Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Kel Tec Debate

Kel Tec itself has been around since 1991, with George Kellgren at the helm. Hes done work for Intratec, Grendel, Husqvarna, and Kel Tec has become the 3rd biggest arms maker in America. With the Kel-Tec KSG making such a stir in the market, all the talk of Kel Tec and how they run their business has come back up to the light.

Don't get me wrong here. There is something I want to clear the air with right away: Kel Tec follows designs and inspirations in a way that nobody else does. They actively try and innovate and succeed in a market based on traditional designs. Their guns have had a big impact. The PLR series is a fun, low cost .223 Auto. Their small frame automatics have been a big impact on the carry gun market. The RFB could have been something awesome.

The real thing to analyze here, however, in their design execution. The KSG is an awesome idea, but everyone has reserves about these products. They never seem to have a stellar takedown, reliability, or really any place in the market beyond a gimmick aspect. Their videos also did not inspire confidence: the pump action looked pretty imprecise, gritty, and rough. They intend to be marketing this not just to civilians, but to Cops as well. Do you really expect the average police force to adopt this shotgun over a proven 870,590, or Benelli?

There is always room in the market for design improvement and innovation, and I admire Kel Tec's enthusiasm for this, but when it comes in an unreliable and unappealing package, it gets relegated to the gimmick bin. Lets take the uses in stride here: is it going to be an LEO gun? Probably not. Tactical weapon/Competition? No way, 930's and more conventional, cheaper guns have that market cornered. Hunting shotgun? Nope. Sporting? No as well. Defense gun? Would you want to suddenly have to switch tubes using that clunky switch?

It basically comes down to it being a glorified range toy. I cant object to that use, as that's a perfectly justifiable use for lots of guns. But I won't try and overstep my bounds here or try and create a new use for the gun. This is a tangent, but this same logic applies to the Taurus Judge and the S&W Governor. They are range toys, not defensive guns. A part of me wants to both thank and reprimand Kel Tec at the same time, but at this point I can only see them as the inspired but ineffectual innovators of the gun market.


  1. Perhaps one of the more disappointing ways to view Kel-Tec's popularity is this: so many people are clamoring for new designs that they're willing to fork over their hard earned money for extremely mediocre guns. Truly, Kel-Tec is one of the few innovators on the scene.

    Then again, perhaps the cost-cutting and obvious functional deficiencies are actually necessary to keep these new designs viable for the market (for the record, I hope I'm mistaken). As some small justification of this idea, take a look at the Magpul Masada / Bushmaster ACR: the combination of introducing a new design and making it function well pushed the MSRP to ludicrous heights. We might simply be forced to pick two out of the following three options in a gun: (1) something innovative, (2) something affordable, and (3) something that runs well.