Is the Kel-Tec KSG the Jack of All Trades?


You could by four stock 870s or 500s for the price of one KSG. So why bother? Well, read on…

Everyone knows the fastest reload is the one you never have to make. It’s quite simple really; a larger magazine capacity reduces the time your gun is down. For some, this is a life-and-death matter when seconds and shots count. This applies to the SOF team clearing a hut somewhere in BFE, the LEO serving a high-risk warrant in Any City, USA, or the parent protecting their children when the front door is kicked in at 2 am. When every tenth of a second is crucial, having to perform a reload in a high-stress situation could prove fatal. No one can predict how many rounds it will take to neutralize a threat, despite what congress would have you believe. It could be one round, or it could be multiple depending on the type of threat or number of threats. If I am in a situation where I need to defend my life or the lives of my loved ones, I want to have the upper hand. When it comes to protecting my wife and children, I don’t give a damn about fighting fair. I want to win, and I want to win quickly and decisively.


Without getting into the debate about which firearm is the best for home defense, hunting, sport, etc, I think everyone can agree the shotgun has long held a solid reputation for being the jack of all trades. It can handle slugs for hunting larger game, shot for fowl, 00 buck for home defense, flares for signaling and all kinds of wicked rounds for military applications. For this discussion, I am leaving detachable magazine fed platforms out of the mix such as your Saiga12s, Vepr12s, MKA 1919s, etc. Like many of you guys and gals, I was trained up on the Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 series of shotguns. They are solid, reliable, inexpensive and easy to use. They do have their limitations, though. Like most pump action shotguns (and semi-autos for that matter) the length of the firearm is directly proportional to the magazine capacity. This is due to the tubular magazine that rides under the barrel. Most of the above mentioned shotguns come standard with 18.5 inch barrels but can be had with longer depending on your desired application.

In regards to magazine capacity, you are looking at between 5-8 rounds depending on the make and model of the shotgun and if you have a magazine extension installed. The shells are loaded single file which requires additional length in order to carry more rounds. This can prove cumbersome when trying to use your shotgun in close quarters, like your home for example. One has to weigh their options. Do you go with shorter, lighter and less rounds, or longer, heavier and more rounds? Well, the first option has legal implications. According to the ATFE, once you reduce your shotgun barrel under 18 inches you enter Short Barreled Shotgun (SBS) territory. These are regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and require the proper paperwork to own, assuming your state even allows them. The second option gives you more rounds, but makes for a potentially unwieldy weapon. Call me greedy, but I want to have my cake and eat it too, without going to jail I might add.


Enter the Kel-Tec KSG. For those of you who have seen the KSG, you know it is not new. It was debuted back in 2011 by Kel-Tec at Shot Show. This was their first attempt at a shotgun and a pretty darn good one if you ask me. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Kel-Tec was founded in 1991 in Cocoa, Florida. They started to manufacture firearms in 1995 and became known for their handguns and rifles. Over the past 2.5 years Kel-Tec has refined their KSG design and the intrigue has continued to grow. Even though they have been available to the public for some time now, they are difficult to come by, and if you can find them they aren’t cheap. You could by four stock 870s or 500s for the price of one KSG. So why bother? Well, read on…


The KSG resembles the Kel-Tec RFB .308 bullpup rifle in appearance. The unique features of the KSG are many. First as it is based around a bullpup design, the trigger is forward of the breach and ejection port. This reduces the length of the shotgun down to 26.1 inches. Compare that to the Remington 870 Tactical that comes in at 40.5 inches. Both guns have an 18.5 inch barrel yet dramatic differences in length. The magazine capacity of the KSG is massive. It sport duel magazine tubes that hold 7+7+1 2-3/4 inch shells. That’s 15 rounds! It can also hold 1-3/4” shells and 3 inch shells. Magazine capacity will be reduced or increased depending on the size of the rounds. The rounds are fed into the magazine behind the pistol grip forward of the ejection port. Move the selector to the left or right, load your rounds, flip the selector to the other side and repeat. This is a nice feature if you want to load different rounds such as slugs or shot in each tube. I would not, however, mix lethal and non-lethal rounds. There is too much risk in the operator forgetting what tube holds what type of round. This could result in a tragic and unwanted injury and/or death. The rounds can be unloaded by pushing down on the “claw” that holds the rounds in place behind the magazine tube. This is a nice feature because it doesn’t require the chambering of a live round prior to downloading.

