Range Report: Kel Tec PMR-30

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Range Reports

I came to the Kel Tec PMR-30 in a different manner than I would have thought. My experience with the CMR-30 carbine solidified my confidence in the company and gave me an appreciation of the .22 Magnum self loader. When I had the chance to obtain a PMR-30 pistol, I did not hesitate—and you shouldn’t either!

Left side of the PMR-30 pistol in Desert Tan

With modern construction, light weight, and reliability, this is one interesting handgun.

These handguns have been something of a rarity on the market, seemingly made of the rare metal unobatanium. The situation seems better now and I am seeing more PMR-30s in well stocked shops. The PMR-30 is a unique and highly interesting handgun. This is a polymer frame pistol with a steel slide and barrel that works on the simple blowback principle. The first thing you notice after the space age appearance is that the pistol weighs less than 14 ounces. Even with a fully loaded 30-round magazine, the piece weighs but 20 ounces. Yes, 20 ounces for a 30-shot pistol!

The pistol is quite narrow overall—although the grip must be long enough to accommodate the .22 Magnum cartridge. Just the same, the handgun is manageable by all but the smallest hand sizes. The geometry of the grip is subtle until understood, and when looked at with an experienced eye the engineering is impressive. The safety is ambidextrous and offers ergonomic operation and easy reach.

Orange fiber optic rear sight of the PMR-30

Note the fiber optic rear sights; they are very bright!

The pistol is supplied with fiber optic front and rear sights. The sights offer excellent visibility and are precise enough for accurate fire well past 25 yards. The pistol is drilled and tapped for optics from the factory. The PMR-30 also features a light rail—unusual for a rimfire pistol. This rail accommodates the popular lasers and combat lights including the LaserMax Spartan red laser. Among the best features of this single-action handgun is the trigger action. The trigger is clean and crisp, breaking smoother than any factory trigger in recent memory.

The PMR-30 differs from most modern handguns in using a heel type magazine release. While speed is better with the Browning-type button release, the heel type magazine release is more secure. Just the same, with sufficient practice a modicum of speed may be had with the heel based system. With 30 rounds on tap, I do not foresee the need for a speed load. As heel based latches go, the Kel Tec is a good design and faster than most given practice.

Kel Tec PMR-30
Calibers: .22 Mag. (.22WMR)
Action Type: Semi-auto, hybrid blowback/locked-breech system
Frame: 7075 aluminum covered by glass-reinforced Nylon
Barrel length: 4.3″
Rifling: 1:16″ RH twist
Magazine: 30+1 rounds
Sights: Fiber Optic
Trigger pull: 3 lbs. 6 oz.
Overall Length: 7.9″
Weight: 13.6 oz.
Width: 1.3″
Height: 5.8″
Accessories: owner’s manual, hard case, trigger lock, and two magazines
Suggested Retail Price: $415

Firing Tests

When loading the magazines, be certain to properly center each cartridge and bump the magazine every 5 or 6 rounds to ensure the cartridges are seated. This ensures reliability. The last few cartridges are rather difficult to load. For informal practice loading 15 to 20 rounds is a good program.

Heel-based magazine catch on the PMR-30 pistol

Note the heel-based magazine catch; with a relatively long and heavy magazine this is a good choice.

I have been able to test the pistol with a variety of ammunition, including the Fiocchi 40-grain JSP, Winchester’s 40-grain FMJ, the CCI 40-grain JHP, and Hornady’s 45-grain Critical Defense. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Engineering a pistol to fire the rimmed .22 Magnum cartridge wasn’t an easy task but Kel Tec took the challenge and ran with it.

The pistol is a joy to use and fire. Recoil isn’t a consideration although the .22 Magnum exhibits a healthy muzzle blast. A combination of a comfortable grip, excellent sights and a crisp trigger make the pistol an easy one to make hits with. At close range, the pistol gave excellent results on the combat course, scoring X-ring hits at 5, 7 and 10 yards.

At a long 25 yards, I tested 3 loads. These were the Winchester 40-grain FMJ, the CCI Maxi Mag JHP, and the Fiocchi 40-grain JSP. Firing off hand, there was little difference in accuracy potential. Boxes of 50 rounds each went all too quickly. I learned to load each magazine with only 25 rounds; it is easy enough and makes for easier management of a 50-round box of ammunition.

Bob Campbell sighting the PMR-30 pistol

The PMR-30 is accurate in offhand fire.

Shooting from a solid bench rest firing position, the Kel Tec was more than accurate enough for small game or pest control. The fastest load tested was the CCI Maxi Mag at a strong 1440 fps. The best group for accuracy was the Fiocchi 40-grain JSP at 3.5 inches, with the Winchester and CCI each cutting just below 4.0 inches. I suspect that with practice, the pistol may be more accurate, however, it is a light pistol and it takes practice to stabilize the piece.

