Review of the Kel Tec P17
by Kirk Lawson
One of the most expected new releases in the handgun world is Kel Tec's new .22LR handgun. Coming in slightly larger than their PF9, it uses a proprietary double-column magazine design to load 16 rounds of .22LR in a magazine size that most other manufacturers limit to 10 rounds. This is mostly due to the fact that .22LR is a rimfire design.
Another exciting aspect to the new handgun is its price tag. MSRP is $199. As an early adopted, "can't wait," "Shut up and take my money!," I paid full MSRP at the local gun store. I actually had to order from the distributor and wait for delivery. I did manage to talk them into throwing in a free hour of range time when the gun came in, which I split with my father, but more on that later. AT MRSP of $200, that means that if you can hold off and wait, you'll usually pay less. I've seen reports of as low as about $160. For comparison, Ruger's SR22 .22LR handgun currently has an MSRP of $439.
According to Kel Tec, the specifications are:
Pistol w/o Magazine: 10.9 oz, 308.6gDimensions:
Loaded Magazine: 2.8 oz, 78.8g (16 rounds)
Overall Length: 6.7 in 170.2mmForce:
Barrel Length 3.8 in 96.5mm
Width (widest point): 1.25 in 31.8mm
Height 5.3 in 134.6mm
Rifling: 1-in-14 in, 1-in-356mm
Trigger Pull 4.0 lb 1.8kg
So what were my first impressions? Well, it comes with a nice hard sided case.
Inside, the case is filled with the gun, sight adjustment tools, User's Manual, a chamber flag, trigger lock, and three (3) magazines. Yes, you read that right, three magazines. Most new .22LR handguns come with only one or two. Kel Tec provides three. Nice.
The gun fills the hand nicely but is so light you almost don't know it is there. When I first picked up the closed case, I had to open it to be sure there was actually a gun inside. It's that light.
The sights are another place where Kel Tec went above industry standard. The P17 has a bright green fiber optic front sight. It picks up light easily and draws the eye.
So how is it on the range? Well, it shoots nice. The sights line up well. Even in rapid fire, I was easily able to keep all shots in a palm sized group at 40 feet. Unsurprisingly, recoil was negligible, even for such a light pistol. It is accurate and easy to shoot.
Let's spend a second talking about the trigger. The curve on the trigger is the usual hooked Kel Tec design. Most people seem to like flatter triggers but this one was fine. Kel Tec says their trigger is 4 pounds. But, at least on my example, that's a flat out lie. It's light. My trigger scale measured it consistently at a tad less than 2.5 pounds. This contributed to ease of shooting and accuracy. It also contributed to me doing an unintended double. Once I got used to the trigger, I really enjoyed it. Yes, there really is something to a 2 1/2 lb. single action trigger. It has a about 1/4 inch takeup. While the break was not the "glass rod" of 1911 fame, it was not terrible; a tad mushy but better than a Glock with no noticeable grittiness. Over all, it's a decent trigger.
My first range session was with my father, there at the local gun store range, Vandalia Range and Armory. Half an hour for both of us. We both shot the P11 up against the Ruger SR22. The P17 compares very favorably. I think it is a better gun but, in the interests of honesty, my father felt the Ruger had a more comfortable grip and he shot it better. Owing to the better sights and better trigger, I shot the P17 better. Notice that I didn't say anything about cleaning the gun? I took the gun straight from the box to the range and shot it with the shipping grease instead of cleaning it and putting honest gun oil on it. It still shot fine. Even with that unfair condition, I still only hand one malfunction. Near the end of the 300-ish round session, the gun short-stroked and failed to strip the next round from the magazine after ejecting the empty, leaving an empty chamber. Obviously the gun was getting dirty and this was causing the slide to cycle slower. The P17 even shot some very old and questionable ammunition that the Ruger just wouldn't shoot or cycle. I'm still undecided on the paddle style magazine release. But at least the magazine release and safety are both ambidextrous.
Then I loaned the gun to a buddy for a week. ...uncleaned. He and his family shot it for another 500-ish rounds and gave it back to me. ...still uncleaned. He experienced some cycling malfunctions associated with a dirty .22 but other than that it worked perfectly. After that I took it out to my favorite out door range, still uncleaned, put a few drops of real gun oil on the rails and barrel. After shooting another 300-ish rounds, all without malfunction, I was satisfied. The gun just shoots. Keep it clean and it will perform.
Speaking of cleaning, how is that achieved? The gun has Glock-like tabs. Do I have to say "gun unloaded, no ammo in the room, check the chamber twice, magazine out?" Pull the tabs down and pull the slide to the rear then lift it up and off. Slide it forward off the barrel. This is as far as you need to disassemble for cleaning. Clean it like any other .22LR. Swab the barrel, brush the parts with cleaner, then oil it up and put it back together.
So what is the conclusion? I am very happy with my purchase. The P17 is a solid little gun and, like many of Kel Tec's other offering, shows some innovation and will be quite popular.
I give it a thumbs up.