First Look: KelTec RDB Survival Bullpup Rifle
Sorry about your luck, everyone who left SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range any time throughout the day up until about 25 minutes before all of the action wrapped up. Because that is around when the folks at KelTec remembered that they had forgotten to uncase their latest contribution to to the firearms market: the RDB Survival Edition bullpup rifle.
We had just finally made our way to the the KelTec booth and finished being confused by why the KSG bullpup shotgun on the bench was obscenely long (it is because of the Germans, in case you were wondering, and it is called the KSG 25) when we heard the company reps start expressing concern over some piece of missing equipment. That missing piece of equipment happened to be a literal one-of-a-kind on earth prototype firearm that relatively few other humans have laid eyes on or had the opportunity to fire – including everyone else at the range day until Chad Enos and crew happened to locate it in a case under one of their shooting tables and pulled it out with minutes to spare during shooting hours, providing Team GunLink the opportunity to be the first to snap some photos and send some rounds downrange with it.
That missing firearm was the Survival edition of the downward-ejecting RDB bullpup rifle chambered in 5.56. After mounting the Vortex Spitfire AR (the same optic we moved from our 5.56 SBR to our new 9mm AR-pattern SBR… stay tuned!), KelTec personnel function tested the rifle before turning it over to us to take for a spin.
With no protruding pistol grip, the RDB survival edition looked like many of the CA and NY compliant offerings seen at the range; however, that is about where the similarities end. The magazine well for the AR-style removable box magazines is molded into the polymer furniture just aft of the traditional riflestock wrist. Also sure to make those on both coastal extremities of the nation wet their knickers, the bullpup is outfitted with the same 1/2-28 threaded barrel and birdcage flash hider as other RDBs (which, coincidentally, had come loose and spun off by the time we were through with it – a similar “feature” that we found with the Gen 2 Sub2000 when it was introduced a couple of years ago – hey, KelTec… try Loctite).
Despite the flash hider SNAFU and the out-of-the-box un-zeroed Vortex site, the Survial RDB performed flawlessly and was sighted close enough to engage intermediate distance steel targets. The ergonomics were plenty comfortable, despite their unconventional looks. Although Chad told us that the loose flash hider was due to recently having it off to mount a suppressor – the short RDB would be great for maneuvering through tight hallways, even with a can mounted – he told us that this was not the intended purpose of this model, nor was carrying it into a firefight. Instead, living up to its “Survival” nomenclature, he said that it was meant more for a situation where portability was king; where the rifle might spend most of its time slung over a shoulder or in a pack and where one might be more interested in squeezing off a shot in a hunting situation or a few rounds during a short engagement before getting out of the area.
On this year’s excursion to SHOT Show Range Day, we had the benefit of having both left- and right-handed shooters on our team to try out the firearms and provide input from the perspective of both. The downward-ejecting, ambidextrous nature of the rifle – along with the adjustable stock (yes, it looks funny without a pistol grip; no, it’s still not just another neutered CA rifle) – the RDB Survival suited all of our shooters fine, regardless of height, reach, or handedness.
The rumored MSRP might be a bit high for a lot of people’s tastes and, honestly, we’ll believe that the RDB Survivor will actually make it onto shelves when we see a stack of them at our LGS. However, the new SKU from KelTec is a neat idea and it will probably scratch an itch that some firearm owners have, and it is always fun to see what new innovations the company comes up with – even if it might be years before you have a realistic opportunity to put one in your own safe.