Kel-Tec’s Elusive Guns

Each time I post about Kel-Tec a reader invariably complains that they would like to buy a Kel-Tec gun but none of their local dealers ever have them in stock. I noticed this entry in their website’s FAQ that explains why …

I’m a dealer, why can’t I get Kel-Tec firearms?

We are asked this question a lot, actually. Kel-Tec is a distributor exclusive manufacturer, which means we have no control over which dealers receive our weapons. We have over 30 distributors nationwide that we rotate shipments between regularly. Once the shipments leave our facilities, we have no say as to where they go. There is a high demand for our weapons as well, which definitely contributes to the lack of availability. We are always working to increase our production to meet demand. So the short answer is: demand outpacing supply in conjunction with our inability to control the product distribution passed the wholesale level.

Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun

Kel-Tec is arguably the most innovate firearm manufacturer in the country. In the past few years they have launched two completely new guns designs (KSG shotgun and RFB rifle), and one mostly-new gun design (PMR-30 pistol), while most of the industry have been content with selling AR-15s and 1911s. I have always got the impression they are an engineering heavy company. Marketing folk may take a lot of flak, but they are an integral part of the system, without them the guns you want won’t find their way to the shelves of your local gun store.





Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


Advertisement

  • Chucky

    If local supply is bad enough, think about international demand. A simple LCP fetches over $600 over here in the Philippines; wouldn’t want to imagine how much they’d pad the price on a KSG if they ever get here.

    • 206

      LCP is a Ruger pistol, not a Kel Tec.

  • Komrad

    It sounds to me like Kel-Tec needs to invest in additional manufacturing capabilities. However, it is good to know that their guns are actually being produced.

    • Kmal

      Would explain why KT customer service has been crap lately. Long wait times, miscommunications. I’ll never buy another Kel Tec again, even if it’s just a slip from their usually high quality service that people talk about.

  • TZH

    even the P3AT sells for about 2x the cost in the Philippines compared to ones in the USA. (and I’m buying one soon, thank you Pete).

    hey Chucky, I feel your pain. was hoping to see the KSG at the gun show 🙂

    • Chucky

      My mistake, meant P3AT. But yeah, LCP or 3AT they’re both at least double the price. You might want to look into Norinco offerings to be on the cheap side, was told a PPK copy is coming for under $200.

      • TZH

        Bersa and Norinco make good PPK-ish guns, but I want something I could put into my walking shorts. 🙂

  • Torontogosh

    It’s pretty annoying. I decided that I wanted to try out a sub-2000 a few months ago and have had no luck in finding one. This is not a new gun for them. I really like their innovations, but if they can’t keep up production, then buyers will get frustrated and move on.

  • Steve

    I live in an area with numerous high volume gun shops. I have NEVER seen an RFB, KSG, PMR-30 or sub2000 in any of them. Plenty of Kel-tec pistols otherwise.

    In fact, the ONLY long gun I have EVER seen is the SU-16.

    I have seen local dealer put PMR-30’s directly up on gunbroker at $100 over msrp, instead of in the display case though.

    But just as annoying is Kel-Tecs tone deafness on this problem. “we ship all the time” or pointing fingers at the distributors really doesn’t cut it. They have a problem bringing product to market period, and have a weird attitude towards not taking advantage of potential blockbuster sales.

    After awhile, you just move on.

    • Other Steve

      SPOT ON.

      This is an issue they have with getting product shipped. No other mfg out there is blaming their distributors.

      Their designs are getting massively better with the KSG and the RFB, although the PMR-30 still looks horrible. But it still seems their eyes are bigger than their bodies. They need to go big and get product out the door, this is non-sense.

      KSG was shown at last SHOT, and I’m betting IF they ship at all this year for a lucky few, they won’t be readily available until 2013.

  • M Brueschke

    That is a cop-out by Kel Tec, in this economy with depressed manufacturing world wide and the dropping cost of high tolerance machine tools there is no excuse for not being able to dynamically ramp up production when there is demand.

