Range Report: Kel-Tec KSG Bullpup Shotgun

With new manufacturing technology and materials speeding weapons evolution, it’s no surprise that Kel-Tec took another look at the tactical shotgun. Kel-Tec’s KSG Bullpup shotgun stormed the SHOT show like the Red Army into Berlin, championing its 14-round capacity, diminutive configuration and radical ergonomics. Sounds great on paper, but what’s it like in real life? Our favorite Russian émigré Oleg Volk, brought one to the Lucky Gunner Blogger shoot over Memorial Day weekend . . .

Kel-Tec has a bit of a rep for cheap-feeling weapons whose fit and finish makes a pre-C11 GM product seem like a Swiss watch. Volk’s pre-production KSG was a welcome departure from the stereotype. The KSG wasn’t overly “plasticky.” The polymer bits seem solid enough for government work. The bullpup shotgun was devoid of telltale rattles or loose parts; the controls and action feel as if they’re capable of long term service.

This BUIS and Aimpoint M4 red dot-topped model was ergonomically sound—to say the least. As you’d expect, the KSG’s light weight makes it easy to point, even with all 14 shells in situ. The Kel-Tec was noticeably more maneuverable and lightweight than a comparable Mossberg 500. With a perfect spot for a rock solid cheek weld, the KSG provides an unparalleled level of ergonomic comfort.

You load the Kel-Tec KSG as you would any other shotgun—provided you remember to you load the ammo behind the trigger guard. After filling one tube with seven rounds of your ammo of choice, you flip the switch at the rear (bottom) of the gun and load seven more shells into the next tube. Speaking of ammo; when Kel Tec says only use 2 ¾” shells they really mean it.

Michael of EvylRobot had some serious trouble trying to run the gun with Sellier and Bellot 2 ¾” buckshot and slugs. Double feeds and an action that wouldn’t cycle without serious persuasion caused much consternation. Turns out that S&B’s shot shells were slightly larger than advertised. Oleg diagnosed the problem and produced some Winchester ammo for TTAG’s test.

With birdshot, muzzle rise and felt recoil were close to nil. With heavier loads, the KSG maintains its shootability, although your shoulder knows exactly what you’re doing.  Accuracy was a little hard to establish; we were shooting at some pretty beat-up targets. I can’t comment on that beyond saying I hit what I was aiming at.

If you’re looking for a plug-and-play shotgun that functions like your daddy’s Wingmaster; the KSG ain’t it. I engaged the KSG’s safety accidentally after a couple of rounds, terminating slide function. The safety’s located above the trigger guard: a prime piece of real estate when it came to my hand slipping upwards. As RF reported from the gun’s debut, the tube change switch is also in an awkward position. I wasn’t confident that I could switch to the second tube without taking my eyes off target and confirming swithc activation.

Bottom line: don’t expect to be able to pull the Kel-Tec KSG straight out of the box and blast zombies with impunity. You’re going to learn how to run the gun before you’re fit to take on the undead. Should a well-trained infantryman or a police officer need over a dozen 12-gauge rounds for a day at the office; the Kel-Tec KSG may well be the optimal choice. Stay tuned for a full review.

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About Ryan Finn

Ryan Finn is the Director of Operations and an Associate Instructor for Montana Tactical Firearms Instruction as well as a contractor for Vanguard Security Consultants when he isn't writing for TTAG. In his free time he is a volunteer firefighter and enjoys spending time in the mountains with his family.

34 Responses to Range Report: Kel-Tec KSG Bullpup Shotgun

  1. avatarMagoo says:

    You had me at “pre-production.”

  2. avatarTTACer says:

    It still sounds like a converted Saiga with a drum is a better bet. I am a sucker for bullpups though.

    • avatarGAKoenig says:

      Saigas always sound like such a fantastic idea… until you actually try to run one for anything other than making Counter Strikeesque YouTube videos.

  3. avatarChris Dumm says:

    The vertical foregrip is a big turnoff; they’re good at torqueing the action bars and binding up pump-actions.

    • avatarOleg Volk says:

      Vertical grip is optional, the gun comes without it and uses hand stop swells instead. S&B didn’t work in part due to being oversized, Winchester/Remington/Fiocchi/Federal worked fine. Loading takes getting used to, esp. the left tube if you are right-handed. As with every gun, familiarization is required.

  4. avatarRuffRidr says:

    Has anybody actually seen these on the market yet, or are they still in pre-production?

  5. avatarCaleb says:

    Did they fix the trigger?

