with the 10 rd cuck mag just because it’s steel that costs more than the CP33 does.

      1. avatar RedEagle says:

        Preach!

  12. avatar GS650G says:

    Probably won’t be in stock anywhere. That Keltec for you. PMR30 is always out of stock too. 200 dollars with three mags is a great deal, if you can find one

    1. avatar Sean says:

      My local gun store ordered 10. All sold. They did have a few PMR’s. And one of those weird 33 rd things. About all they have left

  13. avatar TruthTellers says:

    I’ve found .22 LR to be pretty reliable in terms of priming, very rarely do I have a FTF due to rim lacking primer compound or being hard and requiring two hits to ignite. .22 Mag however I have found to be much less reliable than .22 LR in that regard.

    In terms of feeding/cycling, the .22 LR is a heeled bullet and is never going to be as reliable as centerfire because the bullet is trying to feed into a chamber that’s only slightly larger than the bullet’s diameter, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty good with ammo that you’ve found to work well in a particular gun.

    I’ve found CCI to be the best in regards to reliability, but I find various other ammo brands to be better in terms of accuracy. I just got the CP33 and it shoots damn well with Winchester Hyper Speed, but it has issues with cycling the ammo. The bottom line with .22 LR is that you have to try lots of ammo before you can determine what works best in it.

  14. avatar The Rookie says:

    I’m not really in the market for another .22 pistol right now, but I do hope the P17 is successful. A fun, reliable, and inexpensive .22 that can load 16+1 is a good thing.

  15. avatar Strongarm says:

    21. th century versiyon of early 20.th century “jaeger” pistol…

  16. avatar Meathead says:

    Good article and spot on
    I’ll go a step further and give the keltec engineers 5 stars for pulling off the development of this pistol. Ive seen a lot of negative reviews on this gun And Always wonder if I have the same one they tested because mine doesn’t do that. If you ever get the opportunity to own a p17 do it, I have no regrets

  17. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    that’s almost party favor cheap. a box of ten at each wedding table.

  18. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    I love the Ruger SR22 pistol but if there was one thing I could change it would be to increase capacity. I thought this might be it but reliability is questionable depending on the author. So it’s a maybe

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