It’s 34-degrees out there. There’s mixed sleet, freezing rain, and the occasional flake coming down. We had no plans to shop Black Friday. So, we went to the YMCA to swim for a while. And then, in 34-degree winter mix, I went into the liquor store in a Speedo swimsuit. In all fairness, it’s really Speedo-branded boardshorts. And, I was also wearing a long sleeve shirt, fleece vest, and a jacket. But, it makes for a good story anyway. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!
If you haven’t already, you can read part one here.
This is the first gun that I’ve ever kept a round count on. It’s neat to have documentation that we have put exactly 725-rounds through this little pistol. I kind of wish I’d kept track of how much ammunition I’ve put through some of my other guns. Granted, judging by its condition alone, the M&P .38 special has been shot about a billion times. You’d swear that three quarters of the lead that exists on the planet has been down that bore twice. But, I’d love to be able to authoritatively say how many rounds I’ve put through my S&W 29, or my Winchester 1300, for that matter. It’s been a fun journey regardless.
I wanted to post something on this last week, but I didn’t really have anything to say. The initial range session for this test was just so routinely boring that it would have been the shortest blog post ever. As I wrote in my previous post, when we first shot the gun, I had not even cleaned it, and we put 125-rounds through it. It was still relatively clean after that, but I at least wanted to get the manufacturer’s preservative out of it and give it a little lube, no deep scrubbing necessary. I field stripped the little gun and blasted it out with some Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber and hit the moving parts with some Otis Bio CLP. I racked the slide a few times and dry fired it a few times to get the CLP in the works. I also used the Gun Scrubber to rinse out my three magazines.
To prepare for the test, I numbered the magazines “1,” “2,” and “3” with a silver Sharpie and scotch taped over the numbers to keep them from rubbing off. I figured we would try to evenly rotate them, and if we started having consistent problems with one of the magazines, we would know to take it out of the rotation. I set up a detailed spread sheet where I could record data – round count, who was shooting, magazine number, ammunition box number, and potential failures.
On Sunday, November 15, we took the gun out to the family farm with some steel targets and clays. Over the course of an hour or so, we put 200-rounds of Magtech (95-gr, FMJ 951-fps) down range with no incidents to note. I shot the initial 150-rounds and Jennifer shot the 50 remaining. It shot flawlessly for both of us. I offered to let Isaac try it again, but he declined. It was nice to get out to the farm at least, and it was a fun range session. I then stripped it for inspection. There was slight wear in the finish on the rails, but nothing else noteworthy. So, I reloaded it with My Hornady Critical Defense and put it back in my holster. Really the most interesting thing that happened was that I got a bloody sore on my trigger finger from where the trigger guard had pounded on it during the range session. Pro tip – if you’re going to pack a Kel Tec, it might not hurt to take some emory cloth to the inside of the trigger guard to smooth it out. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
On Saturday, November 21, we took it to one of the local indoor ranges. this time, we preemptively applied 3M Nexcare foam bandages to our fingers where they’d previously been chewed on by the trigger guard, for a little protection. In this session, the three of us managed to put 350-rounds of Magtech through the little gun. With the gun running like the Little Engine That Could, just imagine how excited I was when we had our first failure at the 421-round mark! I pulled the trigger and got an unexpected “click.” Of course, I unloaded the gun and cleared the spent brass out of the chamber. It was evidently a failure to eject. The good news is that I had my GoPro taking close-up video at 240-frames per second in 720p. The bad news is that it was a lot darker in the range than I realized, so the video came out pretty grainy. Still, we’ll take a look at that later for analysis.
Of course, a failure to eject could be the fault of the gun, the shooter, or the ammunition. By that point in the range session, I was starting to fatigue, although my grip looks pretty steady in the slow-motion video. Jennifer and I are wondering if there’s a perceivable difference in the muzzle flash on the offending round in our high-speed video, which could but would not necessarily indicate an undercharged cartridge. As I wrote above, we’ll take a closer look at that later. Regardless, other than the one failure to eject, this little pistol has run 550-rounds of ammunition flawlessly since I cleaned and lubed it. Subsequent inspection was yawn-inducing, as the gun seems to be in perfect condition outside of carbon build up.