    • avatarRyan Finn says:

      Yea the trigger seems to be fixed. No slide fire when I left my finger on it while activating the pump action and it reset every time.

  6. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    I still don’t like it, and I’ll take a Saiga over this gun every time.

  7. avatarBuuurr says:

    X-Rail FTW.

  8. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    I go for the simple and instinctual everytime. Give me an old pistol grip Ithaca and you would think I was holding an auto. Anything that makes you stop and have to eyeball it in a WTF moment can get you killed. Why didn’t they just go for a single tube, or other means of feed, and give it a super smooth pump action?

  9. avatarJason Herron says:

    People,
    Stop Whining about not liking the KSG and wanting a Saiga.
    There’s alot of us out here that wish gun companies would strike out into new territory, to innovate, create, take calculated but daring leaps forward in designs and ergonomics. Kel-tec appears to have done a great job developing a solution to a specific area of the market. I’m sure it’s a living hell for a gun company to go through the governmental hoops and logistical nightmares not to mention, unknown risks and liabilities to push into the stodgy gun-public with something so exotic.

    While some gun companies add some extremely minor feature and then claim greatness and true innovative spirit, kel-tec is busting their chops on something truly new. As lovers of gun tech, we should all shake their hand.

    Sure kel-tec has a diminutive brand image currently, but so did Apple when they started building computers in a garage. I say lets applaud the company for kicking something truly new out the door and give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Hey Volk!
    Sign me up on the Beta-tester program for this gun!

    • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      Ah, but with that reasoning, should everyone buy a Smart car?

      • avatarBuuurr says:

        I don’t know why so many people love this thing. It has been done… bullpup, so what? http://world.guns.ru/shotgun/safr/neostead-e.html

        As demonstrated in both, they fail. Too complicated in intense situations.

        These things are not new. Just new to you, Jason. Neostead, Pancor, Franchi, Caws, and High Standard have been there and been gone for some time now, as far as I know. Kel-Tec adds a sticky selector and a pump and this is all new for some reason. Talk about something truly new? Right.

  10. avatarSean says:

    So, when will this vaporware gun actually come out? Will they even be able to make any this year? And will it work once it does ship? As much as I want one, Kel-Tec hasn’t exactly had the best reputation lately . They announce products, them ship a few of them a year later. Then they have to recall or redesign them after that. Then 2 or 3 years later, they finally get it right.

  11. avatarBen says:

    I saw this at the SHOT Show. After watching the neophyte struggle to manipulate the slide in the attached 40-second video; I’m still not impressed. The vertical foregrip defeats the forward hand’s function that aids in the natural pointing and controlling of a shotgun. The palms of your hands should be facing opposed to each other for proper control, point and SWING. (Others might call this covering or sweeping an area.) It is a shotgun, not an automatic squad weapon. Even if the price was $200 I still wouldn’t buy it. I’ll take my 870, M12 or M37 any day over this.

  12. avatarjohnny says:

    People this is a pre-production model, meaning its just a test bed to test ballistics, firing dynamics, etc. Wish this was gas-operated with a magazine though. Maybe in a future version? :)~

  13. While it certainly is a badass looking weapon (we’ll probably see one in a movie before long) I fail to see the advantage over the various ‘streetsweeper’ shotguns, or the butt-ugly but fearsome AA12. Any advantage of greater capacity is negated by having to manually switch over to the 2nd magazine, and the difficulty in doing so. Also the failure to chamber it for the larger ‘magnum’ 12 ga. rounds makes it less attractive. How does it perform with slugs? I’d like to shoot one, but won’t be trading in ‘Big Thunder’ – an old but excellent semi-auto Ithaca Mag-10 ‘Roadblocker’ 10 gauge. You should see what one round of 00 buckshot from a 31/2″ 10 gauge magnum shell does to a block of 250 Type A Ordnance Gelatin. And a slug? Whew! The only thing that would make me consider retiring this old warhorse is a semi-auto version of an AA12, if and when that becomes available.

    • avatarBuuurr says:

      I doubt they would ever release the AA-12. I will get one the day they do though. No cleaning and all those rounds makes for a crazy shotgun.

  14. avatarBLAMMO says:

    Speaking of ammo; when Kel Tec says only use 2 ¾” shells they really mean it.

    According to the insider over at the KTOG forum, 3″ shells will be good to go in the production guns.

    http://www.ktog.org/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1297908528

  15. avatarChris Mallory says:

    I found that out about the S&B shells, 2 3/4 buckshot, years ago. The length difference, in my case, was due to how the shell was crimped. The S&B had a bulge at the top of the shell which held a small plastic disc over the shot and were a true 2 3/4 in length. Standard shells were crimped, folding the top of the shell in to hold the shot. The crimping shortens the shells.

