Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm — The Home Defender

By Wilburn Roberts published on in Firearms

I am certain that I will never be accused of failing to make an honest comment when needed. As an example, some years ago a friend owned an Uzi carbine and thought it was the best thing in the world for home defense. I disagreed completely. The trigger action was too heavy to allow good hits, and it was difficult to get hits with on the combat range.

Kel-Tec Sub 2000 profile left

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is a neat package and potentially a life saver.

The real thing—short barrel, full-auto Uzi—is another matter. So is the Thompson SMG. They served a real purpose in house-to-house fighting. The semi-auto versions with 16-inch barrels are quite inferior to the shotgun for home defense and particularly to the AR-15 carbine. The purpose-designed 9mm carbines such as the Beretta Storm and even the High Point carbine are better choices.

Easy to use well and with decent triggers, these firearms are not collectible, but they serve a real purpose. Many shooters find the handgun a difficult proposition to master. Considerable time and effort, as well as expense, is involved. In the end, you’ll have a firearm that isn’t as accurate or powerful as a shotgun or rifle. The answer for many is a pistol caliber carbine. Like Rand Paul’s wife, many of us like to keep a firearm beside the bed, and the 9mm carbine is an excellent choice.

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 dispenses with all of the problems of the semi-automatic SMG and is a neat trick compared to the best of the competing 9mm carbines. The SUB 2000 isn’t heavy, it has a usable trigger— perhaps I should put more emphasis on it isn’t heavy—it is a feathery-light firearm that handles quickly.

Kel-Tec Sub 2000 with several Glock 17 magazines

Compatibility with Glock magazines is a big plus for this 9mm carbine.

You have to aim it carefully. You cannot use the figure eight tactic or the “shoot through” that were developed for fully automatic shoulder fired firearms. But it handles quickly and has a much higher hit probability than a handgun. On a purely personal defense basis, the 9mm carbine is more effective than any handgun based on handling and accuracy potential. But there is more to the equation.

The 16-inch barrel carbine also develops greater velocity with a given load than a pistol. The powder burns more completely and the long barrel results in nearly complete combustion. I did not detect muzzle flash (unburned powder) with any load tested in evaluating the Kel-Tec Sub 2000. You must realize this is a niche firearm.

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is a great carbine for carry in the vehicle for an emergency and practically an ideal home defense firearm. It isn’t as versatile as an AR-15 .223 rifle. The Kel-Tec is less expensive than an AR, requires less maintenance, and exhibits less much less muzzle flash and blast. The 9mm carbine isn’t well suited to long range shooting or taking medium game, and it certainly isn’t a varmint rifle. But what it can do, it does very well. I do not abuse a firearm but the SUB 2000 will take hard use and thrive.

pebble grained pistol grip

A pebble grained grip offers excellent adhesion and abrasion.

The SUB 2000 is hinged in front of the chamber and pivots to fold to a neat 16 inches. (Never keep any long gun chamber loaded in the home or vehicle. It doesn’t take a second to make it ready, so there is simply not a need.) Unfolded, the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is at 30 inches with just over 16 inches of 9mm barrel. There is a rail for mounting red dot or laser sights, or even an inexpensive scope if desired. You may mount a red dot up top and a combat light in the lower rail.

Someone mounted a low profile handgrip on the lower rail before I owned the Sub 2000 illustrated. The SUB 2000 carbine is a straight blowback action like a .22; it isn’t gas operated. Common sense would tell you that the heaviest loads would batter the rifle, but the Kel-Tec SUB 200 never stuttered with +P loads. The rifle uses Glock magazines, but there are versions for other magazines. This makes for easy availability of magazines whether you own a Glock 17 9mm or not.

The SUB 2000 folds easily by releasing the trigger guard and folding the rifle into the storage position. Be certain the piece isn’t loaded! When the rifle is folded, the front sight is snapped into a catch on the SUB 2000 stock. This catch must be released to return the carbine back to its firing position.

releasing the hinged trigger guard

A hinged trigger guard is pulled to fold the carbine.

The polymer frame and grip are durable, and the grip is comfortable in the firing mode. The trigger action is spongy and would be difficult to control in a handgun, but presents far less difficulty in a rifle with its leverage. The magazine release isn’t difficult to use.

The Kel-Tec SUB 2000 features a peep rear sight and bold protected front post. It takes practice to be able to quickly focus on the sight and align it. Perhaps the rear aperture could be a little wider. However, the sights are very precise when lined up. The sights are regulated properly for 115- to 124-grain ammunition. The front sight allows windage and elevation adjustment.

The rifle is supplied with a Magpul magazine but accepts standard Glock 17 or 33-round magazines. I fired the Kel-Tec SUB 2000 for handling, speed, accuracy, and reliability. I have fired over 500 cartridges during the past week without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.

locking the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 in the folded position

A catch on the stock locks the carbine in the folded position.

