Ultimate Guide to KelTec Firearms

Michael Crites

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Keltec cover

KelTec is one of those companies that people feel strongly about, pro, or con, and there are a lot of reasons for that — their fan base is strong — while those who don’t know often throw rocks without having owned one of the company’s firearms. In the case of the latter, which deserves a correction and a closer look.

In This Article:

KelTec Firearm Comparison

Below is my list of KelTec firearms for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.

Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of firearms.

KelTec Pistols

1. KelTec CP33

Specifications:

  • Weight: 24 oz
  • Capacity: 33
  • Length: 10.6”
  • Barrel Length: 5-1/2″
  • Height: 6″
  • Caliber: 22 LR

Pros

Cons

For those folks who wanted a 33-shot .22LR pistol, KelTec answered some wishes in late 2019 with the CP33 with the “CP” meaning “Competition Pistol.”

Using a 5.5-inch threaded barrel and a quad-stack mag, the neat little rimfire handgun runs a Picatinny rail across the entire 9-inch length of the top as well as a M-LOK slots, a feature you don’t see a lot on pistols.

Speaking of unusual features, it also has a heel catch magazine release and a rear charging handle. We detailed the pistol in our CP33 review.

CP33
The KelTec Competition Pistol (CP) 33

2. KelTec P11

Specifications:

  • Weight: 14 oz
  • Capacity: 10
  • Length: 5.6”
  • Sights: Fixed
  • FinishParkerized
  • Caliber: 9mm

Pros

Cons

A 9mm pocket pistol with a 10+1 capacity that threw down the gauntlet for the firearms industry to do better when it came to tiny carry guns, the P11 was an evolutionary descendant from Kellgren’s Grendel P10.

Bringing a 3.1-inch barrel along for the ride, KelTec marketed the 14-ounce P11 for 25 years and only phased it out of the catalog in 2019 (complete with a Viking funeral), although they do bring it back for short runs now and then– and it sells out immediately.

Interestingly, KelTec produced a poorly-selling .40S&W-caliber cousin to this pistol, logically named the P40, for just a couple of years around the Millenium.

3. KelTec PF9

Specifications:

  • Weight: 12.7 oz
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Length: 5.58 inches
  • Sight Radius: 4.6″
  • Finish: Blued, Parkerized, & Hard Chrome
  • Caliber: 9mm

Pros

Cons

Just as the KelTec P11 was a better version of the Grendel P10, the PF9, which was introduced in 2006, is a more refined version of the subcompact pistol.

Complete with an accessory rail and adjustable sights, it is roughly the same size as the P11 (it still has a 3.1-inch barrel) but is thinner because it uses a single-stack 7-shot mag rather than the 10-round double used in the earlier pistol.

This drops weight down a couple of ounces as well. The gun recently disappeared from KelTec’s website, which means it may go the way of the P11 now that the company has a new 9mm pistol (the P15) on the assembly line.

PF9 in hand
PF9 in hand

4. KelTec P15

Specifications:

  • Weight: 14 oz
  • Capacity: 15+1
  • Length: 6.6”
  • Trigger Pull: 5lbs
  • Caliber: 9mm

Pros

Cons

Introduced at SHOT Show 2022, the new KelTec P15 is lightweight at just 14 ounces, while still having a 12+1 capacity with a flush-fit mag and 15+1 with an extended pinky-grip mag.

This leaves it at the same weight as the preceding P11, or with twice the capacity of the PF9, either way, puts it as a winner of any face-off with the company’s legacy 9s.

Just in case you weren’t hooked already, KelTec says they will be shipping these with a tritium and fiber optic front sight with a fully adjustable, tritium, two-dot rear, and will make the gun both in a polymer-framed model and one with an alloy frame, a first for the company.

KelTec P15 at a recent SHOT Show
KelTec P15 at a recent SHOT Show

5. KelTec P17

Specifications:

  • Weight: 12.8 oz
  • Capacity: 16
  • Length: 6.65″
  • Sights: Adjustable
  • Finish: stainless steel and nitron

Pros

Cons

Ever since George Kellgren invented the pocket-sized Grendel P10 pistol in the late 1980s, he has been deeply involved in the palm-sized handgun game.

However, all of his rimfire pistols– the PMR30, PLR22, CP33– were all large format guns, at least in length. Then, in late 2019, KelTec finally made a small .22LR pistol, the P17.

