A Bullpup That Does Not Suck? The K&M Arms M17S .308 – Full Review.

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For more information, visit http://www.kmarms.com/M17S308.html.

To purchase a bullpup rifle on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=bullpup.

As humans, we tend to adjust our expectations gradually until the things we label as “good” have an asterisk by the descriptor.

Here’s an easy example: Thanksgiving dinner with the entire family. Once everyone has eaten and made their exits, there is the customary sitting around and discussing how well the day went. The conversation will eventually end with a general agreement that everything went relatively smoothly. “Memaw was on her best behavior,” your other half will say. Now, Memaw is the senior member of your family, and her world view was formed in 1956 and has not changed since. You may have Uncle Roy, who should be kept to an absolute maximum alcohol consumption of one wine, with dinner, at all costs. If this plan fails, he will be playing the violin for everyone, despite having never taken lessons.

Let’s convert all of this to a nice gun analogy:

“Have you been to the new gun shop”?

“No, what is it called”?

“‘Lowered Expectations.’ They stock a full line of Rhino revolvers, and all of their rifles are bullpups.”

“What about Glocks?” “Sure, but they are all .45 GAP models.”

I think you are getting the picture here; these guns work, but they are quirky designs with downsides to all their upsides. This condition has described bullpup rifles since their conception.

The new .308 Win. M17S from K&M Arms represents a radically new take on the classic Bushmaster design. It has enhanced features and ergonomics as well as performance and the powerful .308 chambering. It is also offered in a 5.56mm platform. Shown equipped with a Trijicon MRO.

What’s Wrong With Bullpups?

Listing of successful bullpup designs from around the world.

The first issue that all bullpups share is the trigger. A bullpup trigger feels like it’s connected to the sear via a ribeye steak. The controls seem to be configured and placed ever so perfectly for only a contortionist to employ. Mag changes are difficult due to magazine well location clashing with the controls. Bullpups are not balanced like other guns, which tends to make recoil worse.

Before you think I am just a hater, I’ll confess that I currently own a Steyr AUG and a Tavor SAR-IDF, and have owned loads of other bullpup guns over the years. But let’s face facts; they are a compromise gun.

The bullpup design places the gun’s action behind the trigger, usually in front of any buttstock. This configuration is used to decrease overall length, while keeping a long barrel length. The purpose of this setup is to allow better maneuverability in confined spaces while retaining maximum ballistic performance.

The earliest bullpup rifle that I could find is the Thorneycroft carbine, which was developed by an English gunsmith in 1901. When tested, the first bullpup rifle had excessive recoil and poor ergonomics- sound familiar? Since 1901, there have been around 100 bullpup rifles created, plus their variants, as far as I can research. Only a few of these rifles listed above have had success either military or commercial markets.

The M17S can employ most standard AR-pattern pistol grips (without a beavertail extension) and feeds from Magpul-pattern magazines.

The Real History of the M17S

If you do a quick search on the internet, you will find that the rifle we know as the Bushmaster M17S was a product of Australia, and known by a different name. After failing in military trials, the rifle was sold in the USA by a division of the company that developed the gun. In 1994, the rights were acquired by Bushmaster, who sold the rifle until 2005.

Following are the details that my research has turned up. Armstech, a small company organized specifically for designing and developing a new Australian military rifle, submitted a proposal in 1982 to the Australian military. When their bid was not the winner, Armstech chose to pursue the design of its 5.56mm rifle for export sales. These aspirations were cut short by a catastrophic failure during a demonstration with the press. The company went into receivership in 1990, after having transferred rights to the rifle to Keith Greenwood of Edenpine. Edenpine developed the rifle into the ART 30, with the salient features of the M17S in place. Out of a desire to enter the American market, Edenpine (USA) Inc. (the American branch of Edenpine of Australia), contracted with Bushmaster to produce the 5.56mm rifles for them. The rifle was sold as the “Edenpine M17S Bull-Pup rifle”, or the Bushmaster M17S as most of us know it. In 2012, Ken McAlister filed for the trademark on “M17S” on the out-of-production rifle, which he was granted in 2014.

The rifle employs an Elftmann Tactical Trigger that is excellent. Note the crossbolt-style safety.

