Last week, RF wondered if pistol-caliber carbines were destined to become the next home-defense shotgun. He made the connection after firing the Kel-Tec Sub-2000 chambered in S&W .40 during my previous test of the the ArmaLite AR-10. RF was amazed at the Kel-Tec’s simplicity, low recoil and tremendous accuracy. While I’m not sure if his theory is an application too far for handgun caliber rifles, this much is true: The Kel-Tec Sub-200 is a breakthrough piece that offers a little something for everyone, and a lot of something for those who “get it.” Kel-Tec has hit another one out of the park.
How Swede It Is
Kel-Tec is yet another American firearms success story. After making his gun-designer bones for foreign firms, Swede George Kellgren landed in the Sunshine State to work for Swedish subsidiary Intratec, makers of the infamous TEC-9. In 1991, Kellgren lived the dream, founding Kel-Tec CNC Industries in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Since 1995, his baby’s been manufacturing small, affordable semi-auto pistols, expanding to carbines and rifles in 9mm, 40 S&W and 5.56mm (amongst others).
According to the ATF, Kel-Tec is now the third largest handgun maker in the US.
The Kel-Tec Sub2000 (or Sub2K) is Kellgren’s second attempt at the folding carbine concept. The company pulled the original Sub-9 folding carbine, introduced by Kel-Tec in the mid-90s, after only a few years. Cost, production and reliability concerns stunted sales and killed margins.
As its name implies, Kel-Tec introduced the replacement Sub2K carbine at the turn of the millennium as a “new-and-improved” version of the Sub-9. It’s equipped with a space-age polymer receiver that requires significantly less tooling than the original steel version. Kellgren’s mob sent it to market with a significant reduction in the weapon’s price tag: About half of the former Sub-9’s MSRP $700-to-$800 price tag.
Kel-Tec’s designers kept the original’s Sub-9’s cheap(ish)-to-shoot 9mm parabellum chambering. The newbie Sub2K’s 16.1 inch barrel adds a lot of potency. Bullets head downrange like a scalded rabbit, delivering the impact of a hot .357 magnum round. Yet another appealing aspect of the design: It’s fed by a variety of popular high-capacity pistol-round magazines including Smith & Wesson M&P, Sig Sauer P226, Beretta 92 or Beretta 96, and Glock 17, Glock 19, Glock 22, or Glock 23.
The Sub-2K 9mm was an immediate success. With a price point of anywhere from $325-to-$375, it was hard to keep 9mm Sub2Ks on the shelves at most gun shops and their scarcity and long order waiting periods made them collectors items and a “cult gun” right from the get-go. Just take one to a range anywhere in the USA, unpack it and it’s only a matter of time before you get a gaggle of curious onlookers all wanting to check it out up close and personal.
What’s even more impressive: Most folks can hit what they are aiming at with this folding carbine. A lot more so than they could with a handgun sporting a four- or five-inch barrel chambered for the same round.
In the past decade, Kel-Tec’s manufactured thousands of these potent and portable little 9mm carbines. The original Sub2K was a companion piece to my Glock 17L, employing the Glock 17 and G33 hi-cap mags. Over eight years, I put 5,000+ rounds through the Kel-Tec’s tube with nary a hiccup. I eventually sold the gun to a friend who was looking for a reliable home or self-defense weapon, and waited for the more potent 40-cal version to arrive.
Nuts & Bolts
The Sub2K tips the scales at only 4 pounds, unloaded. It’s a blowback operated, semi-automatic firearm. Its operating spring is located within the tubular stock. The receiver is made of an impact modified glass reinforced Zytel. The front end houses a hinge block holding the barrel and the rear site. This block is securely locked in place by a swiveling trigger guard. The receiver rigidly attaches to the stock by multiple lugs. The bottom of the receiver forms the pistol grip, also accepting different magazines according to the version specified. The receiver also houses the firing mechanism.
The 4130 ordinance steel barrel has a spring-loaded collar to ensure an accurate lock between the receiver and the polymer forend. The tubular steel stock contains the bolt and is terminated by the polymer buttstock. The stock also includes a single point sling loop attachment, a slot for adding a nylon sling loop, and a Picatinny rail on the bottom. The heavy duty two-piece steel bolt holds the firing pin, the extractor and has the charging handle on the bottom. A captive guide recoil spring with buffer actuates the bolt.
The firing mechanism is a conventional single action. It has a positive disconnector: a push-bolt safety that blocks the sear and disengages the trigger bar. The hardened steel ejector is internal. This design, with its long bolt travel, allows for smooth and simple operation and enhanced reliability.
The carbine’s main distinguishing characteristic: It folds in half. It’s an enormous advantage over other handgun-chambered carbines. In terms of storage, the Sub2K-40 doesn’t require a full-sized gun case or gun safe. It’ll tuck away within easy reach for HD owners. You never knew how bulky your rifles were to transport until you put a Sub2K in your car’s trunk. And concealment? Let’s put it this way: Don’t tell the bad guys.
The weapon breaks apart and pivots at the centerline. To fold, you pull downwards on the trigger guard and swing the barrel assembly back over the top of the carbine. A latch in the buttstock secures to the front-sight housing. For added safety, you can lock the gun in the folded position. The Sub2K cannot be fired when folded.
Takedown for basic cleaning is simple. Just push out the stock pin about ¾ of the way until the buffer is free to be removed. Then pull the bolt back by the operating handle and catch the recoil spring. Pull the operating handle out and downwards from its recess in the bolt. The two-piece bolt slides out. You can separate the two bolt components for more efficient cleaning. Further disassembly is not required.