  • John

    I honestly think Kel-Tec does this on purpose. Keep the products scarce so demand stays high.
    I’ve seen Shot Show booth reviews and interviews with employees on YouTube where they claim they don’t want to hire a bunch of people only to have to lay them off when demand falls off. And they’ve had same excuses 2 years in a row.
    It’s a bummer too, I really like their products, but they’re such a pain to get. And being in California doesn’t help either, even more scarce because of legal BS, and then the prices get jacked up. Aside from the SU-16 most of their guns run close to double the price.

  • mat

    Im sure that is just a political statement…
    They are most likely a small operation that is perfectly comfortable operating at their current level. High demand is a good thing, why should they ramp up production when they have no obligation to do so.

    • Other Steve

      Because your customers will just go elsewhere. You really want to get into the idea that it’s good to artificially keep supply low and demand up? Every student of economics everywhere will tell you how horrible an idea that is. Tomorrow is not promised, if Keltec doesn’t ramp up and sell to the people that want their product now, someone else will.

      It’s not like they are gods. Their pistol aesthetic design is pretty bad. Their 223 rifles while piston (before piston was kewl) and light, don’t get a lot of play. The RFB is probably one of the loudest guns suppressed anyone can think of. The KSG is so still vaporware but already there is another company wanting to release a dual tube shotgun in the states.

      They have the option to go big or go home. Can’t stay small forever, that’s just not how it works.

      • Matt G.

        Keeping supply low and demand up works pretty well for DeBeers.

      • Matt, De Beers had (and still mostly has) all the supply of diamonds. Kel-Tec only controls a very small part of firearm supply.

  • Bill

    Yes totally Agree their statement is a total cop out. “Once the shipments leave our facilities, we have no say as to where they go” More like “we don’t care, whatever…”

    KEL-TEC IF YOUR READING THIS
    GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND CHANGE YOUR BUSINESS PRACTICES! IF YOU HAVE A LONG LINE O CUSTOMERS, HURRY UP AND MAKE MORE STUFF OR THEY WILL GO ACROSS THE STREET TO THE OTHER SHOP. ELEMENTARY! duh.

    Businesses need to be aware of what their customers want, pay attention to what their saying and communicate back, as it’s a way for them to know that your actually a company that cares. If not then your a vapor company.

    “We have over 30 distributors nationwide that we rotate shipments between regularly” Give us a list of who these people are so we can find your stuff!!

    • Duray

      Bill, your tantrum rings a bit hollow because what other company across the street will you run to to get a 8 pound .308 bullpup? Or a 14 ounce, 30 shot .22 mag pistol? Or a $600 folding 5.56 carbine under 5 pounds? Or a $300, 4 pound pistol caliber carbine that folds in half? Or a $500 5.56 pistol that takes AR mags, weighs 50 ounces and shoots under an inch at 100 yards?
      As for your demand that they publish a list of their distributors, they did exactly that about a year ago.
      I suppose if Kel Tec simply made money off AR’s and 1911’s, or came up with one great design and milked it for all it was worth (ala Glock), you wouldn’t have a beef with them? But because Kellgren dares to change the industry by going out on a limb and designing groundbreaking products, you yell at them, demand, and criticize, as if you could go out tomorrow and start a better gun company?

      • junyo

        You mean an 8 lbs .308 bullpup that’s ammo sensitive and of indifferent accuracy and reliability? Or a 14 ounce, 30 shot .22 mag pistol that kabooms on occasion and according to the factory only really runs with a couple of types of ammo? And lord knows nobody’s making pocket 380’s and 9mm’s.

        Let me tell you, and anyone from Keltec that might read this, the only reason why I own an RFB is because Crusader Weaponry couldn’t get me a quote on a Broadsword fast enough, and my LGS busted hump finding me an RFB. And in retrospect, I kinda wished I’d waited, rather than being Keltec’s unpaid beta tester. Scratch that, paid out of pocket for the privilege beta tester. Because the RFB, as released, is a toy, not a weapon. And even with that I would be the first person in line for a new KSG, except I understand from the last experience that it won’t actually be released until two years after they say, and won’t be available for another 3, so it’s not even on my purchase radar. But other shotguns are likely will be, because while they’re not cool and bullpuppy and innovative, they have the singular advantage THAT THEY ACTUALLY EXIST.

