As a typewriter monkey, it is always a good feeling to hear you have a package inbound from Kel Tec. Mostly because you never know what is going to happen next. Kel Tec is arguably the most innovative of the firearms companies, which is a nice way of saying they do crazy things. It is fair to say that Kel Tec has a different build philosophy than anyone else. Their spectrum starts at strange and goes to the far edge of insane. This is not an insult, as I have yet to receive a Kel Tec that doesn’t work.
I have owned a number of Kel Tec products, such as the PF9, PMR30, and the original KSG. Both of which were must-have items for me. And I’ve never once wished I had a SUB2000 or a PLR16. Different strokes for different folks and we can still be friends if you have a SUB2000 in multiple calibers. But the question always remains, in the immortal words of Brad Pitt in Seven, “What’s in the box?”. Very much what I was asking myself when the P17 arrived on my doorstep.
The P17 is a pistol chambered in 22LR, that much at least we can agree on. What purpose, exactly, is open to debate. I would consider the P17 an absolutely perfect trainer for a centerfire gun, which I will elaborate on shortly. You could also put it in the category of bargain pistol since it has an MSRP of $199. And you could call it a lightweight (10.9 ounces empty) CCW gun, since it is thin yet has a capacity of 16+1. I don’t consider 22LR an acceptable defensive round personally, but I don’t make the rules for you. I will say that if I had to carry a 22LR, I would much prefer 16 rounds to the normal 10. And you could even categorize the P17 as a varmit plinker, as it has accuracy well beyond what it should for this price tag. Which is a lot to absorb all at once. Bear with me, this is gonna take some ‘splainin, as we say in the business. Of course, it is, it’s a new Kel Tec creation.
Let’s start with the size, which is actually going to cost me a lot of words because it is rather unique. Height and length wise, the P17 is almost exactly the size of a Glock 19. But at only 1.2 inches thick, it is closer to an XDS in this dimension. Okay, got it, it’s a CCW sized trainer or a Buckmark. Well, no, not exactly. See, it fits your hand closer to the feel of a full sized gun. How? More Kel Tec magic.
I had a hard time figuring this out myself. It turns out that while the P17 is very thin, it is wider from the front to the rear of the grip than a Buckmark. Or for that matter, a SIG P320. The grip is basically a very thin oval, which I now have to applaud the Kel Tec engineers on. It keeps the gun thin, which is important for concealment. But it feels (if you aren’t looking at it) like you have a bigger gun in your hand. And while it is unique to the P17, your brain happily accepts that it is right and you never think about it again. Ergonomics = Good. Handle one at the local gun shop, I bet you agree with me.
Now the next bit that makes me classify this as a trainer has to do with how the gun works. We are accustomed to one of two things with a 22 caliber pistol. Either a fixed barrel like the Browning Buckmark and Ruger Mk4, or a reciprocating slide and tilt barrel like all the 1911’s in caliber, 1911 conversions, or the Glock 44. Both systems have an advantage. The fixed barrel guns tend to be more reliable, as they aren’t trying to reciprocate an aluminum full size slide with 22LR blowback. And the full slide models have an advantage in that they feel more like a real gun. Kel Tec being Kel Tec, they said why not both?
Which is exactly what they did. The P17 has a fixed barrel, which is good for accuracy and reliability. And if you look at the rear of the gun, you will see a slide segment that looks vaguely like a Buckmark containing the breech face, firing pin, all that. But what isn’t readily apparent is that the top of the slide is actually a steel bar attached to the reciprocating rear, which causes your front sight to move under recoil just like a centerfire. Which I count as a huge bonus.
With a sub-caliber trainer, one of the things you are already missing is recoil. Which is good and bad. The bad being that you need to know how to tame it when you switch back to a centerfire. The next best thing, in my opinion, is having a front sight that moves. It at least then sort of mimics the gun coming off target during the recoil cycle. Every center fire semi-auto I have seen, save the Infinity Sight Tracker 2011 models, has a reciprocating front sight. Therefore, I would like my 22LR trainer to do the same. Kel Tec clearly thinks likewise and built the P17 to do just that.
Last but certainly not least, how about that trigger? This is yet another oddity, but one with I feel very good value. The P17 trigger is 3 pounds out of the box, which is actually slightly lighter than something like a Buckmark. But there is a little bit of deception here. If you have shot a lot of single action 22 pistols, you probably count those triggers as among the best available. I would actually go so far as to call them too good. A stock single action 22LR often has a better trigger than all but the best aftermarket 1911 custom shop triggers. Which is cool if you are shooting 22 bullseyes, not so cool if you are going to switch to a Glock 19 for CCW after your training session.
Which is where we get to our P17 trigger. While it does break at 3 pounds on the gauge, it feels more like a well done 4-pound striker fired trigger. I can best describe this as being so due to a bit of take-up in the trigger. There is about an eighth of an inch of take up at that 3 pounds, which does terminate in a clean stop. So while the P17 has a remarkably crisp break, it comes closer to a factory M&P or Glock trigger than a 22/45. Which I also count as a positive. It is a perfect balance of really nice, but not so far off your carry piece as to be a different animal entirely.
How about some odd? Well, it wouldn’t be a Kel Tec review without it. For starters, it looks as though the frame is two polymer halves, held together by Allen screws. Seriously. There are 12 Allen screws visible on the frame, not counting the two holding the safety in place. There is a European-style Ambi mag release parallel to the trigger guard, reminiscent of H&K and older Walther pistols. And there is the Ambi safety itself, built into the frame. The safety looks out of place, but I can tell you it is actually positioned perfectly. It is easy to use, and in no way obtrusive while shooting.
Oh, you wanted to suppress the P17? Kel Tec thought of that too. Out of the box, the barrel looks like it extends about 1/8th of an inch past the slide. Nothing abnormal about that, fairly common for handguns. But that is actually a thread protector. If you prefer, included in the box is what amounts to a threaded barrel extension. Screw it on in place of the thread protector, and you now have a mounting point for a can in standard 1/2×28 TPI.
That sounds too good to be true, for an MSRP of $199. And to be fair, it did to me as well. While Kel Tec has never once failed me, I still headed to the range part with a bit of trepidation. Which proved entirely unfounded. The P17 ate everything I put in it, including subsonics, that notorious bane of rimfire pistols. I had one malfunction the entire day, which is unheard of for a 22. And that was the third round I fired out of the box.
The P17 is fun, it’s very useful, and at a price that is near unbelievable. This is one I can highly recommend. Get yours while the getting is good.