Range Report: Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun

Kel-Tec KSG shotgun with a box of Winchester AA Shotshells

There are shotguns that do not look like shotguns. All are not practical, but a few do have merit.

Among the most innovative and interesting is the Kel-Tec KSG shotgun.

The KSG is unmistakably a Kel-Tec — the modern design and engineering shows.

This is a shotgun the user should be immersed in to learn the nuances of the design and operation if you are to deploy the shotgun for personal defense.

The KSG is an unconventional shotgun in appearance. However, the skeletal structure, you might say, is a traditional pump-action shotgun.

The KSG is a bullpup shotgun design.

The receiver is actually behind the shooter’s cheek; the barrel is under the cheek, and a tangent system allows a pistol grip to fire the shotgun.

The KSG has one barrel and chamber but two magazines. The total capacity is 14 2¾-inch shells, seven in each magazine.

However, you could push for 15 shells with a loaded chamber. The KSG also accepts three-inch shells, cutting capacity to a measly 12 shells.

As may be expected, the balance is different when the shogun is fully loaded.

Unloaded, the piece tips the scales at seven pounds and eight and one-half ounces loaded.

It is manageable for fast movement. You will not notice the gun getting lighter as the shells are expended.

The KSG is a pump-action shotgun with two guide rails.

Author Bob Campbell shooting the Kel-Tec KSG with TruGlo sight - front
What a formidable shotgun!

Feeding the Kel-Tec KSG

The KSG feeds from twin tubular magazines. The magazines feed independently.

A lever operates as a stop switch between magazines. Choose which magazine you wish to load and move the lever to cover the other magazine.

Load the shells as you would any other tubular magazine shotgun.

When the magazines are fully loaded, move the selector switch to cover the magazine, then load the other.

The selector also acts as a safety by blocking both magazines when the lever is in the middle position.

The KSG’s unique magazines are a bit slower to load than a standard pump shotgun’s single magazine.

With 14 shells this is hardly a consideration. I feel that someone familiar with the system could speed the process up.

The options are pretty broad. With the standard shotgun, we keep the magazine loaded with buckshot or with buckshot and slugs.

With the KSG, you may load one magazine with buckshot. Then load the other with slugs.

If you find the adversary is behind cover or at longer ranges than anticipated, simply flip the switch to the other magazine.

Alternately, you could move the lever to the middle position, stop the feeding from either magazine, and drop a slug into the chamber.

Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun dual magazines
This is the heart of the KSG- dual magazines.

It isn’t as easy to chamber a shell with the KSG as a standard shotgun — another trade-off that will be mitigated by training.

After a few hours practice with the KSG, I found myself working the action by second nature.

If you run one magazine dry, simply run the firing hand back to the lever and flip the lever to access the shells in the other magazine.

This is the fastest reload I have seen. I much prefer the KSG system to bulky, ungainly, add-on magazines for the pump shotgun.

As I read Kel-Tec’s technical description of the shotgun, I realized the conventional lockwork would be proven and durable but adapted to a thoroughly modern pump-action shotgun.

The receiver is forged steel. The bolt locks solidly into the barrel. Like all pump-action shotguns the bolt is locked when the action is cocked.

A release lever in front of the trigger guard releases the bolt when the bolt is locked.

After firing, the hook extractors grasp and remove the spent shell from the chamber.

The follower is also an ejector that ejects one shell as the other is fed onto the follower and shell carrier.

In Kel-Tec fashion, the stock and forend are made of glass-reinforced nylon.

The grip and forend are nicely checkered for good purchase. The cross bolt safety is positive in operation.

When handling the KSG, the bolt release and safety are within easy reach. Each is positive in operation.

A positive feature is 12 inches of Picatinny rail on the top of the receiver for mounting optics.

Take down pin holes in the grip of the Kel-Tec KSG
The crossbolt safety is easily used and positive in operation. The holes in the grip are for storing take down pins.

I mounted what I consider the ideal accessory optic for the KGS, a 30mm red dot from TRUGLO.

It wasn’t difficult to quickly sight the TRUGLO unit in.

The dot has considerable adjustment for brightness and gives a trained shooter an advantage when moving at top speed.

The action is smooth enough but absolutely demands that the action be worked forcefully and completely forward and to the rear to avoid a short cycle.

All pump shotguns demand positive operation, and the Kel-Tec is no different.

I think those who report a malfunction, or short cycle, with the Kel-Tec KSG are going too fast.

