Kel-Tec’s PMR-30 has earned the nickname “poor man’s Five-seveN” thanks to its light weight, high capacity, and fairly potent little caliber all in a semi-auto pistol format. While the 5.7×28 FN Five-seveN has always had a carbine companion in the PS90, Kel-Tec didn’t offer a buddy for its .22 WMR PMR-30 until now. Taking it a step further than FN, the release of Kel-Tec’s CMR-30 offers much more than simply a compact rifle in the same caliber, though, as the CMR uses the same magazines, controls, trigger, and more. . .
In The Box
The CMR-30 is nicely packaged inside of a white cardboard box, which also contains two magazines, owner’s manual, Kel-Tec 2015 catalog, gun lock where applicable, front sight adjustment tool, chamber flag, and Kel-Tec decal. Installed on the rifle is a set of Magpul flip-up AR-15 sights and a thread protector to prevent damage to the 1/2×28-threaded muzzle.
Likely to be the first thing anyone will notice is the CMR’s light weight. At 3.8 lbs, it barely outweighs some large, magnum revolvers.
The second thing you’ll notice is that it’s short. With the stock fully collapsed, the CMR is only 22.7″ long. Even with an AAC Element 2 suppressor installed, as seen above, it still fits inside my Blackhawk Diversion bag. Extend the stock and you’re looking at an OAL of 30.6″, good for a full-size, 14.2″ length of pull.
Features and Controls
“Ambidextrous” is a hot word these days in the gun market, and Kel-Tec didn’t leave much on the table here. The magazine release, thumb safety, stock release lever, and charging handles are fully ambi.
The charging handles do not reciprocate when the gun fires, and they lock forwards on a ball detent. They represent the widest point on the rifle at 2.9″ tip-to-tip, whereas the rest of the CMR is only about 1.2″ wide. If this is too thick, you can actually slim either or both of them down by removing the outside extension piece with the help of a hex wrench.
Like the PMR-30 — and this should be no surprise as they use the same mags — the CMR-30’s magazine release is on the heel of the grip. Depress the button and the magazine pops out into your hand.
U.S.-based shooters are more familiar with a thumb release near the trigger guard, whereas a heel release like this is much more common on European guns. Ultimately it may be a bit slower, but it’s easy and natural to use and is more conducive to smooth, “tactical reloads” where the removed magazine is retained rather than dropped to the ground (“speed reload”).
The mag release is certainly not the only control that’s the same as on the PMR, though. The thumb safety is identical, the trigger is identical, and the bolt/slide lock, which is the only non-ambi control, is identical.
In fact, it’s fair to say that the molds for these grip frames are effectively identical in many ways. As far as the parts you touch, grip, pull, and otherwise operate go, they are identical.
A shoulder stock is certainly a new addition, though, and the CMR has
an app a control for that. A lever in front of the trigger guard, accessible with either hand’s trigger finger, is pulled downwards to release the stock for collapsing or extending. Actually, for fast action, extending the stock doesn’t require the use of the lever at all. It’s spring-loaded so it locks into place on its own.
It isn’t actually a wire stock, as a curved, aluminum bar makes up the support on either side. It’s capped off with a nylon butt plate. The rifle does fire regardless of the stock’s position, and length of pull is a short 10.3″ with it collapsed and 14.2″ with it extended.
On either side of the aluminum receiver is a T-shaped rail on which the stock glides. Alignment and fit is quite precise, but a tensioning spring inside each stock arm doubly ensures that there’s no rattle.
The entire top of the receiver is adorned with a ~14.25″ picatinny rail, providing plenty of space for various optics and other accouterments. Under the front of the receiver, installed on the handguard, is a further ~7.25″ of rail estate. Both of these rails are actually removable, although removing the top one would leave you without the ability to mount optics.
Removing the bottom one, however (requires a hex wrench and playing with four bolts), leaves you with a more rounded, ergonomic gripping surface that’s quite different from the grater-like picatinny rail we all know and love. Of course, with the rifle’s short size and compact dimensions that rail is likely to come in handy for mounting forward grips/hand stops of various sorts. Mine sported a little ERGO SURESTOP most of the time.
A steel eyelet on which to clip a sling adorns each side of the lower frame’s rear end. The gun is upside down in the photo above, fyi.
Thanks to standard 1/2×28 threads on the muzzle and a healthy shoulder, the CMR-30 will accept a near-unlimited number of muzzle devices. Basically anything that screws onto an AR-15 will work here as well, like any of the muzzle devices from Shootout #1 or #2, or the newcomer pictured above. It’s nice to have a rimfire suppressor with stainless steel internals that’s rated for .22 WMR, 5.7×28, .17 HMR, and basically all of the other, similar calibers in addition to .22 LR, of course.
