If you’re interested in purchasing a pocket pistol, consider the KelTec P32, one of the lightest semi-automatic centerfire handguns in the world. This reliable, no-frills self-defense pistol is affordable, comfortable to shoot, and incredibly convenient to carry.
Find out how this unique weapon entered the market and what makes it one of the best pocket pistols available.
Pocket Pistols in the 1990s
When right-to-carry legislation swept the country in the mid to late 1990s, there were few options for a reliable, affordably priced centerfire pocket pistol. Gun owners demanded increasingly compact firearms for the sake of convenience, and more companies attempted to meet it.
However, there was also the matter of caliber. The lightest pistols and revolvers on the market fired .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, or .25 ACP. In 1996, Beretta introduced the 3032 Tomcat, a blowback-operated .32-caliber pistol weighing 14.5 oz. The Tomcat remains a popular choice for concealed carry, but a lighter weapon was needed.
About the KelTec P32
George Kellgren founded KelTec as Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc., in 1991. KelTec is a well-known manufacturer of polymer-framed handguns and lightweight rifles and shotguns. In 1999, KelTec introduced the P32 chambered in .32 ACP, a semi-automatic, locked-breech, hammer-fired handgun. The P32 is fed from a single stack (single-column) magazine holding seven ammunition rounds.
The P32’s claim to fame is that it weighs only 6.6 oz. unloaded, less than half that of the Beretta Tomcat. This is due, in part, to its use of lightweight materials. For example, the grip, which includes the trigger guard and magazine well, is injection-molded DuPont ST-8018 (Zytel) high-impact glass-reinforced nylon.
Inside the grip is a 7075-T6 aluminum-alloy frame, which houses the firing mechanism. The barrel, slide, and firing mechanism are steel.
Unlike most .32-caliber semi-automatic pistols, which are simple blowback, the P32 is also recoil-operated. In this system, the barrel and slide are locked together at the moment of firing, recoiling a short distance (approximately ¼”) before unlocking. This method of operation allows the slide to remain relatively lightweight.
Dimensionally, the P32 is as compact as it is light. The grip has a modest width of 0.75”, perfect for shooters with small hands. The barrel is 2.7”, and the pistol’s overall length is 5.1” from the recoil shoulder to the muzzle. As a result, the P32 is the perfect size for deep concealment, whether as a primary sidearm or a backup gun.
KelTec advertises the P32 as a backup weapon for police officers, reflecting its versatility.
The .32 ACP or 7.65mm Browning cartridge is not known for its wounding power, but in a weapon of this size, it has more power than a .22 or .25 without the recoil of a heavier cartridge. Find a cartridge load that achieves sufficient penetration and cycles reliably in your weapon.
If you want a weapon of similar size and dimensions in a heavier caliber, KelTec also offers the 8.3-oz. P3AT in .380.
The P32 firing mechanism is double action only (DAO). There is no way to manually cock the hammer before firing, and the slide does not recock the hammer as it cycles. Pocket pistols often have DAO triggers (e.g., the Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard 380) for increased safety.
Despite the DAO action, the pistol has a relatively light 5 lb. trigger pull. This compares favorably to many Glock handguns.
Unlike the Glock 42 or Ruger LCP II, the P32 does not have a passive trigger safety. When you press the trigger, the trigger bar moves the hammer block forward of the hammer, permitting it to strike the firing pin. This ensures the weapon will not fire accidentally if dropped or struck. There is no manual safety catch in this weapon.
Combined with the standard-weight trigger pull, purchase a holster that fully encloses the trigger guard. You should also practice your draw stroke regularly. You can do this at home, but don’t neglect the importance of live-fire range practice.
The front and rear sights are integral with the slide of the P32 and don’t provide the most high-visibility or high-contrast sight picture. However, pocket pistols are strictly close-range weapons, and it’s common for concealed-carry handguns to have low profile fixed sights to reduce the number of points that may snag.
If you carry the weapon in your front pants pocket, catching on the stitching of a pocket mouth can cost you valuable time when you’re drawing in self-defense.
One of the concerns regarding pocket pistols, especially for those who have larger hands, is slide bite, where the reciprocation of the slide Although the P32 is a small handgun, the rear of the slide and frame are angled forward, which keeps the slide away from your hand, thereby reducing the risk of slide bite.
One of the disadvantages of the slide’s low profile design is less surface area to grasp. The charging serrations machined into the rear provide some traction, but you may find it difficult to clear stoppages under stress.
P32 feed system
The standard magazine for the P32 holds 7 rounds, but some shooters may find that the flush-fit magazine doesn’t provide enough gripping surface for a comfortable hold. A 10-round extended magazine is also available for the pistol, which increases the height of the front strap.
Regardless of whether you carry standard or extended-capacity magazines for this weapon, you should also consider carrying spare ammunition and practicing reloading your weapon under time pressure.
Every Pocket Pistol Needs a Good Holster
The Kel Tec P32 is one of the best pocket pistols for budget-conscious gun owners interested in lightweight construction and reliable operation. At We The People Holsters, we offer several Kydex IWB holsters for compact and subcompact concealed carry handguns so you can carry your weapon in complete confidence.
Despite the name, you should never carry a pocket pistol without some way of protecting the trigger guard.