Gun Review: KelTec KS7 Shotgun

My love of shotguns extended to all forms of scatterguns, cheap and expensive, traditional or tactical, even bullpups. Bullpup shotguns actually make a lot of sense. Personal defense shotguns are made for close-quarters combat, and bullpups fill that role really well. When you combine the two, you get a short weapon that dominates at close quarters.

When the KelTec KS7 pump action shotgun premiered, I was excited, but apprehensive. I thought the KSG was cool, but after a friend spent a small fortune on one and was met with numerous failures, I stayed away.

From what I’ve seen and heard, the KSG had some initial teething problems, but those have long since been resolved. I can say I’ve had this KS7 for quite some time now and what they figured out with the KSG transferred over to the KS7.

KelTec KS7 Breakdown

The KelTec KS7 is a bullpup shot that owes its existence to the KSG. The KSG was famous for its dual magazine tube design that gave you 14 rounds of 2.75-inch shells. The KS7 uses a single tube that simplifies the design and still gives you a respectable seven rounds of 2.75-inch shells.

The single-tube KS7 is noticeably thinner than the KSG in both literal size and price. Before the COVID craziness, the KS7 was selling at my local gun store for $400-ish out the door. That price has since risen.

The KS7 is a mere 26.1 inches in length. Any shorter than 26 inches and we’d be looking at a short-barreled shotgun…and NFA complications. It’ll fit in SBR type AR 15 cases. Heck, the KS7 is a stocked shotgun that’s shorter than the Remington TAC 14/Mossberg Shockwave series of non-shotgun guns and it’s much handier overall.

A hair shorter than a PGO firearm (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The elephant in the room is that big ole’ carry handle that sits atop the KS7. It’s eye-catching and gives the gun a certain retro kinda cool. It’s also most certainly a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The good news is the carry handle can be removed and replaced with an optic rail should you so choose.

The carry handle serves three purposes; to infuriate people when it’s used as a carry handle, to contain your sighting system, and to give you a few M-LOK slots for accessories. I’ve attached a Crimson Trace light with an M-LOK mount. Behind the pump are a few M-LOK slots. I can’t think of anything I’d mount in that area besides maybe a sling. If someone made some M-LOK shell holders, I’d attach a few for some spare onboard ammo.

M-LOK slots on the carry handle allow for easy accessory mounting (Travis Pike for TTAG)

As the weapon comes, there’s no means to attach an optic. As someone who likes the carry handle, I’m dreaming of low profile mini red dot integration, but alas, I’m left dreaming. The pump and grip are outfitted with the KelTec alligator grip texture, and it’s completely functional and works fine. I do wish the pump featured M-LOK slots at the bottom to attach a vertical grip.

One feature I think is neat is the magazine tube has small cuts, witness holes that allow you to see just about how much ammo you have left. The high visibility white follower is easy to spot and makes it so you can see when you’re down to a few shells.

Magazine cutouts allow for ammo counts on the fly. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Range Time = Pain Time (kind of)

Off the bat, one of the lessons learned about the KSG is that dumb people do dumb things and will find a way to drift their hand in front of the barrel. To help prevent that, KelTec has integrated a shield at the front of the pump to keep your hand from drifting foreward. It’s a very good idea and safety is always paramount, but it can cause some pain.

Curl your thumb away from the hand stop. (Travis Pike for TTAG)

With my big hands, my thumb naturally sits forward and against the shield. I use the Rob Haught push/pull technique, and when I’m pushing my support hand forward, I get a good bit of recoil that bashes into my thumb with every shot. A simple fix is to cock my thumb rearward a bit and press it inwards into the pump.

The KS7 is a light 5.9 pounds, so recoil mitigation or low recoil rounds are critical with the KS7. It can be brutal if you don’t use the proper technique. Technique really is everything with any shotgun, but with the KS7, it might be a bit more critical. That being said, I prefer a lightweight, maneuverable defensive shotgun to a heavier, lower recoiling model.

The short length and light weight make the KS7 super easy to move around and swing from target to target. Transitioning between multiple targets is very easy and, dare I say, fun. Swinging between two targets was faster and more intuitive with the KS7 than with my Mossberg 590A1.

