The Keltec-Tec Sub-2000 Folding Carbine Review

At last, a competitively priced carbine suitable for the average home user, one who doesn’t want to spend a green fortune adding a long gun to his/her home defense options.

“Plastic” guns have proven their reliability and have carved a permanent niche in the market place. There are alternatives both below the lightweight polymer composite Sub 2000’s pricing and above it, some worse, some better. None (other than another Kel Tec product) fold up for easy and compact storage.

So, if you are not a member of the cult-of-expensive-guns or if you just want an affordable and novel carbine for home defense or for plinking, this may be just the ticket. It has been around long enough for some accessories (through Kel Tec) or for less expensive additional magazines to be available. (Refer to the links below.) Be advised that the accuracy of this firearm is impacted by the quality of the ammunition used. The carbine is available in both 9mm and .40S&W.; (Kel Tec has no plans for a .45 ACP version.)

The Sub 2000 out of the box often has a very stiff trigger pull. Reports of pull over 12 pounds are not uncommon. Anecdotal information strongly indicates this improves after the first 200 rounds or so, after a break in period. However, the trigger pull may remain greater than one prefers. There are two courses of action. First, Kel Tec will adjust this under their lifetime warranty. Second, for the more adventuresome, there is information in the links table below (under Advanced Topics) which demonstrates how this can be done at home. But that data is not for the novice or inexperienced user.

Getting a good stopping shot is easier done with a big pistol than a small one, and firing the pistol cartridge from a rifle is easier still. Putting aside the debate of rifle cartridge versus pistol cartridge, having anycarbine in either chambering is better than not.

The Kel-Tec SUB-2000 carbine has been around for at least five years and the company continues to improve on a very good design. The package is called the “SUB” because, according to the Kel-Tec instruction booklet, “…the small size, light weight, ease of folding the arm and the use of a pistol cartridge would imply the prefix ‘sub.’ Thus, we have found it appropriate to classify our new firearm a ‘SUB Rifle.’ ”

I had one of the early SUB-2000s which used S&W Model 59 mags and, at the time, I asked if (and when) they would change the pistol grip frame to accept other popular handgun magazines such as those for the GLOCK®and Beretta pistols and when would the carbine be chambered in .40S&W? Shortly thereafter, my questions were answered when the manufacturer added grip frames for GLOCK, Beretta and SIG, and now also offers the carbine in .40S&W. (The GLOCK setup takes the GLOCK 17 33 round magazines, as well as the ten rounders.)


Earlier this year, I visited with company representatives at their booth at the annual SHOT Show. They pointed out that the carbine has been set up for all three pistol mags and a few other changes have been made to the gun, as well. The original grip frame and receiver were metal and the overall weight of the gun was 4.6 pounds. Now, the grip frame is polymer, reducing the weight to an even four pounds. The original model, when folded, was held together by a simple ball detent. Now a sliding, spring-loaded detent has been added and the mechanism can be locked with a proprietary key when the carbine is folded for storage or transportation.

Also on display was a pop up scope mount and a spare magazine holder which attaches to the lower inward rear of the butt stock. I asked for my T&E sample to be set up to use the GLOCK 17 mags. Well, I got the gun, but no sling, and the pop up scope mount and spare magazine carrier are still in the “back order” stage, with no estimated time of availability.


Now, to review: The SUB-2000 is about as compact as you can legally get with the federally mandated 16″ barrel. The rifle folds almost exactly in half – just forward of the “receiver” – and the front sight assembly folds down and locks into the top of the butt stock at the top rear of the butt plate using the previously mentioned spring-loaded ball detent. The SUB-2000 is semiautomatic and operates on a straight blow back action, fed from the magazine housed in the pistol grip beneath the receiver. The mag release is just behind the trigger guard on the left side. The manual safety, originally a lever affair, is now a push-button action, not unlike that found on many shotguns – push left for “off safe” and push right for “on safe.” The frame has a protective half collar around the forward part of the safety cross bolt. I think there’s a lot of merit in this simple safety since it is easy to use and has a commonality with many police shotguns. The supplied GLOCK magazine holds ten rounds of 9x19mm ammo, but the GLOCK 17 high cap and the 33 round supersized GLOCK mag will also work.

To open the rifle, you pull back (and/or unlock the lock) and lift up on the fore stock and barrel assembly and rotate it forward and down until it clicks into place. To close, you pull down on the rear of the trigger guard and then fold the barrel upward and back over the butt stock until it locks into place. The rear sight folds up while the windage and elevation adjustable front sight with an orange blade overhangs the butt plate. The “new” SUB-2000 has a coin slot for sight adjustment – much better than the first model which required an Allen key (which always seemed to be misplaced).


The SUB-2000 can be carried folded up with full magazine already in place. It has a carry sling option, too. The nylon sling attaches to the upper forward part of the receiver and the rear of the butt stock, allowing the rifle to be carried while folded. As a blow back, the SUB-2000 uses a massive two-piece bolt driven by a single coiled wire spring, which looks a little like the AK recoil spring with its S-shaped curve at the forward end. The spring, bolt and cocking handle travel within the tubular butt stock assembly. The cocking lever or charging handle drops into a hole in the bolt body and is retained by the recoil spring pressure when assembled. The whole affair goes into the tubular stock from the rear and a buffer plate in the butt stock retains the assembly.

To get the SUB-2000 running, insert a mag, fully retract and then release the two-piece bolt and driving spring via the cocking handle which extends down beneath the tubular butt stock. This bolt can be locked back by moving it back, and to the right, and into a “safety” notch similar to other semi- and fullauto carbines.

