Guns & Patriots

Review of the Kel-Tec P-11: A Pocketful of 9mm

Have you been looking for a powerful and reliable, very affordable, high capacity defensive pocket pistol–one that you can not only carry in your pocket, but also clip inside your waist band? In this installment, we take a look at such a gun.

George Kellgren

George Kellgren

It has been on the market since the 1990’s and has been reviewed elsewhere, but not by me. The first pistol designed by George Kellgren, the founder of Kel-Tec Firearms (, it is the innovative but inexpensive 9mm Kel-Tec P-11.

Pistol design

The P-11 is a semi-automatic, locked-breech, double action only pistol, chambered for the 9mm Luger cartridge. This pistol is compact and lightweight, thanks to its locked breech. The slide is made from carbon steel and contains the firing pin and the extractor. The rectangular frame is machined from solid aluminum and houses the firing mechanism. The trigger connects via a transfer bar to the hammer and operates in double action only. The hammer is trigger cocking so the gun can be dry fired without having to rack the slide to re-cock the action. The light weight firing pin transmits the energy of the hammer to ignite the primer. The grip is made of the ultra high impact polymer. The P-11 comes from the factory with standard 10-round magazines. However, you can also purchase factory 12-rounders. That will give you 13-rounds of 9mm in your pocket gun (12 + 1 in the chamber). That’s not bad for a pocket gun that in my opinion is good looking to boot.

Pocket carry of the Kel-Tec P-11

The Kel-Tec P-11 is a small compact pistol. It is only 5.6 inches long, 4.3 inches tall, and one inch in width. If you have big pockets, it can be carried in your pocket. If you don’t, you need to use a different method of carry. The P-11 feels easier to carry than does a Glock 26. The P-11 weighs 14 ounces unloaded and around 22 ounces loaded with a magazine fully charged with 12 rounds of 9mm ammunition and a round in the chamber.

Because the P-11 has such a heavy and long trigger, it is safer than most pistols to carry without a holster in your pocket. However, I still recommend carrying it in a pocket holster, as I do for any other pocket gun. I pocket carry my P-11s in either a Mercedes. i.e., a custom Kramer horsehide pocket holster, or in a Hyunda, i.e., an inexpensive Uncle Mikes nylon pocket holster.


Kel-Tec P-11 with the Kramer leather pocket holster

The Kramer Pocket Holster ensures the gun will stay in the same place inside your pocket, stops the front sight from wearing a hole in your pocket, and ensures that your gun won’t be wrapped in a wad of pocket material when you go to grab it to defend your life. The Kramer Pocket Holster also disguises the shape of the gun given that the outside of the holster is covered with a piece of plastic laminate that breaks up the outline of the gun, so the bulge in your pocket looks like a wallet. The side of the holster pressing against your body is smooth, comfortable, precisely molded horsehide.

The Uncle Mikes pocket holster is made of a soft suede-like material, open and closed cell foam padding and a smooth nylon lining. This holster’s laminated construction conceals the outline of the gun, cushions the leg from the gun’s contours, and provides a barrier against perspiration.

You can easily install a factory pant/belt clip onto the P-11’s frame so that you can carry it deep inside your waist band. This is a good way to go. The gun is comfortable and conceals nicely this way.

The Kel-Tec P-11 is not a match grade pistol but you can plink with it.

The P-11 is fun to shoot. It has a heavy and long trigger pull the length of Texas with a full length reset. However, for me, perceived recoil is manageable, the gun points well, and it feels good in my hands. The gun’s long trigger pull has given me the opportunity to practice the most important fundamentals of marksmanship—trigger control and sight alignment.  With this gun, the trigger is the safety. You really have to intend on pulling the trigger to discharge the gun. It is highly unlikely to happen by accident.

You can shoot this gun in four ways. One way is to plink with it for fun. A second way is to shoot it as if your life depends on it at the moment. A third way is to shoot it to practice the marksmanship fundamentals, and a fourth way is to practice point shooting with the gun.

The P-11’s accuracy

The P-11’s accuracy is acceptable up to 10 yards and good at seven yards or closer in. This is not a gun to shoot a one-hole drill with. However, with practice, one can keep all shots within an 8 ½ by 11 inch piece of paper, the high center of mass area of a person’s torso, within seven yards.

The P-11’s reliability

I own four P-11s. Why? The answer is because I like them. Two I bought new and two I bought used. I have owned three of these four for over 10 years. As I shoot my guns a lot and I hate cleaning guns, I would say that they have been used a lot and cleaned very little. My fourth P-11, the green one pictured here, I recently acquired.

Kel-Tec offers a lifetime warranty on all of their guns. One of my P-11s had to be sent back to the factory for service. The other three have been good right out of the box. I have lost track of how many thousands of rounds I have run through my P-11’s with no problems. The gun I sent back for factory service stubbornly shot to the left, and it wasn’t my trigger work or the sights. I also had difficulty inserting a fully charged magazine into the pistol. One month later the gun was shipped back from the factory and it has worked fine ever since. 