How It Works
The only .22 LR or .22 WMR I know of that doesn’t operate on a straight blowback action is Kel-Tec’s PMR-30, which is still at least mostly blowback. Although it’s very much the “big brother” to the PMR, the CMR-30 is a traditional blowback action with a fixed barrel.
The PMR employs dual extractors, but the CMR makes due with one.
The horizontal groove seen above the steel bolt’s “.22 WMR” marking rides on a rail that is an integral part of the aluminum receiver. Fit is appropriately precise and the action is smooth.
Like the PMR, the CMR employs an internal hammer and it’s housed in a steel insert. In this case, the insert also provides some surfaces to help guide the bolt. A recoil buffer is at rear, and that vertical plate is the backstop for the recoil spring, which is part of the bolt assembly. The hammer spring is stiff.
I did film a field stripping video for anyone wanting a walk-through and more angles on the internals, but the field strip process is actually fairly easy. First, the CMR should be cocked, bolt forwards, safety on “safe.” From right to left, push out the pin that’s on the frame above the trigger. Pull the frame rearwards a little then down off of the receiver. Extend the stock a bit, pull on a charging handle to move the bolt rearwards so you can get a finger in front of it, then pull the bolt and the stock rearwards until they’re out of the receiver. Done. The bolt will follow the stock out anyway once those two nubs on the recoil spring end plate hit the springs inside the stock bars, but the manual tells you to do that work yourself.
Once field stripped, all of the parts are readily accessible for cleaning. And you will want to clean this thing.
A good trigger is important. The PMR and CMR both have good triggers. Identical to each other, and very good. Certainly better than you’d expect given the MSRPs and the 2-piece plastic clamshell frame design, etc. They are true single-action triggers in that their only function is to drop the fully-cocked hammer.
They have a 2-stage feel to them, as there’ a very smooth pre-travel stage until the trigger stops on the sear, and then with just a bit more pressure you’re rewarded with an extremely crisp, excellent break followed by almost no overtravel. Break on my CMR is a light and consistent 3 lbs. The only place where the trigger falls short is its very light and quiet reset.
My intention was to shoot for groups at 100-yards, but I had tree cover blocking the blustery wind for about 60 yards and then it opened up, so 50-yard groups it was. Each of these ammo brands got five shots for group size as well as velocity testing over the previously-reviewed MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph. Results were as follows:
It should be obvious that I didn’t spend a lot of ammo sighting it in exactingly, but it’s still worth mentioning that the reticle of the LUCID L5 was centered in that red bull for every shot. The 30 grain ammo definitely hit quite high and a touch left compared to the others. Additionally, I actually blame myself for that “flyer” in the Fiocchi group (1st pic). The light break got away from me and one of those five rounds went downrange without my full blessing.
On The Range
3.8 lbs is a really freakin’ light rifle, and the little Kel-Tec is as maneuverable and as easy to pack around as you’d expect. It even balances nicely enough to shoot pistol-style, as seen in the video, with arms (or arm) outstretched.
Of course, it’s meant to be shouldered and shot as a rifle and in some ways it exceeded my Kel-Tec carbine expectations. The CMR handles and balances more like an SBR, and the light weight plus the essentially non-existent recoil of the flat-shooting .22 magnum round make for an easy-to-shoot, deadly quick and accurate little gun. Add that crisp, light trigger to the mix and the result is a firearm that can make any shooter look good. It’s simply hard to miss with it.
A feature that certainly exceeded my expectations by a mile is the shoulder stock. Unlike basically every other telescoping, wire-esque stock I’ve played with, this one seems to have entirely nailed the compact, lightweight thing without compromising on actual shooting functionality at all. Excellent if not perfect, really. Not only is the cheek weld the exact correct height for the included AR-15 sights and any AR-15 height optic, but it’s comfortable! The curvature and the rounded edges of the stock bars are spot on. It’s way more comfortable than it looks, and it’s also much more solid than it looks.
My preferred indoor range in this area does a “Fun Shoot” every week, which involves a single, IPSC-style stage of varying design. Last week it was set up like interior hallways with shoot and no-shoot targets hiding through “doors” or down halls. Seemed like a great course to run the CMR through a scenario in which it would be well suited, especially for particularly recoil-sensitive persons. With a simple red dot, the little Kel-Tec carbine made quick work of the course, and accuracy was great.
Unfortunately the CMR experience wasn’t all positive for me, and it broke down on the subject of…
Rimfire ammo is not clean ammo, and my CMR wanted to be clean as well as fairly well-lubed. It actually arrived more or less bone dry, and ran fine for 32 rounds before suffering its first failure to feed. The bolt didn’t cycle far enough rearwards to strip the next round from the magazine, nor did it cock the hammer. This was the recurring failure I suffered when the gun got too dry and/or dirty. Fit is fairly precise and there’s lots of surface area reciprocating against other surface area.
