Kel-Tec Sub-2000: A 9mm Folding Carbine [Review]

Have you struggled to find a gun that can reach out accurately to some distance, but doesn’t need a suitcase to be carried?  

I’m going to introduce you to one of the greatest gun values on the market today.

Kel-Tec Sub-2000, Image from LuckyGunner.com

I recently conducted a test and evaluation of the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 and in my 30 years of shooting, I’ve never seen a product that combines the ease of shooting of a rifle with the portability of an Autobot.  

Best Folding Pistol Caliber Carbine
390
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

This weapon is a marvel of function and portability but is a little rough around the edges straight from the factory. Thankfully, I also found some sweet upgrades that make it do exactly what I wanted.

Kel-Tec has made a name for itself in the gun industry as an innovative company.  They aren’t afraid to try new firearms ideas.

Tapping into the current trend of pistol caliber rifles, Kel-Tec jumped in feet first with the Sub 2000—a modern day Transformer.

Give Kel-Tec Time…They’ll Make One…

Available in 9mm and .40 caliber, the Sub 2000 appears to be a somewhat anemic, mostly plastic, black rifle (though they are also available in green and tan).  That’s about the end of where first impressions make sense though.

You can buy this rifle in variants that run on different magazines.  

Smith and Wesson M&P, Sig Sauer P226, Beretta 92 & 96, and Glock 17, 19, 22, & 23 are all options you have when making your rifle purchase.  

This is extremely cool because you can now have compatibility between your rifle and pistol. In the days of the Old West, shooters often carried rifles and pistols that shot the same caliber bullet.  

This was extremely useful because you only had to carry one type of ammunition. The Sub 2000 is an improvement from this practice because the same magazines can be used for the rifle and handgun.  

Kel-Tec Sub-200 Stock Config
The Kel-Tec Sub-2000 Gen 2 in its stock configuration.

Transformer

In all likelihood though, the most exciting aspect of the Sub 2000 is the fact that it folds in half.  At 30.5 inches the rifle is no slouch, but folding it in half creates a package only 16.25 inches long.  

A quick reference to help you visualize the folded Sub 2000 is a computer keyboard, it’s roughly that size.  

You may ask yourself why a folding rifle is chic—the simple fact is; you can take it nearly anywhere.  Folded up, the Sub 2000 can fit in a laptop bag, a sling bag, or a small backpack.  

It can be stored in relatively small places, tucked under a seat in a car, in the map pocket of your truck, or near the spare in your trunk.

Size often defines capability but the Sub 2000 turns that idea on its ear.  

By folding this baby up, you can carry long gun performance in a much smaller package – something you normally only get from an SBR, but without all of the NFA price and trouble.  

My eyes widened the first time I saw the rifle, I imagined the pocket in my backpack I would place this tool when I went hiking or camping.

I set about dreaming up the perfect carry package and started reaching out to make it happen.  Kel-Tec sent me a Glock 19 model of the Sub 2000 Gen 2 and I was overjoyed.

This gun can run any Glock magazine that is 15 rounds (double-stack) and up, all the way to the 33 round Happy Sticks, that’s a party!

I also contacted Hazard 4 for a Grayman Line Plan-B sling bag.  This company makes some amazing bags but they often scream “Tactical operator over here!” with their military colors and webbing.  

76
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The new Grayman Line offers the same utility with a muted approach that doesn’t tell everyone you’re carrying a firearm. Within a pretty short time, I had everything and was ready to start testing.

Let’s Run It Live

The Sub 2000 fits perfectly in the Plan-B and I was off to the range with a (provided) Magpul 15-round magazine and a couple of Magpul 21 round magazines I already had.  

I loaded up three types of 9mm ammo and headed to the range like the lead-addicted maniac I am. I began to make observations immediately.

Hazard 4 Plan B in Grayman
The Hazard 4 Plan B in Grayman is a subtle alternative which still offers great utility.

First off, you have to imagine that when designing a gun that folds in half, you’re going to have to sacrifice on a few things.  I mean, it’s totally portable, only weighing in at 4.25 pounds. But the ergonomics had taken a backseat in order to prioritize the function of the weapon.

The first big challenge was I had a hard time getting a good sight picture.  

Laying my cheek on the buffer tube, it was tough getting the front post in view of the rear ring.  I have a big noggin so this may be part of my challenge, but I had a hard time getting consistent groups standing at 10 yards.  

I was averaging around 2 inches. This isn’t horrible, but I felt things should be better.

I placed the rifle on a rest and was able to achieve one-inch groups at 10 yards fairly consistently, but my eyes strained to line everything up. Stretching out to 25 yards I averaged 2-inch groups supported and 5-inch groups unsupported. The trigger was heavy, around 9 pounds, and kind of mushy.