Easy maintenance

The P-11 is easy to field strip for cleaning. Routine cleaning is as easy as cleaning a Glock. The nice thing, also as with a Glock, is that the P-11 can go a lot of rounds without cleaning.


The Kel-Tec P-11 is George Kellgren’s first commercial gun offering and my favorite in the Kel-Tec line. What’s not to like in a light weight and reliable pocket gun that holds 13 rounds of 9mm +P’s?


Kramer Gun Leather.
Uncle Mikes.

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  • John de Soto

    KelTec makes a fine weapon.  I own a P32, a P3AT, two P11s, and a Sub2K as well.  One thing I’d like to mention is that the P11 is not George’s first pistol.  That honor belongs to the Grendel.

  • Guest

    I also own a few KelTec . And yes they do make a very great weapon . And Im in love with my Kels AR15 . My wife said I love that weapon more than her .  I think she just might be right .

  • Double 1

    If you like the P-11 you’ll love the PF-9, 9mm para. it has a 7 round mag. and with one up the pipe gives you 8 shots of 147gr. Win. Bonded ammo  (what it carry) and if you need more you should of brought a rifle.

  • Rod Manney Sr

    I bought my KelTec P11 in 2005. After polishing the feed ramp and installing the belt clip it has become my only carry gun. It is rugged, dependable and with the + p round I feel I have enough fire power to defend myself in most situations, It is concealed under a t-shirt, much lighter than my Glock, Taurus, Ruger and Smith & Wesson. Over all a very good concealed carry weapon.

  • dean

    Dear Sir
    Don’t give me this “perceived recoil” nonsense.. At 15 ounces, the recoil on a 9mm feels like someone hit the palm of your hand with a baseball bat. This is the price you pay for the pistol being so light. Also, the long, long trigger pull is not a plus-it actually causes you to start to move the pistol. Speak the truth-when I log onto this webpage, I expect to hear what is real. It does not matter if the weapon is a Kahr of Kel Tec or Reuger, at 15 ozs, there is too little weight to offset a harsh recoil. The reality is that technology today does not make a  .25 or .32 or .380 round  which does have  good knock down power. If you want less recoil shock, then you can go to a larger pistol, around 26 ozs, but it is not as concealable as the 15 oz weapon. I was reading the magazine Pocket Pistols and ran across the same politically correct mantra of denying there is any problem with recoil. I took my Kahr .40 to a gunsmith in Denver who has been in business for 30 years and he told me what I already knew-the recoil is harsh.This is the price you pay for lightweight with knock down power. He sold his Kahr because of the recoil-he said he was tired of punishing his hand each time he pulled the trigger.

  • hobeau

    You might have mentioned that Keltec offers what they call a trigger shoe which widens the trigger and provides a more comfortable feel which can be further improved with a jeweler’s file. Also, the trigger shoe feels as if the perceived trigger pull is smoother and lighter.
    James Beauchamp

  • slowhike

    I have owned a P-11 for a few years now & have probably put close to if not more than 2000 rounds through it.
    The commits above about the harsh recoil puzzle me. Yeah, it has some recoil but it doesn’t hurt, & I can fire off 3 or 4 rounds w/ very little hesitation between them, point shooting & hit center of mass size area w/ ease.
    It may not be the most comfortable gun to shoot for long periods, but I don’t mind shooting a  couple hundred rounds through it.
    It has fired very reliably. The only problem I have had w/ it was the clip thing that holds the slide open on the last round has broke twice now. But it still fires reliably, even w/ the clip broke.  Kel-Tec sent me another one free each time.

  • ddetmer

    I have shot/owned the PF-9 and while the long trigger pull would not make it a competition pistol i found that i could hit pretty good with it.  For the price, i like the gun to carry.  Now if it were the exact same price as a glock 26/27 i would have to think about it.  i found it very easy to carry, light, gets out of a coat pocket easy, thin so it is concealable, a pretty good deal for $230 + tax for a used gun.   Yes, the recoil is harsh, but as with carry guns you have a trade off – weight vs recoil, since i may never fire the gun in self defense, and when i do i don’t think the recoil will be noticed, i have leaned towards carry guns that are light and comfortable and i can carry every day.  the Khar is also a thinner gun but if i remember right, does not carry as many rounds as a Kel-tec plus costs more.  So the Kel-tec has a place in my line up.  i am trying to get the PF-9 back from my son. 

  • leadfoot320


  • Rick Marchant

    my name is Rick Marchant and i disagree with you,I myself pack a KelTec P F 9,and i dont notis the recoil at all. but then again I shot a lot of 41 mag,44mag,45acp,and hoptup 45colt. the 9mm is a pussycat and I cant see why anyone would ever complane about the recoil of the 9mm.

  • Rick Marchant

    im gust saying ,i dont meen to begrudge anyone ,and i sertenly dont want to hert any feelings,but i think (that is myself speeking now) that of all  the guns one could use to cary the 9mm is got to be one off the lightest recoil guns that eny person could carry.AND given a situatction one wouldent even notes the recoil.(and in the right situatcation you probubly wouldent notis the recoil of the 460 S&W eather.

