I’ve been carrying everyday for the last 16 years, and frequently for ten before that. Open carry, concealed carry, in the car, walking around. I’ve lived primarily in the Southwest — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — during that time, so being able to carry something that can easily drop in a pocket of shorts or pants without printing or dragging the waistband down is a must, especially when having to hang around the park with my kid and other people’s wee squibs.
In the ’90s, there really wasn’t much you could do in the way of really deep concealment. I carried a Star PD .45 for a long time. It was small enough, light enough, and had six rounds of .45…the be-all, end-all of self-defense calibers for some people. Anything less isn’t “enough gun.” For a while, I carried a little .22 magnum Derringer. It was what I call an “Oh, shit!” gun.
Then I moved to the Kel-Tec P-32 sometime about 2005. I also carried the FN FiveSeven starting about this time and it was my main sidearm for ten years. But on the motorcycle, or when wearing shorts, having a full-size (but very light!) handgun was just a touch much. That’s where the Kel-Tec came in. That thing sat in my motorcycle jacket pocket for a decade, and saw semi-regular practice.
For a short time, I succumbed to the “not enough gun” mantra and went up to a Ruger LCP .380. Lovely looking thing; an absolutely beast to shoot because of the light weight. First chance, I did a straight trade back to the Kel-Tec P-32. “Wee Jock” (named for the Westie Terrier in Hamish MacBeth) now goes with me most places.
That’s not enough gun! cries the manly-man shooter. Wrong. Just about every damned pistol cartridge needs an average of 2.25 round to incapacitate. There are plenty of police and military anecdotes about how their 1911 .45, their Webley .455, their M1 Garand, their M4 didn’t stop someone who was ready, angry, juiced, up. The fact is, for most folks, at that first bang, no one wants to play anymore. The .32ACP caliber was adequate enough for European police for decades. It was the first chambering for the Walther PPK, and the Kel-Tec P-32 holds seven rounds of it, just like the old PPK.
Which brings us to the review portion. It’s a small gun. If you have big hands, it might not suit you. I don’t have huge meathooks, but even I hang a pinky on this pistol. It doesn’t especially bother me, but you can get a mag floorplate with a pinkie extension. you can get a belt clip that hooks right onto the pin near the back oft he gun, if you don’t want to buy a holster. I find carrying it in a little holster/wallet thing by Uncle Mike’s hides it well, and keeps my wee daughter from accidentally firing it when she’s pawing at me. (There’s no safety, keep in mind.)
It’s very light: a touch under 10 ounces fully loaded. If fits in the palm of my hand, and it drops in a pocket unobtrusively. I’ve had two; my ex-wife had one. Of the three, we’d never experienced a failure to feed, fire, nor have they every exploded or done anything other than what i wanted. Accuracy on them, with minimal sights (and that’s generous) is surprisingly good. Out to 10 yards, the 2.5″ barrel gives you groups that are more than adequate to defend yourself. I can, if I really concentrate, do a two inch group, but I tend to practice like I’d use it — quick draw and rapid fire. Doing that, I still can put all seven in the 9 ring.
I’ve found it’s a good pistol for people with small hands, but the arthritic might find the long trigger pull and the recoil from the straight blowback operation hard to manage.
Recoil is much more manageable than its bigger brother, the P3AT and the higher quality clone, the Ruger LCP. (If you’re going to do the .380 — go Ruger. The finish and quality is higher for about the same price.) Seven rounds of .32ACP is, admittedly, not going to last you long in a protracted firefight, but that’s not what the Kel-Tec is for; the P-32 is for those times when carrying openly, or carrying a larger gun just isn’t practical for whatever reason. The Kel-Tec is much more likely to get thrown in your pocket for a quick milk run than shoving your Glock 42 in your waistband…and the gun you don’t have with you is pretty bloody worthless.
New, the P-32 runs about $250, and used you can get them for $150ish, which makes them highly economical for self-defense. And you can replace it much easier than your $500 Glock or $800 Springfield 1911 if you have to lose it to an evidence room.