Consumer Information

Review: Kel-Tec CP33

Man shooting kel-tec CP33 pistol with red dot

When it comes to new ideas in gun design and manufacture, the true innovations are few and far between.

General improvements and detail changes are common. A truly different firearm may be refreshing.

The CP33 pistol is a large handgun that handles better than it seems it should. The pistol is balanced well.

Like most .22-caliber handguns, the CP33 is a straight-blowback operated pistol.

Other than the type of action, the pistol doesn’t have much in common with other rimfire handguns.

Load the 33-round magazine and then rack the charging handle at the rear of the long receiver to make the pistol ready to fire.

The handle doesn’t move as the pistol fires, it is used only for charging. The bolt rides inside the aluminum receiver.

The barrel is 5.5-inches long and threaded for a suppressor or muzzle brake. The pistol is 10.6 inches in overall length.

One of the best features of the pistol is a set of fiber-optic sights.

The pistol features plenty of real estate to mount optics — and it is accurate enough to make use of these optics.

The Picatinny rail is well-designed and easy to use well. I measured the sight radius and it came out to a long nine inches.

The dust cover also features an M-Lok slot that allows easy use. I don’t often use M-Lok attachments, but it is nice to have the option.

pistol on table
The CP33 is a rugged handgun that isn’t likely to give trouble.

Look and Design

Unlike most modern pistols, the CP33 isn’t a striker-fired design, but a hammer-fired handgun.

The frame is polymer under an aluminum receiver and easily contains the single-action trigger.

The handle is quite far forward, but feels natural due to the pistol’s relatively light weight of 26 ounces.

The grip is pretty big in order to hold the 33-round magazine. Yep, 33 rounds of .22 Long Rifle.

This is a lot of fun and a great recreational shooter. Kel-Tec calls the magazine a quad stack.

Kel-Tec CP33 pistol
The CP33 is an interesting all-around pistol.

Magazine and Reliability

This magazine demands that the user is careful in loading the magazine properly.

A bit of finesse is needed in order to properly stack the magazine, and clear instructions are included. If properly loaded, the pistol is reliable.

I use primarily CCI Mini Mag loads, as this is a load famous for reliability. I have also used the Federal Hunter Match load with good results.

I have tested a few other loads and the pistol is much more reliable than many .22-caliber pistols.

The Kel-Tec CP33 pistol is a great recreational gun and the piece may be considered for personal defense.

On the basis of easy handling, it is as good as any .22.

The .22 and all rimfire cartridges are not as reliable as centerfire and you had best be adept at loading the magazine.

I find the pistol best suited for pure fun shooting. The pistol is plenty accurate enough for handgun hunting.

I have taken rabbit and squirrel with the .22 pistol and this one is more accurate than most.

Kel-tec CP33 on target with small holes closely grouped
The CP33 placed all 33 rounds into this target at 15 yards.

Accuracy and Performance

The pistol handles easily. The safety is ambidextrous and easily operated — down is fire. A red dot is visible when the safety is in the fire position.

When loading the magazine, be certain to carefully load the cartridge and press it to the rear — it takes a lot longer to load the magazine than to fire the 33 rounds out!

It isn’t like shoving a 9mm round into a CZ 75 magazine or pressing an AR-15 cartridge straight down into the magazine.

The magazine is the heart of any firearm and most particularly the CP33.

The pistol features a crisp single-action trigger that breaks at 3.5 pounds on the Lyman digital trigger scale.

This trigger action and the pistol’s weight and handling make for brilliant accuracy potential. Plinking-type accuracy is excellent.

Don’t just go and burn up the magazine at paper targets — although this is fun — give the CP33 a fair shake for accuracy.

At 25 yards and firing from a solid benchrest for absolute accuracy, the pistol will put five rounds into two inches.

This is a credible handgun well worth its price.

What do you think of the Kel-Tec CP33? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (13)

  1. Hi In Australia we are can get cp33 with a 10 shoot maz. It must be a lot of fun with 33. I also own Pmr30 keltec 22 wmr 10 shoot great gun nver mis fires, Regards Paul

  2. The cp33 is a great gun, shoots well and on target. Don’t know why all the negative comment about issues with loading, and hanh ups or failures to eject. I have shot everything from Remington Thunder Bolt ammo to CCI Mini mags and all performed without one issue. Total of 6 different brands of ammo all 40 grain bullets. If you are looking for a fun gun to shoot this is it. Dumping mags are fun and rewarding…….

