Gun Review: Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun

Phil White
by Phil White

After almost ten months I was finally able to obtain a Kel-Tec KSG shotgun last month. The KSG has been tremendously hard to purchase or obtain for writers. In fact for those that have checked prices they were selling for almost twice the MSRP of $880.00. In my view those who were price gouging should be ashamed of taking advantage of the short supply.

Regardless of the hurdles my FFL called to let me know the KSG had arrived. This thing looked intimidating and I was more than excited to get to the range. Unfortunately my first trip to the range wasn’t without incident.

Inexpensive Leapers Red Dot

After arriving at the range I did my usual inspection and lube and loaded up. After firing two rounds it jammed on the third round. Jams are time consuming to clear. In fact it took approximately three minutes to clear. The jams kept coming just as often. I stopped at this point very frustrated with the initial performance.

After contacting Kel-Tec I sent the KSG back to them for repair. Customer service was very good. Communication was good and kept me up to date on the repair status. Within two weeks I had a repaired KSG back in my hands. An included note told me the rear stock was defective and was replaced. The bore was also smoothed up a small amount. Apparently I had been shipped a very early model which did not have the improvements of current models.

To explain the function of the stock, besides the obvious, 80% of it slides into the receiver and supports the bolt carrier. The function, which caused the initial problem, was the two rods that support and eject spent hulls. These rods are attached within the stock itself.

Now that I’ve covered the problems I first encountered lets move on to the review of what is now a shotgun that functions as advertised.

The KSG was designed for possible use by police officers as well as armed citizens. Of course it’s also a very handy size for either use at the legal minimum of 26.1 inches OAL.

The construction of the KSG is largely made up of polymer with the exception of the receiver, magazine tubes and barrel. Of course the internal firing mechanism has a good number of small steel and alloy parts. The total weight is 6.9 pounds unloaded.

The KSG is a bullpup design, which allows for the short length. The shotgun has two feed tubes with a selector switch allowing the user to switch from one tube to the other. In other words you have a choice of loading one tube with buckshot and the other loaded with slugs. This makes it one serious shotgun!

Total capacity of each magazine is six rounds of three inch shells or seven rounds per magazine with two and thee quarter inch shells. Any type of 12-gauge ammunition can be fired in the KSG.

Since the KSG is a pump action many will ask about the length of the action when charging the weapon. It really feels about the same as a regular shotgun both in the length of travel as well as the amount of force needed to cycle the action.

The action is smooth with no need to worry about short stroking. I tried many times to cycle it and make it jam after my initial experience. Slow or fast it never jammed again during the 250 rounds fired over several range sessions.

Loading requires the shooter to flip the shotgun over on the back if you need to reload both tubes. In the picture below you see the action and both tubes. The two small vertical grooved levers above each tube allows the shooter to unload and clear the shotgun.

In this photo the left tube is empty with a round loaded in the right tube as viewed. The two levers for unloading can be seen above the chambers. The selector lever is in the center

After loading the user selects which tube they want to use by using the selector lever in choosing the ammunition you need to use. The selector simply moves right or left blocking one tube or the other. With the selector centered it will not load a round from either tube since both tubes are blocked.

With the action to the rear of the pistol grip it’s difficult to reach under your right arm and manipulate the selector lever with the left hand. So, if the user wants to change the ammo being fired they should plan on flipping the gun over to activate the selector. It does take some force to move the selector.

Another feature unique to the KSG is the manual safety. Unlike other shotguns the safety slides to the left for safe and to the right to fire.

The slide release is show in this photo at the front of the trigger guard. Use the trigger finger or left thumb to depress the ambidextrous lever and release the slide.

The top of the gun has a full-length rail with another under the slide. I covered the top rail with some ERGO grip rail covers. I also considered a possible hazard due to the short configuration. That is when cycling the action forward with some force it would be easy to have your left hand slip off the slide and end up in front of the barrel. This could be a disaster and I strongly encourage a new owner to obtain a hand stop and install it at the front of the lower rail. That will keep your hand on the slide. I chose a rather large hard rubber ERGO grip unit that attaches with two screws keeping it firmly in place. Being hard rubber it was more comfortable than the hard polymer types.

In the photo above you can see the two tubes, barrel, slide with ERGO grip hand stop and rail covers. Since the slide is polymer I think you can see how it would be possible to have a damp hand slip off and end up in front of the barrel about the time it fires!

There is another feature that allows the user to check the number of rounds left in both tubes. There are small cuts on the side of each tube allowing the shooter to visually inspect how many rounds are left.

Disassembly is very simple and only requires the shooter to remove two pins near the stock and store them in two holes at the top of the grip. Then the shooter pulls the stock to the rear and off giving you access to the action as well as the barrel for cleaning.

In the photo above you can see the spent hulls are ejected under the right arm.

Range Time

As I mentioned I made several trips to the range. Firing 250 assorted rounds in one firing you need to be a glutton for punishment!

I used an assortment of loads. I used #6 birdshot, #3 buckshot, 00 buckshot and 1 ounce Winchester slugs at 1600 FPS. All of these rounds feed without a problem even when mixing them together. With a fairly thick buttpad the KSG was comfortable to shoot with no more recoil than any other shotgun. I can only assume the bullpup design mitigated some of the recoil.

Accuracy with slugs was good from 15 yards. I fired five rounds making one hole three inches across. I was kneeling resting my arm on my leg for some support. I also fired five rounds from 50 yards with all rounds staying within one lung of the anatomical target. I was also firing rather quickly standing unsupported.


Of course my first impression wasn’t good but once the KSG was returned I was very pleased with the performance. I did mention some considerations such as the hand stop to prevent injury as well as the difficulty using the selector switch while moving and firing. It’s not easy but with practice I suppose it can be done. The shooter would be better off choosing a load in the beginning and staying with it until you run dry and need to change magazines.

Handling is very impressive with such a short weapon. Getting on target and changing targets was very fast. If a police officer used one getting out of the patrol car would be much easier than with a standard Remington 870. Of course another big plus is the ability to use both buckshot and slugs without reloading.

The manual safety will take some getting used to but like anything else practice will cure this.

Finally even though I had a failure with my first outing it does happen from time to time with most any gun company. They fixed it quickly and fixed it right which is my main concern. Whether this puts you off or not is your decision. I have to say after I received the repaired and updated KSG I would trust it without reservation.

Phil White
Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I'm retired as associate editor since December 14th 2017. My replacement is my friend Pete M email: you can reach Pete for product reviews etc.

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