In this test we look at semi-automatic pistols that are small enough to fit into one's pocket and avoid detection. One such pistol is the proven Kel-Tec P32. Because that gun fared well in a previous test of pocket pistols (October 2001), we wanted to see how the parent company's slightly larger model in .380 ACP, the Kel-Tec P3AT, fared against the .32. To round out the field, we also tested another .32, this one a pistol from Guardian North American Arms in a proprietary cartridge, the .32NAA.
Naturally, we wanted to find out how reliable these guns were. We also wondered how much difference the round would make in this specific application, and we had questions about concealment and deployment. Is pocket carry safe? Under what conditions would these guns likely prove to be a valuable asset? Would these pistols convince us to buy into the concept of pocket pistols, or would we find too many liabilities for their owners to live with?
Here's what we learned:
Kel-Tec's $295 P32 is a modern alternative to the Derringer, as is the $368 Beretta Alley Cat. But to our eyes, Walther's $499 PP is a durable icon with greater potential.
A major trend in pistols today is toward increased stopping power — the bigger the bullet, the better. This thinking, however, leaves a number of smaller cartridges and some otherwise good handguns sitting on the shelf.
The .32 ACP is one of those calibers which has been gathering dust, especially in the United States. Although it is still fairly popular in Europe, it has nearly been replaced by the more powerful .380 ACP in this country.
A minor comeback seems to be in progress for the .32 cartridge, as a number of handgun manufacturers have started offering pistols to exploit its capabilities. One of the few advantages the .32 ACP has over the .380 ACP is that it can be fired in sm...