When I first put out the feelers to find a company to sponsor this test, I actually reached out to Kel Tec directly, who didn’t respond to my messages. I found that to be rather damning. It’s one thing that they put a lifetime warranty on their products, but if they won’t even answer a proposal on this kind of test, it does beg the question as to how confident they are in product durability. That being said, I could not be any happier with this gun thus far. It has rewarded me with reliability, durability, and shootability beyond my most optimistic imagination. If by the end of this test, I break it beyond repair, I would gladly pay the ~$250 these guns command for a replacement.
As a side note, This Magtech ammunition has been as clean shooting and as consistent as I hoped it would be. If you haven’t tried it before, and if you need some good plinking ammo, you should check it out! Again, I’d like to give a shout out to Ammunition to Go, who made all this possible with the ammunition donation. When you’re shopping ammo, please do keep them in mind for your needs. They didn’t pay me for a good review, but donating the ammo isn’t the first pleasant experience I’ve had dealing with them.
So, we’re a little over a quarter of the way through the test, and all is well. 550-rounds down and 1,450 to go! If we make it to the 2,000-round mark and the gun is still running strong, I’m thinking of continuing with some different ammo. I have more of the Hornady Critical Defense that I’d like to shoot into water jugs as well as some frangible ball ammo, and another 100-rounds from Richardson Reloading. Although his loads seemed to be a little light for this gun initially, it will be interesting to see if they play nicer together after this much of a break-in.
Much to my surprise, as well as the surprise of others, I actually placed fourth in the 2015 Kilted To Kick Cancer drive. This left me with a lovely prize package which included a brand new Kel Tec P-3AT. Ironically, I’ve been wanting a micro pistol for several years now, but had not gotten around to picking one out and buying it. Jennifer and I were still debating the pros and cons between micro 9mm versus .380 ACP. The .380s are typically a little smaller, but we’re never in a great hurry to add a new caliber to the household. As we didn’t already have any .380s in the stable, I was leaning more in the pocket 9mm direction. However, KTKC made the decision for me.
Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked about the little pistol. I’ve been told that Kel Tec’s quality is spotty at best, and I’ve handled a few of their guns that in my eyes, had some glaring failures. I had largely written them off as a “not for me, but maybe for you” type of company. That was before I received the P-3AT. Upon receiving it, I was immediately impressed with the overall quality of the gun. Although diminutive, it felt solid. Within its limitations, which I’ll point out below, this gun does not feel like a hunk of junk, but a very well-built tiny pistol.
To build a pistol as small as possible, it is necessary to simplify, and this pistol is no exception. It honestly has fewer parts than anything else I shoot. It is true that it has no safety, save an internal hammer block. The slide does not lock back, either on an empty magazine or by manipulation. The sights are rudimentary and machined directly in the slide. The trigger pull is long, and the reset is nearly to the point of full trigger release. Those that want a .380 with a good trigger should look to Smith & Wesson’s BG380 or Glock’s Model 42. That being said, the Kel Tec’s trigger is smooth and even, if a little heavy and a lot long.
Whenever I pick up a new defensive firearm, I like to shoot it a lot for several reasons. 1) Many gun models have a “break in” period in which they just need to be run so everything settles in for future reliability. 2) It’s essential to establish a gun’s reliability before you put it into defensive service. There’s nothing louder than the “click” when you expect a “bang.” 3) I like to familiarize myself with the machine. The Kel Tec’s sights and trigger have proved to be perfectly usable, but no gun is going to do you any good if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at.