        Look, I like Keltec, in theory. I have a couple of Keltec products. But the evangelical level of devotion Keltec fanboys have gets old. The reason why everybody cranks out ARs and 1911s is because they’re known quantities that turn a profit without tons of R&D costs. Keltec has products that they’ve gotta have recouped their initial investment on, that they could crank out in volume to fund all of the design that they seem to enjoy, and all of the testing they seem not to do. But instead, almost all of their core products are thin on the ground. 9mm Sub2ks have been non-existent near me for a year. WTF? And if you don’t believe that people are finding alternatives, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. It’s just a self defeating business model. And more importantly to their customers, it encourages the distributors to price gouge because of the artificially created scarcity, so they’re basically screwing you over if you’re NOT willing to walk away.

      • Bill

        hmm give me a 5 million and I would. They have some nice stuff, But where do I get one? that’s what I was trying to get at. When magpul starts making their weapons I’ll sure be sending some of my money there.

      • Phil

        OMG! I could have the greatest firearm ever designed that even John Browning would envy, but if I only have one, it has NO value. Building great guns is the easy part, believe it or not. Everything that happens after that is the really tough part. To be a company with a firearm that is perceived as a great gun, but people can’t find one is like not having a firearm. They are just urban legends.

        You could take a really mediocre firearm with weak reviews, put together a scalable model for growth, aggressive marketing and distribution and blow out any competition. And in the end, success was really never based on the firearm. It happens all the time.

  • Lance

    The Shotgun is the only promising looking new weapon and looks cool.

    • El Duderino

      Yep, not a 1911 or AR or “re-release” of a discontinued model. It’s sad that the only companies that seem to be innovating for the common man (guns that usually cost less than $1000) are Kel-Tec and Taurus/Rossi.

  • Brian

    First time poster but just had this very discussion the other day with my local dealer and thought I’d share his insights. No idea if he’s correct but for what it’s worth I thought it interesting…

    As you all know Kel-Tec is based in Cocoa Beach, FL. – also home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. The guy I spoke to used to live in the area and did business with NASA years ago and he indicated that Kel-Tec’s original business, and still primary focus, is as a vendor for NASA building parts and what not. The firearm side of things that started up in the 90’s was just a complementary business that dovetailed nicely with their engineering and CNC expertise. Supposedly the owner treats the firearm business more as a hobby and it’s resources are secondary to the NASA contracting interests. If what I was told is to be believed he also indicated that one of the primary firearm distributors in the US not too long ago put a very, very sizable check on the desk of the Kel-Tec owner as an inticement to kick them to increase production – supposedly it was rejected.

    Again, this is all second hand info but frankly makes as much sense as anything I’ve ever heard. Especially given that I’ve had first hand experience with successful businessman who have branched into new ventures that interest them for purely personal reasons but never really give it the full attention it needs….actually a common trait with classic entrepreneurs and a primary reason why others companies step in to fill the market demand.

  • Lew

    George Kellgren, owner of Kel-Tec, is first and foremost a engineer and a inventor. Maybe he’s more interested in making new and better engineering solutions than he is in making money? Maybe what he racks in today is enough to satisfy his needs and provide food on the table for his employees? Now, I don’t know mr Kellgren but being Swedish I can tell you it sounds very “lagom” (roughly translated: good enough, adequate, the best of all things).

    Could it be that simple? That mr Kellgren just….isn’t that interested in getting that much richer?

    • Brian

      Well put Lew and pretty much in line with my previous post and the second hand info I heard! Also gives the answer to the frequent web comments along the lines of…I can’t believe Kel-Tec doesn’t sue xyz company for copying their design. Mr. Kellgren is probably satisfied innovating and engineering at his current level and likely just as satisfied and understanding of the other companies that recognize the value in his innovations but then are able to take the mass production and marketing to the next level.

