KelTec is known as an innovative firearms company. They continually break down what a gun is supposed to do and then they design it from the ground up. People comment that Keltec is always making futuristic designs, and that was true when they started in the ’90s. However, NOW is the future and Keltec continues to make guns that perform without fitting the forms set by guns from the 1960s.
The KS7 is a recent addition to their lineup and their second shotgun. It’s a bullpup 12 gauge with a single magazine and a truly compact design. I wouldn’t have had to mention that it has a single tubular magazine, except that the company’s KSG, released in 2011, has dual tubular magazines with various models that hold as many as 25 shells. The KS7 has a much smaller footprint but still holds 7+1 when shooting 2 3/4″ shells.
It’s compact, it comes up well, and it’s priced competitively. It’s clearly intended as a home-defense gun, but it’s so light and packable that it may find it’s way into other uses. Let’s take a close look at its details as well as its idiosyncrasies.
The KS7 has a bullpup design, so the grip is in front of the action. Spent shells are ejected downward from under your armpit as you shoot.
The tube magazine is stacked under the barrel and they are the same length. Working the pump-action ejects the spent shell on the way back and racks a new shell into battery on the way forward.
Since shells are ejected downward and basically under your face, it’s truly comfortable for both right and left-handed shooters. The safety and pump release are also fully ambidextrous.
The buttstock is just inches behind the action, so the whole gun is very short — just 26.1″ overall. Even the barrel begins behind the grip and is still 18.5″ long. It’s a pump-action gun with a contoured forend pump.
Keltec’s iconic gator grip texture wraps the pump and the vertical pistol grip. The carry handle on the top doubles as a channel sight with a fiber optic bead at the front. There are MLOK slots on the pump, carry handle, and buttstock. There’s a hard rubber pad on the buttstock, too.
All of these parts are a polymer, which lends to its light weight. The whole gun is just 5.9 pounds. The only metal you’ll be handling as you shoot this gun is the cheek plate. The comb is situated directly over the chamber, so it’s nice to have steel armor deflecting any problems away from your face. The barrel and magazine are also steel but are almost completely enclosed by the polymer stocks.
The grip assembly comes away from the receiver with two AR-style pins so it’s easy to access the action for cleaning or clearing.
The carry handle can be swapped for a KelTec-produced replacement Picatinny rail that attaches right to the barrel and includes a heat shield. This rail sits flat over the barrel, reducing the gun’s profile by about 1.5″. There are also third-party manufacturers who make similar rails. KelTec’s rail upgrade (KS7-1142) costs $40.
Fit & Finish
For a gun that looks like it’s made completely of plastic, it is surprisingly tight. There’s less play in the pump than on my Mossberg 500. The KS7’s polymer pieces are all color matched and evenly toned. The seams fit without large gaps.
The polymer pieces all fit together well, but they are not trimmed neatly. There are sharp edges at almost all the seams. The bottom of the pistol grip is particularly sharp. Functionally, I didn’t notice the edges while shooting. If I owned this KS7, I think I’d get after it with some fine emery paper and smooth things out.
Barrel & Magazine
The steel barrel is 18.5″ long. The barrel begins just behind the pistol grip and the pump grip slides right to its other end. The forcing cone appears to be about 3″ long, which is quite generous and should make for more regular shot patterns.
Currently, KelTec doesn’t offer any chokes or brakes for the KS7, but they report that those are forthcoming. The KSG series has a choke adapter, compensator, and a gnarly-looking muzzle brake, and similar offerings will be coming up soon for the KS7. Third-party manufacturers, like Hi-Tech Custom, already have muzzle devices available.
The tubular magazine is also steel and situated under the barrel, as in most pump-action guns. It’ll hold 6+1 when loading 3″ shells, or 7+1 with 2 3/4″ shells. The end cap screws off and the spring and follower come out easily for maintenance. There are vents along the magazine that allow you to see how many rounds are loaded.
The magazine comes standard with a plastic follower, but KelTec offers an aluminum follower(KS7-511) that they say slides a little easier and runs a little cleaner. It’s just $15.
All controls on the KS7 are ambidextrous. The big safety button is easy to find without looking because it’s so big. In fact, they molded a bumper into the grip stock to keep the button from snagging or banging on stuff. It’s positioned such that a thumb will push it one way while the first knuckle of an index finger will push it the other way.
The cross-bolt safety can only be engaged when the gun is cocked, but the action can be run when the safety is engaged. That means you can empty the gun with the safety on by running the pump.
One of my gripes about this gun was the safety button. At first, it was really stiff — so much so that I had to reposition the gun to push with my thumb. However, it has softened with use and is now easy enough to push with either thumb or knuckle.
