Kel Tec Sub 2000 Review

Kel Tec Sub 2000 Full Review (2021)

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Summary

I’ve been shooting the Kel Tec Sub 2000 since 2017, so if you’re looking to buy one or want to make up your mind, you’ve come to the right place! Make sure you read the full review.

Pros
  • It’s super light: The Kel Tec Sub 2000 is extremely light, up to half the weight of an AR-15/AR-10 (4 lb vs. ~6.5-9 lb for an AR-15).
  • It’s affordable: It is one of the most affordable rifle alternative in the $600 price range.
  • It folds: It’s foldable and is your perfect carry, this is my favorite for a survival piece.
  • Loads of dedicated accessories: you can find great accessories that are designed specifically for the Sub 2000.
Cons
  • It gets dirty: As a blowback gun it gets quite dirty. Once you break it down, you’ll be surprised by how filthy it is. Good news is that blowback guns rarely fail due to being dirty.
  • The trigger is a downside. A nice smooth trigger would make this a much more fun gun to shoot (see our advice).
  • It heats quickly. This is not really Kel Tec’s fault, as soon as you want a light gun you’ll need more polymer which heats faster.

Further down this review, I go through all the accessories that I advise purchasing to overcome the shortcomings of the Sub 2000.

This is a full review of the Kel Tec Sub 2000 Gen 2 model, there currently is no Gen 3 model (despite the gossips!) and the Gen 1 was initially produced in 2001. At the end we also look at where you can find some Sub 2000 for sale and what accessories you really need if you’re gonna fire this bad boy frequently!

The Kel-Tec Company

The Kel Tec Logo

Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc., more commonly referred to as Kel-Tec, was founded by George Kellgren in 1991 and is based in Cocoa, Florida. Kellgren has been their chief engineer since the beginning and, at 77 (he’s born in 43′), has an impeccable track-record of designing unique pieces, such as the Grendell .380 ACP.

Today, Kel-Tec makes some of the most interesting guns on the market. In a market dominated by what seems to be an infinite number of companies producing AR-15s, Kel-Tec strives to be different.

They make unusual weapons like the SU 16, a 5.56 semi-auto rifle that isn’t your standard AR-15, they also make their own bullpup rifles in 308 and 5.56 calibres (my review).

Sub 2000: Breakdown and Specs

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is a pistol caliber carbine that’s available in both 9mm and 40 S&W.

Incredibly Light

The 9mm version is the one we’re looking at today. This is a blowback-operated gun with a very simple tube configuration that was popular with early SMGs. The Sub 2000 has a barrel length of 16.1 inches and weights around 4 pounds unloaded. The pistol has an overall length of 29.5 inches and a three-position interchangeable stock.

This compares with up to 9 pounds for a typical AR-10, or over half the weight!

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Stock
Kel-Tec SUB-2000
The Sub 2000’s magazine is located in the grip, and the grip length can vary depending on the model of the gun.

The Kel-Tec SUB 2K is mainly made of polymer, but this isn’t an issue. The majority of current firearms are made with a good dose of polymer.

Polymer tends to reduce the weapon’s weight and keep it under 5 pounds, making it an easy to carry and handy little pistol.

Standout Features: it’s foldable!

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000’s most standout feature is the fact it can fold in half. The barrel folds over the top of the gun and reduces the overall size to 16.25 inches when folded. This makes it an incredibly small and compact rifle in it’s folded configuration. This folding feature makes the gun small enough to fit into a briefcase, a concealed carry backpack, or nearly anywhere you want it to. The term compact rifle was made to apply to the Kel-Tec Sub 2000.

To fold the gun you pull forward on the trigger guard, and it unlocks the mechanism.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 disengage the barrel lock for folding

Fold the barrel over the receiver and stock, and it locks into place.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Folded

To fold the gun back into its firing configuration you open the barrel via a small push lever and bring the gun back into action.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 unlock folding mechanism

Magazine Compatibility

My model takes Glock 17 magazines. Kel-Tec also makes rifles that take Glock 22 magazines and compact grip models that take Glock 19 and 23 magazines. It goes even further than that though, and some models can utilize S&W M&P magazines in 9mm and 40 cal, SIG Sauer P226 magazines in 9mm and 40 cal, and finally models that can use Beretta 92 and 96 magazines.