  • BrianB

    In line with other posters, I am guessing that Mr Kellgren is afraid of giving up any control of the company, so he won’t take outside money to grow the production capacity. If he is really fond of the engineering side, he should find a trusted partner (company or executive) to run the production, service and marketing side of business while he concentrates on development.

    • Big Shrek

      I would guess that due to watching Grendel fold due to too many cooks, Mr. Kellgren would not want to have the same thing happen…

      Also, there are more than a few watching what Washington is doing, and simply not growing because they believe that if Obama gets another term, he WILL re-instate the Bill Clinton Assault Weapons Ban as he promised during his first campaign.

      They’re also watching the UN Small Arms Treaty, which will certainly be signed into law if Obama gets re-elected…Hillary set it up like a soft pitch…its coming, but only if re-election occurs…

      And if that happens, much like the first time the AWB hit, it will close hundreds of gun company’s doors…at least, those who haven’t prepared properly…

      Can you imagine EVERY pistol in America only allowed 10 rounds??

      Downside of Keltec’s current biz model??
      Someone probably noticed the Ruger LCP & LC-9, direct ripoffs of the P3AT & PF-9…
      the Diamondback DB9 & DB380…direct ripoffs of the PF-9 & P3AT…
      Given time, almost everything Keltec makes ends up being made elsewhere…they change it just enough to win a lawsuit…but the weapons are easily recognizable in style as having come from Keltec…

      Chances that anyone else will come out with a PMR-30??
      Slim to none…the way the PMR-30/RMR-30’s action works, is specific to the .22 WMR cartridge it fires…and its patented to heck & back…so we probably won’t see anyone else trying to make a .22WMR pistol anytime soon, as Mr. Kellgren created BOTH of the successful designs (Grendel P-30 & Keltec PMR-30)…and holds the keys to heaven there 😉

      We may see some of the shotguns made by others soon…they’ll be similar, but just enough different to avoid loosing a lawsuit….12-gauge is far easier to manage recoil on than .22WMR 😉

      I can only surmise that a LOT of things are riding on the election, and ramping up production will NOT happen if a Democrat wins…it is however far more feasable if a Republican or Tea Party candidate wins…

  • Mike

    A dash of Kel-Tec, a dash of MagPul, add decent manufacturing capabilities and you end up with the coolest gun company. Yes, I know, two completely different companies, but the problem: great ideas vs. Extremely limited or NO availability remain the same. I will happily purchase KT or MP products when/if available. Availability? Not so much.

  • SpudGun

    From a purely speculative point of view, with no proof whatsover, Kel-Tec obviously has a distribution partner for their large volume produced pistols.

    However, when you try to introduce a smaller volume run of a product, distributors become uneasy and are unwillingly to cut you the same deal on price.

    My guess is that if the distributors could do the same deal on Kel-Tec pistols as they do for their shotguns and rifles, we would see a massive increase in production. Nobody wants to operate at a loss and if Kel-Tec aren’t making any money from their new products, they are unlikely to dump large numbers on the market.

    From my personal experience, distributors are only interested in one thing – making money from distribution. They don’t really care if a product is innovative or if it gives value for money, all they care about is turnover.

    Again, this is pure speculation on my part and I could very well be wrong.

  • Distributor Only is a poor business practice and should be shunned within our industry. Sure, it’s easy for a company to run on that model, but as we can see, it makes it harder for dealers to fill customer demand.
    I have this issue with Ruger, and have had since I started selling guns. Especially when Ruger plays Distributor Exclusives and sends guns to just one source. I hate that. I’m not the only one. This is why we don’t stock a lot of Ruger. Hardly any of their rifles and only their main stream revolvers and a few of the autos. LCP and the bigger 9mm version. That’s it. Not enough money for the shelf space they take up.
    FNH used to be Dealer Direct. We started moving a lot of their bolt actions and PS-90’s and all their handguns. Then they went Distributor Only.
    The only gun we will bring in to put on the shelf is the Five-seven. We wont even bother putting the others on the shelf. Because why should we pay a middle man for the privilege of stocking something when we can’t price it competively and still make some money on it? Profit margins are already thin on firearms sales, why cut it even further? So we sell other guns instead.
    This is why we don’t stock KT guns.
    Note to other gun makers – you go distributor only – we’ll drop you like a hot rock.

