The KelTec P32: A Beloved Backup Piece

The KelTec P32: A Beloved Backup Piece

From police ankles to grandma’s purse, the KelTec P32 has been the preferred pocket pistol of many since it was first released.

KelTec P32 Features:

  • .32 ACP
  • 7-Round Magazine
  • Double-Action Only
  • Ultra-High-Impact Polymer Frame
  • 7-Ounces Unloaded

Molded out of what appears to be the same plastic used to make action figures, the KelTec P32 emanates a certain 1990s charm that brings to mind neon-splattered movie theater carpet and paper cups with a wavy blue line across the center. Despite how it looks, the KelTec P32 was an instant classic for the role it was designed for. While the polymer used doesn’t look as sleek as what we’re used to today, it’s high quality, durable and accomplishes one of this pistol’s main goals—being lightweight. Old, all-steel pocket pistols may be compact and work fine when actually being carried in a pocket, but another common carry method used is ankle holster carry. Any cop who used to chase down suspects with a Colt .38 snubby strapped to his ankle will tell you that ounces matter, and that’s where the KelTec P32 shines.

KelTec P32

Many Ways To Carry

Many of the KelTec P32’s features make it ideal for deep concealment, especially when weight is a factor. The gun operates by using a short-recoil, locked breach system despite only being chambered for .32 ACP. By choosing this system over direct blowback, the P32 can use lighter recoil springs, resulting in a smoother action. It has an internal hammer and a double-action-only trigger with about a five-pound pull, but KelTec claims that it should be smooth and consistent all the way through. The double-action trigger acts as this gun’s only safety (besides an internal hammer block to make it drop-safe). The lack of a manual safety, external hammer or other controls help keep the KelTec P32 snag-free and extremely simple to operate—all qualities of a good backup piece.

Weighing less than seven ounces unloaded, it’s no wonder why the P32 became so popular for those who carry with an ankle holster, but the gun’s light weight enables more carry methods than just ankle alone. Belly bands, neck-lanyards and other unorthodox techniques that are often thwarted by a gun’s heft suddenly become accessible when the piece only weighs as much as a roll of nickels.

Best In Its Class

As far as polymer-framed .32 ACP pocket pistols go, the KelTec P32 is undoubtedly the best in its class, and not just because it’s the only one in it. Since it was released in 1999 there hasn’t been another pistol quite like the KelTec P32. There are other, metal-framed .32 ACP pocket pistols such as the Seecamp that outclass it in terms of compactness, but there are none that I know of that outclass it in weight. The extra grip size also contributes to better ergonomics and a higher capacity.

KelTec P32 size comparison
KelTec P32 Vs. Seecamp Model 32. Photo: HandgunHero

On one hand, the DAO trigger and tiny sights make the P32 difficult for inexperienced shooters to make hits with, but the low-power round being fired should help compensate. An eight-round capacity also isn’t bad for a pocket pistol with flush-fitting mags, but they even have extended magazines available for sale as spares.

KelTec P32 extended mag
KelTec P32 with extended 10-round magazine and a pocket clip. Photo: Wikipedia

The KelTec P32 may still be the number one choice for a police backup gun more than twenty years after the gun’s release. Its uniquely lightweight and simple operation makes it particularly suited for the role in ways that not every pocket pistol can be. It has a slew of aftermarket accessories available for it and still has a reasonable MSRP of $360, making it an attractive option for anyone looking for a deep concealment piece. The KelTec P32 fills a niche that no other pistol does quite as well, and for that reason this retro-looking chunk of plastic will likely be remembered as a classic for years to come.

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  1. Obvously poster ‘DaddO’ doesn’t know diddlysquat what he’s talking about, anyone who would recommend a POS Taurus over a KelTec is missing a few brain cells. I’ve had both gens of P32 and never a malfunction, and never had a rim lock issue because I use FMJ, which is impossible to rim lock.

    • You’d think that but you would be wrong. You need to keep up. The TCP or 738 Taurus has the best trigger of the tiny three the LCP- P3AT and the TCP. The guns are fabulous and at one time you could get them for 150 or so. They stopped selling them replacing it with the Spectrum which by hand feels cheap. The TCP is a great gun and before the lcp2 was the only one that had lock on last round. Another great tiny option is the Diamondback db9 gen 4. They worked out a few bugs and really built a fantastic concealed gun.

  2. Other comments notwithstanding, I carried a P32 as a BUG for years and shot around 50 rounds a month through it at the range without a single problem. Although it’s not much fun to shoot at the range, it’s important to be well drilled with any gun you EDC. An excellent little gun, it has almost no sights so I mounted a Crimson Trace trigger guard laser on it to improve accuracy. I only switched because the PF9 isn’t much bigger and allows the use of the more powerful 9mm round.

  3. Beware of Rim Lock in the Kel-Tec. Ask me how I know….

    Stay with only one length cartridge; consider hacking the magazine with a stainless wire down the spine to prevent rim lock.

  4. Don’t overlook the Beretta Tom Cat 32 semi auto. Heavier & a little bigger than the KT but it is very accurate up to around 15 yards & you should not need to use it at even that distance. Plus, the pop up barrel is a nice feature & it is DA/SA. I carried it for years on “half cock” until my wife discovered it & made it her own. It has ridden with her for several years & the only time I see it is when I take it to the range & then clean it. It is so good that, due to my near fossil age, I am thinking of buying a second for me.

    • Lehigh defense build a .32 called extreme cavitator that meets fbi standard for lethality in cold gel. The Tomcat (I have one) won’t run that ammo but the p32 does.

  5. I had a p32 and P11 many years ago when I was on a budget. Both were brand new and both broke after about 100 rounds. Can’t remember the details of each but recall one of them developed a dead trigger. I will never buy another Keltec pistol ever again!!! KT fans always bring up KTs “great customer service”. I would venture to say that is true since they get plenty of practice at it! Personally I don’t ever want to have to call or use a firearm manufacturers customer repair service department. Buy a Taurus or sccy if you can only afford to purchase a budget pistol. Otherwise go a step up to Ruger at that price point. Actually a used Glock or S&W would be better – just DON’T buy a KT for protection!


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