Kel-Tec 7.62x51mm RFB Bullpup Carbine

 

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

December 28th, 2009

 

 

 

Click links below for video!

640x480 WMV format (35.9 MB)
320x240 WMV format (12.5 MB)

Bullpup rifles and shotguns have always fascinated me. The design makes a lot of sense, moving the action into the buttstock, effectively shortening the overall length of the weapon without shortening the barrel. For me, being a left-handed shooter, most bullpup firearms have been unusable. Simply moving the action to the buttstock in most designs leaves the ejection port pretty close to a left-handed shooters ear, making the design essentially a single shot for me, as a hot empty cartridge case ejected into the ear canal makes concentrating upon a follow-up shot difficult at best. There are a couple of designs that allow the shooter to switch the ejection to the left side, another which ejects out the front, and one that ejects out the bottom. However, none of these have been chambered for the 7.62x51 NATO (.308 Winchester) cartridge, until now.

It has been almost three years now since I was first shown Kel-Tecís RFB carbine back in early 2007. RFB stands for: Rifle, Forward-ejecting Bullpup. It has taken awhile to get the design perfected and to get the rifle into production, but they have been in production for a few months now, and I finally have one laying across my lap as I type this. I have been shooting this rifle for a couple weeks now by day, and studying its design by night. I have spent hours just looking over the schematic drawings in the manual, and staring at the pictures of how the carbine operates. The action is a short-stroke gas piston with a tilting-block action. Other than having a barrel with a rifled bore and feeding from a box magazine, nothing about this rifle is conventional.

The barrel length on this RFB carbine measures eighteen inches, and the muzzle is threaded 5/8x24 threads-per-inch, so that it will readily accept muzzle brakes, flash suppressors, and sound suppressors. The carbine is equipped with a closed-bottom birdcage style flash suppressor. The barrel is rifled one turn in 11.25 inches, and has six grooves. A twenty-four inch barreled model will be offered in the future. The RFB uses commonly-available metric pattern FAL surplus magazines, and comes supplied with one twenty-round mag. The magazine slides up straight from the bottom, with no tilting necessary to slam it home with the bolt locked open. There are ambidextrous bolt release levers at the rear of the magazine housing on either side, and an ambidextrous magazine release at the rear of the magazine housing. The paddle-type mag release is very easy to use. The safety is also ambidextrous, with levers on either side at the top of the pistol grip. The charging handle pulls to the rear and is released to chamber a cartridge from the magazine, and can be easily and quickly switched to either side, as the operator prefers. This RFB carbine is a true fully-ambidextrous design. Nothing is compromised for left-handed shooters, and the rifle works just as well for a left-hander as for a right-handed shooter. Thanks, Kel-Tec!

The barrel of the RFB is made from 4140 ordnance steel, and has a chrome-lined bore and chamber.  The bolt, receiver, and gas system are also made of 4140 steel, and the internal surfaces of the gas system are chrome plated as well to resist wear and corrosion. The bolt carrier and upper cover are made of stamped 4130 sheet steel. The grip and hand guard are made of made of a high-tech polymer, and are textured for a positive grip. The hand guard has an integral hand-stop at the lower front to prevent the support hand from sliding forward and touching the hot barrel. Machined into the barrel, just forward of the gas block is a threaded area about 1.125 inches in diameter, with interrupted threads. I know of nothing that is built to attach to this, but was told by Kel-Tec personnel that it is for a future accessory.

The gas piston system has an adjustable regulator which Kel-Tec calls the gas restrictor cap. The device adjusts the amount of gas that is delivered to the piston, to compensate for the ammunition, weather conditions, and other variables to reliably operate the action.

The RFB has no mechanical sights, but wears a nine and three-quarters inch long 1913 Picatinny rail atop the rifle for the mounting of optical sights. It is the ideal height to mount a good rifle scope or dot sight, such as a Trijicon Reflex. For a medium to long range battle sight, a Trijicon ACOG would be perfect, or for target work, any good quality target scope such as a Leupold Mark 4 fits very well, without adding too much bulk to the rifle.

This compact design results in an overall length of only twenty seven and one-half inches including the detachable flash suppressor, and an empty weight of eight pounds, nine ounces on my scale. The length of pull is fourteen inches. The very handy overall length is almost a full foot shorter than my LRT-SASS with an equal-length barrel. The RFB is also lighter, and balances very well, right at the pistol grip. The RFB carbine would serve handily where a powerful but compact weapon is needed in tight quarters.