    • Arms Dealer

      Three step distribution is very simple and spreads the risk among more parities than the direct, two step, model. The manufacturers produce the product; taking the risk on the cost of production. The distributors take on the biggest part of the credit risk; stocking thousands of units of inventory on any given product. The retailers take a much, much smaller risk in stocking limited numbers at any given point in time. The two step model asks manufacturers to take nearly all the risk on both cost of production and the sales. From the point of view of the manufacturer, selling large volumes to a smaller number of customers is far less fraught with risk of losing vast sums of cash. The three step model also benefits retailers that can make use of the buying power of middle men in order to obtain a lower cost of goods sold number. Retailers also gain the advantage of keeping lower amounts of inventory that ties up their cash, gaining the ability to obtain increased inventory turns which leads to increased bottom line profitability.

  • M8R

    I’m no expert on this business sector. I have no idea how large this manufacturer really is or what its manufacturing capabilities really are.

    It is one thing to produce a few prototypes and generate interest on the internet. Manufacturing a complex product in reasonable quantities with uniform quality at a price point that customers will pay is something different.

    The Lamborghini Countach was produced for 16 years. Over that time, about 2,042 cars were built (an average of about 128 a year). It certainly was in “production” but it wasn’t in mass production. For comparison purposes, approximately 980,000 Toyota Corollas were produced in 1990 alone.

    Sometimes a manufacturer is not interested in mass production or in achieving economies of scale.

    • El Duderino

      But Kel-Tec is in the low-cost, high-demand, low volume segment! If their weapons were very expensive, that would curb people screaming for one. Their PMR-30 and centerfire long guns tend to go for more than MSRP because of low supply and high demand, this creates grumbling by all of us who save $315 for a gun the Kel-Tec website states should retail for $315 but instead costs $450 or more (PMR-30 is the example here).

      • Phil

        I have never heard of a low cost, high demand, low volume segment. There are companies that have high demand, high volume and low cost. There are companies that have high demand, high cost and low volume. Cost is irrelevant in this picture because market dictates pricing. Having high demand and low volume is not a scenario that any company wants to be in. Higher volumes means better pricing on materials which decreases Cost of Goods Sold on the books which is what every company strives for. Efficiency of scale needs to be a high priority for small companies playing in an industry like firearms. For some reason, this company is missing some very important pieces.

  • 543

    I live within a 10 mile radius of 17 gun stores(very large to small) and I have yet to encounter a Kel-Tec for sale outside of their concealed carry handgun line.

  • Netforce

    My guess is they sort of make people really want or crave for Kel-Tec firearms which in turn would create a buzz that their products are very in demand. Still, I know how it feels to go to a store really wanting to buy a product and end up couldn’t find any in sight. I do love the Kel-Tec KSG shotgun design though.

  • Bob Cheek at Plainfield (IN) Shooting supplies has been able to come up with a few for friends.

  • Kel Tec has attention deficit or something. Hey, lets make a 30 round 22
    magnum handgun. Instead of ramping up production on the handgun everybody wants, lets make a shotgun!

    I really don’t get it.

  • Phil

    Distributorships only work with large volume production. I mean large. I am sure their pistol volume wouldn’t make the cut in most distribution circles. You only do it when volume becomes so high that you can’t move it fast enough. That is simply not the case here. I have yet to see one of their shotguns…even at a show!

    It is the same old story. Company starts small, company does well, begins to grow and hits a wall. Sometimes the people that brought you aren’t the people to take you to the next level. What this looks like is that someone didn’t want to be bothered by details and instead of creating a sustainable model to grow the distribution, they pushed it off to distributors who may not care as much about the company’s brand, reputation, or public image as they are about making a buck.

    To make an excuse that it is out of their control or they are not sure, is corporate talk for telling everyone that they are happy with the way it is. Don’t look for much improvement. They will have to shake things up at the company to get this issue fixed.