  3. I’m sure a .22 would be just great in a firefight. You just have to double tap them, one in each eye, then they can’t see to take the gun away and shove it … well, you get the point.

  4. A friend of mine was invited to deer hunt at a relative’s camp. A young fella stopped in to visit, noticed there were ten guys. At 7AM, A knock on the door.The young man said, There ya go. He had ten dead deer, packed in the back of his pick up…all shot once…with a 22 Cal.Pistol..They were ticked, and knew the game warden was coming to Check the camp roster….they had to hide the deer…and kicked the kid out of camp…forbidding him ever to return. My friend packed up his gear and left. All dead, one shot, 22 Cal.

  5. Geez that thing is uglier than an Edsel.
    Kel-tec has some interesting designs and all but I’ll pass.

  6. Doc, Let’s talk real… Real world experience, that is.

    I would ask how many actual GSW’s you have seen. I say that because my real world experience in dealing with things like GSW’s starts 50 years ago when I was a medic in the Army and they sent me someplace overseas where I was on a team that did the SAR and Recon thing way out in the boonies. When I got out of the Army, I spent more than 30 years with real world nursing experience in civilian ER’s in three of the busiest ER’s in my state. During that time, both in the military and in those various ER’s, I saw hundreds of GSW victims, and when I say hundreds, it numbers well into the high three digit figures and may actually be four digits. And in that time, I don’t think we saw more than a couple of deaths with .22 LR and none with .22 WMR. That would be a fraction of one percent of all the deaths I saw in those 30 plus years. I would think that if the .22 was sufficient, I would have seen far more than a couple on whom this caliber worked in actual defense. I even saw self-inflicted GSW’s as suicide attempts with .22 which did not succeed in killing them. They were FUBARed but not dead. This is real world data. (FUBAR means Fouled Up Beyond All Repair, for the uninitiated.) In my experience, using a .22 for self-defense has frequently been the last bad choice of a dead person.

    Now, when you say it may well suffice, I would have to say not so much. In my experience working in busy ER’s, the only has it has sufficed to do was to really piss off the shootee. One thing that I have seen, in the aftermath of being shot with .22, people who have been shot with those calibers frequently responded by assaulting the shooter and killing them. We also saw those people and a lot of them came in dead and stayed that way. Weapons used by these shootees to kill the shooter have been knives, clubs, other guns, even bare hands. If the object of those weapons was self-defense, they failed more times than not and on a colossal scale.

    I don’t know what you are calling real world data because I have known a lot of cops who will tell you the same thing, that .22 is completely inadequate for self-defense. And I think it is safe to say that I have had real world experience with GSW’s in multiple calibers and I have seen what does and does not work for self-defense. Any caliber that is more likely to get the shooter dead than the shootee is not a viable choice for anyone who does not have a death wish.

    I do know of one case where someone was killed by a .22; it took place more than 40 years ago. A friend of mine on the local police force told me about a guy who broke into a woman’s home and raped her several times. When he went into the bathroom, she retrieved a Ruger .22 automatic and started shooting when he opened the door; she emptied the magazine into the guy as fast as she could. He was caught by surprise, staggered back, and fell to the bathroom floor, but before he could get up, she swapped out magazines and shot him some more.

    This was long before 911 so she dialed the operator to call for the police. She told the dispatcher that she had been raped, that she needed the police, and the suspect was contained in her bathroom. The guy was begging her to call an ambulance as she stood in the door with the gun on him. She did not call for an ambulance until she heard the police siren. By the time, she let the cops in, he was in the process of breathing his last, it was too late for an ambulance. My friend was one of the responding officers. He said the guy had more than 20 holes in him. The cops that responded felt bad for the girl and several of them got together to take up a collection so she could buy herself a 9 mm.

    Other than that, from what I have seen, the .22 is a choice that is inadequate for self-defense. It has been known to be more likely to piss off the shootee than it is to actually deter the assault and has been known to result in more injury to the shooter than the shootee.

    In my experience, there are several calibers that are more dangerous to the shooter than the shootee because they are woefully inadequate to deter an assault. They are the .22, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and .380. I have seen multiple cases where those guns were used for self-defense and the shooter was the one killed by the shootee. This is real world data, some I have seen, some was reported to me my friends who were cops.

