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REVIEW: Kel-Tec’s RFB Ultimate Big Bore Bugout Bullpup

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Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: read all about this very different evolution of tactical firearms design HERE

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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.

RFB
The RFB .308 Bullpup from Kel-Tec is the ultimate bugout rifle. The RFB packs .30-caliber firepower into a compact package that is optimized for maneuvering indoors and in and around vehicles.

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.

RFB safety
The safety is easily accessible by either thumb and therefore fully ambidextrous.

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.

RFB bolt lock
The manual bolt lock is ambidextrous and mounted behind the pistol grip. Pulling back slightly on the charging handle disengages the device. Everything about the RFB is innovative and cool.

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.

RFB
The Kel-Tec RFB is a remarkably powerful .308 Battle Rifle that occupies less space and weight than many of its .223 brethren.

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.

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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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REVIEW: Sig MCX Rattler

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Dr. Dabbs takes us to the range with SIG’s Sinister Stubby Snake. READ MORE

sig rattler

Will Dabbs MD

What do you get when you take some of the finest firearm engineers in the industry and ask them to design the smallest AR-based close-combat weapon imaginable? Stipulations include that the gun needs to be piston-driven for the ultimate in reliability and ruggedness, modular for maximized flexibility, and chambered in .300BLK so it will run a sound suppressor well. The culmination of that ballistic quest is the SIG MCX Rattler. This thing just drips cool.

sig rattler
The SIG MCX Rattler is as compact as Physics allows an AR-based firearm to be.

Pertinent Particulars
The SIG MCX is actually a broad family of weapons. Easily interchangeable barrels and forearms combined with SIG’s proprietary recoil system offer unprecedented versatility. The action contains the reciprocating bits within the confines of the receiver. This feature negates the need for a buffer tube and allows for a side-folding buttstock or collapsible pistol brace. The end result is positively Lilliputian.

The sliding Pistol Stabilizing Brace allows the MCX Rattler to transfer as a standard handgun without any NFA baggage. This PSB collapses into the receiver for storage or portage and extends when extra stability is needed. The PSB includes the obligatory rubber forearm interface and Velcro attachment.

sig rattler
The key to the Rattler’s success is a collapsible Pistol Stabilizing Brace. This PSB lets the gun transfer as a standard handgun.

The gas piston action is readily adjustable using either the tip of a cartridge or your fingers. This allows the action to be optimized for subsonic or supersonic ammo. The forearm has plenty of M-LOK slots. The magazine release is replicated on both sides of the gun, and there is plenty of rail space up top for optics.

sig rattler
The gas system on the MCX Rattler is readily adjustable with either a bullet tip or a standard set of fingers.

The pistol grip is a bit smaller than standard but still remains both functional and grippy. The entire gun weighs just a bit north of 5 pounds. The forearm and barrel assembly swap out readily. There have been rumors that a 5.56mm conversion is in the making, but to a certain degree this would defeat the purpose of the gun. What really makes the Rattler unique is its .300BLK chambering.
The .300BLK is essentially a .30-caliber bullet seated into a shorter 5.56mm casing. By adjusting powder charges and bullet weights the round may be configured for either subsonic or supersonic performance. When running subsonic ammo through a sound-suppressed MCX Rattler the rig is just stupid quiet.

sig rattler
Even with a superb SIG sound suppressor installed the MCX Rattler is not terribly bulky. The .300BLK chambering makes the suppressed gun surprisingly quiet.

sig rattler

SIG calls themselves the Complete Systems Provider, and this is not an overstatement. SIG makes optics, ammo, accessories, and apparel. Most anything you could conceivably want for your SIG rifle is available from the parent company. Their .30-caliber suppressor is sealed for durability and features welded construction along with the most evil-looking miniature steel spikes on the end. In a pinch the device would make a superb prod should your foe end up both unarmed and recalcitrant. SIG’s electronic sights will hold their own with the best in the business. These sights are nicely matched to the personality and comportment of the host weapons.

Trigger Time
The SIG MCX Rattler seems heavier than it is given its diminutive dimensions. However, the gun is legitimately tiny and runs like any other M4-style rifle. The Rattler will feed from any standard M4 magazine or drum.

At close combat ranges the Rattler is eminently controllable. The gun will collapse down into something that could conceivably fit into the center console of a pickup truck. However, the Rattler can also be ready to go in moments. Nothing runs faster.

sig rattler
The magazine release is replicated on the left side of the receiver.

With the suppressor in place the SIG Rattler runs quickly and well indoors. In confined spaces you may still need earplugs, but it will indeed help preserve both your hearing and your situational awareness should you have to use the gun for real. With the can removed the Rattler will tuck into a briefcase.

Ruminations
If the 5.56mm forend/barrel assembly ever hits the streets, the resulting package would be too short to accept SIG’s 5.56mm suppressor. Really stubby 5.56mm barrels release so much chaos they will wreak great mischief upon most 5.56mm sound suppressors. A 5.5-inch barrel on a 5.56mm weapon would look cool but would in essence create a very expensive .22 rifle. The Rattler really is optimized for the .300BLK.

sig rattler and skorpion
You really don’t appreciate how tiny this gun is until you juxtapose it against something small for comparison. The SIG MCX Rattler is not all that much larger than a Czech vz61 Skorpion.

