Kel Tec's 9mm Kurz: the 3AT

  1. Editor
    In a world full of .380ACP pocket pistols, George Kellgren pulled a rabbit out of his hat when he came up with a design that beats most of them all day-- and it's been around for a decade.

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    Why the P-3AT?

    In 1988, Kellgren was running his Kel-Tec forerunner, Grendel Firearms in Rockledge, Florida. He came up with a handy and innovative polymer-framed pistol, the P10, which used a standard M16 stripper clip to top feed an impressive 10-rounds (hence the name) through the open chamber into the internal magazine. Just 14-ounces in weight and 5.4-inches overall, this budget gun was interesting and ahead of its time. An improved version with a detachable box mag that held 9-rounds, the P12, was better received largely due to its more traditional design.

    When Grendel folded and Kel Tec rose from the ashes, Kellgren came up with the P-32, a 6.6-ounce ultra-compact, ultra-light CCW gun chambered in .32ACP. When introduced in 1999 is became an instant hit as a BUG (back up gun) for law enforcement officers concealed in ankle holsters, as a deep-concealment piece for plainclothes or undercover detectives, or as a super light defensive pistol for civilian concealed carry practitioners.

    The P32 was so well accepted in fact, that it just seemed logical to expand it to accept a beefier .380 cartridge.

    Design of the P-3AT

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    Developed by 2004, the P-3AT ("P-380" get it?), was based on its smaller but older brother. Whereas most .380s (Walther PPK, Bersa Thunder, et.al) are traditional blowback designs, Kellgren used the same locked-breech action very similar to the one on the famous Browning Hi-Power pistol, just on a smaller scale as on the P32. This allowed a very strong lockup without the heavy muzzle flip often seen on short-barreled guns.

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    (Compared to a Taurus M85 .38 Special snub, you can see the size difference of the P-3AT which carries more ammo and has a faster reload)

    Moreover, when we say short-barreled, we do mean it. Coming in at 2.75-inches, the SAE 4140 ordnance steel barrel rests inside a very smoothly machined slide of the same material. Its not striker fired and preadated the Ruger LCP in its design of a bobbed internal hammer.

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    This sits atop a frame made of high-impact DuPont polymer with aluminum inserts and firing mechanism. With all of this polymer and aluminum, the gun weighs just 11.1-ounces when fully loaded with a 6+1 round magazine. Overall length, just 5.2-inches with a width that is well under an inch. As such, it's about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and just a tad heavier.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpLveaaZbBI
    The incomparable and master of the mohawk Mr. Hank Strange giving the P-3AT a good look over and work out.


    Specs: (as from Kel Tec's website)

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    Calibers: .380 AUTO (aka 9x17mm, aka 9mm Kurz)
    Weight unloaded: 8.3 oz.
    Loaded magazine: 2.8 oz.
    Length: 5.2"
    Height: 3.5"
    Width: .77"
    Barrel Length: 2.7"
    Sight radius: 3.8"
    Muzzle Energy Max: 250ft-lbs
    Capacity: 6 + 1 rounds
    Trigger Pull: 5 lbs.
    MSRP $318.00 (although street prices are lower, with gently used models running closer to $200)

    Round selection

    With modern .380ACP loads, more and more shooters are coming around to the cartridge that dates back to the 1900s.

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    According to the company's literature, "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."

    In ballistics test by our own Golden Loki, a number of excellent rounds for the 3AT have popped up includeing the mega-expanding Cor Bon DPX and Hornady Critical Defense, while any number of FMJ rounds have shown to penetrate 16-17 inches with the downside of low expansion.

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    (These guns are very customizable to include lasers, pocket clips, and, of course, your own personal duracoat or cerakote finishes)

    Tweaks

    Performance can be boosted by a good old school "fluff and buff" while trigger shoes and trigger stops are low cost tweaks.

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    (These guns come in either a park or hard chrome finish and the company offers two different extended capacity mags)

    Kel Tec offers just about every spare part there is with easy access and has a great warranty if you aren't comfortable with taking care of business on your own. They also sell a mad amount of accessories to include grip extensions, a 1-round and 9-shot extended mags.

    What are you waiting for?

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