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By Roy Huntington
Photos by Ichiro Nagata
No matter who you are, there are times in your life you will have a secret you'll be embarrassed to tell your friends. For instance, if you are around guns for any time at all, you will be smitten by the "little gun" bug. You will own, carry, shoot and actually enjoy having a small-caliber pocket-pistol at hand.
There are tens of thousands of pocket pistols sold every year. Someone out there is buying them but few people admit to that fact. Why is it so socially incorrect to admit you enjoy the ease of carry, gentle recoil, interesting designs and just plain fun of these little guns?
I'm here to tell you, after 24 years on the job as a cop in two different agencies, there are plenty of times "little" guns are used for defense, and they work just fine. No one wants to get show, even with a .22, and something is always better than nothing.
|"Just so you can imagine how light the P-32 is, a Seecamp weighs about 13 ozs., while the Kel-Tec is about 9.5 ozs."
A Practical Little Something
Enter the P-32, the newest addition to the Kel-Tec family of small-sized handguns. The P-32 is one of the most interesting little guns to come along in a very long time. This is one "palm pistol" that you can actually conceal in your palm.
Weighing a tidy 6.6 ozs. (probably a bit less than a fully-loaded .45 ACP magazine), it feels feathery in your hand, comfy in your pocket and comes with enough well-thought-out feathers to keep your attention.
Just so you can imagine how light the P-32 is, a Seecamp weighs about 13 ozs., while the Kel-Tec is about 9.5 ozs. charged. It's a little gun with big gun features; all the ergonomics and engineering learned on Kel-Tec's P-11 pistol have made the transition nicely into this little package.
The P-32 is advertised as "lighter and flatter than any self-loading gun ever produced." I tried it up against my Colt 1903 Pocket Auto - no slouch in the "slim" category - and the P-32 won handily. It measured slimmer that my batter-weary Seecamp .32 (by just a tad) and even an ancient Baby Browning .25 lost the svelte war. The Kel-Tec is only slightly longer than a Seecamp and less than 1/5" taller.
I'm not demeaning the Seecamp by these comparisons, but it's one of the guns the P-32 is naturally compared with. Specifics aside, this is one slim, trim, light package and every time you pick it up you marvel yet again.
The Minimalist Theory
Let's talk about some controls, or perhaps it would make better sense to talk about the lack of controls. On the P-32 I could find a magazine release and a trigger and that was it. The slide lock is internal and once locked back, the magazine has to be removed and the slide cycled to close it, like a Walther PP.
There are no outside safeties as the gun is double action only. The trigger pull is
11 pre-loaded" when the slide is cocked (like a Glock) and the resulting smooth pull is a feathery 6.4 lbs. according to an RCBS trigger pull gauge. It feels like a tuned PPC gun from the old days, albeit with some "stacking" at the end of the pull. The magazine release (a protected button) is where you expect it to be on the left side and it worked just fine.
There is a pocket clip on the starboard side along the frame at the juncture with the slide. It reminds me of a clip on a Spyderco knife, if that helps to paint the picture. I fear it's one of only two features on the gun I didn't agree with.
While the concept might be sound (look at the belt clip for 1911 pistols that slips under the grip panel) the final rendition on the P-32 doesn't quite work- I could clip it into my pocket, could even clip it behind my belt line, letting the clip just catch the material on my pants, but either way made it simply too inaccessible for my own liking. As a deep cover, last ditch effort sort of thing, it works - fortunately you can easily remove the clip if you like.
Getting A Grip
There are no grip panels, per se, but the entire grip and lower frame assembly is a one-piece injection molded piece of high tech plastic. The actual frame looks more like a breech-block and nestles into the grip area. The term "clever" keeps coming to mind whenever I look at the design of this little gun.
The "grip" assembly can actually be had in several colors. It should be easy to change the rest of the workings for a new gun "color" if the old black one grows tiresome. You just never know.
"AT DISTANCES RANGING FROM MUZZLE CONTACT TO ABOUT 10 YARDS I COULD HIT WHATEVER I WAS POINTING AT. I SAY "POINTING" BECAUSE THAT'S ABOUT ALL I COULD DO WITH THOSE HARD-TO-USE SIGHTS."
I have one more bone to pick. As smitten as I am with the P-32, the sights have got to go. A strange combination of a white triangle front sight and square white box rear sight that you have to hold on top of one another makes it near impossible to shoot the little gun precisely.
If you remember the old "Guttersnipe" sight system on the Asp 9mm pistols, you'll understand the situation at hand. I never could shoot one worth beans and found myself feeling the same about these sights. Hopefully, Kel-Tec will soon give us a simple set of low-profile sights.
People might say you don't need to aim a gun like this but I hate to have my options limited. Should the day ever arrive when I have to try for a small spot on a miscreant's noggin or the chest of a sitting cottontail, I want to be able to do so.
One's Fussy, One Isn't
Other than those two little bits of crankiness on my part (and the pocket clip is no big deal) this gun is 100 percent. Its locked breech design locks home the same way a SIG pistol does, using the chamber area to mate with the ejection port cut-out in the slide. This has several advantages.
First, it's strong as nails. Second, you can shoot any .32 ACP ammo you can stuff into the magazine. The P-32 isn't fussy at all. My gun was obviously an early production pistol, but both it and I enjoyed working our way through a wide cross-section of .32 ammo.
Did it shoot? You bet. I didn't bother with the 25-yard accuracy testing routine because it would have been silly. However, at distances ranging from muzzle contact to about 10 yards I could hit whatever I was pointing at.
I said "pointing" because that's about all I could do with those hard-to-use sights. I longed for a set of standard sights to really see what I could do with the little gun.
Picking On The Little Guy
Now for the mini-torture test. Often, little guns, especially those involving "polymer construction" and little tiny pins and springs, break after a short time, or bits and pieces just plain wear out. PMC provided 500 rounds of their excellent .32 ACP hardball to wring the diminutive P-32 out from beginning to end.
A cadre of friends willing to sacrifice the ends of their fingers and I set to work with the P-32. I initially shot about 75 rounds of assorted .32 through it just to get a feel. I then gave it a quick clean and lube and loaded up the one magazine.
Holding seven rounds, the magazine was easy to load and seemed to be well made. During the test there was only one problem. I stove-piped a round about 175 rounds into the test, but I was purposefully "limp-wristing" the P-32 in an attempt to create a malfunction.
Small guns often rely on a firm grip for the slide to recoil against and when we held the P-32 properly there was never a problem. We were all very impressed as the gun rattled through the test without further cleaning.
The Report Card
I took the P-32 home, broke it down into its component parts and cleaned it. I could see some shiny areas showing where parts had run against one another but there was no untoward peening, broken pins, sprung springs or other obvious loose "bits." I lubed it up and put it together. The slide ran smoothly, the action worked fine and the magazine release still did its job. Test passed with flying colors.
While no candidate for engraving and ivory grips, the P-32 was attractive in a business-like way. It's the kind of gun you would took at as a tool. Kind of a "This tool will protect my family and I will care for it as I would any good tool" thing.
I would look upon the P-32 as an "everywhere" gun. Regardless of what else you may be carrying or doing, the P-32 should be with you, just as a stout folding knife probably already rides in one of your pockets now.