The Kel-Tec RDB17 could be considered the working man’s bullpup. Nothing fancy, but it sure performs. The RDB17 is a no-frills bullpup that is very functional with a simplistic approach. It is constructed of two polymer halves that sandwich around a steel action and barrel. The gas piston system has a gas regulator, so a user can regulate the weapon to run on all sorts of ammunition and a suppressor. The gas regulator can be adjusted with the open mouth from an empty 5.56 NATO case. It’s click-adjustable and Kel-Tec recommends firing a round after adjusting the regulator to test reliability. It comes from the factory ready to run on standard M193-type ammo.
It features a left side charging handle that is non-reciprocating. It locks against the forend when not being used. The RDB17’s cocking handle provides good leverage when cocking the weapon with your support hand on the charging handle and your firing hand on the grip.
The outside texture of the polymer features a coarse grid pattern that is comfortable and offers plenty of grip purchase. A Picatinny rail at 12- and 6 o’clock allow mounting of an optic or vertical grip.
The controls include an ambidextrous rotating safety selector that is easily manipulated by the thumb of shooing hand—like the operation of an AR-15—but requires less rotation than the typical AR-15 selector. The magazine release lever is also suited for left- or right-hand users. The lever is designed so the magazine falls free, as the operator grasps the magazine to remove it. Since the operator’s hand naturally falls on it, the simple metal magazine release is pressed to drop or strip away the magazine.
Field stripping the Kel-Tec is simple. Push out two pins and it is disassembled similar to an AR-15. Rotate the grip downward, and the barrel and bolt carrier can be removed from the stock/grip assembly.
The RDB uses a unique downward ejecting system. As the bolt move rearward, the extractor pulls the cases out of the chamber and into dual ejectors that push the case down a chute, so empties fall at the shooter’s feet.
The Kel-Tec comes with a 20-round magazine and is also compatible with standard AR-15 magazines, which I appreciate since I have plenty of AR-15 magazines on hand. I used aluminum-body magazines Magpul PMAGs, and Amend2 mags—all were 30-rounders.
I tested the Kel-Tec with a SIG Romeo4B red dot sight which excels at close to medium range. At ranges out to 100 yards, the dot suffices. While most red dots tend to cover a lot of target at far distances, the Romeo4B allows the user to toggle between four different reticles:
- 2 MOA dot
- 2 MOA dot with ballistic holds
- 2 MOA/65 MOA Circle Dot
- 2 MOA/65 MOA Circle Dot with ballistic holds
The ballistic holdover points are calibrated for 5.56 NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. An activated motion sensor immediately powers up illumination when the red dot senses motion and powers down when it does not to extend battery life. A nice feature for those of you (like me) who forget to turn off the red dot and find it dead the next time you use it.
100-Yard Accuracy, Five-Shot Groups
|Aguila 5.56mm NATO 62-gr. FMJ-BT||2.00 in.||3,040 fps||1,272 ft-lbs|
|Federal Fusion .223 Rem. 62-gr. Fusion||2.52 in.||2,943 fps||1,193 ft-lbs|
|SIG Elite .223 Rem. 77-gr. OTM Match||2.95 in.||2,424 fps||1,005 ft-lbs|
Three brands of ammunition were used including Aguila 5.56mm NATO with a 62-grain FMJ bullet, .223 Rem. Federal Fusion loaded with a 62-grain soft point, and SIG Sauer .223 Rem. ammo loaded with a 77-grain OTM Match bullet.
|Caliber:||.223 Rem./5.56mm NATO|
|Action Type:||Semi-Automatic; Adjustable Gas Piston|
|Capacity:||20-rnd. detachable box, polymer|
|Sights:||optic ready, picatinny rail|
|Trigger Pull:||5.5 lbs. single stage|
|Suggested Retail Price:||$1275|
At 25 yards using a rest, I could create one large hole in the target. At 100 yards and using the same rest, the accuracy ranged between 2.5 to 3 MOA. In speed testing, the RDB17 ran well with no malfunctions. The handguard incorporates a ridge, so your support hand does not get too close the muzzle. Hot brass falls at your feet. The trigger was not as refined as I would like, but usable.
The Kel-Tec is a basic bullpup that, in my opinion, will get the job done. If you have a need to own a bullpup and have a limited budget this would be an excellent option.
Are you a bullpup fan? What is your impression of the Kel-Tec RDB17? Share your answers in the comment section.
Robert Sadowski is author of Book of Glock and 9MM: Guide to America’s Most Popular Caliber. Sadowski is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Glock Collectors Association, a life long hunter and shooter, and Second Amendment advocate.
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