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Even for those of you who, like me, are not big Kel Tec fans, you might be pleasantly surprised with this light, affordable utilitarian 9mm carbine. It offers a good combination of low recoil and ease of shot placement, in addition to higher velocity than the same cartridge if fired from a pistol. Welcome to our Gen 1 Kel Tec Sub 2000 Review.
The Kel Tec Sub 2000 Basics
This blowback operated, semi-automatic long gun is available in 9mm or .40 S&M. I have the model which utilizes Glock 19 magazines, but Kel-Tec also makes versions of this carbine that accept Glock 17 Gen 4, Smith & Wesson Model 59, Beretta 92 and SIG 226 type magazines.
Because I own a Glock 19, I don’t need to buy two different kinds of magazines and ammo. This is really convenient and saves me money. Though the carbine comes with a 10-round magazine, it will not fit in the Glock 10-round magazine, but every other capacity from the 15-round up fits in just right. The Glock version of the sub 2000 is popular because even if you don’t own a Glock, the magazines are affordable, reliable and really easy to locate and acquire.
The most unique distinguishing aspect of this carbine though is that you can fold it in half by pulling down the trigger guard. This allows for easier storage and inconspicuous carry. When folded, the barrel is locked into place by a spring-loaded stud set into the shoulder stock’s butt plate, which is easy to release for it to unfold. For added safety, you can lock the gun in the folded position, though you cannot fire it regardless when it is folded. When unloaded and folded, the sub 2000 weighs 4 pounds and will comfortably fit into a 16.5-inch long, 7-inch wide storage space.
The barrel is 16.1-inches long and encased in a flat-sided polymer handguard. The frame is a blocky pistol grip type zytel polymer. The magazine release, which I found to be a tad stiff, is where you’d find it on a pistol, and slightly extended out to enable easy operation. My Glock 19 Gen 4 magazines slid in and out smoothly.
Above the receiver is a very simple cross-bolt in-or-out safety. The bolt is in an interesting spot, right inside the tubular shoulder stock. Though not the most comfortable location, you get used to it quickly and it does not interfere with the handling of the weapon at all, though you might want to watch out if you have long hair or a beard… The trigger, which has a pull-weight of 7.5 pounds, is a simple single-action with a crisp and decently smooth break, much like a double-action trigger on a revolver.
The recoil is mild, and I think this could make a good training rifle if you want to get someone used to a rifle’s handling without worrying about the weight and recoil. For people of smaller stature, such as my wife, this can be really easy to fire. The carbine’s functional design, with its long bolt travel, allows for reliable operation using loads varying greatly in pressure, though it is probably best with slightly stronger cartridges. Just keep in mind the bolt does not lock on the last shot, and you’ll need to manually charge the handle to chamber a round after you switch in a fresh magazine. This isn’t critical but can be annoying.
Parts and Accessories
There are lots of after-market parts and upgrades that you can add to spiffy it up a little, including adding Picatinny rails. I recommend, if nothing else, at least adding some sort of rubber padding to the butt plate because the polymer in place can be rough on your skin.
Storage and Carry
Because of its folded size, you can fit it in all sorts of nooks and crannies in your home. The folded carbine also fits handily into some enclosed compartments in vehicles, such as the space under center console on a pickup or the saddlebag on a motorcycle. Especially useful for bodyguards and security personnel, you can carry it folded under your jacket or vest in a shoulder sling, ready to quickly be pulled out and unfolded into action. More conventional ways of carrying it inconspicuously is in your backpack, briefcase or messenger bag.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Disassembly for basic cleaning is simple and quick. Just push out the stock pin about three-quarters of the way until the buffer is free to be removed. Then pull the bolt back by the operating handle and catch the recoil spring. Pull the operating handle out and downwards from its recess in the bolt. The two-piece bolt slides out easily. You can separate the two bolt components for more efficient cleaning if you want. You won’t need to do any further disassembly unless you’re making modifications.
To reassemble, just carefully reverse this process and make sure that you don’t have any extra parts lying around. To keep this process easy, leave the hammer back and the safety on during the disassembly and reassembly process.
Range and Accuracy
The front sight is a hooded fluorescent-orange fiber optic that is adjustable for windage and elevation. The rear sight is a simple pop-up aperture that folds out of the way when the gun is collapsed. Though not fancy, it provides a good sight picture that is both fast and accurate on a man-sized target at 50 yards. You can hit targets beyond that, but the 9mm is a bit underpowered for that role. It is important to note that if you want to add optics, you will interfere with the folding, and thus negate this weapon’s strongest perk.
I shoot consistent 1.5-to-2 inch groups at 25-yards, and three to four inch groups at 50-yards, and that is without owning this gun for very long. I managed some four to five inch groups at 100-yards, but it is clear this carbine is not meant for long distance shooting. The cartridge simply is not powerful enough to really be effective much beyond 50-75 yards. You can hit a man sized target at 100 yards, but if I really want a rifle for that range and beyond, I won’t be choosing the sub 2000.
I’m not taking this large game hunting, but as a home-defense weapon or second personal-defense option when I’m on the road, I think it does the job just fine.
It should be noted that there is a newer more attractive Gen 2 version of the sub 2000. It has some substantial upgrades such as integrated Picatinny rails, a better grip, a stock that can be adjusted to three different positions, a slightly more comfortable butt plate and a threaded barrel to name a few. It weighs a quarter pound more but other than that essentially has the same specs, benefits and drawbacks.
Sub 2000 Pros and Cons
9mm Gen 1 version Pros:
Affordable carbine price.
9mm is an affordable cartridge.
Folds for inconspicuous and easy carry and storage.
Uses readily available magazines.
9mm Gen 1 version Cons:
The 9mm version is underpowered for some.
Cheap looking finish.
Uncomfortable shoulder and butt stock.
Charging handle not so comfortable to use.
Stiff magazine release.
No way to keep the bolt open, and requires manual charging of the handle to chamber a round at each magazine exchange.
Sub 2000 – Bottom Line
If you hate polymer guns, you’ll most likely not like this carbine, but if you do like them, this will feel very familiar. It is really a no-frills, basic affordable carbine that is fun to shoot! Recoil is minimal and that 16.1-inch barrel helps ensure accuracy. There are not that many 9mm carbines to choose from, and while you can get a better quality one, the price also nearly doubles and the payoff in my opinion is not worth that.
The sub 2000’s light weight and fold-in-half portability make it unique amongst its peer group. What other rifle can you carry around in your backpack, briefcase or bag? There is nothing else like it on the market that can do the same things at the same affordable price (it even comes with a lifetime warranty to the original owner), though if you begin adding aftermarket additions to it, you’ll eat into this affordability. All in all, despite not being in love with it, I’m very happy with my purchase and will enjoy returning to the range to keep honing my skills on this.
(Check out Kel Tec KSG Review for a look at another interesting Kel Tec Firearm)
Here’s a video of Hickok45 using the 9mm version of the KSG Sub 2000