Kel Tec (release v4.1) Trigger Performance Improvements
by Cole LaFrance
with contributions from Bill White and Jack Fuselier
First posted on April 30, 1997.
The information provided in this memo is meant as a report on modifications made to my personal Kel Tec P-11 . Any work done on the reader's weapon is the responsibility of the reader. Always make sure the magazine is out and the gun is unloaded before doing any work on your weapon.
Kel Tec Out of the Box
When buying your Kel Tec, you can feel confident that you are getting a product with a considerable competitive advantage compared with other easily concealed handguns on the market. It is well constructed, safe and reliable. It continues to provide impressive firepower and is the smallest size - lowest weight, high capacity and performance
handgun available. It has major advantages over small revolvers or blowback pistols with its well implemented Browning Locked Breech Action; and its polymer design is innovative, lightweight, durable, and absorbs the abuse of daily carry well. I fired thousands of round through my Kel Tec with absolutely no modifications, until I heard that P-11s were issued with 8.5 lb. Triggers instead of 10 lb. That started the work that we describe below.
Personal Gun History
I purchased my SS Kel Tec about in May 1996 and put 5000 plus round through it in its first year. I continue to
shoot about 100-150 handholds a week through the gun using 124 (and recently 115 grain jacketed projectiles driven by 4.2 to 5 grains of W231 powder). I selected defensive rounds that closely match the performance characteristics of the practice rounds and currently am using 124 grain Federal Nyclads. I really liked the gun size and reliability, but struggled unknowingly with the trigger.
The 8.5 Pound Trigger
When my son, Tom, read about the 8.5 lb. hammer spring on rec.guns, we ordered the spring and trigger shoe from
Kel Tec. Upon disassembling the gun to install the hammer spring we were really impressed with the elegant simplicity of the design. This simple design combined with modern polymers (which yield close tolerances) enabled Kel Tec to produce this weapon at its bargain price. When Tom saw the mechanism, he suggested we polish the transfer bar (trigger bar) after we tested the hammer spring upgrade.
Following several hundred rounds with the new hammer spring, I was ecstatic. The reduced trigger force combined
with the trigger shoe made the gun perform much better both subjectively and objectively. It was easier and more pleasant to shoot and groups were tighter. To Kel Tecs credit, all guns SN 23000 and above have this 8.5 lb. trigger standard. If you are unsure of your trigger pull weight, call or email Kel Tec and provide your S/N and they will tell you.
Polishing The Trigger Action
After a few weeks, we pulled the gun apart and removed the trigger transfer bar and examined it for wear and rough spots. We carefully polished the hammer terminix on the trigger bar, filed and polished obvious flaws and wear spots on the bar, polished the hammer and reassembled the gun. This step made a small but significant improvement in trigger smoothness. The "break" was much smoother and accuracy improved more. This improvement was not as dramatic as the trigger spring mod, but was still a significant step function.
A further suggestion from Tom was to apply Teflon paste to the transfer bar. The Teflon paste Tom has is designed to be used on guns and contains some light oil that allows the Teflon to slowly dry and enhances adhesion of the
Teflon; theoretically allowing a quasi-molecular level adhesion to the metal over time. We disassembled the gun at the range and applied a liberal amount of Teflon paste to the length of the transfer bar and a small amount to the edge terminix at the hammer end. We reassembled and fired the gun.
The change was dramatic! This lubrication process had the subjective result of reducing trigger pull and further smoothing the break; making this gun perform another significant step function better. The improvement was almost as
dramatic as that made by the 8.5 lb. trigger spring versus the 10 lb. We were amazed. We are not sure that trigger pull is actually reduced, it simply "feels" so much smoother and lighter that it seems like a different weapon.
It is no surprise that lubrication helps the P-11/40/32 trigger a lot We don't want to over lubricate this or any other gun, but lubrication is an important point and we have incorporated several recommendations into our Lubrication Guide in this document.
The White Trigger Mod
The next modification was the White Trigger Stop - having nothing to do with color, but named after Bill White. The trigger stop is an expert rifleman's trick that works really well with a Kel Tec P-11. It is a small rubber stopper fastened to the trigger that "stops" the trigger just at the "break" point enabling you to control or "stage" the first shot, not unlike a single action. It also reduces over travel, making the second shot quicker. Accuracy is improved and double taps are quicker. It's a modification that costs less than $1.00 and takes only 10 minutes to make from scratch. Complete instructions for making one are provided in this document and we have Bill to thank for applying this idea to the Kel Tec.
