Battle of the pocket rockets: Ruger LCP vs. Keltec P3AT

The mini .380 standoff

 Keltec P3AT vs Ruger LCP

Pocket pistols have always been popular because they fill a gap. When dressed with a tucked in shirt and slacks in weather that does not permit a jacket, where are you going to put your favorite roscoe? This dilemma has been solved a number of different ways including pocket semi-auto’s, strapping a revolver to your ankle, maxpedition bags, and of course exotic items such as pen guns.

So if you are looking for a pocket .380 you will most likely be looking at either the Keltec or the Ruger. At first look both pistols appear to be almost identical, safe for a few texture details. Both of them are 7 shot semi-automatic .380 caliber double actions with a shrouded hammer. They look all but identical, and if you put them side by side a gun novice may think they are the same gun. But when you really start drilling down into it you will notice that small details pile up to pick a winner.

2nd place: Keltec P3AT

keltc p3at

The Keltec may be a few bucks cheaper, but that shows in the frame quality. Whereas the Ruger has a nice smooth frame, the polymer in the Keltec leaves some sharp edges. On the model that we tested the Keltec had a piece of polymer sticking out in the trigger guard which beat up your finger every time you pulled the trigger. The tolerances on the Keltec seem somewhat tighter, and the magazine ejects forcefully, clearing the little 380 with ease. Taking the Keltec apart requires either a shell casing or a screwdriver, but taking the Ruger apart is the same thing. The Keltec has an “unfinished” looking barrel, in that the barrel hood stands out against the blued slide. In the Ruger the barrel is blued as well.


Cheap and cheerful

Magazine is shucked out

Tolerances are somewhat tighter

1st place: Ruger LCP

Ruger LCP

Just to let you know, I am usually not a fan of Ruger firearms. I prefer Smith and Wesson in revolvers, and after buying a Ruger 22/45 and trying to put it back together I came close to swearing never to own another Ruger firearm. But I have to give credit where credit is due. The Ruger LCP just looks like a better finished pistol. Even though it seems like a carbon copy of the Keltec, Ruger seems to have done a better job. The LCP seems to have been dehorned much better than the Keltec has, not leaving any polymer edges that can annoy or cut during recoil. The polymer also feels “better”, seeming less porous than the polymer on the Keltec, but this may just be a personal observation. The barrel is blued to match the polymer frame, not left bare as on the keltec.  Another nice even though unnecessary feature is the slide lock-back on the LCP. If you are inspecting the pistol or showing empty, this feature can come in handy. The slide release lever is virtually impossible to manipulate though, so don’t think that you will be doing speed reloads. The magazine drops free, but not as easily as on the Keltec. And to boot this little pocket rocket comes with its own soft case, as well as an extended magazine base plate making for a more positive grip, if you are willing to add a snag point.


Nice craftsmanship

Finished look

Slide lock


Keltec vs Ruger

Accuracy is a relative term with a pocket .380. The best groups you are most likely going to get over 15 yards are going to be about 5”. Rather than trying to shoot a single ragged hole into a target over 25 yards, practice close encounters. These pistols should be thought of as a tool to get you either to something bigger, or away from the threat. Personally whenever I carry a pocket .380 I have a full-size pistol in the car. With a 2 inch barrel you simply won’t put enough spin on a bullet to shoot bull’s eye competition.  On top of that the sights on these pistols are extremely low profile, measuring about 1/16th of an inch in height. They are suggestions of an approximate direction of travel, not cross-hairs.

Holster selection

Holster selection is going to be critical when choosing to carry a pocket 380. You will again have a lot of options, but for a great rig that will hold your pistol in the correct cant while not coming out of your pocket on the front of your gun, try this galco holster:

 Galco holster for p3at and lcp

The flange on the bottom of the holster is designed to catch on the inside of your pocket, pulling the holster off of your weapon on the draw stroke. We currently carry this and other holsters for the Keltec and Ruger, all with a price tag of about $40 or less.


loading lcp

So if you are looking for protection at those times when you can’t bring your duty rig, think about the Ruger LCP. If you happen to come across a Keltec for the right money, you can’t go wrong there either. Both pistols fired a variety of ammunition without a hiccup. Make sure that your pistol will do the same and you can feel a little more comfortable in your dressy clothes too.

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