Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kel-Tec 3AT is on the rocks...

A few years back I saw the big brother to the lil' Kel-Tec .32 start to show up in magazines and the gun shops.  The Kel-Tec 3AT looked like a terrific Back-Up Gun (BUG) or even a "first rule of gun fighting is have a gun" type of firearm.  I was really interested in the little guy and looked at it often whenever I saw one in the local gun shops... but, then I started hearing concerns from several buddies who had picked up a Kel-Tec 3AT... so I just forgot about it.

Well my incredible gal, that redhead I'm married to, noticed what I had been glancing at on a fairly regular basis and surprised me for Christmas a few years back with a small present with a slight bit of weight to it.  That began my "saga" with the Kel-Tec 3AT.

I tried firing it with the usual suspects like Winchester White Box and Federal FMJs.  Tried some American Eagles and Federal Hydra-Shoks.  I couldn't hardly get a magazine of six through it without a malfuntion... double feeds, stove-pipes, failure to ejects.  Friends tried it... same problems.

I called Kel-Tec and they said it needed to have some rounds through it to "break it in".  After about two-hundred and fifty rounds of misery, I called their customer support to see about sending it back.  The technician said they had a two or three month back log of repairs and suggested that if I felt comfortable, I could polish the feed ramp with 800 or 1,000 grit emery paper.

As a fairly competent amateur gunsmith, I polished the feed ramp, gave the internals a "fluff and buff" and put another hundred rounds through it with about a dozen problems... better, but not good.

Some folks would have parted with this little nuisance at this point, but my gal gave me this gun... so into the back of the safe it went.  I pulled it out this past spring, tried a box of fifty FMJs through it with five malfuntions.

I called Kel-Tec... they advised of a six to eight week turn around and if I couldn't provide the original receipt, I'd be charged for the repairs.  It was a gift, I didn't have the receipt, so I reluctantly sent it back to the factory this past June.

We have a Ruger LCP and while some say it is a copy of the Kel-Tec... the fit, finish, and operation so far have been light years ahead.  Our Ruger LCP has about five-hundred rounds through it and has yet to have a malfunction.

ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.  Gun was unloaded and pointed at remote camera.
This is the scary end of the Kel-Tec 3AT and while it may have a lot of bark, without reliable functioning it might not have any bite.  I want this gun to work, I really do.

The FedEx man dropped it off this past Wednesday, about eight weeks later... Kel-Tec didn't charge me anything even though I didn't provide the original receipt.  We're in the middle of range upgrades and the wife wanted to fire the first rounds, so she shot a magazine of six... no problems.  I shot two magazines of six and had one failure to eject... a drop the mag, cycle the action three times... tap-rack-bang problem.  It has a lot of new parts in it, so I figure it may need a little break in time.  So far, sixty rounds through it... fifty Winchester White Box, and ten American Eagle FMJs... and two malfunctions.

That's a great improvement, but not to the point I want to trust my life to it.  We'll give it a couple of hundred rounds to see how it shapes up and maybe we'll even send it back again, but right now our... Kel-Tec 3AT is on the rocks...


  1. I have had a similar experience with this pistol. Bottom line is I don't trust it. Send it back again? Overnight UPS or FedEx? Meh. I think Kel-Tec plays the odds. Buy one, shoot qualify (if any) for concealed carry and they will never be shot again.

    I hate the thing.

    1. @Keads... if it wasn't a Christmas gift from the wife, I would have parted ways with it long ago...

      Dann in Ohio

  2. Is this a problem that's indicative of Kel-Tec in general, or just this particular model/series specifically? The fact that their warranty repair guys are that backed up is kinda unnerving.

    1. @Rabid... my personal view is that the P-3AT's have often had quality/reliability problems... although I have a friend with a PF-9 that has worked flawlessly with over 600 rounds through it... Kel-Tec rifles... I've shot several, and friends had had some that work great and some the have significant problems...

      Maybe someone else out there can offer a better view...

      Dann in Ohio

  3. If it helps, my experiences with two P-3AT's have been a ball of suck and fail. Other offerings from them I cannot say.

  4. So its a hit-or-miss proposition with them, it sounds like. Good to know!

    ...sorta sounds like the "Toshiba laptop" of the gun world.

  5. got a p3at couple yearz back, when I try the over size nine round mag every round jams or fails to feed correctly, reg mag only occasional trouble. had picked up the C/ T laser can see laser move as I grip yhe gun, laser moves even.when sights don't. finally figured out thst I am squeezing the gun enough to cause the mags to move out of correct feed postion. using light presure (feels like i'm gonna drop it) gun runs fine every time. except the long mags. (range only now)

  6. I have a PF-9 that functioned flawlessly once I turned the mag springs the correct direction. They were both in upside down from whatever factory makes them. One came with the gun when new and one was a replacement for the first. Once I figured that out I have not had a single problem

    I have heard that the "franken nut"(the one that secures the extractor) being too loose can cause a lot of the FTE and stove pipeing problems. Feed problems are usually fixed by either a ramp polish or a mag adjustment of some kind. May be the feed lips or something.

    Good luck. By the way it sounds like we may be close to each other. I live relatively close to Wright Patterson AFB.