Looking for a dependable, carry-anywhere, pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) for backpacking or the homestead? Look no further than Kel-Tec and check out its Sub-2000.
Arriving in a box, no larger than one of my kids’ old board games, the Sub-2000 Gen 2 was nestled in and folded up, not broken down. We’re used to getting “long” guns shipped in long, narrow, rectangular boxes. So, it took a few seconds to wrap my mind around a gun that folds into a 16-by-7-inch space.
Picking up the gun, it was definitely heavier than it looked. Not to say a 4¼-pound firearm is heavy, but the strategic use of polymer camouflaged its apparent heft and its performance capabilities.
Even the folding rear sight is synthetic. Which is fine with me, as I’d prefer to have the lightest back-up sight possible, as my plan from the start was to mount a miniature red dot sight. When the gun is folded, the front sight tucks into a recess in the stock and the rear sight is pushed flush with the top of the receiver.
To fold up the gun, you first pull down on the tabs located on the triggerguard that disengages the two halves. Then rotate the 16-inch, suppressor-ready threaded barrel assembly backwards until it is captured by a clasp located on the stock.
The gun comes with a crossbolt safety and a bolt retaining notch that has to be manually set. You’ll have to get used to the safety since it works opposite of most other guns. The magazine release is located on the left side much like on most pistols.
Each carbine comes with one, 15-round Magpul PMAG15 GL-9 magazine that corresponds to the variant you’re shooting. In our case, we had a model that took Glock 17 and 19 magazines. Kel-Tec also makes variants to take mags from the Smith & Wesson M&P, SIG Sauer P226, and the Beretta 92 and 96.
Meeting in the Middle
I practiced unhitching, unfolding and charging to see how fast I could get the Kel-Tec into action. While the pivot point is a bit stiff (who wants a floppy gun biting a finger or damaging itself), it was easy to overcome and told me with a reassuring loud click that everything was aligned. However, charging the firearm was a different story – it was a bear.
Putting on my designer hat, I could understand why it was so heavy. Coupled with the two-piece bolt assembly, they needed to be hefty to compensate for the pressures generated by the pistol-caliber cartridge in a small carbine. You can definitely hear and feel the strength of the spring as the bolt assembly travels forward.
However, this poses a drawback for shooters who may not have the upper-body strength to cycle the action. If the gun had a last-shot bolt hold open function, it would help, but the Sub-2000 doesn’t. You have to rack the action each time a new magazine is inserted.
It wasn’t until I got to the range for testing that a healthy dose of gun oil and 300 rounds downrange made everything loosen up for a more favorable relationship.
I was thrilled with the gun’s accuracy with and without an Aimpoint Comp5 red dot attached. Of the six 9mm loads I had on hand, the Sub-2000 preferred the lighter Hornady 100-grain Critical Defense FTX Lite ammunition, turning in the day’s best 50-yard group of .56 inch. But the heavier 147-grain bullets in the Federal Personal Defense HST and SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown JHP offerings printed groups almost as small at .87 inch and .88 inch, respectively. The Federal load did edge out the Hornady load by .08 inch for best group average of 1.45 inches.
When finding the right load for the Sub-2000, remember bullet drop happens a lot faster than you think. If you were to zero using a 100-grain load at 50 yards, then switch to a 147-grain load without recalibrating the sight(s), you could be inches off from your original point of impact (POI). It’s understandable, heavy bullets traveling at slower velocities will drop sooner. Even from a 16-inch barrel, the average velocities for the 147-grain pistol loads were nowhere near the 1300+ feet per second (fps) set by the lighter bullets.
After our standard 50-yard group testing was done, I decided to see what the Sub-2000 would do at 100. Selecting the lighter SIG Sauer 115-grain JHPs and Hornady’s 100-grain FTX Lites, I shot 20 rounds of each at standard 100-yard rifle targets. Making sure the Aimpoint was zeroed at 50 yards, I began peppering the 8-inch black circles on the targets.
The carbine tallied 15 out of 20 shots in the black with the SIG Sauer ammo. Whereas, with the 100-grain Hornady Lites, it could only score 8 hits, with more scatter. This proves why you should not take your ammo choice for granted. While the 100-grainers were better at 50 yards, they fell behind as the distance doubled. So, test thoroughly.
After a day on the range, I would be very confident engaging targets out to 100 yards as long as I knew the holds for bullet drop. While the trigger pull was tested at just over 7 pounds, I was still able to turn in groups at 50 yards that average around 3½ inches from a sandbag rest with the iron sights. However, with the Aimpoint attached, it was almost surgical, engaging orange clays scattered over the range from 50 to 100 yards. And for the cherry on the top, it didn’t fail once. No, miss fires. No jams. Zippo. Very dependable.
Aside from the hefty recoil spring, the gun’s buttstock could stand a bit of rubber to make it less slick against clothing. I’d also look into getting a cheek pad to fit over the receiver tube and the buttstock to minimize the felt recoil to the face. Check out the Kel-Tec website and other aftermarket suppliers for these items and other additions to make your Sub-2000 special.
|Load – 9mm||Average Velocity (fps)||SD||ES||Best Group (in.)||Average Group Size (in.)|
|Hornady Critical Defense Lite 100-gr. FTX||1342||20||45||.56||1.53|
|Federal Personal Defense 147-gr. HST||1099||12||31||.87||1.45|
|SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown 147-gr. JHP||1076||12||33||.88||2.10|
|SIG Sauer Elite V-Crown 115-gr. JHP||1320||16||53||1.46||1.88|
|Federal Personal Def. Hydra-Shot 135-gr. JHP||1129||16||38||1.89||2.19|
|Hornady Critical Defense 115-gr. FTX||1307||20||56||2.06||2.38|
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 50 yards aided by an Aimpoint Comp5 red dot sight. Velocity results are the average of five shots measured by a LabRadar adjacent to the muzzle.
Type: Semiautomatic, blowback
Magazine: 15 rds.
Overall Length: 30 in.
Barrel: 16 in.; 1:10 twist
Weight: 4.25 lbs.
Trigger: 7.4 lbs. (tested)
Finish: Black polymer, anodized matte-black nitrite (metal)
Sights: Fixed rear; adjustable front post (elevation and windage)
Muzzle Device: Suppressor ready
Manufacturer: Kel-Tec, 321-890-1850, keltecweapons.com