Seeing the first Kel-Tec P17 prototypes two years ago led me to ask the following question:
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.
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.
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.
Disassembly and Performance
Disassembly is very simple:
- Remove the threaded muzzle adapter, if installed, replacing the stock muzzle nut.
- Engage the safety levers and lock the slide back.
- 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.
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.
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.