Last November I attended a KelTec media event at High Bar Homestead in Wyoming. Though the list of warm places I would have rather been during Turkey Month is impressively long, it did offer me the opportunity to put dozens and dozens of full magazines — like, 33 and 50 rounds full! — through a handful of their then-new CP33 pistols (review here).
Therefore, this is a “hands-on” report and not a full review. That’ll have to wait for a production sample which we hope to have soon. But the P17s I shot in Wyoming were extremely close. Way beyond prototype stage and well into reliability and durability testing phase with production fixtures and molds, etc, already being used.
So, what can we reasonably expect from KelTec’s new P17?
First, though the P17 is a .22 LR handgun, it has completely broken the mold on capacity. While other companies are stuck on the idea that 10 rounds is perfectly appropriate for all .22 LR pistols for all states, KelTec went ahead and maximized the capacity for the gun’s size. As such, the P17 holds 16+1 rounds. Even better, it ships with three magazines in the box. Standard. All at an MSRP of only $199. Which is awesome.
If demand is anything like that of some of KelTec’s previous hot releases, I expect we won’t even see street prices much over $500 (haha I kid, I kid).
Now, what will really surprise you about the KelTec P17 is . . . a few things, actually:
The P17 has a great trigger. Smooth and light with a crisp break, the internal hammer-fired P17 surprised me with a much better trigger than found on most .22 pistols and certainly better than anything even close to the price range. It broke at or under 4 lbs and was far smoother and nicer than you’d expect.
It has ambidextrous controls. The thumb safety is mirrored on both left and right sides, as is the paddle-style magazine release.
It has good sights. A fiber optic front and adjustable rear were very easy to pick up and easy to shoot accurately and precisely. Fast and precise is a good combination.
It has a threaded barrel — 1/2×28 for use with suppressors and other muzzle devices.
It’s accurate. Like way, way more accurate than it should be. Which was the same story for the CP33, incidentally. Though in that gun it made sense considering the long barrel and super-long sight radius. In the P17? I guess it’s the magic combo of really good sights, a really good trigger, really good mechanical accuracy, and really high controllability that inspires confidence.
The P17 covered in more bolts than Frankenstein’s monster. Okay, well, maybe this isn’t a selling point, but it does fit the KelTec industrial aesthetic and it gives your palms something to freeze to when in Wyoming in November (again, I kid).
Basically, the P17 — and I put a few full magazines through three different P17s, for what it’s worth — is a fantastic shooter. Far better than it should be considering its size and very low price point.
Reliability was fine, but not perfect. Two of the tester guns were suffering from slow slide speeds, which I mostly chalk up to lube that got too thick in the frigid temperatures (that was the consensus from Florida-based KelTec, too). Again, Wyoming. November. I had to tap those guns into battery a couple times per magazine.
Now, I said “mostly” due to thick lube because I think the recoil spring rate was also too light. The guns were ejecting empty brass appreciably farther than “ideal” — just shy of low earth orbit — and I don’t think the spring was able to then return the slide forward with enough energy to strip and chamber the next round with sufficient gusto. And definitely not while fighting the obviously cold weather-thickened lube.
But perfecting the spring rates is exactly the sort of thing KelTec has been doing between last November and this week’s announcement of the P17. Hopefully they’ve figured it out (or whatever caused the slow slide speeds or weak return to battery if I didn’t diagnose it correctly).
Based on my early testing of this pistol, I’m full-on 5 stars impressed with the P17. At this price point and with these features, it’s a gun every shooter should probably own.
I mean, why not? A high capacity, lightweight, super-accurate, really fun plinker with a threaded barrel for under $200? Clear win.
Specifications: KelTec P17
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel Length: 3.93 inches, threaded 1/2×28
Overall Length: 6.65 inches
Trigger: 4 lbs, internal hammer-fired
Weight: 12.9 ounces with unloaded magazine