Armchair Quarterbacking: Kel-Tec

It’s time for another Armchair Quarterbacking session of another Gun Maker. This time, I aim my sights on Kel-Tec.

Kel-Tec CNC, Inc. is a small gun maker out of Florida that specializes in building some very affordable little guns, and some guns that are just crazy enough to be absolutely brilliant.  One thing I admire about Kel-Tec is that they are clever and not afraid of trying something completely different.  And because of this some things are quite all there.  Not every piece of pasta sticks to the wall.  But over all, it’s really a home run.  However, it’s time to take them down a peg, and then bring them up a few notches, if you know what I mean.

Let’s start with the Branding. From the perspective of a former 9 year Gun Dealer and dealing with the general gun buying American consumer, there is room for some work.  I’m glad they took the US Flag out of the logo.  I’m not saying that I’m tired of the Flag, but Old Glory shouldn’t be used in anyone’s marketing.  The new logo however still has the red stripes, hinting at the flag that’s some place in negative space behind Kel-Tec.  It even has some angle built in there to make it almost look like “action lines”.  Moving forward… speed… That’s good.  But the name in the logo is Kel-Tec.  One of the most misspoken, misspelled names out there next to Burnelli.  Let’s clean the name up, clean the logo up… and make it just “KT”.  Maybe even with an angle. KT.  Let’s try that in bold… KT.  Solid. Simple.  And hard to screw up.  Throw in those red action lines behind that.  HK, XD, FN… Those work, and KT works too.  We want a new face for this brand once we are through… so KT is good to go.  Moving on.

Let’s go down the list of guns.  First one, the SUB-2000.  Generally the public has a love it or hate it response to the Sub-2000.  What does the “Sub” mean?  Don’t answer that, no one cares… But people do ask that at the gun counter.  If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question, I’d take my wife out to a lobster dinner. In France. And I wasn’t even a stocking dealer.  Here’s the thing… This is a clever little carbine with a lot of spunk.  If it were a dog, it would be a Jack Russel.  I mean that as a compliment.  Let’s first fix the name.  Call it the S2K.  The KT S2K.  Just typing that, the hard core Gun Guys are going to readily and automatically know what that is.  Because that’s what a lot of us call it anyways.    You know what?  Let’s take this gun up a notch, and end up calling the new version the KT S3K.  Let’s start by getting rid of the folding trick.  It’s really costs more sales than it’s garnered because most guys just didn’t like it and ended up picking something else.  Anything else.  Even the Hi-Point Carbine.   Sure, the Sub-2000 has it’s fans, but it’s got more detractors. Which is why you don’t see them in everyone’s gun vaults. Let’s make it a fixed receiver, with the barrel threaded securely into a beefy steel block for best accuracy, like your SU-16. A trunnion (that means on a pivot) mounted barrel just gives a lot of people the creeps.  Give it a monolithic top rail.  This gets rid of the rear sight wedge thing.  You show a tubed fore-end on the site, so I know you can do it… but I’ve never seen one in real life.  The new hotness is a tube that goes all the way out to the muzzle.  Do that.  Let people decide what flip up or fixed sights they want on this.  That’s what the people with the money to burn are buying.  You don’t really need a muzzle break, but do it anyway.  Because that’s what people with money are buying.  Not an A2 style, do something that looks high tech.  And then recess that and make the fore-end deflect the blast back forward.  They are doing this with AR’s, you can figure that out here.  Now instead of rails, leave it round, but use pre-threaded holes and rail sections so the customer can do whatever he or she wants with it.  Redesign the pistol grip to be more like an PF-9’s grip in appearance and feel.  That’s a good grip.  It works, so pass it along.  The Sub-2000 – S3K carbine can really use that.  Contour the receiver’s looks to bring it up to date as well.  The old one looks terrible.  The stock needs to look more up to date as well.  More like the new Battlelink Minimalist stock, and let it have a little adjustment for length of pull.  To simplify things, I’d drop the number of magazine options to one.  Glock.  If you have to have two, then Glock and Beretta.  Because those mags are cheap and abundant.   You can do all of this and keep the price low… MSRP can be 699 and guys would line up to buy it.

The SU-16.  This is the Football Bat Rifle.  You have the SU-16A, B, C, CA, and D, and they are all F, U, B, A, R.  The Integral bi-pod is a pain in the membrane.  Get rid of it.  Any accuracy this thing can have is ruined with it, and if you grip it inconsistently.  Give this the same free floating barrel treatment that we just discussed with the S3K.   No more different versions, and get rid of the Grandpa’s Shotgun stock.  Give it an AR Grip attachment point and sell it with a basic A2 grip on it.  For the stock, give it something that looks like its off an ACR or SCAR or a G-36.  Don’t do an AR stock here… you can Side Fold… Underfolding is a poor choice if you can Side Fold with some rigidity.  Even Underfolding AK’s are less popular.  Do this and the SU-16 will become quite popular very quickly.  Also, the name… The Sucks 16?  That’s what a lot of guys are calling it.  Let’s get rid of that badge.  Give it a good trigger pull, some nice looks on the receiver and call it KTR556.  That sounds like it’s going to go out and kill shit.  That’s not something that sounds like it sucks.  Sounds more like it’s some Predator Murder Weapon.   Now get rid of all the other versions, and only offer the one… The KTR556.