The carbine has not been cleaned or lubricated. I began with the SIG Sauer 115-grain FMJ ammunition and also used 124- and 147-grain SIG ammo. Personal defense ammunition included the Hornady 115-grain XTP and Hornady 147-grain XTP. Function was good.

At 20 yards, I fired a magazine full of the 124-grain SIG load into a group that measured less than four inches. This group was fired as quickly as I could press the trigger after regaining the sights from recoil. In slow fire, firing from a braced position, I was able to fire several 5-shot groups of less than two inches. While there are handguns this accurate, the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm carbine is much easier to fire with this degree of accuracy. Speed to a good hit and follow-up shots were excellent.

When the rifle is at home ready or in the vehicle, the SUB 2000 should be kept chamber empty. There is a cross bolt safety that isn’t difficult to operate quickly. When action is likely, the bolt is racked and the rifle made ready. A few drills in quickly accessing the piece and racking the bolt went smoothly. While the pistol folds up neatly for storage, you have to decide how much time is spent in making the carbine ready if it is kept at the ready folded.

Bob Campbell firing the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 from a braced position

Firing from a braced vehicle firing position the Kel-Tec featured good accuracy and authoritative power.

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is a fairly simple firearm to operate, but the owner must consider the specific role the firearm will be placed in. For home defense, for those who have difficulty with the handgun or shotgun, the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 carbine is an outstanding choice. For area defense on larger properties, the carbine is easily stowed and carried. The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is one of the neatest tricks on the market.

Ammunition Performance

I have tested pistol caliber carbines in the past, and I am familiar with the advantages of a longer barrel when using standard pistol ammunition. However, the performance of the loads tested was exceptional. I tested the Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P first. A 5-shot group at 20 yards measured two inches. Fired in a Glock 17 pistol on hand, the Hornady load averaged 1,180 fps. In the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 velocity was 1,409 fps. This is excellent velocity putting the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 in a different category than any 9mm pistol.

Moving to the SIG Sauer Elite 124-grain V Crown JHP velocity in the Glock was 1,201 fps. When fired in the Kel-Tec carbine I fired a two-inch group at 20 yards. Velocity was a strong 1,386 fps. Yet, this type of velocity comes without the penalty of high recoil and excess muzzle flash. The 9mm carbine isn’t a .223 rifle by any means, but it is clearly an effective home defense firearm.

Kel-Tec Sub 2000
Operating System Blowback
Caliber 9mm Luger
Capacity 17/33 rounds
Barrel Length 16.25 inches
Trigger Pull 9 – 10 pounds
Length 29.5 inches
Length of Pull  13.25 inches
Grip Width 1.25 inches
Max Height 7 inches
Weight 4.25 pounds

Are you a fan of pistol caliber carbines? Would you rather have a Kel-Tec Sub 2000 or Kel-Tec PMR-30? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (43)

  • Secundius

    |

    I use .960 Rowland (9×23) ammo, and lost interest in the SUB-2000 after finding out it can’t can’t be Modified to chamber the 9×23. Even if I supplied the Upgraded Barrel myself…

    Reply

    • RKC

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      No 9mm save 1911 types can be so modified.
      However- in standard form the SUB 2000 in 9mm generates the same velocity or more as a 9 x 23mm pistol.

      Reply

  • TM

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    I own the gen 2 9mm with the interchangeable magazine system. I tried the sig p226 mag conversion and it’s function was flawless, but the fit was a bit loose. The M&P mag that it shipped with functions and fits flawlessly, and I’ve since converted it back to this.

    The feel of the gun is admittedly a bit cheap, but It seems to serve the purpose just fine. A case of “you get what you pay for”, and maybe a little more. Overall I am very happy with it. 10″ steel @ 100 yards off hand is pretty easy.

    It is very light and quick to point and aim. It has fed everything I have tried. The only failure was the fault of cheap 30rd promags not feeding (they didn’t work in the sig either)

    Most importantly it’s a lot of fun to shoot!

    Reply

  • Joel

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    What about the recalls?

    Reply

  • Doug Haner

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    Almost 1500 fps out of nine millimeter round would surely pose an overpenetration problem in a home defense situation.

    And why test at 20 yards? 20 ft is a much more likely home defense range.

    Lastly, I’ve never seen one person who found a carbine or rifle easier to handle than a pistol. Easier to aim accurately, yes, but not easier to handle.

    Reply

    • RKC

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      S0- a three point lock up cheek and both arms isn’t easier to handle more quickly than a pistol? Don’t tell SWAT.

      As for a 1500 fps loading with a JHP bullet expansion is greater, and occurs more quickly, limiting penetration.

      Reply

    • Bob

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      I strongly agree regarding the superiority of carbine platforms. Anything much past point blank range, the carbine wins. And out at ranges where hits with the handgun become difficult, the carbine dominates.