Ergonomically Wise

KelTec got the length of pull right with the KS7, and it’s a short and friendly 13 inches. No need to blade your body, square up to your target, and shoot. The KS7 has a small built-in recoil pad, but will happily accept a few others from companies like Pachymayr.

13 inch LOP makes it comfortable for most shooters (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Most bullpups are rarely left hand-friendly, but the KS7 finds a way to be quite nice in that department. The gun feeds and ejects out the bottom, so no hulls are flying in your face if you’re a lefty. The pump recoil is ambidextrous, and while the safety is a cross-bolt design, it’s easy to use with either hand.

The ambidextrous pump release (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The short reach to the pump makes the KS7 friendlier for smaller shooters. The front shield is backed by a rear shield to keep your hand from sliding off the pump when running it hard rearward. The pump action isn’t super smooth; there are some jumps and stall points. If you run it slow and try to find them, you will. Does that affect how the gun operates?

One big truckin safety (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Not at all, but Wingmaster fans may not be impressed.

Bang, Boom, and Pow

The KS7 is fun to shoot, and the sight (singular) is nice. It’s a front sight only design, but instead of your traditional bead, the KS7 has a bright high visibility fiber optic triangle. It’s simple, big, eye-catching, and well-suited for buckshot. It’s not as precise as ghost rings or even a bead for slug work. The sights are most certainly best suited for buckshot.

The trigger is impressive and surprising. It’s very short and crisp with a loud and very tactile reset. It doesn’t need to be this good, but it is.

My apprehension was reliability, but I was happily reassured. I’ve shot this thing a lot. I’ve fired hundreds and hundreds of rounds since I got it and the KS7 cycles and functions without issue. It’s never jammed, failed to extract, or failed to eject. The gun runs very well and works just as a pump-action should.

Short, light, handy, and sweet (Travis Pike for TTAG)

I’ve seen and heard people who’ve used mini shells well in the KS7, but that hasn’t been my experience. The mini shells run about 70% of the time for me, and I don’t necessarily knock a gun for not running well with ammo it’s not designed to use. Especially what I consider to be novelty ammo.

The downside you’ll run into is reloading. It’s a bit slow, and that’s to be expected when the magazine tube is placed nearly against your shoulder. I’ve found that if I keep my elbow pinned to my body and load a shell at a time, I can be decently quick. There’s no way to do a port reload should you run completely dry.

While reloading is an important skill to have, it’s highly unlikely for someone to run a shotgun dry before achieving your goal. Shotguns aren’t suppressive weapons and tend to do what they need to in just a few rounds fired. That’s the joy of a 12 gauge shooting 00 buck, right folks?

Does the space force need a shotgun? (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Overall, I’m suitably impressed with the KS7. It’s a fun, lightweight, compact, reliable, and powerful weapon that’s made in America and normally has a great price tag along with it. It’s more than worth checking out once the current craziness disappears. And maybe even before.

Specifications: KelTec KS7 Shotgun

Caliber: 12 gauge up to 3 inch
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 26.1 inches
Weight: 5.9 pounds
Length of Pull: 13 inches
MSRP: $539 (current COVID craziness price about $579)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ergonomics * * * *
The only downside was my thumb catching some recoil. It was easy to fix the problem, but it does still exist and needs to be acknowledged. The controls and ergonomics are great all around.

Reliability * * * * *
With 2.75 and 3 inch shells, it’s been 100% reliable. Even with cheap Rio buckshot, it eats it all and does so without complaint.

Modularity * * * 
You can add some M-LOK accessories or rails, change the carrying handle for an optic’s rail, and that’s about it. At least so far. I want an M-LOK or railed pump for attaching a VFG to avoid hitting my thumb.

Accuracy * * * * *
It’s a shotgun with a very solid trigger, so accuracy is pretty much dead-on.

Overall * * * * 1/2
The KS7 is a surprisingly great shotgun. I approached it as a skeptical snob with some apprehension and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a solid little gun that checks the boxes of what a tactical shotgun should be.

comments

  1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

    I got one of these as a gift when moved into a wall tent with grizzly neighbors. I put the KSG rail on it in place of the handle, mounted a Romeo 5, used the cushiest Limbsaver slip on pad I could find. My biggest problem with the gun is reload as my shell rims snag on that retainer thing when I am trying to insert them. I imagine that this is due to poor technique on my part as this is my first shotgun. Anyway I can’t reload this quickly at all yet.