    • avatarBo says:

      Chris, 2 3/4″ shells equate to the chamber size, not the their crimped length. Yes, there are some shells that deviate slightly with their length when crimped but all “2 3/4″ shells” will open to the chamber length, 2 3/4″. That size never varies. That means, upon firing, the shell will be 2 3/4″long (measure one.) Therefore, they are substantially shorter than 2 3/4″ before firing.

  16. avatarChristopher Hoffman says:

    “Why didn’t they just go for a single tube, or other means of feed, and give it a super smooth pump action?” Because then it would like any of a mutitude of other choices already out there. If you don’t like the extra tube, you don’t have to use it.

    Having handled this shotgun, I don’t see what all the naysayers are talking about. It has a solid, ergonomic feel. You can stoke up one side with buck and the other with slugs. Hitting the magazine switch is infinitely easier than changing a magazine in a carbine.

    It’s all about training, folks. I don’t know about you guys, but my first hi-speed magazine changes weren’t exactly ballet.

    The guy in the video admittedly hit the safety locking up the gun. So maybe there’s an ergonomics issue with the shape or location of the safety. We’ll see. I’ve had an issue recently with my thumb accidentally activating the extended slide-lock on a Glock G35. Needless to say, it now has a stock part in it’s place. Problem solved.

    • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      Agreed, I’ll have to handle it. It certainly can’t be heavier than my 870 with the 9+1 extension and fully loaded. I would expect that ammo weight would ease recoil, plus the bullpup design’s inherent handling-which I do like. Question is: will the handling change drastically as the shells are expended and the weight changes? I admit a real amount of favoritism towards my extended tube Ithaca Stakeout, sleek with no stock, the smooth handling of a simple, rugged and fast design.

  17. avatarBill says:

    Any definitive word on when this thing will actually hit the street? As a SWAT cop, the idea of going from breach rounds to business rounds with the flick of a switch has me itching to try one out. I’ve read all the pros and cons, but will form my own opinion after a few hundred rounds and several hours of full-speed live-fire scenarios.

    • avatarJohn says:

      Dont know how old these post are. Bought and returned one today. Barrel was pitted like a WWII surplus discarded rifle. Action refused to consistently load rounds despite 10 attempts. Very disappointed.

  18. avatartanksoldier says:

    I can’t imagine that flipping a switch, even a difficult switch, even a switch that requires you to look down for a second, is more difficult or time consuming than reloading the magazine of a traditional shotgun.

    I also can’t believe that manipulating such a switch wouldn’t become second nature with a little time and training.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      You’d be amazed at what problems people have with litte switches in the heat of battle. Like . . . safeties.

      Still, perhaps you’re right. My main problem: the idea that a shotgunnner would load one type of ammo on one side and another in the other and trust that they’d know which was which when push came to shove.

  19. avatarJess Johnson says:

    I love the design, but am turned off by the awkwardness of the reloading. If in that SHTF moment you need to throw a 16th shot down range it’s gonna get sticky pretty quick.

  20. avatarBel says:

    If anyone actually needed to throw more than 14 or 15 rounds of 12 gauge down range….they should already have had a rifle in their hands…I see this as a perfect home defense weapon. High ammo capacity without the need to reload; short, lightweight and maneuverable and best of all it will handle all modern optics and accessories.

  21. avatarJohn says:

    Bought one today. Barrel was so corroded it looked like an old surplus rifle barrel left to rot. The action was so unreliable I couldn’t get and consistent loading. After cleaning, I was unable to reassemble to barrel to the tube magazines. This was a newly delivered KSG direct from our distributor and I was the first to handle this new product. Very disappointed kel-tec. You can’t just put made in USA on your box without the quality to back it up.

  22. avatarJT says:

    What do you expect from Kel-Tec? Seriously, these came with plastic rails. PLASTIC RAILS. Kel-Tec should change to a design firm for a real firearm company. Their concept designs are great, don’t get me wrong. Their guns suck. Their designs are 90% there. Lately Ruger has been doing the legwork to make them reliable (LCP, LC9). Hopefully Ruger will make the KSG a good gun. Seriously I should have sold my P3AT to a KT fanboy because it was the biggest piece of garbage I have ever owned. And I did not get a “bad gun”. They are all that way. Or a handful of people get decent pieces. I suspect there is a lot of lying going on though among people who drank the cool aid

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