February 2003

9mm Carbines: We Would Buy Kel-Tec’s Sub Rifle 2000

It is affordable, reliable, and totally tricked out. On the other hand, the Leinad CM11 is an unqualified ďDonít BuyĒ in our book.

A gun that breaks in half? The Kel-Tec Sub
Rifle 2000 came in a flat rectangular "cake
box" wherein it was stored folded. The rifle
measured 16.1 by 7.3 inches in this condition.

In our February 2002 issue we tested two 9mm carbines, the Hi-Point 995 and Ruger’s PC9. They turned out to be simple and effective, each earning a “Buy” rating. Looking forward to finding two more good carbines, we acquired the Leinad CM11 and Kel-Tec’s Sub Rifle 2000.

Like the Ruger and the Hi-Point, these weapons are fed from pistol magazines. However, the CM11 and Sub Rifle 2000 are convertibles, whereas our earlier samples were long guns. The Sub Rifle 2000 breaks down along a hinge and lock that divides the gun in half for storage. The CM11 is in fact the PM11 model (PM for pistol model, we assume) with add-on stock, alternate top end, and barrel. In the case of the Kel-Tec, we had to wonder if the gun would keep its integrity after repeated openings and closings. Regarding the Leinad, we wanted to know if its function was as effective as its intimidating image. Would these guns prove to be handy, or just a handful of hard luck?

Here’s what we found:

Leinad CM11 9mm Carbine, $395
It is easy to be confused as to the name and manufacturer of this weapon. The Cobray insignia of a snake ensnaring a globe is imprinted on the gun, but throughout the owner’s manual no mention of the word Cobray is made beyond an offer for logo wear in the accessory section. While the Leinad website read that no Cobray products were available at this time, the Cobray website was going strong. Still we could find no mention of a CM11 on the Cobray website and only found the conversion top end listed in the owner’s manual from Leinad Arms and Accessories. Be that as it may, the Cobray firm (701-245-6414) did answer the telephone quickly, and was ready to answer our questions. The short version: Cobray manufactures parts, but not complete guns. The Leinad Company, or rather Cook’s Guns, is one of several firms that reportedly assemble Cobray parts to make complete guns.

Click here to view the Leinad CM11 9mm Carbine features guide

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At the heart of this carbine is Cobray’s semi-automatic Uzi machine pistol look-alike, the PM11. The PM11 is “T” shaped. That is, the grip that contains the 10-round magazine (32-round in pre-ban form) rides straight up and down attached at the center of the pistol. The CM11 is a variation of this weapon, accomplished by changing not just the barrel but the entire top end of your PM11. Like the pistol, the CM11 is a flat-black all-steel weapon. A rubber grommet fits over the trigger for shooter comfort. Directly above the trigger guard on the right side is an arrow-shaped safety lever that pivots forward for fire and rearward for safe. This would be fine if its movement were confined to 180 degrees. But this lever can be spun round and round in either direction, which does not disable its effectiveness but could certainly lead to confusion for the shooter.

The rear sight is a dual arrangement, offering a round peephole and a notch. The plate that caps the back of the top end and the rear sight is just like the rest of the gun, which appears to be a collection of steel stampings welded together. To give an example of how this gun is constructed, let us point out exactly how the front sight was fashioned.

Starting with a rectangular piece of steel 1.8 inches long by 0.75 inch high (all measurements are approximate) two holes are drilled at the left and right edges. Two 0.15-inch cuts are then made from the top of the rectangle at its center. This serves to create a tab that is peeled back to describe a 170-degree arc. This is the front sight post. The edges containing the holes are bent upward to protect the post and let in a controlled amount of light. This piece is then welded atop the heat shield. With this description, we feel we have established that the Leinad CM11 is not a refined weapon. But this does not necessarily mean it is ineffective or not worth owning. It took live fire to determine that.