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      I just tried the loading process again and it was somewhat faster even though I haven’t practiced in a few weeks. Looking at that “outer catch (the one with serrations) with reading glasses on (again) made it more clear how it was to be loaded. Reloads had always been a low priority because I had really only thought of using this as a bear gun and didn’t think I’d even get a chance for a reload if I dicked up the first 8 shots.

  2. avatar El Duderino says:

    I think it’s great that our Colonial Marines are getting an upgraded Pulse Rifle.

    1. avatar Cthulhu2020 says:

      Agreed.

      (chuckling)

  3. avatar NORDNEG says:

    Yes ,,, Kel Tec makes good & fun to shoot compact shotguns,
    I have several combat style shotty’s & my favorite continues to be my K S G,
    For home defense or for protection in the boonies from animals that want to eat you they are the best,
    Best part about it is they are basically a point & shoot weapon, but if you need to aim, they really do reach out there with slugs & buckshot.

  4. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    No thank you. Too many friends have had too many bad experiences with all things Kel-Tec. Including this shotgun.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      One of my friends got a KelTec bullpup shottie and let me try it. The overall “wow” factor was great, but the ergonomics were poor, and the angle of the buttstock prevented proper visual alignment with the sights.

      1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

        IME Kel-Tec gets the cool (or at least gun nerd neato) factor and price point right and stops there; ergonomics are definitely not their thing. The P32 is another good example – really neat and reliable but too thin to hold properly.

  5. avatar Shire-man says:

    I’ve had one for a little over a year and its been sent back to Florida twice.

    First time out it refused to release shells from the magazine. I put a couple boxes through it, contacted KT and they asked for it back.

    Two weeks I got it back. Better but still holding onto those shells. Various brands, various sizes. I put a few more boxes through it. Contacted KT. They wanted it back again.

    Another two weeks go by.
    I get it back.

    Better. But still hangs onto every 10th or 12th shell like grim death.

    This time I kept it figuring this is just how its going to be. I keep shooting it and it gets better. Slowly but surely it gets better. I put as many high brass shells as my shoulder can tolerate effectively trying to beat the shit out of it and it gets better.

    Today it runs great. Especially with minishells. I still don’t have total faith in it and if I were ever to grab a life or death shotgun it’d be my 590 but the KS7 is fun to look at and now it’s fun to shoot.

    Maybe in time it will earn my trust. It does seem to get better with every outing.

    1. avatar Cea says:

      How is your KS7 hanging onto the 10th or 12th shell? Are you confusing the KS7 with the KSG?

      1. avatar Shire-man says:

        Meaning it’ll empty one full magazine no problem only to hang up on one the next fill up. The behavior isn’t consistent in any way I can tell. Brand, size, pump speed or force, wrist position, etc… Its seemingly random. When it happens I have to stick a finger in and push the shell in a couple of times before it will pop out.

        1. avatar Cea says:

          Well, that is strange!
          Thanks for clearing that up for me. I was considering a KS7 late last year. They were going for just over $400. I guess that it is just as well that I didn’t end up with one.

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    Ehhh…I wasn’t impressed with the 2 KelTec guns I had. And I can get TWO Macerick88’s for the price of one of these(they were $259 at my LGS last month-both 18 & 20″ barrel models). And they WORK…

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I have a mav88. It’s a great budget shotty…. but I want a KS7… and one of those nottashotgunorapistols….

      Georgia voters better get their act together in the runoff, or I’ll possibly be left wanting….

  7. avatar Daniel Hoover says:

    I have a semi-auto 12ga so this is a hard pass and mine cost way less

  8. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I was not impressed when I check out one at the local gun store. It does however look very “Ripley” (Aliens) like.

