September 1, 2010

Kel-Tec P11 9mm, $368

( -- Kel-Tec CNC Industries started out as a machine shop in 1991 and began manufacturing firearms some four years later. Small-caliber pistols with polymer frames, locked breech actions, and DAO triggers continue to be Kel-Tec’s bread and butter.

The P11 is a 9mm handgun with a 3.1-inch barrel. Capacity was 10+1, thanks to a double-column magazine. The suggested retail price of the base model was only $314 and featured a blued slide. Our P11 carried a hard-chromed slide and cost $368, but the same gun was available for $355 should you choose a P11 with a Parkerized finish.

The inexpensive Kel-Tec P11 shared at least one design concept found on some more expensive pistols. The P11 slide did not ride primarily on polymer rails. An aluminum frame was set into the polymer receiver, which also housed the firing mechanism. Removing the top end to get a better look inside began with removing the magazine, emptying the chamber and locking back the slide. The assembly pin, which was on the left side directly above the trigger, was now in position to be removed. It was designed to be plucked out of the frame with the use of a case rim. (Almost any caliber will do.) The guide rod was polymer, and the recoil system used two coil springs one over the other. Replacing the slide meant fitting it to the aluminum rails, locking it back, and pushing the barrel all the way forward to expose the cut in the barrel to the assembly pin hole. Once the pin was inserted, the slide was unlocked and moved forward to its rest position.

Kel-Tec P11 9mm

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The high capacity of this little gun is a plus, but we would have a difficult time being comfortable with this pistol for anything but very close-range fire.

The Kel-Tec P11 came in a very small cardboard box with an owner’s manual and a padlock. The only magazine supplied was a 10-round model, but according to the website some P11s were shipped with nine-round magazines. The grip on this pistol is short, so most shooters will find it difficult to grasp the P11 with more than the middle and ring fingers across the front strap. Still, we had no difficulty stabilizing the P11 on the shooting bench, and there were no malfunctions.

We found performance with the 124-grain Speer Gold Dot hollowpoints to be more than satisfactory. Our five-shot groups ranged from 1.6 to 2.4 inches measured center to center. Accuracy with the other test rounds was disappointing. In each case average group size was 3.9 inches.

In our practical test at 7 yards, the results showed two strong characteristics. Thirteen of the 18 total shots were off center to the left. The central A zone had only three hits to the right of center, with the majority of bullet holes grouped 2 to 3 inches to the left of point of aim. One shot dropped all the way down to the C zone, representing the groin area of the humanoid silhouette. All but two of our head shots were left of center, and they were also much lower than intended.

Kel-Tec P11 9mm

Courtesy, Gun Tests

In between the Kel-Tec's polymer grip and the stainless steel slide was an aluminum frame. This frame provided not only the slide-to-frame-fit rails but also housed the firing mechanism.

In truth, this was a shooting problem we attributed to the operator. But why did it happen? First let’s analyze the movement of the trigger as we did before. Trigger span at rest from the center of the trigger face to the nearest edge of the back strap measured 2.9 inches. There was 0.1 inch of take-up before the trigger finger met resistance. Ignition was at a span of 2.2 inches. Upon release, the firing mechanism did not reset until the trigger had returned nearly all the way back to the initial point of resistance. This meant that the shooter had to withstand a measured 10 pounds of pressure throughout a movement covering approximately 0.6 inch, all the while steering the front sight to proper alignment. Obviously, fatigue became a factor.

17-1-Kel-1_5.jpg Our measurement of Trigger Span was from the center of the trigger at rest to the nearest edge of the backstrap. But we also used a dial caliper to measure the distance the trigger had to be moved for taking up initial slack, breaking the shot, reset and the limits of overtravel (shown).

Comments (20)

Wow. Opinions all over the place. 1st of all, if you spend all of $300 and expect it to be a tack-driving, light trigger super gun, you are kidding yourself. There is a reason it is so cheap. If you can't lighten the trigger or polish metal with a dremel, buy another gun! While I am a died-in-the-wool 1911 fan, this little gun can drop in a pocket when I don't have proper cover or just slipping away from my vehicle for a short time. It is ALWAYS with me and I drop it in my pocket very often. No it is no target gun, but at 7-10 yards there isn't a human being I couldn't hit multiple times with the right ammo - which is the only thing I carry in it. A high quality self defense load that I have tested in THIS GUN to function 100% and shoot accurately. Is it a Kimber? No. Is it handy and reliable? I am staking my life on it.

