Mousegunner's Kel-Tec P-32 Review

The Kel-Tec P-32 has been around since 1999, and is tried and true. It was improved slightly a few years ago by changing the extractor to an external instead of internal version. Even though it has been on the market for such a long time, it remains the smallest, lightest and thinnest .32 ACP pistol ever manufactured. It is quite popular, and has sold literally hundreds of thousands to personal defense conscious American citizens. Many policemen and women also carry the little pistol as a back up gun.

Kel-Tec P-32 with optional 10-round magazine

Kel-Tec CNC Industries began in 1991 in Cocoa, Florida, founded by George Kellgren (Swedish born firearms designer). The P-32 has a barrel length of 2.68 inches. Trigger pull is between five and six pounds. The trigger mechanism is not a true double action and the hammer must be pre-set to a half-cock position by the shooter allowing the trigger to travel fully forward before firing a second time. Magazines are "single-stack," and "flush-fitting" mags hold seven cartridges. Optional ten-round magazines are available from the factory, and have an included "grip extension."

The official Kel-Tec website has this information about the P-32.....

The P-32 is a semi-automatic, locked breech pistol, chambered for the .32 Auto cartridge. The firing mechanism is double action only. The magazine has a 7 round capacity....The P-32 is mainly intended for plainclothes police officers as a secondary weapon, or for concealed carry by licensed citizens.


The weight of the loaded P-32 is less than nine ounces.

The P-32 barrel is made of SAE 4140 ordnance steel, heat treated to 48 HRC. The slide is also 4140 steel, and contains the firing pin. Newer models feature an external extractor, as with the P-3AT.

Exterior view of the new extractor

The "business end" of the extractor

The rectangular frame (set in the nylon grip) is machined from solid 7075-T6 aluminum, and houses the firing mechanism. The trigger connects via a transfer bar to the hammer.

The Kel-Tec P-32 hammer

The hammer is driven by a strong spring. The light-weight firing pin transmits the energy of the hammer to ignite the primer. After firing, the hammer block holds the hammer away from the firing pin, providing a mechanical safety. Note: If you are going to "dry fire" your P-32, you really should get some dummy rounds, known as "snap caps." Dry firing with nothing in the chamber may damage your pistol. Also remember: safety first. Don't get your snap caps mixed up with live ammo!

Hammer spring

Slide, barrel, take-down pin, recoil rod with spring

MSRP: Blued (slide) Finish -- $ 318.00
Parkerized (slide) Finish -- $ 361.00
Hard Chrome (slide) Finish -- $ 377.00
Actual sales price in gun shops is likely to run between $250 and $300.
The plastic grip/frame is available in a variety of colors.

I got mine by trading. I had a Kel-Tec P-11 (which I liked but didn't use much), and another fellow had a P-32. He used to keep it in a hollowed out book (he gave me the book, too). I wanted the P-32 for two reasons: 1) I'd never had one before, and wanted to give it a whirl; and 2) I like pocket pistols, and the P-11 is just a little bit too large and heavy for carrying in a pants pocket.

The Kel-Tec P-32 is quite a bit smaller than its 9mm cousin, the Kel-Tec PF9. Here's a comparison photo.

P-32 on top of my PF9

The P-32 is just a fraction of an inch larger than the Jimenez Arms JA-22 (which is a fun gun to shoot and plink with).

P-32 compared with the Jimenez JA-22

I have not shot my P-32 a lot (only a few dozen rounds). But it had no failures. The fellow I got it from shot it more than I have, and he said he had no issues, either. It has a few little nicks here and there from being carried daily in my pocket, but it still looks pretty fine, in my opinion. I take it apart every few weeks to clean out the dust-bunnies, and keep it oiled, rust-free, and working smoothly. Accuracy is fine for up-close self-defense, but it is not meant to be a super-accurate range gun. I shoot mine often enough to assure myself that it capable of functioning if I need it, but that's all.

