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Pocket Pistols

What is a pocket pistol?

A pistol that fits into your pocket, right?

With the exception of some of my longer-barreled hunting pistols, all of the rest of my pistols will fit into my pants pocket, but this does not make them a “pocket pistol,” in my opinion.

My idea of a pocket pistol is one that is so small and so light that I do not have to wear a big belt and cinch it down to hold my pants up with the added weight of the pistol.

To me, another feature that a pocket pistol must have is nothing to get hung up when I need to get it out of my pocket in a hurry, like a hammer or raised adjustable sights.

Another essential characteristic of my definition of a pocket pistol is one that is very lightweight, say 6 or 7 ounces unloaded. If you want to see what a pocket pistol should feel like when it comes to weight, take some 1-ounce fishing sinkers – one at a time – and put them in your pocket.

When I tried this and got to 8 ounces, it was about as much weight as I wanted to carry in one pocket. I usually wear shorts, and the pockets are fairly baggy. The more weight I put in the pocket, the more the pocket drooped or hung down, making anything over 8 ounces very uncomfortable.

When searching for the best pocket pistol, I limited my search to very small pistols or revolvers with no external hammer, no sights that could get snagged on my pocket and those with an unloaded weight of around 6 or 7 ounces. I also wanted to keep my cost to $300 or less, which is usually about 60% to 70% of retail. My first stop was the Ruger site, where they had a few hammerless revolvers and semi-auto pistols, but the lightest one was 9.4 ounces.

I next checked out Smith and Wesson, and found the Model 442 with no external hammer and no sights, but found it weighs 15 ounces. All of the other S&W’s were too heavy.

I searched Double Tap and saw their 2-shot pocket pistol, but it weighed in at 12 ounces, which also removed it from consideration. Taurus has several pistols that would work, but all were over my self-imposed 8 oz. weight limit. Magnum Research has a very nice little .380 ACP, but it was also over the limit at 13 ounces.

I searched several more sites, and it was starting to look like I was going to have to settle for more weight than I wanted in a pocket pistol – until the light bulb above my head went on.

To the Kel-Tec site I went. I know some of you are saying, “What the heck? Kel-Tec?”

I have owned a Kel-Tec P-380 for many years and have run well over 1,000 rounds through it without it failing to fire, feed or function as it was intended. I did have one of their 9mm pistols that still did not work after three trips back to the factory, so I traded it for a BB gun and a high-tech slingshot. I could have just used the Kel-Tec P-380 I owned, but my wife has now claimed it.

Kel-Tec makes a semi-auto pistol that weighs in at less than the 8-ounce P-380 and is a hair smaller. I figured it might work, so I went to all of my distributor’s sites and finally found one new in the box for about $200. Out came the Visa card, and soon one was on the way.

I had already researched and discovered that the supply of .32 ACP ammo was plentiful. I knew from many years of shooting semi-auto pistols, that most do not function the same (or properly) with all types of ammo, so I purchased several brands and types, thinking there would be one or two that would not work, but I would find several that worked well.

Once the pistol and ammo showed up, I headed to the range to shoot the huge pile of ammo I ordered. Before ordering ammo, I had contacted Kel-Tec to ask what ammo their pistol did not shoot. They sent me a list of the following ammunition NOT recommended: CCI Blazer (aluminum casing), Wolf (aluminum casing), Silver Bear (Russian nickel plated) feeding issues, Brown Bear (Russian brass) feeding issues, Aguila (Spanish) feeding issues, Sellier & Bellot (European) hard primers causing light strikes, Geco (hard primers causing light strikes) and Tula (Russian steel cased).

I purchased the following ammo: Buffalo Bore 75-grain hard cast, Buffalo Bore 60-grain Barnes Tactical, PMC 60-grain JHP, PMC 71-grain FMJ, Speer 60-grain HP, CorBon 60-grain HP, Federal 71-grain FMJ, Hornady 60-grain JHP/XTP and Winchester 70-grain FMJ. Ammo is like money – it is better to have too much than not enough.