The SIG Rattler is a special purpose tool, and it is not cheap. There are rumors floating about that certain Tier 1 Special Missions Units have already bought a few specifically for executive protection missions. Given the exquisite design and unimpeachable level of quality imbued throughout this seems a reasonable choice. Reliable, versatile, and just nifty as can be, the SIG Rattler packs unprecedented levels of awesome into the tiniest of packages.

sig rattler
With the PSB extended the Rattler is an unusually effective close quarters tool.

rattler accuracyrattler specs

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Review and Retrospect: The Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum

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One of the most iconic and unforgettable handguns, Dr. Dabbs spends some trigger time on Harry’s Hogleg. READ IT ALL

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The Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum is as cool a handgun as has ever been crafted. Immortalized by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character, the Model 29 exudes an archetypical American power vibe.

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Will Dabbs MD

“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kind of lost track myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

Words can be powerful. Nations go to war over words. People fall in love over the turn of a phrase. Words can be frivolous, powerful, dangerous, or inane. These particular words, likely penned by the legendary John Milius and spoken by Clint Eastwood in character as Dirty Harry Callahan, are some of the coolest ever captured on film. But for a remarkable turn of fate, they could have been uttered so much differently.

Dirty Harry defined Clint Eastwood’s career. Harry was originally supposed to be played by Frank Sinatra. The role was also offered to John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Steve McQueen, George C. Scott, and Paul Newman. They all passed on the project citing its excessive violence. It was on the strength of Newman’s recommendation that the producers offered the role to Eastwood.

If ever there was a firearm that should receive title billing in a movie it was the Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum used in Dirty Harry. The synergistic combination of Eastwood’s inimitable presence and the Model 29’s unparalleled power created an enduring cinematic icon. At a time when the Age of Aquarius threatened to castrate American virility, Dirty Harry gently reminded the world that we Americans were still the baddest boys on the block.

Origin Story
Elmer Keith was the father of the .44 Magnum. In the early 1950’s Elmer began experimenting with the .44 Special cartridge to produce something more powerful and therefore better suited for big game hunting. Once he devised the round he approached Smith and Wesson and Remington about producing a gun to fire it. The S&W Model 29 first drew breath on December 15, 1955, and was offered for retail sale a month later with an MSRP of $140. That’s about $1,280 today.

big revolve rounds
The .44 Magnum is a big round. Shown here from left to right are the 9mm Parabellum, .45ACP, .44 Magnum, and .500 S&W Magnum.

The S&W Model 29 evolved through ten different sub-variants between the mid-1950’s and the present. The gun has always been popular, but the 1971 release of Dirty Harry made it difficult for dealers to keep them stocked. While the pistol and cartridge have been subsequently eclipsed by such beasts as the .454 Casull and .500 S&W Magnum, in its day the .44 Magnum was indeed the most powerful production handgun in the world.

The Model 29 starts with a carbon steel frame and includes a fixed red ramp up front as well as an adjustable rear sight. The single action/double action trigger is wide and comfortable sporting the same slick greasy mechanicals for which Smith is justifiably revered. The 6.5-inch carbon steel barrel gives the gun an overall length of an even foot. The Model 29 has been produced in a variety of barrel lengths, but this one was Harry’s.

The cylinder, frame, and barrel are all beautifully blued, while the unpretentious walnut grips exude a timeless American power vibe. There is just something mystical about the synergy of all these graceful lines that causes an inevitable surge in serum testosterone. Just gazing upon it will make your heart race.

model 29 cylinder
The Model 29’s greasy smooth action makes reloads fast by revolver standards.

Range Report
Question my manhood if you must, but I do not find running the Model 29 .44 Magnum to be a particularly enjoyable experience. The Model 29 will push less energetic .44 Special rounds as well, and those are indeed fun. Full power .44 Magnum loads, however, peg my funmeter in fairly short order.

The greasy smooth double action/single action trigger should hang in the Louvre as the very physical manifestation of mechanical art. The gun’s particulars like the cylinder release, ejector, cylinder fit, and sights are the embodiment of ballistic perfection. Prodigious recoil notwithstanding, the gun shoots better than do I out to fifty meters or more.

The classic blued Model 29 with its Dirty Harry-esque 6.5-inch barrel is currently offered on the Smith and Wesson website with an MSRP of $1,169. Adjusted for inflation this is about what they cost back in 1956. You don’t typically buy one of these massive wheelguns to really shoot much. Most of us just stare lovingly at ours. Simply hefting the thing will reliably give you the tiniest little twitch to your eye and sprinkle a little gravel in your voice. In a pinch it will also likely blow a man’s head clean off.

model 29 accuracy
The Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum is capable of fine combat accuracy.

model 29 accuracymodel 29 specs

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REVIEW: The Palmetto State Armory PSAK-47

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And Now for Something Completely Different… A DYI AK! READ MORE

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Will Dabbs MD

Down here in the Deep South where I live failure to build an AR-style rifle with your children before they finish high school can be mistaken for child abuse. Gene Stoner’s inspired contrivance is the most versatile firearm ever conceived. There are estimated to be between five and ten million of the guns in circulation in America. Nobody really knows how many for sure. It is this remarkable fact that keeps the Forces of Darkness from fomenting totalitarian designs on our great land, just like the Founding Fathers envisioned.

