January 15, 2013

Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm

When it comes to personal defense, competition, and recreational shooting, the most popular rifle in America is likely the AR-15 chambered for .223 Remington. But there are still plenty of shooters who prefer the light recoil and low expense of 9mm Luger ammunition. Whereas caliber .223 is strictly the staple of rifle shooters, 9mm carbines are often used by pistol shooters who sometimes use a long gun. There are three basic types of 9mm carbine. They are the 9mm AR-15, semi-automatic versions of submachineguns such as the UZI, and purpose-built 9mm carbines that more or less follow their own rules of design. In a recent test, Gun Tests magazine fired the $409 Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm.

Here’s what they said:

Our choice of test ammunition was Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ rounds and two loads from Black Hills Ammunition topped with 124-grain bullets. One featured a full-metal-jacketed slug and the other a jacketed hollowpoint driven by a +P charge. Each carbine was tested for accuracy from the 50-yard bench using only their supplied open sights.

Kel-Tec Sub 2000 9mm, $409

The Kel-Tec Sub 2000 represents a purpose-built 9mm carbine for civilian defense. There is no fully automatic equivalent military or otherwise. The Sub 2000 offered a modern appearance with the most efficient use of CNC machinery. It was not only compact in full-ready posture, but the carbine folded into a neat carry package. The folding joint was located just ahead of the trigger guard. To fold the Sub 2000, the trigger guard was pulled forward to release the hinged frame. The gun could then be locked into the folded position. In this condition the Sub 2000 measured just over 16 inches long and could be easily carried in a briefcase, range bag, or inside a vehicle. For example, one of our raters drives a Toyota pickup truck of modest interior dimensions. Once folded, the Kel-Tec stowed easily behind the driver’s seat and could be made ready for action instantly when the seat was pulled up. The other carbines needed to be carried with the muzzle toward the passenger, offering only more conventional access.

Gun Tests June 2012

CNC machining makes for a lightweight, affordable, and useful carbine. The Kel-Tec design really grows on you. The ejection port is large enough for positive ejection; controls are well laid out.

According to the manufacturer’s website, KelTecWeapons.com, the Sub 2000 can be configured to accommodate 9mm magazines from other pistols such as the Beretta 92, Sig Sauer’s P226, and the Smith & Wesson Model 59. But all of the 9mm Kel-Tec carbines we have seen have been suited to Glock 17 magazines. (You may shorten the grip with a bit of filing to convince the rifle to take Glock 19 magazines, and there is also a factory-available Glock 19 grip variant.) The Kel-Tec may also be used with Glock’s 33-round 9mm magazines for a superior reserve of firepower or just more fun. The magazines fit into the grip frame in proven UZI fashion. The idea is that two hands meet easily even in total darkness and that reloading was simple and practically automatic.

Gun Tests June 2012

A great advantage of the Kel-Tec is its ability to take 33-round Glock 17 magazines. The magazine fits into the grip frame in the proven UZI fashion.

The bolt was made ready by pressing on the cocking handle and driving it to the rear. The bolt handle was located in the stock. Locating it beneath the carrying handle seemed to make the Kel-Tec carbine more compact. But when firing the Kel-Tec Sub 2000, it’s best to keep your hands out of the way of the reciprocating bolt handle.

The trigger was average for a commercial self loader but smooth without noticeable creep and only modest backlash. We spent considerable time getting used to manipulating the crossbolt safety. But once it became familiar, we thought it was as good as most commercial designs in terms of speed. The Sub 2000 didn’t offer the facility on which to mount an optical sight, which would be a big plus in today’s market. Nevertheless, the supplied sights, including a front post that was bright red and protected by a round cover, proved to be excellent for close-quarters combat. Combined with the Kel-Tec’s light weight, the sights enabled us to move the Sub 2000 quickly on target.

The proof was in the firing. Whereas the 115-grain 9mm is perhaps the most typical weight for inexpensive loads, we think 124-grain FMJ ammunition may be the ideal shooting weight for a 9mm carbine, as it offers greater momentum for function. Especially when it is used in a carbine with heavy springs or with a dirty firearm. But there were no malfunctions with either type of ammunition. Recoil was light overall, but still more than was experienced when firing other carbines, probably due to the Kel-Tec’s lighter weight.