To test our carbines, we chose three readily available cartridges that we have used repeatedly in tests of 9mm firearms. These were the 115-grain jacketed hollowpoint from Winchester USA, the Winchester147-grain jacketed round, and the 124-grain Federal expanding full metal jacket. With a profile similar to the 147, the 124-grain bullet was designed to be fired in guns that may have difficulty feeding hollowpoints. When this trio was previously used in our August 2002 Hi-Power pistol test, all three rounds averaged 1.8 inches for five shots at 25 yards from our Browning Hi-Power. In our February 2002 test of the Ruger PC9 and Hi-Point carbines, we fired at 50 yards. The Ruger shot 2.3 inches with the 115-grain round and 1.8 inches with the 147-grainers. The Hi-Point was better, landing average groups of 1.5 and 1.7 for the 115- and 147-grains rounds respectively. Having tested these two carbines at the longer distance, we felt bound to test the Leinad and the Kel-Tec in the same manner.

Click here to view "Accuracy and Chronograph Data."

Frankly, we felt that neither the CM11 nor the Sub Rifle 2000 would acquit themselves as well at 50 yards because the Ruger and Hi-Point models were true rifles. In comparison, we saw our two current test carbines as compact compromises between rifles and pistols. Nonetheless, we set up our best equipment for bench shooting and went forward. First we functioned-fired the CM11. We noted that the empty cases rocketed out of the ejection port in a straight line landing 15 feet to our right. This of course made it interesting for the shooters next to us at the public range. Settling the forend into the Ransom rifle rest, we supported the skeletonized polymer butt-stock with our shoulder and a pillow bag underneath. We tried shooting right and left-handed. We noticed that along with the cases being ejected was an inordinate amount of debris, which was likely burning and unburned powder, lead, and possibly a bit of jacketing. This made for less comfortable shooting from the left side. Perhaps the CM11 is better fired from a lower position at the shoulder or hip.

We found the trigger pull to be acceptable regarding weight of resistance and smoothness, but other controls gave us problems. Racking the slide from the top never gave us a very sure feeling of whether or not we had successfully chambered a round, and despite a cut-out atop the receiver, at the rear of the stroke the slide would not lock back. During cease-fires we had to put an empty case in the ejection port to signal a safe condition. Removing the magazine in standard fashion turned out to be impossible. The release is at the base of the grip and its movement is vague. The magazine would not drop out, and we found extraction from any normal shooting position to be difficult, if not impossible. With this in mind we made sure to shoot the gun dry each time. Then we would turn the gun upside down, and with the muzzle downrange, hold on to the magazine, push the release open, and let the weight of the gun help separate itself from the magazine. With the 115-grain bullets, our hits were about a foot low. Firing the remaining test rounds, we saw large shapeless hits appear haphazardly across our bank of targets. Also, mud and grass. Going down range to check the targets, we noticed that the ground was scuffed and trenched. Our rounds were hitting the ground before the targets and plowing debris into the paper.

We had used the same point of aim to fire the heavier 147- and 124-grain bullets as we had with the 115-grain rounds. We tried different holds and also fired using both the peephole and vertical rear blade to change point of impact, but still had the same problem. Before we could switch to a shorter distance for further analysis, our CM11 began to jam repeatedly, first with the Federal rounds and then with the others as well. This forced us to cease testing before we could compile further accuracy and chronograph data.

This is unfortunate because we feel the public needs inexpensive defense weapons. By the tone of the Cobray website, which includes an enthusiastic chat room, we are bound to receive many letters from angry Cobray owners. However, in the experience of the representative we spoke to at Cobray, their parts are purchased by a number of firms that produce complete guns but they are often assembled improperly.

If you are very handy and can weld, we were informed one could assemble a fully functional model. On the other hand, this sub $400 gun can end up costing over $700 when built by a qualified gunsmith. Frankly, we’re all for guns that work and would not feel put out by spending more money for a carbine such as this if it performed as intended. But our market sample is always one gun and one gun only, and this time we were unfortunate enough to get a lemon.

Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 9mm Carbine, $383
A gun that breaks in half? Well, this shouldn’t really be much of a manufacturing problem. After all, shotguns have been hinged for years with precision. What about the polymer and steel construction, and the orange plastic front sight blade? The skepticism that polymer once rang up should be well faded by now and besides, the Sub Rifle 2000 feeds from Glock magazines, synonymous with reliability.

