In 1991 in Cocoa, Florida, a small company began developing affordable semiautomatic pistols. Later expanding to rifles, Kel-Tec is one of the largest gun manufacturers in the United States. The company is led by George Kellgren, who had previously designed firearms for Husqvarna, Swedish Interdynamics AB, Intratec and Grendel. In 1995, Kel-Tec’s first pistols were rolling off the assembly line.
Over the years, Kel-Tec has developed some of the most affordable, innovative and reliable firearms on the market. The P-11 9mm pistol was the bread-and-butter for the company in their early days. The P-11 used an aluminum receiver inside a polymer grip housing held on with polymer pins. Kel-Tec used steel for the slide, barrel, and magazine. The pistol holds ten rounds, and has no external safety. Instead, the P-11 relies on a long and heavy trigger pull of approximately nine pounds to prevent accidental discharge. Kel-Tec briefly manufactured the pistol in .40 S&W and .357 Sig, effectively reducing magazine capacity. Kel-Tec dubbed them the P-40 and the P-357, and they have since ceased production. The P-11 fills the role of a concealed carry pistol. The 9mm caliber in a small sized pistol, with an affordable price ensured that the P-11 would be a marketing success, and Kel-Tec continues to manufacture it today.
Kel-Tec also produced a smaller brother to the P-11 in the P-32. The P-32 maintained the P-11’s short recoil operation and Kel-Tec designed it to be a concealed carry back up gun. The .32 ACP cartridge is smaller, allowing for a slightly smaller gun. The pistol has a slightly less heavy trigger than its 9mm counterpart does at five to six pounds. The P32 is not a true double action and the hammer must be pre-set to a half-cock position. The gun has a seven round capacity and is easy to maintain. A variant of the P-32 is the P-3AT. It has a six round magazine capacity and fires the .380 ACP. It weighs only 8.3 ounces and is the lightest production .380 ACP pistol in the world.
The Kel-Tec designers manufactured the PF-9 to be a thin, light, and concealable backup pistol for civilian and law enforcement use. Designers included a hammer block safety and single stack magazine, making a compromise between the P-11 and the P-3AT. Until recently, the PF-9 was the lightest and thinnest 9mm in mass production.
In 2001, Kel-Tec introduced the SUB-2000, a pistol caliber carbine using a blowback action. The magazine is located in the pistol grip and is capable of folding in half for storage and transportation. The carbine is available in 9mm or .40 S&W. The main advantage of the carbine is its ability to feed Glock, Beretta, or Smith & Wesson magazines, depending on the variant. For law enforcement, this simplifies logistics and the increased muzzle velocity makes their pistol rounds deadlier at longer distances.
The PLR-16 is a gas-operated, semi-automatic pistol chambered in 5.56 NATO. PLR stands for Pistol, Long Range and Kel-Tec designed it for recreational target shooting. The main advantage to this weapon is its ability to take standard STANAG magazines, which operators use in the M-16 and AR-15. The standard model comes with a tactical Picatinny rail molded to the top of the receiver.
Kel-Tec’s 5.56 carbine came in the form of the SU-16. Designers made the weapon to compete directly with the AR-15 and other 5.56 NATO sporting rifles. The gun design is very simple, comprising of only fourteen separate components when fully field stripped. The SU-16 takes standard STANAG magazines, so cross platform magazine use is possible. The SU-16 comes in five variants, all with different barrel lengths and folding options. A significant shortcoming of the design is that the chamber and breech of the barrel are not easily accessible from the rear. The back of the upper receiver blocks the chamber and breech. This makes cleaning the chamber and the bore somewhat slower and more difficult compared to the AR-15. Inspecting the bore is difficult without a small penlight or similar light source.
In 2003, Kellgren was busy designing the RFB, which stands for Rifle, Forward-Ejection, Bullpup. Kel-Tec chambered the RFB in 7.62x51mm NATO, and the rifle is capable of using .308 Winchester ammunition. The RFB uses FN FAL magazines, which insert straight into the magazine well, and do not need to rock into place. The RFB comes standard with a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories and the company produces it in three different variants utilizing different barrel length, weight, and performance.
Kel-Tec carried on their tradition of innovation when they released the PMR-30 in .22 WMR. The PMR-30 is a full size semi-automatic pistol with a single action trigger pull of four to five pounds, and a manual safety. The gun uses a unique blowback/lock-breech system, which allows for a wide variety of ammunition. The unique double stack magazine holds an incredible 30 rounds and fits completely in the grip of the pistol. Designed for plinking and small game hunting, the PMR-30 is yet another sure win for Kel-Tec.
In Kel-Tec’s first real jaunt into the shotgun world, they produced an odd-looking Bullpup 12 gauge, the KSG. The gun has two tube magazines, which the operator can switch between manually. Each tube independently holds seven 2.75-inch shotgun shells or six 3-inch shells. The advantage of having two manually selectable tubes is choice of ammo. The user fills one tube with buckshot for close range, and the other with slugs for distance shots. The shotgun is pump operated and has a cross bolt safety located just above the grip. The gun will come standard with two separate Picatinny rails, one on the top of the barrel, and one on the bottom of the sliding fore end. This shotgun gives a very high volume of firepower and versatility for home defense purposes.
George Kellgren took a small Florida startup company and built it up to the juggernaut it is today. The innovative designs, quality craftsmanship, and high reliability make Kel-Tec guns a must own for gun enthusiasts.