Ballistic Specs .32 ACP
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Since 07-17-06

Standard wisdom is that 380 ACP is minimal caliber for defense. The 380 ACP is easily more effective for defense, but the 32 ACP seems adequate in "low risk" situations like back-packing where the odds of being engaged in a tactical fire fight are slim to none.

CorBon is conspicuously absent from the data, as are Gold Dot and other "custom" or +P loads. Kel-Tec notes the P-32 will manage +P ammo, but recommends not shooting it excessively. Note too, "one shot drop" stats. for this caliber vary widely.

Winchester Silvertip JHP 60 gr. rates 970 fps, 125 fpe, 63% drops

Winchester FMJ 71 gr. rates 905 fps, 129 fpe, 50% drops

Magsafe Defender JPF (?) 50 gr. rates 1250 fps, 174 fpe, 57%.

Glaser Safety Slug JPF 50 gr. rates 1065 fps, 126 fpe, and 46%

Specs, Kel-Tec P-32
The gun is comparable in size and shape to the Jennings J-22 although slimmer and MUCH lighter. Factors affecting my purchase are: 1st) weight, 2nd) size and 3rd) cost. I intend to use the gun back packing/hiking and want to keep size/weight to a minimum. I own several "shooters" . . . The Kel-Tec P-32 will be "The gun I carry when I'm unarmed."

Compared to the NAA Guardian, the other small gun I considered:

  Guardian Kel-Tec
Length 4.4" 5.07"
Height 3.3" 3.5"
Width 0.85" 0.75"
(Grip W: 0.62")
Unloaded Weight 13.5 oz. 6.6 oz
Capacity Six shot + one
Two mags Seven shot + one
One Mecgar mag
List $425.00 $209.00

Cost difference is significant. I hesitate to pay $425 for a "mouse gun" no matter how finely finished it is. The Guardian is a jewel, but jewels are spendy! The Kel Tec is slightly longer and taller, but slimmer . . . the grip is very slim. Signifcantly, the Kel-Tec is less than half the weight of the Guardian because of its polymer frame and alum. receiver. This gun is amazingly light.

Trigger pull on the Guardian is 13 lbs. The Kel-Tec is 6 lbs. Both are DOA. The Kel-Tec trigger is very smooth and positive with a clean, predictable break. Trigger shape is smooth, solid, and doesn't pinch my large fingers in the trigger guard.

Trigger/hammer linkage features a hammer block to prevent discharge if the hammer is struck a blow. The hammer additionally sits flush in the frame to further protect it from blows and from snagging.

Most small caliber guns, the Guardian , Seecamp, Atauga (an American Seecamp/Guardian clone), Walther PPK, and others feature a straight blow back action. The Kel-Tec is a locked breech design. The feed ramp is integral with the barrel breech, and the barrel breech features a hood that both locks into the slide and "hoods" the bullet nose to enhance feed reliabilty. The "barrel bushing" is integrated into the slide similar to the compact 1911 design. The barrel is "bulbed" at the muzzle to lock into battery. Barrel lug is a solid block, no linkage.

The double action design affords no "hammer safety." The slide catch is internalized and activated by the magazine. The slide stays open when the mag is removed. The trigger disengages when the slide is open or out of battery.

This gun is designed for concealed carry. All corners are rounded and smoothed. Mag release button is rounded and smooth. No external levers, pins or safeties. Sights follow this "no snag" design and are innovative. The front top of the slide is slightly peaked. Behind this peak the slide is milled flat, with a small recessed slot in the rear of the peak housing a white dot. The rear sight is simply another, larger groove milled into the flat "rib" of the slide and housing a vertical white bar.

I don't aim this gun, I point it . . . and it points very well.

Berreta Tomcat

A flush side pin, retained by a detent and spring, removes without tools for take-down. The gun takes down like any standard breech-lock semi-auto. No tricks, no pins or extractors to slide out of the way. The recoil rod uses two springs, one inside the next, and I wish this assembly were integrated like the rods on Glocks and Rugers. Field strips to: slide, barrel, recoil rod/springs, frame, retainer pin.

Reassembly is straightforward and simple. The recoil rod/spring assy. snaps into barrel lug and slide notch under only slight tension . . . little chance of watching them fly past you during assembly or disassembly.


I ran a box of "generic hardball" and half a box of Win. Silvertips though it. Slow fire, rapid fire. No misfeeds whatever, although the action is new and stiff. Some "hanging up" when manual cycling, but all guns do this.

The gun shoots to point of aim at 15 yards. For me it points instinctively. Report is only slightly louder than a 22 LR, and "lower" in pitch. I had no problems shooting without ear protection (as an option, not as a standard policy!). Recoil is unremarkable, this gun doesn't "snap" or jerk, very easy to manage for someone who flinches at recoil. I'm betting not a lot of muzzle flash.

This gun fits flat and snag free in a pocket, and the weight lets you forget it. It's a perfect choice for backpacking, hiking, or exercise jaunts in the neighborhood. Functional, well designed, quality fit/finish, good price. Mostly I'm impressed with the slim design and the incredibly light 6.6 oz. weight.

Oracle01-12-2003, 08:13 PM

I've had a Beretta Tomcat in .32 ACP, and presently have a Kel-Tec P-32 in .32 ACP. I prefer the Kel-Tec, as it's smaller, slimmer, lighter, and easier to conceal. The recoil of the .32 ACP round is negligible, so small and light isn't really a problem with a gun chambered in this round. The Beretta might have a slight edge in "shootability", but neither gun is a target gun, they're belly guns designed to conceal well and shoot up close. As that, I'd give the edge to the one that conceals easier and better, and that's the Kel-Tec P-32.

BillinPittsburgh01-12-2003, 10:22 PM
I have a Kel-Tec P-32. It is without question the best .32 available today.

ALL .32 autos have some reliability quirks due to their semi-rimmed cartridges. If the rim of the top round in the clip is caught in the groove of the round below it (the normal condition of a properly loaded magazine, you need a relatively heavy recoil spring to overcome this interaction. If you allow the rim of one round to slip behind the rim of the round below it, you will have a "rimlock," at which point your magazine is useless until all the rounds are removed from it and reloaded back into it. This jam is particularly rare, but is a possibility with ANY .32 auto gun. It generally occurs while the clip is being loaded, so careful loading the clip will stop most problems.

If you go with the Kel-Tec, replace the 9 lb. factory recoil springs with Wolff 11 lb. recoil springs so that you don't get a first shot jam when the gun is loaded with 7+1 and the rim of the top cartridge is in the groove of the one below it. Also, replace the magazine springs with Wolff +10% extra power springs to hold the rounds in the clip firmly together to prevent rimlock.

My gun has the DRC Custom Guns tritium channel sight, which I highly recommend. If your point of impact isn't near your point of aim, David Clay can, upon request, remove metal from one side of the hole in the slide surrounding the muzzle, and add metal by welding to the other side, effecively moving the muzzle to one side or the other within the slide. My gun went from shooting 5" to the right at 30 feet to shooting to point of aim at 60 feet after DRC worked on it.

Also, take a good look at the North American Arms Guardian .380. This gun is the same length and height as the Kel-Tec P-32, but is about 0.18 inch thicker and about 3 times as heavy unloaded. It carries in a pocket well. It will be quite reliable out of the box, but I recommend selecting better sights from the NAA Custom Shop. My Guardian is there right now having Novak tritium sights installed and the frontstrap and backstrap stippled.