Trying to find the exact capacity of this gun is difficult due to caliber and magazine differences. They could range from 10 rounds to 50 rounds depending on the magazine and caliber. The Sub 2000 is compatible with many magazines such as the glock ones.

The magazine compatibility doesn’t stop there. Kel-Tec also sells additional mag catches that allow you to swap your magazine compatibility. I can purchase a Glock model Sub 2000 and buy a mag catch kit for the SIG P226. After a quick install, my gun can now use P226 magazines. Kel-Tec sells additional magazine catches for the S&W 59 series and the Canik TP9 series of pistols.

The Gen 2 model addressed numerous weaknesses with the Gen 1 platform. The main complaint addressed was modularity. The Gen 2 comes equipped with an M-LOK handguard with a full-length bottom and top rail section. The barrel is threaded for 1/2×28 thread types so it can readily accept a suppressor or a muzzle device.

The stock is adjustable to three positions, but it’s not an AR stock, and you have to remove a pin, move the stock and then insert the pin again. Luckily the rifle has no issues folding with the stock in any position.

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Purpose

Why would you ever choose a pistol caliber carbine over a regular rifle? That question gets asked a lot whenever these guns are brought up. There are a few reasons. It’s cheaper to shoot, can be used at all indoor ranges, low recoil, easy to suppress, and more. However, I think the Sub 2000 is an answer to that question in and of itself.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Barrel and Muzzle

The majority of rifles cannot fold in half, and those that do are costly and still far larger than the Sub 2000. Its aim is to be a lightweight rifle that can be easily carried when adventuring or stored in a vehicle. The Kel-Tec accomplishes feats of scale that no other gun has. If you’re looking for a low-cost, dependable truck gun, look no further. If you want a gun with more range than a revolver but is small enough to take on hikes, this is the gun for you.

Ergonomics

When you are designing a rifle like this, there are certain ergonomic losses you have to take. The Kel-Tec is not MP5 when it comes to ergos. The charging handle is located in the stock of the gun, in the metal tube. Because it’s a blowback gun, it has a nice heavy spring you are going to have to overcome to rack the weapon.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Stock

The location makes it burdensome, and the heavy spring doesn’t make it the easiest. The safety is placed way above the firing hand and in an awkward spot. It is a simple cross-bolt safety, so all it needs is a quick press.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Grip

The magazine release is located right behind the trigger and is easy to press, so points for that. The handguard is thin, but this isn’t an issue. Even after a few hundred rounds, it’s not too hot to hold. The bottom rail never has the cheese grater feeling, which I imagine is mostly due to the low recoil of 9mm.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Barrel

The trigger does leave something to be desired. It’s roughly 9 pounds and has a gritty feeling pull. The gun is maxed out range wise at 150 yards and at this range, the trigger isn’t sorry enough to disturb your accuracy, it’s just not pleasant.

Sub 2000 Accessories

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Magazines
My Sub 2000 compatible mags

If you’re thinking of getting a Sub 2000, I would strongly suggest you aside a bit of money to grab a few accessories.

The Sub 2000 has a real cult following and from this following a small, but an excellent aftermarket has appeared. The aftermarket does aim to increase the quality of the weapon and address most concerns. I haven’t done any real customization to mine besides adding a Linear Compensator from Kaw Valley Precision.

MCARBO

The name in Kel-Tec customization is Mcarbo, a small company that a has a dedicated Sub 2000 upgrade package. MCarbo is owned and managed by veterans and they donate This includes a better trigger, better rear sight, better trigger guard, muzzle brakes, an extended charging handle, extended magazine release, and I can keep going. They make a ton of accessories and upgrades for the platform to address its weak points.

