Review: Kel-tec KSG

The following review and pictures of the KSG shotgun were contributed by Greg Carlson of Carlson Comps.

It all started at the Kel-Tec booth at Shot Show 2011. It was love at first sight. There it was, the KSG, surrounded by a sea of eager shooters of all kinds. Finally after a tedious 10 minute wait, I got my turn to hold and examine it,and, during some discussion, I offered to design a muzzle device for the KSG. Months later, I finally got my test unit X01XX and, with prototype muzzle device in hand, I hit the range with the coveted KSG from Kel-Tec.

The KSG out of the box.

The anticipation for the KSG has built to a fever pitch and the bull pup did not disappoint. I found the shot gun to be extremely maneuverable and easy to manipulate. As with any new firearm, the ability to properly operate the platform is up to the operator to learn, and the ease at which this can be accomplished reflects on the firearm. The KSG is like any other 12 ga. – hard hitting and meant for a specific purpose. However, unlike other shotguns, the bull pup configuration is a very compact package that features dual magazine tubes with a combined capacity of 14+1.

I would like to focus specifically on a couple of key factors in this review. One is the use of a vertical grip and the other is the selection of an optic. The installation of a vertical grip on the fore end seems natural along with the installation of some type of optic on the top rail.

The KSG configured with an Aimpoint H1, Tango Down Stubby Vert Grip, and single point sling.

Vertical Grip Considerations

Let’s discuss the vertical grip option. Carbine shooters will have some adjustments to make when they transition to the KSG with a vertical grip. The KSG requires forward pressure on the fore end at all times while discharging the firearm. This is the opposite of how many shooters train to shoot a carbine with the vertical grip being used to pull the carbine into the shoulder. If the shooter does not keep forward pressure on the KSG’s vertical grip, it can inadvertently cause the shooter to short stroke the gun, causing a round to only partially eject or partially chamber.

I recommend the tried and true push and pull method when learning how to shoot any standard pump shot gun. With this method the KSG becomes increasingly user friendly. The shooter must work out, through training, the quirkiness of pushing forward on the vertical grip and pulling back into your shoulder with the pistol grip. This will greatly enhance the manipulation and controllability of the shot gun. It also forces your arms down, another plus of the grip placement. The purpose and grip discipline on the KSG is quite different than with a carbine. This will absolutely need to be addressed when training with the KSG.

The KSG, and all pump actions, work well with a push/pull technique. Note the short overall length.

Sighting Considerations

I would also like to discuss to the optic and mount for testing. I used an Aimpoint H1 with American Defense low QD mount. Mounts that are designed for use on an AR-15 flat top are too tall for use on the KSG. Cheek weld improves greatly when a lower mount is used. Cheek placement is an important factor when shooting the shotgun. As a rule of thumb, one’s optics prove more useful when mounted as close to the barrel as possible. Simply having the optics mounted slightly lower will increase your mount on the gun and improve your overall ability to operate the weapon.

In the KSG’s current configuration, I found no real use for iron sights. The top rail is so short that sight radius is very limited. The weight and bulk of the iron sights is not necessary on a shotgun when using an Aimpoint. Rather than mounting iron sights, shooters would be better served with a vertical grip, compact weapon light, single point sling, and an optic like an Aimpoint in just about any situation.

The Carlson Comps Enforcer looks right at home on the KSG.

The Carlson Comps Enforcer Muzzle Device for the KSG

The Carlson Comps Enforcer Muzzle Device was made exclusively for the KSG in conjunction with Kel-Tec. My Carlson Comps Enforcer Muzzle Device for the KSG was designed for breaching. It is specifically made with the intent of close quarters work. It features a four slot design and the business end incorporates contoured edges designed to offer a solid hold on the door, yet still allow the operator to shift or reposition the muzzle slightly as needed. The Enforcer is designed to be snag free. The Enforcer has also has proven to reduce recoil and minimize the flash signature of most 12ga. ammo that was tested. The Enforcer will be available through Brownells just prior to the release of retail sale of the KSG.

The KSG comes with a threaded muzzle and cap. The Enforcer can be installed once the cap is removed.

