KelTec P32 Review : Our Favorite Pocket Pistol?

by Travis Pike

April 9, 2024

1 comments

4.8
(10)

Pocket pistols are common fodder these days, but did you know the modern pistol came from KelTec in 1999 in the form of the P32?

I originally reviewed this gun in 2023 but after some more time with it, some of my opinions on this pocket carry pistol have changed. Does this classic hold up now that it’s the legal drinking age? Let’s find out in today’s KelTec P32 review. 

A deep concealment semiauto handgun chambered in 32 Auto

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KelTec P32 Specs

  • Caliber 32 ACP
  • Magazine 7+1
  • Action DAO
  • Frame Polymer
  • Barrel Length 2.68 in
  • Weight 6.6 oz

KelTec P32 Background – The Origin of the Modern Pocket Pistol 

The P32 is far from the first pocket pistol. Guns like the Baby Browning and 1908 vest pocket, and even the original derringers claim that title but the P32 is the first modern pocket pistol. Its design would become what’s essentially the standard for all the pocket pistols to come. Look at the Ruger LCP, the S&W Bodyguard, and the Taurus TCP. They all follow the P32’s guidelines. 

The P32 is a double-action-only, hammer-fired gun with a polymer frame and a single-stack magazine. The barrel is less than three inches, and the gun can drop right inside your pocket. I could have said the exact same thing about the LCP, Bodyguard, and TCP. The main difference was that the P32 was not a .380 ACP, but a .32 ACP pistol. 

In 1999 the .32 ACP was about as obscure as the .380 ACP. At this time period, the .380 ACP had fallen out of favor, just like the .32 ACP. It really was the pocket pistol genre that brought the .380 ACP back. With that said, is the .380 ACP the right choice for a pocket pistol? Sure, it’s more powerful, but does it matter when you get to guns this small? You are just putting small holes in bad guys, and the .32 ACP can do that just as well as the .380 ACP. 

I think the .380 caught on because America likes bigger bullets, even when they don’t make sense. The extra energy a .380 imparts doesn’t matter. What does matter is the recoil a .380 generates from a pocket pistol. The .32 ACP can reach the required twelve inches through ballistic gel and imparts about half the recoil. 

With that in mind, the P32 arrives at an interesting conclusion. It’s a carry gun that’s small, lightweight, and pocket carriable. It has centerfire reliability and can make the depth requirement to hit, but it doesn’t have the hand-slapping recoil or muzzle rise of a .380 ACP pocket pistol. It is also a solid choice for deep concealment.

KelTec P32 Features

KelTec P32 Gun Features
1 Frag Grip Texture
2 Last Round Slide Hold Open
3 DAO Trigger

Models and Variations of the KelTec P32

The P32 is available in black, gray, green, and tan frames. 

KelTec P32 Review – Our Take

KelTec P32 Shooting

KelTec has been known to have spotty quality assurance. Most of the time, it seems like they release firearms before all the bugs are worked out, which leads to customers being beta testers. Luckily they do tend to fix these issues quickly. Since the P32 has been in production since 1999, it’s safe to say the bugs are worked out. 

I managed to get my hands on a large amount of 32 ACP ammo for a fairly low price. With this ammo in hand, I went to the range with my P32 and got started. I loaded magazine after magazine with seven rounds of 32 ACP and let them fly! Three hundred fifty-two rounds and several empty magazines later, I had zero issues. That’s not a torture test, but for a small gun, that’s a fair bit of ammo. 

Kelteck P32 Mag and Patch

In those 352 rounds, I hadn’t had a single failure I could attribute to the gun. I had one issue near the end of my ammo where I loaded a fresh magazine and tugged it on the rear of the slide to release it. It didn’t go fully into the battery, but a slight thumb press sent it home. 

The little P32 always goes bang, but how does it handle it? It’s surprisingly shootable. The gun never tries to wrestle its way out of my hands. The recoil isn’t painful or significant, and I could fire fast follow-up shots quite quickly. This gun is what led me down a .32 ACP rabbit hole, and realizing we made a mistake by bringing back the .380 ACP and not the .32 ACP. 

Ringing Steel 

This little gun barely has sights, and it has a very short sight radius. What happens when these two are combined with a DAO trigger? Well, it means you have a gun that can be challenging to shoot. If you are willing to practice, then you can drive the gun well. The DAO trigger is about five pounds and really not bad as far as DAO triggers go. It’s a ton better than the S&W Bodyguard .380

The trigger pull on the KelTec P32 Pocket Pistol was a bit longer than I’d prefer, but it wasn’t overly heavy. The long trigger pull had a distinct staging point before breaking, followed by a crisp break. Although the reset wasn’t the shortest, it was audible and reasonably tactile. Considering it’s a pocket pistol, I found it to be a decent trigger, especially given its overall reliability and performance.

KelTec P32 In The Hand

At seven to 15 yards, I felt very comfortable taking headshots on an FBI Q target. I only have a single magazine, but I shot a modified El Pres drill without the reload and landed five of six rounds into the A-zone of an IPSC, with one in the C zone in seven seconds. For a teeny tiny gun, I was impressed. 

I went back to 25 yards, and I could still hit the torso of a man-sized target. I won’t say what zone because it was a bit of a pattern more than a group, but I did hit the target in the upper torso and chest area. 

Getting a Grip

The ergonomics are very simple. The gun has two controls, a magazine release, and a trigger. It’s not fancy by any means, but it works. The grip doesn’t fit your hand, but a pinky extension helps. The frag grip pattern provides a good grip on the gun. Hitting the magazine release is easy, and it’s a nice surprise the small gun has a slide lock when the last round is fired.

