The Best Bullpups – Handguns, Rifles, and Shotguns

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Bullpups were the weapon of the future circa the early 1900s. It’s true; they’ve been around for almost two centuries, with the first bullpup rifle popping up in 1860. Since then, the concept has evolved and become more mainstream, with numerous military forces in Europe wielding bullpups. The concept has also slowly caught fire in the world of American firearms, with quite a few new bullpups hitting the American market in all manner of configurations. 

Today we want to look at the best, brightest, and most bullpup-ish guns on the market. We are focusing on the firearms the average Joe can access in the States and not taking into account weapons that might be used by foreign military forces but are not available in the States. 

Why Bullpups 

The benefit of a bullpup is size. Bullpups place the action, and often the magazine, behind the trigger. The action and magazine well occupy the space typically reserved for the stock. This shrinks the weapon quite effectively. An AUG with a 20-inch barrel is shorter than an m4 with a 14.5-inch barrel. Longer barrels increase velocity and penetration power as well as effective range. However, the weapon remains short and easy to use in CQB and in and out of vehicles. 

Bullpup weapons also offer a different balance which places most of the weight towards the shooter’s core. This makes the weapons easier to control and easier to shoot with a single hand. 

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That doesn’t mean they aren’t without their weak points. Bullpups tend to be less friendly to left-handed shooters and often present issues with ejection and controls. Bullpup triggers are nothing to brag about, and very few do anything to improve this impression. With iron sights, bullpup rifles have a very short sight radius. Also, reloads can be awkward and do require an entirely new manual of arms. 

With all that in mind, let’s look at the best bullpup rifles you can get your grubby little paws on. 

Bullpup Rifles 

Rifles are the primary weapon to be exposed to bullpup-ification. There are quite a few out there that deserve a mention. I’ve narrowed it down to three that have proven to be some of the best out there. 

Tavor Series 

The Tavor series of rifles have become quite popular in the states. Enough so that IWI hosts a class all about how to excel with a Tavor rifle. The Americanized Tavors vary a bit, so I include the entire series as a part of this selection. The Tavor series includes the older SAR, the current X95, the 7.62 Tavor 7, and the X95 in 9mm. 

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Tavor bullpup rifle in 5.56 with red dot optic
Tavor bullpup rifle in 5.56 with red dot optic

The Tavor series utilizes a long-stroke gas piston system with a rotating bolt. It’s surprisingly soft shooting and is easy to control. We get STANAG magazine compatibility for the 5.56 series, Uzi mags for the 9mm version, and SR-25 series magazines for the Tavor 7. These rifles feature a modern layout that incorporates an optic and an accessory-ready design. 

Shooters can swap the ejection to work with left-handed shooters fairly easily, and most of the controls are either reversible or ambidextrous to make the weapon left-handed accessible. 

Steyr AUG 

The Steyr AUG is a classic bullpup design that saw a lot of success in the early days of the modern bullpup. It remains a high-quality rifle choice to this day. The AUG is not super common, but still produced and available to you, me, and every other average Joe. The Steur AUG is a short-stroke gas piston bullpup designed to use a proprietary magazine. The modern AUGs can use STANAG magazines, although you lose some of the AUG’s charm, including the ability to swap it to left-handed use. 

Steyr Aug bullpup rifle OD green
Steyr Aug bullpup rifle OD green

The AUG is a very modular rifle with an easy and quick-change barrel. This makes conversions to various calibers easy at the user level. It also allows you to swap to different-length barrels with heavy and SBR options available. Most AUGs are 5.56, but .300 Blackout and 9mm exist as well. AUGs either come with an integrated optic or a rail to add your own, and I suggest adding your own. 

The AUG is a very proven platform with a long history of success. It’s still used by several military forces, and modern variants are very capable rifles. 

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K&M M17S 

K&M took the idea for the Bushmaster M17S and pushed it forward into a reliable, lightweight, and downright awesome bullpup rifle. The K&M M17S is a dark horse when it comes to bullpup rifles, and it certainly deserves more attention. It uses the classic short-stroke gas piston design with an adjustable gas system. The rifle uses a few standard AR parts, including the magazine catch, grip, springs, and pins, as well as an AR extractor, ejector, and AR magazines. 

K&M M17S bullpup rifle in 5.56
K&M M17S bullpup rifle in 5.56

It’s optics and accessory-ready, with a modern layout and easy ergonomics. What’s great is that K&M figured out how to make a good bullpup trigger. Their patented linkage results in a 4 to 5-pound trigger that is user adjustable. It’s insanely nice. The downside is that it’s not left-hand friendly by any means. The rifle is currently produced in 5.56 and 7.62 NATO, with .300 Blackout on the way. 

