If anyone has a reputation for innovation and originality it is KelTec. While many makers have waxed fat with 100-year-old designs or cloned other company’s products, KelTec has thrived on originality. Materials and layout are modern, and the operating principles are proven.
Among the more interesting handguns KelTec has introduced is the P15 9mm. This is KelTec’s first striker-fired handgun. The P15 features a polymer-frame striker-fired action and 15-round magazine capacity. Designed for concealed carry, the KelTec P15 falls into the popular subcompact frame size.
It is interesting that the P15 is a fresh design. Smith & Wesson developed the Equalizer from the Lite Rack and upgraded the Shield successfully. Then, we have the SIG XMACRO, an upgraded P365. KelTec has taken the route of offering a completely new design. The result is a desirable handgun with good features.
While affordable, the P15 isn’t as expensive as some pistols and costs a little more than some. Some handguns are about as reliable as Bubba’s child support check. The P15 was not in that class and proved to be reliable. The P15 was tested in only one example, but the piece ran well and shot well.
There are plans for a metal frame variant with removeable grips. While an aluminum frame is ok, I don’t see the point when the option will cost twice as much as the standard P15 and doesn’t have a light rail.
Beginning with the slide, the pistol features a low-reflective, dull, phosphate finish. The P15 features both forward and rear cocking serrations of a different pattern in each location. They offer good leverage. The rear of the slide is a polymer slide cover housing the striker.
The slide lock and magazine release are unobtrusive. This is as it should be for a concealed carry handgun. It is more important that the slide lock isn’t activated as the pistol recoils and that the magazine release doesn’t drop the magazine under light pressure when executing a speed load. With practice, a rapid reload isn’t difficult.
The magazine release is well designed. It requires more diagonal pressure than the straight-into-the-frame operation of most magazine release plungers. Until you acclimate to the magazine release it seems odd, but it operates as designed. This is a close carry handgun with specific controls designed for concealed carry rather than a full-size pistol downsized as much as possible. Keep that in mind when choosing a handgun for concealed carry.
A big advantage of the KelTec is its thin slide. The slide is only .875-inch wide and cannot be called blocky. The slide is practically snag free, even though it features forward cocking serrations. The sights are a good mix of fiber optic and tritium. They offer a good sight picture.
The rear sight offers a good range of adjustment. These sights are not as bright as I would like in dim light, but they are better than a simple three dot white outline.
The slide features a loaded chamber indicator of the lever type that provides both a tactile and optical warning that the chamber is loaded. The frame features a light rail that will accommodate smaller combat lights. I used a SIG Foxtrot light in testing the KelTec P15. This proved to be a good combination.
The grip is the familiar Gator grip — fitting for a Florida-based company. The P15 features a grip safety. This is the only manual safety on the P15. This safety is easily addressed. Simply grasping the handle of the P15 depresses the grip safety and releases the trigger. There is also a magazine safety. This safety prevents the pistol from firing with the magazine removed.
It is interesting to note the pistol features a frame-mounted safety feature control with three settings. The default setting as delivered is with an active grip safety and magazine safety. You may adjust the setting to deactivate the magazine safety or both safety features. I like the grip safety. It isn’t obtrusive, and I cannot imagine missing the grip safety as you confirm the firing grip. The magazine safety I could do without, but I left the setting as it was during testing. The slide must be removed to access this control.
The pistol is supplied with two magazines. In the modern fashion, one is a 15-round magazine, and the other a flush fit 11-round magazine advertised as a 12-round magazine. Perhaps after break in it will hold that additional cartridge.
To disassemble the handgun, first be certain to remove the magazine and double check the chamber. Use a pick or screwdriver to remove the slide lock. The slide will run off the frame. The recoil spring guide and spring easily lift out. The barrel is simply shaken or plucked out. I found no tool marks inside the pistol.
The barrel is four inches long. This makes for a more complete powder burn, lessening muzzle blast and increasing velocity. This is a longer barrel than most sub compact pistols, yet the handgun is quite compact. A great advantage of the P15 is the trigger. The trigger has a long travel compared to some and reset requires a similar return. The trigger in my test sample breaks at a clean 4.0 pounds even.
The trigger allows excellent control in rapid combat fire. Fire by pressing the trigger straight to the rear. Allow the trigger to reset during recoil, and as the trigger resets, get the sights back on target. When I consider the pistol has a 4.0-pound trigger, I am glad to have a grip safety. I am also glad that I understand the first rule of gun handling is keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Caliber: 9x19mm Luger
Weight unloaded: 14 ounces
Magazine capacity: 15+1
Overall length: 6.6 inches
Barrel length: 4 inches
Height: 5 inches
Slide width: 0.875 inch
Trigger pull: 4 pounds
I tested the pistol with a wide range of ammunition, just a few rounds of some and more extensive firing of others, burning through about 320 cartridges in two range sessions. The pistol never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. While handguns prefer one load to the other in accuracy testing reliability should be present with all loads. Fiocchi, PMC, Remington, and Winchester ball ammunition were used, as well as a smaller sample of steel-cased loads.
Hornady Critical Defense and SIG V Crown were among the defense loads. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. The P15 has more kick than some. There is no free lunch, and a 14-ounce pistol simply has more momentum. A four-inch barrel with more weight out front is a help in dampening recoil.
A smooth-rolling trigger also helps prevent flinch as you don’t know exactly when the kick is coming. As for absolute accuracy, I was surprised. I was putting the bullet holes in a tight little group at 10 yards and moved to 15 yards, maintained that grouping.
I fired from a solid, braced position against a barricade at a long 25 yards. Taking my time in a timed fire mode I fired 10 rounds. The 10 rounds of Winchester 147-grain FMJ went into four inches. I may benchrest the pistol at some point.
At present the KelTec P15 is proven to my satisfaction. This is a truly excellent defense pistol with much to recommend. Now if they will just turn out a few more!
The P15 accepts Holosun optics, perhaps a few more. I did not explore this option.
The DeSantis Vanquisher is a tuckable inside-the-waistband holster designed to accommodate several sizes of handguns. While it will work well with several handguns — the P15, Glock 43X, and SIG P365 XL — the balance of speed and retention is good. I like this holster a great deal. It is comfortable on a long day and offers a sharp draw.