March 25, 2021
By J. Scott Rupp
This year KelTec turns 30 years old. The Cocoa, Florida, company founded by George Kellgren in 1991 has grown to become one of the largest handgun manufacturers in the world. One of its latest pistols, the P17, hews to the firm’s aim of delivering innovative, practical and affordable firearms.
A blowback-operated .22 Long Rifle, the P17 is made in the USA and has features that make it a handy and fun-shooting pistol with a suggested retail of $199. It sports a polymer frame and a minimalist slide that combine to keep weight at a svelte 13 ounces with an empty 16-round magazine. Three polymer magazines come with the gun.
The 3.8-inch barrel is fixed within the frame and surrounded by the recoil spring. It has a barrel nut and is threaded 1/2x28 for a suppressor or other muzzle device. The gun ships with a thread adapter for a muzzle device, along with a tool for removing the barrel nut and installing the adapter.
The P17 uses a reciprocating slide instead of a reciprocating bolt inside a fixed receiver. The slide top is a 0.125-inch-thick strip of steel, and at the front a green fiber-optic front sight is screwed into the slide with a pair of small Allen screws. At the rear of the slide is a polymer cover with flat-bottom serrations. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage and features a generous notch.
Controls include an ambidextrous thumb safety and an ambidextrous magazine release. The latter is a paddle located on either side of the bottom of the trigger guard. Simply push down to drop the magazine. Moving the thumb safety down to the Fire position reveals a large red dot. The slide-lock lever is on the small side, but unless you habitually use this lever as a slide release and plan to do a lot of slide-lock reloads, I don’t see it as an issue.
The grip portion of the frame has raised blocks for a sure grip, and a small ridge extends behind the magazine release and helps locate the trigger finger for depressing the release. The grip is comfortably thin at 0.9 inch wide, and front to back it’s a tad over two inches. At the front of the frame you’ll find a three-slot accessory rail.
The P17 is a hammer-fired gun, and it has a decent trigger pull. There’s a fairly long, smooth take-up before encountering resistance, followed by a bit of creep but then a surprisingly crisp break at just two pounds, seven ounces on average.
To disassemble, drop the magazine, ensure the gun is unloaded and press down on the takedown lever (KelTec calls it the “buffer”) located on the frame just above the trigger guard. Draw the slide back and lift up to free it.
To reassemble, push down the buffer, position the hole in the front of the slide so it clears the barrel nut and then draw the slide back. When the bolt clears the rail guides in the frame, press down slightly to seat and allow the slide to move forward.
The pistol is a joy to shoot, and it proved capable of good accuracy as you can see in the accompanying table. I fired about 150 rounds in all and experienced only two malfunctions: one failure of the slide to lock back on the final round and one failure to extract. Those occurred during bench testing.
Other than that, it ran like a champ and wasn’t fussy about what it liked to shoot. The grip felt really good in my hands, and I loved the sights and the trigger. While it’s light and has a relatively high bore axis, muzzle jump was minimal.
Off the bench I found I could get thumb-size groups shooting deliberately at the seven-yard line. I also ran a few drills from 10 yards and closer, and I discovered you can shoot really fast and accurate with this gun—in case you were wondering about its defensive potential.
Some might complain about the ambidextrous paddle release, but I’ve always been rather a fan of this design. Unlike the American-style button release, by using my trigger finger I can drop the mag without shifting the gun in my hand.
If I have one criticism of the gun, it would be all the visible screws that hold the frame halves together. It just looks so industrial. But that’s a small gripe for sure. In the end, I think this is an excellent pistol—and not just “for the money.” It’s light, accurate, reliable, super fun to shoot and has great features like an accessory rail, adjustable fiber-optic sights and a threaded barrel. Add to that its outstanding 16+1 capacity and you have a .22 pistol suitable for about anything you’d want a .22 semiautomatic for.
KelTec P17 Specs
Type: blowback-operated semiautomatic rimfire
Caliber: .22 LR
Barrel: 3.8 in., threaded 1/2x28; muzzle device adapter included
OAL/Height/Width: 6.7/5.3/1.2 in.
Weight: 13 oz.
Construction: steel slide, polymer frame
Trigger: 2 lb., 7 oz. pull (measured)
Sights: adjustable rear, fiber-optic front
Safety: ambidextrous thumb
Manufacturer: KelTec, KelTecWeapons.com