Kel-Tec P32 Review: A Deep Concealment .32 Pocket Gun (2022)

If you read my last article, Why There is No Such Thing as a “Cheap Gun” for Self-Defense, I promised a review of my little Kel-Tec P32 pocket popgun that I bought on an impulse. I’ve taken it on three range trips now and fired three different types of ammunition through it. I did not perform a torture test by any means, or even enough to really make a judgment on reliability. But it has been more than enough for me to draw my necessary conclusions.

01

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Kel-Tec P32 Features

The Kel-Tec P32 is a .32 ACP, locked-breech semi-automatic pistol with a double-action-only trigger pull. However, it is not a true double-action-only in that it doesn’t have second-strike capability. It makes use of a hammer, but the slide partially cocks the hammer.

The P32 has a capacity of 7+1 and weighs a mere 6.6 ounces unloaded. There are no manual safeties, nor are there any slide stop or slide release levers. There is only a trigger and a magazine release as far as controls. However, the pistol does feature an internal slide stop and will stay open on an empty magazine. You must remove the magazine to reclose the slide, though, as there is no slide release lever.

The gun has sights, kind of. They are very tiny and low on the slide, just a short black nub of a front sight with a shallow groove for a rear. There are no dots, and the sights are pretty hard to acquire (or even see) depending on the situation.

02

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Shooting the Kel-Tec P32

(Video) Kel-Tec P32 Pistol

I was pleasantly surprised, even impressed, with how well this cheap little pistol shot. The trigger pull is long but is actually very smooth. The partially cocked hammer makes for a reasonably light double-action pull. My only other experience with pocket pistols like this, outside of snub-nosed revolvers, is with a Ruger LCP. I found the P32 trigger to be better than the LCP’s, even though it is not “as nice” of a gun. I can’t speak for the LCP II, which I understand made significant improvements over the original LCP trigger, but I have absolutely no complaints about the P32’s trigger.

That decent trigger also lent itself to good accuracy. Again, I was surprised that I was able to shoot this gun just as well as any other small gun, even with the nearly nonexistent sights. While firing slowly at seven yards, the tiny sights were surprisingly usable, and I was able to shoot a group of about two inches on the first magazine.

Aside from the much-better-than-expected accuracy with aimed fire, rapid fire was also fairly easy. The locked-breech design, uncommon for .32s, helps tame recoil. While the recoil of the cartridge is low, to begin with, the locked-breech design allows the gun to be as light as it is, and super light pistols can have more recoil than expected, even with relatively weak cartridges. The P32’s recoil would be manageable by anyone, even with the gun’s tiny grip.

Kel-Tec P32 Recoil

While the recoil was manageable, it was still enough to present particular challenges with rapid fire. The small, hard-to-see sights are harder to reacquire quickly. It was basically impossible for me to regain anything like a “sight picture” during rapid-fire. That being said, I was easily able to keep shots on target center-of-mass at self-defense distances by simple point-shooting. You would likely deploy a gun like this anyway, and one reason that tiny guns like this don’t feature much in the way of sights. Some small .32s don’t even have sights at all.

Kel-Tec P32 Bite

One downside about the way this little gun shoots is the fit and finish. The polymer frame is much rougher than your average pistol. The hammer block axis pin near the rear of the gun was especially problematic for me in this regard. It is rough around the edges and sits right on the metacarpal joint of my thumb. After a box or so of ammo, it had worn away a neat hole in my skin precisely the size of the pin.

This, of course, made for an unpleasant shooting experience. Shooting a small amount of ammo wasn’t a problem, and I didn’t realize it was rubbing at me this badly until it was too late. Still, as pleasant as this little gun was to shoot at first, these rough edges ensured that I couldn’t have fun for too long. While these edges could be smoothed out, you shouldn’t have to take a file to a new gun. And as much practice as it takes to learn to shoot a small gun like this, something that prevents shooting more than a box at a time comfortably can be a pretty big negative.

Overall, by my third range trip, I wasn’t getting torn up by this pin as badly and knowing that it was there allowed me to change my grip slightly to avoid bloodshed. But I’ll still probably try to smooth it out with a file because changing your grip to deal with one specific gun is not proper training.

03

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Keltec P32 Reliability

(Video) Kel Tec P-32 .32 ACP Pocket Pistol Review

Reliability is where I had my biggest concerns with a pistol like this. While the accuracy and shootability were much better than expected, I had low expectations for a reason. Guns like this are not designed for target shooting, but rather getting shots on an attacker at what is usually contact distance. As such, reliability is really the more pressing concern when it comes to the practicality of small, cheap guns. That’s also where most cheap guns experience the most issues.

