An Accurate .308, Forward-Ejecting Bullpup: Kel-Tec RFB — Full Review

I am not generally a fan of bullpup designs, it is just not my flavor. I understand many people are, and for a variety of reasons. Some just like that they are different. Some like the full-length barrel in a compact package, also a valid point. Some like the concept of a rifle that handles like an SBR, without the need for tax stamps. I get that too. The soldier in me just can’t get behind it though. I see bullpups as a novelty, but not a replacement for rifles. I don’t care if the Brits carry them, they also sip tea. I’ll take tactical advice from the Redcoats the day I am wearing a toe tag.

Kel Tec RFB, far from its native habitat.

Kel-Tec RFB

Still, I was curious about this one. If nothing else, I generally like everything Kel-Tec produces. Kel-Tec is the most outside the box thinking company in the industry, and more importantly, their designs go bang. The strange design is very much preferable to unreliable, and Kel-Tec can never be accused of cookie cutter replica guns. I have already made an exception to my no bullpups policy for the KSG shotgun, so this was worth a look.

 Check out Clay’s review of the KSG-25.

The RFB is chambered in 308 Winchester, which gives you quite a lot of gun in a small package. With an 18-inch barrel, which our test model was wearing, the overall length is 26 inches. A 24-inch barrel is also available, increasing the size to 36 inches. Unloaded weight is 8.1 pounds, not bad for this caliber.

This is not the first foray of Kel Tec into the bullpup market. In addition to the KSG shotgun, Kel Tec also created the RDB line years back. The names are so close, I called the RFB the RDB several times during the video portion of this review. What, exactly, is the difference? RDB stands for rifle, down, bullpup, describing the platform and how it ejects empty casings. The RDB ejects empties down, which is a pretty unique design itself.

The RFB, in a radical departure from everything, stands for rifle, forward, bullpup. It actually ejects rounds out the front of the handguard, which takes some getting used to. Talk about a feat of engineering! There is a small tray under the outer polymer shell, which feeds empty shell casings toward the muzzle. When you get enough of them stacked up, they start falling free. Without fail, every time I lowered the gun after shooting and brass fell on the ground, I looked at the rifle to see if it was broken. It is a very weird concept, but it works as advertised.

SPECS:

  • Cartridge: .308
  • Capacity: 20+1 rds.
  • Overall length: 26 in.
  • Barrel Length: 18 in.
  • Twist Rate: 1:11-in. rate
  • Trigger Pull: 5 lbs.
  • MSRP: $1,929

The trigger was the biggest surprise, as most bullpup triggers are abysmal. The RFB is shockingly good. Very little take-up, almost no over travel, I would actually say it is better than a standard AR. Kel Tec says it is 5 pounds, and my trigger gauge says slightly more. But in use, it feels like neither. It could have been just that it exceeded expectations, but I was mystified every time I dropped the hammer. It is that good.

Accuracy was also well beyond the expected. I have never tried a Kel-Tec rifle, so I was basing accuracy standards on other bullpups, and battle rifles. I would have been happy with a 3 MOA or better group. I slapped the good old NightForce 7-35X scope on, broke out the new foam action shooting sports blocks, and away we went.

The blocks were important since you can’t put a bipod on the RFB. There is a separate review of the foam action blocks coming up, but they are awesome. The RFB turned in a just over a 1 MOA group, measuring right at 1&1/8th inches from 100 meters. Very impressive for this style of rifle. Also, this might be the first time ever that a $4,000 scope was used on a Kel-Tec.

Lasting Impressions

After the initial accuracy test, I switched to an optic that is a better fit for a mid-range rifle. I had Night Force 1-8 short dot scopes on hand, so it seemed like a winning idea. The combination proved a winner, as I worked steel at distance and up close paper targets. The RFB ran without a hiccup, eating everything thing I fed it.

