I was browsing one of my local gun shops back in October, and ended up stumbling upon the KelTec P17. From recollection, I knew that the P17 was a controversial gun, known for being "good if it worked". I thought I'd take a leap of faith, and give it a try. What is the P17, and is it any good?
What is the KelTec P17?
The KelTec P17 is a compact 22LR pistol, released a few years back. It is advertised as being simple, affordable, and reliable, (but I've got some issues with part of that.) The name comes from it being a Pistol (duh), and the capacity being 16+1 rounds. Most 22 LR handguns have single stack magazines that limit capacity, but the P17 boasts a doublestack mag that holds 16 rounds. The gun is also pretty cheap, at $199 MSRP.
The gun features a pretty simple construction, with a two-part clamshell frame. There are a lot of screws that keep the frame together, and allow for the internal parts to be held in place. The P17 has a manual safety, and a paddle magazine release, a combo that I can't say that I've seen before. The barrel and recoil assembly are fixed into the frame. The teeny P17 even has a small 1913 rail for putting things onto!
The operation of the gun is simple too. It is a internal hammer fired gun, with a sliding breech block slide. I say "slide" lightly, as the forward part of the slide exists just to keep the breech assembly on the frame, and to attach the front sight. The slide is really quite crudely made, but hey, it's a blowback 22 pistol, that's fine.
So the P17 is a fairly simple gun, with the interesting elements being the magazine and relatively simple design. How did it perform?
Shooting the KelTec P17 - Reliability
I took the P17 out on 6 different outings, for a combined total of about 1,200 rounds of 22LR fired. The pistol was well lubricated during the whole process:
- 325 Rounds of Federal Automatch (Jacketed)
- 333 Rounds of Winchester Bulk Pack (Jacketed)
- 200 Rounds CCI Mini-Mag (Jacketed)
- 200 Rounds Winchester Super-X (Jacketed)
- 100 Rounds Remington 40gr (Unjacketed)
Reliability was, well, bad. For the first two range outings, I would say that the gun was about 70% reliable. Lots of double feeds, light strikes, and stovepipe failures occurred during these trips. I even marked my magazines to see if any of them had issues in particular, but it was an endemic issue.
During range trips #3 and #4, the gun seemingly started to work better. Range trip #3 was truly bizarre, as the gun began with not working well, but got better as the day went on. Trip #4 only had one malfunction, which seemed to be ammunition related.
Between range trips #4 and #5, I did a "deep clean" on the gun. I punched the bore, q-tipped the slide rails, made it squeaky clean, and then added lube (Slip 2000 EWL) to the moving parts. I would say that this made a big difference, as trips #5 and #6 had no malfunctions.
It feels as though the P17 had a break-in period. The gun seemed to not prefer any brand or specific type of ammo. I'm generally an Automatch and Mini-Mag shooter for my S&W Victory, but found that those brands were as reliable as the cheap stuff in the P17. Is that good? I don't really know, but it is a data point. The full review will feature more statistics as I get more rounds through the gun, but so far, it is rocky, but improving.
Shooting the KelTec P17 - Accuracy & Handling
Regardless of the reliability hiccups, how did the gun actually shoot?
The safety and magazine releases are good controls. Both are ambidextrous, and both work well. The safety has a nice, positive click, and the magazine release worked every time. Texturing is also alright, nothing noteworthy.
The slide release, well, doesn't release. With a loaded magazine put into the gun, the slide release generally didn't actually put the gun into battery. I felt like I was back in 2011, as sling-shotting is the name of the game for shooting the P17. It works fine for locking the gun open, just don't expect it to work on chambering the gun.
The trigger is a spongy one, with medium travel. Trigger pull is consistently inconsistent, hovering in the 2.9 to 3.2 pound range. While not the worst that I've used, it is pretty crappy.
The sights. They seem to be good (at first), but I've not been a fan. Black rear and fiber optic front is nice, but the rear sight has windage and elevation adjustments that baffle me. I'm still in the process of figuring out exactly where the gun wants to shoot, as it seems so floaty. My current hold is about 4 inches beneath my target at 10 yards, which seems to work well. That is with the rear sight elevated to bring POI up! Out of the box, the gun shot about a foot low, and 6 inches to the left.
Despite the gun being a light weight at 11.2oz unloaded, recoil was utterly manageable due to it being a 22LR. Sights are easy to track under recoil too, mostly due to how massive the rear sight is.
The Initial Verdict
The KelTec P17 is certainly a gun that seems to be working better than it did at release. I heard of guns requiring RMA's back to Florida to take a visit to the KelTec plant, however my gun seems like less of a lemon.
While this is not a full review, I certainly cannot recommend the gun at this time. Mine has been (mostly) crap, but is starting to seemingly get better. I'll have a full review written once the gun hits a higher round count, but with the price of 22LR, I'd rather have a gun that works better. If you want a fun range plinker, look at something like the S&W Victory or Ruger Mk4, since those guns have a track record of working, which the P17 doesn't. Stay tuned for the updates!