Firearms|Reviews

Range Report: Kel-Tec RDB17

Ambidextrous safety selector on the Kel-Tec RDB17

The Kel-Tec RDB17 could be considered the workingman’s bullpup. Nothing fancy, but it sure performs. The RDB17 is a no-frills bullpup that is very functional with a simple approach. It is constructed of two polymer halves that sandwich around a steel action and barrel.

Kel-Tec RDB17 Bullpup rifle
The Kel-Tec is a basic bullpup that will get the job done. If you have a need to own a bullpup and have a limited budget, this would be an excellent option.

The gas piston system has a gas regulator, so a user can regulate the weapon to run on all sorts of ammunition and a suppressor. The gas regulator can be adjusted with the open mouth from an empty 5.56 NATO case. It’s click adjustable, and Kel-Tec recommends firing a round after adjusting the regulator to test reliability. It comes from the factory ready to run on standard M193-type ammo.

It features a left-side charging handle that is non-reciprocating. It locks against the forend when not being used. The RDB17’s cocking handle provides good leverage when cocking the weapon with your support hand on the charging handle and our firing hand on the grip.

The outside texture of the polymer features a very coarse grid pattern that is comfortable and offers plenty of grip purchase. A Picatinny rail at 12 and 6 o’clock allows mounting of an optic or vertical grip.

Ambidextrous safety selector on the Kel-Tec RDB17
The ambidextrous safety selector on the RDB17 was located under the thumb of the firing hand and easy to manipulate. The simple magazine release is designed so a magazine can be stripped away with the support hand.

The controls include an ambidextrous rotating safety selector that is easily manipulated by the thumb of the shooting hand like an AR-15, but it requires less rotation than the typical AR-15 selector. The magazine release lever is also suited for left- or right-hand users.

The lever is designed so the magazine can fall free as the operator grasps the magazine to remove it. Since the operator’s hand naturally falls on it, the simple metal magazine release is pressed to drop or strip away the magazine.

Fieldstripping the Kel-Tec RDB17 is simple. Push out two pins, and it disassembles similar to an AR-15. Rotate the grip downward, and the barrel and bolt carrier can be removed from the stock/grip assembly.

Kel-Tec RDB17 ejection port
That slot aft of the magazine is the ejection port on the RDB17. It pukes empties to your feet.

The RDB uses a unique downward ejecting system. As the bolt moves rearward, the extractor pulls the cases out of the chamber and into dual ejectors that push the case down a chute so empties fall at the shooter’s feet.

The Kel-Tec comes with a 20-round magazine and is also compatible with standard AR-15 magazines, which I appreciate since I have plenty of those on hand. I used Brownells’ aluminum-body magazines, Magpul PMAGs, and Hexmags; all were 30-rounders.

I tested the Kel-Tec with a SIG Romeo4B red dot sight, which excels at close to medium range. At ranges out to 100 yards, the dot suffices. While most red dots tend to cover a lot of target at far distances, the Romeo4B allows the user to toggle between four different reticles: 2-MOA dot, 2-MOA dot with ballistic holds, 2-MOA/65-MOA circle dot, or 2-MOA/65-MOA circle dot with ballistic holds. The ballistic holdover points are calibrated for 5.56 NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO rounds.

Ambidextrous safety selector on the Kel-Tec RDB17
The ambidextrous safety selector on the RDB17 was located under the thumb of the firing hand and easy to manipulate. The simple magazine release is designed so a magazine can be stripped away with the support hand.

An activated motion sensor immediately powers up illumination when the red dot senses motion and powers down when it does not in order to extend battery life. It’s a nice feature for those of you—like me—who forget to turn off the red dot and find it dead the next time you use it.

Three brands of ammunition were used, including Aguila 5.56mm NATO with a 62-grain FMJ bullet, .223 Remington Federal Fusion loaded with a 62-grain softpoint, and SIG Sauer .223 Rem. ammo loaded with a 77-grain OTM Match bullet.

At 25 yards using a rest, I could create one large hole in the target. At 100 yards and using the same rest, the accuracy ranged between 2.5 to 3 MOA. In speed testing, the Kel-Tec RDB17 ran well with no malfunctions. The handguard incorporates a ridge so your support hand does not get too close to the muzzle. Hot brass falls at your feet. The trigger was not as refined as I would like but usable.

The Kel-Tec RDB17 is a basic bullpup that will get the job done. If you have a need to own a bullpup and have a limited budget, this would be an excellent option.

100-yard Accuracy, Five-shot Groups, Kel-Tec RDB17

Load Smallest Group Muzzle Velocity Muzzle Energy
Aguila 5.56mm NATO 62-gr. FMJ-BT 2.00 in. 3,040 fps 1,272 ft-lbs
Federal Fusion .223 Rem. 62-gr. Fusion 2.52 in. 2,943 fps 1,193 ft-lbs
SIG Elite .223 Rem. 77-gr. OTM Match 2.95 in. 2,424 fps 1,005 ft-lbs

Specifications

Kel-Tec RDB17
Caliber: .223 Rem./5.56mm NATO
Action Type: Semiautomatic, adjustable gas piston
Barrel Length: 17.4 in.
Rifling: 1:7 in.
Capacity: 20-rd. detachable box, polymer
Sights: Optic ready, Picatinny rail
Trigger Pull: 5.5 lbs., single stage
Overall Length: 27.3 in.
Weight: 6.7 lb.
Suggested Retail Price: $1,275
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Comments (6)

  1. SMAJ,
    Releasing the mag requires both depressing the mag release lever, AND applying pressure to the rear of the mag simultaneously.
    No issues whatsoever with accidentally releasing the mag, and that’s that I have big hands.

  2. Nice article and it is indeed a neat firearm. One problem I have noticed though……mine won’t hold milspec metal mags and drops them. But it loves magpuls. Try some steel mags and see what it does.

    Byron

    1. Haven’t tried the metal mags, but most Magpul ones work, although one black Magpul mag refused to lock in place.

  3. I have one and love it. While the field strip is fairly simple, the reassembly is a lot more awkward than an AR. That said the gas piston stays remarkably clean and is easy to clean, and you can’t beat the overall length of the firearm with a 17” barrel and no NFA stamp.
    15 clicks from zero for the gas regulator seems to be the reliable setting for M193, and I suggest testing with only one round in the magazine, because under-gassing can lead to a the firearm attempting to load a fresh round with the spent round not having been ejected, requiring some jiggle work with needlenose pliers to solve the jam.

  4. It is a good looking firearm.
    It is of the BULLPUP design.
    I have never handled it, nor gone through the manual of arms with it. However, it appears to me the,{Simple Magazine Release}is far to large and way to easy to activate with the firing hand, wrist etc.
    It would a GREAT Frustration to squeeze the trigger for a follow up shot only to discover the magazine with remaining rounds are laying at your feet with the spent brass.!
    Was that a particular design flaw discovery during testing.?
    I Remain,
    SMAJ

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