Kel-Tec: An Unconvential Company

Story & Photography by Oleg Volk

My interest in Kel-Tec began in 2000 with then-restrictive Minnesota laws and the need to acquire a hideout pistol. All options on the market seemed to be either dense and heavy, chambered for the inadequate .22 rimfire or possessed of painful recoil. That’s when I came across the Kel-Tec P-32, a diminutive pistol that was a true breakthrough in self-defense technology. It was the first gun to combine a very light weight of 8 ounces with excellent accuracy and minimal recoil thanks to its locked breech. The pistol was available for around $200, in itself an impressive feat by comparison with the heavier, more primitive Seecamp, which was ammo-sensitive to boot. I was sufficiently impressed by that gun and started an fn web page: http://a-human-right.com/P-32
Over time, I started paying attention to the origin of that design, and George Kellgren came to my attention. By then, I also bought Kel-Tec’s first product, the P-11 pistol, which worked out less well for me. Kel-Tec tried to fix haphazard ejection direction and eventually refunded my money, a move that impressed me. Few gun makers were as helpful to the customers when they couldn’t effect a repair. When the SU-16 series of rifles came out, I bought one of those as well. Following in the footsteps of the metal clamshell Sub9 folding carbine, SU-16 used the same assembly method with lightweight plastic parts. Kel-Tec wasn’t the first company to use clamshells, but they made it mainstream and successful.

In 2009, I got to meet George Kellgren at SHOT show, and we talked. Later that year, I started working with the unique RFB 7.62mm bullpup, a battle rifle that ejected empties forward like the Maxim machine gun. Having had that rifle before its official release, I got to see the iterative process of refinement that made it ready for consumers. In 2010, I went to the Kel-Tec factory in Cocoa, FL, to see it for myself. Since then, I’ve become an even greater fan of the company and the people who run it.

Today, Kel-Tec is one of...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N2 (February 2018)
and was posted online on December 22, 2017


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