The Kel-Tec RDB

Lightweight, compact, and innovative, Kel-Tec brings another entry to the bullpup firearm market, offering true ambidextrous handling.

by Brian R. Smith

Ever since the technology to manufacture compact semi-auto rifles was developed, forward-thinking designers began to prototype such firearms with forward-placed controls. These so-called “bullpup” rifles place the magazine behind the main grip and moves the breech to the rear, usually a cartridge length in front of the butt plate. When fitted with a 16” or 18” barrel, the overall length is substantially reduced from that of a comparably-chambered semi-auto of conventional layout, naturally appealing to paratroopers, armor crews, and personnel who engage in close quarters battle.

The first really successful modern bullpup was the Steyr AUG, made famous in more than a few Hollywood fiction creations. The French followed with the FAMAS bullpup and the British replaced their version of the FAL, the L1A1, with the Enfield SA80 which evolved into the current BAE Systems’ L85A2. Relatively lately the Israelis brought out their Tavor in a few chamberings and FN the P90 and F2000. The AUG clone Microtech MSAR was introduced in 2007 but Steyr opening a US facility meant that the semi-auto version of the AUG was more readily available and it killed demand for the MSAR, which closed its doors in 2015. There have been many more bullpups, both rifle and shotgun, but the subject of this article is the third bullpup offering from Kel-Tec CNC, the RDB.

The Kel-Tec RDB (Rifle, Downward-ejection, Bullpup) is chambered in 5.56×45mm NATO and followed Kel-Tec’s 7.62 NATO-chambered RFB and the 12 gauge KSG shotgun. Like the AR15, the RDB uses a similar multi-lugged rotating bolt with not one but two spring-loaded ejectors and with the extractor at the 5 o’clock to 7 o’clock position on the bolt face, which causes cartridge cases to be ejected downward through a sheet metal-lined central port in the RDB behind the magazine well and in front of the butt plate. There is no ejection port on the right side of the receiver, so the RDB can be shouldered left or right without a thought to the empties flying close by one’s face, although in any event if the shooter is wearing a light-colored shirt, expect to use some stain-removing laundry aids as the sooty cases dribble down the front of the shooter’s torso.

The RDB features a…

Read more in the February 2019 issue.

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