My love of shotguns extended to all forms of scatterguns, cheap and expensive, traditional or tactical, even bullpups. Bullpup shotguns actually make a lot of sense. Personal defense shotguns are made for close-quarters combat, and bullpups fill that role really well. When you combine the two, you get a short weapon that dominates at close quarters.
When the KelTec KS7 pump action shotgun premiered, I was excited, but apprehensive. I thought the KSG was cool, but after a friend spent a small fortune on one and was met with numerous failures, I stayed away.
From what I’ve seen and heard, the KSG had some initial teething problems, but those have long since been resolved. I can say I’ve had this KS7 for quite some time now and what they figured out with the KSG transferred over to the KS7.
KelTec KS7 Breakdown
The KelTec KS7 is a bullpup shot that owes its existence to the KSG. The KSG was famous for its dual magazine tube design that gave you 14 rounds of 2.75-inch shells. The KS7 uses a single tube that simplifies the design and still gives you a respectable seven rounds of 2.75-inch shells.
The single-tube KS7 is noticeably thinner than the KSG in both literal size and price. Before the COVID craziness, the KS7 was selling at my local gun store for $400-ish out the door. That price has since risen.
The KS7 is a mere 26.1 inches in length. Any shorter than 26 inches and we’d be looking at a short-barreled shotgun…and NFA complications. Heck, the KS7 is a stocked shotgun that’s shorter than the Remington TAC 14/Mossberg Shockwave series of non-shotgun guns and it’s much handier overall.
The elephant in the room is that big ole’ carry handle that sits atop the KS7. It’s eye-catching and gives the gun a certain retro kinda cool. It’s also most certainly a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The good news is the carry handle can be removed and replaced with an optic rail should you so choose.
The carry handle serves three purposes; to infuriate people when it’s used as a carry handle, to contain your sighting system, and to give you a few M-LOK slots for accessories. I’ve attached a Crimson Trace light with an M-LOK mount. Behind the pump are a few M-LOK slots. I can’t think of anything I’d mount in that area besides maybe a sling. If someone made some M-LOK shell holders, I’d attach a few for some spare onboard ammo.
As the weapon comes, there’s no means to attach an optic. As someone who likes the carry handle, I’m dreaming of low profile mini red dot integration, but alas, I’m left dreaming. The pump and grip are outfitted with the KelTec alligator grip texture, and it’s completely functional and works fine. I do wish the pump featured M-LOK slots at the bottom to attach a vertical grip.
One feature I think is neat is the magazine tube has small cuts, witness holes that allow you to see just about how much ammo you have left. The high visibility white follower is easy to spot and makes it so you can see when you’re down to a few shells.
Range Time = Pain Time (kind of)
Off the bat, one of the lessons learned about the KSG is that dumb people do dumb things and will find a way to drift their hand in front of the barrel. To help prevent that, KelTec has integrated a shield at the front of the pump to keep your hand from drifting foreward. It’s a very good idea and safety is always paramount, but it can cause some pain.
With my big hands, my thumb naturally sits forward and against the shield. I use the Rob Haught push/pull technique, and when I’m pushing my support hand forward, I get a good bit of recoil that bashes into my thumb with every shot. A simple fix is to cock my thumb rearward a bit and press it inwards into the pump.
The KS7 is a light 5.9 pounds, so recoil mitigation or low recoil rounds are critical with the KS7. It can be brutal if you don’t use the proper technique. Technique really is everything with any shotgun, but with the KS7, it might be a bit more critical. That being said, I prefer a lightweight, maneuverable defensive shotgun to a heavier, lower recoiling model.
The short length and light weight make the KS7 super easy to move around and swing from target to target. Transitioning between multiple targets is very easy and, dare I say, fun. Swinging between two targets was faster and more intuitive with the KS7 than with my Mossberg 590A1.
KelTec got the length of pull right with the KS7, and it’s a short and friendly 13 inches. No need to blade your body, square up to your target, and shoot. The KS7 has a small built-in recoil pad, but will happily accept a few others from companies like Pachymayr.
Most bullpups are rarely left hand-friendly, but the KS7 finds a way to be quite nice in that department. The gun feeds and ejects out the bottom, so no hulls are flying in your face if you’re a lefty. The pump recoil is ambidextrous, and while the safety is a cross-bolt design, it’s easy to use with either hand.
The short reach to the pump makes the KS7 friendlier for smaller shooters. The front shield is backed by a rear shield to keep your hand from sliding off the pump when running it hard rearward. The pump action isn’t super smooth; there are some jumps and stall points. If you run it slow and try to find them, you will. Does that affect how the gun operates?
Not at all, but Wingmaster fans may not be impressed.
Bang, Boom, and Pow
The KS7 is fun to shoot, and the sight (singular) is nice. It’s a front sight only design, but instead of your traditional bead, the KS7 has a bright high visibility fiber optic triangle. It’s simple, big, eye-catching, and well-suited for buckshot. It’s not as precise as ghost rings or even a bead for slug work. The sights are most certainly best suited for buckshot.
The trigger is impressive and surprising. It’s very short and crisp with a loud and very tactile reset. It doesn’t need to be this good, but it is.
My apprehension was reliability, but I was happily reassured. I’ve shot this thing a lot. I’ve fired hundreds and hundreds of rounds since I got it and the KS7 cycles and functions without issue. It’s never jammed, failed to extract, or failed to eject. The gun runs very well and works just as a pump-action should.
I’ve seen and heard people who’ve used mini shells well in the KS7, but that hasn’t been my experience. The mini shells run about 70% of the time for me, and I don’t necessarily knock a gun for not running well with ammo it’s not designed to use. Especially what I consider to be novelty ammo.
The downside you’ll run into is reloading. It’s a bit slow, and that’s to be expected when the magazine tube is placed nearly against your shoulder. I’ve found that if I keep my elbow pinned to my body and load a shell at a time, I can be decently quick. There’s no way to do a port reload should you run completely dry.
While reloading is an important skill to have, it’s highly unlikely for someone to run a shotgun dry before achieving your goal. Shotguns aren’t suppressive weapons and tend to do what they need to in just a few rounds fired. That’s the joy of a 12 gauge shooting 00 buck, right folks?
Overall, I’m suitably impressed with the KS7. It’s a fun, lightweight, compact, reliable, and powerful weapon that’s made in America and normally has a great price tag along with it. It’s more than worth checking out once the current craziness disappears. And maybe even before.
Specifications: KelTec KS7 Shotgun
Caliber: 12 gauge up to 3 inch
Barrel Length: 18.5 inches
Overall Length: 26.1 inches
Weight: 5.9 pounds
Length of Pull: 13 inches
MSRP: $539 (current COVID craziness price about $579)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Ergonomics * * * *
The only downside was my thumb catching some recoil. It was easy to fix the problem, but it does still exist and needs to be acknowledged. The controls and ergonomics are great all around.
Reliability * * * * *
With 2.75 and 3 inch shells, it’s been 100% reliable. Even with cheap Rio buckshot, it eats it all and does so without complaint.
Modularity * * *
You can add some M-LOK accessories or rails, change the carrying handle for an optic’s rail, and that’s about it. At least so far. I want an M-LOK or railed pump for attaching a VFG to avoid hitting my thumb.
Accuracy * * * * *
It’s a shotgun with a very solid trigger, so accuracy is pretty much dead-on.
Overall * * * * 1/2
The KS7 is a surprisingly great shotgun. I approached it as a skeptical snob with some apprehension and was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a solid little gun that checks the boxes of what a tactical shotgun should be.