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« Tennessee Handgun Carry Permits, Part I | Main | Getting Started »

January 25, 2004

Range Report: Baby 9 MMs: Kel-Tec P11 vs. Glock 26

With more states switching to "shall issue" carry permits, more citizens are carrying concealed weapons. Consequently there are more small guns on the market, and in larger calibers. This week I look at two baby 9 mms.

I was curious to see how well such small guns soaked up recoil. I found that recoil was manageable for both guns. Experienced shooters shouldn't have any problems.

keltecp11.jpgKel-Tec P11
The P11 has three things going for it: size, weight, and price. Cost is around $250, which is amazing for a 9 mm. Granted, it doesn't look expensive, either, but it's a lot of gun for the money.

The P11 was clearly designed for concealed duty. A few years ago, a gun this small would have been chambered in .32 or .380, but the P11 shoots the more powerful 9 mm. Thanks to a polymer frame, it weighs just 14 ounces, which is lighter than all but the titanium models of Smith & Wesson's venerable J-Frame .38s, long the standard in hideout guns. Even with a full magazine the weight is just 20 ounces.

The P11 uses a double-action only trigger: each shot requires a long, heavy trigger pull. A DAO trigger is safer, since the long, heavy pull makes you very aware of your trigger pull. This could be a good feature if you're pocket carrying (it means you're less likely to give yourself a 9 mm vasectomy). Small as these guns are, though, a holster of some kind is desirable.

The trigger pull, for my tastes, is just too long. The anticipation of waiting for the trigger to finally fall is ruinous to accuracy. For best accuracy, you're not supposed to know exactly when the gun is going to go off, but the trigger pull shouldn't be so long that you have to wonder if it's ever going to go off.

The P-11 sample I shot was perfectly reliable (as was the Glock). However, not all P-11s work that well. They often come from the factory poorly-finished, and need a "fluff and buff" from a gunsmith to work well, so factor that into your decision. For more info, read the Kel-Tec Owner's Group

g26.jpgGlock 26
The Glock 26 has the standard Glock trigger, which is pretty good. Like the Kel-Tec, the trigger pull is the same weight and length from shot to shot. Unlike the Kel-Tec, the trigger weight and length are very reasonable.

The 26 is built on Glock's subcompact frame. If you have a larger Glock in 9 mm the 26 will accept the same magazines. The unit I shot was equipped with a Pearse magazine grip extension, which made the handle long enough to be comfortable. One Glock isn't very different from the rest, so I won't repeat myself. If you're interested you can read my last Glock review.

The Kel-Tec is a decent gun for the money, and has a good reputation for reliability. If you can train yourself to overcome the long trigger, it's a bargain. It's especially good if you need a gun that small and light. However, if I'm ever shopping for a baby 9 for holster use and have the extra 250 bucks, I'd gladly spend it on the Glock 26. The difference in construction quality and trigger make it worthwhile. My friend who shot both guns with me agreed: with money no object, the Glock 26 is the better gun.

Followup Notes
This weekend I went with SayUncle to christen his new Glock 30. The Glock 30 is the .45 caliber version of the 26, and is similarly impressive. The other week I reviewed the Walther P22 and mentioned that a woman in my CCW class had one. I questioned how good of a choice that was for a defensive weapon. Apparently she did, too, because when SayUncle and I saw her at the range this weekend she had traded in the P22 for a Glock 26 and loved it.

Glock 26Kel-Tec P11
Barrel3.46 in.3.1 in.
Length6.29 in.4.6 in.
Height4.17 in.4.3 in.
Width1.18 in.1 in.
Weight Empty19.75 oz14 oz
Street Price$500$250

Read more Range Reports for other guns

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Posted by Les Jones