I also noticed that after just over 100 rounds, my cheek was sore.  The blow-back system in the Sub 2000 allows a heavy bolt to run back and forth just under your cheekbone, I felt it after a while.

Kind of like this…but with all of it happening right under your cheek.

It soon dawned on me Kel-Tec had pulled off some amazing feats, but I also understood where they sacrificed. The sights are the biggest weakness, in my opinion, and the ergonomics come in second.

The MSRP of the Sub 2000 is $500 but you can find them consistently around $400 online.  This is cheaper than many of the handguns they share magazines with.

At this entry level price, buyers get a whole lot of utility and a lot of value.  The price is very affordable and comes with an added benefit—being able to buy in so low means you may have money to customize the rifle however you want!

The American Way

There is a strong aftermarket for the Sub 2000 right now and it’s getting more popular.  This is no doubt due to the gun’s success. However, the rifle is hard to find in gun stores, especially certain varieties.

 

Actual Picture of Kel-Tec In Stores
Actual Picture of the Sub-2000 in Stores, Probably

When your local FFL gets them, they don’t stay on the shelves long. So, the first step is getting a gun to work on. Good luck!

With the rifle in hand, you can begin chipping away at a hit list of improvements.  Top of my priority list was an optic, as well as some things that might help with making the weapon fit me better.  I wanted to wring out every little bit of accuracy and utility I could from this mighty package.

After conducting some research, I found a company called MCARBO.  These guys make a whole suite of upgrades for the Sub 2000. And even better, they have a ton of instructional videos on YouTube which walks you step-by-step through the installation process.  

I contacted the company and they sent me a full upgrade kit.

However, in case you haven’t heard, YouTube has changed their rules and those videos might not be up for long. If they get reposted by MCARBO somewhere else I’ll be sure to link them in here.

Midwest Industries has a great optic mount that works around the Sub 2000’s ability to fold in half.  Rotate the optic out, unfold the rifle, rotate the optic back into the eye’s line of sight. The unit mounts to the MLOK side rail along the rifle’s barrel.

Onto this ingenious platform, I mounted a Vortex Crossfire Red Dot Sight.

Vortex optics are tough, guaranteed, and this tiny little sight with it’s 2 MOA red dot and 1x magnification perfectly fit the bill for what I needed.  

With 11 brightness levels, I was bound to find one that would serve in every lighting scenario.

If you’re looking for more ideas for what kind of optic to put on your Sub-2000, our Best AR Optics and Scopes guide can help!

Fully realizing the handgun relationship implied with this rifle I had to consider a solution for slinging it.  

I contacted Tactic Shop and requested one of their high-quality single point-slings. Installing the sling would allow me to stow the weapon if I needed to transition to a pistol or do something with my hands.

In addition, the Sub 2000 has a Picatinny rail which allowed me to mount a Magpul AFG-2.  The “Angled Fore Grip” blended extremely well with the overall black plastic theme and would provide some distinct advantages.

33
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

After I had everything assembled, I spent a Saturday afternoon overhauling the gun.  

What I did to the Sub 2000 laying on my workbench would have made even Megatron blush.  

Internal parts where everywhere, the videos were streaming and upgrades progressed in a fashion that made my inner tinkerer smile.  The overall process was a breeze because MCARBO even provides needed tools.

After everything was added I cackled like Dr. Frankenstein.  I couldn’t wait to try it all out.

KT Sub-2000 On the Gun Bench
I spent a pleasurable Saturday afternoon upgrading this gun’s potential.

Proof in the Pudding

The following day I drove to the range with the newly modded Sub 2000 to test my theory of evolution.

 Nestled in the Hazard 4 bag, the rifle still fit perfectly well even with the add-ons. The overall bulk wasn’t much different, but I figured the upgraded components and improved fit would be huge.  

The Grayman line has great utility in the multiple pockets, but it doesn’t broadcast concealed carrier to anyone. It’s also small enough to not be obtrusive while being big enough to hold the Sub 2000 and quite a few other items like magazines, an IFAK, and more.  

I approached my target, slung the bag to my front, opened it, removed the Sub 2000, assembled it, and cut loose.  

With the Vortex, I instantly had a sight picture that did not cause me any eye strain. I drilled one-inch groups at 10 yards and those only spread out marginally at 25 yards.  

The Magpul AFG allowed me to pull the rifle into my shoulder better and I drove the gun with accuracy between targets.

These were the results I was hoping for!

MCARBO Stock on KT Sub-2000
The MCARBO version of the Kel-Tec Sub 2000 deploys very nicely from the Hazard 4 Plan B.

