Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: read all about this very different evolution of tactical firearms design HERE
Will Dabbs MD
Photos by Sarah Dabbs
Did you ever notice that looking at a gun is like morphologically analyzing a family member? Little Timmy might have Dad’s ears, Mom’s nose, Uncle Edgar’s dour disposition, and Aunt Edna’s penchant for eating her boogers. He’s his own kid, but the raw material is drawn from a motley well. Likewise, most tactical weapons come from recognized families. Master Stoner or Comrade Kalashnikov beget the lion’s share of them. Those left over hearken from John Moses Browning or one of half a dozen lesser minds. The point is, most modern weapons simply evolved from something simpler. That is just not the case with the Kel-Tec RFB.
Weird, But a Good Kind of Weird
RFB stands for Rifle, Forward-Ejecting Bullpup. Bullpup, for those of you who might be new to the game, means that the action of the gun is located behind the fire controls. The origins of the term purportedly spawn from a diagnosably strange WW2-era Japanese submachine gun called the Experimental Model 2. The legend goes that American Ordnance folk were examining the odd weapon and declared it to be as strange as a bullpup, and the name stuck. The RFB is a 7.62x51mm battle rifle that occupies less space than your typical unadorned AR. It also conquers the Achilles heel of most bullpup combat rifles. It figures out what to do with the empties.
Most bullpup weapons can only be fired off of one shoulder or the other. Swap to your weak hand to shoot around an uncooperative corner, and the gun will spit hot brass into your face. As by definition half of all the corners on the planet will not be amenable to management on your strong side, this becomes a real boon in a CQB environment.
The RFB employs an ingenious dual extractor system that ejects its rounds forward into a pressed steel ejection tube. A small dimple in the tube prevents empties from sliding backwards and jamming the action. Once about five rounds have been fired empty cases start to spill out the front of the gun. Tipping the rifle nose down empties the tube. An odd side effect of this system is that when you drain a magazine the last empty cartridge case remains secured to the bolt face by the aforementioned twin extractors. Dropping the bolt on an empty chamber releases that last fired case into the feed chute. In a sea of firearm designs that do things pretty much the same way, it is simply fascinating to see it done so differently.
This unconventional design is nicely sealed against the elements, but it does make it a bit of a chore to clear the rifle visually. Doing so involves locking the action open and then peering into the open magazine well from the bottom. This maneuver takes a little getting used to, but it’s a small price to pay for so much unfiltered awesome. The charging handle is readily reversible, and the safety is fully ambidextrous.
The bore and chamber are chrome plated, and the overall workmanship on my test piece is perfect. Recoil is fairly spunky as this is a small rifle firing battle rifle cartridges but yet remains thoroughly tolerable. The top rail is long enough for any reasonable optic, and there is an ingenious optional quad rail that screws directly onto the barrel for lights and lasers.
The RFB uses any standard metric FAL magazines. Magazine changes are fast and intuitive once you take the measure of the gun. Bullpup triggers are usually mushier than their more conventional counterparts. The unavoidable necessity of a long mechanical linkage connecting the pistol grip with the action typically takes a toll. In the case of the RFB, the trigger is simply well executed. The trigger pull on the test rifle was a bit over six pounds and pleasantly crisp.
I was curiously enraptured with this rifle. The compact envelope makes the weapon eminently maneuverable, and the 7.62x51mm round means not having to say you’re sorry under any imaginable circumstance. The thing’s not cheap, but it is incredibly cool. My copy runs like a scalded ape and is as intriguing as a pretty girl in a pair of boxers (Admit it, it’s a compelling metaphor.) The Kel-Tec RFB is a breed unto itself.
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