One of the most remarkable attributes of the AR15 is its modularity and, subsequently, the ease with which the guns may be bodged together at home. However, sometimes it is kind of cool to be just a wee bit different from the guys standing on either side of you at the range. Now, thanks to Palmetto State Armory, you can craft your own AK in your dining room with no more hassle than might be the case with an AR. They call their DIY smoke pole the PSAK-47.

psa ak
The stamped receiver AK rifle is the most produced military weapon in history. Now thanks to Palmetto State Armory you can build up one of these robust rifles at home easier than you might a comparable AR. Stock options run the gamut from classic hardwood to Information Age polymer.

Pertinent Particulars
The gun is 100% made in the USA and would more realistically be described as an AKM. The receiver is pressed steel, and PSA does the heavy lifting for you by mounting up the trunnion, barrel, and riveted bits. The receiver is the serialized component that transfers through your FFL. All that remains is to install the guts and bolt on the furniture. As this is Palmetto State Armory they naturally offer scads of options at very reasonable prices.

ak parts kit
Here’s what you get. The barrel, trunnions, and ancillary components are already pressed and riveted. Palmetto State Armory does all of the heavy lifting for you.

Installing the entrails of an AKM is easier than finishing out an AR lower. Fitting the sundry springs normally takes three-and-a-half hands with milspec internals, but the kit comes with a proprietary retaining plate that makes that chore lots easier. If you get stumped there is always the miracle of YouTube.

ak psa parts
The hammer and trigger retaining plate makes assembly of the internal parts so much easier than is the case with the GI version. Just snap the plate in place and secure it with the safety shaft.

Furniture options range from 1960’s-era retro chic to Information Age Magpul awesome. Just like your AR, a single chassis can serve as host for a wide variety of options. Each has its own personality. Truth be known it is not philosophically dissimilar to Barbie for gun nerds.

ak stock options
Various furniture options give the rifle very different personalities.

Trigger Time
The PSAK-47 runs just like any one of the other 100 million Kalashnikov rifles in service around the globe. The ranch-gate safety sucks, but that hasn’t stopped the rifle from becoming the most successful Infantry weapon in the history of mankind. Magazines have to be rocked in place, but the subsequent mechanical advantage makes it easy to seat a fully-loaded mag with the bolt closed. Try doing that quickly with your favorite Stoner rifle. The sights were state of the art back in 1947, but they still drop your bullets where you want them. The PSAK-47 comes with a Combloc-standard scope rail on the left aspect of the receiver if you’d like to add something sparkly and electrical.

ak scope mount
The PSAK-47 comes standard with a Combloc scope-mounting rail on the left side.

The big .30-caliber 7.62x39mm rounds can be a handful in the absence of proper technique. However, that’s all relative. Truth be known even a child can run it, and, in your less-respectable war zones, many have.

Availability
Palmetto State Armory consistently has the best prices on gun build kits in the industry. As a result they move quite a lot of iron. An unfortunate byproduct of this fact is the dreaded “Temporarily Out of Stock” appellation to be found at the bottom of several of the entries on their website. Many’s the gun-nerd dream has been shattered by that fateful phrase. Regardless, be patient as their stock does indeed rotate. At present they offer a variety of completed guns even though the build kits might be sparse. Their prices are always great, even for the turnkey AK’s, and their quality is unimpeachable. The USSR wished they could have fielded AK’s that were this awesome back during the Cold War.

palmetto ak cover
The tab at the back of the recoil spring assembly retains the stamped steel action cover. The PSA workmanship is impeccable.

Blondes or brunettes, Mustangs or Camaros, steel pistols or plastic:  it is in our many manifest differences that true diversity begets strength. If AR rifles set your heart aflutter then, by all means, craft the race-gun of your dreams on your diningroom table, go forth, and be well. However, if you find yourself in the mood for a little Combloc chaos then the PSAK-47 offers Kalashnikov brawn along with the delectable capacity for individualization. Any three-thumbed ape can build one, and the subsequent sense of ownership is mighty satisfying.

ak accuracy results
The completed rifle shoots just fine for a combat gun. Younger eyeballs or an optical sight would likely yield better results.

Performance
I tested three loads through my PSAK-47. Group size is best 4 of 5 shots measured center to center fired at 100 meters over open sights from a simple rest using 51-year-old eyeballs. Velocity is the average of 3 shots fired across a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph oriented 10 feet from the muzzle.

Results: Red Army Standard 123gr FMJ, 2.25 inch group, 2316 fps; Wolf Performance Ammo 123gr FMJ, 2.25 inches, 2399 fps; Russian Steel Case 123-gr HP, 4.25 inches, 2385 fps.

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