Trigger Improvements Summarized
In summary, if you have a Kel Tec with a serial number under 23000, you should upgrade to the 8.5 spring and add
the trigger shoe. Once you have the 8.5 lb. trigger, you should consider polishing the trigger bar and removing any rough spots that can add friction to the transfer of motion from the trigger to the hammer. You should add a lubricant to the trigger bar with the best lubricants being synthetic or dry to minimize fouling. You should also add the White Trigger Stop as an inexpensive, simple attachment that will improve trigger
performance. Detailed instructions for each trigger improvement are provided below.
Kel Tec Design and Hammer
The Kel Tec design is excellent. In fact almost elegant. Its John Browning breech system is well implemented and locks up tightly. Tolerances on all critical components are excellent and this is a safe, well made weapon that utilizes modern plastics technology well. The key to the DA design is a uniquely shaped hammer that requires few components to cock and fire. It actually never "cocks" in the way that most guns do, but instead slips off the trigger bar at the end of trigger travel. Be aware that any polishing of the hammer
needs to be approached with caution. The shape of this hammer cannot be changed or the gun will not work. If you polish, make sure that you do just that. Remove no metal.
Fit and Finish
Having complimented the design, the level of "fit and finish" on the Kel Tec's
metal and plastic components leaves a little to be desired. Mill marks, mold marks, and miscellaneous burrs appear on many non critical (but sometimes important) components. I am not unhappy about this manufacturing fact of life because if this gun were finished off like a Sig or Glock, it would sell in the same price range and I wouldn't own one. Judicious "fluffing and buffing", will make this gun shine both in your mind and holster. This gun will reward your TLC by shooting better and looking better. You will grow to love it even more. One comment that has value with a Kel Tec is: "Anybody can be a gunsmith with a Dremel polishing tool. It's true.
Hammer Spring Replacement
For those who have the 10 lb. trigger, be aware that Kel Tec will replace it for you at no charge. They will also
polish the feed ramp for you while they have the gun. The factory team is excellent and turnaround, including shipping time, is usually less than a week.
You may also order the part (hammer spring (P/N 275 -8.5 lb. $4.00 plus $3.50 S&H per order) If like me, one
week is forever to live without your Kel Tec; it is very easy to do. First you have to disassemble the gun:
Disassembling the Gun
The only tools you need are a punch or similar object (actually I use a small bolt that I keep in my tool kit)
to remove the three pins holding the gun together. If you are replacing the spring, a small punch to remove the trigger spring pin from the frame. A small hammer, and I recommend a wooden block to pound against so you don't destroy the dining room table or mar the gun. All these pins are easily removable, so tap lightly. You need a Dremel type polishing tool with a felt buffer pad (usually there are a variety of sizes and this is a small job
so almost any size will do), Polishing compound (usually jewelers rouge which comes included with most Dremel's). Any small fine file, a polishing stone (Arkansas Stone or Cutlery Stone).
With the exception of the Dremel, every household has these tools or substitutes (like a small nail for a punch) that can get this gun apart and back together. For those with no Dremel, you can polish with "crocus cloth" available from any hardware store for under a dollar. It just takes longer. Some people polish with an electric drill with crocus cloth wrapped around a pencil. A Dremel just makes it easier.
(Note: There are only a handful of parts to work with here (less than 10) so even non-mechanics or gunsmiths
can feel confident about working on this gun.) If you already have the 8.5 lb. spring - review this and read Partial Disassembly.
1. Field Strip the Gun
2. Remove the three polymer pins from the frame using a punch.
3. Pull hard on the hammer spring clip in the base of the butt (p.n. 279 ) to remove the hammer spring. You can use a
screwdriver or punch to pry as you pull. It pulls hard, but you won't break the gun. Once free the pin (p.n. 273 ) can drop free so observe if it falls and keep it handy for reassembly.
4. Remove the gun frame from the polymer handle. The spring and retainer clip will pass through the magazine well and the aluminum frame assembly will pull free.
5. Observe the magazine catch and spring as the magazine spring (p.n. 284) will fall off and you will have to set it back in place. It is well diagrammed and fits into a shaped location.
6. If removing the transfer bar, pick it off. Note the return spring (p.n. 256) and how it wraps under the trigger bar and catches in a small groove on the on bottom of the trigger bar. You have to rotate it back into place and latch it when reassembling, so observe.
7. Reassemble by reversing the process
If you have already installed (or have a new Kel Tec) leave the hammer spring in place and use the hammer
spring as a fulcrum to swing the aluminum frame free from the polymer grip. You can grab the trigger bar and lift it off. Cautions regarding springs and re-inserting still apply.
Replacing The Hammer Spring
Remove the pin (p.n. 278) holding the hammer and spring to the gun frame using a small punch. Replace the spring and pin. Simple. (To remove the hammer spring, you might want to build a hammer spring removal tool.)