Gun Tests June 2012

The reciprocating bolt handle is contained in the buttstock — the charging handle had to be somewhere. When you fire the Kel-Tec, keep your hands out of the way of the bolt handle.

In terms of accuracy, it was easy to bring the Kel-Tec to the target and eat the center out of the X ring at 15 yards while keeping the front sight on target. However, this carbine required considerable practice in manipulating the bolt to quickly make it ready. This is important because most experts agree that it is advisable to keep a long gun’s chamber empty while it stands ready for home defense.

When moving to the potent Black Hills 124-grain JHP +P, we felt a difference in recoil that wasn’t as noticeable with the other carbines. Felt recoil was not offensive by any means, but when you are using a load that generates over 600 foot-pounds of energy, there must be some type of push. If you deploy a good 9mm carbine, you want to maximize the caliber and these +P rounds do just that. Seasoned shooters will not be affected, but less experienced shooters purchasing this carbine for home defense may find the increase in recoil more noticeable.

Gun Tests June 2012

Space-age material allows for an affordable, lightweight carbine. The Kel-Tec stands alone as a lightweight folding 9mm carbine. Even extended, the modular design is quite compact, and when folded, it will readily fit in most briefcases.

Settling down to 50-yard accuracy testing, the Kel-Tec proved accurate enough for pest control and even small game hunting. Handling was rated quick at short range but not quite as stable as the other carbines. While we limited the most extensive testing to the aforementioned ammo types, we also tested a number of competing 9mm loads. The Kel-Tec demonstrated a high level of reliability throughout.

Our Team Said: The Kel-Tec always worked. It was reliable, and while it was the least accurate overall of several carbines tested, this must be kept in perspective. All of the carbines practically cut one hole at 15 yards. Are you really more formidable with one of these carbines than another in all scenarios? Tactically they are quite similar as well. If the motivation for purchase is home defense, the Kel-Tec has the advantages of affordability and light weight plus the availability and interchangeability of magazines with the Glock pistol. Running a tactical course that simulates the home at room-size distances shows that the Kel-Tec is a first choice for home defense. It is simply fast handling. As a car gun, it is far more formidable than a pistol but relatively light and fast into action. The Kel-Tec is a Best Buy, based upon credible performance, affordability, and easy-to-find accessories.

Comments (18)

Does anyone know whether the Sub-2000 in 9mm will chamber the "Wildcat" 960 Rowland...

Posted by: Secundius | November 2, 2017 11:01 PM    Report this comment

Since this article was written Kel-Tec has of course created the new "Gen II" model Sub2000 which streamlines the Zytel forearm while simultaneously adding picatinny rails throughout. Kel-Tec speaks of no significant internal mechanical changes but did enlarge the ejection port which early on in the Gen 1 guns create a bit of a problem requiring the addition of a metal clip which snaps into place preventing the potential erosion of said plastic ejection port after K's of rounds. To me the Kel-Tec Sub2K is a firearm long overdue to receive the proper respect it deserves. It's arguably the single best subgun available in its price range even in light of the recently introduced subguns from both CZ $8-900 range and SIG much more $$$. Of course, I still like the UZI so call me old-fashioned ;) Happy Holidays to All!

Posted by: PT-92 | November 30, 2016 8:52 PM    Report this comment

Our local Walmart hasn't even tried to re-stock after the Christmas season. Mother Hubbard's ammo shelves are quite bare in many places. Even .22 ammo is scarce. I think the pressure from the administration is getting real hot. Either that or alot of retailers have no balls. I realize that demand is high, but factories are working around the clock. I was on the phone with Hornady just this A.M. They have never been so busy. Can't get shellplates for reloading presses either.
I agree with Roland, keep your powder dry.

Posted by: Warren M | January 21, 2013 2:55 PM    Report this comment

As an aside, I first stopped at Cabela's, but was informed they weren't special-ordering ANY guns--not even .22's--until further notice, because of the recent mass shooting. They'll only sell in-store stock at present--company policy. Seems they, and other big-box retailers(Dick's, Walmart...?)may be bowing to pressure from Big Bro to refrain from arming the peasants. Who was it who said "When the people fear the government, that's tyranny. When the government fears the people, that's liberty"? Seems the government may be getting a bit fearful...Get your torches and pitchforks ready, and keep your powder dry. I've never feared for my country more than I have in recent weeks.

