The Kel-Tec Rifle Forward-ejecting Bullpup: A Wonder Weapon or Worthless?
Let the debate begin.
The Kel-Tec Rifle Forward-ejecting Bullpup (RFB) is one of the most interesting rifles released in current years. Designed to take common magazines, eject forwards, and be fully ambidextrous, the RDB mirrors the feature set of the earlier FN F2000 and the later Desert Tech MDR. However, unlike those two rifles, the RFB employs an entirely different mode of operation to lock up its chamber when firing. Is it better or worse?
The defining feature of the Kel-Tec RFB is its tilting bolt and extractors. In order to feed empty casings into the ejection chute above the barrel, the extractors are designed to tilt upwards from the bolt face during the rearward portion of the recoil cycle. When the bolt returns forward, the bolt strips a fresh cartridge from the magazine while simultaneously shoving the empty casing into the ejection chute. When the casing is pushed into the chute, the extractors pivot downwards to lock onto the rim of the fresh cartridge. As such, vertically tilting extractors would be hard to design into a rotating locking bolt, the entire bolt locks via tilting, a relatively uncommon feature in modern firearms.
While some firearms in the past used tilting bolts, notably the German Sturmgewehr 44, Soviet SKS, and Belgian FN FAL, most modern firearms use rotating bolts due to their stronger, more consistent lockup and simpler design. Tilting bolts also distribute the pressure of firing unevenly in the rifle, compared to the simple lug to recess contact that rotating locking systems provide.
This represents a potential weakness in the design, however, most RFBs have not been around for long enough or shot hard enough for this weakness to manifest. What has proven to be a consistent weakness is the RFB’s forward ejection chute. While the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine describes the RFB’s forward ejection as “one of the most impressive feats of firearms since FN’s downward ejecting P90,” it ignores that FN made a forward ejecting bullpup nearly seven years before in the FN F2000.
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