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.
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
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.
(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.
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.
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)
Calibers: .380 AUTO (aka 9x17mm, aka 9mm Kurz)
Weight unloaded: 8.3 oz.
Loaded magazine: 2.8 oz.
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)
With modern .380ACP loads, more and more shooters are coming around to the cartridge that dates back to the 1900s.
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.
(These guns are very customizable to include lasers, pocket clips, and, of course, your own personal duracoat or cerakote finishes)
Performance can be boosted by a good old school "fluff and buff" while trigger shoes and trigger stops are low cost tweaks.
(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?