In a couple hundred rounds of testing, only two things came up. First, I had trouble getting the magazine to seat, and not just when it was full. This is probably more a training issue than a design flaw, but know ahead of time, you have to rock the mag in like an M-14. The second was the recoil impulse. There is a bit of recoil, and it moves in a weird direction. I would classify it as low and right instead of high and right, which feels a little strange. It’s not better or worse than a similar size AR, it is just different.

If you like bullpups, or just want a weapon that is from off the beaten path, the Kel Tec RFB is a winner. If nothing else, it is big bore firepower that will fit under the seat in a Honda Civic.

For more information about Kel-Tec, click here.

***Check out GunsAmerica for your next Kel-Tec purchase.***

 

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website, Off-The-Reservation.com

{ 42 comments… add one }
  • Will February 6, 2018, 5:10 pm

    “This is not the first foray of Kel Tec into the bullpup market.”

    That statement is actually exactly wrong. The RFB predates both the KSG and RDB by several years. It was preceded by the sub2000 and SU16 series, respectively.

    It was very tough to come by for a long time, due to a combination of high demand and low supply, regularly selling well above MSRP.

    I’m not even a KEL TEC fan, the screwed together plastic clamshell construction of their weapons is better suited to the 80’s laser tag pistols which it emulates, but even I know which came first. How do you publish an article with such a mistake? It’s one thing for the writer to make a mistake – where is the editor who reads and approves the story, and is supposed to catch that sort of thing for correction?

    How does this happen on a big gun site? The RFB was a very high profile, much talked about(although less seen) weapon.

  • John C. February 5, 2018, 9:22 pm

    I only own one Kel Tec. It’s a .223 with a built I Bi-pod. It shoots anything I feed it. Brass or steel. It’s a great coyote gun.It’s not a bullpup but If they work as well as my .223 I would buy one.

    • Mike February 6, 2018, 5:03 pm

      I have the KELTEC RFB .223 and I love that gun. Trigger is not bad at all. Getting ready to put a suppressor on it.

  • FirstStateMark February 5, 2018, 9:00 pm

    Thanks Clay. Good review.

  • Gregory M Hill February 5, 2018, 1:43 pm

    It accepts FAL magazines.

  • Jonny5 February 5, 2018, 1:05 pm

    You may criticise the Redcoats but the Brits have been doing this shit for centuries, unlike the US. And also, you always turn up late to world wars. Just sayin’ like.

    • Larry Whiteside February 5, 2018, 3:16 pm

      The Liber Limey’s lost to us 2 times in wars so they aren’t that good. Right out in the open with Red Coats. Just saying.
      Semper Fi Viet Nam 67-68 USMC DMZ.

      • Richard February 5, 2018, 6:03 pm

        You would think a Marine would have better knowledge of history. The only reason we have our independence is because the British didnt want to get into another war with France, when the French deicided to back us with navel blockades.

        Second, we kinda got our asses handed to us in the War of 1812. So what are these 2 loses you are referring too????

        • Jonny5 February 6, 2018, 2:53 am

          Over to you Larry… Richard is being objective about this. You know that we pioneered the robbing and stealing from other countries thing but it fell out of fashion after 1945 and we handed a load of countries back to their owners. That didn’t turn out great for them. India is a nuclear armed and space exploration nation; but a lot of them still do number twos in the street. We even got China hooked on opium and “borrowed” Hong Kong for a hundred years. We behave a bit better these days now of course and for a while only got involved in overseas stuff when Bush Jnr told Tony Blair to get his tongue in a bit deeper to his hoop.

      • Jonny5 February 5, 2018, 6:05 pm

        You got pumped in Vietnam as well, Larry. Sorry to break it to you. Gulf War Part I went OK, the jury is still out on Part II and Afghanistan is a bit of a fuckfest currently. So, in view of the foregoing, maybe you should take some of that Redcoat advice.

