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.