Gun Review: Kel-Tec P32 after eight years of carry

Dog may be man's best friend, but a .32 ACP pocket pistol ain't half bad. (Photo by James Allen)

Dog may be man’s best friend, but a .32 ACP pocket pistol ain’t half bad. (Photo by James Allen)

In 2006 I began hunting for a small concealed carry pistol to use when a large gun was not practical. I had been carrying a Kimber Ultra CDP off duty and found that, while wearing shorts, its large size would print unless I wore baggy clothing. I was also having issues with barrel rust due to spending time in a salty, humid environment. After mulling over several different options in a local gun shop I decided on the Kel-Tec P32.

The P32 is a subcompact locking-breech polymer-framed semi-automatic pistol, chambered in .32 ACP. The Kel-Tec’s polymer frame makes for a light-weight carry gun, weighing in at a scant nine ounces. The trigger has a long and heavy, but consistent pull for double-action. The P32’s magazine is constructed of steel and holds seven rounds that are arranged in a single stack; this limits capacity, but makes for a slimmer, more concealable weapon. It is available in several different frame colors and slide finishes. I chose a blued slide with a dark grey frame, because it was the only option available at the time. Since I worked at the gun shop that my P32 arrived at, I was able to test fire it before committing to buy. Needless to say, I was impressed. I also had the chance to try out the .380 ACP version, the P3AT. I found that the .380 ACP version had substantially more recoil and unlike the P32, the P3AT does not lock back on the last round.

I’m not easy on my guns, so I made my purchase with some trepidation. Having looked at other pistols in the size and caliber range such as Berettas and Sea Camps, the price difference helped sway my decision. I heard mixed opinions from customers, but plunked down the cash anyway. With a concealed carry pistol, you want to shoot at least 300 rounds of your desired defensive ammo, without failure, before committing it to defensive use. After extensive testing I found my gun liked the Federal Hydra-shok above several other hollow points. My initial break-in of the gun consisted of several boxes of whatever was cheapest at the time. With no malfunctions I felt comfortable enough to carry the little gun and soon added a pocket clip to the slide.

The frame-mounted clip makes carrying the P32 effortless  (Photo by James Allen)

The frame-mounted clip makes carrying the P32 effortless (Photo by James Allen)

In the years since the Kel-Tec came home I have bought several other P32s, but always go back to my original gun. Now it is the only one I own. It is what I carry when I can’t carry a full sized pistol. It has proven light enough to carry in jogging shorts and the trigger pull is heavy enough to be comfortably carried in a pocket when my waistband is not stiff enough for the pocket clip. I usually carry the gun tucked inside my waist just above my wallet, because I can easily draw from this position.

Being next to my body has subjected the slide to years of South Carolina sweat and more than one dip in water. The finish has held up surprisingly well. The major wear is, of course, on the sharp edges of the slide and it has begun to show some rusting on the outside of the chamber – though this is mainly due to my overzealous cleaning with a wire brush. I replaced the pocket clip with a more rigid stainless model after it began to bend from the slide and eventually broke off after several years of carry. I prefer waistband carry, because of the lint buildup that occurs in my pocket.

I shoot the gun approximately twice a year and cycle the carry ammo annually and have had no issues with the performance of the weapon itself. However, I have recently observed a hazardous condition for a carry pistol. Sometimes when I pocket carry, the magazine becomes released from the gun. I have inspected the magazine catch and can see that the plastic is worn. For me, the gun is unusable for concealed carry until repaired. I cannot tell if I am inadvertently hitting the magazine release while the gun is in my pocket and have begun to carry other pistols, until I have an opportunity to repair the magazine catch. I do wish that Kel-Tec would have made this part from sturdier materials since it comes into contact with the metal body of the magazine itself.

The frame's insides show that even if you neglect the P32, it still runs and runs. (Photo by James Allen)

The frame’s insides show that even if you neglect the P32, it still runs and runs. (Photo by James Allen)

The bottom line is that for the money, this has been an excellent carry gun for many years. I am sure that with a simple repair I can return it to daily service again. After so much time in a pocket it has managed to survive repeated soakings in both sweat and water without the care it probably should have received. If you want reasonably priced pocket pistol, I highly recommend the Kel-Tec.