Previous Post
Next Post

I finally got my replacement Kel-Tec out for some shooting. Despite my tough talk in the prior post, I did take it apart and lube the rails prior to shooting. I hate seeing any mechanical device suffer. I shot 250 or so rounds from seven different brands: Fiocchi, Magtech, Winchester bulk, Federal, and Remington UMC FMJ loads, with a few Silvertip  and Gold Dot hollow points thrown in. I would estimate I had a minimum of 50 malfunctions . . .

Half of those being failures to go into battery. After about a hundred rounds, I noticed the same malfunction that caused me to send the last gun back to Kel-Tec in the first place: partial extraction with the slide locked back on the round in the magazine. To solve the problem I had to drop the mag, rack and re-insert. (To visualize the problem, check this video at around the 1:30 mark.) The malfunction started to occur almost every shot, but only with one of the two mags. I abandoned that one, and ran the last 50 rounds exclusively with the other mag. Hakuna mutata.

I called Kel-Tec on the way home. The service rep told me to send the mag back. They’d send me a new one. Sigh, more shipping.

Despite my solemn vow to gunsmith the P3AT again, I took the mags apart and compared them carefully. The malfunctioning mag’s lips were 1mm closer together at the front of the mag. The spring was also about 10mm shorter than the spring in the working mag. I carefully bent the lips to the spec of the working mag, then slightly elongated the spring. Time will tell if this works to fix the issue.

I can’t figure how tight feed lips can cause the malfunction I’m seeing. Dammit Jim I’m a doctor. Not an armorer!

On the positive side, I enjoy shooting this little pistol. It fits the hand (a bit of the hand anyway) a whole lot better than OJ’s glove fit the football player’s mitt. I don’t find the recoil particularly unmanageable. Accuracy is good enough for what it is. I can quickly pop off a string of six combat-accurate shots for a hand-sized group at five yards— if it does not malfunction. The gun, not me. OK both.

However, a Kel-Tec P3AT is more properly viewed as a gun kit. If you buy one for self defense, you better test it thoroughly before trusting it to work when you need it. It may or may not work. Unfortunately, the vast majority of gun owners never test their weapons. With this piece, they should.

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. I picked up a P3AT in .380 a few years ago. I found on the KTOG forum, a guru, and very successful gunsmith, with a DIY procedure called a “fluff & buff”. Took about an hour on a rainy afternoon and I haven;t had a hiccup since, with any brand or type of ammo. It loves lube, and this F&B/TLC, really makes them reliable.

    I didn’t even mess with the trigger assy. just the slide, frame, and especially the barrel.

    Good Luck, don’t give up on it.

    Tom W.

    • I did the F&B on the last gun. It made no difference in reliability. I am not bothering with this one.

  2. Actually, I have one that I’ve been carrying for 3-4 years that seems to feed anything, from steel cased $3.50/25 rds combloc stuff to lead-bullet reloads. I try to shoot at least 10-20 rds every time I go to the range, but the thing is the most uncomfortable gun I own to shoot. My .500 S&W does not hurt my hand – the kel-tek does. The bottom of the trigger guard slaps my trigger finger on every shot w/ the kel-tek, and it hurts like heck after 20 shots.

    Mechanically, it is crazy accurate out past 50 yards, but due to my eyesight under normal conditions, and getting through the long heavy trigger pull limits combat accuracy to ~10 yards, which is plenty.

  3. This is why I’ll never carry anything but a revolver. In 20 years of carrying “J” frames, a Colt Cobra, and now a LCR, do you know how many malfunctions I’ve had with factory ammo? None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Keep it simple and keep your peace of mind.

    • Have to agree with that. When I am helping someone who wants a CCW permit try out a number of different handguns, I ask them how interested they are in shooting/target practice and knowing about guns. If they just want to get one handgun for self-protection, I always recommend a revolver. Easy to confirm if it is loaded – open the cylinder. No safety to manipulate, no magazine damage issues, no fussing over bullet profile or weight (except for a few of the lightweight .357 mag revolvers – RTFI). As I tell them, the clearance drill for a dud round in a revolver is “pull the trigger again”.

      (Note: RTFI/RTFM = Read the Frickin’ Instructions/Manual)

  4. I carry a PF9 as one of my primary guns. There are times that I simply can’t carry IWB, even tucked in so the PF9 gets the duty. My PF9 has not been flawless. I’ve had several issues including one return to the factory for a cracked frame. Small cheap guns require more TLC than your full sized plastic fantastic. Of the 6k plus rounds that I’ve run through my PF9 (only about 400 since the new frame) I had light primer strikes in the first 200 rounds (crap in the firing pin channel). One broken firing pin, that one scared me as I was carrying the gun when I discovered it. Failure to go into battery on lead rounds. Some occasional failure to feed and failure to lock back on last round. Except for the broken firing pin, it’s always been flawless for with my carry ammo. The replacement firing pin is of much higher quality than the original. It’s not my only gun and I wouldn’t recommend it as an only gun. But it is a perfectly adequate gun if it’s all you can carry and are willing to test it thoroughly.