Sub 2000 Accessories: Must-Haves

A new trigger!

I find the Sub 2000 trigger to flex considerably. This is the only real con of the Gen 2 which I don’t remember being an issue in the Gen 1. I would suggest to go for a cheap aluminium trigger that will set you back around $60 and is a real game changer.

Suppressor

Shooting the Sub 2000 without a suppressor takes out half the fun of shooting the Sub 2000… As I’ve said before, my preference is for Kaw Valley’s 9mm Linear Compensator, at $40 it’s a steal!

Red-dot

One of the main con I mentioned before is that, even for an experienced Sub 2000 shooter like me, when switching targets, I find myself having an unaligned sight between the rear and the front iron sight.

You can check out our full reviews of the best red dots for pistols, or you can go with Burris’ Fast Fire III which has been my go-to for a while.

What about optics?

In theory, because the Sub 2000 has a standard Picatinny rail, you could easily mount any scopes / optics… however, if you mount an optic on that bad boy, you’ll lose its most attractive feature: its ability to fold!

That was before Midwest Industries developed a sweet Sub 2000 optic mount that you can grab for as low as $100.

You’ll need some DIY for the installation process as you need to lock the bolt with a piece of rope, etc. but Midwest Industries has published a very througouh video about the installation process.

If you’re fine with forking an extra $50, MCarbo also developed their own optic mount for the Sub 2000 which I feel is easier to install.

Midwest’s Optic Mount
MCarbo’s Optic Mount

If you’re not sure about which optics you want, feel free to read our extensive reviews of the best scopes & optics.

Disassembly

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is a simple gun in both operation and disassembly. The first step is to ensure the weapon is unloaded and clear. The rifle needs to be in its firing position to disassemble the gun. The bolt also needs to be forward.

At the rear of the gun is a stock pin that you need to remove. To do so, you need the press the buffer assembly in.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Buffer Assembly Push

Once the buffer assembly has been pressed, remove the pin by pulling it out the right or left side. You can use a screwdriver, dowel rod, or another small tool to do so. Keep the buffer assembly pressed in, or it may fall out without the stock pin in place.

Put the stock pin down and pull the buffer assembly rearward to remove it.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Buffer Assembly Pull

Next pull the bolt assembly back via the charging handle and remove the recoil spring.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Recoil Spring

Pull downward on the charging handle, and it will come free.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Pulling Charging Handle

The bolt assembly can now slide out of the rear of the gun.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Bolt Assembly

The bolt head can be removed from the bolt by merely pressing upwards.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Disassembled

To reassemble follow the directions in reverse.

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On the Range

Range time is the best time, and the Kel-Tec is such a fun gun to shoot. The first thing you notice is the heavy and gritty trigger and after that it’s all recoil. This gun does recoil more than you think it should, but that’s the issue with a blowback gun. It’s not bad, or harsh, or anything, just a little surprising. Muzzle rise is practically nil, and the gun is excellent for smaller shooters, especially kids.

Travis aiming with the Kel-Tec SUB-2000

The tube offers hardly any real cheek weld and could be a slapper with 40 S&W guns. In 9mm it’s slap free and comfortable every day but a cold one.

Sights are both good and bad. They are a peep sight which is excellent, and the front sight is a standard AR-15 front sight, which makes it modular.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Front Sight

The biggest issue comes from the rear peep sight is very small. Small peep sights are generally preferred for more precise shooting, but I question the amount of accurate shooting you’d do with a gun like this. They should have opened the rear sight up a bit more.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000 Rear Sight

This gun handles like a dream. It just so much fun to shoot. It’s lightweight, light recoiling, and I feel like I can write my name with it. I have a small steel target, and out to 50 yards, I can ring it over and over again with rapid fire. If you had to use the weapon defensively, you wouldn’t have issues hitting a man-sized target out to 150 yards. Not only that but it’ll be easy to hit him over and over again with the light recoil and muzzle rise.

