Kel Tec RDB Review [2022]: Is it worth it?

by Dave Chesson

April 1, 2022

9 comments

3.8
(52)

In this Kel Tec RDB review we’ll be covering what we think about the RDB rifle, its pros and cons, and its specifications and background. We’ll also provide some extra resources for you to check out if you’re interested in this Bullpup Rifle from Kel Tec.

Kel Tec RDB Specs

  • Barell Length 17.2″
  • Caliber 5.56 NATO
  • Sights Rail Mounted
  • Action Semi-Auto
  • Overall Length 27.3″

Kel Tec RDB Background

Bullpups are awesome and fun to shoot. However, some have been designed in a way that make it difficult for southpaw shooters to safely operate. Gun University will give you our professional opinion on whether Kel Tec have succeeded in their aim of making an ambidextrous bullpup rifle.

So what else do you need to know about the Kel Tec RDB bullpup rifle? Some of the most innovative aspects you’d expect from Kel Tec are found here in the RDB.

These include an ejection system that keeps your line of sight free from spent casings, allowing you to more precisely and safely operate the RDB. But, if you’ve read our other Kel Tec reviews here at Gun University, you know that things don’t always work as well in reality as intended.

If you’re thinking of buying the Kel Tec RDB, we’ve discovered a few things you really want to know first. Read on to discover what they are, along with our full review and grades for the Kel Tec RDB.

Kel Tec RDB Features

1 Ambidextrous Magazine Release

The mag release on the RDB can be operated with either hand.

2 Adjustable Gas System

Allowing you to change the power of the propulsion.

3 Downward Shell Ejection

This method of ejecting shells ensures the Kel Tec RDB is suitable for both left and right handed shooters.

Kel Tec RDB Review – Our Take

Honestly, we’re torn on the Kel TEC RDB bullpup rifle. It is a really cool, simple, svelte, budget-friendly bullpup rifle.

However, it is made by Kel Tec which usually means two things: A+ on innovation, D on execution.

If you’re thinking about getting the Kel-Tec RFB, get the RDB instead. Here’s why:

Things we like about the RDB rifle:

SUPER SIMPLE operation! Seriously, one of the reasons we want one of these in our personal collection is how clean the design is INSIDE the gun.

It is a tiny bolt carrier, bolt, and op-rod. That’s about it. You can’t get much simpler than that.

When the bolt extracts the empty case after firing, it moves rearward and instead of ejecting the empty case when it reaches the rear of the magazine, it continues to travel rearward and and ejects the case downward behind the magazine. Then, it travels forward to meet the base of the next round in the magazine so that it can feed it into the chamber.

This means that the bolt travels twice as far as any other semi auto rifle: far enough to feed and an additional case-length rearward to eject. This doesn’t;t seem like a good idea – extra movement and travel, however, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for this rifle.

The KelTec RDB rifle is handy – it’s not super light, but it’s not too heavy either. The more you play with it, the more you realize what a handy package it is.

The RDB by Kel Tec is reliable. It just seems to work.

What we don’t like:

The Kel Tec RDB is NOT pro-grade. This is fine for a range toy but we could never recommend this rifle for defensive use. Why? Well, even though it has been reliable for testing, there will surely be a malfunction (even if it is ammo related). And, once there’s a malfunction (like a failure to feed, failure to extract, failure to eject, etc.) it is going to be near impossible to diagnose the problem and fix it.

The RDB is novel in that it doesn’t have an ejection port that allows you to see in the chamber and see the top of the magazine. That seems cool until you realize that you can’t diagnose and fix malfunctions. Good motivation, bad judgment.

The trigger and mag release are nowhere near as good as the trigger and mag release on the Tavor X95. Seriously, this is a fun space-gun but if you’re looking for a serious duty bullpup rifle, I think you’re crazy to not get the IWI X95.

Kel Tec RDB Pros and Cons

  • Light
  • Nimble/Svelte
  • Novel Concept (Cool factor)
  • Inexpensive
  • Not pro-grade
  • Impossible to diagnose and fix malfunctions
  • Poor trigger and mag release

Report Card

Shootability

Very easy to shoot and operate – Perfect for hunting, but not as stable as a dedicated target rifle.

A+
Reliability

In our experience we haven’t had any malfunctions.

A+
Ergonomics

Felt a little awkward when holding, it could had a better grip.

B+
Accuracy

Accurate enough for a “battle rifle”

B
Value

Not outrageous on price which is good, and is worth every penny.

A

Our Grade

A-

Reviewed by Dave Chesson

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 18 Reviews

Your Grade

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Added To Our Reader’s Score

Kel Tec RDB Ammo

Black Hills 5.56 NATO TSX Ammo

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Brownells $1.96

NORMA 62 GR FMJ 5.56X45

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Palmetto State Armory $0.60

Kel Tec RDB Starter Pack

If you’ve decided to pick up the Kel Tec RDB, or found another firearm that suits your needs, there are some bare essentials you’re going to need to pick up in order to maximize its potential and your safety regardless of if it’s your first firearm or not.

