Flexing your creative muscles is not always rewarded in the gun industry, and often the opposite is true. Entire gun companies have been founded on copying the 100 year old 1911 design, the 100+ year old Winchester and Marlin rifle designs, decades old Smith & Wesson revolvers, and now of course the expired Stoner patent with the AR-15 platform. On the flip side we have but one example of a new and innovative product that has caught on and made it big. Three guesses? Ok it’s Glock. But try to think of another. You won’t find one.
Kel-Tec, it seems, doesn’t really care about all of that. I don’t know if the safe road seems boring to them, or if they are just compulsive engineers. But I can assure you that there is one big, bigger, BIGGEST story at SHOT Show this year, and it is Kel-Tec’s first ever shotgun, the KSG.
If we didn’t have a video of the gun I’m not sure I could even explain it properly. I stood back for a while and watched the crowd (more of a swarm actually), around the Kel-Tec booth today, and there was a palpable aura of disbelief. Some people got it, you could see, but a lot of people just didn’t, and even a one minute dis-assembly/re-assembly of the gun didn’t seem to help. This is a completely new firearm, from concept, to design, to gun on the shelf (it won’t be on the shelves until fall), and as exciting as this is, in the climate of a skeptical gun buying public that is our industry, Kel-Tec has a long road to go for the KSG to gain long term commercial success. The potential for the gun is staggering, much like it was for Glock, and if the KSG is as sturdy and reliable as it is innovative, this gun could become the standard for Law Enforcement and consumer tactical shotgun sales in the years to come.
The KSG is a bull-pup shotgun design that has two magazine feed tubes, each side capable of holding 7 shells, for a total capacity of 14 +1. Yes folks, that is not a misprint, 14 shells in the magazine, one in the pipe, for a total of a 15 round pump shotgun with no external magazine. You flip between the two tubes with a lever, so you can put buckshot in one side, slugs in the other, or breaching rounds in one side and buckshot in the other, etc.
But, as brilliant, original and inspired as this may seem, that is only the beginning of what I think is a very long story for the KSG. I haven’t fired the gun yet (nobody has from what I can tell), but the Kel-Tec engineers appear to be ready to take on a skeptical and finicky gun buying public by anticipating consumer resistance to new ideas in firearm design. In particular they addressed two big issues even in this early prototype.
The Bull-Pup Issue – One question you are going to hear about the KSG right out of the gate is “Is it legal for civilian purchase?” This is because it looks too short to be legal. A shotgun, by law, has to have an 18”+ barrel or it is falls under the National Firearms Act (like machineguns) as “any other weapon” and requires a special permit and tax to own.
The KSG has an 18.5” barrel, which is perfectly legal, but the chamber is not over or in front of your trigger hand like it is in a standard pump shotgun. The chamber is actually resting against your shoulder, with your cheek resting against the side of it. This backs the whole gun up, making it seem impossibly short to be legal.
In the American market, bull-pup designs have not been widely successful. FNH has made some great in-roads with their PS90, but even that has something of a cult following. Bull-pup designs have been around for decades, but you can spend a whole day at a busy range and not see one. If you do it will probably be either the PS90 or the RFB, which was the last gutsy and ground breaking product from Kel-Tec in a .308 bull-pup rifle.
The biggest complaint you will hear about bull-pups, and I heard it today at the Kel-Tec booth, is that people are afraid of the shell going off next to their head. Because as rare as is that a gun blows out from a barrel obstruction or faulty ammunition, it can theoretically happen with any gun, and taking the chance with it next to your head is a little scary if there are no protections in place. Kel-Tech apparently did their homework and anticipated this concern with consumers, so they built in a blast shield. The KSG stock surrounds the action of the gun and completely protects the shooter. It is made of 1/16th inch steel, so any energy directed out of the action will naturally seek the path of least resistance and be directed down through the rear ejection port of the gun, at the ground.
2nd Generation Features in a 1st Gen Gun. – One of the biggest issues I have with many firearms is that they rush to get guns to market without fully thinking through the needs and desires of the consumer. The gun hits the market and instantly consumers want things that were not included in the first design. Does it come in different finishes? Will it accept an accessory rail? Does it shoot different types of ammo? .
Kel-Tec has learned from the mistakes of others and are releasing the KSG with many features that you would traditionally expect on a 2nd generation version of a new gun. It will come stock with both a lower and an upper accessory rail. One of the prototypes at the booth had a front handle already attached, and it was really sweet. Another of the prototypes today was finished in an alternate drab green color, and as part of the demonstration, we learned that the KSG accepts 2 3/4” shells in the magazine, and possibly a little shorter, but it doesn’t take the new stubby shells. It does have a 3” chamber, but 3” shells have to be fed manually. There are even two holes in the grip to hold the two take down pins when you take the gun apart.
I am envisioning a wall of sticky notes at Kel-Tec with ideas on them that all led to this gun, and they seem to have thought of just about everything.
The KSG is going to generate a lot of early excitement when it becomes available in the fall, but the true test of any new concept in firearm design is to get beyond the early adopter phase (raise your hand if you are an early adopter). I think this gun is going to make it. Kel-Tec as a company has demonstrated the desire and ability to better their products over the years and I’m sure the KSG will be no exception as this prototype grows into a production line product. Hopefully we’ll get one of these to shoot when they do go into production. The prototypes are sure exciting and I can’t wait to shoot it. MSRP is planned at $880.