Innovative firearms manufacturer Kel-Tec unveiled two new bullpup firearms at SHOT Show this year: the modern RDB and traditionally-styled M43. Kel-Tec’s Media Coordinator Matt Stanek explained that M43 could be seen as a “collector’s edition” of the RDB, and that major components (bolt, bolt carrier, and so on) for each model are fully interchangeable. Both guns feature 17.4-inch barrels and will initially be offered in 5.56x45mm.

A version of the Kel-Tec M43  with a SureFire 60-round magazine and AK-style bayonet and muzzle brake.
A version of the Kel-Tec M43 with a SureFire 60-round magazine and AK-style bayonet and muzzle brake.

The RDB has an overall length of 27.4 inches and the M43 comes in at 26.2 inches long. The RDB is kitted out with Kel-Tec’s recognizable polymer furniture, while the M43 has a wood handguard and pistol grip. The RDB features a Picatinny rail along the top of the gas tube, while the M43 sports folding iron sights and a vented top heat shield. The terms “Cold War” and “Soviet” were thrown around often in my conversation with Stanek, and the M43 bears a striking resemblance to the experimental Soviet TKB-408 bullpup. One M43 on display featured an AK-74-style muzzle brake and bayonet. Seeing such traditional accessories juxtaposed with a 60-round SureFire magazine is quite a sight. The RDB weighs seven pounds and the M43 eight.

The RDB's bolt is incredibly compact.
The RDB’s bolt is incredibly compact.

The bullpups utilize an adjustable short-stroke gas piston system with an astonishingly compact bolt that travels almost completely to the very rear of the receiver when cycling—virtually no space in the firearms goes to waste. The rifles feed from standard AR-15 mags. Spent cases eject behind the magazine through a chute in a downward direction after traveling over the magazine. Stanek stated that select-fire versions of the RDB are exceptionally controllable thanks to the bolt’s longer travel time. The magazine release is located in front of the magazine well, approximately where the Tavor SAR’s is located.

The ejection chute on the RDB that spits spent cases out in a downward direction.
The ejection chute on the RDB that spits spent cases out in a downward direction.

The RDB and M43s’ charging handles can be swapped from one side to the other following a disassembly procedure that goes slightly beyond field-stripping. The bolt can be locked back using a cut-out located above the trigger, and can be quickly slammed forward using the “HK slap.” It was not immediately clear whether the firearms locked back on an empty magazine.

The ambidextrous selector switch on both the RDB and M43 is located above the pistol grip and is easily operated with your thumb. Only the RDB on display had an operable trigger, and felt very light for a bullpup. The price point for the RDB is anticipated to be just north of $2,000, while the M43 will sell for a few hundred more. The rifles on display at the Kel-Tec booth were indeed prototypes, and some things may change in the course of final development. The company currently plans to being offering the RDB and M43 in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Images by Matt Korovesis

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  • KeithF

    An FDE RDB would be very interesting! But being kel-tec..

  • LetsTryLibertyAgain

    I’m a sucker for a good bullpup, and I’m anxiously looking forward to getting an RDB. I like wood, but the M43 doesn’t do anything for me. To each his own!

    I do wish Kel-Tec had molded some sort of lip or other attachment point on the ejection chute, because obviously with this downward ejection, shooters will want to attach a brass catcher to collect their brass rather than throwing it on the ground beneath their feet.

    Kel-Tec has been all about the fully ambidextrous designs lately. I’m right handed, but I still appreciate the ambidextrous designs.