Kel Tec P3AT .380 ACP – A Review

keltec parts

The P-3AT (pee-three-eighty) is a semi-automatic, locked breech pistol, chambered for the .380 Auto cartridge. It has been developed from our highly successful P-32 pistol with negligible increase in weight and size. The slidestop has been eliminated and the magazine capacity reduced to 6 rounds due to the larger cartridge. The firing mechanism is double action only. The magazine has a 6 round capacity. The KEL-TEC P-3AT is the lightest .380 Auto pistol ever made. Thanks to its locking dynamics and superior ergonometry, perceived recoil and practical accuracy are comparable to much larger guns. The P-3AT is mainly intended for plainclothes police officers as a secondary weapon, or for concealed carry by licensed citizens. The small grip size and light trigger pull make the P-3AT ideal for female shooters.

Several months ago, a new environment prompted me to review my every day carry (EDC) equipment. Carrying a Surefire with a strike bezel, Benchmade Griptilian HGS, and GLOCK 19 via appendix IWB wasn’t going to fly anymore.

So far, I’ve written about the 4Sevens Preon 2. It’s unassuming, light-weight, and still provides a considerable amount of light. How about the firearm? What’s concealable in a non-permissive environment, light weight, and provides a considerable amount of firepower?

keltec p3at rightkeltec p3at left

Weighing 235g, unloaded, the “lightest .380 Auto pistol ever made” meets the criteria above, with appropriate ammunition.


p3at size


Trigger pull is unremarkable; it’s not spectacular or terrible. I perceive the double action relatively consistent throughout it’s travel. You’ll definitely feel the stage before the hammer falls.

Despite the little finger missing out on some P3AT contact, and contrary to other reports, I perceived the recoil with factory .380 ACP ball ammunition (Winchester White Box) as manageable and will shoot this pistol just for fun.

keltec p3at left hand

The only malfunction presented to me so far is what appeared to be 3 point jams. Upon further inspection, it’s more likely that the lip of the cartridge casing is catching the frame. Another individual made a similar observation.

keltec p3at ramp jam

While it is recommended to have a competent gunsmith perform any modification for you, most folks who are conservative with sandpaper and polishing compound can address this without an issue.

The second generation pistols appear to have holes in them, as well.  This has been deemed unremarkable.

The purpose of this firearm is primarily defensive. As such, I train using a point shooting method with a high emphasis on movement and hardly utilize the sights at all. In any case, sights do exist on the P3AT, just not the variation most folks are used to. The sights are fixed, machined into the slide, and low profile.

keltec p3at sights

Considering that the P3AT is chambered in .380 ACP, some apprehension concerning the stopping power is understandable. I am not of the mindset that caliber > all else, but the concern about the .380 is valid.

My personal pick is the Buffalo Bore 95gr. FMJ-FN, and 90gr. JHP.

As suggested in some data, the .380 cartridge can perform well. Universally, this means that the cartridges that perform better typically shoot faster. With that said, one should be familiar with the recoil your choice of cartridge will produce. The Buffalo Bore cartridge does kick quite a bit.

The size of this pistol allows convenient carry inside the pocket with chinos or shorts. Days I am expected to wear a suit and tie, it can be concealed with the Smart Carry holster. Experiencing carry using both methods, I tend to favor pocket carry.

For safe, secure, and snag free pocket draws, I absolutely recommend a holster. The DeSantis and Hedley holsters conceal well. The difference is price and how it breaks the pattern on certain clothes. Universally, the Hedley dissipates the outline of the firearm better; however, it costs much more and the wait time is approximately 6-8 weeks. The DeSantis is inexpensive and readily available, but is not appropriate for lighter fabrics found on slacks.

keltec p3at desantiskeltec p3at hedley pocket holsterkeltec p3at hedley pocket holster 2

Despite the size, magazine capacity and aggressive recoil, it’s a solution that’s appropriate for my current circumstance and level of perceived risk. Otherwise, I still carry a Luger LCR .357, GLOCK 19 or GLOCK 29SF.

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Categories: Firearm Review, Firearms, gear, Gear Reviews, Just Me


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5 Comments on “Kel Tec P3AT .380 ACP – A Review”

  1. June 26, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Great review and cool photos! I am also a proud owner. It lives in my front or back pocket every day. I wear skinny jeans and nobody knows about it.


  1. Leatherman Skeletool CX – Review | The Packing Rat - December 26, 2011

    […] weeks prior, I provided reviews on the 4Sevens Preon 2 flashlight and a Kel Tec P-3AT, my EDC solutions to my new environment; going gray is in my best interest.  Notwithstanding […]

  2. Some thoughts on pocket carry. | The Packing Rat - March 29, 2013

    […] I was going to write a comprehensive pocket carry FYI concerning pant choice, but MouseGunAddict (MGA) did it pretty well.  I do have additional comments that may benefit the common carrier, anyway.  Demonstrated below, I use a Hedley holster made for the Kel Tec P3AT. […]

  3. Glock 42 – Preliminary thoughts | The Packing Rat - October 19, 2014

    […] the likable lines, and comfort, it’s still a .380.  I only carry the Kel-Tec P3AT because it’s small and fits inside the pocket with a good holster, but only with appropriate […]

  4. “This is for fighting. This is for fun.” | The Packing Rat - November 9, 2014

    […] carried the Kel-Tec P3AT practically every day for the last three years.  The P3AT didn’t just sit in my pocket all […]

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