So named due to its ability to use a unique 17+1 shot magazine, the P17 is a compact framed pistol that still brings a 3.93-inch threaded barrel, a fiber optic front sight, an adjustable rear sight, an ambi safety, and a Picatinny accessory rail with it directly from the factory, all in a gun that hits the scales at less than a pound.

The P17 packs 17 .22 LR rounds in a 1 lb package.
The P17 packs 17 .22 LR rounds in a 1 lb package.

6. KelTec P32

Specifications:

  • Weight: 6.6 oz
  • Capacity: 7+1
  • Length: 5.07”
  • Width: 0.75″ 
  • Height: 3.5″

Pros

Cons

Now in production for over two decades, the P32 is a KelTec classic that never seems to go out of style. With a 2.68-inch barrel, it is ideal for deep carry in non-permissive environments and is often best used in a pocket holster or ankle rig.

While 7+1 shots of .32 ACP don’t sound like a lot of “get off me”, advances in bullet design and ballistics have produced loads such as Federal Premium’s 65-grain Hydra-Shok and Hornady’s 60-grain FTX Critical Defense that offer a lot of performance in a small package.

7. KelTec P3AT

Specifications:

  • Weight: 7.7 oz
  • Capacity: 6
  • Length: 5.2″
  • Barrel Length: 2.7″
  • Width: 0.77″
  • Caliber: 380ACP

Pros

Cons

A gently stretched version of the P32 chambered in .380 ACP, the P3AT (get it?) was introduced in 2003, predating the let’s just say remarkably similar Ruger LCP by a half-decade. This 6+1 shot .380, like its .32ACP-chambered older brother, disappears in a pocket and provides peace of mind.

However, while a hit with the public, the gun dropped off KelTec’s website recently without acknowledgment of its production status changing. We bet it will reappear, if not in a new format, very soon.

The P3AT
The P3AT

8. KelTec P50

Specifications:

  • Weight: 51.2 oz
  • Capacity: 50
  • Length: 15″
  • Barrel Length: 9.6″
  • Caliber: 5.7×28

Pros

Cons

Making a big splash and landing like a UFO during the middle of the Superbowl game, KelTec debuted the 5.7x28mm caliber P50 pistol in 2021.

A hugely different design when compared to just about any pistol on the market, it is designed to take the same 50-round horizontally-oriented magazine as the FN P90.

It looks strange and very Sci-fi, and it operates unusually, using a hinged upper-receiver assembly that makes it feel like loading an M60 GPMG, but it is as perfect a KelTec invention as can be imagined.

9. KelTec PLR16

Specifications:

  • Weight: 54.72 oz.
  • Capacity: 30
  • Length: 18.5 in
  • Barrel Length: 9.2 in
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO

Pros

Cons

Introduced in 2006 as a shortened and stockless NFA-compliant handgun variant of the SU16 carbine, the 5.56 NATO-chambered PLR16 entered KelTec early in the AR (ish) pistol game several years before pistol braces made them commonplace.

Still around over 15 years later, it still doesn’t have a brace– which is a good thing it would seem with pending ATF rule changes– but it is one of the lightest and most compact in its field, beating out the majority of the competition.

Keltec rifle lineup SU16C, RDB, PLR16
Keltec rifle lineup SU16C RDB PLR16

10. KelTec PLR22

Specifications:

  • Weight: 44.8 oz
  • Capacity: 26
  • Length: 18.5 in
  • Barrel Length: 10.5″
  • Caliber: .22 LR

Pros

Cons

Styled after the PLR16, the blowback-action .22LR rimfire PLR22 walks the same path as a large format pistol with a 10.1-inch barrel.

Coming standard with a 26-shot AR-22 pattern magazine (which is commonly available) it is perfect for situations that require long-range accuracy in a pistol platform.

Like the PLR16, it runs a top Pic rail, comes with a threaded barrel, and lightweight but high-strength Zytel furniture.

11. KelTec PMR30

Specifications:

  • Weight: 13.6 oz
  • Capacity: 30
  • Length: 7.8 in
  • Barrel Length: 4.3 in
  • Width: 1.3 in
  • Caliber: .22 WMR

Pros

Cons

Designed by KelTec’s Tobias Obermeit, the 30+1 shot capacity PMR30 .22 magnum pistol was released in 2010.

