firearms, shooting equipment, and outdoor gear for the average enthusiast.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Kel-Tec P11 Review

My fascination with the Kel-Tec line of pistols, and particularly the P11 started in the winter of 2004 while I was away at college and discovered KTOG and the Kel-Tec Range. At the time I had just received my pistol permit, and had hopes of getting approved for an upgrade to unrestricted. For those not familiar with the NYS pistol licensing system, it varies county to county, and my particular home county restricts licenses to specific uses. Mine was (and is) restricted to target/hunting use. To get an unrestricted license (like both my parents have) one must 'demonstrate need above and beyond that of the average citizen', and in a recent letter of rejection to a friend of mine, 'It is well established that the transportation of large sums of money for private business needs is not justification above and beyond that of the average citizen'. . . . though I've seen permits approved for that exact same thing, just never for anyone under the age of 40.

but thats another rant.

Anyway I became enamoured with the compact 9 that had a cult like following. I even bought accessories for my future purchase. I acquired 2 15 round magazines with kel tec spacers, a finger extension for the factory magazine, and stiffer recoil springs to help ease abuse on the frame.

As so often happens, life put off my purchase untill recently, when, in light of the election results, I felt that it was prudent to dust off my little dream gun, and make it a reality.

So I picked up my kel-tec P11 over thanksgiving break, and took some time to fire it and tinker with it a bit. Now, after 175 rounds, I feel like its time to give it a good review.

First- The cost: I paid 286.20 OTD after tax. Not as cheap as some surplus guns I've purchased; but for a new, 100% made in the USA gun, I did not think that was very much at all.

To keep the cost down Kel-tec had to save money some where, and on my example, it was definitely on the slide bluing. It isn't bad, don't mistake my comment for condemnation, but it certainly is not on par with that of other manufacturers.

The P11 is a very light gun- 14 oz unloaded, and 20 oz with a 10 round mag. As such, my practice ammo, 135gr LRN over a healthy dose of unique, will sting the hand after a box or so. As a result of the snappy recoil, I elected to put the +0 finger extension on the factory mag. As per the name, it adds no capacity to the mag, but allows for the third finger to get on the grip frame, aiding in controlling the little firecracker of a pistol. As I already had the mag extension and the springs, I swaped out for the stouter recoil springs after the initial 50 rounds as well- function was flawless before and after the spring change, but in my unscientific opinion, the spring change also aided slightly in control of the pistol.

The P11 only ships with 1 magazine, which, again is another budgetary constraint. Smith and Wesson 59 and 69 series mags will fit the p11, and are plentiful. Grip extensions are available to slip over the smith mags for aided comfort. However, for those of you in free states, kel-tec does offer a 12 round factory flush fitting magazine, which, when coupled with the +1 grip extension, offers a very potent, 13+1 9mm that weighs around 20 oz and fits in the palm of a large hand.

What I was trying to depict here is that the P11 can actually fit completely in my hand. Thats impressive in my assessment. a potential 14 shot 9mm in that small of a package is a pretty ingenious feat of engineering.

Notice that a point of concern for some shooters is the plastic guide rod. Though the rod does seem to mar with use, everything I have read says that it stays reliable. Kel-tec does offer a steel replacement rod for those who are so inclined to purchase something with a bit more heft.

Here you can see the slide assembly. Machining was not nearly as rough as I expected. People often talk about having to do a final, 'fluff and buff' on these pistols to make them serviceable, but that just was not the case for me. My pistol came well finished, with no obvious tooling marks.
Here is the underside view of the assembled slide. Note the springs on the guide rod are NOT captured like on a glock. They are not under enough tension to fly across the room though, so there is very little concern in disassembly of a spring incident occurring.

Here you can see one of my favorite aspects of the little pistol- the take down rod (pictured to the right and lower portion of the grip frame) is removed with the rim of a 9mm round. The recess is actually very well fitted to take the 9mm casing as a disassembly tool, and I thought it was a clever little design that makes servicing the pistol all the easier.

Here you can see a 15 round 59 series SW mag inserted into the kel-tec with one of the kel-tec grip sleeves over the magazine. It is not a perfect fit, but something that could be made more serviceable with a pocket knife and a few minutes of patience. the mags are functional and reliable in my pistol, and the grip is not uncomfortable, nor is the balance disrupted by the addition of the over sized mag.