      • Larry February 6, 2018, 6:11 pm

        Right on bro’! 52nd Group Artillery, Pleiku… 68-69

    • Reticent Rogue February 6, 2018, 11:44 am

      Thanks for stirring things up, Jonny5. Refreshing to see the repartee of old farts at a testosterone tea party. You fellas should remember that British and American soldiers are some of the bravest and best fighters on the planet. I have fought alongside both and I can’t think of a single war lost by either of them. That accolade goes to their leadership and the politicians.

    • ejharb February 14, 2018, 2:57 am

      Having to get your arse kicked twice to learn your lesson is the epitome’ of persistent.disarming your citizenry twice after almost becoming germany’s biotch twice is the epitome’ of stupid.
      Allowing muzzrats into your nation in larges numbers and making one the mayor of your capital is the epitome’ of suicidal. Need we go on?

  • Brian February 5, 2018, 12:26 pm

    The redcoats sent their JV squad to fight in the revolutionary war. The varsity team would have been a different story.

    • Richard Wallace February 5, 2018, 10:47 pm

      Dildo Lips, the main point is that the Brits lost, and they lost in WW1 and WW2, but we saved them. Nuff
      said, Ream Rod!

    • Larry February 6, 2018, 6:14 pm

      They had plenty of time to switch from JV to Varsity anytime… you lost… get over it.

  • Cary Kieffer February 5, 2018, 11:08 am

    I bought an unfired “used” one from a patron at the gunstore for $750. It was scoped, bipod rail and bipod, magpul sling on it and YHM muzzlebrake. Threw away the factory mag and went with older fal mags with the steel follower. Newer fal mags with plastic follower wouldn’t feed well. Got the gas set and it’s been shooting surprisingly good groups ever since with Barnaul zinc cased 168’s. Made a fine suppressor host too, just turn down the gas a little. For $750 it was a home run and as the author said the trigger is surprisingly good…I don’t think I would have liked it so much at full price though. For full price I like my LAR-8 much more.

  • Mattitude February 5, 2018, 11:01 am

    The manual specifically states that the magazines are to be inserted straight into the well (like an AR) and to NOT rock the magazine to lock. My Hunter worked perfectly with Thermold magazines, never had a single problem.

  • Mike H February 5, 2018, 10:06 am

    I don’t like the polymer mags that come with the RFB. Milsurp metric FAL mags work great and they’ll insert straight into the mag well with out rocking and will lock up tight. Never had a jam on mine but have experienced fail to feed if the gas was not set properly allowing the bolt to cycle fully to the rear. Field strip and cleaning simple.

  • Roger February 5, 2018, 9:45 am

    Agree 100 percent bull pups a comic fad.

    • GRIM REAPER 6 February 5, 2018, 2:44 pm

      The reason most rifles have long stocks dates back to the flintlock. When you fire a flintlock, the sparks from the pan fly out as much as a foot. This can blind the shooter. This is not a problem with any weapon since the flintlock so there is no reason for all that wood.

      I predict that the bullpup design is the future of firearms. That’s O.K., you fossils, like mussel-loading enthusiasts, can continue to use your “old timey” guns.

      • Sparky February 6, 2018, 10:03 am

        “Mussel-loading”? Speaking from grim and messy experience, I vastly prefer shooting lead from my rifles. Shellfish are grossly lacking in sectional density. Just sayin’…

  • Cam February 5, 2018, 9:37 am

    I just can’t see paying $2,000 for a kel-tec. It’s like paying $30,000 for a 1987 yugo.

    • Mike H February 5, 2018, 10:07 am

      These can be had for <$1200 all day long.

    • Dr Motown February 5, 2018, 12:30 pm

      Didn’t pay anywhere near that for mine….got it in 2016 for about $1300

    • David March 27, 2018, 7:27 pm

      What? You can get a Yugo for only $30k??? Where do I get them??