Looking very futuristic, like most of the company’s guns, it really doesn’t have an equal on the firearms market in terms of capacity. With fiber optic front and rear sights, a 4.4-inch barrel, and an amazing 14-ounce weight, it is light and accurate.

While billed as great for backpacking or camping use, there are also obvious home defense implications of the PMR30 for those who are recoil averse to centerfire pistols.

KelTec Rifles

12. KelTec CMR30

Specifications:

  • Weight: 60 oz
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Length: 22.5-29.9 in
  • Barrel Length: 16 in
  • Rate of Twist: 1:14″
  • Caliber: .22 WMR

Pros

Cons

Essentially a carbine format of the PMR30, the CMR30 has often been called the closest thing you can get to an HK MP7 here in America and they aren’t wrong.

This “poor man’s MP7” is fun, compact, weighs just 3.8 pounds, and comes ready to play with a 16-inch threaded barrel in addition to its ability to run 30-round mags of .22 WMR.

What’s not to like?

CMR30 at the range
CMR30 at the range

13. KelTec M43

KelTec M43 Rifle
The KelTec Unicorn -- M43 Rifle

A rarity that may someday hit the market, the M43 was promised in 2014 but turned out to be vaporware.

A military-style design that KelTec has undoubtedly offered in some format any time a .mil type customer has come sniffing around, it is similar to the bullpupped RDB carbine with a downward-ejecting short stroke piston system, 17.4-inch barrel, and accepts standard AR-15 magazines.

Departing from the RDB, it has wood furniture and a parkerized finish.

14. KelTec SUB2000

Specifications:

  • Weight: 68 oz
  • Capacity: 33 (Glock Mags)
  • Length: 16.25 in (Folded)
  • Length: 29.25 in (Expanded)
  • Barrel Length: 16.25 in
  • Twist Rate: 1:10 in 
  • Caliber: 9mm (9x19mm)

Pros

Cons

In 1997, KelTec pulled a rabbit out of the hat by producing the most compact 4-pound 9mm carbine you could think of without going bullpup.

The resulting SUB9 (in 9mm) and SUB40 (in .40 S&W) were unique in that they had a pivoting 16-inch barrel that rotates upwards and back, allowing them to be packed in any space 17×6 or larger.

The SUB2000 is as compact a rifle you can get without going bullpup
The SUB2000 is as compact a rifle you can get without going bullpup

It also used an interchangeable grip/magazine assembly with variants available for most popular double-stack 9mm or .40S&W pistols such as the Glock 17/19 (or 22/23), S&W 5900, Beretta 92 (or 96), or SIG P226. In 2001, the SUB9/SUB40 was redesigned for the new millennium into the SUB2000, which had the same basic layout and format but with upgraded internals and (after 2016) new furniture to include M-LOK accessory slots and a top Pic rail.

These things are a backpacker’s dream and there really isn’t anything like it made by anyone else.

15. KelTec SU16

Specifications:

  • Weight: 72 oz
  • Capacity: 10+1
  • Length: 35.9 in
  • Barrel Length: 16 in
  • Twist Rate: 1:7″
  • Caliber: 223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO

Pros

Cons

Speaking of folding guns, in 2003, after a half-decade of success with the SUB9/SUB40 carbine, KelTec introduced the SU16 series of “sport utility” rifles.

Using an AR style breech locking and feed system as well as accepting AR-15/M-16 style mags, the under folding polymer stock and sub-5-pound weight make sure the SU16 is both functional and can tread in places where the standard AR gang is sweating inches and ounces.

With prices that start around $500, they are also easy on the wallet. Today, KelTec makes the SU16 in a no-frills (SU16A and SU16B) format that doesn’t have the folding stock but does have an integrated bipod forend that folds down and two short (10-round) mags in the stock, the folding SU16C, and the very M4-like SU16E.

16. KelTec SU22

Specifications:

  • Weight: 64 oz
  • Capacity: 26+1
  • Length: 34 in
  • Barrel Length: 16 in
  • Width: 1:16 in
  • Caliber: .22 LR

Pros

Cons

Introduced in 2008, the SU22, as its name would imply, takes the SU16 series and shrinks it down to a blowback-action .22LR rimfire plinker and trainer.

Offered with either an under folding (SU22C) or fixed stock (SU22CA) that just so happens to be California-compliant, these are super fun to shoot and don’t have the same MP7-esque look as the CMR30.