Onto the function of the gun.

in the 175 rounds fired, I had 1 particular round hang up- a very blunt, 125gr SJSP (semi jacketed soft point) reload that just refused to feed. Though his compatriots fed grudgingly, 1 round just refused to go from mag to chamber. thats not too bad in my book.

my preferred carry round for now, a 115gr Win Hollow Point, fed flawlessly for 50 rounds.
these are reloaded by me. Again, I use a stout charge of my preferred pistol powder (unique), add whatever primer was on sale, and use mixed brass and bam! I have a winning combination for reliability, serviceability, and accuracy.

My bulk practice ammo, the aforementioned 135gr LRN, fed perfectly for a full 100 rounds.

The remaining 25 rounds were 10 factory FMJ which fed fine, and the 125gr SJSP.

Accuracy of the pistol, as is so often the case, is limited by the shooter and not the gun. I was able to slam the 50 yard silhouette NRA rimfire sized pig at my gun club a few times, but not with any astonishing regularity. At a more serviceable range, (50 ft) it was not overly difficult to group most rounds into a 5 in circle. I did not have the opportunity to shoot closer, as my home range has rules in place that prevent shooting in sub 50 ft scenarios. Maybe I'll get to a private range that allows shooting that is more intended for this pistol's design soon though- As I think it will be more than serviceable at such distances, and will shine with its ease of use.

The trigger pull is long- very, very, very, L-O-N-G. However, it is a smooth pull with no noticeable stacking and a predictable breaking point. The P11 is a DAO pistol with second strike capability, and shines as a pocket sized carry gun. While out woods bumming and around the house, I actually carried my P11 in my jeans front pocket with no issues and no significant (read obvious) printing.

I'm a larger than average person, but I think with a nice IWB holster, this gun with its low weight and great size, would just fade away under light clothing and serve as a great carry gun.

All-in-all- I'd say buy, but be careful on the price. I wouldn't pay much above 320-330 or so for this gun, depending on what prices are like in your local market. For less than 290, I'm extremely pleased with what I received, and would buy this gun all over again if the need ever arose.

In comparing it to my Mom's 637, I prefer the kel-tec. though the external dimensions are actually very similar to the little J frame, (as well as the overall weight) the kel-tec just seems to shoot better for me.

couple the good price, with the reliability, size, and fantastic warranty service of Kel-tec, and I'd say this gun is a great value. I loaded up a big pile of 147gr LRN that are nice and fat to try in the P11, so hopefully over Christmas the opportunity will present itself. They are pretty warm in their loading, but if they function, I may switch over to a 147gr JHP for keeping in the gun, for no reason in particular other than a change from the 115. I'd really like some 125gr ish JHP- but I haven't found a good deal on them. I picked up several thousand of the 115s for 2 dollars per hundred several years ago, and I picked up a good number of the 147s on a blemish deal from midway last year.

I doubt anything in my desired weight range will come up, but I do have some nice 120gr TC that I cast up that I could run that might satisfy my urge for a mid-weight 9mm bullet.

Time will tell.


Pastor St. John said...

Very nice review, Mike! I added a link to your review on my own review page:

Have a great day!


mike's spot said...

Thank you Pastor St John! Welcome to Mike's Spot!

Kris said...

Great write up! I am looking into getting either a P11 or a I can use all the info I can get :) Thanks for the review.

mike's spot said...

Welcome Kris!

I've never had the opportunity to shoot a PF9, but they look well made too- I hear they redesigned the trigger mechanism on them as compared to the P11, so that is definitely something to look at.

I'm sure you'll be pleased with either!

Ron said...

Nice article!! Well written and lots of good info. Just a side note I am so happy to live in a gun friendly republic like TEXAS!!
If I were you I would move ASAP!!!!

mike's spot said...

Welcome and thanks for the comment Ron!

George said...

I just purchased a P11 and took it to the range last week for the first time. I had absolutely no problems using the factory supplied magazine. However, I tried two 15 round S&W magazines and experienced Failure to Return to Battery with both. I have order Wolff +10% springs which I am told will correct the problem.

mike's spot said...

i've heard of those problems as well george. Often the S&W mags still have the original spring, which can be very old at this point.