The RFB.  Take every RFB you finish, and send it to Crusader Weaponry in SLC.  There, Crusader can do the permanent Slipstream Treatment to the internals of every single RFB before it ships to customers.  Better yet, buy Crusader Weaponry, move them to Florida lock stock and barrel and have them turn the RFB up to 11.  That’s it.  Done.  Don’t touch anything else, unless Crusader wants to Cerakote them.  Which is a great idea and should be done.  So do that.

Okay, and now for the thing that is missing from your line up.  The 5.56mm version of the RFB.  Where is it?  I’ve not seen that yet, and this is wrong.  You need to fix this.

The KSG.  I completely fell in love with the KSG at SHOT Show when I saw it and handled it.  And then some time later, I finally had the chance to shoot one.  Oh I was looking forward to that so much… and then I stepped up to the firing line.  Imagine lusting after Scarlett Johansson, and then you finally get to slow dance with her…  and you find that she has the body odor and breath of a 3 week dead trout.  I’m not a mechanical engineer, but that gun needs more work than an 84 Audi Fox running on only 2 cylinders.  The main problem from what I’ve seen in the guns I’ve dealt with… Things are binding up inside.  My suggestion for the RFB should also be applied to the KSG.

The PF-9.  Don’t touch it, it’s great.

The P-11.  Make it look like a double stack PF-9.

The P-32.  .32 Auto is useless.  The only thing worse is the .25 Auto and the only thing worse than that, are the people who like .25 Auto.  Change it to a .22 LR and call it the P-22.  And make it look like a little PF-9.

The P3AT.  Make it look like a little PF-9.

Okay, now that you’ve done that, rebuild them all into Striker Fired pistols because all of these triggers flat out suck.  No, really.  They do.  They just do.  Look, I love these little guns, seriously.  But the triggers have been what has been holding these things back from being as awesome as they could be.  The Double Action Only thing was fine for Kel-Tec, but for KT, it’s got to be next level.   Knowing how you guys think outside of the box, I would be surprised if you didn’t already have a striker mechanism designed.

Now, there is a hole in this line up.  Where is the full sized, duty worthy, double stacked auto?  A PD-9 and a PD-40.  You guys are more than capable of bringing out something new that can run with the big dogs.  Something wild and different.  I’d be surprised if it didn’t look like something off of that Oblivion sci-fi movie.  I bet you guys have something up your sleeves.  Throw it down.  If not, do it.  Soon.  Very soon.

The PLR-16.  Give it an A2 Grip, so people can swap that out for their favorites. The rest is good.  Activate the Crusader Plan on these too, just for good measure.  The .22LR version, consider the same things.

Okay, now the for big one.  The PMR-30.  First off, why in Hades Underworld do you not have a .22LR version of this?  Whatever you are doing, drop it, and make a .22LR version.  While we’re at that, forget the 4.2” Barrel, and roll it out to a full 5”.  For both versions.  But especially for the Magnum.  Anything people are doing with the PMR-30, they can do better with that extra inch of barrel and sight radius. .22 Mag will also gain a good advantage from the longer runway.   Same with the .22LR.  So just do that.  The rear of the slide is just so incredibly hideous that it causes the same madness as prolonged exposure to Cthulhu, or Congress Woman Fredrica Wilson.  It just hurts to look at and you can’t really tell how to fix it other than to just scrap the whole thing and make one that looks like… oh… I don’t know… A GUN.  Browning has this figured out on the Buckmark pretty well.  Regular ridges and it has two nice “ears” that really help in charging.  The barrel on the PMR-30 is a hot mess… Beef it up to keep some weight on the muzzle end, help accuracy, and help with the thermal dynamics. Or, contract with Tactical Solutions out of Idaho to do your barrels.  They make some seriously accurate, tac-driving barrel.  But still, the PMR-30 needs some beef there.  Not a lot, but more than it has.  By about 100%.   

There is something about the polymers that you guys use that just look… like they are made from recycled AK Mags.  I know the stuff is tough.  I watched a P-11 take both axles of a Chevy 2500.  It was my P-11 actually and it was on the back bumper when a helpful soul decided he was going to move my truck for me… He lurched forward, causing the gun to fall, and then backed over it.  The gun was just fine.  This was out in Utah Deserts at a super secret shooting location.  Dirt, rocks, BFG A/T, didn’t even leave a mark.  But it still looks lower level.  Now the options are to change the polymers… which isn’t really necessary.  Or coat the polymers.  Which is a damn fine solution.  Cerakote everything.  Added Value.  And add some profit.  Cerakote the frames early on in a mass production method and there you go, cost effective and simple, and the guns are going to look so much better that everyone is going to want to shove one down their pants.

