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Honest Review: KelTec Sub2000 Gen 3 Pistol-Caliber Carbine



The original KelTec Sub2000 is the granddaddy of folding backup rifles. Sure, there were others, but the Sub2000 was the alpha wolf of the pack, and it was the one that got to make all the puppies.

The Sub2000 pack is a family of polymer-frame pistol-caliber carbines (PCC) that fold neatly in half for a compact, lightweight, infinitely portable survival solution. In fact, at around 16” when folded, the whole thing fits nicely into a standard size backpack. It’s an astonishingly lightweight 4 lbs. unloaded, thanks to the fact that the Sub2000 is largely constructed of polymer. That said, this is no “plastic toy”:  The polymer is just a shell holding all the critical metal components. The third generation of Sub2000s has whelped, and this new Gen 3 Version of the Sub2000 promises to be at the top of the food chain for a while to come. It uses both Glock 19 and 17 magazines for high-capacity goodness, and due to Glock’s popularity, said mags are cheap and plentiful.

What’s the difference between Gen2 and Gen3?

  • Added rotating barrel
  • Added longer forearm with full-length Picatinny rail
  • Added threaded barrel as standard
  • Added larger charging handle
  • Removed the backup sights
  • Removed the multi-mag system

Technically, the rotating barrel mechanism isn’t new for KelTec; it’s also offered in the Sub2000 CQB version of the rifle. The CQB is the integrally suppressed version of the rifle with a 12” suppressor permanently attached to the barrel. My favorite part of these quiet KelTecs is being able to attach a red dot—and not have to remove it just to fold the rifle in half. This is now a standard feature for the Gen3 Sub2000. And speaking of suppressors, the Gen 3 comes with a threaded barrel right out of the gate.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the longer forearm and lack of front sight. It was originally there to serve as part of the locking mechanism when the user folded the carbine. Now, after the barrel rotates, the frontmost M-Lok hole serves as the receiver for the lock.

Yes, we can now mount an optic full time even when the gun’s folded, but that did come at a price. We lost the ability to mount accessories on the ejection port side (as if you are shooting the rifle) M-Lok holes. If you attach accessories on the ejection port side, they’ll be in the way, so the rifle can’t close. The simple fix is to just mount all our high-speed attachments on the other side instead. Problem solved! That said, I really wish KelTec had included some type of backup sighting system.

Moving to the back, KelTec has added a slightly larger bolt handle that is more comfortable to use. On the downside, it’s bigger, so if you have a sweet luxurious beard like mine, it might get caught in the reciprocating bolt handle. Come on KelTec, this is Gen 3 … make a non-reciprocating bolt handle, please and thank you, so I can quit putting a Scrunchie in my beard before I hit the range?

Make a Wish

Speaking of quibbles, if I had my way, I would do a couple things to make the “ultimate” survival backpack gun. I want a modular frame gun, a standard feature found on PPC-type weapons. Both Ruger and S&W can take different brands of magazines; even the Gen 2 Sub 2000 has the option of the Multimag system, which had mag-release inserts that could use Beretta, CZ, S&W, Sig and Canik magazines. I also would have used detachable grips allowing customers to be able to use whatever that wanted.

I would have included some type of backup sights that fold down into the Picatinny rail. Even if they were plastic. As is, you will need to spend money for an optic before you can shoot the Gen 3. Finally, I would make the back end of the buffer tube an AR15-style one, so you could attach and use any AR15 stock that your heart desired.

The Kel-Tec Sub2000 Gen 3 has an MSRP of $499.99, with sale prices in the low 400’s. So the question is should you jump on the Gen 3, a dirt-cheap Gen 2, or a CQB? In the last couple months, KelTec has been offering some pretty good rebates and incentives to buy a Gen 2 Sub2000. Companies like Palmetto State Armory were liquidating them for around the mid to low $300 range. But if you are the type of shooter who needs/wants to have an optic mounted at all times, even when the gun’s folded, you either need the CQB or Gen 3. If you have never owned a Sub2000, the rotating barrel is a “game changer.” Unless you are on a strict budget, the Gen 3—especially with the option to suppress—is worth the extra cash. Either way you go, the Sub2000 is a real transformer and goes from concealed to deployed in seconds.

—James the “XDMAN” Nicholas Mr. UnPewFessional Himself!


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