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Kel-Tec P3AT .380ACP?

an editorial by Mark Freburg


Is the tiny Kel-Tec P3AT .380ACP pistol a good choice for carry?  Let's consider that question.

In my opinion, one should probably have a minimum of 300 foot pounds of muzzle energy on tap with a carry gun.  400 foot pounds is better.

Kel-Tec claims their P3AT produces 250 foot pounds at the muzzle, all the while conveniently failing to state the length of the barrel.

That is so much nonsense.

Most ammo makers use pressure barrels, or if they use non-vented barrels they use longer barrels regardless.  Here are some energy figures from the ammo maker's themselves:

CCI's 95gr load manages 188f/lbs.  Federal's 90gr JHP manages 200f/lbs.  Cor-Bon, who loads the hottest ammo of them all, claims 220f/lbs for their 90gr JHP.  Remington, who offers more loads in .380 than anyone, has five loads ranging from 88grs to 102grs.  Only one, the 102gr Golden Saber, manages 200f/lbs even, the others are less.  To Remington's credit they state the barrel length used to test their loads--four inches.  That is probably twice the length of the P3AT's barrel. 

Being a subsonic load, the .380 drops velocity quickly as barrel length diminishes.  And muzzle velocity is a critical element of muzzle energy.  For Kel-Tec to claim 250f/lbs of muzzle energy is disingenuous at best.

I do understand that some people get a license to carry and then choose their gun based on light weight, ease of carry, something that won't interfere with their wardrobe style, etc.  They feel that just having a gun, any gun, somehow makes them safer.  They never expect to need the gun, and if they do, just showing it will be sufficient, right?  Well, we are all adults and should always have the last word on what we choose to carry.

I choose to carry a gun for a different reason--if the unthinkable occurs and I am forced to use it to defend my life, I want a gun that will incapacitate a bad guy as quickly as a handgun is capable of doing so.  To meet that possible need, I carry a gun with more power than a 2" .380 auto.  But that's just me.  (15 Mar 06)

Uploaded: 5/22/2006