Monday, November 24, 2014

Palette's Product Review: Red Lion Precision Sub-2000 Forend

Last month, I received some merchandise from Red Lion Precision for my Kel-Tec Sub-2000. As a review of all them (front sight, muzzle compensator, rail system) would be too much for a single article, I've broken it up into a series. This article will be about the Red Lion Precision Sub-2000 Forend ($147.00).

The Review I've Been Dreading
Okay, I'm just going to come out and say this: I don't like this rail system. I hasten to point out that this rail system is not inherently flawed (except for one small... irritating... characteristic); it does everything the manufacturer says it does. 

It just does it in a way that drives me crazy.

Since comparisons to Kel-Tec's in-house rail system are inevitable, I shall refer you to a review I did of them back in 2012 and invite you to compare and contrast. 

Let me say this about Red Lion Precision:  They know how to write instructions. Every step is clear, every part is labeled, and every step refers to those parts by number (unlike certain people -- I'm looking at you, Kel-Tec). 

As stated previously, installation of this rail system requires the user to completely remove, and therefore destroy, the stock Kel-Tec front sight, as the entire assembly is essentially monolithic and needs to slide over the barrel. This is in contrast to the Kel-Tec rails, which are a clamshell style. 

So this is strike one against this rail system in my personal slam book:  I don't like being forced to destroy something in order to install something else.

Strike two is how the rails mount to the chassis. With the Kel-Tec version, I simply screwed them into place from the outside. With the Red Lion version you must perform a bit of legerdemain. I quote from the directions:
"To attach rails place grommet into locating hole from the inside of the forend (hold in place with finger or popsicle stick or alike [sic] if your finger can't reach). Place rail into position. Place 10-24 x 1/2" flathead screw through the rail and into the grommet and tighten till grommet is slightly flexed and somewhat conformed to the forend ID radius."
In other words, in order to attach the rail you need to simultaneously steady the forend AND keep the grommet in place with a finger (easy at the open end) or a stick (required for everything else). Now, while holding the forend steady and keeping the grommet in place, USE THE FORCE to pick up a screwdriver and and attach the rail to the chassis while keeping the rail in position.

It gets easier once the first screw is in place, but if, like me, you don't have a clamp, you'll find yourself wishing for an extra set of hands.

Strike three is the fact that this forend doesn't even come with rails. You have to buy them separately.  Yes, in addition to paying $147 for this system, you then have to shell out $19 for an 8-slot rail, $23.50 for an 11-slot, or $31 for a 19-slot rail.

Compare this to the Kel-Tec version which comes with two full-length rails for $101 (and for an additional $16 you can get two more for the sides) and price-wise, Kel-Tec is the clear winner.

What makes the RLP forend interesting is that it rotates so that you don't have to take off your optic to fold your Sub-2000. This is a very clever design that ensures your optic returns to zero by means of a knurled collar that draws the forend down onto machined notches, ensuring precise positioning every time.

There are, however, some drawbacks to this.
  1. It takes several seconds to unscrew the collar, rotate the rail into the desired position, and then screw the collar down again before folding your Sub-2000 in half. In the same amount of time (and likely less), you could remove your optic via quick-release mounts and fold it normally with the Kel-Tec forend. You can definitely deploy the KT version faster just by unfolding the carbine and using iron sights. Using the RLP version, though, unfolding it without rotating it may result in you having a an optic where your hand goes, or a forward grip sticking up at an odd angle.
  2. Even if you don't have an optic on top, you still can't fold it without rotating the forend. The assembly requires a blank face to lie flush against the Sub-2000 stock when folded -- the rails are too high to allow for folding the way the Kel-Tec version does. 
  3. This means that if you are upgrading from the Kel-Tec version to the Red Lion version, all of your optics are going to be mounted higher than they were. This will require you to re-zero everything. 
  4. It is of interest to note that the rotating collar requires the rails to be several inches forward on the RLP forend than on the KT forend. If you have an optic that doesn't have much eye relief, this may be an issue for you. 
Let's call all of the above "strike four." There's no flaw in the operation of the rail system here: it rotates smoothly and returns to position every time. These are simply quirks of the system that I personally do not like, but I acknowledge they might not be an issue to other folks. 

That One Irritating Characteristic
All of the other annoyances, I could forgive. This last one, though, is what drove me to un-install the Red Lion Precision forend and replace it with the Kel-Tec version:

The entire assembly kept 
twisting clockwise.

I do not know why this happened. The first time I noticed it, I loosened the screws that clamp the forend to the barrel and re-zeroed everything WITH A LEVEL. Yet when I came back from shooting, everything had once again tilted right. I tried to fix it again, and again got the same result.

This drove me absolutely batty. While it did not prevent me from using the rail system, and I was still able to get co-witness through my red dot, the lopsided nature drove my sense of perspective nuts. I found that I was rotating the Sub-2000 to the left in order to make the optic level.. which of course meant that my front sight was tilted left.

I do not know how this happened. There is nothing visibly wrong with the forend, and I am 100% certain I followed the directions while installing it. And yet... this.

I hope this is an isolated incident, but the fact that I cannot see anything wrong with the forend makes me believe it isn't. Perhaps I did install it improperly; if so, I lay blame at the foot of the directions, as I know I followed them to the letter. My gut feeling, however, is that there is something wrong with it, as it shouldn't shift to the right despite its mounting screws being as tight as possible.

Regardless, here is my warning:  If you are a perfectionist or have even the least little bit of OCD, this flaw will be unbearable.

My Rating: D+
It works. It does everything it says it will do. And yet...
  1. It's much more expensive than the Kel-Tec version, due to its ability to rotate.
  2. I don't think the ability to rotate is really a feature when compared to time needed to deploy it. 
  3. It comes without rails, which means it's incomplete and forces you to buy RLP's proprietary rails.
  4. It requires you to destroy your stock front sight. 
  5. Mine refused to stay level. It outright REFUSED. 
I honestly, truly believe that any Sub-2000 owner would be better served buying the Kel-Tec version of the railed forend. I hate saying this, because I was looking forward to this product and I very much wanted to like it. 

That said, it's still a rugged and beautifully engineered piece of metal that does what it says it will do. 

In Conclusion:
  • Definitely get the RLP front sight.
  • You will need to get an adapter for it; so get the less-expensive kind, unless you really want a glass breaker, as the muzzle compensator doesn't compensate for anything. 
  • Don't get the RLP forend unless you really need it to rotate, and you're willing to accept an optic being permanently off-kilter. 

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this product for free. I was not paid or otherwise compensated in return for giving it a good review, which should be obvious as I gave it a terrible review. 


  1. Iffin you can't mount it so it won't rotate after following all the directions I think we can take "beautifully engineered" off the list of compliments. Won't stay put is in the pooly engineered category.

    The destruction of the front sight is a partial blame on Kel-Tec. They designed it to never come apart forcing its destruction should you ever want to change it.

  2. Welllll.. okay, sure, but other than not staying level on the barrel, it's wonderfully engineered. The way they got the pieces to rotate and return to zero is quite lovely.

    Basically, I think I feel guilty about savaging this product in my review, because I really wanted to like it, so I'm giving compliments where I can.

    And yeah, good point about Kel-Tec's shared culpability. If they ever release a new version of the Sub-2000, I hope that shortcoming is improved.


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