Hope those wolffe springs clear up the issues

D. From PRCali said...

Hey man GREAT REVIEW!! I am going to buy this gun real soon as soon as I turn 21 (I'm from the People's Republic of California... I feel your pain my man). I wanted to drop by to ask if you carry handloads for cc/defensive purposes.

I'm sorry if you've already heard this and if I sound like a hall monitor but here is some info on handloads you might want to check out.

I would've got the actual article by Mas Ayoob but it was a bitch to find. Here it is:

Keep up the good work!!!

mike's spot said...

Hi D-


I don't carry handlands for self defense- but its not because of Mas Ayoob.

I don't carry handloads for 3 real reasons:

1- I never make any really warm reloads. This is mainly because I keep very few powders on hand. As such, I use powders that work fairly well in many cartridges, but aren't really optimized for any one caliber. Therefore- +p loads aren't usually an option from my bench

2-most of the ammo I reload is with bullets I cast. I much prefer an expanding hollowpoint for carry. That is not to say I couldn't just buy component hollowpoints- I just rarely do. If you never have the components on hand, you often don't think about it.

3- Though i've been a handloader for years- I still trust the quality control of winchester or federal more than my one man operation. The equipment they use, though not perfect by a long shot- Generates good, reliable ammo.

I think Mas made a great point about a non-existent problem. My personal philosophy with choosing carry ammo is: all modern hollowpoints are actually not bad- so grab whatever works and is on sale.

right now in my 45s are either winchester 185 gr silver tips or remington golden sabers

the 9mms are 147 gr winchester silvertips

the 40 is Federal golddots 180gr

the 38spl is federal 158gr LSWCHP

etc etc.I find a reasonably priced round that is adequate for carry, test some of it, carry some of it- and replace it every year or so.

this is just what works for me. Thanks again for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I have to say though, that I think you got lucky with the machining. Mine is full of marks just like you said you've heard others mention. It has a tendency to jam a little more then I would like as well. All in all, I enjoy the P-11 very much. Like you say, its cheap, compact, and easy to service.

mike's spot said...

Agreed Anon- mine is pretty clean.

Daniel said...

“I’m very grateful for the usability of these comments in giving me the confidence to purchase the P-11 as my first carry pistol. Thank you all.” Daniel

mike's spot said...

Thanks Daniel!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike my P11 is being delivered soon. Is there a way I can measure the difference in recoil springs so I can know if I have the stouter ones when I pick up the pistol from the dealer?

mike's spot said...

that's a great q anon. I would start by contacting Kel-tec and giving them your Serial # to see if they know what spring weight the gun shipped with. that is probably more reliable than any home test you could conduct

Jeff N said...

Wish my comments were more in line with yours but I bought the P11 one year ago for a great conceal weapon, fired it twice with no problems but now every shot jams no matter what ammo I use. I had to send it back. Once I get it back I'm going to sell it and go with a Taurus instead.

mike's spot said...

Jeff N-

Thanks for commenting! Though I wish your P11 worked out better for you, I am grateful you shared your experience anyway so people can understand that even though many guns run great out of the box- a lemon gets out now and again.

Kelticgnome said...

Thanks for the review Mike, I thought it was excellent. I just purchased my P11 and will compare my results with yours. Keep up the good work.

mike's spot said...

Thanks KG!

TWB said...

I have had problems with my P11 assembly pin coming part way out and jamming the pistol. Also the factory magazine jams less than an after market magazine.

Overall, I like the size and feel for a ccw.

Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

As a former New Yorker..[thank goodness] Out West we do not have the draconian restictions New York places on Citizen's Rights.
When I did live in NY I had a full carry permit but had to turn it and my guns in when I moved. because without a perm it I could not posses a handgun within the State.
I later tried to get them shipped from the PD they were turned into and found they were "sold at aution" So I lost out about $1000 worth of handguns. basically NY "stole" my property.

Anyway I too have a Kel-Tec and find it to be well suited to most any legal purpose.
So good luck on your permit upgrade but if you want to be a free citizen with individual Rights move West of the Mississippi.

mike's spot said...

thanks for the comment anon- NYS has A LOT of issues. We have to fight from the inside out to fix NYS though. :)

Anonymous said...

