Kel-Tec P-11: What a Difference A Trigger Makes

KelTec P11 New TriggerAs part of our Kel-Tec P-11 Improvement Project, we wanted to do something about the trigger.  If you aren’t familiar with this firearm, the trigger has some… character.  As with many double-action only (DAO) pistols, the P-11 has a long, heavy (9-pound) trigger pull.  This is because, without an external manual safety, that trigger pull acts as a safety.  However, the heavy pull can wear out your trigger finger and doesn’t exactly encourage you to shoot box after box of ammo at the range.  Our female shooter on this project had trouble with the heavy trigger, barely being able to squeeze off a shot.

The stock trigger on the P-11 is a sharply-curved plastic number that has some side-to-side wiggle, some pre-travel and significant over-travel.  The sharp curve of the trigger allows enough space for a finger to drag between the trigger and the guard during reset, which can wear a raw spot or blister in the span of a short range trip.  The top of the trigger also allows for a shooter to pinch their finger between the grip frame and the upper part of the trigger.

Don’t misunderstand – the stock trigger on the P-11 is certainly passable and many enjoy their pistol just fine without any modifications.  However, there is a lot of room for improvement.  Note that none of our modifications effect the actual trigger pull weight or diminish the safety of the firearm, but the differences are night and day versus the stock trigger.

Safety Note:  when handling, disassembling, reassembling or making modifications to any firearm, make sure that the firearm is unloaded and there is no ammunition nearby!

Upgrade 1:  The Kel-Tec Trigger Shoe

KelTec Trigger ShoeOur first upgrade to the P-11 trigger was the Kel-Tec trigger shoe (PN P-392), an upgrade available from the factory that nearly triples the width of the stock trigger, providing more surface area onto which your trigger finger can exert pressure.

Installation of the trigger shoe couldn’t have been simpler.  The shoe is placed over the stock trigger and secured with two small set screws.  With the shoe in place, I found the increased surface area made the pull slightly easier.  Easier enough that our female shooter could now at least pull the trigger a couple times before giving up.

Unfortunately, the shoe seemed to make the finger pinching above and below the trigger worse on my big hands – not an even trade for the slight improvement, so off it came, leaving behind two small circles from the set screws as if to say “Trigger Shoe Was Here.”

Upgrade 2:  The Northwood Components Trigger

Northwood Components Trigger KitIn researching ways to improve the P-11 we saw two recurring themes:  the “fluff and buff” and the Northwood trigger.  We studied the Northwood Components website and reached out to “Pops” to learn more and we had a black anodized trigger kit underway to us shortly thereafter.

Installation of Pops’ trigger is markedly more involved than just installing a shoe with a couple of set screws and stories can be found online of firearms that ended up on a gunsmith’s bench to complete the work after the owner gave up.  Nonetheless, KelTec owners rave about the kit and, as they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

p11 frame RemovedThe installation instructions provided online are lengthy (24 pages in PDF format), but they are detailed and well illustrated with ample pictures marked with corresponding color-coded steps.  Following these instructions, I had the stock trigger removed and the replacement installed in under 1.5 hours – which included multiple coffee breaks and trips to the garage – and encountered no problems.

Installation involves field stripping the firearm and removing the aluminum frame and fire control group from the polymer grip.  Despite (or, perhaps, thanks to) the warnings in the instructions about what can fly away and when it might do so, I didn’t lose any springs or other parts throughout the process.

P11 Trigger Pin RemovalWith the fire control group removed from the frame, the replacement components (trigger, trigger pin and pin retaining screw) installed with ease.  The rearward clearance of the trigger was perfect without any modifications to the grip.  Forward of the trigger cutout, I had to remove approximately 3/32″ of the Zytel grip to allow for the upper “pinch guard” bump.  For this, I used a Dremel tool end mill on the lowest speed for material removal and a Leatherman for finish work.  The material was easy to work on, with only the material I wanted removed coming off and no chipping, cracking or anything else that I was worried about.

With the new trigger installed, the pistol was lubed and reassembled easily according to the instructions.  An office “range trip” with a snap-cap and laser trainer was in order.  The difference between the stock trigger and the aftermarket Northwood trigger is remarkable.

