Review of RTK P11 Short Stroke Trigger
by Kirk Lawson
[Stock Kel Tec P11]
The Kel Tec P11, designed by George Kellgren, is a very small, double-column, 10/12+1 round capacity, flush-fit magazine, 9mm semi-automatic handgun. It was unparalleled in size and capacity until the recently released Sig P365 managed to match the P11's external dimensions and 10 (or 12) round capacity. But from 1995 until 2017 the P11 was the king of the hill for size/capacity ratio in 9mm Luger handguns. While the P11 reigned unopposed for more than two decades, it has some well known shortcomings. Chief among them is the very long, quite heavy, and remarkably uncomfortable, Double Action Only (DAO), trigger pull. The P11 has no external safety switches, grip safeties, or trigger-dignus to act as a safety. It relies on a revolver-like trigger sweep and a user who follows Cooper's well known Four Rules of Safe Gun Handling to keep from putting holes in things which should not have holes. The shape itself of the P11 trigger lends significantly to the discomfort of the trigger pull. Its somewhat narrow width and strong curve is known to leave less room in the trigger guard for some shooters than is desirable, contributes to "trigger pinch" for many, and just flat kind of hurts to pull far too often, particularly in conjunction with the stock 9-10 pound trigger pull weight which is, again, similar to many DAO revolvers.
Kel Tec is aware of this issue and offers a Trigger Shoe which attaches to the existing trigger and provides a much broader trigger surface and does help the feel somewhat. Unfortunately it is not enough for many to make the gun enjoyable to shoot.
To fill this need, over the years there have been at least two replacement triggers offered for the P11 and the PF9. There was the Northwood Components aluminum trigger, affectionately known as the "Pops trigger" by the Kel Tec Owners Group (http://www.northwoodcomp.com/). It had a broader surface, a gentler curve, and pre-travel and over-travel features. However the Pops trigger is now out of production and parts new from the factory are no longer available.
Then there is RTK Strategic LLC's RTK Short Stroke Trigger for the P11 (http://www.rtkstrategic.com/). It is a precision CNC milled, skeletonized, aluminum trigger with a broad surface and comfortably chamfered edges, a gentle, nearly flat-face, curve, with both pre-travel and over-travel features. Available anodized colors of Black, Bright (gloss black), Red, Hot Pink, Gray, and Mill Finish (non-anodized?), it currently sells for $39 off of RTK's web site.
[RTK Short Stroke Trigger P11]
Because I've been giving serious consideration to moving a double-column semi-auto back into my carry options, the P11 being top on the list, I got a wild hair and decided to try my luck. The cost was deducted from my card and the package showed up via USPS a few days later. It contained the trigger, the set screws for pre/over-travel already threaded in the trigger, and the retention pin.
Removal of the Frame from the Grip was easy enough, just drive out some pins. The video has good tips for keeping important parts from sproinging away into oblivion but, on top of the handy advice, I also did the Frame removal within the confines of a 1 gallon zipper freezer bag.
The challenge came when it was time to drive the trigger retaining pin out from top to bottom. I hammered and hammered until I actually bent my 1/16" punch. With great frustration, I turned to the words that makes dollar signs appear in the eyes of professional gun smiths: Rotary Tool. I used a rotary tool and a cutoff wheel to cut the bow off of the trigger and then a sanding drum on the same rotary tool to sand around the pin on the bottom with the intention of grabbing hold of it with pliers and pulling it out. I managed to fully expose the bottom of the pin, which turned out to be a split style roll pin in stead of the barbed solid pin. However I was unable to pull through with the pliers. Instead I straightened my punch and quite easily drove the pin out from the bottom. When I examined the pin, the top was mushroomed. I don't know if this was from the attempt do drive it out or something else, but it was certainly what was preventing the pin being driven down and out. Well, I destroyed the stock trigger so there was no turning back.
The next step is the one which left me with the most trepidation. It requires drilling out to 3/16-ths the existing 1/16-th trigger pin access hole in the frame. The frame is aluminum so it was not too hard. Properly clamp the frame in a vice and drill down. The access webbing at this point of the frame was thicker than I expected and therefore took a little longer, but I went slow and succeeded. I used a set of small pin-files to dress the burs off of the edges where I drilled.
The trigger comes with a retaining pin designed to lock to the trigger return spring. I spent some time practicing with the trigger, trigger return spring, and the pin with the group outside of the frame before I attempted to install it. This was time well spent. I learned which direction it likes to be wiggled in order to set it without resorting to hammering or force.
Reinstallation is the reverse of removal. Hold the sproingy parts in, insert the frame, reconnect the hammer spring key to the frame, drive the pins back in opposite of how they came out. That's it. The trigger is now in and the over-travel and pre-travel sets can be adjusted.
[P11 with RTK Short Stroke Trigger installed]
[Closeup of RTK Short Stroke P11 Trigger]
The video already referenced has instructions on setting the pre-travel and over-travel and they have a separate video specifically for that as well.
[Over-travel stop set-screw]
Use the 0.050" Allen Wrench from the front of the trigger to advance the over-travel stop until it does not trip the sear then back the screw out a quarter turn and test it again. Once you are satisfied, run the set screw out two turns, apply Blue Locktite (do not use Red Locktite), then run it back in two turns. Test again before the Blue Locktite sets up. Make sure that you have a 0.050" Allen Wrench and Blue Locktite ahead of time. I had at least two sets of Allen Wrenches and I believed I had the needed size. I did not and I had to make a special trip to the store to buy one. For $10, RTK will sell a kit with Blue Locktite, a 0.050" Allen Wrench, and spare set-screws. It might be worth the $10 in gas money and aggravation.
[Over-travel stop just at the end of the end of the travel immediately after the sear trips]
Pro-tip: Some Allen Wrenches come with a ball end on the long end. In theory, this will allow the user to turn the wrench at an angle to the face of the screw. Do not use it. My experience is that the ball end binds up and I ended up wasting time trying to wiggle and pull it back out. Take the extra time to using the short end.
The pre-travel screw is in the front of the trigger at the top and is adjusted the same way. Run the trigger then run it forward until just at reset. Run the screw out two turns, apply Blue Locktite, and run it back in two turns. Test it before the Blue Locktite sets up.
[Pre-travel stop set-screw]
[Pre-travel stop set-screw]
I chose to leave about 1/32" of pre-travel and over-travel in case heat expansion from shooting mucks with the distances. Once installed, both pre-travel and over-travel are virtually eliminated and the comfort of the trigger pull is greatly enhanced.
Would I recommend this upgrade? Reservedly, yes. If you are comfortable doing some at-home gun smithing, if you are comfortable making permanent alterations to your frame (drilling), if you are comfortable keeping track of all the small parts and possibly chopping up the factory original trigger and pin, then yes. This upgrade does exactly what it claims to. Much more comfortable trigger pull, more room in the trigger guard for your finger, and no more trigger pinch. Two trigger-fingers up!