I've just acquired a stock, KalTec P11, lots & lots of rifle and shotgun experience but this is my very first handgun. Much to learn of course which is gained by practice and use. But before going out with this gun I've got a couple questions: *What does "buff & fluff" refer to? *In terms of accessories should I order the grip extension; lighter trigger spring; 12 round clip? All inputs/suggestions are appreciated.

mike's spot said...

welcome anon!

Fluff & Buff refers to the cleaning up of any rough machining marks on the inside of the firearm. here is a good guide:

if you have a largish sized hand- the finger grip extension is a good addition.

The factory 12 round mags I have no experience with- as they weren't available in NYS.

The other Mike said...

thank you for this write up. I however wasn't so lucky to get a great fromt he box weapon. I picked up a P11 a few days ago for my wife to carry and out of the box it has FTF. Every round hangs. I switched up ammo ball and hollow, cleaned, oiled, polished the ramp and other parts and it still has the same issue. I really want to like this weapon, but cannot trust it with my life so it’s going back and I will be buying a Smith revolver this will be the last Kel-tec I ever own. This weapon should have functioned before leaving the factory. It is clear that their testing program is insufficient as a quick search nets countless other p11’s with the same issue. So much so that there are several websites dedicated to fixing the FTF issues with this weapon.

mike's spot said...

Other Mike-

I have heard tales of a number of Kel-Tecs with issues that is true. Have you considered sending it to Kel-tec for their review? They have always made things right to my knowledge, and they might get you squared away.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you use those 115 gn Win HP reloads for self defense rounds. That is the only part of your activities I would disagree with. You should use brand name verifiable factory loads for SD. GSR tests with your reloads will not be supported in court. See what Massad Ayoob says about this and you'll see what I mean. OT, nice review!

mike's spot said...

Thanks for the comments anon- I use those reloads to match the profile of carry ammo- but I do not carry them as my primary defense ammo.

I'm not on board with Ayoobs argument- but I do think that I have better luck with quality defensive ammo from a reliability standpoint with sealed primers than I would with my own stuff.

I know a few guys who use reloads for defense though and they always seem to run without a hitch.

drewcifer said...

I bought a p-11 a few months ago and have had no problems what so ever. It has not jammed or double fed. Also it is pretty accurate, i was shooting at a 12 inch paper ring target at 20 yards and hit within the inner 2 rings every time. Its cheap and comfortable to shoot even with the small frame and your pinky doesnt have room to rest. The recoil is nowhere near as rough as i expected out of a small cc pistol. Definetely worth the price, i think i gave $250

mdshoedr said...

awesome review juss brought a used one from my local trusted gun store in fort lauderdale, the trigger release was different for me, but really love the gun, I have big hand, and was thinking about extension, but not sure yet! great review!!

Gary winborne said...

My P11 shoots great, no jams, double feeds, or so o n. I do have a problem when manually unloading and ejecting the cartridge from the chamber. It is so hard to pull the slide back to eject the cartridge. Do you have any suggestions. Gary

mike's spot said...

Hi Gary-

try pushing forward on the pistol grip instead of just pulling back on the side. Moving your hands in opposition helps get more mechanical advantage to get that slide working!

Anonymous said...

Just purchased a used PF 11. Can't slide and eject last round. (Only by shooting) Any suggestions? Fires fine otherwise.

mike's spot said...


sounds like you might have a rough barrel hood / inside of slide. rub with emery paper and lubricate well- should make the transition easier. DO NOT radius this edge / adjust angles.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review! Just picked up a pf11, holster, and a box of hornday hollowpoints for under $300 dollars. Very comfortable concealed carry piece.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Great review and comments. I have a stock P11 for several years and have 3 issues with it, trigger pull, recoil and accuracy.

Is there a way to reduce the length of trigger pull? I may put in a stiffer spring to help with the recoil.

My accuracy is about 5' which I attribute mostly to the excessive trigger pull. With the Sig P226 I always shot expert at 25M so I don't think it's my shooting skills.

Any advice to get this beyond the 'ballistic knife' as I refer to it, would be appreciated.

mike's spot said...

Hi Anon~

you can reduce the pre and post travel on a p11, with a bit of modification. I would check KTOG for the full instructions, but the post travel screw does require frame modification.

This resource should get you started on modding your p11