  • Gun Cleaning Kit: Otis All Caliber Elite Range Box on Amazon or build your own personalized cleaning kit with premium components.
  • Shooting Glasses: All it takes is one piece of rogue hot brass, and you’ll learn the importance of shooting glasses. But not all glasses are built the same. See our recommendations for the Best Shooting Glasses.
  • Hearing Protection: Firing a gun without wearing proper ear pro can be very dangerous and detrimental to your hearing. Find out the best hearing protection for you in our full length review.
  • Storage: Check our our article on the Best Biometric Gun Safes
  • Targets – If you’re wanting a great resource for shooting practice or zeroing your optics on your optics rifle or pistol, download our FREE Sighting in Targets below.
  • MagazinesMagpul 30RD Magazine at Brownells

Upgrades and Accessories

On KelTec’s website, they claim the RDB is the bullpup perfected. And while the gun isn’t the most terrible we’ve shot, perfection is a bit of a stretch. Fortunately, there are some great accessories to make it better.

Kel Tec RDB Accessories

Leupold Deltapoint Pro
  • Very Robust and Durable
  • Large Field of View
Check Price
Trijicon RMR Type 2
  • 3.25 MOA Adjustable LED RMR
  • Automatic mode to prevent accidental adjustments
Check Amazon
Viking Tactics VTAC Padded Sling
  • Adaptable and Comfortable
  • Wide Shoulder Strap
Check Amazon
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
  • Great In-Ear option
  • Custom molded – super easy and comfortable
  • NRR: 31
Check Amazon

Other Bullpups of its Class to Check Out

While we believe that this particular KelTec edges out the RFB, we also think that you’ve got some better options out there. These two recommendations perform and feel better than the KelTec RDB–at least in our opinion.

#1 IWI Tavor X95

IWI Tavor X95

The Tavor X95 has by far earned the Best Overall Bullpup Award. You can see below why we made that decision.

Check Latest Price

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

Our Grade

A+

Reviewed by Dave Chesson

Reader’s Grade

A

Based on 28 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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

When it comes to bullpup rifles, this is our favorite one we’ve gotten our hands on. It’s got just about everything you want in a bullpup–including things you didn’t even realize you needed. As matter of fact, it actually tops our list of best bullpup rifles and shotguns…READ MORE

#2 Steyr Aug A3 M1

Steyr Aug A3 M1

Sold at EuroOptic.com, Guns.com, Palmetto State Armory

The Aug is a modular firearm and comes in many configurations to include those that fire in the open bolt position as light machine guns.

Check Latest Price

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

Our Grade

B

Reviewed by Dave Chesson

Reader’s Grade

B+

Based on 8 Reviews

Your Grade

Do You Own This Gun? Leave A Review

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

Now, we all know KelTecs look cool. There’s no doubt about that. But if you’re looking for another cool looking gun without the hangups of the KelTec RDB, check out the Steyr Aug. It’s the quintessential bad guy gun seen in films everywhere. Honestly, the biggest hangup would be the specialized parts you’d need to get…READ MORE

How to Care for Your Kel Tec RDB

It’s one thing to own a bullpup rifle. And another to own one with pride. If you’re serious about treating your guns well, you should know how to take them down and do basic cleaning and maintenance. Geoff Tac put together a great video on how to do just that.

This review is by no means everything you should know about the KelTec RDB–especially if you’re considering purchasing one. Here’s a list of recommended reads for you to gain more insight.

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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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9 COMMENTS

  1. Well thought I would try a 9mm bullpup the Jard J68. Gun malfunctioned after 5th round and fired out of battery due to a broken piece of the bolt wedged in chamber. Very disturbing when your new gun goes pow out the bottom and smoke pours out of everywhere but the barrel. Retailer & Company has pretty much $%$#@d me off. The reason, bolt not in stock/waiting production. Got this answer finally after 3 months of e-mails and phone calls.Believe I am now in possession of a very expensive paper weight! In Canada so no loss to them I suppose.

  2. I do respect and value the opinion of your group about the RDB, however would disagree with most of your cons on the rifle.

    Trigger is excellent compared to ANY bullpup and much better than X95 any day of the week..

    Mag release is stupid simple and just works. No need to over engineer if not needed.

    Lastly, as a former Marine I have no problem with this rifle as a defensive firearm…..all guns are range toys, but If you train to your system and understand its limitations and strengths it gets the job done. Also lets be honest 99.9 of us will never be taking our rifles into a firefight or hostile situation. This fantasty people have of being covered in mud, sand, ice, and body parts is absurd and doing nothing but causing them to pass on an otherwise outstanding bullpup.

