I've been an enthusiastic user of Kel-Tec RDB since serial numbers 2 and 5 were provided for testing eight months before the refined production versions shipped. Being a fan of bullpups, I took to the accurate, softly recoiling and completely ambidextrous design at once. The introduction of RDB-C took me entirely by surprise – George Kellgren handed me a weapon that looked like something out of Star Wars and told me I could try it out.
RDB-C comes in two variants, a .223 with a 20” barrel and a 6.5 Grendel with 24” barrel. I got to try the shorter .223 version because the other one wasn't yet finalized. With no pistol grip, the weapon looked awkward but handles surprisingly well. Expecting a design crippled to conform to New York specifications, I was pleasantly impressed by how well it shouldered. Compared to the pistol grip, the angled gripping surface of the C model permitted much higher hold. With the hand effectively around the bore of the rifle, pointing became very natural. The thumb may be wrapped around the upper receiver for a more secure hold or held alongside the lower for a smoother trigger pull. The trigger is 4 pounds and feels much like a safe action pistol, which I like because if affords a surprise break.
At the dim indoor range range, I zeroed a 1.5-4x scope of no great quality, leaned forward with my elbows resting on the table, and did my best to get a sight picture. Despite this challenging position, the bullets all touched at 25 yards. I was shooting re-manufactured 55gr ball (Freedom Munitions) from a 1:7” twist barrel optimized for heavier projectiles, and yet the holes were all touching. While the mechanical accuracy of RDB-C – based on the excellent RDB – isn't surprising, the balance and ergonomics really make it a rifleman's dream. With the firing and reloading cycle taking nearly 1/8 of a second, the bolt carrier motion was quite gentle and the gun with no muzzle break at all was back on target by the time the next cartridge chambered. Felt recoil from this 7-pound rifle was on par with a 10-22 at most!
Besides the grip shape, RDB-C differs from the original RDB in the magazine latch design. Instead of the push-tab, it uses a fenced button, which I find preferable for rapid reloading. Magazine release buttons are on both sides, as are the 60 degree safety levers. Folding charging handle may be swapped from left to right in a few seconds without tools. The forend uses a sling swivel stud instead of a rail, and lacks molded-in sling eyelets. The furniture is entirely interchangeable between the two RDB models, and forends and the lowers may be mixed and matched. RDB-C muzzles are threaded.
While my experience with RDB-C is limited, I have shot quite a bit of action and long distance with the original RDB. With the rapid twist rate, the gun shoots best – sub-MOA – with 69 to 75gr bullets, and almost as well with 62gr. Lighter bullets have more dispersion, but that's of slight concern for action shooting. In defensive carbine course, 55gr ammunition proved sufficiently accurate, certainly well ahead of every AR15 on the line. The ability to support the RDB very near the muzzle improves practical accuracy greatly, even on the move. Firing from unorthodox positions was made possible by the slight recoil and the bottom ejection: with the gun on its side, the empties would exit away from the shooter.
Internally, the rifle is very simple. Field-stripping requires removal of just two captive pins to get full access to all major components. RDB-C long stroke gas system is adjustable and the rifle may be used with sound suppressors. With the ejection port behind the magazine, the bolt has quite a bit of travel before it strips the next round from the magazine, providing very reliable feeding. With the empties dropping right under the shooter, long sleeves are recommended for prone position.
Shipping with a flush-fitting 10-round magazine, RDB-C is intended primarily for hunting and target shooting. All other AR magazines, including drums, fit it as well. X Products 50-rounder and Magpul D60 are small enough for comfort should a higher volume of fire be required. With the overall length of just 30”, this rifle would be equally at home in a tight deer blind or a helicopter hovering over a javelina herd. With the terrific practical accuracy, it would also do great for medium game or for long-range steel in competitions. RDB-C fits very well in hand – left of right equally – and represents a very welcome advance in the world of sporting firearms.
About Oleg Volk
Oleg is a creative director and advertising photographer living in Nashville, Tennessee. He creates ad campaigns and produces widely popular images for over sixty brands in the firearms and self-defense industry. Companies he's worked with include Kel-Tec, Coonan, Boberg, Viridian Laser, Nightforce, and many others. Besides doing commercial work, he writes illustrated articles for Shooting Illustrated, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Women & Guns, Canadian Firearms Journal and several Harris Publications titles - and now The Sear.