KEL TEC KSG REVIEW: LEGIT OR A DUD?

by Dave Chesson

April 19, 2024

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4.3
(67)

The Kel Tec KSG is one of the more popular bullpup 12 gauge shotguns, thank in part to what used to be a unique capability, and showing up in video games as well as a John Wick film. But is it just a gimmick, or does it have real capability? Well, in this Kel Tec KSG review, we’ll find out.

I originally reviewed the Kel Tec KSG a couple of years ago but after some more time with it, some of my opinions on this gun have changed. So, let’s take a look at the updated review.

Kel Tec KSG Specs

  • Barrel Length 18.5″
  • Caliber 12 Gauge
  • Sights Rail Mounted
  • Action Pump Action
  • Overall Length 10.75’’

WHAT IS THE KEL TEC KSG?

If you’re familiar with Kel Tec as a brand, you know that they produce weapons with a sleek, futuristic look, that are often available in short supply and hard to get your hands on.

The KSG is Kel Tec’s first foray into the shotgun market (before they came out with the Kel Tec KS7). In fact, the gun is so significant to the company that KSG simply stands for Kel Tec Shotgun. It is very much a signature product accordingly.

So how does the Kel Tec KSG shotgun stack up?

As you’d expect from a brand that is a byword for innovation, the KSG contains a number of unique and interesting features that sets it apart from the more standard shotgun. The KSG shotgun includes a dual tube magazine, which allows you to load different types of projectile into the weapon.

In a home defense scenario, this grants a number of advantages. You can easily switch between projectile types according to how the situation develops. Also, the Kel Tec KSG has been created in the bullpup style. This is a more compact form of shotgun which allows for greater maneuverability and is easier to handle.

Although the KSG may sound great on paper, it’s not without its problems.

Speaking as a former Navy officer, I can attest to the importance of such features in high-pressure situations where every second counts.

Therefore, before you go ahead and settle on the KSG as your next purchase, it’s vital to read on and get the full picture. 

KEL TEC KSG FEATURES REVIEW

1 Strap Vents In Stock

Gives you better transportability. The KSG is better with a strap.

2 Upper and Lower Picatinny Rails

There is a 12” 1913 mil-spec rail on top for sights and optics and a 6” rail on the bottom for a vertical grip and/or flashlight.

3 Round Detachable Polymer Magazine

Allows for quick change of two different magazine tubes by engaging this lever.

KEL TEC KSG REVIEW: OUR TAKE

The Kel Tec KSG looks cool, seems cool, heck, we’ll admit it, it’s pretty cool.

But, it left a bit to be desired once we spent some time shooting it.

First off, the high capacity and bullpup design is amazing. Kudos to Kel Tec! When this first came out, they really did something unique.

However, like many Kel Tec products, it is high on innovation and low on execution. What I mean is this… Kel Tec really knows how to think outside the box but their firearms always seem to be “budget-level” guns. The plastic on the KSG, of which much of it is, feels cheap. And, the cross-bolt safety, although effective, is also on the cheap-end of things (at least in perception).

It’s as if they came up with something great, but then really wanted to lower the price, and thus cut corners in doing so, finding places to use plastic where I wouldn’t want it to be.

Now I get it…sometimes it’s nice when the price is lowered because they went after cheaper parts. However, these cheaper parts make it so that the action isn’t smooth as well as other things. So, to me, it hinders the operations a bit and isn’t just me being snobby. However, one recommendation is that if you do get it, look into picking up the Magpul Rail Vertical Grip – that makes the cycle action much better.

As for recoil, it gives a bit of kick – but that is expected for a 12-gauge. However, compared to something like the TS12, its recoil is significant. This difference between the two is because of the weight, but also the recoil pad isn’t exactly great compared to others right out of the box. There are some recoil pads you can purchase though on Amazon or other stores.

However, the biggest issue I had with this shotgun is this is the downward ejection. The Kel Tec KSG ejects the shotshells down and slightly right behind the main pistol grip… that’s exactly where the bone in my right wrist sits. Talking with others, they too have run into this problem. Furthermore, I have found that there are some 3rd party vendors who have built a deflection plate, that will coral the shotshell, and move it away from your arm. So, there is a away around this, but seriously?

Furthermore, if most happy KSG owners will state that they love it, and that it is perfect. But then many times I hear that they had to upgrade lots of parts and add a recoil pad and deflection plate…etc…and then it is great. But I can’t judge it by the upgrades. Instead, I’m reviewing it based on out of the box.

Also, it was reported by someone that Kel Tec told them that the KSG can’t take low brass – so something to note. However, I’ve seen in forum posts that there is conflicting information on this. Just be careful about it.

So, if you want a tactical pump action shotgun with high capacity and short overall length, then this is it! The KSG really is an awesome gun.

However, it has some ergonomic issues that could be improved.

My Final Verdict

It’s a fun gun. It’s incredibly well thought out and was unique in its day. However, since then, better semi-automatic bullpup shotguns with even more capacity have come out. Furthermore, I just can’t get behind a gun that was designed where the ejection causes pain to most right handed shooters and you have to pay extra money to mitigate this. Therefore, I choose not to keep this gun, and instead went with a different one as my favorite bullpup shotgun.

Now, this doesn’t mean that this shotgun wouldn’t be a good one for some out there. It is still cheaper than many others with its level and capability and compared to those in the same price range, I do think it is the best one (so long as you pick up the deflector).

Kel Tec KSG Review: Pros and Cons

  • High Capacity
  • Short Length
  • Ability to Switch Magazines
  • Awkward Ergonomics
  • Minor Reliability Issues

Report Card

Shootability

Handles well, but some of the actions are hindered due to the cheaper material.

