KelTec has just blessed our FFL with another famously different design, the RBD Defender. The new model is billed as a mash-up of the best features of the RDB Survival and the original RDB, making for an all-purpose, lightweight, bull pup blaster. Like everything KelTec, there are some unique approaches. That famous mix of engineering marvel and sometimes complete disregard for aesthetics, which usually plays out in their favor.
Let’s start with, the RDB Defender is a unique bull pup that retails at an MSRP of $1300. So I don’t expect Cabot Guns level fit and finish, and neither should you. That being said, the RBD Defender has a lot going for it. At 6.7 pounds, it is on the light side for sure. An all polymer body will do that for you. The Defender comes with an aluminum MLOK compatible fore-end, so no stress about attaching lights, lasers, or slings. And as a bull pup, it crams a 16-inch barrel into an overall length of 27 inches.
The barrel has a pencil profile, which contributes to the lack of weight. It does come at a price though. It heats up quickly, which is not unexpected. But considering this was not meant to be mounted on a tripod to defend the perimeter from the Mongolian Horde, it does just fine. The barrel comes capped with an A2 style flash hider, which also means it could be suppressed easily. The adjustable gas block would also lend itself to this conclusion.
The charging handle is a nice large size and is located almost at the end of the handguard. It is easy to grip, and reminiscent of an MP5 in operation. Oh, except the RBD locks to the rear on an empty magazine. Slap the charging handle down to put the bolt back into the battery, and you are off to the races.
The safety is a weird duck if you are accustomed to ARs. Safe is down, and fire is straight forward. But an angled (Ambi) safety lever makes it so it feels the same as an AR. Press down to shoot, and up to safety. It looks weird, but it works and should offer no shenanigans to AR-trained shooters.
KelTec bills the RDB trigger as unparalleled, which we will assume for niceties only applies to bullpups. And they are correct, bullpup triggers are notoriously bad. Much like trying to change gears on a stick shift rear engine VW bus, there is a lot of linkage by necessity. The Defender trigger breaks at around 6 pounds, with just a little bit of play in it. While this is laughable compared to a high-end AR trigger, I do concede it is very nice for a bullpup. Dry firing the RDB sounds like hitting a piece of sheet metal with a sledgehammer, but it does get the job done. Reliability was high, so I’m not faulting it for the noise.
Speaking of sheet metal, next up is the magazine release. Now this one fits the strange choices category a little bit. The magazine release does, in fact, look like it was stamped out of a sheet of 16th-inch auto-body steel. In fact, the part you are supposed to grab has clearly been plasty dipped. And while I am no slave to aesthetics, this one has even me a little miffed. But it does work, and solidly ejects empty mags, so I can’t really be that upset. And it also isn’t lost on me that it is so large as to be impossible to miss. Just above the magazine release is a manual bolt lock, for clearing your weapon. It does not, however, release the bolt. This button is one way only. Not a problem, but something to know.
Pulling up the rear (literally) is the adjustable buttstock. First looking at the RBD, I at first assumed you had to adjust the length of pull with tools. Not the case, there is just no way to lock the buttstock in the closed position. It will fire closed, and pressing it into your shoulder should keep it that way. But don’t go looking for a release button to extend it. Just grab it and pull. Which leads to the second bit of function over looks. The buttstock is retained in the open position by an angled piece of sheet metal, spring loaded into place. So there is about an 8th of an inch of play between pulled all the way out, and pressure applied to the stock. Which you don’t notice when shooting, but it is there. Is this actually worse than the little plastic bit that retains a 6 position AR stock in place? Probably not. But it certainly defies convention.
All in all, I find the RDB Defender to be a fine gun for certain applications. As a backpack gun, it is fabulous. Compact, light, and it stows easily in a bag. As a home defender, it is also A-okay in my book. The short length overall lends itself to being a good nightstand gun. Would it be my first choice to take back to Tal Afar? No, but KelTec also didn’t intend it for that. For the money, and the purpose, this is the little blaster that could.
20 or any AR15 Magazine