Review: Kel-Tec K7

Bob Campbell shooting the Kel-Tec K7 shotgun

Bullpup configurations are nothing new, but Kel Tec’s handling of the design is exceptional. Kel-Tec’s KSG is a double-magazine-tube pump shotgun with a 14-shell magazine capacity. That is a tremendous reserve of firepower. While I am all for high-capacity shotguns, the weight and complication of the KSG isn’t for everyone. These shotguns are not sporting guns but first-class shotguns for home defense and tactical use.

Bob Campbell shooting the Kel-Tec K7 shotgun
While unique, the K7 is also ergonomic.

Kel-Tec has recently introduced a version that will make for an ideal home defense shotgun for many. The piece is light, handy, and fast handling, and it maintains a seven-shell magazine capacity. This is also a less expensive shotgun than the formidable KSG.

Kel-Tec has been at the job a long time, and with the K7 they build on production experience with the KSG. The K7 is in essence a single-magazine KSG.

The new shotgun weighs only 5.9 pounds unloaded and about 6.5 pounds loaded with 00 buckshot. The barrel rides over the magazine, and the ejection port and loading port are combined. The KSG featured a magazine selector, necessary to the design, that required the shooter to flip from the empty magazine to a full magazine. A really good hand could even keep one magazine loaded with slugs and change between the buckshot and solid load if need be.

The single-magazine K7 is much simpler. A newly designed carrying handle also incorporates a sighting channel. A green fiber optic front sight makes for fast and easy aiming. The forend is well designed for rapid manipulation. The action must be stroked completely to the rear and back to avoid a short cycle or misfeed.

Kel-Tec K7 shotgun left profile
The K7 is a thoroughly modern shotgun.

This isn’t difficult. Using recoil to guide the arm as the piece recoils, slam the forend to the rear and then move it forward briskly.

The action uses the proven dual-action bar system of the KSG. If the action and receiver resemble any proven action, it is the Ithaca Model 37. The safety operates right to left for Safety and left to right for Fire. The safety is surrounded by a ridge that protects the safety from inadvertent operation. An extended ambidextrous slide release is just ahead of the triggerguard.

The magazine loading port is near the buttstock. It isn’t difficult to load seven shells. Be careful not to jam your thumb into the shell retainer. Loading is accomplished in the same port that’s used to eject the spent shells. You cannot load the chamber; all shells must be loaded into the magazine and then racked into the chamber. If you wish, a total of eight shells may be deployed.

The K7 shotgun is only 26 inches overall, a very neat and fast-handling combination. The barrel is 18.5 inches long. The choke is rated open cylinder, which is basically no choke at all.

ejection port on the Kel-Tec K7 shotgun
The ejection port and loading port are one in the same.

The shotgun breaks down easily. There are dual pins located at the back and center of the receiver. A neat trick is that there are openings in the pistol grip to hold these pins. The pistol grip now tilts out, and the buttstock simply slides off.

This frees the bolt. Then move to the front and unscrew the slotted magazine release. A coin is used to remove the magazine cover. Next, the spring and follower are removed. The barrel is secured by a spring-loaded detent. It isn’t difficult to fieldstrip the K7 for cleaning.

The K7 holds more shells than most conventional riot guns, yet it is far more compact. The balance is good, making for fast handling. The design is fully ambidextrous, a great advantage. The K7 is easier to handle with one hand that most shotguns. After the first shot, one-hand manipulation is complicated but may be accomplished if you have leverage to rack the forend.

red dot showing the safety in the firing position on a shotgun
The safety features a red marking that is visible when the safety is in the Fire position.

The shotgun operates the same as any other pump-action shotgun. The stock must be held tight to the shoulder, if there is any slack or stand off, recoil is increased. Lean into the shotgun, and rack the action to load. Press the trigger to fire. As the K7 recoils, work the action to the rear. As you bring the forend forward, you also bring the muzzle back on target. Repeat.

Recoil is there, no question. While it’s straight back and manageable, the K7 weighs but 6.5 pounds or so loaded. I began the test fire with Federal’s birdshot load. Function was perfect, and the shells fed, chambered, fired, and ejected normally. This was a pleasant firing experience.

I fired 25 shells without any type of problem. Next, I switched to Federal 00 buckshot. This is a load with an excellent reputation. The buffered shot provided a good pattern on a man-size target at 7 and 10 yards. Recoil is there.

side view of the Kel-Tec K7 shotgun
The safety is protected by ridges, and the holes in the grip hold the takedown pins.

I would recommend using birdshot for practice. Buckshot should be fired for familiarization and deployed for personal defense. The K7 isn’t a bear to control, and the fiber optic front sight made for fast acquisition of the target.

I also fired a magazine of Federal Tru Ball slugs. These are respected for accuracy. The Truball slugs went into a cloverleaf at 7 yards. At 15 yards, I fired a 2-inch group with the remaining three shells going into less than 3 inches and a little low. This 1-ounce slug would prove effective against large animals if need be.

The K7 isn’t for everyone. For those willing to master the piece, and who have a real need for a compact and powerful shotgun, there is nothing quite like the K7. While magazine capacity is halved compared with the KSG, the K7 is lighter and faster handling. Seven 00 buckshot shells should be the measure of any home defense situation. I like the K7 a lot.

Would you prefer the lighter K7 with half the capacity or the full payload of the KSG? Share your answer 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 (16)

  1. I for one would like to see if some after-market accessories (e.g., longer barrels, replacement extended magazine tubes w/ follower springs,etc.) become available for it.