This brings us to the last problem.  Actually two problems.  First is your Production Capability.  You don’t have any.  The PMR-30, RFB, KSG… People have been waiting to get them.  You are not making them fast enough.  Now, while you could expand your factory and hire more people and invest in production capability… It might be better to subcontract production to a company that has capacity.  Even if just for bottle-neck causing parts. Or even whole frame assemblies or slides.  Whatever you do, you have got to get your Production numbers up.  And your Quality Control.  Ramp those up.  And Secondly – Your Distributor Only sales model.  Oh, it’s easy to go D.O.  But D.O. is a No Go for many Dealers who stock guns.  Remember when I said that I wasn’t stocking them?  I wasn’t because there was no margin in them.  I’d order them for customers on request, but I made nothing on those sales.  So I had no incentive to sell them.  I had more incentive to nudge the customer to something I had on the shelf.   Distributor Only works for Ruger because there is enough nationwide demand to drive those sales.  Kel-Tec doesn’t have that.  Let’s look at FN.  I was a full line stocking FN dealer.  We had everything from pistols to bolt action rifles, FS2000’s and PS-90’s… We had all of them and loved selling them.  And then FNH decided to drop the Direct to Dealer business model and go Distributor Only.  Essentially giving their Dealers the Middle Finger.  We stopped ordering FN.  And were soon out of FN.  The only FN gun we had requests for was for the Five-seveN pistol, so we kept getting those in… when we could.  But everything else… those nice Patrol Bolt Rifles… Sorry.  We sold Remington Tacticals instead.  At that point we were #4 in the State of Utah.  A dealer of that magnitude dropping your line?  Ouch.  And we were not the only ones.  FN took a shot to the nuts because of that.   You open up to Direct to Dealer Sales and push those dealer incentives… Your sales will increase.  Your profits on those sales will increase.  Because there are no smarmy middlemen to take all the margins.

Keep up the good work, KT.  Keep pushing those new ideas.  Keep being awesome.  We love you guys and wish you balls to the walls success.

24 thoughts on “Armchair Quarterbacking: Kel-Tec”

  1. In the late 90’s, Kel-Tec had a P11 based .40 and even a dual upper set up with the extra slide, barrel and so forth in a nifty little round tube. I really liked the idea of that gun, especially when 9mm was free by today’s standards. I am
    unsure why they discontinued that. Sub 2000 in .40 would be nifty too.

  2. You are correct on the looks of the polymer, they look 1000x better when they are coated, hell even some fabric and vinyl paint works great, I sprayed my P11 about 6 months ago an it still looks like I did it yesterday with all the constant carry. As for the triggers, you dont have to go to striker fired, just polish up the internals and reduce the mainspring pressure. Mine feels great.

    1. I’ll say that the triggers on my two keltecs and the ones I’ve felt(maybe 3-4 others) have been actually very good like better than they should be. Slick and smooth from the factory so I’ve yet to encounter a keltec with a bad trigger might just be my luck though. I have seen terrible striker fired triggers though so I’m not sure that’s necessarily the answer. I say clean them up a little more maybe from the factory or just do whatever they did to mine to the rest of them.

      Really though I’ve had good luck with budget brands my Taurus have been good as well so maybe I’m just lucky.


  3. I was at a range and watched a folding KT rifle fall to pieces in the shooters hand..I have one of the P11’s with the .40 conversion kit. Not a good choice unless you are into early arthritis of the hands. Man that hurts and man that trigger! You could write a novel waiting for the hammer to fall….Still not the worst choice for pocket carry.

  4. There are a few things you didn’t consider with regard to the engineering. The Sub2000 uses the same grip no matter what brand magazine it is designed to take. Changing the grip angle could limit its versatility. Yes most will get it set up for Glock mags, but not everyone. Until they come out with their own fully proprietary, reliable mags, the grip can’t really be changed.

    Also, you have to give them credit for the P3AT as it stands. When Ruger copies your $#!+, you know it’s a good design. They don’t call the LCP “little copied pistol” for nothing.

    KT also sells an adaptor to put any AR grip or stock on the SU-16.

  5. George,
    As much as I would like to make you Product Director at Kel-tec, what you want isn’t going to happen. KT likes being a small business. If they expand they will be a terribly taxed and regulated medium business operating which borders on Mission Impossible, the added staff would triple the personnel. The need for a bureaucracy to fight the Federal Bureaugoddery makes the huge Defense Industry giants. No fun in that. Now the boys what owns it are getting up in years. If some gunnies buy Remington (TM) and they MEAN IT! They should acquire KT, make you product director and use KT as the “Skunk Works” for new products.
    I am reminded of the Marlin mess, just took a Modell. ATK-KT anyone? Geoff Who compared the Ruger to the KT and bought the Ruger LCP.