My P32 was about as reliable as I expected, if not a little more. I tried two different types of FMJ ammo – one box of Winchester White Box (71gr flat-pointed round nose) and two boxes of GECO (73gr round nose). I also tried out what would pass for a “defense load” in this cartridge – the Buffalo Bore 75gr hard cast +P flat point. As explained in my last article, .32 ACP doesn’t have enough power for hollow points to work correctly, so flat pointed bullets are the next best thing.

P32 Winchester White Box Results

With the Winchester White Box, I had one failure to feed early on in my shooting. I’m hesitant to say it was an issue with the gun, though I haven’t ruled it out, as it was so early in my shooting and did not occur again. It may have been that I didn’t seat the magazine all the way, or it may have been a very brief “break-in” period. I didn’t have any other reliability issues with the Winchester ammo after that.

P32 GECO Results

With the two boxes of GECO ammo, I had no problems whatsoever. This was a welcome finding, as this is the cheapest .32 ACP I could find anywhere. I bought it on sale for $8.48 per box, but it hovers around $10, on par with 9mm. The GECO ammo was not only reliable, but it also shot pretty clean and was just as accurate as the rest.

P32 Buffalo Bore Results

My greatest disappointment with reliability was with the Buffalo Bore ammunition. On my very first magazine with the stuff, I encountered the dreaded rim lock that .32 ACP can struggle with. The gun was completely locked up, and it is tricky to undo the rim lock. It was especially troubling because I was concerned with rim lock going in, and was sure to carefully seat the rounds in the magazine in an attempt to avoid it. I suspect that this is due to the shorter overall length of the flat point ammo, combined with the additional power of the +P loading.

The flat point bullet allows a little bit of empty space in the magazine forward of the bullet. I believe this, coupled with the increased recoil, might have allowed the rims to shift and lock up, or at least made it more likely. The GECO ammo, on the other hand, has a longer overall length, filling almost all of the length of the magazine. It would not be able to shift forward in the magazine very much, reducing the possibility of rim lock.

I can’t say for sure whether the issue with the Buffalo Bore was a fluke or not. It may have just been bad luck, and maybe my better results with the cheaper ammo could have just been good luck. But I’m not exactly compelled to buy hundreds of rounds of the expensive Buffalo Bore ammo to prove it one way or the other for the limited benefit the flat point +P has over the regular round nose. But then again, my only other malfunction was also with a Winchester flat nosed bullet, though it was not as severe as rim lock. So there may be something about flat pointed bullets that this gun doesn’t like.

Sticking with Round Nose Ammo

For the time being, if I carry this gun, I’ll just use the round nose ammo to make sure it at least goes bang after the first shot. Still, only trusting round nose ammo to run reliably does turn me off of carrying the gun in the first place, as the .32 needs all the help it can get in wounding.

04

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(Video) Kel-Tec P3AT Review ... The Little Gun That Could

Kel-Tek P32 for Concealed Carry

It is almost pointless to write a review of how this gun carries, even though that’s the whole point of the gun. The P32 is just ridiculously easy to carry. As I’ve already said, it is an ultra-light 6.6 ounces and is only around 9 ounces loaded. It is also very small and very slim. It makes my shield feel massive in comparison.

In the Desantis Nemesis pocket holster, the gun disappears. This is even in small pockets of relatively tight pants, where it just looks like a wallet or phone. I’ve never been able to pocket carry my LCR in pants pockets due to the bulge of the cylinder. But the P32 presents no problems. It will fit just about anywhere. Again, it is silly to talk about how this gun conceals, as I can’t even imagine any other gun on the market being easier to conceal aside from the NAA mini revolvers, which I don’t consider to be practical for self-defense in any way. Even among other tiny .32s, the Kel-Tec is lighter and flatter than most, even more so than those that are a bit “smaller.”

I did a few drills drawing the P32 from my pants pocket and point shooting at five yards. I was easily able to draw the gun from the Desantis Nemesis and get quick shots on target. The holster stayed put, and the gun came out easily, even in tight pants, showing exactly why they don’t put “real” sights on the thing. There is nothing on the P32 that can snag.

05

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Maintenance

I wouldn’t usually bother with a section on maintenance. But there are a few things about the P32 worth pointing out. The takedown pin is somewhat challenging to remove. Even the manual cautions you not to break the gun while doing so. You essentially have to pry the pin out (the manual shows using a spent casing to do this), while simultaneously holding the frame down around the pin to prevent the assembly pin spring from dislodging. In addition to that, the frame flexes more than I’d like, which makes me concerned about cracking the frame as well as dislodging a spring.