    You mention using .22 WMR for deer. I have been hunting deer for many years, and I am not aware of a single state that allows any rimfire to be used on deer. Oklahoma, Texas, and Tennessee specifically prohibit the use of ANY rimfire cartridge to take deer and other large game. In Oklahoma and Texas, hunting deer with any rimfire caliber is considered poaching. That is a felony, punishable by loss of your weapon, vehicle, a huge fine and loss of hunting rights for up to 5 years. That may also be accompanied by some serious jail time.

    Now, I know that people have used .22 WMR to kill deer. Let me let you in on a secret, that is illegal in most states and will get you into a lot of trouble. Other states like Nebraska will allow .22 calibers that have 900 FT/LBs f energy at 100 yds. There ain’t a rimfire that can meet that standard. It is NOT a good idea!

  7. The main purpose for me would be target shooting. The reliability of the rimfire cartridge has always been problematic. The only misfires I have ever had were from reloads with contaminated primers, and the 22 LR.
    The reloads were my fault. I threw a rag with Hoppes #9 on it over a box of primers and forgot about it. When the first two failed, I pulled the bullets and powder and de-primed the lot, then reloaded them again and they were perfect.
    In competition, I used a High Standard Victor, and commonly shot out the x-ring, and it’s that kind of accuracy that I find acceptable. And, with the exception of an emergency, target shooting is my only use of that caliber.

  8. Magazine loading is made very easy with one of the loading accessories made specifically for the CP33 – set mag in device, drop round in slot, push down on mag, repeat

    There are also extendos for the mags that up capacity to 50 rds as well as printed add-ons like a more ergonomic charging handle adapter, pistol brace adapter, thumb shelves, etc. all worth considering

  9. I have owned KELTEC firearms, particularly the 22magnum carbine. While a nice concept for self defense the issue of loading the magazines properly gives fits for reliability from first round to last since it was a quad stack as well. I used a magazine loader that improved things, but 1 improperly loaded round caused stoppages. I liked the little rifle, but for its intended use it’s worthless.
    Now they are introducing a 5.7 pistol that uses FN mags for 50 rounds. Put a 16” barrel and butstock on it for a kickass carbine.

  10. I fired my CP3 recently zeroing an Aimpoint M4 red dot. With a arm brace attached, I was able to get multiple points of contact for stability. With dot dimmed low for accuracy, I was able to put all 33 rounds fired one every second or two, into a couple of inches at a measured 25 yards. And thats with uncorrected 61 year old Mark II eyeballs. I am enamored with the accuracy and fun potential and loading the magazines with a push down after market mag loader, is quite easily done while maintaining rim alignment issues properly. I really like this gun and the arm brace makes this very accurate. I would buy this gun again and highly recommend it to raise your fun quotient and train newer shooters. I was able to attach a friends suppressor and it made the gun hearing safe without ear pro.

  11. Amazing pistol once broken in, and mag loading is mastered. Try an “American Speed Loader” to make mag loading a snap.

  12. Fell I love with this gun the first time I fired it. One word, FUN!

    Now as mentioned, the mags are a bit touchy and they don’t like certain ammo. I’ve had some issues with Remington bulk.

    Accurate indeed👍

  13. Actually, there is a lot of misinformation and bad press
    about .22 rimfires for self defense. Real world data
    indicates that if a .22 rimfire is what you’ve got, it may
    well suffice. Certainly practice, practice, practice, practice
    is s key component to successful use of any .22 rimfire for

    In .22 Long Rifle, Federal has the .22 LR Personal Defense
    Punch (29 grains)and Winchester’s 37 grain SilverTip are designed
    (29 grains) specifically for self-defense. In the markedly more potent
    (and in my opinion far preferable) .22 Winchester Magnum
    Rimfire or ‘.22 Magnum,’ there are Hornady’s Critical Defense,
    a 45-grain bullet and Speer’s Gold Dot (40-grain) seem the best
    for hand-guns.

    For .22 Long Rifle long guns, Winchester’s Dynapoint, 40-grain
    at 1,300 fps, followed by Aquila’s Interceptor HP, 40 grains
    at 1,470 fps are best. For the .22 Magnum, there are many good
    choices, 40-grains to 50-grains expanding bullets, inspired by
    centerfire hunting bullets, most with over 300 foot-pounds of energy
    (Winchester’s 40 grain Dynapoint has less but a superior bullet and
    Federal’s 50-grain also less muzzle energy but a heavy bullet quite
    suitable for deer under 50 yards.

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