Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Gunday: Kel-Tec Sub-2000

There's a new toy here at Château Palette:  the Kel-Tec Sub-2000.

The Sub-2000 (henceforth known as the S2k) is a pistol-caliber semi-auto carbine, chambered either in .40 S&W or 9mm Luger, and able to accept a variety of different magazines depending upon which model you purchase. Ours is 9mm Glock, because for the sake of utility and frugality I wanted a gun which used magazines from the world's most popular pistol chambered in the world's most common pistol caliber.* While it comes with a 10-round magazine, we went ahead and got a 33-round mag, along with a hundred rounds of 115 grain FMJ (that's Full Metal Jacket, meaning the bullet is entirely coated in copper and is neither a hollowpoint nor has a soft lead tip).

I want to point out that this is not specifically MY gun; even though I picked it out and will be responsible for maintaining it, and I can shoot it whenever I like, it is technically my mother's gun because she's the one who bought it. Mom was feeling a bit left out because other than my .22, there weren't many guns in the house she could shoot. Dad has several revolvers in the .38 special - .357 magnum range, and while I can shoot them they aren't what I'd call comfortable, so it follows that my 72-year-old mother would not enjoy firing them. She wouldn't enjoy shooting my Mosin-Nagant, either, and my 12 gauge shotgun is pretty much out of the question.

Basically, she wanted something she could shoot either for fun or for self-defense. I knew that a pistol-caliber carbine would serve her well, because the combination of 9mm bullet, semi-auto action, and a shoulder stock would make the recoil manageable. The fact that the longer barrel allows for greater accuracy and a more solid grip -- three points of contact between shoulder and both hands -- is also a benefit. Combine that with a "Why would I need to reload?" 33-round magazine, and this is a pretty potent self-defense weapon in a surprisingly affordable package.

Retail price is around $400. We got ours for $350. Most 9mm handguns are in the $300 - $600 range, and because this was a long gun, we didn't have to wait 3 days to pick it up.

The S2k is a surprisingly light weapon. I can hold it comfortably in one hand and it balances perfectly. Most of the weapon is covered in a plastic polymer; the exceptions are the stock (though not the shoulder piece) and the few inches of barrel not covered by a shroud. This plastic is one of three negative things I have to say about the S2k; there are quite visible mold lines ("flash" in model-assembly parlance) all over the housing and shroud, giving the gun an unfinished look. The checkering on the pistol grip is also quite rough, making it uncomfortable to grip without a glove, and there is a seam running down the back right where it can rub the sensitive skin between thumb and forefinger. Careful application of an X-acto knife will solve some of these problems, but I recommend either a shooting glove or a Hogue Handall slip-on grip.

The second problem I have with this weapon is the manner in which it is cocked. The bolt assembly lives in the buffer tube to the rear of the action, so cocking it requires me to curl my index finger around the operating handle which protrudes underneath and pull it to the rear. As you may imagine, this requires a fair amount of force (akin to releasing the safety on a Mosin-Nagant) and all of it is concentrated on the crook of my finger. This is not only unpleasant, it's poor ergonomics, and something my mother (who has arthritis) would have trouble with.

I plan to coat this in black plasti-dip to give it a more uniform appearance. 

Fortunately, the fix for this is simple. I took the head from an old Mini Maglite and used epoxy putty to pack the cavity. This simple modification allows me to wrap three fingers and a thumb around it, giving me much greater leverage. While I had no problems with this extension when shooting, it is entirely possible that men with large hands might find it striking them on the back of their wrists. I don't think this is likely, as you hold the S2k like a rifle (forearm held at an angle) rather than like a pistol (forearm straight back from the pistol grip), but be aware of this possibility and test it before you permanently modify your S2k!

Each square is 1 inch.

The third and final problem is the buttstock. It too is made from the same uncomfortable plastic, and due to the locking mechanism on the back it does not sit comfortably in my shoulder. In fact, the ridges and protruding lock-knob make it feel like a cleated shoe. If it's uncomfortable just being held to my shoulder, I don't want to think about what it would feel like when firing. Fortunately, this is another easy fix; just purchase a small slip-on recoil pad.

That's everything that I didn't like, and they're all easily solvable problems. Now let's talk about what I did like.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the S2k is its ability to fold in half. This allows you to carry the weapon in a backpack or any carrier large enough to hold a full-size laptop computer What's more, the S2k is completely incapable of being fired while in this configuration, which renders it "safe for transport." There is also a locking mechanism at the back of the stock which enables you to lock the S2k in its folded position for added security in case of theft or curious children.

