May 13, 2011
Kel-Tec CNC Industries is well-known for its extensive line of compact and subcompact pistols with polymer frames and steel slides in calibers from .32 Auto to 9mm. Last year the firm introduced its PMR-30, a full-size pistol chambered in .22 WMR with an overall length of almost eight inches. Thanks to the glass-reinforced Zytel grip assembly and components, it weighs less than 14 ounces.
Unlike your typical Kel-Tec, the PMR-30 has a single-action trigger, ambidextrous thumb safeties and fiber-optic front and rear sights. The two-piece grip assembly is held together by an aluminum frame that houses the firing mechanism, supports the magazine and provides rails upon which the steel slide reciprocates. The grip assembly is checkered to provide a firm purchase while the dust cover portion features a Picatinny rail for mounting lights or laser sights.
The steel slide, which is encased by a Zytel cover, contains the firing pin and dual opposing extractors to ensure positive extraction and ejection of spent cases. The barrel is fluted to improve cooling and is mounted in a barrel block that is secured in the frame by a stout disassembly pin. Captive dual recoil springs, which help ensure reliable functioning, are positioned on a full-length guide rod under the barrel.
The PMR-30 uses an internal hammer to fire the cartridge. Applying the ambidextrous thumb safeties disconnects the trigger from the sear, locks the sear and blocks the hammer from falling.
The PMR-30 operates on a hybrid blowback/locked-breech system. This operation system allows for the use of a wide variety of ammunition as it adjusts between locked breech and blowback operation, depending on the pressure of the cartridge.
"The hybrid locked/blowback system is simple in execution," a Kel-Tec engineer told me. "There is technically no mechanical locking system in the gun. The cartridge case is the mechanical lock in the system. The friction of the case locks the chamber (and therefore the barrel) to the case as they both recoil together — as long as the pressure is high enough.
"Lower-pressure rounds will cause less friction between the case and the barrel, and then the barrel stays still or only moves a little. It's a balancing act between the bullet friction pulling the barrel forward and the case friction in the chamber pulling the barrel back. Bullet friction does not change much based on round pressure, but the case friction will."
The PMR-30's metal magazine is retained in the grip by a heel-type catch and holds 30 rounds of .22 WMR ammunition.
When I first examined my PMR-30 test sample, I had my doubts about it. The grip to frame angle is very steep, which led me to believe the pistol would not point well. I was wrong. The Kel-Tec's hand-filling grip provides excellent handling qualities and points very naturally while the contrasting orange (rear) and green (front) fiber-optic sights allow fast sight alignment and target acquisition.
The safety levers could be manipulated without moving the pistol around in your hand and, while I am not a fan of them, the deeply serrated heel-type magazine release was easy to use. Loading the magazine to capacity was a time-consuming chore, but with 30 rounds at your disposal, you won't be performing that chore very often.
Butch Simpson and I took the Kel-Tec out to the range to run it through its paces. Test firing was conducted at 25 yards with Winchester, CCI and Remington ammo; accuracy results are on the accompanying chart.
The pistol had a crisp trigger that, according to my RCBS trigger gauge, broke cleanly at 3.6 pounds. It tended to print a bit low with two of the three loads, and while it showed a slight preference for the fast-stepping CCI Maxi Mags, all three loads produced nicely centered groups.
Offhand drills at 15 yards showed the pistol was capable of more than adequate hunting accuracy. The fiber-optic sights on the PMR-30 really let you align the sights quickly and get back on the target fast.
At the beginning of our test firing we experienced several failures to chamber with all three brands of ammo, but this seemed to sort itself out after we had run about 100 rounds through it. Aside from that, the PMR-30 ran great, and it was only a lack of ammunition that made up pack up our gear and head home.
Our consensus was that the Kel-Tec PMR-30 would be a prime choice for plinking, small game hunting and vermin control. And when you take into consideration its environmentally resistant construction, light weight, powerful cartridge and high firepower, it would make a great trail gun.
Kel-Tech has produced a number of unique firearms and I feel that the PMR-30 follows in the family tradition very nicely.
TYPE: semiauto rimfire; locked-breech/blowback hybrid
CALIBER: .22 WMR
CAPACITY: 30-round metal magazine
BARREL: 4.3 in. fluted
OAL/HEIGHT/WIDTH: 7.9/4.8/1.3 in.
WEIGHT: 13.6 oz.
CONSTRUCTION: 4140 steel slide and barrel; aluminum frame; glass-reinforced Zytel grip and slide cover
SAFETY: ambidextrous thumb
TRIGGER PULL: 3.6 lb.
SIGHTS: fiber-optic front and rear