Range Report: Kel Tec PMR-30

Left side of the PMR-30 pistol in Desert Tan

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 unobtanium. 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.

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