  5. I also own a P3AT. I had a lot of problems with it but after sending it to KelTec is has been wonderful. I even shot an IPDA match with it last month. I have no idea what they did.

    Long ago I bought a Hi-Standard .22. It had feed problems until a friend of a friend looked at it. He bent the lips of the magazine just a tiny bit. Never had another problem. It was like magic I tell ya’.

    • Where do you think the LCP concept came from? Except for a slide stop, it is about as close to a patent infringement as Ruger could get without getting sued.To the OP, if you send it back to KT, they do the same thing.On the other side of the spectrum, the Kimber Solo article comes to mind also. Sometimes regardless of price or manufacturer, they just need a little “love”.Good shooting. Tom W.

      P.S. Get the Wolff Spring kit for $6.

      • Yep the LCP is a copy. A copy that works right. My LCP worked out of the box with a few feed failures while breaking it in. My wife’s KelTec…first round out of the box jammed the slide open and had to go back to the factory. And that’s not even mentioning the more comfortable grip serrations etc. Why buy the KelTec when the LCP runs a whopping $10-20 more in price.

        • +1 on the LCP.

          Keltec may have had the original concept but Ruger took that idea and built a superior product. The LCPs look good, fit well, and work reliably. The Keltecs look like they were slapped together in some high school shop class.

        • As much as kel tec cultists like to say it’s an identical pistol, it’s not. Ruger took the design and did what had to be done to make it reliable. Made better parts, tweaked things here and there, things that Kel Tec can’t be bothered to do

      • “To the OP, if you send it back to KT, they do the same thing.”

        This is the gun I got back from KT after the first one took a dump. In other words, the second poorly functioning P3AT. I really, really wish I had bought the LCP in the first place, copy or not. It seems Ruger did this one better.

      • George Kelgren never patented the P3AT design.

        I’ve heard of as many problems with the LCP as I have the P3AT, going by percentages and not raw numbers.

        • I call BS. All I know is that if you Google “LCP” “hammer spring” and do the same with “P3at” for example, you will get zero hits for the LCP, or maybe one, but this has not been my experience. Ruger doesn’t even sell replacement hammer springs yet kel-tec does and I have seen threads where people mention it needs replacement periodically. This is carried over from the other thread. LCPs are utterly reliable past the first batch. P3AT’s continue to be unreliable into the second gen

  6. Any tool that costs several hundred to several thousand dollars should work perfectly straight from the box. Gun companies need to apply this philosophy to all their products. Guns should all be factory test with 50-100 rounds of ammo before ever being shipped.

    My first experience buying a new gun was a Taurus PT1911 that apparently hadn’t had a single screw properly torqued. Lost two grip screws and both front and rear sights fell off during first range trip. I learned a lot about customer service from that experience (both store and maker), none of it good. Next time, I’ll know better….

    • Same with my p3at. Sold that POS back to the same store, but could barely get 1/3 of what I paid for it. Didn’t care though. I was going to get something quality and wanted to rid myself of it

  7. Well, just like the Ruger SR9 debacle a couple of years ago, they resolved that one also,( but you got a hat), We love to shoot and enjoy and try to just get something that works as advertised.The majority, including mine, fire everything, it might have taken some TLC, but it is a budget firearm….Unlike the Kimber SOLO, which has issues as well….S*** happens….I wish you the best, trade to the LCP, and post a report.

    I’ve seen just about every make of pistol FAIL under IDPA, USPCA, SASS, CMP,…and just a pretty day at the range.

    We work it out, sell it, trade it, and move on.

    All the best.


  8. Your limpwristing the P3AT. It’s not the gun. Bend your elbows slightly and keep your wrist(s) straight allowing the arm to absorb recoil at the elbow. You’ll find out your the problem not the gun.

    I should note that I’ve only owned three semi-auto handguns that have never jammed. The first was an XD SC in 40S&W I paid over $500.00 for. The second is my P3AT that I paid $250.00 for. The third is my XDm 3.8 Compact in 40S&W that cost me over $700.00. I’d say that’s pretty good company.

  9. Isn’t the Taurus 738 Slim up for consideration in this category? The Taurus is less expensive for the Stainless slide, and the trigger is way better. While they are not directly comparable, I’ve got a Taurus 740 that has been 100% in the modest amount of shooting that it has seen.

  10. I’ve got to agree with David Johnson, you’re limp wristing it. My P3AT has about 250 rounds of the cheapest ammo through it, has NEVER been lubed, and has NEVER failed.

  11. I know this is old but, mine had the same problems as reviewer did. On a recommendation, I re-tightened the extractor screw with a touch of locktite, problem solved.

Comments are closed.