I personally love the Glock mag model because I can use affordable magazines of varying capacities from the standard 17 rounders to a 50 round drum. Not to forget the always cool looking transparent ETS magazines with their 31 round capacity.

Reliability

After a few years of ownership, I can say the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 seems to be an incredibly reliable gun. It has handled everything from cheap steel ammo from an unnamed European country to your best self-defense ammo. I’ve totaled malfunctions to 5 total, and they were all one brand of ammo from Freedom Munitions.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000

Reliability is one of the benefits of a blowback operated gun. It’s as simple as a sledgehammer. It’s not the classiest or smoothest of designs, but it is functional and reliable.

Parting Shots

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 is a fun gun that, as far as I know, is the only gun that can fold in half, feed from popular magazines, and be on sale for less than $400 (pre pandemic at least!). The Sub 2000 is a fun shooting little gun that is a great contender for a truck gun, or hiking companion.

Kel-Tec SUB-2000

It’s dead nuts reliable, easy to disassemble, and its low weight, recoil, and muzzle rise make it an excellent choice for teaching new shooters how to handle guns more significant than a 22. The Kel-Tec Sub-2000 is one of the coolest weapons I own and will be sitting in my collection as long as I have it.

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11 comments
  1. Thanks for the info. I’ve been interested in this weapon for a while and you just told me & sold me, good & bad. Good piece of objective commentary. I remember how it was an exciting day when Dad would take us shooting and I definitely want to have my grandchildren experience the same feeling.

  2. I have one of these guns in .40 caliber and I really like it. I agree with everything Travis has said. The trigger is pretty bad, so I wish that Travis had tested the gun with the aftermarket trigger. I don’t need a long discussion here of the take-down procedure; that is in the manual and rarely would be a factor in buying a gun. I hung a laser light on the bottom rail so it doesn’t interfere with the folding mechanism. One other negative about the gun is that I can barely get my eye low enough on the stock to see through the sights, but with the laser that doesn’t matter. I bought mine a couple years ago at a gun show from a dealer for less than $300. I would definitely recommend the gun to anyone who is intrigued by its features.

    1. Thanks for your feedback and the additional information Mitch. We’ll update this review when we get our hands on the aftermarket trigger. Up until then, there are more than 200 reviews (average 4.94/5 stars) on the Mcarbo website, you can read them here.

  3. Great evaluation and insights of Sub 2K Travis. I’ve upgraded my Sub 2K with Mcarbo: all inside guts/steel screws outside. I use red dot for matches in PCCO division. I’m on fence about mussel brakes. Yours has compensator; slime looking. Mcarbo has fat brake. I can’t find a reviewed on neither.

  4. I got one and I like shooting it. It hits the target on point one question tho, what’s a good brand of 50rd drum to get. I hear the KCI is bull$h!t any feedback on that part !

  5. Great article Travis, I see you are a southpaw as am I. I recently bought a Sub 2000 in the Glock 9mm variant and it’s great. The one issue I have had is the shell ejection and the hot gas blowback smacking me in the shoulder and face. I presume you have had this experience also, have been able to do anything to mitigate that issue? Thanks for any feedback.

    1. Hi Marty,
      you are not the only one facing this issue, it’s mentioned in several other reviews online. So far we haven’t heard of anything to solve it unfortunately.

  6. I just received my Sub 2K in 9mm and love it. M*CARBO has an extensive line of after market accessories for this little guy.

  7. Glock mag guns ONLY take glock mags. Any of the other mag designed frames can be changed by replacing the mag catch to match the mag you use.

  8. Thanks for an excellent review Travis. I’ve been saving up towards a Sub 2000 for a few months now (hazards of a retiree), but I’ve been hesitant to take the plunge. Now, I’ve a better idea of what I’ll need besides the gun (I’ll have to order one in, as they’re never long in stock at my LGS).
    Now, all I need to decide is which caliber, having plenty of both.

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