Posted by: Roland S | January 19, 2013 8:47 PM    Report this comment

Ordered one in 9mm two weeks ago at a popular southern Maine gun/sporting goods store for $320. Was told they had two on back-order already. Don't know how long before it arrives, but I'll be stocking up on ammo and 33-round Glock mags in the meantime--while I still can..... :-/

Posted by: Roland S | January 19, 2013 8:14 PM    Report this comment

I, also, bought one two years ago. I ordered mine to use the glock 22, 40 s&w, magazine. I am very satisfied with it. I paid only three hundred dollars for mine. It shoots great, and I have put many different ammo brands through it. I have not had a single mal-function.

Posted by: GK59 | January 18, 2013 6:15 AM    Report this comment

Can't get one in commifornia and guest what is on the list of so called asualt weapons that frankenstine of commieforia is trying to get through the house.Along with the Ruger Mini 14 and a whole list of others.
God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future.
Keeping to My Oath Locked Loaded and Keeing My Powder Dry.
Get the US Out of the UN and the UN Out of the US

Posted by: bear1 | January 17, 2013 11:52 PM    Report this comment

they seem great if you can find one I would prefer the 40sw

Posted by: Red eyed Killroy | January 17, 2013 9:45 PM    Report this comment

These are great, I have one and just ordered 4 50rnd drum Glock 9mm mags for it.
NOW if only Kel-Tec would just try and keep up with demand.

Posted by: Color Country Firearms | January 17, 2013 9:43 PM    Report this comment

I think I forgot to check the box to get the notices. Sorry.

Posted by: CT dave | January 17, 2013 9:15 PM    Report this comment

Just posting a comment so I can follow the discussion. (

Posted by: CT dave | January 17, 2013 8:55 PM    Report this comment

I bought my Beretta 92 mag SUB2000 about 2 years ago for $300. At that price, it was a great value, and it was cheap enough that modifying it wasn't a big deal. I added a rail, a buffer, a stock extension, and a red dot scope and it shoots great. I don't think I would buy one at today's prices though. I would probably be looking at a camp carbine instead.

Posted by: Barry F | January 17, 2013 8:08 PM    Report this comment

I'd imagine that prices have significantly escalated by now, but back in September I purchased a Kel-Tec SU16C for $550, which I thought was a bit on the high side, even then. At the most recent gun show I attended, about two weeks ago, the only Kel-Tec firearms to be seen were a couple of P-11s running about $300-$350. We still have a fair supply of ARs and AKs, but the prices are going through the proverbial roof.

Posted by: canovack | January 17, 2013 5:56 PM    Report this comment

have not seen one for 409.00 even when they first came out.

Posted by: Johnny B | January 17, 2013 5:46 PM    Report this comment

The quoted price is unrealistic in todays market with the panic buying spree currently taking place. Overall I would purchase this carbine but not at the current price on the realmarket.

Posted by: Norman M | January 17, 2013 5:02 PM    Report this comment

i read, george soros bought lots of stock months prior to sandy hook situation. marlin firearms!!!! marlin makes mostly lever action rifles!!! is this a clue of foreknowledge??. marlin may end up getting beaucoup tax credits and become wharehouser of citizens semi auto fire arms , to be turned over to government to other countries/ federal agencies ??? just thinking... no proof etc

Posted by: stoshuarak | January 17, 2013 12:05 PM    Report this comment

The problem with this gun is trying to find one at the price of 409.oo. If you can find this gun it will most likely cost around 800.oo. Now to modify is out of the question.

Posted by: gfleet | January 17, 2013 10:59 AM    Report this comment

If this piece had the same kinds of sights as does the Kel-Tec SU16C, I might be considerably more interested in it than I am. As it now is, not only do the sights make this piece somewhat silly looking, but because they are made of plastic, they may likely break pretty easily.

Posted by: canovack | January 16, 2013 11:12 AM    Report this comment

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