Personal Defense

While I prefer a larger caliber, there is something to be said for a bullet with plenty of velocity. Hornady’s 45-grain Critical Defense load is designed for defense use and exhibits good penetration and expansion. I would recommend this load, and it is completely reliable in the Kel Tec pistol. For the recoil shy this is a first class alternative.

I, frankly, would rather than have this pistol loaded with Hornady’s ammunition than a .32 or .380 pistol. Accuracy is good, hit probability is excellent, and you have a good reserve of ammunition. For those who practice, the PMR-30 is an alternative to harder kicking pistols.

The PMR-30 is a surprising piece, well worth its price and one of the top fun guns of the century.

The PMR-30 was all but impossible to keep in stock a few years due to high demand, but a lucky few put their hands on one. Demand is still high today, but availability is better. What’s your impression or experience with the PMR-30? Share it in the comment section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (59)

  • joe smith

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    I’ve had one of these since they got the problem with the rate of rifling in the barrel corrected. It’s a great gun and other than some problems with Armscor ammo, (which by the way doesn’t work right in any 22 mag I have) This thing will eat anything you use. They may not all be tack driver loads but are just fine for hunting and plinking. I personally can’t wait to get my hands on the CMR30 to go with my PMR30.

    Reply

  • Mikem

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    What does that have to do with a PMR30?

    Reply

  • Alan B.

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    The PMR-30 is a fun and less intimidating way for folks to learn how to hit a target but if you are going to bet your life on it, good luck, You’ll need a lot of that. It’s common practice to shoot through barriers, (glass, wall, doors) to hit the target behind, in a fight. I don’t think the .22 mag. is a smart choice for this task but maybe you could “pin them down” with withering fire… never mind.

    Reply

  • Pete

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    This is hands down the most fun pistol to shoot ever. I never go to the range without one of my three PMR’s, and I also bought a CMR-30 which is like a small AR in looks. (I put a forward grip and strike eagle scope on it) My pistols have been almost flawless except broken firing pins (2) and worn out bolt buffers. I have however put multiple thousands of rounds through them. My CMR is working now, but after I purchased it in Dec. 2015, I had to ship it to the factory three times because the bolt stop kept sheering off. After reading what I just wrote it sounds like I don’t like this pistol, but that would be farthest from the truth. These pistols are so fun to shoot, and I and I had to have a couple spares just in case…….

    Reply

    • Weston Anderson

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      I so wish I could afford just one used pmr-30 and of course the cm-30. I love my 22 mag revolver, I have had 2 of them. I just heard and saw this pmr 30, it’s like a dream come true. I just wish I could afford to buy a gun. My ex wife just sold my over and under, that I left her for protection. So I hope no one ever breaks in her house.

      Reply

  • Dragon

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    The idea of having a carbine and pistol of the same caliber has always been attractive to me. While I have a few sets of pistol-carbine pieces, the sets that really attract me are those that are not only of the same caliber, but also feed ammo from the same magazines. To that end of magazine commonality, I have a Marlin .45ACP Camp Carbine that goes very nicely with my .45ACP 1911s, a Kel-Tec PLR16 that goes very nicely with my ARs and Kel-Tec SU16 in 5.56x45mm, and a Kel-Tec SUB2000 9x19mm that goes very nicely with my Smith & Wesson M&P 9. Each of these sets use the same magazines of the same calibers, thereby maintaining magazine compatibility to a very satisfying degree.

    Reply

  • Irish-7

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    I was amused to read a comment on a different website about the PMR-30 pistol. The author stated that the first time he fired the weapon, the rear sight flew off. I had to laugh, as the first time that I shot my PMR-30, the front sight flew off! Kel-Tec gave conflicting information on repairing the gun, so I fixed it myself. I must say, it has fired without fail since. I bought 4 additional magazines. I loaded them as per instructions in the manual. I could not get more than 25 rounds in any mag, including the 2 that came with the gun. I was fortunate to purchase the firearm for $429.00! Considering how hard it is to find one, I seen sales as high as $600.00. Although the PMR-30 is not as accurate as I expected, I do not regret buying it. It is lightweight and high capacity. I built a Get Home Bag around it. I would like to obtain a CMR-30, but I will NOT pay $800.00 for one. Ammo is hard to find.

    Reply

  • Gary Crispens

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    My wife got me one for my birthday and it has become my favorite pistol to shoot. Load 5 magazines before the range and you will be shooting for a long time. The recoil is minimal but the muzzle blast is loud so you need to wear shooting headphones. The sights are easy to see with tired eyes and it is very accurate. It makes a good defensive weapon with hollow points because you can take out the whole zombie appacolypse with one magazine. The grip fits my small hands well and the trigger is clean and crisp. Now if
    I could just get a CMR – 30 to go with it !!!

    Reply

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