Overall Impressions

Overall, the operation, function, and manipulation was smooth and sensible. I used a variety of ammunition during testing and the weapon performed exceptionally well. Grouping was consistent at close ranges as expected. I tested the KSG out to 25 yards which is within the range of most CQB applications. The following ammunition was used during testing:

  • Winchester 12ga 2 ¾” #7 shot Lot#25X3TJ25
  • Remington 12ga.2 ¾” #8 OOBK Lot#L21SA524
  • Remington 12ga. 2 ¾” #9 OOBK Lot#L26TA525
  • Federal 12ga. 2 ¾” 1OZ. Rifled Slug Lot#117H631
  • Brenneke 12ga.2 ¾” 1OZ. Rifled Slug Lot#36309013

Greg Carlson shows the business end of the KSG.

Operating the magazine selector efficiently took some getting used to, but once I developed a rhythm it became second nature. I found the action to be short, smooth and positive. The KSG balanced well, and I found loading and unloading to be convenient and similar to that of other pump shotguns. The trigger was crisp and better than average for a shotgun. The safety was easy to read and to operate. Recoil was a little tough but tolerable. The KSG employs an 18.5 cylinder bore barrel, which is externally threaded and sits atop twin 7 round capacity magazine tubes. The KSG has an overall length of 26.1” and weighs 6.9 pounds (empty). I would also like to point out that the KSG is rated for steel shot and rifled slugs and that it can accept 2 ¾” or 3” shells. Breakdown and reassembly of the KSG was simple and easy with the removal of two push pins. The KSG fits the intended niche and satisfies every need I would have in owning a shot gun in this configuration.

I would like to thank Brownells for their continued support in providing accessories for testing.

Check out the KSG on Kel-Tec’s website.

– Greg Carlson USDOJ Special Operations/Breacher (Ret.), Owner Carlson Comps



10 Responses to Review: Kel-tec KSG

  1. JT October 27, 2011 at 09:02 #

    I’ve been seeing mixed reviews on the KSG over the past couple months. Mostly from people who weren’t willing to adapt to the new design.

    I for one, love the design of almost every single Kel-Tec firearm. I’m adding the KSG to my list of drool-worthy guns I want someday, along with the RFB.

    Great review, and I love that the gun turned out as sweet as it looks.

  2. Publius October 27, 2011 at 20:03 #

    After bad personal experiences with Kel-Tec pistols, the KSG and RFB are a renewing offering from Kel-Tec. It seems if you could adapt your mechanics well to these weapons (and they prove to hold up to lots of use) they would be very interchangeable between the two bullpups. I’m excited to try a KSG!

  3. ALBERT R. PRYOR October 28, 2011 at 00:28 #

    I own a KEL-TEC P11 9mm for concealed carry its ideal.This is not a target pistol by any means,i like its light weight and easy conceal.
    I would love to try the KSG and some of the other firearms KEL-TEC MAKES.

  4. Ebbs October 28, 2011 at 01:56 #

    Fantastic. I’m extremely freaking jealous.

  5. Josh October 28, 2011 at 09:49 #

    I to am intrigued by this new style of shotgun. I had a question about the shot shell size that you are able to use on this shotgun. You only tested 2 3/4 shells but say that this gun can accept 2 3/4 and 3 inch shells. Is that true and are you planing on testing any 3 inch shells with this? Lastly, thank you for a great and informative review.

    • Matt October 28, 2011 at 10:35 #

      I’ll pass your questions on to Greg and get back to you. Thanks.

  6. ArmsVault October 28, 2011 at 20:05 #

    I can see where it might take a bit of training to become proficient. Great review!

    • Matt October 28, 2011 at 20:06 #

      Thanks. Any new weapon is going to require familiarization. There are definitely some differences between the KSG and the pump action shotguns that most people are so familiar with.

  7. Dan October 30, 2011 at 19:28 #

    Greg did an excellent job with this review. Like pretty much everyone else I have been intrigued by this one since it’s debut at SHOT. My understanding is that availability on these is still limited. Really it’s a shame because I’d love to get my hands on one at a reasonable price. I guess the good thing for me is I’m gonna have to wait a while anyways.


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