    The KSG that I’ve handled in the past seemed a little too broad for fast work… at least to me.

    I’m one of those people who are really fond of their Ithaca 37, and I have a Defense version with a spare 28″ barrel for use at the trap range (which doesn’t allow barrels shorter than 24″ — welcome to the People’s Democratic Republic of California).

    If the action is as fast as my Ithaca, having one with an optional 28″ barrel and a 10-round magazine tube would make this a real interesting piece of gear for 3-gun competition.

  2. I do like weapon, but it is a shotgun for close.up home defense and unlike a 410 affecianado I would like it for same purpose but in 20 or 28 gauge.
    As a self defense, I comcider 50-60 yards in a SHTF.or as urban range
    , the 12 is overkill and a 20 is just as destructive power at those above rangesupon human unprotected flesh is more than competant.
    Any reduction in recoil means ease of handling and cased to get back at point orif multiple targets onto next.
    And and almost all slugs and all buckshot loads areuseless for flesh protected by type 3 ballistic body armor, but foot pounds of energy by a 20 or28 ga slug will still bust ribs, same as 12.
    There are tacticle 12 ga slugs of special metal that have extreme penetrating power but not in lower ga.
    Better than taking a knife to a gun fight, but there area couple alternatives of same or more rounds.c
    The largest defects of a pump has always been the operato, shortstroking
    Prefer mag fed, especially a certain 4 tube weapon.
    It slightly more expensive, but what is yours, wife and family worth?
    When we start talking multi rounds shot guns, what are we thinking, home defense is not a war zone scenario.

  3. Is the safety reversible for us lefties? Otherwise, 10-20 % of the population doesn’t need it.

    “The buffered shot provided a good pattern on a man-size target at 7 and 10 yards.” Its long been known that you don’t merely point a shotgun and it “sweeps” the alley….you should aim it (hence the sights on the gun). It would be nice if someone would put some constriction in defensive shotgun barrels (or set up for choke tubes?) to throw a tight pattern over a somewhat longer, effective distance. Of course, a modified slug to work with the constriction is also needed but I think a sabotted slug would work.

  4. I think this would be a better home defense shotgun in .410 ga. 12 ga is too powerful for most women and .410 is plenty stopping power for anyone, especially with 14 shells available.


  6. Did you have any issues with feeding and extracting? I got one of these and I’ve had a bunch of issues feeding both 2 3/4″ shells and (not surprisingly) mini shells. I would either get double-feeds due to the retaining claw releasing more than one shell at a time or because the spent shell wouldn’t extract. I love Kel-Tec because of their innovative designs but they should have baked this a little longer before selling it. We’ll see if the KS7 comes back from service 100% functional (and I’m hopeful) but I’m actually surprised by any flawless review at this time.

  7. Why settle for the KSG vs. the KS7? I bought both. Love Kel-Tec products. They do have a slight learning curve but if you train with them correctly, you won’t suffer from short stroking or other malfunctions your read about in the blogs. Many posters are in a hurry to blame the firearm when it is operator error. All one needs do is field strip either model and look closely at how they operate. Both models have a critical action that occurs near 1/4″ from the most forward position of the handguard and the last 1/4″ of the handguard. If you don’t hit both of these fully you’ll have malfunctions. Learning and practicing the correct operational procedures for these two shotgun models is critical to flawless shooting. It is a skill just like using any other firearm. I bought a box of “dummy” loads from Brownell’s just for practicing the loading and ejecting phases of the manual of arms for these shotguns. With a little practice, they function just fine.

  8. I owned three KT pistols, all junk, every one of them failed and had to be returned for service.

    KT also raised the dealer cost of the KSG when they claimed it was going to be banned after Newtown, well, it never was, never even made the list, but, they held the high price up for almost 5 years, and I’m not sure if it ever returned to the price it was originally sold for.

    Overly complex, and poorly manufactured junk, that comes years later after its release.

    Sorry, never again, and I will never, ever recommend their garbage products to another customer.

  9. I’m a HUGE fan of Kel-Tec products. As a wheelchair-bound Disabled Veteran, having a firearm with ideal Fit, Form, and Function is paramount to handling, positioning, and operation. I own the Kel-Tec PLR-16 and PMR-30 pistols. My Kel-Tec family is a bit on the light side so I plan to do the right thing by being fruitful and multiplying. As Americans, it’s important for us to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights. This being said, the Kel-Tec RDB-20, RFB-18, CMR-30, KSG-25, and KS-7 are next on the shopping list. Kel-Tec firearms are not designed with elegant lines and fanciful features, nor do they allow for a variety of options. They’re molded with the same “waffling” template so the aesthetics and feel of all Kel-Tec firearms, share a likeness. The design is rudimentary and straight-forward. I appreciate this, besides, the poor fella sneaking into my house won’t know the difference, a slug…is a slug…is a slug. Well done Kel-Tec. Hoorah! SPC-4 Hegy, 1st IDF, Big Red One

  10. Why is it that none of the review sites mention any reliability issues with this gun, or other Keltec guns, and yet, a staggeringly high number of owners seem to have issues?

  11. I like the idea of a lighter single magazine model for personal use, such as home protection and hunting. I was a police officer and VIP security officer and I know that no weapon is good if you are not familiar with it and I also know that to become proficient with it many hours of practice are necessary to develop the type of memory needed to remember to flip the lever and change the magazine. Besides, it is a proven fact that no one outside of a combat situation ever needed that many rounds.

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