Review: Kel-Tec RFB — The Ultimate Big Bore Bugout Bullpup

Will Dabbs shooting the Kel-Tec RFB

Did you ever notice that looking at a gun is like morphologically analyzing a family member? Little Timmy might have Dad’s ears, Mom’s nose, Uncle Edgar’s dour disposition, or Aunt Edna’s penchant for eating her boogers. He’s his own kid, but the raw material is drawn from a motley well. Likewise, most tactical weapons come from recognized families. Master Stoner or Comrade Kalashnikov beget the lion’s share of them. Those left over hearken from John Moses Browning or one of half a dozen lesser minds. The point is, most modern weapons simply evolved from something simpler. That is just not the case with the Kel-Tec RFB.

Will Dabbs shooting The Kel-Tec RFB from between the car door and frame

Weird, But a Good Kind of Weird

RFB stands for Rifle, Forward-Ejecting Bullpup. Bullpup, for those of you who might be new to the game, means that the action of the gun is located behind the fire controls. The origins of the term purportedly spawned from a diagnosably strange WW2-era Japanese submachine gun called the Experimental Model 2. The legend goes that American Ordnance folk were examining the odd weapon and declared it to be as strange as a bullpup, and the name stuck. The RFB is a 7.62x51mm battle rifle that occupies less space than your typical unadorned AR. It also conquers the Achilles heel of most bullpup combat rifles. It figures out what to do with the empties.

Most bullpup weapons can only be fired off of one shoulder or the other. Swap to your weak hand to shoot around an uncooperative corner, and the gun will spit hot brass into your face. As by definition, half of all the corners on the planet will not be amenable to management on your strong side, this becomes a real boon in a CQB environment.

The RFB employs an ingenious dual extractor system that ejects its rounds forward into a pressed steel ejection tube. A small dimple in the tube prevents empties from sliding backwards and jamming the action. Once about five rounds have been fired, empty cases start to spill out the front of the gun.

Kel-Tec RFB with Winchester ammunition

Tipping the rifle nose down empties the tube. An odd side effect of this system is that when you drain a magazine the last empty cartridge case remains secured to the bolt face by the aforementioned twin extractors. Dropping the bolt on an empty chamber releases that last fired case into the feed chute. In a sea of firearm designs that do things pretty much the same way, it is simply fascinating to see it done so differently.

This unconventional design is nicely sealed against the elements, but it does make it a bit of a chore to clear the rifle visually. Doing so involves locking the action open and then peering into the open magazine well from the bottom. This maneuver takes a little getting used to, but it’s a small price to pay for so much unfiltered awesomeness. The charging handle is readily reversible, and the safety is fully ambidextrous.

The bore and chamber are chrome plated, and the overall workmanship on my test piece is perfect. Recoil is fairly spunky as this is a small rifle firing battle-rifle cartridges, yet it remains thoroughly tolerable. The top rail is long enough for any reasonable optic, and there is an ingenious optional quad rail that screws directly onto the barrel for lights and lasers.

Will Dabbs Sitting in a car window wearing tactical gear shooting the Kel-Tec RFB

The RFB uses any standard metric FAL magazines. Magazine changes are fast and intuitive once you take the measure of the gun. Bullpup triggers are usually mushier than their more conventional counterparts. The unavoidable necessity of a long mechanical linkage connecting the pistol grip with the action typically takes a toll. In the case of the RFB, the trigger is simply well executed. The trigger pull on the test rifle was a bit over six pounds and pleasantly crisp.

I was curiously enraptured with this rifle. The compact envelope makes the weapon imminently maneuverable, and the 7.62x51mm round means not having to say you’re sorry under any imaginable circumstance. The thing’s not cheap, but it is incredibly cool. My copy runs like a scalded ape and is as intriguing as a pretty girl in a pair of boxers (Admit it, it’s a compelling metaphor.) The Kel-Tec RFB is a breed unto itself.

Are you a bullpup fan? Would you use the Kel-Tec RFB as a SHTF gun? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (49)

  1. @ Marc Cruz…

    The “Heft” of the Bullpup absorbs much of the Recoil. I’m “Wheelchair Handicapped”, and a Bullpup is easier to handle without going “Turtle” with Heavy Recoil Shots…

  2. length of pull is extremely relevant to me :re-attached retina.I dare not risk getting my thumb ,sight or scope into my eye i.e.possible blindness. I’m not talking about breaking clay pidgeons. My right eye is worse than my left,albeit sans re-attached retina,so I MUST protect that left eye. A cheap fix for short stocked long guns is a slip on Limbsaver recoil pad-adds 1″ of pull..

  3. I have one of these delicious little morsels…and it absolutely rocks! Is it a bit different from your standard AR or AK? You betcha! It is short, for sure, but that’s because the chamber is below your cheek. The rest of the barrel, all 16.5″ of it, is along the remainder of the rifle. It is a great design, IMO, with the forward eject. By the time you have fired the requisite five or so rounds, the empties dropping out the front have also cooled quite a bit. It is accurate, especially in the long-barrel, 22″ Hunter version. The trigger isn’t spongy, doesn’t have that “disconnected” feel that some bullpups have. I love mine!

  4. The RFB is a nice, compact rifle. It is not an SBR even though it is so short due to the bull pup design. It is easy to handle while offering very good accuracy. Mine functions flawlessly with mil grade FMJ ammo. Its recoil is stout, but not bad due to it’s weight. It’s heavier than a standard AR-15, but then it’s a 7.62 so additional weight is expected. The ejection system is quite different and takes some getting used to, but it’s great for recovering your brass since it just drops out right under the muzzle of the gun, plus no hot brass flying in your face or adjacent shooting lanes. I think it would be a great bug-out gun. I put a 1-4x scope on mine to support close quarters operation as well as medium range shooting. I believe it could work well with one of the new 1-8 scopes with a first focal plane reticle.

  5. I have one and absolutely love it. It has an 18″ barrel, overall length is 26″ (just under 28 if you’re gone with the birdcage flash hider). Haven’t has any failures or other issues.

  6. The charging handle lack of rails . You have to buy the bottom rail and do a partial break down to put in place.
    The charging handle is plastic on the tip of a wide thin metal piece . You can change sides but
    It reciprocates. Shooting it with loose clothing or some stations is dangerous. It’s like a knife through hot butter if a finger or thumb gets in the way. And even though it takes alot of pages from fal it doesn’t fold back. Got my money back
    And am waiting on tavor 308.

  7. A friend of mine purchased one of these. We took it out to shoot. Got 4 rounds through it before it jammed. Had to take it home and be completely dissembled to clear the jam.

  8. Call it me. I’ve never owned any bullpup but have wanted to for many years. This thing looks sexy enough to be used in MANY times, many ways and many situations.

  9. I have both the RFB and his little brother RDB.
    Both are fun to shoot and surprisingly accurate. The length of pull is fine for me but taller folks may have to purchase the extra butt pads from Keltec.
    Bottom line… They are weird rifles that I really enjoy shooting.

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