To reassemble, just reverse this process and make sure that you don’t have any extra parts lying on your workbench. Leave the hammer back and the safety on during the disassembly and reassembly process. If you do not follow this one simple rule, it will be very challenging to put the pieces back together again (sort of like Humpty Dumpty).
Reach Out and Touch Someone
When sending rounds downrange, the 9mm Sub2K has an effective reach of more than 100 yards. At distances up to approximately 50 yards, a standard 115-grain FMJ 9mm bullet approaches the muzzle velocity and impact energy of a .357 magnum round fired at point blank range. At 200 yards downrange, the Sub2K’s 9mm round’s velocity approximates that of a .380 Auto’s muzzle velocity.
The 40-cal version of the Sub2K is an even more potent carbine, sending a 180-grain projectile downrange at over 1,200 fps. That gives the .40-Cal Sub2K a lot more knockdown punch than the 9mm version, approaching .41-Magnum ballistics. With that 16.1-inch barrel and extended sight radius, most shooters can continue to pour rounds accurately into whatever target they are aiming at time after time at distances ranging from 5 to 50 yards with minimal practice. It’s a “plus” weapon right out of the pizza box.
Having picked up a Parkerized version of the Sub2000-40G (Glock) earlier this year, I was anxious to get it sighted in and to see what she could do at the range. The good folks at Winchester supplied the ammunition for our field test. My plan: Keep it simple, narrowing our 40 S&W loads to 100 rounds each of plain-vanilla Winchester White Box 165-grain FMJTC, 180-grain FMJTC and 180-grain HP ammo, just like the economy-priced stuff you can get at Walmarts and your local gun shop.
The good news: After popping the caps on all 300-rounds, absolutely each and every one went “boom.” The Kel-Tec fed them reliably from a quartet of pre-ban Glock 22 15-round hi-cap mags in my inventory. While all three flavors of 40-cal ammo produced decent groups at both 25 and 50-yards, the 180-grain FMJTC (full-metal-jacket truncated cone) seemed to produce the tightest groups — by a hair — over the other two competitors.
If you have some basic shooting skills, you should expect consistent 1.5-to-2 inch groups shooting offhand at 25 yards, and 3- to 4-inch groups at 50 yards. For a plinker that shoots pistol ammo with rudimentary sights (the front is adjustable for both windage and elevation) and folds in half, this is pretty good shooting. A LOT better than the average person could accomplish with a pistol shooting the same ammo.
Just for the heck of it, I entered an uber-competitive pistol carbine match at a local range a few months back (in June). I did the whole “run and gun” thing in the “factory stock” category, putting over 150-rounds down the tube during the five-stage match. Just like the earlier range session, the Kel-Tec Sub2K-40 did it’s thing with 100 percent reliability. the Sub2K-40 didn’t miss a beat, firing first time and every time with zero jams, malfunctions or problems of any kind.
I was mildly amused at the steel-popper phase of the competition, where many of the 9mm shooters had to send multiple rounds downrange to knock down their targets, losing time and compromising their planned reload schedule. The Sub2K’s 40-cal ammo dropped the plates and poppers with a resounding metallic snap — further testimony to the potency of the 40 S&W round accelerated by a 16.1-inch barrel. If you hit it, it will fall.
When the smoke cleared, I placed in the upper third of the competitors — with a less-than-$400, made-in-USA weapon.
The Kel-Tec Sub2K-40 is the perfect “companion” gun for .40-caliber Glocks, Beretta Model 96, Sig-Sauer P226 and Smith & Wesson model 4006 .40-cal pistols (whose mags match-up with the Kel-Tec carbine). Just about everyone who shoots this handy little carbine for the first time loves it. Why wouldn’t they? It’s fun to shoot! Recoil is minimal while that 16.1-inch barrel assures phenomenal accuracy.
The gun’s light weight and fold-in-half portability make this carbine unique amongst its peer group. There’s nothing else like it on the market that can do the same things at the same affordable price. At $350-to-$375 retail with a lifetime warranty (to the original owner), you really can’t go wrong. AND you don’t need a pistol permit to buy it.
Whether or not the Kel-tec Sub-2000 in .40-caliber is the perfect Home-D gun is a question for another day. Judged by its own merits, what’s not to love?
SPECIFICATIONS – Kel-Tec Sub-2000 .40 (Gen 1):
Weight: 4 pounds
Overall Length Open: 31 inches
Overall Length Folded: 16.5 inches
Height Folded: 7 inches
Width: 2 inches
Barrel Length: 16.1 inches
Sights: Standard AR-15, (front sight), Pop-up aperture (rear sight)
Sight Radius: 14.5 inches
Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds, supplied (also uses hi-cap mags)
RATINGS (Out of FIve)
Style * * * *
Stylish it’s not. A Beretta CX4 has all the looks, But sometimes ugly is beautiful, especially when it’s functional.
Ergonomics (carry) * * * * 1/2
What’s not to like? It’s light at under four pounds, folds in half and you can hook up a single-point sling to carry in under your arm.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * 1/2
It’s a little challenging to center the front sight with the somewhat poor cheek weld, but you’ll get used to it. Technically, the front sight is “adjustable,” but it’s a real PITA. (Plan on adding a red dot ASAP). Very manageable recoil — way more than a 12-gauge and further reach too.
Reliability * * * * *
Shot everything I fed it, including steel case wolf, aluminum case CCI (not recommended) and 500 rounds of Winchester 180-grain FMJTC and HPs.
Customize This * * * *
Kel-Tec makes an interesting assortment of aftermarket parts like a low-pro forend, stock extension, rail attachments, etc.
Overall Rating * * * * 1/2
It’s ugly, but it sure can shoot straight. The “perfect” SHTF weapon, truck gun and survival tool, especially in hard hitting 40-cal.