Review: Kel-Tec RFB — The Ultimate Big Bore Bugout Bullpup

By Will Dabbs published on in Firearms, Reviews

Did you ever notice that looking at a gun is like morphologically analyzing a family member? Little Timmy might have Dad’s ears, Mom’s nose, Uncle Edgar’s dour disposition, or Aunt Edna’s penchant for eating her boogers. He’s his own kid, but the raw material is drawn from a motley well. Likewise, most tactical weapons come from recognized families. Master Stoner or Comrade Kalashnikov beget the lion’s share of them. Those left over hearken from John Moses Browning or one of half a dozen lesser minds. The point is, most modern weapons simply evolved from something simpler. That is just not the case with the Kel-Tec RFB.

Will Dabbs shooting The Kel-Tec RFB from between the car door and frame

Weird, But a Good Kind of Weird

RFB stands for Rifle, Forward-Ejecting Bullpup. Bullpup, for those of you who might be new to the game, means that the action of the gun is located behind the fire controls. The origins of the term purportedly spawned from a diagnosably strange WW2-era Japanese submachine gun called the Experimental Model 2. The legend goes that American Ordnance folk were examining the odd weapon and declared it to be as strange as a bullpup, and the name stuck. The RFB is a 7.62x51mm battle rifle that occupies less space than your typical unadorned AR. It also conquers the Achilles heel of most bullpup combat rifles. It figures out what to do with the empties.

Most bullpup weapons can only be fired off of one shoulder or the other. Swap to your weak hand to shoot around an uncooperative corner, and the gun will spit hot brass into your face. As by definition, half of all the corners on the planet will not be amenable to management on your strong side, this becomes a real boon in a CQB environment.

The RFB employs an ingenious dual extractor system that ejects its rounds forward into a pressed steel ejection tube. A small dimple in the tube prevents empties from sliding backwards and jamming the action. Once about five rounds have been fired, empty cases start to spill out the front of the gun.

Kel-Tec RFB with Winchester ammunition

Tipping the rifle nose down empties the tube. An odd side effect of this system is that when you drain a magazine the last empty cartridge case remains secured to the bolt face by the aforementioned twin extractors. Dropping the bolt on an empty chamber releases that last fired case into the feed chute. In a sea of firearm designs that do things pretty much the same way, it is simply fascinating to see it done so differently.

This unconventional design is nicely sealed against the elements, but it does make it a bit of a chore to clear the rifle visually. Doing so involves locking the action open and then peering into the open magazine well from the bottom. This maneuver takes a little getting used to, but it’s a small price to pay for so much unfiltered awesomeness. The charging handle is readily reversible, and the safety is fully ambidextrous.

The bore and chamber are chrome plated, and the overall workmanship on my test piece is perfect. Recoil is fairly spunky as this is a small rifle firing battle-rifle cartridges, yet it remains thoroughly tolerable. The top rail is long enough for any reasonable optic, and there is an ingenious optional quad rail that screws directly onto the barrel for lights and lasers.

Will Dabbs Sitting in a car window wearing tactical gear shooting the Kel-Tec RFB

The RFB uses any standard metric FAL magazines. Magazine changes are fast and intuitive once you take the measure of the gun. Bullpup triggers are usually mushier than their more conventional counterparts. The unavoidable necessity of a long mechanical linkage connecting the pistol grip with the action typically takes a toll. In the case of the RFB, the trigger is simply well executed. The trigger pull on the test rifle was a bit over six pounds and pleasantly crisp.

I was curiously enraptured with this rifle. The compact envelope makes the weapon imminently maneuverable, and the 7.62x51mm round means not having to say you’re sorry under any imaginable circumstance. The thing’s not cheap, but it is incredibly cool. My copy runs like a scalded ape and is as intriguing as a pretty girl in a pair of boxers (Admit it, it’s a compelling metaphor.) The Kel-Tec RFB is a breed unto itself.

Are you a bullpup fan? Would you use the Kel-Tec RFB as a SHTF gun? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (49)

  • Karl


    If I were looking for pistol caliber home defenses,I’d either go with high capacity[illegal in NY] magazined handguns or lever/slide action “cowboy”rifles with a matching caliber handgun.”


  • Thomas


    This is a cool concept, but for SHTF, I’ll stick to a rifle I might still be able to find parts for, post-SHTF. With millions of ARs already out there, that would be my first choice. For a compact hunting rifle, it might be hard to beat, but as a primary, no thanks.


  • Reader Comments of the Week — September 22, 2018


    […] Review: Kel-Tec RFB — The Ultimate Big Bore Bugout Bullpup This looks like a sporter model, which makes the barrel 18 inches in length. So by the letter of the law, it isn’t a SBR weapon. Sadly, there will be some law enforcement officers or just nosy people who think it is, just because of the portion that they can see. The beauty of the bullpup design is that the barrel starts just a little in front of the magazine, just like in standard rifle configurations. ~Marc Cruz […]


  • Charlie


    great gun except the part about adding a suppressor and tuning the gas port plug. mine shoots tap ammo great and I love the part about not looking for the brass.


  • jwf


    June and August 2018. Ammo was Federal mil surplus.


  • steve F clark


    How long ago and what kind of ammo where you shooting? Both are relevant questions.


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