  • Paul O. February 5, 2018, 9:16 am

    Kel-Tec has continually improved the RFB. Mine is a couple of years old. It had teething issues. With the right gas setting it’s 99% reliable. When it does choke “some disassembly is required” in order to clear the jam. Accuracy is an honest 2 MOA. Trigger is very good as the article says. Still, you might want to blow your money on an AR-10, PTR-91 or HK G3 instead.

  • Michael Moore February 5, 2018, 8:22 am

    The magazine issue is a constant and annoying problem with my rfb. It will drop out after firing a round many times. You also didn’t address the need to adjust the gas system for the type of ammo used. On my rfb it does not matter where the gas adjustment is set the weapon is over gassed and has never worked as the rifle is designed to be used. It is a neat design, but one best not trusted if really ever needed. Thirteen hundred bucks for a rifle that won’t do what it is supposed to do is hardly money well spent. Keltec got me once. Keltec will never get me again.

  • Tom Benton February 5, 2018, 8:07 am

    Purchased an RDB as soon as they hit the market, #82. Probably my favorite 5.56 . Attached a 2 moa red dot as I planned on this being a 100yd and under defense rifle. It is a joy to shoot. Reliable with steel case to NATO ball ammo. Mine is probbly 2moa. Trigger is crisp with reasonable poundage. I live in a city and if needing to defend myself, this is the weapon I would choose. Mounted to the shoulder, it is shorter than an extended pistol and carries a 30 round mag with a 17” barrel. Absolutely manueverable in close quarters and drills an 8” metal disc in the center at 100 yds every shot. I’m sold.

    • JohnL February 5, 2018, 10:56 am

      Glad you like your firle but it is completely diff bullpup and cal.?

  • David February 5, 2018, 8:02 am

    Oh and don’t be scared, 4 captive pins and pull it apart…..simple

  • David February 5, 2018, 7:59 am

    They make a rail for the handgard for a bipod

  • Dan February 5, 2018, 6:47 am

    I drink Tea too, that does not make me or the brits bad, the brits have enough other problems than Tea drinking.

    • Wade February 5, 2018, 11:30 am

      No it doesn’t make you ‘bad’ it apparently DOES make you hyper-sensitive!!!

  • Rollin Shultz February 5, 2018, 5:57 am

    I purchased one in late 2017 and I love it. Couple that with an ATN X Sight II and a pair of fpv goggles and you can literally shoot from around a corner. I don’t mind what little recoil I get, at least in terms of how I view recoil. Being someone who loves big rifles and revolvers, recoil isn’t much of a factor for me. I would feel comfortable making this my main SHTF battle rifle.

  • mr_bad_example February 5, 2018, 5:30 am

    i own 4 kel-tecs, .22 to 9mm, 3 are for concealed carry, the .22 is for giggles (too big, threaded barrel, accepts auto accessories 🙂 . i have a Walther G-22 bull pup, love it. good things come in small packages.

  • Major Bradley Bourn US Army (Retired) February 5, 2018, 3:15 am

    Field Stripping? I know you said you were scared, or whatever, but at least you can tell us is if it requires tools, or is overly complicated. Thanks

    • Paul O. February 5, 2018, 7:44 am

      It’s easy. Just need a tip of a bullet to push out 4 pins and it’s apart.

    • Flip February 5, 2018, 8:24 am

      Yeah I thought the same thing no information about the mechanical operation or the maintenance….. great review buddy!! Joke

  • Davron February 5, 2018, 3:06 am

    Didn’t Kel-tec make the RFB first and a year or so later make the RDB? I like the concept behind the RDB more since it is simpler without having to push casings forward, but I haven’t had a chance to fire either.

    • Allan February 5, 2018, 10:24 am

      Yes. The RDB .308 came first. I think around 2010. The RFB came out around 2013 or so.

      • Mike H February 6, 2018, 2:13 am

        Wrong. The RFB was shown at the 07 Shot Show in Orlando but wasn’t widely available for several years. The RDB was released in 2015

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend