Kel-Tec PMR-30 22 Magnum Semi-Auto Pistol


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

September 30th, 2010


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Pistol comes with hard case, two magazines, instructions, and trigger lock.



Fiber-optic sights.





Slide locks open on an empty magazine.



Heel-type magazine release is very secure, and is the author's preference for a pistol of this type.



PMR-30 proved to be accurate with a variety of ammunition.










It is finally here! I have been waiting quite impatiently for the arrival of Kel-Tecís newest pistol for several months now, and I finally have one in my right hand as I hammer on this keyboard with my left. I first saw the prototype of this new 22 magnum pistol at the 2010 SHOT Show back in January, and have been anxious to get one in here for testing ever since. I did get to spend a bit of trigger-time with a PMR-30 back in late May of this year at the Kel-Tec factory in Florida, and that only made me want one more. The pistols have been shipping in limited quantities for about a month or so now, and with production steadily picking up, I finally received mine last week. It was worth the wait.

I have long been a fan of the 22 magnum cartridge, and own a few rifles, revolvers, and pistols that are chambered for the dandy little cartridge. The 22 magnum seems to have power all out of proportion to its diminutive size. As a trail gun for anywhere that large bears are not a problem, the 22 magnum in a handy revolver or pistol is hard to beat. I often strap on a 22 magnum handgun when heading back on the farm or into the woods, and I also often carry a 22 magnum handgun when hunting large game. It is handy to have to put a finishing shot behind the ear, if needed, and also does a good job of serving as an all-around camp gun. While I already own a few 22 magnum handguns, the PMR-30 is unique.

Like everything Kel-Tec, the design of the PMR-30 is very innovative. Kel-Tec does not try to copy other designs, but instead is always coming up with interesting weapons that are like nothing else on the market. Good examples are their RFB bull-pup semi-automatic 308 rifle and their SU-16 series of lightweight semi-auto 5.56mm weapons. The Kel-Tec P32 and P3-AT semi-auto pistols set new standards for lightweight, reliable pocket guns, and those designs have been copied by other gun manufacturers as well. So far, Kel-Tec does not have a shotgun on the market, but I am looking forward to one, if they get around to it in the future. I have other semi-automatic 22 magnum pistols, and really like my AMT Automag II, but the PMR-30 will replace it as my 22 mag trail gun. I still like my AMT, but the PMR-30 has features that make it much better for my uses, one being that the Kel-Tec has an ambidextrous safety. I have been trying to devise an ambidextrous safety for my AMT for years, but have not been successful in my efforts. I can now give up on that project, as Kel-Tec has thoughtfully included one on the PMR-30. Thank you, Kel-Tec! The engineers at Kel-Tec have designed a double-column magazine that holds thirty rounds of 22 magnum ammunition. The rimmed design of the cartridge has until now kept other designers from building a successful wide-body magazine for the cartridge, but the Kel-Tec design runs flawlessly. It is difficult to get the last couple of cartridges into the Kel-Tec magazine, but they will go. Hopefully, someone will make a mag loader for the PMR-30 magazine soon. Until then, I will probably just stuff 25 or so into mine. My AMT holds nine rounds, and the pistol weighs twice as much as this Kel-Tec PMR-30. It is also not as reliable as the Kel-Tec with a wide variety of ammunition. While on the subject of ammunition, Kel-Tec warns to not use Armscor brand ammo in the PMR-30, nor any foreign ammunition, but to stick with USA-made ammo, specifically recommending CCI Maxi-Mag 40 grain ammo.

However, for testing purposes, I had to try every brand and type of 22 magnum ammo upon which I could get my hands, and also tried out the Armscor, since Kel-Tec specifically stated to not do so. I donít know why, but I am just that way. Every brand, bullet weight, and type of ammo tested ran smoothly through the PMR-30, with only one failure to extract fully early on in the testing, and it appeared to be a faulty cartridge. The warning against the use of Armscor seems justified. With that ammo, the pistol seems to open too quickly. I did not get any powder spray back on me, but it appeared that there was powder still burning after the slide was moving rearward. Anyway, while it functioned well, the Armscor was not the best performer, and heeding Kel-Tecís warning to avoid its use in the PMR-30 is a good idea. There are a lot better choices available. Again, while still on the subject of ammunition, Winchester now has a lead-free 22 magnum load, for those who live in areas where the idiots in power have banned the use of lead bullets. The Winchester load uses a copper-jacketed tin bullet that weighs 28 grains, and it performed very well in the PMR-30.

I wanted to try out every type of ammo that I could, mainly to determine just how reliable the new PMR-30 is, and secondarily to check for accuracy. Accuracy is important to me, but a semi-auto pistol must first and foremost be reliable, and the PMR-30 proved to be very reliable, running flawlessly with every brand tested, discounting that afore-mentioned failure to eject fully with one round of ammo early in the tests. The PMR-30 is designed to work as a blowback action, but is designed to at least provide a partial lockup, if needed, essentially adjusting to the ammunition that is being fired. This allows the PMR-30 to work well with greatly varying bullet weights. Accuracy testing was done from a hand-held rested position at a distance of twenty-five yards. Velocities were recorded at twelve feet from the muzzle, with the results listed in the chart below. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second. Bullet weights are listed in grains. Velocities were recorded with an air temperature of seventy-three degrees Fahrenheit, at an elevation of 541 feet with eighteen percent humidity. Accuracy is the average group size for five-shot groups, measured center-to center of the widest-apart bullet holes in each group. Group sizes are listed in inches.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity Accuracy
CCI Maxi-Mag JHP 40 1318 4.37
CCI Maxi-Mag TNT 30 1464 2.37
Winchester Tin JHP 28 1498 2.25
Winchester JHP 30 1497 1.50
Winchester JHP 34 1363 1.87
Winchester FMJ 40 1317 3.25
Winchester DynaPoint 45 1136 3.12
Winchester JHP 40 1266 2.25
PMC Predator JHP 40 1205 3.25
Armscor JHP 40 1273 3.87

As can be seen in the chart above, accuracy ranged from match-grade to barely acceptable, depending upon the ammo used, and the use in which the pistol will serve. For hunting and target work, most of the Winchester loads look pretty good from this pistol, especially the lighter weight bullets. For social work, most of the loads tested would serve just fine. While on the subject of personal defense, I get email almost everyday from folks who, for whatever reason, cannot handle the recoil of most of the popular defensive pistols built today. I have often recommended the 22 magnum as a good revolver for those folks, with the qualification of having enough hand strength to pull the trigger. The 22 magnum revolvers marketed today for self defense, as a group, have horrendous trigger pulls. The manufacturers are making the hammers too lightweight, thus to successfully ignite the rimfire primer, they have to make the hammer springs too heavy. The result is a terrible trigger pull on the lightweight 22 magnum revolvers. The older High Standard Sentinel revolvers were built right, with a hammer with enough heft to reliably set off the cartridges, but those revolvers are getting hard to find.

For folks needing a good 22 magnum defensive pistol, the PMR-30 is the answer. Besides holding a fistful of cartridges, the PMR-30 is easy to shoot, having a superb trigger pull for such a pistol. The trigger pull on my test gun was light and smooth, releasing with just two pounds, six ounces of pressure. Perfect. The trigger also has an overtravel stop, and the safety disconnects the trigger. There is no magazine safety. The magazine release is a heel-type, which I greatly prefer for a field gun, as it is a lot less likely to get bumped, dumping the magazine. Also, even for a fighting pistol, with thirty-one shots, a quick reload is not likely to be needed. Even if it is, the heel mag release works very quickly with practice. The 22 magnum cartridge works pretty well for defensive purposes. It is not a twelve gauge shotgun, and not even a 45 Auto, but the little cartridge offers good penetration and light recoil. Using the PMR-30, if necessary, you can get off thirty-one rounds on target in about six seconds, if you take your time. The light recoil and excellent trigger make the weapon very easy to control, and putting those thirty-one rounds on target across a typical household room is very easy to do. The PMR-30 is not a pocket pistol, but a full-size weapon. It fits well in my Glock holsters that are made for the medium-frame Glocks, such as the Models 17, 19, 22, and 23. Rob Leahy of Simply Rugged Holsters has a nice trim leather holster in the works. (www.simply The PMR-30 fills the hand, but the trigger reach is still very well-suited to those with any size adult hand. The Kel-Tec has an accessory rail under the slide, for attachment of a laser sight or flashlight, if desired. Dimensions are listed in the chart below. Weight is listed in ounces. Linear measurements are listed in inches. Trigger pull is listed as pounds of pressure. Please note that Kel-Tec lists the trigger pull at between four and six pounds. Mine started off a bit heavier than three pounds, but lightened up a bit with use, and is right now a delightful trigger to use.

Weight with empty magazine 15.2 ounces
Weight without magazine 13.6 ounces
Weight fully loaded, approximate 19.6 ounces
Trigger Pull 2.4 pounds
Barrel Length 4.32 inches
Barrel Diameter 0..375 inches
Overall Height 5.8 inches
Overall Length 7.85 inches
Grip Thickness 1.05 inches
Trigger Reach 2.77 inches
Magazine Capacity 30 rounds
Magazines Supplied 2

The new Kel-Tec PMR-30 is everything that I had hoped it would be. It is lightweight, reliable, accurate, easy to shoot, and priced at about half the cost of its closest competition, while holding three times as many cartridges in its magazine. As a trail gun, camp gun, and for general bumming around in the woods, the PMR-30 is ideal. As a bedside gun for those needing protection without recoil, it is perfect. The PMR-30 filled a void in the firearms market that needed filling, and I am glad that it is finally in production.

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Jeff Quinn


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Click pictures for a larger version.


Kel-Tec's PMR-30 holds 31 rounds of 22 Magnum ammunition.



Ambidextrous safety levers.



Slide release.



Accessory rail.



Disassembly is quick and simple.





The PMR-30 fits holsters designed for the medium-frame Glock pistols.