  • hicusdicus

    What is knockdown power? How does a piece of metal weighing 200 grains knock down a 230 man? The only guarantied man stopper is a load of buckshot in the face. When one is staring at the entrance to the after life, bullets take a back seat to buck shot.

  • Albert Nygren

    I am 68 y/o, 100% disabled due to severe low back and left shoulder problems. I have no trouble at all shooting the P-11. When I first bought it the stippling in the grip hurt my hand so I put a rubber sleeve on the grip. That made it a joy to shoot. I have never been hit in the palm with a baseball bat but shooting the p- ll is nothing like that and I have arthritis in my hands and fingers. Using a semi-weaver grip which uses dynamic tension I can put all shots in the bulls eye if a standard target at 21 feet. At 50 feet, I can only hit the target but that is the same size as a mans chest.

    I was thinking of getting a Kel Tec PF-9 for it’s slimmer shape and supposedly better trigger but have decided not to since I learned how to “stage” the trigger on my P-ll. It is thin enough and if the trigger is staged can be very accurate at reasonably long distances. I am glad to hear the experiences of those who can say that it is a sturdy long lasing gun which tells me I can shoot it more than I have.

  • juddywuddles

    Have you ever fired one?  The recoil is comfortable.  Try it, you’ll like it.

  • Craig Bybee

    I recently purchased a p11 and find it to be a great personal defense weapon.  The long trigger pull is purposely designed to make the gun safe for conceled carry with no mechanical safety.  There a many double action compact pistols out there and the p11′s trigger pull is better than most.

  • Albert Nygren

    Hi Craig, I have a Kel Tec P-11 that I’ve had for several years. I like it a lot too. I’m 68 y/o and have started to get some arthritis in my hands and I don’t find the recoil that bad at all. I practice with standard pressure rounds but keep it loaded with Corbon’s 115 gr SJHP that is +P. I don’t find the recoil to be painful with this either. I did put a rubber sleeve on the grip because the stippling in the hard plastic grip did hurt my hands during recoil, but the rubber sleeve took care of that.

    The P-ll does have a long trigger pull for safety reasons but the out of the box trigger pull on my P-11 is smooth as glass. I saw a video on U-tube that had a great idea on how to make the gun more accurate despite the long trigger pull. What you do is cut the eraser of off a new pencil then cut it to the right length so that when you glue it on the grip frame right behind the trigger the trigger will touch the eraser before the hammer releases. How this works is that you pull the trigger back until it touches the eraser, then you can align your sights more carefully and pull the trigger against the eraser a short distance and the gun will fire.

    You would not want to use this technique in many self defense situations but it is easy to ignore the slight pressure of the eraser and just pull the trigger back in one motion. I had to do a little trial and error to cut the eraser to the right length. Crazy Glue works great to hold the eraser in place.

    I hope something I have said has been either helpful or fun. It’s fun to talk to someone who has a P-11 and likes it.

  • FudgePacker69

    Learn to spell dude

  • Adrian

    It’s clear you have limited experience with firearms. The Kahr and Kel-Tec are very manageable no matter what your gunsmith claims. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, you have to practice and work on your hand/arm strength. Not only is the Kel-Tec a fine pistol, it is affordable. I hope you are able to find a weapon that doesn’t kick, like a tip up barrel Beretta .380 . Good luck.

  • Albert Nygren

    Hi Dean, I’m afraid I must agree with the person that encouraged you to build up your hand, fore arm, and shoulder strength. The recoil of a Kel-Tec P11 when shooting full power +P 9mm ammo is not hardly like getting hit in the hand with a base ball bat. I wonder if you are using a semi-Weaver stance or any stance where you put dynamic tension on the gun by pushing forward strongly with your dominant hand and pulling back as hard as you can with your weak hand. I think that doing tat will either eliminate or greatly reduce your recoil issue with the light Kel-Tec 9mm.

    With your hand putting a lot of tension on the gun grip and your elbows bent you should feel the recoil evenly distributed evenly over your entire arm and shoulder and no hard slap in your hand. I hope this helps. I had a similar problem with a 12 gauge side by side shot gun. I was simply not pulling the gun into my shoulder strongly enough which left a space of soft tissue for the gum butt to travel in. Whenever I pulled the trigger it felt like I was being hit in the shoulder with a I0 lb sledge hammer!. Recoil was much less when I pulled the gun into my shoulder as hard as I could before I pulled the trigger.

    My best wishes for you and I hope you have many happy shooting years ahead of you.

  • bob

    I had a p-11 once. It was not a good pistol. It jammed. It was not accurate. The speed of presentation from concealment was slow. s&w j frames work way better.

  • Manfer

    I am a 65 y/o retiree, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Practice makes perfect, like with everything else. I consistently have have 4″ groups at 10 yds.

  • Ben

    Sounds like user error to me. All the people complaining about recoil have obviously never carried a blowback Makarov or the like.