    Malfunctions are a rarity, but in a defensive situation would be diagnosed behind cover anyways. I have cause all malfunctions in this rifle and can clear pretty much everything with tap rack bang….with the exception being a doublefeed.

  3. i have to disagree about the trigger. its by far much better than the tavor. its actually the best trigger on any bullpup out there. one thing i dont understand is why people would put a scope on a bullpup lmao. the reason its short is for cqb and close range. putting a scope on it you might as well get a 20″ ar15 imo.

    this gun has been my home defense rifle for a year and i love how easy i can maneuver in my house with it.

  4. Well…i have the 20″ version and can obliterate a bullseye at 500 yrs with it. I like it so much I got a second one. Each equipped for specic purposes. The upgraded trigger spring that is available took an already good trigger to outstanding with 2.5lb pull weight. I know this weapon inside and out and have had zero issues with it. Had one double feed when new and was way over gassed. Since udjusting gas block properly it has?operated flawlessly thru more than 3500 eds. The second is operating the same way. I also have the X95 and the RDB is more accurate and shoots with far less recoil plus being a great tack driver.

  5. I had been looking for a bullpup for a while, i love AR’s and have several lengths of them. I also wanted a great truck riffle in 5.56. Having 2 that i rotated depending on where I was going, I wanted something that that hit all realms. I saw this at my local gun shop and held it, it was very comfortable and being a lefty i loved the ejection concept. Being shorter with a longer barrel i had to have it. If anything it was going to be a fun gun.
    I have put 1000 rounds through it with not a single issue. It is very easy to move with and it is pretty damn accurate in tactical movements and always on target. Reloads are fast and easy, cleaning it is easy, and there are upgrade options i plan on making with the M-lok hand guard they make. as the review said that jams my be a problem, if you practice pulling it apart and putting it together it becomes a pretty fast fix if something does stick. But then again i have not had an issue at all. Love this rifle and it has earned its place as my main truck gun.

  6. I have to agree with Josh. Your assessment of corrective action is tactically incorrect. Current fielded doctrine for immediate actions is Rack Tap Bang, IE pull the charging handle, tap the forward assist, then shoot again. Inspecting the chamber is remedial action and is only done after removing the magazine and locking the bolt to the rear. Obviously, you wouldn’t do this in a firefight. I hope you’d transition to a sidearm or throw the heavy bit of metal at your enemy and close for the clinch like a true operator. SPORTS is the older tactical doctrine for immediate action, which has been abandoned. Observe, was not the chamber, but the ejection of the round. In my handling of the RDB there’s no reason you can’t observe the ejection of the spent or malfunctioned round. If anything during an immediate action that now happens within the working area of the rifle rather than the far side of the receiver.

  7. Well, it seems like I bought a lemon!
    Mine was nothing but problems, and I sold it for about half what I paid for. I just could not deal with the issues with this thing. Mind you, I was aware of the potential issues, but I thought it was just operator induced failures.
    To start, the magazine dropped out in the middle of firing, so I reduced to 5 rounds in the mag, and for a while it fixed the issue, but it was not the end.
    Second, it started to fail to load, and the rounds were badly damaged. I thought it was the ammo, swapped to the one that it used to work, but to no avail. Took it apart because I thought it was a broken extractor or something like that, but the bolt, extractor and other moving parts were intact. Closed the gas system and started to gradually open it, and as soon as it started to cycle, it did it again.
    So, I put it in the safe, and at the first chance I had, I sold it.

  8. I have shot both a Tavor and an RDB and I prefer the RDB. Fisrt, if you are a lefty, you should take the RDB, because it is ambidextrous. You can invert the ejection ont most bullpups… And then your freidns cannot try your gun… Wanna do ISPSC? Take the RDB, so you can change shoulder depending on the shooting post you’re at. Want to not sell a kidney to buy your rifle? Take the RDB.
    And finally the trigger of Tavor better than the RDB? Really? Since when?

  9. I’m sorry but denouncing the rifle’s reliability just because “It’s a Kel-Tec” is so damn stupid. I can already see them putting a few hundred rounds through it at the range without malfunction and then grumbling “yeah but I bet it’ll still jam when you need it cause y’know haha Kel-Tecs!” Sounds like the car guys I know who refuse to buy a certain make or use a certain brand of intake just because they’ve experience a specific model that sucked or there was a point in time when the brand made some sub-par stuff. The gun is good. One of the best stock triggers on a bullpup bar none, completely ambi, and an absolute pleasure to shoot. Reviews like this are supposed to be about what the gun can do not about some bias the writer has about the brands. At this point it’s like Alex C from TFB who, no matter what was presented, will always declare German guns are better. Like c’mon now.

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