Skip to main content

Kel-Tec's P17 Affordable .22LR Semi-Auto Pistol: Review

Looking for some affordable fun? It's hard to beat a good semi-auto .22LR handgun like the Kel-Tec P17.

Kel-Tec's P17 Affordable .22LR Semi-Auto Pistol: Review

The little P17 makes a great little hiking companion, especially with the addition of a lightweight sound suppressor. (Photo by Jim Grant)

Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.

The Kel-Tec P17 is exactly my kind of gun. It’s affordable, feature-rich, and ready to run out of the box. But if you’re like most shooters, you likely didn’t give it a second glance, precisely because it’s so cheap. And since it’s made by Kel-Tec, you can be sure of at least three things. It will be innovative, quirky, and unmistakably a Kel-Tec gun. But .22LR pistols have been around for more than 100 years at this point. Does this new design genuinely bring anything new to the table? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

Kel-Tec P17 .22LR

The Kel-Tec P17 is a direct blowback, magazine-fed, semi-automatic handgun chambered in .22LR. The receiver is built from two polymer halves bolted together (like many Kel-Tec firearms), but obviously the barrel is built from steel. It feeds from 16-round, detachable box-type magazines and remarkably includes three in the box. For shooters like me, three is the bare minimum for any serious-use guns. This might seem like I’m picking on the gun, but it’s actually the furthest thing from it. The fact that the gun ships with three mags is an incredible boon. And if you’re looking to either learn the basics of pistol marksmanship or teach new shooters, the more magazines the better. As far as the method of operation, direct blowback is my least favorite for centerfire guns, but it makes perfect sense on a rimfire pistol. See, blowback guns tend to be heavier and have more substantial recoil than locked-breech firearms. This is due to the fact that the guns need a heavy bolt (or slide, in this case) to delay the breech’s opening until it reaches safe levels. But since the round has negligible recoil, the slide is lightweight. Another benefit of blowback is increased reliability. And since .22LR is widely considered one of the least reliable cartridges in current production, blowback is the perfect choice.

kel-tec-p17-pistol-03
The pistol features a paddle-style magazine release similar to those found on HK handguns. (Photo by Jim Grant)

Also, because the P17 functions via blowback, the barrel is fixed on the pistol. This, in theory, makes the gun more accurate since the barrel doesn’t have to lock up the same way every time. It simply doesn’t move at all. Instead, the slide itself reciprocates between shots, but the way Kel-Tec achieved this is pretty interesting. Instead of the entire slide moving rearward, only the back portion attached to the rear sight moves. This means less mass reciprocating and, thus, less felt recoil. But given that .22LR isn’t exactly “hard-hitting,” the benefits of this are questionable. The only real downside of this setup is that there is less for the shooter to grasp to charge the weapon. But again, the gun is direct blowback, so there’s no unlocking breech to overcome while wracking the slide, thus negating this issue.

P17 Features

Just below the slide, the Kel-Tec P17 features an ambidextrous safety selector that, while functionally different from those found on 1911 pistols, is located in a similar spot on the grip. I found in testing that it’s natural for shooters of all hand sizes and makes toggling the safety during reloads (if you’re the kind of shooter who does that) effortless. Further down, the triggerguard features an ambidextrous magazine paddle release similar to those found on Heckler and Koch pistols. This will take some training to get used to for shooters who run push-button mag releases but is intuitive and easy to manipulate, even while wearing gloves. Plus, on a side note, this is a vastly superior solution to the heal release found on the Kel-Tec CP33 pistol.

kel-tec-p17-pistol-04
The polymer plinker features an ambidextrous safety selector located beneath the rear of the slide. (Photo by Jim Grant)

Other features include adjustable post and notch iron sights, with the front sight featuring a fiber optic neon green insert. I’m a fan of this setup for plinking guns, as well as guns suited for new shooters. It’s easy to reinforce keeping a shooter’s eye on the front sight post if it glows green. Beneath the front sight, the pistol includes a short Picatinny rail on its dust cover that really only accommodates the smallest lights or lasers on the market. A neat addition, but one with limited functionality. Ahead of the rail is arguably my favorite part of the P17’s design, a threaded barrel. The threaded portion of the barrel is actually recessed inside the slide itself and requires the shooter to use a special wrench and adaptor to extend it beyond the slide. Thankfully, both of these items are included in the box.