The SUB-2000 has a total of eight major parts (including the magazine) and fires from a closed bolt which enhances accuracy. (A big note of caution, though: The cocking handle moves with the bolt!! This means that you can’t put your left hand under the stock for support as you might do when sighting in the gun – as I painfully found out.)

Speaking of accuracy, and again referencing the Kel-Tec instruction booklet, “…it should be noted that the ballistic precision of the 9mm Luger cartridge had a wide variation. During extensive tests of commercial ammunition in a Mann barrel (Author’s Note: This reference is to a Mann Rest, a device named for Dr. Mann which holds a barrel in a solid fixture which eliminates all variables other than the cartridge and the barrel proper and has been used extensively by various U.S. Government arsenals and munitions manufacturers during cartridge development.), the best ten shot groups were about 2.5 m.o.a. or 2.5″ wide group at 100 yards, the worst [ten shot groups were] up to 10 m.o.a. Premium U.S. manufactured hollow points of medium bullet weight performed best. The worst were U.S. generic FMJ and non-European imports.”

Although the front and rear sights seem (at first) to stick up too high above the rifle, I, along with some of my fellow police firearms instructors, found that you had to hold your head more to the rear than would be normal to be able to get your head down far enough to see through the rear sight. The trigger action on the SUB-2000 is not a long double-action, but is a true single-action, which breaks at six pounds. The trigger guard is large enough to permit trigger manipulation with gloved hands.

The 16″ rifle barrel is shrouded with a two-piece polymer fore stock which is rectangularly shaped, with cooling slots in the upper portions of both sides of the hand guards. The hand guard is disassembled by removing the Allen screws with a wrench. Kel-Tec has also addressed the potential problem of the two assemblies becoming loose. There is an adjustment collar on the barrel which can be tightened to increase the fit between the two halves.

There is also a red-letter warning in the instruction booklet: “DO NOT RELEASE THE HAMMER WITH THE BOLT REMOVED. THIS WILL MAKE THE SUB-2000 TOTALLY INOPERABLE. WE STRONGLY DISCOURAGE UNSCREWING THE STOCK COLLAR, BARREL OR REMOVING THE FRONT SIGHT. THESE PARTS ARE ASSEMBLED BY SPECIAL TOOLS AND COMPOUNDS.” I took them at their word and didn’t mess with the action or the other parts mentioned.


What’s the SUB-2000 good for? Well, it’s the handiest 9mm rifle going. It’ll fit under a sport coat, in a backpack, small suitcase or large gun bag and, certainly, will find a niche in anyone’s car trunk, if not behind (or beneath) the front seat. In other words, it’s a very concealable pistol cartridge firing rifle which is not in conflict with any of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gun laws on folding stock rifles, for the Kel-Tec cannot be fired when collapsed.

As a personal or departmentally issued arm, it’s just the right size for the newer compact cars which cops are being forced to drive. An officer can take it to a warrant service or drug raid easily concealed beneath his jacket or stuffed into any other short, innocuous looking container.


As for shooting, the SUB-2000 shot ball ammo equally as well as premium jacketed hollow points. The difference was downrange. I shot some (unnamed) ball ammo and got a pattern at 50 yards rather than a group. I switched over to Remington 147-grain Golden Saber subsonic ammo and shot a 3″ five shot group using a gun bag as a rest.

Again, don’t forget the reciprocating bolt! I have a habit, as do many rifle shooters, that when firing for groups from a rest, I use my left hand to hold the toe of the stock at the butt to make slight sighting adjustments. I did this for my first shot from the SUB-2000. I then took inventory of my left hand after the bolt gave my wrist a very good smack! This is an easy mistake to make when sighting in the gun. Other than this goof, the rifle is just plain user-friendly and, so far, I’ve not gotten it to malfunction with any of the various U.S. commercial ball or JHP ammo which I had on hand – Hornady 124-grain XTP JHP; Federal, Remington and Black Hills 115-grain FMJ; Cor-Bon 115-grain JHP +P; and Winchester Silvertip –  as long as I remembered to lubricate it. The SUB-2000 is not a GLOCK and it does need lube. I used Firepower FP-10, coated the entire bolt, and put a few drops into the trigger mechanism. The lube has some other good properties; we were able to shoot the gun until it was too hot to hold by the barrel.

Given the ballistics of the 9x19mm round and the iron sights, 200 yards is about the outside limit for any decent hits on man-sized targets (for me, at least.) The SUB-2000 will put them on paper at 100 and 200 yards with the judicious use of some “holdover.” Kel-Tec’s instruction booklet also has a very lucid range chart for the 9x19mm round showing the comparable ballistics of the 9x19mm cartridge fired in a 16″ barrel, as compared to the .357 Magnum, .38 Special and the .380 ACP. The 2000 comes off looking pretty good!

The SUB-2000 certainly can find many sporting and self-defense applications, as well as for departmental use. With a suggested retail price of $383.00, this weapon certainly appeals to those who are budget-minded. For more information, contact Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc., P.O. BOX 236009, Cocoa, FL 32926, or visit their Web site at

Larry Pearson is an NRA certified pistol instructor and a member of the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, as well as a former police officer, former military firearms instructor and lifelong student of the martial arts. He also felt that he had something of value to share with the firearms community, and wondered which gunzines he should approach with the above essay. The problem was that he was dealing in ideas and concepts, and virtually all of the present gunzines only want articles about products and services so that their advertising department can sell space and everyone can make money. This is the American way. This is his first published work.

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