SPECS

  • Chambering: .308 Win.
  • Barrel: 16 inches
  • OA Length: 26.25 inches
  • Weight: 8.2 pounds
  • Sights: Rail
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: Detachable box magazine
  • MSRP: $1,999

Wait. I Like This?

This leads us to the K&M Arms M17S .308, which was a new offering at the 2017 SHOT Show. This is a .308 bullpup from a designer with a long history of debugging bullpup rifles. K&M Arms is a division of K&M Aerospace out of Chandler, Arizona. K&M Aerospace was founded in Southern California in 2003, and in 2006 the company was moved to Chandler. After this relocation to Arizona, the owner, Ken McAlister, traded for a Bushmaster M17S. Ken said “the gun was all wrong. The optics were too high, it got hot when you shot it and the trigger was gritty and hard.” So, he set to work with a full machine shop at his disposal.

Controls of the M17S require some training to employ, but once you have it down it can run quickly and easily. Note the ambidextrous magazine release located below the bolt release.

First, he cut slots into the gun to lighten and balance it. From there, he just could not stop modifying the gun with trigger enhancements, rails, charging handles, cheeks rests, butt pads and other custom work. This tinkering was his process for refining what could and should be done to perfect the bullpup platform. All this refinement was on the 5.56mm platform, but Ken not happy to rest on his laurels and began upsizing to the .308 Winchester size. This involved using and improving 7.62 AR parts. However, the bolt and recoil system are still in the AR-180 style as with the original design and is a short-stroke piston system with an adjustable regulator rather than the AR-style direct gas impingement system.

As a result, McAlister was developing a new line of M17S bullpups, with all his requisite enhancements and refinements, in .223 and .308 platforms.

The action of the M17S is located in the rear buttstock portion of the carbine, allowing a very short length. Note the ejection port location.

Hands On

All of his efforts showed in the sample .308 gun I received. The very first thing I checked after opening the gun was the trigger. I simply could not believe how good the trigger was, and I don’t mean “good for a bullpup “—I mean “good.” This is the best trigger I have ever felt in a bullpup.

The trigger is skeletonized billet with a patented linkage design utilizing an AR trigger. This trigger is designed to pull the sear rather than push it. Ken is currently using the Elftmann Tactical trigger exclusively in his rifles. The M17S308 utilize an AR-180-style carrier with both action rods and springs.  They are strong springs, which ensure that a round is chambered every time. The bolt is a massive three-lug triangular bolt that uses DPMS ejector, extractor, springs, pins and firing pin.  It also has a 30° locking rotation, unlike the standard 7.62 AR which uses a 22.5° one. This all adds up to a greater locking strength than the7.62 AR platform provides. The M17S308 has a solid cam pin and goes all the way through the bolt, correcting a traditionally weak point in the 7.62 AR platform. To harden against failure, the bolt and guide rods are NP3 plated. As noted above, as with the AR-180, the M17S from K&M features a short-stroke piston system with an adjustable regulator.

The rifle features a non-reciprocating charging handle as well as a top rail for optics.

The lower receiver is made from billet aluminum and features a straightforward cross bolt-design safety. The magazine catch, grip, springs and pins come straight from 7.62 AR designs. Magpul is the source for the enhanced butt pad, and the rifle feeds from Magpul-pattern 7.62mm magazines.

The non-reciprocating charging handle can be changed to either side of the receiver. The rifle has an ambidextrous magazine release mated with the 7.62 AR-style bolt catch that holds the bolt open when the last round has been fired.

The bolt employs three massive lugs for solid lock-up.

The M17S308 breaks down like a standard AR, with two captive takedown pins, and will pivot on the front pin if desired.

Two QD sling adapters are located on either side of the rifle. You can mount modular side rails in any of the side slots. A rail on top can take sights and optics (none are included). The pistol grip can be changed out with any AR grip that does not have a beaver tail. Finally, the bottom rail can take lights or handles of your choice. Arguably the best part: this gun is made 100% in the USA.

On the Range

While preparing to take the M17S308 to the range, I mounted up a Trijicon MRO, which was a simple fit thanks to the upper rail. Next up, I grabbed all the .308 Winchester ammo I could find; this was mostly from three manufacturers: Sig Arms, Aguila and Hornady.

