May 2008

Last-Gasp Self-Defense 32 ACPs From Walther, Kel-Tec, Taurus

Our hats are off to the sturdy steel Walther USA PPK and the lightweight polymer Kel-Tec P32PK pistol. The Taurus PT132SSP might be happier with a bigger round, in our view.

When a reader asks, "Which is the best gun for deep concealment?", or "Is there a good self-defense gun out there with limited recoil?", our minds immediately turn to guns chambered for 32 Auto (32 ACP).

We understand that many, or most, GT readers would wonder about the 32’s power, or lack of same, and that concern was addressed in one part of our test. Beside bench-shooting for accuracy, we also created an action test that focused on what these guns would most likely be used for—that is, rapid fire at little more than contact distance.

In formulating our procedure, we took several factors into account. In close quarters there may be little or no opportunity to apply a support hand. Indeed, the hand opposite of the one holding the gun may be busy fending off a blow, the slash of a knife or, pushing back on the body of the assailant. Therefore, we decided to shoot this drill strong hand only.

The target was placed 9 feet away, and we relied primarily upon point shooting. Three strings would be attempted, making note of accuracy and the elapsed time between shots (split times). Our target was an IDPA-style cardboard silhouette featuring an 8-inch-diameter circle in the upper "chest" area. We aimed for the middle of the circle.

Start position was with the gun held in the right hand of our test shooter just below the point of aim with finger off the trigger. We decided that each string of fire should require that we empty a full magazine into the target. This speaks to the lower available power of 32 ACP, which in most cases produced less than 100 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

Our test guns in this and other assessments were the $361 Kel-Tec P32PK, an extremely lightweight Parkerized unit; the $573 Walther USA PPK, and the Taurus PT132SSP, $436 with stainless-steel slide. The Kel-Tec was the smallest and could be carried in a pocket holster. The Walther pistol was bigger and heavier but still easy to conceal. The Taurus offered the most capacity.

Each gun was tested for accuracy from a sandbag rest. Test ammunition was American Eagle 71-grain TMJs, 60-grain Winchester Silvertip HP, and Speer Gold Dot 60-grain GDHP rounds. We had intended to limit testing of the Kel-Tec to a distance of 7 yards. But when we saw it print sub-1-inch groups, we decided to shoot the P32PK from 15 yards side by side with the Walter and the Taurus.

Here’s what we found:

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