    1. Poor excuse for not making better product. However it is a valid point with this Administration.

  6. George, have you fired a KSG since your SHOT Show experience mainly after the modification/overhaul? The one that I had (and other owners) didn’t have a single malfunction of any kind and I didn’t experience any binding of any kind. I believe they worked out that kink, among others, from the initial run. It sucks that the first customers really were beta testers, but when the shooting public pretty much demanded the product it seems that Kel Tec bowed to pressure and released something a little too early.

    Now about the PMR-30, I also owned one post-recall and it also ran flawlessly with excellent accuracy. I also owned an AMT Automag II which was much heavier and with a longer barrel, but the PMR-30 was still more accurate. The only thing that I didn’t care for with the PMR was the non-adjustable rear sight and the 30 round magazine was a b*tch to load it to capacity. I ended up only loading no more than 25 rounds as I would be denting cases with the rim because it got so difficult. Tactical Solutions barrels are beefier but they are actually made to be lighter than factory barrels but with better accuracy. I have one on my Buckmark and it weighs something like 5 ounces versus 12 ounces for the factory barrel.

  7. I like a lot of what you say. However…

    I like my S2K in 40 but WANT TO USE M&P mags! And I like it folding. It fits in a non tactical bag and would make a great bug-out gun with the M&P. The sights suck and it needs some rail.
    ” Where is the full sized, duty worthy, double stacked auto? A PD-9 and a PD-40.” Really? I don’t care how Buck Rogers it looks, that is a market packed with great products. Focus on the cool, quirky, niche stuff.
    And yes, add capacity and hire a great VP of manufacturing.

  8. I love the concept of the KT stuff, but it is hard to get. I rarely have the patience to order things from out of state. That said I love .22lr semi auto pistols and if the PMR-30 was available in .22lr it would be on its way to Crusader pronto. .22WMR is too much of a pain in the butt to get when you live off the road system. I am trying to cut down on calibers, not add to them.

  9. I have a P-11 that I ran into for a steal. I was really on the fence about it for a long time, but I’ve learned how to shoot that little gun pretty darn well. I got the trigger shoe for it and that’s a big deal.
    Probably only 600 rounds, but it’s never had a hiccup with a wide variety of ammo.
    I trust my little gun.
    Twisted Industries makes some fiber optic sights that i’m looking at.
    Great article, George!

  10. I love Scarlett Johanson also, even with hairy legs.
    My PF9 is kinda like that. It has always functioned well and is slightly smaller and lighter than my S&W shield.

  11. And don’t be forgettin’ to have them bring out a new version of the old Grendel P-31 carbine. Picture a P-30 pistol with a 16″ barrel and a retractable sliding stock in .22 mag using the P-30 magazines.
    Dumbest gun-I’ll-think-about-it-buy-and-get-back-to-you I ever did was letting one of those(with 5 magazines) get away.

    1. .22 WMR carbine: RMR-30. Announced but not available. They have GOT to get their manufacturing act together.

      1. It was announced a long time ago, and if I remember right, even listed in Distributor catalogs. With photos.

  12. Only thing I disagree with is removing the folding from the S2k. The folding is why I bought it and use it- It will fold down and fit in a briefcase.

      1. Ogre,
        Completely disagree on the subject of the KT Sub 2K. I can’t keep them in stock, and the main reasons people are buying them: Compactness and their ability to take Glock 9MM or .40 S&W mags. The folding aspect is what sells these rifles, well that and their low MSRP. What else is out there in that price range? It’s not the JR Carbine (complete junk BTW) retailing at $699, it’s not the Beretta PX4 Storm which is hovering in the mid 800s to 900. That basically leaves a 9MM AR-15 which while cute, are spendy. The closest competition to the Sub 2K is the Hi-Point 9MM Pistol carbines which are nice ergonomically, but only have 10 round magazines and their aftermarket magazines are junk.
        At the last gunshow, I sold my 6 Sub 2K carbines in 45 minutes. The folks out here in VA can’t get enough of them.
        Not jumping on you, just presenting a different point of view on the Sub 2K. Great Armchair article here.

  13. My P11 is my most difficult pistol to shoot.
    But, that is a training issue… and honestly, it makes me shoot my other pistols better.
    It always goes bang, and I have used the true double action feature on a hard primer or 2.
    The size and weight, along with being able to run the S&W 59 series mags… with stiffer springs, is a bonus.
    It is my truck pistol.
    Generally 3rd in line for handguns if things go sideways when I am out and about.


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