Over the last hundred years, the military mantra where ammunition is concerned has been “bigger isn’t necessarily better.” Battle rifles moved from .30-06 Springfield to 5.56 NATO. Handguns and SMGs went from .45ACP to 9mm Para. And even the king of the battlefield, the heavy machine gun, is being downsized from .50 BMG to .338 Lapua. The reason is pretty simple: Smaller rounds mean a more controllable gun and a higher ammunition capacity. KRISS disagrees. They think the future of the submachine gun isn’t paved with tiny shell casings. Instead, they favor a return to the roots of the gun . . .
One of the first functional, effective, and widely used submachine guns was the Thompson SMG. It’s one of my favorites, mainly because of how controllable the gun is even when flipped to full auto. Seriously, despite the .45ACP ammo diet, the gun doesn’t move an inch. Unfortunately most of that recoil absorption comes from the fact that the thing doubles as an effective anchor for the battleships, making it somewhat difficult to carry around all day on the battlefield. The fine folks at KRISS wanted to find a way to make a controllable pistol-caliber carbine SMG that uses the same .45ACP cartridge while still being lightweight enough to be useful in modern tactical situations. Their solution — the KRISS Super V System.
The idea behind their recoil system is to direct the force from the gun’s recoil downwards, counteracting the natural tendency for the gun to “walk” upwards as it fires. This illustration shows the recoil system locked in place and ready to fire — the system is a closed-bolt design, and the trigger is actually housed in the upper portion of the firearm instead of below the action. When the gun fires, the bolt moves backwards and rides up the sides of the red highlighted buffer. This imparts the force of the bolt into that moving mass, which then moves downward and counteracts the muzzle-climb tendency of the firearm.
Here we see the bolt and buffer at the extreme end of its travel. At this point, the gun is indeed pretty balanced. The felt recoil is counteracted and the sights stay pretty much on target. But there’s a problem — you can never completely cheat Newton out of his equal-but-opposite reaction. We’ll get to that in a second, though.
Visually, the gun looks very boxy and awkward — and it feels that way too. The fire controls are ambidextrous, but the ammunition-feeding controls are dedicated for right-handed shooters. There’s no southpaw option on the other side of the gun. So if you’re a lefty you’ll need to use your weapon hand to activate the controls on the gun to load and reload. The charging handle is probably the worst offender, since not only is it fixed to the left side of the gun, but it’s extremely tough to operate after you put a few rounds through the gun.
Speaking of reloading, the gun uses standard GLOCK magazines. I always appreciate when a manufacturer uses magazines from other popular firearms in their new contraptions — especially the less widely produced ones — as it makes the job of finding spare magazines much, much easier. It also allows you to only carry one type of magazine for both your long gun and your handgun if you run a GLOCK 21.
Moving on to the fire controls, they’re . . . different. With most SMGs, the safety on the gun does double duty as the fire-control selector. On the MP5, for example, the same lever takes the gun off “Safe” and sets it to whatever flavor of happiness you desire for that moment.
On the Vector, the ambidextrous safety and the mode selector are in two different places. The safety is where you’d expect to be, but the mode selector is way out in front near the hammer assembly. There’s a positive side to this arrangement, namely that you can pre-select your rate of fire with the safety engaged and leave it there. Then again, if you need to quickly switch from one mode to another it might take a second or two to find the thing let alone move it to the desired rate of fire.
You’re not going to want to move it, though.
On semi-automatic, the gun is a dream. The recoil is pleasant, and the trigger is actually not too bad, for a sub gun, that is. When you move that selector on to one of the full-auto modes, though, everything turns to crap.
This is what the gun does in two-round burst mode. The first shot is consistent and groups well (lower left), but the second shot is always high and to the right. This target was shot at 10 yards, by the way. It does this every. Single. Time.
Like I said, you can’t really cheat Newton out of his equal-but-opposite reaction. While the downward moving mass does soak up some of that recoil, it re-applies it right back into the gun when it slams into the top of the receiver at the top of its movement. The effect of that unexpected additional upward force just at the moment the gun fires is obvious from the target — shot number two is consistently much higher than the first.
Exacerbating this problem is the extremely high rate of fire for the firearm. The Thompson SMG ran somewhere around 600 rounds per minute which is a nice, comfortable rate of fire that allows the shooter to keep things pretty well in hand. The Vector fires at twice that rate, a finger-scorching 1,200 rounds per minute. In something small like a 9mm SMG, that might be acceptable, but when you’re throwing 220 grains of lead downrage with every fall of the hammer things get hairy.
Throw the gun into full-auto mode and the gun is nearly impossible to control. My definition for accuracy in a full-auto SMG is being able to put every round into the above silhouette target at 10 yards, but I was only able to accomplish that feat with the Vector with much application of concentration and muscle.
The Vector has some great things going for it, namely its compact size and the easily suppressed nature of the ammunition. But if you look on the Wikipedia page, where there’s usually a “Users” section for firearms to name the military and law-enforcement agencies using the gun, that section is noticeable by its absence. It’s an interesting design and definitely a fun gun in semi-auto mode, but when you’re in a CQB situation where missing the target isn’t an option, there’s a reason the professionals have transitioned to smaller cartridges.
Sometimes smaller really is better.
KRISS Vector SMG Specifications:
Caliber: .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 5.5 inch barrel
Size: 24.3 inches extended, 16 inches compact
Weight: 6 lbs. empty
Capacity: 25-round magazines
MSRP: $1,895 (civilian semi-auto variant)
Overall Length Collapsed: 18.5 in.
Overall Length Extended: 27.9 in.
Operating System: Closed Bolt, Delayed Blowback
Action Type: Select Fire
Stock: Ambidextrous Side Folding Stock
Weight: 7.45 lb
Barrel Material: 4140 Chrome Moly
Barrel Finish: Black Nitride (QPQ)
Twist Rate: 1:10″ RH
Trigger Type: Pivoting, Single Stage
Sights: Flip-up, polymer Magpul MBUS sights
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.
It’s damn near impossible to control in full-auto mode. Even in two-round burst the thing throws alpha-charlie groups.
Ergonomics: * *
Southpaws need not apply.
Ergonomics Firing: * *
Recoil isn’t just present — it’s different. Very different. Also, the fact that the knuckles on your left hand are about an inch behind the massive fireball that this thing spits doesn’t help.
Customization: * * *
There’s a Picatinny rail and a threaded barrel, but not much in the way of aftermarket parts for the gun itself. Although I hear rumors that new products will be coming very shortly.
Overall Rating: * *
Pass. The fact that it fires a .45 ACP cartridge is cool, but I value keeping the sights on target more than sheer weight of fire.