Firearms

Range Report: KelTec P15 9mm — Concealed Carry Perfection

KelTec P15 with a corrugated steel and AR500 steel target background

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.

KelTec P15 9mm pistol, left profile with a green background
Muzzle to backstrap the P15 is a well-designed handgun.

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.

Field Stripped KelTec P15 9mm pistol
Field stripping the P15 is simple enough.

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.

Clockwise from top: Glock 43, Shadow Systems sub compact and the KelTec P15
Clockwise from top: Glock 43, Shadow Systems sub compact and the KelTec P15. The P15 compares well to anyone’s 9mm.

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.

safety operation setting dial on the KelTec P15 9mm handgun
This is the safety operation setting dial.

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.

Specifications

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

Range Testing

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.

KelTec P15 9mm handgun on a vitals target with bullet holes
Combat accuracy is outstanding. This is a formidable handgun.

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.

KelTec P15 9mm pistol in a DeSantis Vanquisher IWB holster
The author gives the DeSantis Vanquisher a high rating for security and comfort.

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!

Optics

The P15 accepts Holosun optics, perhaps a few more. I did not explore this option.

Concealed Carry

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.

What do you think of the KelTec P15? How does is compare to your current carry handgun? Let us know in the comments.

  • KelTec P15 with a corrugated steel and AR500 steel target background
  • close up of the grip safety on the KelTec P15 9mm pistol
  • Fiber optic front sight on a gun
  • KelTec P15 9mm handgun with fiber optic sights
  • KelTec P15 9mm handgun with extended magazine
  • Field Stripped KelTec P15 9mm pistol
  • KelTec P15 9mm pistol, left profile
  • KelTec P15 9mm pistol, left profile with a green background
  • KelTec P15 9mm handgun with a SIG Foxtrot weapons light attached to the dust cover
  • KelTec P15 9mm pistol in a DeSantis Vanquisher IWB holster
  • KelTec P15 9mm handgun on a vitals target with bullet holes
  • 3 dot green fiber optics sights on the Kel Tec P15 gun
  • Clockwise from top: Glock 43, Shadow Systems sub compact and the KelTec P15

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
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 (17)

  1. I have the p15 along with 10 other Keltec’s. I love each one of them they all shoot great that’s why I keep buying them. I even deer hunt with my su16 and rdb they make great hunting rifles. They are truly the only gun company that thinks outside the box. Well that’s my two cents.

  2. I own a P15. 200 rounds magtech fmj – 0 issues. 25 rounds Hornady Self Defence – 0 issues.

    However, I noticed my front sight could move nearly 1/8″ side-to-side. I sent it in, they replaced the slide, modified magwell, updated striker to new design, and pollished feed ramp.

    I have 1000 round of magtech and some civil defence ultra-lite rounds to test with soon. My first handgun, and I’m extremely happy with my choice for a concealed carry.

  3. I own a PF9, The only problem I have ever had was the magazine release wearing out, after several hundred rounds fired through it. The originals were plastic. When I reported the issue they sent me the new design, all metal release and heavier spring. Never have an issue after replacing the release.
    I have had this weapon for over 12 years, never fails.
    I also have a Highpoint .45, everyone calls these junk as well. It never fails either.

  4. Ditto, Bob!!
    My FFL number and address are available on request for any KT ‘junk’ someone wants to throw out.

  5. Man of peace

    All those calling K T junk and throw away let them drop them off at my FFL

    After all it is unethical to sell junk and you cant simply discard a serialized firearm.

    So you or I will take care of disposal! In the dark reaches of the gun safe!

    Best

    Bob Campbell

  6. Say your in the children of the corn state, Nebraska. & the people in power let all the scum creatures out of the prisons you know the child molesters & murders types, would this lead launcher used to place a 125 grain projectile into thug forehead help?

  7. Annoying. Announcement of availability over a year ago and improvements and haven’t found one for sale 😢

  8. I own Kel Tec, Beretta, Glock, Colt, Sig and Walther firearms. ALL have their good points and bad. But to call a product “Junk” ? I put this to you “Bob” ; you design and build your own firearm, prior to being so RUDE about another manufacturer product ! FYI sir ! You simply can not “throw it away” ! That sir is a CRIME !

  9. Only Kel-Tec I have shot was the PF9 with unacceptable recoil. I tried the subcompact Glock 43, Sig 938 and others – too much recoil from too light a gun. Much prefer the heavier compact 9’s like the Shield and my own Ruger SR9C. In the subcompact size I am more comfortable with .380ACP like my Sig 238.

  10. I have owned KT products since 2001 beginning with the P11. Since then I added a P3-AT, SU-16C, PF-9 and a Sub 2000. The only gun that I had some trouble with was the PF-9. Other than that one they all run like clocks. Yes their pistols are somewhat ugly but their long guns are cool looking.

    KT is the most innovative firearms company on this planet. They definitely think out of the box and their customer service has been very good. Sometimes their quality control has suffered with newly issued firearms but they will always fix it. I can understand why some people don’t like the brand but for me, I am a fan.

    I am very interested in buying a P15 when their availability is better and some time has passed to make sure whatever bugs are in the gun have been corrected. I’m glad that the reviewer didn’t have any problems with his.

  11. Bob Shirley

    Have you actually fired a Kel Tec?
    Some are for recreation but others are workmanlike effective firearms.

  12. Sorry, KelTec builds junk; funky engineering, made of crappy materiels, held together with Torx screws like a cell phone. If I ever come across the only one I still own in my gun room, my plan is to throw it away.

  13. Perfection is not a word I associate with anything made by Kel-Tec. They can be finicky, though the one gun that never gave me any trouble was the P11 (your mileage may vary). My only complaint was their heavy, spongy DAO trigger. I’ve been curious about the P15, but I’ve yet to locate one. I do not like the deep serrations on the slide and would prefer something smoother and more traditional. As for the grip safety, if this is the only thing keeping a cocked pistol from going off, I’m not sure how willing I’d be to carry it. I don’t carry a 1911 this way. And who in his right mind would deactivate all the safety features? What was Kel-Tec thinking? Did I miss something, i.e., is this pistol fully cocked or partially cocked prior to firing?

  14. Love the innovativeness of Kel-Tec, they keep their original designs affordable, although the cosmetic aspect could stand to be bumped up a little. My one disappointment with Kel-Tec, researching 9mm Glock fed Carbines, the Sub-2000, while a great idea, is simply not Correct-hand friendly, as most of their line is, If you want to know why, just pick up a Kel-Tec Sub 2000, with your Left-hand on the control grip, and watch the magazine drop. It is unavoidable for a correct handed person.

  15. KELTEC MAKES SOME NICE STUFF.
    NOT THE PRETTIEST GUNS ON THE MARKET BUT THEY WORK AND NORMALLY WORK WELL. IM GOING TO TAKE A LOOK AT ONE OF THE P15 PISTOLS WHEN I CAN FIND ONE.

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