(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
By Brandon Harker
‘Unobtanium’ has been used to describe many Keltec weapons from the PMR-30 to the KSG and now the subject of this review, the RDB. The RDB is Keltec’s latest entry in their lineup of unique, forward-thinking and often tough to find (locally, but more on that later) wonder guns.
The gun reviewed is an early production gun that was used for cold weather testing by a local LEO. The serial number is sub 40 and it was tested in temperatures that share the same attributes.
Living smack dab in the middle of Alaska made that testing requirement very easy to adhere to. Due to the early production nature of this sample, the specs, models, and options are subject to change.
Keltec has designed this gun to fire the ubiquitous 5.56 round using common AR-15 pattern magazines. This puts it squarely in the same ballpark as guns like the Steyr AUG, IWI TAVOR and the FN FS2000. It is what sets the gun apart that raises this shooter’s eyebrow and the answer lies in the name.
Keltec doesn’t get fancy with model designations and this rifle is no different. RDB, in this case, stands for Rifle Downward-Ejecting Bullpup. It is that downward ejection that makes this a truly ambidextrous action, not just a gun with ambidextrous controls. All controls are ambidextrous full time, except the charging handle that can be swapped to the users preference without tools. Speaking of the lack of tools, let’s open it up to see what we’re working with.
This could not be simpler, as four easily removed pins are all that hold the rifle’s modular components together. I disassembled/re-assembled the gun in the first hour of ownership without the use of a manual and there were zero head-scratching moments.
The rifle breaks down easily into seven main components. These are the receiver, pistol grip/mag well, handguard, bolt carrier group, charging handle assembly, gas piston assembly and barrel/rail/gas adjustment assembly.
The bolt carrier group breaks down with the removal of two pins that are easily pushed out. Putting the rifle back together is where you find that simply installing the charging handle assembly with the handle pointing out of your desired side of the gun is all it takes to set the gun up for left- or right-handed shooters.
Now that we are done poking and prodding the specimen, let’s actually see how it handles. I am not going to lie, I am a fan of bullpups (for the most part). The shorter OAL really makes for a great handling gun that lends itself well to suppressed use. The gun balances well and feels quite small the first few times you shoulder it. The weight is on the light side and very manageable, even with an optic and suppressor added to the kit.
For this review, the gun has been outfitted with a Burris AR-332 prismatic scope and a SilencerCo Omega suppressor mounted using SilencerCo’s QD 5.56 muzzle brake.
The gun still feels quite nimble with this setup. Charging has a certain HK feel to it that is more than welcome. Who doesn’t love slapping a charging handle home? The bolt release is easy to access, but doesn’t provide a lot of leverage, so a firm push is required to release the bolt.
The safety is easily reachable for me. Admittedly, I have rather large paws and could see safety manipulation being tougher for those with fingers of shorter stature.
The mag release is interesting and intuitive, requiring just a small rearward movement of the strong hand to drop mags. This is very easy to get used to, but could be a problem of accidental activation with thicker winter gloves. Keltec may have a change in the works as the California model of the RDB already wears an AR-style push button release.
My favorite part other than the great charging handle is the trigger. Bullpup triggers often leave a lot to be desired. This trigger is not only good for a bullpup, it is good for any factory “battle” rifle. Color me impressed.
Reloading seemed to be the only thing that took some getting used to. It is just strange feeling to move the mag back so close to the body, but that will come in time. This is true of most if not all box magazine-fed bullpups.
While fondling the gun is fun, shooting it is even better. It is fun and boringly easy to shoot well at the same time. Being able to easily adjust the gas system without tools is excellent once on the range. Especially in this case since I wanted to get an overall impression with running the RDB both with and without a suppressor.
Without the suppressor, the gun has very little muzzle rise. Thread on a suppressor and it feels more like shooting that old Daisy BB gun many of us grew up with than a “high powered rifle.” The soft shooting and good trigger make it easy to shoot the gun accurately, whether you are taking slow shots, double taps, or mag dumps.
I seem to be able to run the gun as fast and easy as an AR if you forgive the occasional blown reload. This particular example proved to be boringly reliable in the roughly 600 rounds of mixed Winchester, Federal, Remington, and Wolf Gold it has been fed. That is a plus, as clearing malfunctions would be rather involved due to the lack of easy access to the chamber.
What about that whole downward ejecting business? I have not forgotten.
The single best part about this rifle eluded me until I put rounds down range. The RDB is a reloader’s dream. Gone are the days of sifting through the bushes for brass and wishing you had adjusted your shooting position. The RDB politely deposits brass in fairly neat piles directly below the gun. Chasing brass is history with this gun and the future is bright, post tumbling of course.
I was able to put the rifle on a CTK Precision bench rest for some accuracy testing while sighting the gun in. The ammo used for testing was run-of-the mill Remington 45 grain JHP. A storm was rolling in so I actually didn’t get to sight the gun in on the trip and just shot a 20-round group off the rest at 100 yards. The gun was hitting paper without even boresighting, so I just ran with it in order to get some data.
The shots were fired roughly one second apart in succession. The rest started to walk up on me a little so the vertical stringing was not entirely due to heat soak. With more time, better ammo, and slower shooting, I believe the RDB can tighten that pattern up considerably. I was pleased with what the gun put out for what I put in.
Overall, I really like the RDB. A lot. I would change very little about the overall package if I could. Keltec got a lot of things right while not having any glaring faults.
I think they have a real winner on their hands, which unfortunately means that these will remain in unobtanium status for the near future. If you follow Keltec on Facebook, you may have seen that they recently upped production on the RDB (to two rifles a week…just kidding) so maybe common availability will come sooner than you think.
Pros: Great ergonomics and handling. Out-of-the-box accuracy. Noteworthy trigger. Brass ejection pattern. Gas adjustability. Magazine release. Ease of takedown. Recoil management. Common magazines.
Cons: Magazine release can be accidentally activated if not paying attention and/or you have the gas set high. Would prefer a better finish on the barrel and gas system. Charging handle material/finish could be better. Malfunction clearing and chamber inspection is impeded due to the design of the rifle. As is customary with Keltec and one of my biggest complaints across the board, the rough plastic finishing.
This gun is leagues better than the P3AT/P32 handguns but still has too much flashing from the molds and poorly finished areas where they attempted to clean those up. Finally, availability.
Specifications: Keltec RDB
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 17.4″ 1/9 Twist
Overall Length: 27.4 (27.75 with SilencerCo muzzle brake)
Unloaded Weight: 7 lbs
Trigger Pull: 5.4 lbs (average of 10 pulls)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
The gun has perfectly acceptable accuracy with the limited time I had to wring it out and the ammo used. I look forward to trying out some match ammo and spending some quality time trying to pull better groups.
Ergonomics: * * * *
The gun handles, charges, and shoots great. For me, the magazine release and safety are good, but I can also see people having trouble with them.
Reliability: * * * *
The gun never choked with or without a suppressor. 600 rounds is not necessarily a big sample size, but it’s reliability through those 600 rounds of varying type inspires confidence.
Overall: * * * *
Overall, I believe the gun rides the four star line quite well. It is a well-rounded rifle that just works and does enough to sit at the grownup table, but doesn’t do enough to cut the turkey. I can definitely live with that.