The Kel-Tec P17 is an affordable gun, but for it to make waves in the industry, it’ll have to be able to hit above its weight in the cost-to-performance ratio. How did it do? In terms of reliability, the P17 is like most mid-level .22LR automatics. Which is to say, only as good as the ammo you feed it. If you load up 20-year-old Remington Thunderbolt rounds into the mag that have been stored in a damp barn, you’ll have misfires aplenty. But, if you feed the gun anything above bottom-dollar ammo, it runs phenomenally. In fact, in my testing, the P17 burned through two bricks of Winchester Wildcat with only three malfunctions, and two of those were just dead primers.

kel-tec-p17-pistol-05
The grip is a dead giveaway that the P17 is made by Kel-Tec. (Photo by Jim Grant)

After cleaning the gun, I fed it some CCI standard velocity rounds, and it chugged through 450 rounds without any issues whatsoever. Once I had tested both loads, I swapped out the standard thread protector for the 1/2x28 adaptor and installed an Innovative Arms SlingShot Ti titanium suppressor. With a can attached, both of these loads performed identically in terms of reliability, but both saw a dramatic but consistent shift in point of impact. Satisfied that the gun ran fine suppressed with standard ammo, I broke out a few boxes of CCI subsonic ammo and headed back out to the range. With the suppressor attached, the P17 blasted through 300 rounds with only the occasional misfeed when the mags were loaded to maximum capacity. But I attribute this more to the fact that the gun was starting to get fouled up internally than the design being unreliable. 

kel-tec-p17-pistol-06
The Kel-Tec P17 is a capable little pistol that includes everything you need in the box to get shooting, except ammo of course. (Photo by Jim Grant)

As far as accuracy goes, the Kel-Tec P17 achieved groups as small as 1 inch at 30 yards fired off hand. This might not seem like much, but given that I was running standard and not match ammo, it means the gun is more than accurate enough to hit proper targets out to its cartridge’s maximum effective range. In more pragmatic terms, this means that soda cans are easy pickings out to 75 yards if the shooter does their part. In fact, the only downside to the design in my opinion is the lack of a optics cut at the rear of the gun. That said, Kel-Tec does make an optics-ready slide kit for the gun, but it often costs as much as the gun itself. The P17 is a capable gun in the hands of a talented shooter, and it’s a fantastic plinker. If a shooter is looking for an affordable first pistol to learn the basics of shooting that fires inexpensive rounds with little recoil, the P17 is a solid choice. There might be more accurate options available, but most of those cost at least twice as much as the Kel-Tec.

kel-tec-p17-pistol-07
Steel plates were easy targets out to 75 yards with the little Kel-Tec pistol. (Photo by Jim Grant)

Kel-Tec P17 Specs

  • Type: Direct blowback, semi-automatic
  • Cartridge: .22LR 
  • Capacity: 16 rds.
  • Barrel: 3.8 in.
  • Overall Length: 6.7 in.
  • Sights: Green Fiber Optic (front), Adjustale rear
  • MSRP: $199
  • Contact: Kel-Tec

If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Pioneer Arms .22 LR Trainer AK Rifle

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Pioneer Arms GROM 7.62x39 AK Rifle

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Gear

Federal's “Punch” line of Personal Protection Ammunition

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

KelTec's new KSG410 and R50!

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Gear

Liberty Ammunition

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Springfield Armory 9mm Saint AR15

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Rock River Arms New ARs

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

MKS 10mm Hi-Point Pistol

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Magpul FDP-9

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Legacy Sports New Howa Rifles

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

Aero Precision Bolt-Action Rifle Line

Firearms News Editor-in-Chief Vince DeNiro learns about American Tactical, Inc.'s new single-shot rifle which neatly fol...
Guns

American Tactical, Inc. New Single-Shot Folding Rifle

Firearms News Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW OUR CURRENT ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Firearms News App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Firearms News stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Firearms News subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Firearms News stories delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use