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The Kel-Tec RDB-S

By Oleg Volk

Available with 20-inch or 17.3-inch barrels, the latter picked to match the ATF-mandated minimum overall length of 26”; it’s a handy and reliable weapon.

5.56mm Kel-Tec RDB has been one of my favorite designs since long before the production versions shipped. It’s accurate, well balanced, completely ambidextrous and doesn’t kick much. Available with 20-inch or 17.3-inch barrels, the latter picked to match the ATF-mandated minimum overall length of 26”; it’s a handy and reliable weapon. Some faulted it for bottom ejection, a feature that no serious weapon–other than Vickers, Lewis, Bren, Browning 1919, MAG58, P90 and a few others–would have. With the empties dropping right under the shooter, long sleeves are recommended for prone position. The introduction of RDB-C in 5.56mm and 6.5mm Grendel took me entirely by surprise–RDB without a pistol grip–George Kellgren handed me a weapon that looked like something out of Star Wars and told me I could try it out. I assumed that the evolution of the short action RDB was complete at that point, only to be surprised again.

RDB-S, “S” standing for Survival model, is a development of RDB-S, also without a protruding pistol grip. The barrel is only 16.1 inches long, which puts the overall length of the rifle into NFA territory ... except that RDB-S comes with a variable length stock which extends far enough out to make the entire rifle longer than 26 inches when deployed. Starting out with a relatively short length of pull, RDB benefits from this lengthening when fired from sitting or prone positions. Compared to the pistol grip, the angled gripping surface of the C model permitted a much higher hold. With the hand effectively around the bore of the rifle, pointing became very natural. The thumb may me wrapped around the upper receiver for a more secure hold or held alongside the lower for a smoother trigger pull. The trigger is 4 pounds and feels much like a safe action pistol, which I like because if affords a surprise break. The decision to go gripless may have been motivated by the efficiency of backpack...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N5 (June 2017)
and was posted online on April 21, 2017

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