Until roughly 10 years ago, serious shooters and concealed-carry practitioners avoided little pistols for serious defensive everyday carry. Then, a relatively new company introduced an ultra-thin, semiauto, polymer micro-pistol chambered in .32 ACP and dubbed the P-32. That company is Kel-Tec.
Yes, .32 ACP is for mouse guns. But the P-32 is so small and light, practically anyone can find a spot on their body for it. As a result, the P-32 grew very popular.
Then Kel-Tec did what was considered almost impossible at the time: It created a .380 ACP version of its little gun, which it named the P-3AT. The P-3AT features the same dimensions and almost the same weight as the P-32, but fires a considerably more powerful round.
Of course, Kel-Tec already produced its P-11 pocket gun in a serious caliber, 9mm. I’ve owned, fired and carried P-11s for years, so I know them inside and out. My review follows.
The P-11 is a semiauto, locked-breech, double-action-only (DAO) pistol chambered in 9mm. This pistol is compact and lightweight thanks to its locked breech.
The barrel is made of SAE 4140 Ordnance steel heat treated to 47 HRC. The slide is made from carbon steel and contains the firing pin and the extractor. The rectangular frame insert is machined from solid aluminum and houses the firing mechanism.
The trigger connects via a transfer bar to the hammer. The hammer is driven by a free-floating extension spring. The trigger cocks the hammer, so you can dry-fire the gun without racking the slide to re-cock the action. The DAO trigger pull is long and heavy, providing a great safety feature because you really have to intend to fire the gun to press the trigger all the way rearward to its break point.
The grip is made of the high-impact polymer. The grip also forms the magazine well and the trigger guard. The P-11 comes standard from the factory with 10-round magazines, but you can also purchase factory 12-rounders. That gives you 13-rounds of 9mm in your pocket gun (12+1 in the chamber). That’s not bad for a gun that, in my opinion, looks good to boot.
Carrying the P-11
The P-11 measures 5.6″ long, 4.3″ tall and 1″ wide, and it weighs 14 oz. unloaded (22 oz. fully charged). The P-11 feels easier to carry than does a Glock 26. In fact, if you have big pockets, you can carry it in your pocket.
As noted above, because the P-11 features such a heavy and long trigger, it’s safer than most pistols to carry without a holster in your pocket. However, I still recommend carrying it in a pocket holster (as I do for any pocket gun) because the trigger guard should be protected and a made-to-fit pocket holster keeps the gun positioned upright in your pocket. I often carry my P-11 in a pocket holster made by Alessi Gun Holsters. I’ve had it for years and it will probably outlive me.
If I want to carry inside the waist band (IWB), I have P-11s on which I’ve installed Kel-Tec’s proprietary carry clip. The clip is easy to install without specialty tools, and it positions the pistol to ride deep for comfort and superb concealment. I find the clip works equally well over a belt or on my pants’ waistband.
(Yes, I know: This mode of carry doesn’t protect the trigger guard. But it’s different because it’s not in your pocket, into which you may stick your hand. How often do you place your hand inside your pants once you’re dressed?)
Alternatively, I have a very comfortable leather clip-on IWB holster, also by Alessi and called the Talon. It also allows the P-11 to ride deep and comfortably inside my waistband. This is definitely the way to go if you’re concerned about keeping the trigger guard covered and protected.
The P-11 isn’t a match-grade pistol, but you can plink with it. It’s fun to shoot. It’s trigger pull stretches just about the length of Texas for its rearward pull and all the way back again to El Paso for the reset. I don’t find this to be a problem; I’m a long-time snubby revolver shooter, so I’m used to heavy DAO triggers. And, the trigger pull gives me the opportunity to practice the most important fundamentals of marksmanship—trigger control and sight alignment.
For me, perceived recoil is manageable, the gun points well and the little full-power 9mm pistol feels nice in my hands.
The P-11’s accuracy is acceptable up to 10 yards and good at 7 yards or closer in. This isn’t a gun you shoot a one-hole drill with. However, with practice, you can keep all 7 yard or closer shots on an 8.5″x11″ piece of paper, which approximates the high center-mass area of a bad guy’s torso.
The P-11 is easy to field strip for cleaning, making routine cleaning as easy as cleaning a Glock. Bonus: Also like a Glock, the P-11 can go a lot of rounds without cleaning. I shoot my guns a lot, and I hate cleaning guns. I’ve lost track of how many thousands of rounds I have run through my P-11s with no problems.
Kel-Tec offers a lifetime warranty on all of its guns. Three of mine were good right out of the box. I had to ship one back to the factory for service. It stubbornly shot left, and it wasn’t my trigger work or the sights. I also had difficulty inserting a fully charged magazine into this P-11. One month later I received the gun back from the factory, and it’s worked fine ever since.
Yes, I own four P-11s. Why? I like them. I bought all of them brand new, and now they are all well used. I have owned three of these four for close to 10 years.
The P-11 is my favorite in the Kel-Tec line, and one of my favorite small semiautos. What’s not to like in a lightweight and reliable pocket gun that holds 13 rounds of 9mm +P’s?
Bruce N. Eimer, Ph.D., is a practicing licensed psychologist, a Pennsylvania State Police Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor and an NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor who advocates for responsible gun ownership and thorough gun education. He is the founder and president of Personal Defense Solutions, LLC, a professional firearms training company in the Philadelphia area that offers non-resident multi-state concealed gun permit classes and private firearm instruction sessions as described at PersonalDefenseSolutions.net. Dr. Eimer also qualifies retired police officers to carry concealed firearms under HR 218, which is the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (for more information, go to RetiredPoliceCCW.com). And he writes a blog at ConcealedCarryLaw.com and runs the online forum DefensiveHandguns.com.
|9mm||10+1, 12+1||3.1″||5.6″||4.3″||1″||14 oz., unloaded|
|Kel Tec P11 Parkerized (Gander Mountain)||
|Kel Tec P11 Blued (Gander Mountain)||
|+ 1 others available from Gander Mountain ↓|
|Kel Tec P11 Parkerized (SWVA Arms)||