In addition to the size and magazine capacity, it has outstanding ergonomics. The glass reinforced nylon pistol grip is a decent size to fill your hand with aggressive checkering. The safety is a cross bar type that is easily accessible. The action release is located directly in front of the trigger guard and can be accessed with ease by both righties and lefties. The cheek weld is made more comfortable by a piece of hardened steel that is tapered, which also serves as protection in case a shell ruptures in some freak occurrence. It is also a fairly adaptable weapon for today’s current aftermarket accessories. It sports a top picatinny rail for your optics and irons as well as a bottom rail for your grips, lights and lasers.


The KSG we had on hand was finished in “dark earth.” I really like this color combo. The KSG weighs 6.9 lbs empty and around 8.5 lbs loaded depending on your load out. We fitted it with a Vortex Optics SPARC in a Fortis Manufacturing mount and a Magpul AFG. It was then fed with 15 Remington 12G 2-3/4” #8 Gun Club target rounds and made ready. The gun pointed extremely well and worked perfectly in close quarters. Target acquisition was a snap thanks to the SPARC. The KSG felt a little front heavy, but that is really negligible due to its compact size. Recoil was sharp but very manageable if you mount the shotgun aggressively. If you are timid and limp, you will pay the price. The first 8 rounds went real quick. Flipped the tube selector and pulled the trigger. “Click.” Enter the learning curve. I quickly racked the gun and chambered the next round and freed the remaining 7. Ok, this ain’t your granddaddy’s gun. Like any firearm, training and muscle memory are crucial. As stated above, the KSG is unique and it requires a unique manual of arms. Making sure to rack a round after you flip the tube selector is one of them. Loading on the fly is another thing that needs to be practiced. It is possible to use your thumb to select the tube you want and feed rounds into the magazine tube. It is just a little awkward at first as you have to feed behind your shooting hand. It becomes second nature after a few practice runs.


Is it for everyone? No, but nothing ever is. You have to be willing to revise your training to take advantage of what the KSG has to offer. And if you are into the traditional blued steel and walnut stock wall hanger, it may not float your boat. Is it the perfect pump shotgun? No, but for my tastes, it comes pretty close. If I had my way I would make a few tweaks. The obvious one would be to have the ability to switch tubes automatically as well as manually. This would save precious time in a critical situation. I would also like integral sling swivels points to use with my existing slings and the ability to change out the pistol grip with the familiar and abundant AR 15 grips. An ambidextrous AR type selector safety would be a nice touch too. The forend should have the ability to accept rails at the 3, 6 and 9 positions for added flexibility to mount lights and grips to the shooters liking. Larger hand stops at the end of the forend would be advised. It is really easy for your support hand to get too close to the muzzle during fast cycling. Lastly, a full-length top picatinny rail would be welcomed. It would allow for magnified optics if you are hunting with slugs, and it would increase your sight radius if using irons. I am looking forward to putting more rounds through this gun. It is a blast to shoot and is very well built and made in the good ol’ U. S of A. It just feels solid, and I appreciate that. In my mind, add a Mesa Tactical side saddle and you have the perfect truck gun. It would also fit very nicely in a medium sized backpack if you ever had to ditch your ride. Obviously, it would make an outstanding home defense shotgun. Small in size, but with big personality. In closing, the KSG isn’t new news, but it is still attracting new fans. I’ll be hanging on to this one for as long as they will let me.


  1. I wrote to Kel-Tec a couple of years ago to see if they had any plans to extend the top rail on their RFB, as I saw that as an even bigger drawback on a rifle. They did take the time to write back and assure me that they did. Never happened though. Seems to me they are a company with a lot of promise and not much follow through. Most firearm companies are continually evolving their products and Kel-Tec leaves the most obvious flaws untouched.

  2. I own a KSG and I am a Deputy Sheriff in KY. It is a great weapon for this profession. I have an NCSTAR green dot holographic sight mounted on the top rail with a rifled flip up magpul front sight. I get alot of compliments on the weapon. I have found it to be accurate and holds an EXTREMELY tight pattern with tactical 00 buck. At about 25 -30 yrds its hard to tell if you shot 00 or a slup, impressive considering the length of the weapon.

  3. I am also a Deputy Sheriff and have the KSG. I love it. Your article is as dead on as the KSG. It does take some re trainng for sure, but what the heck it’s range time and FUN! Thanks for the great article.

Comments are closed.