P11 Trigger ComparisonAlthough not nearly as wide as the trigger shoe, the Northwood trigger is wider than the stock part and, with the gentler curve, the trigger feels easier to pull even though the 9 lb factory pull was not altered.  Pre-travel and over-travel are not eliminated but they are significantly reduced from the stock trigger, making the firearm much more user friendly.  Additionally, the new trigger eliminated the side-to-side wiggle that was present with the stock trigger.

The proof, however, is in the pudding.  Our female shooter found the new setup to be as easy or easier to pull than the stock trigger with or without the shoe and she appeared to get bored with dry fire practice before her trigger finger got tired.  Further, with the new trigger in place, I did not get any pinching or rubbing on my finger above or below the trigger.

To Upgrade or Not To Upgrade

The stock trigger’s idiosyncrasies (coupled with what some perceive to be high felt recoil thanks to the compact pistol’s light weight) don’t exactly make the P11 the most comfortable or fun firearm to shoot, causing many owners keep range trips short and infrequent.  When we buy a firearm, we buy it to shoot, not to sit in a drawer or a safe.  Especially in a defensive weapon, it is important to shoot it enough to become a proficient shot as well as to determine its reliability.  

A firearm’s trigger obviously plays a large part in a firearm’s shootability as well as affecting accuracy.  Upgrading the factory trigger seems to be a worthwhile endeavor on both fronts and could bring your KelTec into rotation for regular range trips.  The trigger shoe seemed to ease trigger pull but only in exchange for worse trigger finger pinching.  The Northwood Components trigger not only made the trigger pull feel lighter but it also tightened things up and eliminated some of the other comfort issues, definitely making it a welcome upgrade to a KelTec P-11, P-40, PF-9 or P-3AT.

If you are interested in improving your Kel-Tec with a Northwood Components trigger, Pops has made a 30% discount available for the first five (5) people to use the promo code gunlink30.

UPDATE 2016:  The above codes have been used up, but Pops has activated the promo code “gunlink to apply an additional discount to current sale prices – making the triggers 25% off list price.

UPDATE Summer 2017:  Pops just let us know that there is now a new special sale going on that, when combined with the coupon code gunlink, will get you 30% off of list price sitewide at www.northwoodcomp.com.

For more photos and information on the installation process and to follow along on the P-11 Optimization Project on the GunLink Forums.

Northwood Trigger PinNorthwood Trigger InstalledPops TriggerTrigger Axis

8 Responses to Kel-Tec P-11: What a Difference A Trigger Makes

  • Tim says:

    I’m still searching for a trigger shoe for my Bersa Thunder 9 Pro, full size. Thus far, I’ve yet to receive any feed back from the makers of these custom shoes, which seems odd.

    If what is in the picture above in the “Kel-Tec Trigger Shoe” this is what I’m looking for.

    I do hope to hear back, as I’ll take whatever measurements necessary to supply you with the proper dimensions, if not send the lower part of the pistol for a fitting, which ever is best.

    Much appreciated,

    Tim

    • GunLinkBlog says:

      Hi, Tim. The link to the KT trigger shoe is in the article above. List price is $10, so it might be worth a shot. When we get a chance, we’ll measure the width of the trigger on the P11 to see if it might fit the Bersa. The Bersa trigger looks like it might be a little thinner (front-to-back), so hopefully there would be enough space for the set screw to grab on to. If the curve isn’t just right, a little heat might get it where it needs to be.

      We’ll put the word out to see if anyone has a lead on a Thunder-specific shoe.

  • FRANK J KUBIK says:

    Sent my P11 to keltec for new trigger 5 weeks ago & when calling them,they can’t tell me if they’ve even looked at it yet.Very disappointing.

    • Dan A. says:

      Dude, I just got my P11 back from Kel Tec. They had it for a little over 4 months. Their turn around time is awful.

      • Brett says:

        I don’t think they’re fast but 4 months is a long time. I don’t remember how long they had mine but it wasn’t much more than a month if that. what was wrong with yours? You should be able to call the shop with you serial number and talk the tech(s) that’s working on it to see what’s going on.

        I fear they’re getting too many irons in the fire with too wide of a product line and it’s getting away from them to be able to support them all.

      • FRANK J KUBIK says:

        Finally got mine back 8 weeks.Work done after owning it 20 years was great & no cost.But turn around time is very bad

  • Frank Torres says:

    Where can I send my p11 to have Morthwood work performed

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