When reassembling, I also keep doing it wrong. This isn’t the gun’s fault exactly, but user error. If you pull the trigger while the gun is apart, the hammer moves far enough forward that the slide will run completely over the top when reassembling, preventing the gun from working. It surprises me that the gun goes back together like this.

(Video) Kel Tec P32 Review

Again, this is my fault, and I might be breaking the thing by messing around with it too much. The manual says, “do not dry fire your P32. As with any gun, dry firing should be avoided.” I don’t know where they get this from exactly. Dry firing any centerfire gun is generally safe and even encouraged. I have tried to avoid dry-firing the P32, but I’ve still done it a few times. I’m just too big a fan of dry fire practice to avoid it altogether. I also like to make sure the thing is still working when I put it back together. But who knows, maybe next time I go to the range, it won’t work thanks to my dry firing. I sure hope not.

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Conclusion

On the whole, the Kel-Tec P32 exceeded my expectations, though my expectations were admittedly low. The gun was easy to shoot well and is very easy to carry. The only concerns I have are with reliability. But these are more problems with the .32 ACP cartridge than with the design of the gun.

Kel-Tec P32 Pricing

For the price I paid, it is hard to go wrong with this gun. Though recall from my previous article that price is the least important consideration for a carry gun. At least not if it is your primary. However, for the usual price the P32 sells for, I think anyone would be better off with something like an LCP or the Kel-Tec P3AT, which don’t cost much more, and which use the more effective (and reliable) .380 ACP.

.32 ACP for a Carry Gun

I don’t think the P32 is necessarily a suitable primary carry gun for a lot of the same reasons. The .32 ACP has its unique reliability and performance issues that I’ve previously discussed. And there are tons of choices similar to the P32 in .380 ACP which get around these problems. While the P32 is lighter than the similar .380s, it isn’t that much lighter. It isn’t like an LCP or P3AT is in any way difficult to carry.

P32 As a Backup Gun

The P32, if anything, is best suited as a backup gun. I’m less concerned with perfect reliability when it comes to a backup gun. You’re only relying on a backup when everything has already gone wrong with your primary gun. I do not carry a backup gun. I think it is probably better to just carry another magazine. But the P32 makes a pretty decent case for it. The gun literally weighs less than a spare magazine for my Shield and can fit practically anywhere. I hope this Kel-Tec P32 review helps in your buying decisions.

As always, piece be with you!

FAQs

Is the Kel-Tec P32 reliable? ›

The P32 proved surprisingly pleasant to shoot. I was able to fire groups in the 2.5-inch range thanks to the reasonably light trigger pull and despite the minuscule sights. Reliability was flawless and I was highly impressed. I've been carrying the P32 as a backup gun in a TUFF Products Size 12 Jr.

Is a 32 A good carry gun? ›

The . 32 ACP performs better than some people might expect and can perform effectively for personal protection. As a concealed-carry, deep-cover, backup gun, or as a easy-shooting range companion, the . 32 ACP is a viable option.

How much is a Kel-Tec 32 caliber pistol? ›

$299.99

What ammo does a Kel-Tec P32 use? ›

The P32 is a semi-automatic pistol chambered for the . 32 Auto cartridge. With an easy, smooth trigger pull and 7+1 capacity it's perfect for a variety of carry situations.

Is Kel Tec a good brand? ›

Key point: These guns are still widely used and are certainly affordable. But they are not known for being high quality. Kel-Tec

Kel-Tec
Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc., commonly referred to as Kel-Tec, is an American developer and manufacturer of firearms. Founded by George Kellgren in 1991 and based in Cocoa, Florida, the company has manufactured firearms since 1995, starting with semi-automatic pistols and expanding to rifles and then shotguns.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Kel-Tec
is one of the most polarizing companies in the American gun industry, known for making exotic designs at cheap prices, but also with quality control issues.

What is the difference between 32 ACP and 32 auto? ›

32 ACP (Automatic Colt

Colt
Samuel Colt (/koʊlt/; July 19, 1814 – January 10, 1862) was an American inventor, industrialist, and businessman who established Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company (now Colt's Manufacturing Company) and made the mass production of revolvers commercially viable.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Samuel_Colt
Pistol, also known as . 32 Automatic) is a centerfire pistol cartridge. It is a semi-rimmed, straight-walled cartridge developed by firearms designer John Browning, initially for use in the FN M1900 semi-automatic pistol.

Does anyone still make a 32 caliber pistol? ›

32 ACP guns regularly found on the market today. Some of these you may have to source used, but most of them are still in production.

Is 32 SW good for self-defense? ›

It's an excellent target and small-game round, and with good shot placement several of these loads would work quite adequately for civilian self defense in most situations.

How many bullets go in a 32 bore pistol? ›

Easy to carry on belt or pocket. Fits 20 bullets of . 32 cal very well.