    There is a solid business strategy out there that states that the first to market, owns the market. For that to happen requires a big picture focus, which obviously Ket-Tec doesn’t have or has lost. So everyone loses but mostly the company. Their cash flow stinks because they have product but it is not moving (it is sitting at the distributors warehouse), the brand begins to weaken because it reflects poor management (can’t seem to fix the problem) and reputation goes in the toilet because they are known as big talkers but really (truly, in this case) short on delivery. Who cares how great a gun you have if no one can find one to buy.

    Sorry everyone for the length, 25 years of sitting behind a desk gives one a great perspective on corporate speak (what it says vs what it really means).

    • Alex-mac

      “According to the ATF[2], Kel-Tec is the third largest handgun maker in the U.S.”

      Just give them time to get the production rate up for their rifles.

      • Captiva

        The RFB product was introduced in January 2007.

        Gong on almost five years all I can say is “wow”.

  • Tommy big balls

    The oct. gunshow here in Iowa had at least 10 sub 2000s. I bought one in 9mm/beretta 92 mags for 299$. There were also su-16 and plr-22’s and more keltec pistols then I could ever count. Also one PMR-30.

  • M8R

    If some of the information in a thread at the KTOG (http://www.thektog.org/forum/showthread.php?t=241450) is accurate, it would seem that Kel-Tec makes about 100 RFBs/month.

    If that figure is accurate, should it be surprising that potential buyers find them hard to find?

    I’m not really clear on how changing the method of distribution would increase production . . .

  • West

    If I cant find something, either online or in a store, then ill just move on. If I cant get it then it might as well not exist.

  • John

    I sent a link to this thread to Kel Tec. They sent this to me.

    ” ….For firearms, in general, here’s how they are distributed to our wholesalers:

    Here’s the math on it, which is the best way I can explain kind of how the whole thing works. Maybe you can pass on.
    It’s hard to explain how the process works, but maybe this will shed a little light on it. We’ll use the PMR as an example (but basically the principle goes for all of our firearms). We ship 500+ a week and divide them between 30 wholesalers. That about 16 pistols each. Now, from that 16, let’s say a wholesaler has 300 orders. With only 16 pistols, it’ll take a while to fill the 300 orders before yours. And if the wholesaler has more than one sales rep., as most of the big ones do, sometimes the one you’re speaking to really hasn’t seen them, but that doesn’t mean that the company as a whole didn’t get any. I always try to suggest A)put in your order as soon as possible to get next in line and B) Hopefully multiple wholesalers are used and maybe some of the smaller wholesalers that don’t have so many orders already in line.”

    Kudos to Kel-Tec, every time I’ve sent them emails, no matter how dumb, they answer them pretty damn quick. Too bad their guns are such a pain to get ahold of for so many.

  • Gary

    I placed an order for a PMR-30 about two years ago and I’m still waiting. How do the distributors fill their orders. Is it on a first in and first out basis or are their preferred dealers and something else going on behind the scenes. Or is this a result of a dealer selling my order at a premium price to another customer and placing another order for me, thus me sinking to the bottom of the list again?

    This has been frustrating not only because of the long wait, but also the complete lack feedback from anyone. If I ordered a gun from dealer #304, why can’t get some sort of tracking information like I’m #1432 in the queue.

  • Bill

    (9 months later…) I placed an Order with Three (3) Yes THREE Dealers for a sub 2000 Sig model, All Three say None Available!. Keltec still gives same spiel and also tells me that the Sig 226 models is still in production even though None Ever show up anywhere. People who review these weapons always gets them used and none new.

    I’m still disappointed! Guess I have to spend my money elsewhere.

  • Webby

    Lots of folks here whining on and telling Kel-tec how to run their business, pining for their products.

    Boy, they sure are a dumb company. 😉

  • Daniel

    With a down economy, one would think if there was a product that was selling like hot cakes the company that made it would want to have them on the market and in stores. I can’t even recall how long I have been waiting to buy a PMR 30. At this rate, I have no choice but to assume Kel Tec does not need my money and I should give up trying to buy their product and look for something else.