17. KelTec RFB

Specifications:

  • Weight: 129.6 oz
  • Capacity: 20+1
  • Length: 26 in
  • Barrel Length: 18 in
  • Action: Semi-Auto
  • Caliber: .308 Winchester

Pros

Cons

Besides folding guns and tiny pistols, KelTec also kicked off an American answer to the Steyr AUG and Tavor but in a more adult caliber– 7.62 NATO. Using metric FN FAL style 20-round mags, the Rifle Forward-ejecting Bullpup, or RFB, was teased as far back as 2003 and then finally made the market in 2008.

They are chunky– even the shortest carbine version with an 18.5-inch barrel hits the scales at 8-pounds unloaded– but if you are looking at a battle rifle that comes in a foot shorter than Springfield Armory’s M1A SOCOM 16 while bringing a couple of inches worth of extra fps to the party, the RFB is something very special indeed.

It is currently available in the standard 18.5-inch format while the long-barrel RFB Hunter uses a 24-inch pipe for an overall length of just 32.5-inches, making it shorter than a Ruger Mini-14, not to mention a lot more fun.

The KelTec RFB

18. KelTec RDB

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8.1 lbs
  • Capacity: 20
  • Length: 27.3 in
  • Barrel Length: 17.4 in
  • Twist Rate: 1:7
  • Caliber: .223 Rem (5.56x45mm)

Pros

Cons

The rough .223 Remington-chambered little brother of the RFB, the RDB (Rifle Downward-ejecting Bullpup) was introduced in 2014 and stacks up very well against imported bullpups, especially when it comes to cost and options.

The gun is completely ambidextrous due in terms of the spent brass ejection, magazine catch/release placement, safety levers, and a reversible operating handle.

While Steyrs and IWIs are really kind of just one-size-fits-all, KelTec offers the RDB in a standard (17.3-inch barrel), Defender (16.1-inch pencil barrel with a collapsible stock all for a weight of just 6.7 pounds), Hunter (20.5-inch barrel) and 6-pound Survivor models.

There’s bound to be a flavor to suit any taste when it comes to .223 bullpups.

KelTec RDB

KelTec Shotguns

19. KelTec KSG

Specifications:

  • Weight: 6.9 lbs
  • Capacity: 6+6
  • Length: 26.1 in
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
  • Chamber: 3 in
  • Gauge: 12 Gauge

Pros

Cons

In 2011, KelTec introduced the KSG (Kel-Tec ShotGun, duh) and brought the U.S. its first tactical, pump-action 12 gauge bullpup, not to mention the first American-made bullpup scatter gatt since the High Standard Model 10 went out of production during the Carter administration.

Using dual underbarrel magazine tubes which provide just a ton of shells, the standard KSG has a 15-shell capacity (seven in each tube and one in the pipe) in a 26.1-inch package, something that offers big medicine in a home protection situation while still being able to maneuver tight hallways.

For those wanting to carry five boxes of buckshot loaded at the same time, the KSG-25, with its impressive 30-inch barrel, still just runs 38-inches overall, still being shorter than a Mossberg 500 Tactical, a more traditional pump that only has a 5+1 shell capacity.

The KelTec KSG 25 has enough firepower on board to clear an apartment building.
The KelTec KSG 25 has enough firepower on board to clear an apartment building.

20. KelTec KSG-7

Specifications:

  • Weight: 5.9 lbs
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Length: 26.1 in
  • Barrel Length: 18.5 in
  • Chamber: 3 in
  • Gauge: 12 Gauge

Pros

Cons

For those who want a KelTec bullpup 12 gauge that runs lighter and shorter than the standard KSG line, the company makes the 5+5+1 capacity KSG

Compact with an 18.5-inch barrel as well as the single-tube (as opposed to dual magazine tube) KSG-7, with the latter number pointing towards its capacity. Compact, with a top Pic rail and M-LOK accessory slots, it comes in at less than 6-pounds while still just taping out to 26.1-inches.

This makes it great not only for home defense but also for backcountry hiking.

Who is KelTec?

Born to a military family during World War II in Sweden, George Lars Kellgren started down the path of becoming an officer in the Royal Swedish Navy then switched gears and became an engineer.

