Firearms

Review: Kel-Tec P17

Kel-Tec P17 with CCI Mini Mag

Seeing the first Kel-Tec P17 prototypes two years ago led me to ask the following question:

Why?

After the futuristic, high-capacity CP33, the more conventional P17 seemed, well, pedestrian. Turns out, the pistol was meant to be an affordable gun that everyone could enjoy.

At $200 MSRP (and retail lower than that), Kel-Tec succeeded with the first goal. The second goal—high performance to rival the higher-priced competitors—was reached equally well.

Kel-Tec P17 with Flash Hider
The P17 is affordable and performs well.

P17 Features and Specs

The specifications are the usual expected of Kel-Tec:

  • Lightweight, at just over 11 ounces
  • 16+1 capacity
  • Ambidextrous safety
  • Fiber optic front sight
  • Adjustable rear sight

The muzzle is factory threaded, and the barrel nut may be swapped with the included extended adapter threaded 1/2×28. A wrench for swapping these parts is included with the pistol. Three (!) drop-free 16-round magazines are included with the pistol.

No magazine loader is supplied, but it turns out none is needed: Kel-Tec engineers managed to get reliable feeding with all types of .22 LR—subsonic to hyper-velocity—without going to extra-stout springs.

Kel-Tec P17 with CCI Mini Mag
The P17 performs well with all types of .22 LR ammo.

Construction and Other Features

Steel barrel, trunnion and bolt are machined steel. The thin frame is stamped and folded. The unusually shaped slide is a steel stamping—it only encompasses the action at the top and front, with the sides contained by the grip frame halves.

The grip frame is a clamshell (typical for Kel-Tec), though some design elements look atypical. For example, the ambidextrous magazine release is a paddle style. The curved single-stage trigger breaks at an even three pounds.

Dual mainsprings ensure symmetrical pressure on the hammer, reducing friction in the firing mechanism. A red cocked hammer indicator is visible through the back of the frame when the pistol is ready to fire. The P17 is hammer-fired with a drop safety.

I celebrate the absence of magazine disconnector, as that “feature” foisted on some pistols actually diminishes safety by complicating the clearing process. All controls are properly fenced against accidental activation.

The pistol looks short due to the full-size grip, but the barrel is a decent 3.8 inches long. It balances easily in hand for deliberately aimed firing.

Kel-Tec P17 - High-Grip View
The P17 balances easily in the hand.

Disassembly and Performance

Disassembly is very simple:

  1. Remove the threaded muzzle adapter, if installed, replacing the stock muzzle nut.
  2. Engage the safety levers and lock the slide back.
  3. Depress disassembly notches in the dust cover forward of the trigger guard, pull the slide all the way back and lift the rear of it up. That disengages the slide from the frame, and it should be eased forward slowly past the muzzle.

That completes the field-stripping.

The proof of value is always in the live-fire performance, though. Kel-Tec put in an extra year of development into the P17 to make sure that it functioned reliably with all types of ammunition. It was also quite accurate with a wide variety of loads.

The clear sights and the smooth trigger helps accuracy a great deal. At 50 yards, 8-inch steel was an easy target for the P17, and an IDPA cardboard equally easy at 100 yards. Functioning has been flawless.

Kel-Tec P17 Pistol
A suppressor fits nicely on the P17.

A TX22 Successor?

The P17 is often perceived as a direct competitor to Taurus TX22. It is lighter by a third, cheaper by about 40 percent and comes with one more magazine.

The TX22 samples I’ve seen were as accurate and as reliable, but all had rear sights maxed out for windage and still shot slightly or significantly (with suppressor installed) to the right.

One area where TX22 wins is in shooting suppressed with high-velocity ammunition. The short breechblock of the P17 is open on both sides, so the strong hand thumb can get warm from the proximity to the breechface.

The same feature gives P17 an advantage of much higher, steadier hold with the support thumb being even with the boreline, impossible with the full-length moving slide of TX22.

Conclusion

Overall, P17 is a consistently reliable, accurate pistol suitable for plinking, as a kit gun for outdoors and possibly as a rimfire challenge competition pistol as well. The high reliability, good accuracy and light weight let it compete with custom .22s on an even ground.

What affordable gun has surprised you with its performance? Let us know in the comments below.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (10)

  1. I just bought the P17, but haven’t received it yet. Can’t wait. I already own the Sub2000 in 9mm, the CMR30, CP33 and a KSG. LOVW ALL OF THEM.

  2. I like keltecs. They are all ugly as chicken poop but cheap and fun to shoot. For $200 i might like that .22LR. I dont care about a suppressor but I like muzzle guard.

    I like the keltec .380s and 9mms. They are small and fit easily into pocket Holsters, belly bands, and ankle rigs.

  3. The 2nd generation Remington R51 is the most overlooked compact pistol on the market due to the complete failure of the first generation that suffered a 100% recall. It has the least recoil of any 9mm anywhere near it’s size and it is very accurate. You can get them new for about $200.

  4. I have a PMR-30 which shoots flawlessly. I am looking forward to this P-17 hitting the market.
    It looks like a lot of fun!

  5. My PMR-30 operates great with little recoil and easily breaks down for cleaning.
    I hated my Sub-2000 and sold it, a shooter should not have to smash the side of their face into a tube just to get a sight picture. It operated well all the time but if a weapon does not fit it.s owner the owner has to be remediated or sold to someone who has different thoughts about it.

  6. While Kel-Tec has long been stuck on “clamshell” stocks or frames for its long guns – which even in Airsoft is only used on the cheapest, entry-level POSs rather than anything trying to resemble a real gun – it seemed like they’d at least figured out how to make a one-piece pistol frame (P-11, etc.). Any idea why they took such a big step back for the .22s? Even the CP-33, priced well into the centerfire market (and well above KT’s own centerfires!) exhibits screw-covered clamshell ugliness.

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