Transfer (Trigger) Bar Polishing
Now that the gun is apart - polishing the trigger bar is easy. It appears that a major benefit from polishing the trigger bar is to smooth the edges and rough spots from the hammer/trigger bar interface My gun had quite a few
hammer rough spots after 5000 rounds and I filed and polished them smooth. Again, this appears to be an important polishing area.
An alternative to even partial disassembly is to lodge the hammer back and polish the exposed parts on the
trigger bar and hammer with a Dremel. Smooth and shiny on all contact surfaces is the desire and you can achieve some good results by simply polishing what you can see.
We believe that the transfer bar itself should be FLAT and SMOOTH on the side against the gun frame. The outside
appears to have little contact with the grip that would cause friction, but we polished ours anyway. Although the trigger bar appears flat, it is a stamped part that has been machined and formed. It is not flat when it comes to friction effects. Use polishing stones (Arkansas or cutlery stones) to get the trigger bar flat and smooth. You will see as you rub the bar, that paint comes off the high spots quickly and to get the trigger bar flat requires some diligent rubbing. Once flat, polish the trigger bar with your finest stone and polish to a shiny surface with your
Dremel and Jeweler's Rouge. Remove any sharp edges by filing lightly.
Transfer Bar Coating and Lubrication
Once you have polished the trigger bar smooth and flat, you may apply your lubricant of choice. Synthetic
lubricants or dry lubricants remain the best choices. Action Magic appears to be the best, but Militec-1 works very well. If using Action Magic you may clean the gun frame and apply the two stage materials to the gun frame where it will come in contact with the trigger bar. Most good gun lubricants help smooth and ease the polished trigger bar enormously. I have tried several including Tetra Lube. Hoppes Teflon Spray, Teflon Paste. The wet lubricants (ALA Tetra-Lube) work better, but have the disadvantage of being greasy and possibly attracting dirt.
Hammer Polishing and Lubrication
Reread Kel Tec Design and Hammer Caution. However, if there are obvious burrs or rough spots on the hammer, now is the time to address them. They can affect trigger feel and smoothness, so carefully polish the hammer rough spots smooth without changing shape. Note the design of the hammer and how the hammer moves in relationship to the trigger
bar. We polished only the areas where finish had worn off the hammer in an attempt to minimize friction. You may apply
lubrication to the hammer and receive some benefit.
The Final Touches
In testing this now very smooth trigger, a slight "grittiness" can sometimes be felt and is often attributable to friction at the trigger pin (p.n. 254). A drop of your favorite lubricant dropped into the pin removal hole will
eliminate that very small friction point. The trigger bar spring (p.n. 256) can sometimes stick to its channel in the bottom of the trigger bar. Polishing it lightly and applying a touch of lubrication can smooth things a bit more. These last two improvements are at the far edge of performance improvement, but the gun is apart - so do it. Some users have reported friction on the hammer pin, which can also be lubricated easily since the gun is apart.
Trigger Shoe Accessory
The trigger shoe is an old trick that helps the Kel Tec P-11 a lot by increasing the finger surface area used to pull the trigger and spreading the force across a wider area on the finger pad. It makes the trigger "feel" easier to pull when it actually isn't and provides more control. Regardless of theory, it works on most guns including the Kel Tec. It adds no weight or profile to the gun and is a recommended accessory. Use Loctite to hold the trigger shoe on and if it still falls off, note the screw marks and counter sink the screws by micro
drilling the trigger itself to increase Loctite surface area. Some people glue their trigger shoes on, but that creates a problem with gun disassembly.
White Trigger Stop
Named after Bill White, this trigger stop is simple, cheap and recommended to improve control and trigger recovery speed. Take a standard #2 pencil eraser and cut it in half yielding two cylinders. Glue it to the back of the trigger with Crazy Glue or epoxy about 1/8 to 1/4 inch down from the set pin. Before gluing make sure the eraser clears the sharp edge on the grip frame where it engages the frame or it will be damaged over time. An alternative location is to mount the stop on the frame itself where it will engage the trigger. We have tried both
locations and each works well. Trim and shape the eraser with a small file or emery board. Adjustment is done by filing the eraser until the "break" occurs just as the stop engages. Dry firing with sights on a clear target will enable you to see if the Trigger Stop forces you to squeeze to hard. A well adjusted stop will give you a staged feel when it engages, yet not cause a move off target when pulled through to fire. The stop enables you to stage the trigger and improve control on the first shot. Double taps will occur faster because of the trigger's reduced over travel. For cosmetics, apply black magic marker to the eraser and it blends in perfectly
with the gun making it look factory original. This is a great low cost modification that has no downside. Simple, cheap, easy, safe. If the trigger stop falls off, the gun will still fire in an emergency. This is a highly recommended modification that anyone can do.