At first, I was a bit intimidated about taking this RFB apart to examine the internals, as I have seen nothing quite like this before, but after doing so, found that it is very easy to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance, and nothing more than the nose of a bullet is needed to fully strip this carbine. There are a couple of disassembly pins in the rear, and another in the front, to access parts and to remove the bolt and carrier for access to the barrel breech for cleaning. The gas piston system is easy to clean, and is a very simple and reliable design. A small amount of powder gas is bled off through a hole in the bore, flows through the gas block, and the short-stroke piston smacks the bolt carrier directly, moving it rearward to extract the fired case and chamber a fresh round from the box magazine. The empty cartridge case is not ejected with the rearward movement of the bolt and carrier, but is held by the extractors until the bolt is moving forward chambering a cartridge. At that time, the empty case is tilted slightly upward, and is released by the extractors into the ejection chute as the bolt closes on the freshly-chambered round. It is an ingenious design, like nothing that I have ever seen before. The empty cases then slide forward, out through a hole in the gas block.

After getting a good peek inside and taking a few pictures, I was anxious to get this rifle into action. It has been a long time coming. I gathered a variety of .308 and 7.62x51 ammo, and mounted a Leupold Mark 4 scope for accuracy and function testing. Ammo consisted of military NATO spec 147 grain ball and purple-tip cartridges, commercial .308 hunting ammo, and Buffalo Bore Sniper and Federal Gold Medal Match hollowpoint target ammo. With every type tested, reliability was one hundred percent. Every round fed, fired, and ejected perfectly, and the bolt always locked open on an empty magazine. Accuracy varied from good to superb, depending upon the ammo chosen. Federal Gold Medal 168 grain hollowpoint was by far the most accurate ammunition tested in this RFB carbine, grouping reliably under three-quarters of an inch for three shots at one hundred yards.  The military ball ammo grouped closer to two inches. Any rifle is only as accurate as the ammo fed it, and the ball ammo was from broken-down machine gun belts. It was cheap and perfectly reliable, but better stuff is needed for good accuracy. Felt recoil was mild, with no pain to the shoulder after extensive firing sessions. With the location of the box magazine, shooting from a conventional benchrest for accuracy is a problem. However, the RFB worked very well in the Target Shooting, Inc. rifle rest, allowing me to see just how accurately the RFB could shoot. While most bullpup rifles have heavy, long trigger pulls, the RFB does not. The Kel-Tec RFB has absolutely the best trigger pull that I have ever felt on a bullpup rifle. The release is crisp, and while measuring right at six pounds on my trigger pull gauge, it felt lighter and was easy to use, making target work very enjoyable.

Kel-Tec is a very innovative company. The folks there conceive and produce firearms that are unlike other designs on the market. They do not simply slap their label onto existing designs, but produce truly unique firearms which fill niches that need filling. I have long seen a real need for a reliable, easy to carry .22 Magnum auto pistol, and Kel-Tec has one in the works right now. It will weigh less than fourteen ounces, and have a thirty-shot magazine! Called the PMR-30, I should get to handle a prototype at SHOT in about three weeks. If it is as good as I think it will be, I gotta have one! Maybe two. The hard part will be the waiting.

The Kel-Tec RFB is a handy, reliable, and accurate bullpup rifle that packs the full power of the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. It can fire any 7.62x51 or .308 Winchester ammunition reliably. The design is innovative, yet simple enough to work dependably. As of this writing, the retail price is $1880 US, and they are bringing that much, as demand is still outrunning the supply. However, it is a fine carbine, and there is nothing else like it on the market. It is a quality design, built with quality materials, and built in the USA. I like it.

For more information on this and other Kel-Tec products, go to www.kel-tec-cnc.com.

For the location of a Kel-Tec dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.

To order the RFB online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

Jeff Quinn

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:

 

Author also fired the RFB with a Tactical Solutions sound suppressor attached. Reliability with the can attached was flawless, and the sound signature greatly reduced.

 

 

Accuracy testing was done using a Model 500 rifle rest from Target Shooting, Inc.

 

 

Disassembly pins.

 

 

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

 

 

 

Click pictures for a larger version.

 

Kel-Tec's RFB 7.62x51mm bullpup carbine.

 

 

The RFB (left) and DPMS SASS (right) have equal-length barrels.

 

 

 

 

Ambidextrous safety levers.

 

 

Ambidextrous bolt release levers.

 

 

Magazine release (top) is also ambidextrous, and charging handle (bottom) is reversible.

 

 

Empty cases slide along the chute, exiting through a hole in the gas block.

 

 

Threaded barrel section for future accessory.

 

 

 

 

Closed-bottom birdcage flash hider.

 

 

 

 

Stock has a section of Picatinny rail at the toe (top), and a synthetic rubber butt pad (bottom).

 

 

The RFB uses commonly-available metric pattern FAL magazines.

 

 

Gas adjustment cap and piston.

 

 

Hammer.

 

 

Extractors.