In the last several years, responding to the demand for easily concealed handguns generated by the passage of laws allowing civilian concealed carry in more and more states, handgun manufacturers have introduced a large number of weapons of this type. Examples are the .357 Magnum snubbies from Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Taurus and Rossi; the mini-compact semi-autos from Glock; Smith and Wesson’s pocketable Sigmas in .380 and 9 mm Luger; the Kahr pistols; Beretta’s .32 ACP Tomcat; and innumerable .380 pistols from many different manufacturers.

One of the first guns to push the threshold of small size, the P-11 was originally billed as “the smallest and lightest 9mm pistol ever made.” This was recently surpassed by the Pf-9, but I still though it a good idea to review the P-11 as it has been out for a while and has a pretty good track record.

The factory claims that it weighs 21 ounces with a loaded magazine and gives the dimensions as 5.6″ long, 4.3″ high and 1.0″ wide. The bottom line is that this pistol easily fits into the pocket of a man’s trousers if they are full cut; if the gun is in a pocket holster no one will be the wiser.

The gun’s construction is current state-of-the-art. The grip is molded plastic; the frame, pinned to the grip and providing rails for the slide, is anodized aluminum and the barrel and slide are machined steel. The action is based on Browning’s tilt barrel system using a Petter style lock-up on the front of the chamber. (The same system is used on SIGs, Rugers and Glocks.) The P-11 features a double-action-only (DAO) ignition system in which squeezing the trigger causes the hammer to rotate around its axis until a point is reached where the hammer disconnects from the lever connecting it to the trigger.

The spring-loaded hammer flies forward and strikes the firing pin igniting the cartridge. The trigger pull is long and approximately 8 to 9 pounds. If you are used to a double action revolver you won’t mind the trigger, but don’t expect the light pull of a Glock or a single-action semi-auto. There is no external safety, as the same function is served by the long DAO trigger pull, just as in a DA revolver. There is also no firing pin block; protection from accidental discharge due to being dropped on the muzzle is provided by the light weight (and therefore low momentum energy) of the spring- loaded firing pin. Kel-Tec claims that only a direct hammer strike provides sufficient energy to set off primers. The ten round steel magazine is held in by a release button on the left side of the grip. The only other external control is the slide release, also on the left side of the gun.

The general handling of the pistol is good considering its size. The controls are well placed for right-handed shooters. The grip is comfortable, but only allows two fingers to wrap around it. This is normal for this class of pistol, I have experienced many others with this same feel.  It doesn’t really bother me, but there is a grip extender available from Kel-Tec that replaces the magazine floorplate. The sights are black plastic and provide an easy-to-see three-dot sighting picture. Sights of differing heights are available to allow elevation adjustment, while windage adjustment is provided by laterally moving the rear sight in its groove. The gun’s fit and finish is commensurate with its price. The inside of the slide shows many machining marks, the barrel is not crowned and its interior is not polished. A company technical representative that I spoke with stated that parts were tumble-polished to keep costs down.

Considering its light weight, recoil is not bad.  But the effect of recoil is cumulative. I don’t recommend shooting more than 50 rounds in one session. The trigger tends to whack the finger during recoil, this too is cumulative. You just can’t get away from physics, light guns equal more recoil.

The sights are very visible (night sights are available from the factory.   This gun isn’t built for accuracy.  It’s another “in your face” gun.  So in reality, it’s a 7 yard gun in my opinion. Accuracy is about 3″ at 7 yards, shooting two-handed. This gun is meant to be used up-close and personal where most personal defense encounters are, so I don’t see this as a problem.

After shooting about 300 rounds, here are some notes.  There were a few problems.  Some was cheap ammo.  There were some FTE’s.  There were also some instances of the slide locking-up in the fully recoiled position, acting as if the magazine was empty even though it wasn’t. Analyzing these failures I realized that they never occurred when the gun was clean and when shooting the better ammo, exactly the conditions that one would carry the gun under. Except at the pistol range ,when does one shoot more than one magazine of cheap cartridges?

My final opinion on the P-11 is this: the manufacturer has produced a moderately priced, light and easily concealable pocket pistol in a useful caliber (why bother with a .380?). The gun is sufficiently accurate for close combat and has proven to be reliable with high quality ammo. Do I like it? Not particularly, but it will do the job.

A useful page is the Kel-Tec owners’ home page at www.ktog.org.

If you are looking to purchase, you should look to the PF-9.  It is equally as good, but smaller in size.  Isn’t that what you purchase this type of gun for anyway?