The KelTec P32
When I first saw the KelTec P32, I thought it was a cheapo .22 pistol. I asked to see it, thinking some kid might mistake it for a water pistol. Indeed it was about the size and weight of a water pistol (at least the ones I had as a kid). Was I ever surprised to learn that it was a .32ACP. I was also surprised to see it was a locked breech pistol. The feed ramp is integral with the barrel, and the barrel has a hood that both locks into the slide and directs the bullet nose to enhance feed reliabilty. The barrel bushing is integrated into the slide similar to the compact 1911 design. The barrel is enlarged at the muzzle to lock into battery, but is hourglassed directly behind the muzzle to allow itself to pivot and unlock. The barrel lug is a solid block, with no linkage.
The more I studied it, the more I realized that the P32 was not a miniaturized rehash of another pistol, but a pistol that was designed from the drawing board to be concealed when nothing else could be. All corners are rounded. No sights protrude above the slide. It is snag proof, and if the slide were hard chromed, it would be sweat proof. The P32 is DAO with a trigger pull around 5 pounds. There is no manual safety. The outer grip frame is polymer with an inner frame CNC machined from solid 7075-T6 aluminum. The barrel and slide are 4140 ordnance steel. Frankly, it was more compact than my Beretta M21. My extended index finger reached the muzzle while I gripped the pistol. The P32 came with one Meggar magazine and a pouch. The price was $230.
I was still skeptical, so I went home to research the pistol on the internet. I learned the P32 had a loyal following as well as rabid detractors. Much of my research was done on the KelTec Owner's Group website. It was there that I learned about the fantastic KelTec customer service. Service so good that it should be the industry standard. I thought it was unique that KelTec provided a link to the independent KTOG forum from their own website. Now that is faith in your product and service! KelTec representatives frequently answered questions and addressed problems on the forum. At KTOG I also learned about the fluff and buff. I continued to research the pistol, and the more I read, the more I liked what I saw. I made up my mind. I went back and bought it.
I took my new KelTec P32 home and did a fluff and buff. I lubricated the little shooter and headed to the range where I bought 100 rounds of PMC 71 grain FMJ.
The sights on the KelTec P32 are rudimentary at best, with no projections above the slide. Aiming is accomplished by aligning a white dot on the front of the slide with a white dot on the rear. At 15 feet I was able to group seven shots within three inches. At 20 feet I stayed on a 3X5 index card. For those who would sneer at such accuracy, I would submit that coming from a pistol with next to no sights and a sight radius under four inches, it is pretty good. I had no failures. The plastic checkering on the P32 was pretty abrasive to my hands though.
I took the pistol home, cleaned it, and took some sandpaper to the grips to smooth the checkering a bit. I placed a belt clip, a metal guide rod, and a spare magazine on order from KelTec. Next, I set about trying to find a black pencil eraser to make into a trigger stop. I "installed" the rubber eraser trigger stop with superglue and when the parts arrived from Keltec a couple of days later, I put in the metal guide rod. Supposedly you can drift out the frame pin to install the belt clip. I had to carefully drill it out. I installed the belt clip with the supplied hardware and went back to the range.
Once there, I bought 100 more rounds of PMC 71 grain FMJ ammo. Again the pistol performed flawlessly. The grips were less abrasive, but now the head of the belt clip attaching bolt was eating into my thumb knuckle. I struck some making tape on the knuckle and continued shooting. I later touched up the bolt head with a file and a bit of cold blue. The trigger stop allowed me to stage the trigger, and then add just a bit more pressure to squeeze off the shot. This improved my follow up shot time and accuracy substantially. Again, I had no failures. Later, I also painted the front "sight" red to assist in aiming, although this pistol is a natural point and shooter.
The KelTec P32, and more recently the KelTec P3AT (.380ACP and about the same size, but one less round) are all about function. They are really in a class by themselves. The only mousegun that is even close is the NAA Gaurdian, but it is twice the weight, as well as twice the price. The .32ACP is not a known manstopper by any means, but consider that seven rounds of .32ACP is roughly equivalent to a round of 00 buckshot. This is a deep cover back up gun. It was never designed to be a primary weapon, although a lot of people use it as one, or as a means to get to the larger gun if needed.
The KelTec P32 is the only pistol that I can carry concealed in my scivies. A brave man could probably conceal it at a nudist colony. Many people make wallet holsters for it, and carry it in a front pants pocket. I use the clip to carry mine inside my pants or inside a pocket.
I only have two reservations when recommending the KelTec P32.
#1 The new buyer must understand that the pistol will need to be finished by himself. Consider it a starter kit if you will. A fluff and buff really helps make it reliable out of the box. The price is low, and the design money went into research and development. Be prepared to learn a bit of gunsmithing.
#2 The new buyer must understand the limitations of the .32ACP. I will not carry JHP due to the risk of rim lock. Rim lock can shut down an otherwise reliable .32 pistol. The FMJ round will have better penetration anyway. The new buyer must also understand that this is a last ditch pistol. It is not one to try to intimidate your way out of a confrontation with. The person on the recieving end is very likely to believe it is a toy until they start to leak blood. If you pull it, plan to use it. Of course, that goes for any gun, but especially this one. It has no intimidation factor.
I believe that the KelTec P32 and P3AT are on the cutting edge of handgun design. As such, there have been people who were unhappy with the pistol. Thus far, however, I have yet to see a used one for sale. Even with the new P3AT, it seems as if people are keeping the P32. If I were buying today, I might very well buy the P3AT to get the .380ACP cartridge. I have not felt the need to upgrade from the P32 though. I presently have a bit more than 1000 rounds downrange from this pistol with no failures. It still fills it's BUG role admirably.
Despite the usual criticisms, I am including "Marshall & Sanow's Street Effectiveness Figures for the .32 ACP Cartridge" for comparison.
CorBon is conspicuously absent from the data, as are Gold Dot and other "custom" or +P loads. Kel-Tec states the P-32 will manage +P ammo, but recommends not shooting it excessively. Note too, "one shot drop" statistics for this caliber vary.
Winchester Silvertip JHP 60 gr. rates 970 fps, 125 fpe, 63% drops
Winchester FMJ 71 gr. rates 905 fps, 129 fpe, 50% drops
Magsafe Defender JPF 50 gr. rates 1250 fps, 174 fpe, 57%.
Glaser Safety Slug JPF 50 gr. rates 1065 fps, 126 fpe, and 46%
KelTec P32 Specifications:
Weight unloaded 6.6 oz.
Loaded magazine 2.8 oz.
Length 5.1 inches
Height 3.5 inches
Width .75 inches
Barrel 2.7 inches
Sight radius 3.8 inches
Muzzle energy max 200ftlbs
Capacity 7+1 rounds
Trigger pull 5 lbs
GRP (Get Real Price) $230
Weight unloaded: 7.2 oz
Loaded magazine: 2.8 oz
Length: 5.2 inches
Height: 3.5 inches
Width: .77 inches
Sight radius: 3.8 inches
Muzzle energy max: 250ftlbs
Capacity: 6+1 rounds
Trigger pull: 5 lbs
Oleg Volk's review of the KelTec P32