I was going to try to make this gun fail, so I shot it as fast as it would shoot during most of the time at the range (which was over 1,000 rounds). I did not clean it, but I did let it cool off about every 100 rounds.

When I first started shooting, I would load the magazines, point the little pistol at the target (which was a human silhouette about 15 feet away) and shoot as fast as I could.

I would like to be able to tell you this is the way to hit the target, but I would be telling a tale. My shots ranged from hitting the head to the knees of my silhouette, and I am certain this lack of accuracy was totally due to my inability to shoot like this. I think this type of shooting is called “spray and pray” – spray enough rounds downrange and pray one hits the target.

After firing about 700 rounds in this manner, I wanted to see if I could be a little more accurate, as this little gun really has only one purpose for me: to fend off the bad guys. If I needed a pile of ammo to accomplish this, I knew my little 7-round magazine was not going to hold enough rounds. The next 400 plus rounds were shot with first one hand and then both hands on the pistol while slowly sending two- to three-round salvos at the target. WOW! What a difference in accuracy when you are actually aiming!

If you have read some of my other firearm articles, you have seen that I am a stickler for accuracy and have sold guns that would not shoot as accurately as I wanted. However, most of them were for hunting or target shooting.

This little gun is for close encounters – not targets or hunting – so my normal 1-inch-or-less groups were out of the question. I set my sights on achieving 3- to 4-inch groups at 15 feet. Even with 3-inch groups, if you are aiming for the center mass, you will hit something vital. With the last 20 rounds of each flavor of ammo, I tried to hit the dot in the “i.” All of the ammo, with the exception of the Speer 60-grain HP, produced shots in a 2- to 3-inch group. I took my time and tried to be accurate. These groups were two to three shots fired standing with both hands on the pistol with about a 1/2-second interval between shots.

I even shot several 5-shot groups from a rest and found this little gun produced nice 1- to 3-inch groups with most of the ammo – except the Speer, which produced 4- to 4.5-inch groups. Even this was plenty acceptable for close-up shots. Remember, earlier I wrote I did not clean the little gun during the range time. With over 1,000 rounds run through it, the Kel-Tec P-32 worked flawlessly. Not one time did it fail to fire, function or work as it was intended. Since that day at the range, I have cleaned the gun and carry it in my pants pocket everywhere I go. The other day, I left the house with pants that had no pockets, so I put it in my shirt pocket, and you could not tell I was carrying.

I am sure there are plenty of you out there that carry a pocket pistol that is larger and have no complaints, but for me this little Kel-Tec is the way to go. The P-32 comes with one 7-round magazine, or you can do like I did and order a 10-round magazine with a grip extension from Kel-Tec. This larger magazine with grip extension gives the little gun a “big gun grip” and fits all of my hand from forefinger to pinky.

My take on this pistol: It is for sure not a .45, .44 Mag or 9mm, but it sure is better than a rock or no gun at all. And, when it is in my pocket, I don’t know it is there. I could not get it to fail, and if I ever need it, I will be darn glad I have it. It is American made and has a lifetime warranty. It’s a keeper.

Info & Specs

Ammunition Ballistics averages:

-Buffalo Bore 75-grain Hardcast – 1,150 fps, 220 ft. lbs. energy. This was the most powerful and had best penetration

-PMC 60-grain JHP – 980 fps, 117 ft. lbs. energy. This was the weakest.

-All of the rest averaged 1,000 fps with 135 ft. lbs. of energy.

-There is no doubt in my mind that any of these rounds would work to take the fight out of a bad guy.

Kel-Tec P-32 Specifications

-Caliber: .32 ACP

-Weight unloaded: 6.6 oz.

-Loaded magazine: 2.8 oz.

-Length: 5.1” - Height: 3.5” - Width: .75”

-Barrel Length: 2.7”

-Sight radius: 3.8”

-Capacity: 7+1 with standard magazine and 10+1 with Kel-Tec’s larger magazine with grip extension

-Trigger Pull: 5 lbs

-MSRP: $318.00

If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings. Shoot Straight, Shoot Safe!

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Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”