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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.