Hello, again GAT and 248 readers! I’m back with another review… or a review preview as it may be. On Deck today, courtesy of Southwick’s Guns Ammo and Accessories, is a shotgun most interesting.
Kel-Tec’s KSG, Burnt Bronze. This 12 gauge shotgun caught my eye awhile back, and I’ve been keeping my eye out for a proper specimen to snag up to review. I now have said specimen and towed it along to a CCW class to put it through a short evaluation preceding a more in-depth and arduous examination over the coming period.
Where did the KSG come from?
First mentioned back in 2011, the KSG comes from Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc’s depths of interesting firearms concepts. Prior to the KSG and RFB (A .308 bullpup) Kel-Tec had been most notable for its very simple and inexpensive lines of small concealed carry style handguns, this changed with the PF9’s introduction.
With the KSG and RFB, Kel-Tec was introducing itself as a firearms innovator and trying to introduce new concepts or more accurately combine old concepts in new ways. Nothing on the KSG is particularly new, it has downward ejecting like the Browning A5 and 7 round capacity magazine tubes like many modern shotguns. But no one to that point had thrown the combination together.
So now in 2015, after 4 years to refine and work out the kinks from the initial introduction I have this bronze beastie.
It comes just as you see here in a Kel-Tec emblazoned cardboard box with a detailed manual and a funny looking chamber flag. No sights come with KSG so it isn’t truly a “ready out of the box” set up but I can name a dozen AR’s that do not come with sights either. Simply take account and have your preferred red dot sight or flip up sights standing at the ready.
Assembly and Cleaning
With any new firearm, I believe the best way to begin is to take the darn thing apart and clean it. Familiarizing oneself the workings of a new firearm will help a shooter understand how the individual parts function within the whole. A critical step in clearing stoppages, fixing malfunctions, and diagnosing issues that could potentially put the gun out of service completely. Safety is paramount and understanding the tool you are using makes you safer.
This is, unfortunately, where my experience with the KSG soured. It redeems itself to good standing, but I, for a brief span, was quite convinced that my KSG was about to end up confirming the negative rumors and reviews associated with earlier versions of the shotgun.
Those are the non-captive disassembly pins that hold the stock onto the rear of the KSG. The stock holds the shotgun’s loading ramp and is quite vital to the operation of KSG and needs to remain firmly in place. If you look closely you see one has a spring visible to retain the pin when pushed fully through the shotgun’s body, the other does not. The spring is there but does not properly index itself outside the body of the pin once the pin is removed or reinserted through the shotgun. In short, the darn thing can fall out if either tipped the wrong way or shook out by recoil energy or the manipulation of the pump action.
This was easy to remedy with the knife in my pocket, it took little effort to push the spring back to its proper place and the pin would stay where it needed to… but that defeats the purpose of it being a spring. I will address the issue with Kel-Tec and follow up.
Other than that annoyance the KSG is simple to take apart. The stock pulls straight off the back with those pins removed and then pushing the forearm back into the open position allows you to pull the small bolt carrier block out of the shotgun. A quick wipe with your favored gun cleaner and a boresnake down the 18.5” smooth bore and I was done. Nothing inside the KSG was dirty or unfinished, just some light oil.
Putting the KSG back together requires some finagling of that small bolt carrier block against the retaining mechanism. After putting my thumb on the firing pin, lining up the intersecting pieces, and pushing the forearm closed everything locked up as it should. The stock went back on, replaced the pins (knife again used to reset the one’s spring) and done.
I next grabbed the Troy Industries vertical grip and attached it to the rail as shown. The aluminum construction of the grip feels fantastic, and it interfaces with two rail slots at the front and back of the grip, tightening down with a flat head screw.
I used the “stubby” configuration of the Troy grip to keep my hand as close to that forearm as possible while I work the action. If a longer grip is used and your hand position on that grip is too low, the force you are using to pull the action backward is actually torquing it down.
You can break bottom rail on the KSG with that torque. Grip high, use a stubby vertical grip, and if feasible use a grip that interfaces with more than one rail to spread out the energy distribution of the cycling action. You will get enthusiastic about it, I promise.
I also pilfered my Vortex Strikefire from my M&P15-22 as a throw on optic of the moment to run to the range the next day. I’d had great success with the optic on a shotgun previously, using it to shoot skeet out of a VEPR12 which to anyone familiar with the optic, that shotgun, and skeet shooting could make you scratch your head a little. The competitive shooters I was beside for the shotgun instructor class that day certainly did.
After assembling the entire package I cased the KSG and was ready for the next day.
40 degrees in February is a Michigan shooters dream, a day to scratch that itchy trigger finger. After finishing instruction with my weekly class out, came the KSG.
The night before I had played around with the loading mechanics of the KSG and was a tad worried. Loading either tube magazine wasn’t difficult, even to 7 each tube of 2 ¾ “ shells, and neither was switching between the tubes but working the action and the path of ejection seemed problematic. The action felt overly stiff when feeding and ejecting and on multiple occasions I short shucked the action and failed to release a new shell into the loading ramp. The angle of ejection also was sending the shells straight back into my abdomen, not painful but annoying. Still, I dutifully took the KSG to the range to give it a full fair shot.
That’s where it won.
I loaded up five rounds in one tube, worked the action, clicked the safety through from the left side to the right, and pulled the trigger.
I smiled, which is not unusual with and especially noisy and satisfying rounds. The recoil was pleasant for 12 gauge, the KSG is compact and dense but not overly heavy. The weight is placed nicely in the compact bullpup body and the mass turns the sharp kick of lighter shotguns into a smooth even shoulder shove.
My dot sight came back onto target quickly and I worked the action. The previous night’s stiffness and abdominally oriented ejection were gone, the spent shell husk landing neatly at my feet and a new round smoothly taking its place on the feed ramp and forward into the chamber. I suspect it was the mass of an unfired round vs a spent shell that changed the ejection angle.
I repeated four more times with the same results. I loaded five into the other tube. Shot those five with the same results and a widening smile. I had fifteen left in that box so I loaded the KSG to capacity and fired as quickly as I was able. Eight shots as quickly as I could settle the dot back on the target, switch tubes with the rear mounted selector, work the action, 7 more shots.
I was grinning ear to ear and laughing aloud but not quite manically as I grabbed my other box of shells and refilled the tubes to shoot some target transitions that neatly removed the centers from the four D tombstone targets I had set up.
50 rounds with not a single issue in the firing sequence, an excellent start and good way to redeem and rectify many of the earlier concerns I’d held.
Thoughts on the KSG as I continue to the full review
The KSG loads one shell at a time into the magazine tubes and there isn’t a great deal of room on the loading area. To my knowledge no good speed load system exists for the KSG. It is therefore a high capacity shotgun but after the 15th shot it is out of commission for a period of time and is more difficult to load than a Mossberg 500, Remington 870, or most conventional layout pump action shotguns. I feel this loading action can be practiced to improve the time but must be noted as a choke point, if you will, in keeping the gun in action.
It is easier to think of the KSG as a 7+1+7 round capacity shotgun instead of a 15 round shotgun. Consider it one in the chamber and 7 in the magazine with an on deck reload of 7 more rounds (change those to 6 if shooting 3” shells) the reload is quick and easy but requires deliberate action from the shooter like any reload. This pattern of consideration will allow you to better plan your course of fire with the KSG and better prepare you for utilizing the gun both for sport and defensive purposes. The rounds in the unselected magazine tube aren’t “loaded”. They are the spare magazine.
Overall we’re off to a good start the, KSG and I. Full review to come with more rounds down range and a more detailed look inside.