The rifle showed a preference for the Sig ammo, with a tightest group of .75 inches at 100 yards.

When I got to the range, I set up my Lead Sled to sight in the optic. This was short work, and the rifle was dead-on after six rounds. As usual, I had some friends of mine at the range. These two friends happen to be on the SWAT team, and they were more than happy to burn through my ammo for me. The range was set up for a VCQB (Vehicle Close Quarters Battle) class. This allowed them to work the bullpup in and around cars. This scenario really let the gun shine. When asked for their thoughts on the rifle, they both concurred the rifle was soft-shooting, fast and accurate, and that they liked it.

I then asked what issues they felt the gun could have. The response was that charging this weapon would require a shooter with strength. The reload controls are farther back on the gun, and you had to be conscious of where the magazine well was. They were quick to say that this issue lessened as they gained more practice operating the gun. The controls for the magazine and bolt release were placed correctly once you found the magazine well. Their final comment was that the butt pad could be sharp while shooting if it was not pressed firmly against the shoulder.

I took my turn at working the course around a minivan. I was shocked by how quickly the muzzle returned on target. I did not get any poking from the butt pad, but I had the advantage of being warned prior to shooting. I checked the targets and found my hits to all be present and accounted for. I was pleasantly surprised, as I had run the course with the speed of a .223, not a .308.

After my friends left it was time to do the accuracy testing. I normally prefer to test with a least three different rounds to determine what works best. Unfortunately, once the gun was set up I found that we had burned through most of the ammunition I had brought with me in our fervor. So, I had only two different rounds to test with: Sig Sauer 168 grain and Aguila 150 grain. It became apparent that the gun preferred the heavier 168-grain round.

The gun ran flawlessly, regardless of the ammunition or shooter. The highlight of this rifle was the trigger; everyone raved about it. I would say that the balance point was right behind the pistol grip, and to prove this, the SWAT guys were able to shoot the gun one-handed.

The upper receiver section can be removed from the lower by pulling two pins.

What It Is Not

Ken is a man who I find to be refreshingly clear when he speaks. He has no plans for a select-fire version. He left no doubt in my mind when he said, “My market is the civilian market, not government or military contracts. Those do not interest me.” It must also be noted that this is a right-handed gun; Ken strongly advises, for safety reasons, that the rifle only be shot right-handed. There is not a left-handed version, and none is in the works.

The M17S has pins that allow the rifle to pivot open like an AR-style rifle.

The Elftmann Tactical Trigger is the key to the bullpup’s great trigger pull.

The Bottom Line

I like this gun! It works, for right-handed shooter, with no problems. It has advantages over the standard 7.62 AR platform. It is robust and functional while still offering the modularity I have come to expect in AR platforms. The price ($1999.00) is not low, but this is a small batch gun, and the price-tag is not out of line with other bullpups in the market. If you are left-handed, have low upper body strength, or are unwilling to spend a modest amount of time training in the platform, this gun is NOT for you. Sorry.

The M17S is currently in production by K&M Arms and they are taking pre-orders for fulfillment. If you are interested in a bullpup that toes back to an older classic but fixes many of the issues found with this type of design, the K&M M17S is just about a perfect choice for you.

For more information, visit http://www.kmarms.com/M17S308.html.

To purchase a bullpup rifle on GunsAmerica.com, click this link: https://www.gunsamerica.com/Search.aspx?T=bullpup.

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Casey Stribrny February 27, 2017, 9:34 pm

    This gun looks well built and it seems to be one of the most simplistic and reliable bullpups out on the market right now.

  • Ned February 23, 2017, 8:52 am

    This or a dt mdr?

  • Lance February 23, 2017, 3:00 am

    Kept thinking the upper aluminum looked so familiar, just figured it out. It’s identical to awning covers on rv’s! I had to fix my parents awning on their motor home and now I know why I recognize that design. Use what you can find I guess. I’ll still pass, way overpriced and ugly, thats my opinion.

  • Errol February 22, 2017, 3:40 pm

    What distance was the “accuracy testing done at? VERY misleading!
    .75″ at 100yds is great! .75” at 25? not so much!
    How many groups were shot?
    A holographic site really doesn’t make sense for accuracy testing so why not have a telescopic sight on hand for testing?
    Not a very substantive “writeup” for a $2000 firearm.