P-32 sights are simple, not meant for long-distance range work

I carried a Kel-Tec P-3AT for several years, and there are a couple of important differences, even though the two guns are nearly twins in how they look. The most important thing to remember is that if you have an empty magazine, you can stick it in your P-32, and when you pull back the slide, it will hold itself open. The P-3AT won't do that.

P-3AT and P-32 -- Almost twins...

Another thing: the P-32, if you are emptying the chamber by hand cycling, doesn't like to let go of that round you have in the chamber. The extractor will pull it out of the chamber just fine, but the ejector won't give it enough of a kick to throw it out of the receiver. Maybe I'm just a girly-man, but I can't seem to pull back the slide fast enough and hard enough to make that last round fly out. But, if you hold the slide open as much as you can with your left hand, you can use a little flat-blade screwdriver to reach in there, and lever the round up and out of the grasp of the extractor, and the round will then fall out. It's not too hard to do. But it's a good thing to know ahead of time, if you decide to buy a P-32. The issue is discussed on KTOG here.

The Kel-Tec P-32 is available in a number of different frame colors, and slide finishes. Frames may be pink, blue, olive, gray, brown or black. Slides may be blued (black), parkerized or "hard chromed." The hard chrome finish is matte, rather than slick and shiny.

Here are blue and pink frames, both with blued slides.

I actually like the P-32 better than the P-3AT because: 1) It is just a few ounces lighter and easier to carry than the P-3AT; and 2) It holds one more round than the P-3AT: seven in the magazine, plus one ready to go in the chamber -- Total: 8 rounds; 3) The P-32 is a trifle less "snappy" in recoil, so easier for follow-up shots.

It is easy to do a visual check to see if there is a cartridge in the chamber.

Is the .32 ACP cartridge sufficient for self-defense? Personally, I think so. It's not the size of the hole you make in the bad guy so much as where you make the whole. A hit in the heart or brain by ANY caliber bullet will stop a bad guy quick. A hit in a non-vital area by any caliber bullet may NOT stop the bad guy. Shot placement is more important than caliber size. Here's a link to Brassfetcher's ballistics info about the .32 ACP cartridge.

Remington 32 ACP Ammo (71 grain bullet)

If you are thinking of buying a P-32, you might also give a little bit of thought to the concept of "fluff and buff." Kel-Tec pistols are fine firearms, however they are in-expensive, and not finely finished. Most Kel-Tec pistols will function more reliably when given the good ol' "fluff and buff" treatment. Here's a link. Also, notice the following photo which shows the feed ramp and chamber of the barrel of my P-32. You will be able to see machine marks. A little polishing with 600 grit or finer sandpaper may be needed for your particular firearm. Mine works fine as-is.

Feed ramp and chamber of P-32 barrel showing machine tool marks

A final word: Watch out for the dreaded "Rim Lock." The .32 ACP cartridge has a "rim" at its base. Sometimes, if you are using hollow point ammunition, the rims of the cartridges as they are placed in the magazine will interlock with each other, causing a jam while firing the gun. This does not seem to be an issue with FMJ (full metal jacket) cartridges/bullets. Personally, I prefer FMJ anyway, as you get greater penetration, and I believe more penetration is a good thing with .32 ACP bullets. So, use FMJ ammo, and you won't have to worry about Rim Lock. Click here for more info about Rim Lock.

As with all Kel-Tec products, the Kel-Tec warranty and service is exceptional. You can buy a Kel-Tec firearm without fear of getting stuck with a lemon. If you get a lemon, send it back to Kel-Tec, and they will take good care of you and your firearm. If you have minor difficulties with your P-32, there is a very active Kel-Tec Owners Group Forum, which you will enjoy. Someone there has the answer to your problem, and factory reps also contribute there.


Kel-Tec Owners Group Forums
Kel-Tyke -- Syd's Review from "The Sight"
Video: How to Dis-assemble your P-32
P-32 Reviewed at "A Human Right"
"Pocket Pal" at
Xavier's Thoughts on the Kel-Tec P-32
Ed Buffaloe Reviews the Kel-Tec P-32
Wikipedia Article: Kel-Tec P-32
Official Kel-Tec Website
Kel-Tec P-32 Manual in PDF Format