Working in the civil sector at age 25, first for Husqvarna in 1968– best known for chainsaws and lawn equipment over here, they had a long firearm-making tradition in Sweden. He then left for domestic gunmaker Interdynamics AB after Husky shut down their weapon R&D department. It was while working at Interdynamics that the inventor tried his hand at a straight blowback-operated submachine gun that fired at a blistering 1,000 rounds per minute from a closed bolt.

Labeled the MP9 by the company, some 25 prototypes were made and shopped around to various countries including South Africa without success.

Kellgren with one of his early designs in Sweden
Kellgren with one of his early designs in Sweden

Made of inexpensive molded polymers and stamped steel parts it was cheap to manufacture but nobody was buying it.

In 1979, Kellgren immigrated to the United States with some thoughts on his mind about new firearms and some initial backing from Interdynamic. Soon after, his KG-99/TEC-9 design, that of a simple polymer-framed 9mm pistol with a forward magazine well, took off and remained in production throughout the 1980s and into the 90s under a variety of names and by several companies.

Leaving that design behind, he founded Grendel in Florida in the late 1980s, where he created several interesting compact polymer-framed pistols– the P10, P12, P30, and P31– and, in 1991, created KelTec (from Kellgren’s last name) at first just to make parts for Grendel.

Then, following the federal ban on “assault weapons” that took effect in 1995, Kellgren downsized his brands down to just one, putting Grendel to pasture and moving forward with KelTec. Located in Cocoa, Florida, the company is now celebrating its 31st year in business and keeps expanding.

With 300 employees and 125,000 sq. ft. of industrial space in the Sunshine State, according to the most recent statistics from federal regulators, KelTec produced 80,315 pistols, 66,823 rifles, and 38,516 shotguns in 2020.

In July 2022, the company announced an expansion to Wyoming that would add another 33,000 sq. ft. facility in Rock Springs initially while looking to grow to a fully-fleshed out 250-worker plant in the Cowboy State within the next few years.

Are KelTecs any good?

Unlike a lot of gunmakers that just choose to recast existing designs– anyone can make a dependable M1911, or an AR-15 clone, the data packages have been in the public domain for decades– KelTec has long been breaking new ground.

For example, George Kellgren’s P32 is one of the smallest semi-automatic pistols in the world and paved the way for the Ruger LCP and SIG Sauer P365 for a decade. The same can be said of the SU-16, KelTec’s version of what the Ruger Mini-14 should have been, or the KSG– the first American bullpup shotgun made since the 1960s.

The bottom line is if you want an innovative design that gives you a window into what the rest of the firearms makers will be doing in the future, look at what KelTec is making now.

KelTec produces almost 200,000 guns a year and it still can’t keep up with demand, a reason some of its models have a realized resale value much higher than the MSRP.

Just check out the legion of over 40,000 dedicated fans of the brand over at the KelTec Owners Group, a forum that has been around since the old bulletin board days of the internet.

Aftermarket support

Keltec CP33 Review

Unfortunately, a lot of KelTec’s parts and magazines are proprietary, such as for the P3AT and P32 pistols.

It’s not their fault, as no one else was making something comparable at the time they were introduced so they couldn’t piggyback on existing mags.

However, a lot of their carbines do run commonly found magazines. For instance, the SUB2000 series has always been available with magwells that use third-party (Beretta, SIG, Glock, and S&W) mags, the P50 was designed around the FN P/PS90 magazine, the RFB uses FN FAL mags, the PLR22 uses AR-22 mags (the same as Atchission/Ciener conversions and the SIG 522), and the SU-16/RDB use AR-15 mags. There are also several custom and semi-custom shops that make optimized parts for KelTecs such as M*CARBO.

When it comes to fixing issues, KelTec has a lifetime warranty on all its firearms and has promised to “treat every customer as if you’re our only customer and every weapon as if it were our own, examining every facet of it before returning it to you so that you can be sure it’s performing as it should.”

Final Thoughts

KelTec has never been one to follow trends in the firearms industry, choosing instead to lead and be a market disruptor.

While their products have sometimes been hit-or-miss, they have steadily shocked the industry into action and it is entertaining to see KelTec introduce a new gun, then see bigger companies try to echo it to keep up with the little gunmaker from Florida. The thing is, KelTec isn’t the little guy anymore, having steadily expanded in the Sunshine State and now moved to kick off a second manufacturing plant in Wyoming this year.

This points to even bigger and better things from the company. Keep an eye out.

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