  9. avatar Krobi says:

    I must be lucky. My KSG was amazing from the beginning and I believe reading up and checking out YouTube videos that familiarized me with it’s quirks made the difference. I placed a metal picatinny over the crappy plastic one on the underside pump for a vertical grip, replaced the plastic magazine followers with metal ones as well and it’s as reliable as I’d hoped. I had the same good fortune with the Vepr 12, basically an AK semi-auto. Runs everything I put in it. Only regret I have with Kel Tec is their Sub 2K and only because of how cheaply it was made. A plastic feed ramp, for God’s sake.

  10. avatar Tom Worthington says:

    “And this, members of the jury, is the outrageous weapon used to kill the deceased. Do I really even need to say more?”

    1. avatar Idaho Boy says:

      Most likely. It depends on whether or not the deceased deserved to be deceased.

  11. avatar Iron Cat Beast says:

    It’s rare that I desire a gun on style points alone, but I have enough utilitarian shotguns already and this thing reminds me of the M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens, so I want it in my collection. That it’s also apparently a very reliable piece is langiappe.

    1. avatar edward kenway says:

      Gotta be a Frenchman of some sort.

  12. avatar Ice Age says:

    Why does every single guy who reviews guns have giant hulking Sasquatch hands?

    I’ve wondered about this for decades. Even way back when I’d buy issues of Guns or American Handgunner, it was always the same story.

    The guy reviewing the full-size Beretta or double-stack 1911 had to wrap a Pachmayr grip around it to hold it comfortably. Couldn’t properly get hold of an AR grip either.

    Are giant hands some sort of informal requirement to get a job at a gun website?

    1. avatar Iron Cat Beast says:

      It comes with the territory of being owner/operater an unmanageably huge penis. Our feet tend to be on the larger side as well, but that doesn’t come up as often in gun reviews.

      1. avatar edward kenway says:

        Now I know you’re a Frenchman.
        You’re bragging.

        Is that a Keltec in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

        1. avatar Iron Cat Beast says:

          Nice to know you’re into Frenchmen, but sorry, dude; I’m taken.

  13. avatar Craig in IA says:

    Not a fan of KelTec products for anything other than recreational shooting. Dumb me- I’ve had an old Win ’97 solid frame loaded at the back door of my way-rural property for nearly 40 years. I have to remember to lube it now and then. It’s dispatched a number of 4 legged vermin over the years, I’ll have confidence it’ll work on the 2-legged variety if need be,

  14. avatar KBCraig says:

    I want to see one upside down: barrel on the bottom, magazine on top. This would increase the straight-line recoil pulse and reduce muzzle rise, and shorten/straighten the trigger linkage (always a problem on bullpups).

    Someone far more clever than I might even devise a side loading gate for topping up.

  15. avatar Levi says:

    Why I wouldn’t buy one:

    1. It is too light for 12 gauge pump at under 6 pounds. For most people recoil will feel brutal – like getting punched in the shoulder (as opposed to an auto or a 7 lb all steel shotgun). And BTW, as the author sort of mentioned, toting it around any organized gun range with the carry handle will be prohibited because it violates safety Rule #2.

    2. It is could be unsafe to have your hand that close to the barrel end of a light shotgun like this. Even with the little “shield” a sweaty hand could slip off (forward) under the heavy recoil.

    3. KelTec quality is below manufactures such as Ruger, S&W, Browning, (used) Remington, and several others.

    4. It looks like a Nerf gun. People will laugh at you at the range. Buy a real shotgun.

    1. avatar Shiffrod says:

      2. Has been a fake concern since the ksg came out. It’s happened to maybe two people and most of the time it’s because they bought cheap knock off hand guards or vfg that broke.

      4. Lies. It doesnt get as much attention know as 5 or 6 years ago but I still get people coming to my lane and chatting me up about it and wanting to shoulder it etc…

  16. avatar Shiffrod says:

    I love my ksg. It’s my favorite firearm and I’ve killed many turkeys with it. The fudds cant stand me hunting with a “tactical” shotgun which makes it even more valuable to me.

  17. avatar Shiffrod says:

    Travis Pike RE: VFG

    I dont know why everybody automatically goes for the vfg on these. I’ve found that and AFG2 is much more comfortable with a more natural position for the wrist, spreads racking force more evenly on the rail, and has a hand stop attached. I greatly prefer it.

    1. avatar Travis L Pike says:

      For me its just to avoid the proper thumb position issue

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