The P32 features an undercut trigger guard, which allows for a comfortable grip, accommodating two fingers easily. This design element enhances control and stability while shooting, contributing to an overall ergonomic feel of the firearm.

There is no slide release, so you have to slingshot the slide to get back into battery. It’s about as simple as an automatic firearm can get. It’s not as comfy as a CZ 75 or an M1911, but it’s workable.

The price is also tough to beat. The gun has an MSRP of $360, and it often sells for less than $300. In fact, I’ve seen them as low as $150 on some bigger deals. The gun is budget-friendly, and .32 ACP isn’t too tough to find, and it’s often around the same price as .380 ACP. That said, it’s still more expensive than 9mm. 

KelTec P32 Pros and Cons 

  • Recoil – Light Recoil
  • Weight – Only Weighs 6.6 Ounces
  • Price – Affordable
  • Availability – Hard to Find

Report Card

Shootability

As far as centerfire pocket pistols go, this is the easiest shooting example I’ve ever held. I enjoy shooting it, which isn’t something I’ve ever said about a pocket .380 ACP.

A
Reliability

KelTec has ironed out any issues the P32 has or had. Mine is a second-hand model, and I have no idea how many rounds it’s seen before, but it’s seen plenty now.

A
Ergonomics

They work, and that’s about all that can be said. They aren’t terrible, but they won’t win awards. They won’t, they aren’t painful, and everything is easy to use.

C
Accuracy

A C might as well be an A for a gun this small with a DAO trigger. It won’t win any competitions, but it can win a gunfight.

C
Value

For less than 400 bucks MSRP, you can get a rock-solid little pocket pistol. I appreciate KelTec’s low price point for a gun that’s not an everyday carry but one I need when normal dress isn’t permitted.

A+
KelTec P32 Final Grade

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Travis Pike

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 13 Reviews

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KelTec P32 Starter Pack

With any firearm, there are a few items that are always good to have on hand. You need eye and ear protection and a good cleaning kit. We have articles dedicated to all three of these and the links are below.

Upgrades and Accessories for the KelTec P32

It is always nice, and important, to have extra magazines on hand. You also need to have a quality holster to carry your firearm. We have links below to each of these.

You may find yourself in an unusual shooting position where you cannot see your sights. With a laser sight, you can solve that problem.

Best Accessories For KeTec P32

Kel-Tec P32 .32 ACP 7-Round Magazine
  • Blued steel construction
  • High-tensile steel spring
  • Injection-molded polymer follower
  • Precision-machined witness holes
  • Impact-resistant polymer floor plate
Check Price
Crimson Trace LG-430 Laserguard
  • Red Laser Sight
  • Adjustable Sight
  • Instinctive Activation
  • Three Year Limited Warranty
  • Fits Kel-Tec P-3AT And P-32 Gen 1 And 2 Pistols
Check Price
DeSantis The Insider Leather IWB Holster
  • Must be worn with a belt
  • Accommodates belts up to 1 3/4 inch wide
Check Price

Best Ammo for Your KelTec P32

32 Auto is not the most common ammo out there, but we found some good deals on both some range ammo for training and some self-defense ammo for concealed carry purposes. 

Range Rounds

PMC Bronze 32 ACP 71 GR FMJ Ammo

PMC Bronze 32 ACP 71 GR FMJ

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Target Sports USA $0.44
Natchez $0.51
Optics Planet $0.68

Self Defense Ammo

Hornady Critical Defense 32 ACP 60 GR Flex Tip Ammo

Hornady Critical Defense 32 ACP 60 GR FTX

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
MidwayUSA $1.20
Optics Planet $1.36
Sportsman’s Guide $1.04

Other Pocket Pistols of its Class to Check Out

We have reviewed several ultra-compact pistols. Here are a few others to check out. Click the titles to go to the full reviews for each gun.

#1 S&W Equalizer

S&W Equalizer Feature Image

S&W Equalizer

A micro compact 9mm handgun with easy rack slide, optics cut slide, double stack magazine and internal hammer fired.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability B
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

A+

Based on 1 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

#2 Glock 42

Glock 42 Review

Glock 42

The G42 packs all the features GLOCK customers have come to appreciate – from the GLOCK SAFE ACTION system with its multiple integrated safety features to the brand’s proven reliability and durability.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A-
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy B
  • Value C+

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 37 Reviews

Your Grade

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#3 Ruger LCP 380

Ruger LCP 380 Feature Image

Ruger LCP 380

Ruger’s ultra compact semi auto handgun chambered in 380 Auto

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  • Shootability C
  • Reliability B
  • Ergonomics C
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value A-

Our Grade

B-

Reader’s Grade

C+

Based on 11 Reviews

Your Grade

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Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

How to Care for Your KelTec P32

There is no good excuse for having a dirty gun. KelTec has a good video that shows you how to take apart and clean your P32 and then put it all back together.

Check out the links below for the manufacturer’s website and operator’s manual for the P32.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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1 COMMENTS

  1. I have searched for several decades for the perfect carry pistol. I haven’t found it. LOL I own over 150 handguns 45, 9, 380, 32, 357 and several more, from old to new. As I age, arthritis is bothering my hands, so I went back to the Kel Tec P32 that had been in the safe for a couple decades. The recoil helps arthritis flare ups, and I can shoot fifty rounds at a time without having to suffer. In the last few years, I have bought several, used and new. Out of the nine, I had to send one back right off, and fluff and buff one, and they work perfectly now. All of them function with hardly ever a misfire. All of the used ones had no problems. I use the black ones for practice, and keep the Nickel Boron and Hard Chrome for carry. The black ones tend to rust easily. If a bigger sight was available, 20 yard 2 inch groups would be possible. Very reliable, always with you. I will keep looking, but for what it is, it the best I have found

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