Posted by: Markbo | October 3, 2010 11:07 AM    Report this comment

My father has one of these and I do as well. I prefer to carry my SR9C daily in a Super Tuck Deluxe though. He took his apart and cut away some of the trigger spring. After that it was much easier on the trigger finger, about half the pull. He took it to the factory when he was down there and they offered to refurb it for him. When he got it back they had replaced the spring with a new one...LOL. Now he carries a Colt officers model 1911.

Posted by: Essential Defense | October 1, 2010 2:52 PM    Report this comment

This is not a target gun. This is not a finely finished piece of jewelry. Neither is it a hunting arm. It is what is it - a small, concealable, readi-in-an-instant last resort handgun. I carry mine in my truck with 2 extra clips. I can drop it in an empty pocket and it feels fine... easily accesible and removable. I tried a couple pocket holsters and they were all too large... you could tell I had something large in my pocket. disappears just dropped in or with the handy frame clip IF you cover it right. for fast, very short range arm of last resort I feel perfectly safe. I also have a commander sized 1911 in .45 and a sub compact XD in .40. Better arms but not as fast and easy to conceal. Yes the trigger sucks - but it can be improved. It isn't a lot of fun to shoot, but it isnt meant to be. shoot one mag of the load you intend to carry each trip to the range and you are probably good. Just know for a fact where it is and how to get it out fast. If the preferred 1911s or XDs are not within reach, I feel fine grabbing my P11.

Posted by: Markbo | September 3, 2010 11:16 PM    Report this comment

I am very pleased with both the physical weight of this handgun AND the trigger pull weight, since it is a DAO pistol. I purchased several extra 12-shot (yes, TWELVE-shot) magazines to carry in the gun, on my
belt, for the glove boxes of all our cars, and for the home (we have other loaded guns available also).
I also added a Pachmayr rubber grip sleeve to the gun AND a finger-extension floorplate from Kel-Tec for every magazine we own. This made the pistol very easy to take a firm grip with ALL fingers seated well.

I am a retired police detective sergeant, and fully understand the importance of being armed at all times. This is a gun I can carry in
a pocket holster if necessary, but
I virtually always carry it in a leather thumb-break belt holster with a vest to conceal it. I have vests for every season, from deep winter to hot summer days. A little similar to Semper Fidelis is my personal advice: (1) Always Be Armed;
(2) Always carry a spare magazine or
speedloader. I have seen too many cases where extra ammo was needed.

In one case, a citizen unloaded his
handgun on his robber, killing him.
He carried NO spare ammo. As he waited for police to arrive, a friend of the robber walked up, asked who shot his buddy, was told the citizen standing by, and then the friend promptly shot the citizen to death, as he stood with his empty gun and NO SPARE AMMO to reload for protection against just such events.

By the way, the Kel-Tec P-11 easily
qualifies me on the firing range every time I shoot it. I use the
Speer 115-grain JHP Critical Defense.
Heavier bullets are unnecessary, add to gun weight versus up to 147-grain bullets, and increase recoil, slowing follow-up shots, and harming accuracy in subsequent shots due to
the shooter's reaction to recoil.

Posted by: JiminTenn | September 3, 2010 7:05 PM    Report this comment

My P-11 eats any ammo with no problem and has been reliable from day one. The trigger pull is hard and the recoil pretty snappy with +P ammo, but at the distances this gun was intended for it performs well. It's not too hard to put two quick rounds each into a couple silhouette targets using point of aim. If I'm going to shoot lots of rounds, I'll use my XD9, or a .22.

Posted by: jwash111 | September 3, 2010 5:12 AM    Report this comment

WWW.KTOG.ORG is a good resource for tuning this gun.