The trigger moves somewhat differently than other guns. The fulcrum is far behind the trigger rather than above it like most triggers. The trigger moves backward and downward, but it’s not an unnatural feeling.
There are two stages of takeup before the trigger breaks. After the takeup, the break is not crisp but is a little spongy. After it breaks, the trigger stops hard against the trigger housing.
The trigger weight averaged 8 lbs 6 oz.
The KS7’s carry handle is a throwback to classic military designs and it houses sights in a protected channel. It’s almost impossible to knock the front sight off. It’s a bright green fiber optic sight made by HIVIZ. It’s fairly long and gathers light well. There is a knob at the back of the handle that can line up with the front bead for long shots, but it would be useless in low light or in a quick-response situation.
As a bullpup, this gun is short and dense. But at 5.9 lbs, it’s not heavy. It swings and comes up easily and naturally. Every time I raise it up, my eye is right on target with the front sight and targets at 20 yards were hit quickly and easily.
Thinking in terms of home defense, this gun is maneuverable, short, and comes up on target fast. It’d be ideal for close-quarters shooting.
Recoil on this gun is very sharp. The thin butt pad is inadequate, but adding a recoil pad like a LimbSaver made it much more comfortable to use and didn’t seem to change the way it swings and comes up. Without the recoil pad, my shoulder was bruised by birdshot. Slugs were painful. The heavy recoil made me flinch but adding a recoil pad helped immensely.
The recoil also gives me a little issue with my front hand. Every time I shoot, the lip on the forend bites into my index finger. I’ve tried several different grips, but that lip always jumps back into my finger. It’s noticeable after shooting an entire magazine quickly. It may just be me and wearing gloves removes the problem. You’ll see me trying different grips in this video.
Another interesting phenomenon is that when you cycle the action, the shells flip 180 degrees and fall forward and down from the ejection port. As they do, the brass on the shells hit my right wrist each time and the hot metal bruises. I’m told this can be avoided by raising your elbow while pumping and wearing gloves should also help.
Pump With Authority
I’ve seen several other folks who’ve reviewed this gun having trouble with it cycling ammo. It’d double feed and drop an extra shell on the ground, or it won’t load a new shell at all. For my part, I’ve found that running the action with authority takes care of most of the issues. You’ve got to rack it all the way back and all the way forward. It’s easy to short-stroke the pump in either direction which will either not load a new shell or not completely cock the shotgun. If it doesn’t cock, it won’t fire.
Still, on my sample gun, I was never able to shoot a full 8 rounds from the magazine, as you can see in the video above. Each time I loaded and shot, an unspent shell would fall from the ejection port with a spent shell at least once. I usually got 7 shots out of 8, but sometimes I only got 6. I could feel the difference in the stroke and note that two shells dropped after I became more familiar, but I couldn’t find a way to stop it from happening.
When I spoke with Keltec about this, they said they’ve got a fix for it. Mine is an early sample and current production has a fix so this doesn’t happen anymore. Plus, it can be fixed so sending the gun back would be an option. I’ve seen other owners who sent it back for the update and reported that the issue is completely fixed.
As long as you rack the pump all the way back and forward, your KS7 will cycle flawlessly.
Who’s This Gun For?
This gun is clearly intended for home defense. It’s short enough that I think it’d be a good option to keep in a vehicle, too. It’s simple to operate and the controls are completely ambidextrous. It holds 7+1 shells in 2 3/4″, or 6+1 shells in 3″. It comes up on target and shoots well.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any real-life opportunities to test its home defense capabilities. But I did take it jackrabbit hunting a few times and carried it for several miles. When it’s empty, the balance is to the rear and the carry handle is uncomfortable to use, but when the magazine is loaded it’s well balanced for carrying. It’s fairly lightweight, too, and that makes it more totable. As I hiked with it in hand for rabbits, I kept thinking it might be a good option as a bear gun in grizzly country because you could simply carry it and be ready all the time. When chokes are available, I’d like to try it as a chukar gun.
Keeping it at the bedside or carrying it in the hills is also made easier by its lightweight price. It’s got half as much capacity as the KSG, and with an MSRP of just $495, it’s about half the cost, too.
The plastics have some edges, but since they’ve fixed the feeding issues, this gun shoots well and fits a niche. The price is just right and I think you’d appreciate having it in your arsenal.
The KS7 comes in black, green or coyote tan.
- Caliber: 12 gauge, 3″
- Capacity: 6+1 with 3″ shells, 7+1 with 2 3/4″ shells
- Weight: 5.9 lbs
- Overall length: 26.1″
- Barrel length: 18.5″
- Length of pull: 13″
- Sights: Fiber optic front, post rear
- Accessories: MLOK, upgradeable to Picatinny top rail
- MSRP: $495