The photo above shows what the inside of the receiver looks like after ~90 rounds. It just fills up with flecks of brass and copper and then gets worse from there as carbon and gunpowder deposit everywhere and dry up the works. After that first FTFeed with barely more than one magazine of ammo through it, the CMR simply refused to run until I lubed it up. However, I shot a lot of rounds through this gun, and came to trust it for about 160 rounds before failures to feed started up again.
I fully admit that experimenting with lube choice, even including dry lube like graphite, might have improved my success (I generally use a very lightweight oil, but can’t say if a lighter film lube or a grease might perform better here). Fortunately, some fresh lube applied to the bolt rails through the ejection port — no field stripping — would get it running again for a few more boxes of .22 Mag.
I’ll likely experiment with hammer spring weight a bit. It’s extraordinarily stiff. Stiffer than needed to reliably ignite even rimfire primers and, while it certainly acts in part as a recoil spring as well, I expect I’d gain some dirty-&-dry reliability fudge factor if cocking the hammer wasn’t such a challenge.
Accuracy, ease-of-use, and fun factor top the charts. Great ergos, great trigger, and I’m surprised by how much I like the telescoping stock. I absolutely love the fact that it takes the same, 30-round magazines as my PMR-30 and I love this combo for a “survival kit.” The PMR weighs 13 oz, the CMR 3.8 lbs, the little magazines weigh nothing at all, and 1,000 rounds of .22 WMR comes in at just 8.4 lbs (1k rounds of M193 is more like 27 lbs). That’s a lot of survival, fun, and utility in a minimal amount of space and at a bare minimum of weight.
Unfortunately, the survival rifle fantasy broke down with the poor reliability. My PMR has been pretty solid, but I can’t currently trust the CMR unless it’s clean and lubed, and then only for ~160-or-so rounds. As it’s a straight blowback action I’m relatively confident I can tune the lube choice and the spring setup to beat this glitch entirely, but I sure wish it was fully hammered out from the factory. Of course, this is one of the very first CMRs to leave said factory, and feedback from early adopters often leads to little production and tooling tweaks that benefit more patient purchasers.
If Kel-Tec can produce enough to meet demand, or at least enough that prices on GunBroker hover right around MSRP, I’m still fairly bullish on the CMR-30. The .22 WMR is a solid cartridge for varmint hunting or, in a survival scenario, hunting larger critters as well, and the CMR-30 is accurate enough to put it to good use. The high capacity, compact size, light weight, and complete absence of recoil also make it a valid choice for home defense. When cleaned and lubed, that is.
Specifications: Kel-Tec CMR-30
Caliber: .22 WMR
Capacity: 30+1 rounds
Barrel Length: 16.1″
Overall Length: 22.7″ to 30.6″ (stock collapsed or extended, respectively)
Weight: 3.8 lbs (empty)
Material: aluminum upper receiver, glass-reinforced Zytel lower grip frame
Finish: hard coat anodizing on the aluminum
Sights: Magpul MBUS
Trigger Pull Weight: 3 lbs (as tested)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Ambi everything, and in easy-to-reach locations. Lots of [surprisingly comfortable] stock adjustment. Light, maneuverable, and very easy to shoot.
Reliability: * *
It’s tuned finely enough that a lack of lubrication and/or a bit too much schmutz in the works stopped it in its tracks repeatedly. That said, it feeds perfectly from the magazine into the chamber, and it extracts and ejects reliably.
Fit & Finish: * * * 1/2
It’s above my expectations for a Kel-Tec. No offense, Kel-Tec. Just, you know, I’m used to mold flashings and little lips and tooling marks and some gaps and such. MSRPs are more than fair for the level of finish. Yeah, there’s a seam where the clamshell halves of the grip frame meet, but other than that the machining and finish on the CMR-30 are really quite nice. The aluminum and steel look great everywhere.
Trigger: * * * *
Much better than it should be at this price. It would be a 5-star trigger if it had any sort of pronounced reset.
Customize This: * * * *
Lots of rail estate, and it’s nice that the handguard rail can be removed for a smoother grip, if desired. Factory-threaded barrel opens up options. Sling eyes plus rails for additional sling mounts, and a 5-position adjustable stock. This is a lot of adaptability in the .22 LR / .22 Magnum market.
Overall: * * * *
I’m conflicted between 3 and 4 stars on this one. Obviously the CMR’s distaste for being dry or dirty is a big issue for anyone wanting to depend on it for a survival or defensive firearm. However, that’s just one possible use for what is also an extremely fun little carbine to plink with on the range, target shoot, or hunt small game with, none of which demand unfaltering semi-auto reliability in all conditions. Less-than-stellar reliability is also the only hit to the ratings here. The form factor, utility, and perfectly-matched PMR pistol pushed me to 4 stars for the PMR.