There is a desire to empty the magazine as quickly as possible, switch to the backup magazine, and fill the air with lead again.

This is occasionally ok for fun, but has no correlation to personal defense.

Shooters firing any pump shotgun in this manner tend to tie the action up with a short cycle.

Bolt release of the Kel-Tec KSG
The bolt release rides in the front of the trigger guard.

Firing at a reasonable rate and getting the rhythm going results in excellent speed and reliability.

As for recoil, I had a pleasant surprise. My old Remington 870 riot gun kicks more.

The Mossberg with Magpul stock kicks less.

I cannot readily discern how the KSG dodges recoil but it does, and while the recoil is there it isn’t a healthy kick.

If you can handle a riot gun, you can handle the KSG.

The Kel-Tec’s Picatinny rail accepted the TRUGLO red dot and this made hits fast and sure.

The lower six-inch rail affords other options including a laser or a combat light.

The problem is that I like the forward-grip style, and I am more in control with this grip (but not too close to the muzzle).

An option is a vertical foregrip, which is not at the top of my list. Many shooters will find the vertical foregrip and combat light combination ideal.

As you explore the options available with the Kel-Tec KSG, you realize that this is a well thought out firearm.

Federal Personal Defense buckshot shotshells
Federal Personal Defense buckshot is reliable and gives an excellent pattern.

Shooting the KSG

The 18-inch barrel is bored open cylinder. However, this is a shotgun bored a little tighter than some. I like that.

While shotguns are individuals, the Kel-Tec KSG and the Federal personal defense buckshot load provided an excellent, tight pattern for personal defense.

At 10 yards, 4×4 inches were common. That is an excellent standard for an open cylinder riot gun.

A few tips on handling the KSG — keep a steady firm hand on the forend, and do not use paper shells.

There are still a few paper shells around, and a number of field loads I tested are not sturdy enough for this action.

I suppose there are cheap plastic shells that might give a problem such as the shells I recently tested that were bulged at the very top.

Even a conventional pump-action shotgun with plenty of leverage will not work well with off specification loads.

I began the evaluation with Winchester’s No. 9 birdshot. I loaded both magazines and fired my customary first shot into the berm.

The action was smooth, and it wasn’t difficult to get fast hits on a man-sized target at 10 yards.

I followed with Federal’s personal defense buckshot load. Recoil was mild and the pattern tight.

As for slugs, I like to at least test a shotgun with slugs even when it is a dedicated home defense shotgun.

After all, slugs are a potent combination well suited to defense against large animals. The Federal TruBall slug posted excellent results.

At 10 yards, three shots made a single ragged hole and a three-shot 1.5-inch group at 20 yards. This dog will run.

Federal TruBall shotgun slugs
Federal TruBall slugs gave excellent accuracy.


To fieldstrip the KSG, remove the disassembly pins from the buttstock. Drive them left to right. (Triple check the gun for shells before beginning!)

The grip assembly may now be removed. The rear stock is pulled to the rear and off the shotgun.

The bolt is pulled from the receiver by pulling the slide and lifting the bolt.

This is all that is needed for routine cleaning and lubrication.

The Kel-Tec KSG isn’t for everyone. The occasional shooter may find fun and novelty in this shotgun.

The dedicated defensive shooter that masters the techniques associated with a high-performance firearm, learns how to properly manipulate the action, and quickly change magazine feed will find a unique and formidable firearm like no other.

Are you a fan of Kel-Tec’s KSG? What is your favorite shotgun? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. Hey Bob, I’ll bet that thing weighs a touch more than 8 1/2 oz. loaded. I know what you meant but I’m just nit-picking…nice article.

  2. Whether the KSG is “for you” or not, it is one hell of a weapon. Mine runs and runs and runs. I have shot some other KelTec products and they seemed somewhat quirky, and, in the case of the PMR 30, unreliable. To be fair KelTec offered to take it back and “look it over,” and I never sent it in.

    My KSG is next to my bed, bore down, ready for action. It handles extremely well for me and I am very happy to have it ready for problems inside my home if needed.

  3. KSG is NOT a practical gun for self-defense. I don’t want to have to stop in a fight to turn my weapon UPSIDE DOWN in order to load! Maybe good choice for limited home defense but definitely NOT field duty. If one is drawn to bull-pup design, the UTAS-15 is a much better choice. I’ve tested both and the KSG just isn’t a viable option for me.