A
Reliability

The KSG works…mostly. Occassionally it hangs up on loading and operating the gun.

B
Ergonomics

This gun is awkward to operate and in many cases, down-right painful.

D
Accuracy

As accurate as a shotgun can be.

A
Value

You get a lot from the low price of this shotgun.

A

Our Grade

B+

Reviewed by Dave Chesson

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 46 Reviews

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Success Your Grade Has Been
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Kel Tec KSG Review – FAQs

Can you replace the trigger guard on the Kel Tec KSG?|

Yes, you can swap out the trigger guard on the Kel Tec KSG. There are aftermarket options out there that allow you to upgrade this component to better suit your preferences.

What is the capacity of magazine tube on the Kel Tec KSG?

The Kel Tec KSG shotgun has dual magazine tubes, and each of them can hold up to seven rounds. So, when you load both tubes to their full capacity, you’ve got a total of 14 rounds ready to go.

Can the Kel Tec KSG chamber buck shot ammunition?

Yes, the Kel Tec KSG is capable of chambering buck shot ammunition, making it suitable for self-defense and close-range combat situations where the spread pattern of buck shot is advantageous.

What is the overall length of Kel Tec KSG?

The Kel Tec KSG comes in at just a hair over 26 inches in total length.

Ammo for the Range

Remington Gun Club 12 Gauge

Remington Gun Club

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Sportsmans Guide $0.31
Palmetto State Armory $0.51

Ammo for Defense

S&B 12 gauge Buckshot

S&B 12 Gauge Buckshot

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $0.61
Brownells $0.75

Kel Tec KSG STARTER PACK

There are some must-haves when purchasing any shotgun. And the Kel Tec KSG is no exception. We’ve put together a list of what you need to get started.

After you the basics have been acquired, it’s time to check out the cool stuff you can get to optimize your KSG.

Best Accessories for the Kel Tec KSG

Like I talked about in the review above, there are some parts that you should absolutely get, if you decide you want to purchase and keep this shotgun and thanks to the top and bottom picatinny rail, you have some options for attachments:

Accessories for the Kel Tec KSG

EOTECH HWS 512
  • Reliable & Durable
  • Water Resistant
Check Price
Magpul MBUS PRO Sight
  • All steel construction
  • Extreme resistance to wear and corrosion
  • Mounts on any MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny/STANAG 4694 rail
Check Price
KSG Deflector Plate
  • Direct Fit
  • No Modifications To Gun Needed
Check Price
Magpul Rail Vertical Grip
  • Light-weight
  • Cost-effective vertical fore grip
  • Ergonomically designed
Check Price
12 Gauge Tactical Breecher Win Choke
  • Features a serrated, saw-tooth tip
  • Easy to Install
  • 1704 stainless steel for maximum strength
Check Price

Like I’ve discussed in previous articles, I really like the EOTech holographic sights for shotguns like this. The larger holographic image, and the ability to increase or decrease intensity is a plus. However, if you don’t want to have to operate something like that, then getting the Magpul steel backup sights are a much cheaper option.

Two components that I think every KSG owner should get though is the deflector plate, and the vertical grip. Like I discussed in my KSG review above, the shotshell ejects straight into the bone of my right arm and caused me to bleed on a couple of occasions. Coming in at a low cost and not obstructing operations, the deflector is well worth the dollar or two you’ll spend. Also, I really love the Magpul RVG. It helps to give more control and helps with the pump action.

For a full overview of accessories for the KSG be sure to check out our article Best Kel Tec KSG Accessories.

Other Tactical Shotguns of its Class to Check Out

As far as Kel Tec weapons go, we’re a bit biased. We think they have amazing designs and great innovative thinking…but the execution doesn’t quite do it for us. That’s not to say that KSG is a terrible bullpup shotty. There are definitely some true fans of it out there. However, if you’re looking for some alternatives… there are definitely some good options available.

#1 IWI Tavor TS12

IWI Tavor TS12

Shotguns have always had capacity limitations. The TS12 by IWI aims to help solve this. Love this firearm.

Check Latest Price

  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics A+
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A

Our Grade

A

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 43 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Shotgun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Let’s start with the IWI Tavor TS-12. This is by far the best bullpup shotgun we’ve tested at Gun University. And we’ve stated so on our best bullpup rifles and shotguns article. It’s really hard to name one negative thing about this gun’s design, function, and ability. The biggest drawback is its premium price. But hey, you get what you pay for…READ MORE

#2 EAA MKA 1923

EAA MKA 1923

The purpose behind the MKA 1923 was to bring the quality associated with MKA weaponry to a new bullpup shotgun packed with innovation and quality.

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  • Shootability B-
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B
  • Accuracy A
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 4 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

Success Your Grade Has Been
Added To Our Reader’s Score

Now, this is a gun we can get behind. We like to say here that this gun really isn’t the best at anything. But don’t let it fool you. It’s really not bad at anything either. It’s a good solid average to compare other similar guns to. However, unlike the KSG, it’s a semi-auto. So if you’re willing to substitute your pump action for a decent semi-auto budget gun, this could be your best option...READ MORE 

How to Care for Your Kel Tec KSG

Got a quarter? Call someone who cares–or take care of your Kel Tec KSG. In this YouTube video, you’ll learn how to completely disassemble your KSG for maintenance using only the most technical of tools. A quarter.

Now, if you’re looking for more info on the Kel Tec KSG, we’ve compiled a list of extra resources sure to satisfy.

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About Dave Chesson

Dave Chesson is prior Navy with a specialty in international arms dealing for the US government across multiple countries. Having traveled the world and abided by ATF and ITAR, Roy has a unique background in legal as well as practical capabilities of weapons deployment and use.

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