While this may seem like an oddity of little use, consider this: when folded, cleaning is a breeze. I have the convenience of using a simple cleaning rod while still going breech-to-muzzle. The action is similarly exposed, and I can attack it with a larger cleaning swab than I could if I had to go in through the ejection port. Finally, the sheer convenience of having it folded means that I can hold it in my lap to clean it.

Another point in the S2k's favor is that the bolt mechanism is easily removed without needing specialized tools. Press on the retaining pin in the back with your finger (or a bullet if necessary) until you can pull it out the other side. This disengages the buffer cap and allows you to remove the recoil spring and two-piece bolt for cleaning and lubrication.

Please note: the S2k manual says that you should never pull the trigger while the bolt is removed, as this will render the weapon inoperable. While this is true, it is by no means irreversible. If for some reason you are cleaning your S2k with the safety off (why??) and the trigger is pulled, do not panic. Simply find a small wooden dowel and run it down the exposed action until the hammer clicks back into place.

The front sight is surprisingly effective. Essentially a pair of ghost rings with a fiber-optic post in the front, this low-tech approach provides a highly visible and easy to acquire sight picture. When I took it to the range this weekend, I was able to shoot this group (approximately 60 rounds) at 15 yards using the default sights. I was not braced against anything.

Both accuracy and control are exceptional, and the recoil (with the pad in place) is barely more than that of a .22LR bullet.

This last part isn't scientific, but I'll say it anyway: the S2k is downright fun to shoot. There's something very James Bond or G.I. Joe about the way it looks and feels, and when I pick it up I have a hard time resisting the urge to run around like a little kid making "bang bang" noises. It shoots almost exactly the way you expected a gun to shoot back when you had toy guns, and the fact that most of the S2k is plastic is probably what contributes to the strong nostalgia.

It's small, it's afforable, it's a breeze to clean and a joy to shoot. If it was designed with more stringent ergonomics it would be the perfect gun. As I have just gotten it I cannot speak to its long-term durability, though I plan to put several hundred rounds through it before the end of the year. It's also an American-made gun (Cocoa, Florida) and the Kel-Tec website offers a number of accessories for it.

I wouldn't use this to go hunting, but this is an excellent gun for short-range self-defense or just taking to the range for a day of plinking. I am confident my elderly mother will be able to operate it effectively, as the controls are simple, the sights are accurate, and the recoil more than manageable.

My rating: 9 out of 10.


  1. I had one in 9mm, the Glock magazine model. Even put a rail kit on it.

    The iron(plastic) sights are awful, and stick up so high they block an optic - but they don't detach, you have to cut them off. Also, it shot about one foot groups at 100 yards, which is about what I can do with a pistol, so I saw little point in it, and sold it. If they finish the design in version 3, they might have something.

    Mech-tech makes a carbine conversion that uses either 1911 or Glock pistol frames, and accepts a wide variety of rails, optics, and other accessories. I think that's really a better option.

  2. I agree, the plastic sights are pretty craptastic. However, with the addition of the rail I was able to mount a red dot sight with a riser, and that lifted it enough that I was able to cowitness the sights.

    You were shooting a pistol caliber without optics at 100 yards?

  3. off a rest, yes, and it's been a few years, but I managed around 8-10 inches at 100 with a Smith 629 & 6.5" barrel.

  4. Wow. I think it's overly ambitious to expect pistol rounds to have decent grouping beyond 30 yards. Maybe 50 yards for the Subbie since it has a longer barrel. But, do as you like...

    While Mech-Tech likely makes a fine product, I am put off by the fact that in order to use their carbine conversion (which isn't cheap), one must first purchase a pistol. Buying what is effectively two guns in order to assemble one just seems wasteful.

  5. True, the MT is not cheap, especially when you add a few accessories.

    Something that was fairly common in the Old West was guys carrying a revolver and rifle that took the same cartridge, with the idea of using the rifle for longer shots, and the revo when a rifle was impractical. Hence the popularity of the Model 92 Winchester, chambered in revolver cartridges.

    In the case of the Mech Tech, you could not only shoot the same ammo, but also use the same magazines, which also simplifies logistics. Then the only challenge is finding ammo that works in both :)

  6. Which is why I carry a Glock 26 and have a 9mm Subbie that will accept Glock mags.  :)


The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to