Kel Tec Cleaning and Lubrication Recommendations
(special thanks to Jack Fuselier for his comments and insights for this section)
Now that you have your action polished, general lubrication needs to be discussed. The P-11 has unique action characteristics that require lubrication attention. If properly lubricated the P-11 will be smooth running and reliable for a lifetime. We highly recommend that your P-11 be cleaned and lubricated often and certainly after every practice session.
Grease versus Oil
When to Use Grease
Grease is an excellent lubricant and in many cases the best lubricant for your gun. If you are storing your gun or using it as a home weapon where it will be cleaned infrequently, grease can be an ideal lubrication. Store the gun in a dust free spot and it will be ready when needed. Grease can be messy when used as the only lubricant for your gun, but it will protect the weapon well. Almost any modern grease is satisfactory and there are a multiplicity of inexpensive synthetic and specialty additive greases.
When to Use Oil
Grease has a tendency to be messy when used in dirty and dusty environments and this gun has a plethora of spots
for dirt and dust to sneak through and attach to grease. If you are going to use your gun as a routine carry piece where it is exposed to the real world, we recommend SYNTHETIC oil for slide and internal workings with the exception of the hammer/slide interface.
Synthetic oils are preferred because they seem to not attract dust and have a more consistent and higher surface
tension than regular oils. We recommend Militec-1 which is a synthetic that you can look up on the Internet and purchase inexpensively. A one ounce bottle will keep your Kel Tec running for life. Other synthetics are available and undoubtedly will work as well, but we just have limited experience with others.
Where to ALWAYS Use Grease
The hammer/slide interface needs to be GREASED at each cleaning. A small film of grease needs to be applied to the bottom of the slide just forward of the hammer. Grease here lubricates the slide as it passes over the hammer and back when fired. This is a rapid event and an excess of grease will be thrown off, so only a film is necessary. A small amount will be transferred to the hammer where it makes contact with slide and both parts will be protected from galling. Hammer pin stresses also will be reduced which increases the weapon's long term reliability. When cleaning the gun, wipe the slide and hammer and repeat the treatment.
As an aside, many of the failures reported to us appear to be related to the forces generated by the slide
traveling across the hammer and causing a burr on the slide and/or a hammer pin failure. Lubricating as directed should reduce the friction and galling forces substantially, increasing the reliability of an already generally good product.
Where to Use Oil
All other moving parts including the trigger action and specific points mentioned in the trigger action section should be oiled. Synthetic oils are greatly preferred because they are less sticky, but any oil is better than no oil. If you take the trouble to apply Action Magic to the trigger bar and frame that touches the trigger bar, no additional lubrication is needed there. Action Magic is very slippery and dry, so makes an ideal action lubricant. It is a well named product that works well. Militec-1 does a good job and holds up well over long
periods of time on the trigger bar. But it needs to be cleaned and reapplied periodically dependent on use or the action will get sticky or gritty feeling. Once you have a smooth action, you will be very aware as performance degrades because of lubrication.
Most users apply oil to the slide rails. Many apply oil to recoil springs, barrels, and even coat the surface
of the gun. It is probably not necessary to oil anything other than the moving parts of the weapon. Oiling stationary objects, doesn't reduce friction which is the major enemy of the mechanical device. Excess oil (even synthetics) attracts dirt. Use your lubricants sparingly.
Product and Information Sources
KTOG (Kel Tec Owners Group) A Kel Tec users group mailing list.
Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc. (the guys who started it all)
Post Office Box 3427
Cocoa, FL 32924-3427
Products for Servicing Your Kel Tec
A gun lubricant found and used by Chuck Pena. Highly recommended. Inexpensive.
911 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22209
Price $3.95 per 1oz bottle
Call for your nearest distributor
Some Militec-1 users are:
US Secret Service
Pennsylvania State Police
Maryland State Police
Mississippi Highway Patrol
U.S. Shooting Team
Brownell's Action Magic II
A two stage slick, dry lubricant system for gun actions. Successfully used as a DRY lubricant system for the trigger bar and hammer. Available from:
200 South Front Street
Montezuma. IA 50171
Price:$16.75 plus S&H
A Liquid applied Teflon Coat that can be baked on
for improved adhesion
PO Box 26755
Minneapolis, MN, 55426
Price: $5.00 plus S&H
Hoppes Teflon Spray
A Dry Teflon Spay available from any Hoppes Rack
$5.00 or less.
Tetra Lube (available from Brownell's)
TFE Gun Lubricant
$2.65 per 1.5 Oz tube
Slick 50 TFE Grease
Available from WalMart Stores nationwide
Any questions, comments or suggestions, please send to Cole LaFrance at [email protected]