  • Harder February 22, 2017, 5:27 am

    I like the ease of take down . . . but, I’ll stick with my 762 BullDog G2 chasis from Richard Cabral and Short Rifle Systems.

  • Michael Crabtree February 21, 2017, 12:19 pm

    Like the concept. Wish I could try one out. Sounds like that may or may not happen. I remember several firearms I’ve looked forward to shooting over the years that just never made it past the nice hand built and assembled prototype stage. I got to shoot one as a prototype. It was a bullpup 50 BMG and worked great and had way less recoil than I expected. I loved it. A friend placed a down payment on five of them. That’s been more than fifteen years and no production yet.

    • Duty man February 28, 2017, 1:06 pm

      This rifle is currently in production.

  • Michael Crabtree February 21, 2017, 12:16 pm

    Like the concept. Wish I could try one out. Sounds like that may or may not happen. I remember several firearms I’ve looked forward to shooting over the years that just never made it past the nice hand built and assembled prototype stage. I got to shoot one as a prototype. It was a bullpup 50 BMG and worked great and had way less recoil than I expected. I loved it. A friend placed a down payment on five of them. That’s been more than fifteen years and no production yet.

  • BJG February 21, 2017, 9:32 am

    At $2.000 I would hope it wouldn’t suck!

  • Dean February 21, 2017, 6:22 am

    .308 should not be used for intermediate targets with that said……whats the point? What will a 16″ barrel do in terms of distance in this design? Id rather keep the .308 in the correct package and set up for the longer interactions.

    • Duty man February 28, 2017, 1:07 pm

      There is a 20″ barrel length option also for the same price

  • chris February 20, 2017, 9:06 pm

    Lame click bait title.
    And if he really didn’t like his other bullpups he should sell them. Alot of people love pups and I’m one of them.
    Alot of the so called deficiencies of bullpups have been addressed already and the the unwarranted criticisms and fan boyism gets more cliché each year.
    The AR platform is not the only platform that has merit nowadays. I have some absolutely top quality AR, SCAR, and Bullpup offerings and it would be absolutely foolish of me to make a statement that any of the platforms “suck”.

  • David Edwards February 20, 2017, 12:14 pm

    Ok, triggers are not great factory.. but for under 100 dollars you can make the AUG trigger incredible. In the middle of a writeup for a magazine about it.. 3 1/2 lbs, smooth as butter. and so simple to upgrade.. 1st one took about an hour.. next one took about 15 minutes.. change the bole & left handed. ratworks even makes a left handed bolt that’ll use ar15 parts, ie, extractor, firing pin, etc.

  • Tony February 20, 2017, 10:11 am

    Don’t be fooled pups are awesome I own a PS 90 the Gun runs flawless it’s of the highest quality perfect for close quarter confrontations for example in your home I know this from experience don’t be afraid of it it’s awesome

    • David February 21, 2017, 12:12 pm

      The PS90 is an awesome weapon! I only have 2 small complaints…. it’s so short that your hand placement is touching each other which makes it very twitchy (probably just me, but annoys the heck out of me) and the hammer/striker is plastic… all the rest of the plastic doesn’t bother me, but that does…. otherwise, it’s awesome! The takedown/field shipping is genius!

  • ToddB February 20, 2017, 8:31 am

    So an ambi mag release and you swap the charging handle for ambi use, but cant be used left handed? And only $2000. We keep seeing all these new rifles come out, but at such high retail prices, then they wonder why sales are low. Hmm an AR, bunch of mags and a pile of ammo, plus money for optics and pistol, or this rifle and nothing else?

    • Mark Are February 20, 2017, 10:28 am

      Seems to me that it could be easily made left handed by having the parts machined on the CNC machine 180 degrees off. They could even make an ambi one with a removable ejection port cover and just swap the bolt out. Unless I’m missing something. I have a left handed Stag Arms 5.56 and seems that the upper and bolt are the only difference.

    • DavidC February 23, 2017, 11:02 am

      As a lefty, this thing is a boat anchor. IMHO if a pup is not ambi, it is trash. Give me a Kel-Tec any day. Love my RDB and if I were to buy a .308 pup, I would get the RFB.