Click here to view the Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 9mm Carbine features guide

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The Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 arrived in a flat rectangular “cake box” wherein it was stored folded. In this condition the rifle measured 16.1 by 7.3 inches. At the front edge was the trigger guard, with the mouth of the chamber exposed above it. In this condition care must be taken to shield the exposed bore and firing pin hole from dirt. At the rear was the muzzle and front sight assembly overlapping the butt-pad area. The folded position was latched by a spring-loaded sliding bolt that is located atop the buttstock. The folded position can be locked by a special key, which is provided.

The recommended way to unfold the Sub Rifle is to hold the barrel or fore end, which is on top when folded and then reach around the front sight with the thumb and forefinger to slide the latch forward. The butt will fall away as the barrel moves forward 180 degrees to snap into place. We found it hard to pick out the latch visually at first but it was easily indexed without actually needing to see it.

You’ll know when the rifle is fully closed and ready to activate when the bottom of the trigger guard is tightly in place against the grip. The release to return this rifle to its folded state is the trigger guard itself. Small tabs are molded into the rear of the trigger guard to help you index as you push down and forward to release the barrel and allow it to fold. We folded and unfolded the Kel-Tec countless times to see if we could upset the alignment. We could detect no shaving at the chamber or other symptom of defect throughout our test.

Construction is of polymer and steel. The barrel and stock are steel. The stock contains the bolt, recoil spring and operating handle. The operating handle (some might call it a charge bar) faces straight down so it is out of the way. To lock the gun back, the operating handle is pulled all the way back and slid to the right into a locking groove. The firing mechanism is fed by a standard Glock 9mm magazine with 10-round capacity. With many pre-ban magazines that feed up to 30 rounds still available, we think choosing to go outside Kel-Tec for mags is a bonus for the consumer. The trigger also has the feel of a Glock. It has a long pull that requires its own technique. But common mistakes, such as dipping the muzzle, are minimized by the extra support of shouldering the weapon.

For anyone who shoots double action regularly, this characteristic will not be a problem. The trigger safety is a crossbolt design, and it is found above the web of the hand below the rear edge of the ejection port. Pushed through to the right, the weapon is ready to fire. We had difficulty working the safety with the strong hand (the firing hand). We feel that a more effective technique might be to reach across the top of the weapon without releasing the pistol grip, allowing the weak hand to operate the safety with the thumb and forefinger.

The sights are adjustable for windage and elevation, but this is done at the front rather than rear assembly. The rear peep is static, but the orange front blade can be moved left and right via reciprocating screws (loosen one, tighten the other). A dime will work just as well as a screwdriver. According to the owner’s manual, a 1/8th-turn equals 1 inch at 100 yards (1 M.O.A). Before tightening the windage adjustment, the blade can also be moved up and down to alter elevation. However, we left sight adjustment as it arrived from the factory.

The owner’s manual also included test results that charge the Sub Rifle 2000 as working best with “premium U.S. manufacture hollowpoints of medium weight.” Their best results included 10-shot groups of 2.5 M.O.A. Our best five-shot groups at 50 yards came from shooting the Winchester USA (white box) 147-grain TCMC (truncated cone, metal case) ammunition. Not only did this produce the best single group of the test (1.2 inches), but an average of 1.5 inches. This is better accuracy than we experienced with the carbines in our February 2002 test. The remaining test cartridges, Winchester’s USA 115-grain hollowpoints and Federal’s 124-grain expanding metal jackets, each shot groups averaging 2.5 inches. With a high of 1315 fps and muzzle energy of 442 foot-pounds, we think we’d opt for the power of the 115s. At 50 yards, 2.5-inch groups are plenty good for a weapon of this type. Certainly, there is a variety of 9mm ammunition available, so matching power and accuracy should be easy for the Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000. This handy little folding rifle was a most pleasant surprise.

Gun Tests Recommends
Leinad CM11 9mm Carbine, $395. Don’t Buy. The CM11 presents a provocative appearance to encourage the buyer, but ours failed to perform. Better to buy the parts directly from Cobray and have a gunsmith assemble the parts for sure operation.

Kel-Tec Sub Rifle 2000 9mm Carbine, $383. Buy It. We had our doubts, but we couldn’t break it. Also, it shot all types of ammunition with surprising accuracy. Kel-Tec’s mission of supplying inexpensive but very usable weapons is perhaps at its zenith with the Sub Rifle 2000.

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