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.