So on Friday, prior to even cleaning and lubing the gun, Jennifer, Isaac and I went to the range and put some lead down range. Included in the KTKC prize package were 250-rounds of ball ammo donated by Richardson Reloading. So we shot 150-rounds plus a 25-round box of Hornady Critical Defense. The Richardson ammunition seemed to cycle the action a little more slowly, and I did get a few failures to feed which were easily corrected with a good rack of the slide. By contrast, the Hornady made authoritative balls of fire, and cycled the action robustly. Subsequent conversations with Cody Richardson revealed that he loads his ammo toward the lower end of SAAMI numbers, and that some manufacturers use 9mm recoil springs in their .380s. Without confirming that this is the case, I’m assuming that it is so, and that even though the Richardson ammo is great stuff, the Kel Tec likes to run cartridges that are a little hotter. I’m looking forward to running the additional 100-rounds once I’m confident the gun is really broken in.
At the range, every round went bang. As I stated above, a few rounds didn’t want to strip from the magazine, as though the slide had short-cycled. At five yards, it was clear that Jennifer and I have not been practicing often enough, but we did manage to make fuzzy holes in our paper targets. The gun is far more accurate than I expected it to be, and the minimal sights are very usable, even if they take a little more work than some others, or a laser, for that matter. I was shocked at how very shootable this gun is. Even with the Hornady’s sound and fury, I found it to be very comfortable to shoot. Isaac complained that he wasn’t confident of his grip due to the diminutive size of the frame, but it was comfortable for both Jennifer and me. Being able to put all of ones fingers on the grip frame is something that affects every individual different, so your mileage may vary.
The Torture Test
There are bloggers around the internet who have been performing a 2,000-round, no cleaning, no lube test on several pistol models. It has come up in conversation with friends that it would be interesting to perform such a test on a mouse gun such as Kel Tec’s P-3AT. Just how durable are these things anyway? Search engines failed to provide a documented test like this for this model. Kel Tec has a lifetime warranty on their guns, so they presumable believe them to be durable enough for it.
Several years ago, Jennifer and I got a last-minute invite to a defensive pistol class for which we would need about 1,000-rounds of .45 ACP. We wound up ordering from Ammunition to Go, who were able to get us our ammo cheap and fast. So, when we started talking about this torture test, I reached out to a few online ammunition retailers, including Ammunition to Go. They were fascinated with my proposal and seemed eager to facilitate the test. It looks like they’ll have 2,000-rounds of Magtech .380ACP delivered to me by the end of the week.
As the gun has already had 175-rounds put through it, I plan to give it a thorough cleaning with Hoppes #9 and whatever canned spray stuff I can get my hands on, and light lubrication, probably with Breakfree CLP. I will continue to carry the gun as my EDC as long as I’m still confident in its dependability. The moment it begins to act funny, or when we witness that something is broken or worn, I intend to pause the experiment and contact the manufacturer. I’m going to try to get in a few hundred rounds per session, and strip the gun for inspection, without cleaning or lubricating it, until the 2,000-round mark or catastrophic failure, whichever comes first.
These tiny pistols, in 9mm and smaller calibers are widely regarded as “disposable” pistols. They are generally seen as the gun that you carry when you can’t carry a gun, but if you shoot them too much they’ll fall apart on you. I’m really looking forward to challenging that stigma, as I don’t feel like they’ve been given a fair chance. In my short time with it, this little pistol has exceeded all of my expectations. Prior to this, I would have assumed out of hand that such a torture test would be insane. At this point, though, I’m not so sure. I will proceed, and proceed with appropriate caution. So, stay tuned and let’s take this journey together.
I slapped some peel and stick Velcro strips on my tablet case and part of the packaging that came with my Gopro to make a tablet mount for my camera.
Thus, I have expanded the usability of both devices.
Also, the naming scheme in my AW100 simply counts up, even when I dump and format the card, so I know how many pictures it’s taken in total. I just past 1,000. What was number 1,000, you might ask?
A blurry, half disassembled Super Famicom controller, of course.