    1. Point well taken, James, but that said…..With 14 rounds in the magazines and one in the chamber for a total of 15 rounds, we might surmise that one isn’t likely to be too concerned with a combat reload. After all if one is equipped with an M870, M500, or M1300 and a combat reload is required, in each case as many as two more reloads might be needed to equal the capacity of the KSG.

      Add to that the likelihood of a protracted gunfight, and in my case I’d likely be reaching for my strong side pistol once the shotgun runs dry.

  4. My wonderful wife, bought me a Kel Tec KSG as a Christmas gift two years ago, and it is simply the baddest-ass shotgun one can imagine. I cannot say enough good about it. It fires every time I want it to, and as one puts more cycles through the action, it becomes smoother and smoother. I opted for a vertical foregrip combined with a light and laser sight, making it a great close quarters piece for home defense. I also opted for flip-up front and rear sights for those times when the light and laser might not be appropriate. AND…..With it’s very generous top rail, should I wish to plop a Trijicon ACOG fiber optic battle sight (one of my favorites) on the rail, I can do that too. Some folks find that Kel Tec products can be a mixed bag, but I have several of them, and I have yet to be disappointed with any of them.

  5. Quit making excuses for the kel-tec about functioning with low brass shells. I’ve had even cheap shotguns function with them and all other high brass shells. This gun needs to extract every thing you put in to it, no excuses!!!!!!!

    1. I agree with Otterpop;
      Using the Aguila Mini-Slugs increases the load to twenty(20) rounds. I have tested several boxes through the KSG with no malfunctions (0%) and paper-plate accuracy at 25 yards. An outstanding combination for home defense without the recoil and over-kill of standard slugs.

  6. I’ve had my KGS for several months now, however I’ve only taken it to the range once. I have many rounds of dummy shotshells which were at one time used for practicing cowboy action shooting with a Winchester 97. I’ve ran quit a few practice rounds through this shot gun. At the range I loaded one magazine tube with double ought buck and the other with slugs. A Lyman mold was used to cast the slugs, which were loaded into a shot cup. These slugs recoil, but at about 40 yards give unbelievable accuracy. The shotgun is equipped with a green laser and vertical grip, I have a red dot sight that I plan on installing soon.

  7. As an owner of a KSG, I have to say I am so impressed with this weapon. It’s pretty mean with Buckshot, but when I saw how accurate and powerful slugs are in this thing, it was absolutely mind boggling. I put a set of the pop-up Magpul sights on mine, and they work great. I do recommend the optional thicker butt-stock pad that Kel-Tec sells, along with the Kydex Cheek Rest. They both make it more enjoyable to shoot. I did have to put risers under the sights I added because I wear glasses and I had to push my cheek hard into the cheek pad to line up the target. With my cheek pressed that hard on the rest, it was quite brutal when it fired. The risers eliminated the issue.

  8. I have not fired a KSG, but I do own a DP-12 and I can not see any reason for getting another tactical shotgun. My DP-12 is a newer model and all of the defects that were observed in some of the many review videos on you tube, have been eliminated. I took it to the range twice during my last vacation. It performed smoothly and was easy to maintain accuracy with. I would not trade mine for anything. I also have a Kel-Tec PMR 30 so I am familiar with their firearms.

  9. Another advantage of the dual tube design is the option to load one with non-lethal rounds and the other with other options to quickly switch over to in case you’re target doesn’t get the message from tube 1. Kel-tec also offers an add on compensator that doubles as a door-breaching spacer. It adds about 1.5 inches to the front and I highly recommend it (even though it is a pain to initially install.) I’ve had my MSG for about 2 yrs and love it!

  10. Eric,

    As you know sometimes I do not have months to test these firearms but only a few weeks. Thanks so much for the input from someone that has mastered the KSG. I am putting your comments in my files. Thanks for reading and thanks so much for your good observations.

  11. I really love my KSG. Does it take a little “re-training” on how to “pump” the shotgun if you are used to a conventional shotgun? Yes. And you definitely have to completely stroke it; all the way forward and all the way back. If not, you’ll either cause a shell not to release for loading or fail to eject. I practice dry firing using practice shot shells and once you really get the “muscle memory” going for how to rack this thing, it works without a hitch. If you field strip the KSG and really study how it functions, you’ll get a better appreciation of why it is critical to fully rack the slide. Critical actions happen inside the shotgun right about 1/8″ from the forward limit and 1/8″ at the rear limit of the stroke that if you miss either, you’ll get a malfunction.

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