How much does a Kel-Tec P32 weight? ›

Kel-Tec P32 DEALS

The P32 is just ridiculously easy to carry. As I've already said, it is an ultra-light 6.6 ounces and is only around 9 ounces loaded. It is also very small and very slim.

Is Kel-Tec still making guns? ›

We are building more firearms now than we ever have. We did not close down for COVID nor did we slow down during COVID. In fact, we are producing more guns now then we have in the almost 30 years the company has been around.

What caliber is a Kel-Tec? ›

Weapons manufactured by Kel-Tec include the P-11 pistol (caliber 9 mm); the P-32 pistol (Caliber 32 ACP); the P-3AT pistol (Caliber . 380 ACP); the P-40 (Caliber . 40 S&W)(discontinued); the SUB-9 and the later SUB-2000, both semi-automatic pistol caliber carbines that fold for storage.

What size is 32 caliber? ›

. 32 caliber is a size of ammunition, fitted to firearms with a bore diameter of 0.32 inches (8.1 mm).

Why are Bullpups better? ›

Benefits. The primary benefit of a bullpup weapon is that the weapon's overall length can be significantly decreased without reducing the barrel length. This allows a bullpup weapon to be more easily maneuvered and concealed than a conventional weapon with a similar barrel length, especially in tight spaces.

Where are Kel-Tec guns made? ›

Founded in 1991 and based in Cocoa, Florida, the company has manufactured firearms since 1995, starting with semi-automatic pistols and expanding to rifles.

What pistol holds the most rounds? ›

What Handgun Has The Most Rounds? To date, the handguns that can hold the most rounds from the factory are 9mm Glock models. The Glock 17 has several magazine configurations, the largest of which accommodates 33 rounds. Of course, if we're talking about aftermarket magazines then it will vary from pistol to pistol.

Can you shoot .32 ACP in a .32 S&W? ›

32 ACP fits in a . 32 revolver and it shouldn't make the gun blow up in your face, but there are a few other issues you might run into. First, it's probably not going to be very accurate.

Is .32 and .32 ACP the same? ›

Re: 32 ACP Vs 32 Revolver

. 32 ACP Cartridge can be anything between 60 to 75 Grains, with a Velocity of 1,100 Ft./S and Energy of 160 to 180 Ft./Lbf. . 32 S&W Cartridge is generally between 85 to 100 Grains, with a Velocity of 700 Ft./S and Energy of 90 to 115 Ft./Lbf.

What does ACP mean in ammo? ›

45 ACP (Automatic Colt

Colt
Samuel Colt (/koʊlt/; July 19, 1814 – January 10, 1862) was an American inventor, industrialist, and businessman who established Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company (now Colt's Manufacturing Company) and made the mass production of revolvers commercially viable.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Samuel_Colt
Pistol) or . 45 Auto (11.43×23mm) is a rimless straight-walled handgun cartridge designed by John Moses Browning in 1904, for use in his prototype Colt semi-automatic pistol. After successful military trials, it was adopted as the standard chambering for Colt's M1911 pistol.

Is 32 ACP bigger than 9mm? ›

32 ACP (aka 32 Auto)

You could find the round pretty much anywhere on earth by the middle of last century. With its . 3125” bullet and overall length of less than one inch, the 32 ACP doesn't deliver a heavy punch in comparison to a larger round like the 9mm or 40 S&W.

Is 380 more powerful than 9mm? ›

The . 380 ACP round is cheaper and easier to handle and conceal, while the 9mm is more powerful overall. The rounds can both be used in revolvers and autoloaders, but are not interchangeable with one another.

What is the difference between 9mm and 32 caliber? ›

As illustrated in the chart, 9mm Luger (Parabellum) rounds - on average - achieve a velocity of about 1140 feet per second (fps) while . 32 Auto (7.65mm Browning) rounds travel at a velocity of 960 fps. To put this into perspective, a Boeing 737 commercial airliner travels at a cruising speed of 600 mph, or 880 fps.

Is a 7.65 the same as a 32 caliber? ›

A: While the . 32 ACP and 7.65 mm Browning cartridges are dimensionally identical, some early European ammunition was loaded to slightly higher pressures, which can cause a problem similar to yours. The best way to address that is at the gun.

Videos

1. Keltec P32
(Rebel Shooter)
2. My Underwear Gun - P32 mouse gun
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3. Kel-Tec P32 | Personal Defense Firearms | MidwayUSA
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4. Mouse Guns, Pocket Pistols, & Failure (Oh My!)
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5. The Smallest Pistol Seecamp 32 ACP
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6. Concealed Pocket Carry
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