Posted by: ssheltmire | September 2, 2010 11:08 PM    Report this comment

Well, first off you can pick these guns up all day for under $275.00. These are EDC guns. NO, they are $1000.00 guns and you have to do your own refinements to make them shoot better. You have to file down the front sight. They all tend to shoot low. You have to polish all moving parts and take the burrs off the stamped parts. Polish the ramp. Do the paperclip mod to the hammer spring. Also put a adjustable trigger stop to take up the over travel. There are many more tricks to make this a very fine weapon for what it was intended for, EVERY DAY CARRY. I like tricking out my weapons, so this extra work is enjoyable to me and to others it may not be their cup of tea. Well over 2000 rounds thru mine and have no problems.

Posted by: concrete guy | September 2, 2010 10:36 PM    Report this comment

I echo some of the comments here. I have both a keltec P-11 and a PF-9. When I went to the range with them, the P-11 didn't return to battery with every round of HP ammo I tried to fire. It also happened occasionally with FMJ. I also had one occasion if a stovepipe which I chalk up to limp wristing. This is "after" I got the pistol back from Kel Tec because the mag release spring fell out, and they say they polished the feed ramp. I'm going back to the range with different ammo this weekend. I'll see what happens.

Posted by: twduffy58 | September 2, 2010 8:29 PM    Report this comment

sent P-11 back to Kel-Tec four times and they
could not make it function. This pistol is 100% junk.

Posted by: Edward B | September 2, 2010 6:50 PM    Report this comment

I've had my P-11 for six years now. It was abused, neglected, and ignored before I got a hold of it. After a good cleaning it shoots good; and for the price and purpose, it shoots great.

Posted by: schreibmachine | September 2, 2010 5:18 PM    Report this comment

I am an older man of 70 years and love every minute on the range with, believe it or not, my P-11. I shoot all kinds and makes of weapons, but wind up my range sessions by shooting my P-11 from 2-7 yards, one handed at a fast rate of fire at center mass. I find this weapon gets the job done very nicely. I have no problem with the trigger pull as it came to me. As my ole pappy used to say, "it's all in the mind of the operator"

Posted by: spottereye | September 2, 2010 5:11 PM    Report this comment

OH, I forgot to add that I polished the feed ramp and anything that moved with a Dremel tool and jewelry polish and that slicked the operation up big time. Makes a world of difference! I do that in every weapon I own.

Posted by: Ethan S | September 2, 2010 4:36 PM    Report this comment

Seeing as the P-11 is not a target gun and is considered a close quarters CCW gun I would be fine with a heavy trigger pull and a polish job at a gunsmith could make any roughness go away very quickly - just a thought

Posted by: tCodex | September 2, 2010 4:32 PM    Report this comment

How dare you to criticize KAHR products....

Posted by: MICHAEL H | September 2, 2010 4:31 PM    Report this comment

I had one that worked well. It was fairly accurate, but I had to be slow and concentrate on the trigger or I would pull the front of the barrel down. Too heavy of a trigger and too long of a pull. I sold it and am enjoying pistols with much better triggers.

Posted by: dgray64 | September 2, 2010 4:21 PM    Report this comment

There are only two brands of handguns I consider lemons, Kel Tec and Kahr. I have had nothing but problems with both, break downs, failure to return to battery, failure to extract, failure to eject, failure to feed, on one model the Kahr PM40 I put 1500 rounds through it with nothing but problems. I have shot for fourty years and owned most brands and models of handguns.

Posted by: Pointman | September 2, 2010 4:05 PM    Report this comment

What am I missing in this review? Oh, the evaluation. So with such a heavy trigger pull, in a light gun, the operator will probably miss his target when it matters most. Is that what I read?

Posted by: sonoftailor | September 2, 2010 3:57 PM    Report this comment

Is there any way to fix the trigger? As far as I am concerned a ten pound trigger is broken.

Posted by: nimrod666 | September 2, 2010 3:44 PM    Report this comment

I bought one of these, shot twenty rounds and while it shot well, it was anything but fun to shoot. The 10 lb trigger is six pounds too heavy. Anybody want to buy a P-11 ??

Posted by: backup2 | September 2, 2010 3:00 PM    Report this comment

I just bought the P-11. After 500 rounds trigger spring broke.Lotus gunworks sent it back for me with no problem.

Posted by: tlwheatley | September 2, 2010 2:56 PM    Report this comment

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