      Reply

  • Gordon

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    I had a Gen 1 sub2k. I didn’t like it at all and sold it.

    Reply

  • Somavert

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    My PMR-30 has been awesome. I actually went to the range with it today. It’s a fantastic piece to blow off a ton of rounds in quick succession. Decent-ish accuracy, I opted to add a dot to mine after a few trips because the fiber in the irons falls out of some people’s, and I wanted to be prepared if it happened to mine. I’m around 1500-1600 rounds spent and it’s still got the sights firmly in place.

    Reply

  • Doug.

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    Some people insist upon disparaging products which aren’t at the pinnacle of the marketplace, even regret they have NO actual experience with those products. I own and regularly practice with the SUB2K (both generation 1 & 2), and find them to be very useful, practical, and reliable for what they are, what they are intended to be, and for their price point. There’s no need to be a snob about the SUB2K – just like there’s no need for the way many 1911 enthusiasts have been snobs about polymer handguns.

    If it ruffles your feathers to read praise about a product you don’t like AND DON’T EVEN OWN/USE, then that says more about you than about the product or the reviewer.

    Reply

    • Daniel Tanguay

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      Best comment I’ve read in a long time. Sadly, it is all to true that there are many who will disparage a firearm simply based on the fact it isn’t what they consider to be the best. They don’t own it, don’t shoot it and never plan to try it, yet they feel they are an expert on it.

      Reply

    • Bob

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      I believe you are both reading s whole lot more into my original post than I actually wrote into it. Though, actually, I am somewhat of an expert, just not in keltecs specifically. People talk about polymer framed guns feeling like toys; well the keltecs feel like crackerjack toys and are constructed with toy construction and quality. I love an inexpensive gun as much as the next guy, but every keltec I have owned, and every one I have handled, had worlds of room for improvement.

      Reply

    • rk Campbell

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      Well said

      Reply

    • Bob Campbell

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      Well said, Doug.

      Reply

  • Karl

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    How left hand friendly-and left eye friendly is it?-I use left eye and shoot from left shoulder.I don’t need to[literally] get burned with ejected brass:something that occurred with early AR-15,cost?
    Would be interesting too to see 45 ACP+P or 460 Rowland

    Reply

    • Shansen008

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      Lefty here

      I’ve been to the range a couple times, and I didn’t have any trouble with brass. I will say however that I was extremely disappointed in the fact that the mage release is very easy to engage as a lefty inadvertently while “squeezing” the trigger. The mag literally fell out of the gun a couple of times while firing. In a home defense situation I can see this being a big big problem. I’ve contemplated sanding it down smaller because of this. I own a gen 2, keltec should really considering providing an ambidextrous mag release if they’re planning on a gen 3.

      Reply

    • David

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      I have a couple of thousand rounds through my Kel-Tec 9mm, I am left handed like you, and have never had an issue with the ejecting brass. I shoot carbine IDPA style matches with it, with a quick release red dot mounted and man-o-man does it make me look good. Very accurate, quick to get back on target due to the minimal recoil, never a malfunction and with a 30 round magazine reloads are not needed

      Reply

  • Bob

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    While the author is correct about the mediocrity of most traditional submachine gun designs when reconfigured to 16″ semi auto carbines, I would not recommend or be satisfied with the sub 2000. In fairness, I have never fired one, but I have handled it, and also the cmr-30. I do have the pmr-30, and all 3 keltecs are cheap junk; little more than tool room prototypes. The pmr and cmr are interesting, and perhaps if debugged and built by glock would be acceptable. The author is correct about the superiority of the AR-15 platform, especially as an 11″-12″ SBR. The modern AR “pistol”, with the ubiquitous “stabilizing brace” makes this easy and inexpensive, and there are plenty of quality, comparatively inexpensive glock magazine fed, pistol caliber variants out there as well.

    Reply

    • rk Campbell

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      Evidently you have not made the leap to modern firearms. The Kel Tec is inexpensive not cheap and works well. It is a great home defender for those on a budget.

      Reply

    • Bob

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      Actually, I stand by my assessment. My keltec, the pmr-30, is cheaply constructed. Every piece of its Lego block construction is thin and flimsy, with keltecs odd screwed together construction. That’s why, though I am not a glock fan, I stated glock could improve upon the design. Furthermore, I have 3 hi point carbines, 2 in 9mm, 1 in .45; all of which are much more sturdily built. Cheaper, and absolutely reliable. The only draw back to the hi points is low mag capacity.

      Reply

    • James

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      That “only draw back”. Is a deal killer for me. If you have a glock ccw you would want your carbine to interchange magazines. If Hi-Point came out with glock mag gen. They would sell a million the next day

      Reply

  • mj

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    How reliable has the PMR30 been???

    Reply

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