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

Shotguns

Short weapons make sense for close-range combat, and bullpups are as short as they can get. Shotguns also make sense for close-range shooting, so why not bullpup your shotgun? As a shotgun guy, I love these guns. 

KelTec KS7 

I’ll start with the most affordable option for bullpup shotguns. The KelTec Ks7 is a pump action shotgun derived from the KSG. However, it has a simpler design with a single tube to make a very lightweight and handy shotgun. The KS7 proved to be reliable and easy to shoot .it’s also incredibly light and shorter than a Mossberg Shockwave. 

Keltec KS7 Bullpup shotgun
Keltec KS7 Bullpup shotgun

While the carry handle seems goofy, it does work well and offers you several M-LOK slots for numerous accessories. It’s easy to swap for an optics rail if you so choose. The KS7 offers ambidextrous controls, and a bottom ejection design makes it friendly for right and left-handed shooters. 

See More KelTec’s KS7 Bullpup Shotgun

SRM 1216

The SRM 1216 might not be a true bullpup. The action is above the trigger, not forward or necessarily rearward, but I’m counting it. The SRM 1216 is the space shotgun of the future. It holds 16 rounds in a forward-mounted magazine that features four separate magazine tubes. There are no box magazine downsides, and you can easily rotate from tube to tube to constantly keep the gun running. 

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SRM 1216 bullpup shotgun
SRM 1216 bullpup shotgun

When the tubes run dry, you can swap them for another 16-round magazine design. The SRM 1216 uses a roller-delayed design, much like an HK series rifle of SMG. The action is quite reliable with most loads, from your normal high-powered buckshot to reduced recoil tactical loads. It’s an awesome system that solves the problem with magazine-fed shotguns in a rather creative way. 

See More A 16-Round, Revolving Shotgun? The SRM Arms Model 1216—Full Review

Handguns 

Bullpup handguns are fairly rare. Bushmaster made one, and Colt did some prototypes, but there seems to be only one currently in production. It’s easy to be the best when you’re the only one on the market. 

Bond Arms Bullpup 

The Bond Arms Bullpup is a semi-automatic, 9mm handgun that gives the appearance of a very small subcompact pistol. The bullpup design grants the gun a 3.35-inch barrel but an overall length of only 5.1 inches. It’s 1.4 inches shorter than the Glock 26 for comparison. It was initially known as the Boeberg XR9, but Boeberg could never get them running just right. Bond Arms bought the design and seemingly perfected it. 

Bond arms bullpup handgun
Bond arms bullpup handgun

The system uses a short recoil design with a rotating barrel. That’s the secret to the space-saving design. The slide moves with absolute ease, and the gun can be used by anyone effectively. The magazines might trip you up since they completely lack a follower. This single stack 9mm is small but low recoiling, very accurate, and in Bond Arms hands, it’s very reliable. The downside is that you have to use the ammo suggested by Bond Arms. Some ammo with weaker crimps might cause issues. 

Bullpup Everything 

Bullpup rifles, shotguns, and handguns are unlikely to dominate the market anytime soon. With so many standard layout designs, it’s tough to break new ground with something odd. However, they certainly seem to be gaining market share, and more options are always good. These are what I think are the best bullpups out there. What do you think deserves to be on the list? 

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  • C. Lewis June 5, 2023, 11:48 pm

    I like that you included a Kel TEC however you forgot to mention the RDB! Best bullpup trigger I’ve ever shot and I’ve shot almost all modern bullpups. Great accuracy and downward ejection makes it a great choice for left handed shooters.

  • Walleye June 5, 2023, 4:36 pm

    The Steyr Aug is absolutely the most accurate select fire battle rifle I’ve ever shot. Nothing else compares. As a bonus, its easy to use, field strip, or change parts from RH to LH.

  • Jason Lynch June 5, 2023, 9:50 am

    Paid 250 otd for a takarov 12g and is it pretty well built for a shot blaster.

    I’d like to see more bullpup lever actions

  • Curby L KEITH June 5, 2023, 9:32 am

    Why did you not include the Tokarev TBP? It’s a low cost 12 gauge option. For reliability it required 3″ shells for break-in but after that mine has performed flawlessly.

  • Idaho June 3, 2023, 6:04 pm

    This article is rather antiquated. TS12 and T7 are great options. Keltec has bullpups in 5.56 and 7.62. The Hellion is probably the best quality for the dollar today. Utah/USA Desert Tech is more expensive but great quality. Plenty of cheap mag fed shotgun bullpups around.

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