  • Marshall Williams February 20, 2017, 8:24 am

    The first problem with the bullpup design is not the trigger but the “one-sidedness” of all the designs except the new Kel-Tecs. To be sure, a couple of designs can be set up as left handed guns, but then they remain one-sided, just the other side. Both in hunting and especially in combat, there times when one will be faced with a devilish decision, do I expose myself to shoot right handed (or left handed), or do I abandon my target.

  • Lance February 20, 2017, 7:25 am

    Think I’ll stick to the Tavor, much better looking bullpup and proven. I’m sorry but this is not even worth 2grand. Pass.

  • hmink February 20, 2017, 7:20 am

    It does suck… it’s not ambidextrous……

  • wtsane February 20, 2017, 5:39 am

    As a left-handed shooter…..jerks!

    • RetNavet February 20, 2017, 6:01 am

      +1 …..definitely not ambidextrous

    • Rob Johnson February 20, 2017, 8:14 am

      I agree, it’s the same old design and sales philosophy: “Who gives a rip about Southpaws? No profit in Lefties!!”
      Which is why I appreciate my L1A1.

      • Mark Are February 20, 2017, 10:30 am

        I had to turn into a lefty due to a cataract in my right eye. I bought a Stag Arms and built a 300 BO on it. I’m getting one of their 308’s when they become available as receiver sales.

  • Jonathan February 20, 2017, 5:26 am

    My connection isn’t good enough to view the videos at the moment, and there aren’t many pictures of people with the rifle shouldered, so I may be off a bit, but it looks like the top rail is about an inch or so too long to get a nice cheek weld. It looks interesting, I’ll have to come back to this later when I’m in a place with a good internet connection so I can watch the videos.

  • Reinz February 20, 2017, 5:12 am

    My question is simple, how does it handle heat?

    When I shot a Bushmaster Bullpup back in the 90’s the aluminum housing would get so hot after a few mags it could not be held. Then it took about 15-20 minutes to cool down. That is why I never bought a Bushmaster, even when the price was around $500 at one point.

  • roger February 20, 2017, 5:02 am

    Not a bad take off the Busshie. I like the 308 cal however The price will be around $2000.+ WHEN it makes the market? Their web site said only taking pre-orders.

  • Tom Benton February 18, 2017, 8:17 am

    I have oowned a Kel Tec RDB 223 since it hit the market. Bullpups require a learning curve for charging, reloading etc but it is a short curve. The trigger on the RDB is fine from the factory. Not a match trigger but no reason to replace it. The gun is soft shooting with just a flash hider. As the RDB is downward ejecting, it is ambidextrous. The RDB in my hands is not as accurate as a good AR platform but easily capable of drilling a steel disc in the center at 100 yards with a red dot sight. It is easy to carry the weapon with a hand on the grip and the butpad resting against my side. When shouldered, the RDB is shorter than a handgun presented with a two hand grip therefore ideal in confined situations. Additionally, one can tuck the stock under the armpit and shoot accurately from the hip if needed at close ranges. After burning a lot of rounds, including steel ammo, this is my go to gun for home defense. With ergonomics superior to a short barrel rifle and a 30 round magazine, no intruder will survive the battle. I love my AR’s and M&P pistols, but the RDB in my opinion is the perfect home defense solution that additionally shines if chaos hits the streets.

  • Guy February 17, 2017, 8:30 pm

    Can we get a range report on how she fairs with match ammo?

    I love the tri-lug bolt design and basically everything else about the rifle.

    I also think a Magpul K grip would REALLY fit the rifle well, especially when operating one handed. It’s a more vertical angled grip and I think that’d help pull the rifle into your shoulder better than the traditional AR style angle.

    • Parker Lewis February 27, 2017, 9:20 pm

      Held one the other day with a k-grip on it and it fits the rifle perfectly. I liked the feel of it. Nice to have the option to change the pistol grip out for what fits the shooter best.

    • Parker Lewis February 27, 2017, 9:33 pm

      I’ve shot the 5.56 model… its trigger puts most aftermarket AR triggers to shame. It’s a very well designed mechanism. Overall, very slick rifle. I cant wait to buy the .308

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