The rubber sleeve provided by MCARBO gave my cheek a much better experience and the extended charging handle allowed my big hands to charge the weapon with ease.  The trigger kit crispened the trigger from its mushy 9 pounds to a sharp 4.5 pounds.

The trigger itself was replaced with an aluminum one, also eliminating some of the flex of the plastic original.

The main piece used to break the gun down to its folded position is the trigger guard.  MCARBO replaces this critical component with a beefy, aluminum version too, completely eliminating the somewhat bendy OEM version.  

With so many internals replaced or upgraded, I felt like I had a high-performance machine.

The recoil of the rifle was assisted by an added recoil buffer from MCARBO and the QD sling attachment made clicking in my single-point Tactic Shop sling a breeze.  The bungee on the sling made transitions between rifle and pistol a breeze and the wide strap allowed me to carry the Sub 2000 without fatigue for the majority of the day.  

For a final touch, I added a Dagger Defense DD-SD01 weapon light.  Available for just $29.99, this critical piece of kit enabled the Sub 2000 to light up targets with 200 lumens.  One of the best things about it is the top and bottom switch.

30
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

With my thumb-over-bore grip, I was able to activate the light without altering my grip on the weapon.

Shooting the KT Sub-2000
From carrying to deployed, the Sub 2000 and the Plan B are a great combination.

Grading the Kel-Tec Sub 2000

Ergonomics 3/5

This gun isn’t meant to be ergonomic, it’s meant to be stuffed in a backpack and hauled out if something goes terribly wrong on your outing.  It gets the job done, but it isn’t a custom-fitted rifle.

Accuracy 4/5

This gun is accurate but the stock sighting system was not working for me.  Once I installed the Vortex red dot I had a lot better results. But this means the gun is accurate, I just couldn’t shoot it well with the stock sights.

KelTec Group at 25m
Kel-Tec Sub-2000 1.27-inch group at 25…after the upgrades

With the Red Dot and upgrades, I was able to shoot this 1.27-inch group at 25 yards

Reliability 5/5

I had zero malfunctions while operating this gun and I shot approximately 600 rounds during multiple stages of testing.  

Customization 5/5

The aftermarket is growing for this platform and the upgrades that are out there have an amazing impact on the performance you can expect from the Sub 2000.  It is encouraging to see such support for this popular rifle.

Looks 3.5/5

Function drives the form in this gun.  I like the polymer aesthetic, it reminds me of a Glock in many ways—it’s black, plastic, and highly functional.  However, it isn’t a wonder of engraved steel and stained wood buffed to a shiny finish.

Price 5/5

For what you get, this rifle is an outstanding value!  I have seen them online for the $400 to $450 range. Often times the local FFL I have shopped at only have the guns for a short period before they sell out.  The function and portability you get out of this gun are superb when you compare it to the cost of many popular handguns at double (or more) the price.

Overall 4.5/5

Kel-Tec did a marvelous job with this weapon by keeping it affordable.  You can obviously wring more potential out of it with some good upgrades, but that’s the genius!  You’re getting a foldable rifle for less than many popular pistols.  With those savings, it’s cheaper and easier to chip away at upgrading where you think it makes the most sense.  The end result, upgraded or not, is a packable, quality, shooter.

Down to Choice

Kel-Tec made an outstanding gun when they dreamed up the Sub 2000.  This little rifle is a big surprise when you think about its size versus what it can do.  At a price well below most of the pistols it shares the magazine with, you can reach out to greater distances with accuracy.

That being said, there is a great deal of emphasis on the function gained in that utility.  

There is little importance given to comfort and the sights were sub-optimal for me. I would encourage anyone to pick up a Sub 2000 (if you can find one).  It is perfectly useful in the stock condition—but you can do so much more if you choose!

All the companies listed above have great products that bolt on to the rifle and all are pretty reasonably priced, depending on the part or kit you want. 

The bottom line is, you get a rifle that can be folded up and stowed and keep it not far from your reach.  Whether you’re on a weekend camping trip, out on a day hike, or just protecting your home, the Sub 2000 is a potent little shooter with tons potential.

KT Sub-2000 Fully Upgraded
KT Sub-2000 Fully Upgraded

The final version of the Sub 2000 sights better, is more comfortable and allows target distinction in the dark—still with “fold up and go anywhere” capability

29 Leave a Reply

  • Chris

    What was that total cost of the fully upgraded Kel-tec 9mm carbine?

    1 month ago
  • Gerry

    Great write-up. Clearly presented with defining details. Outstanding format with clear images between the short paragraphs. You are good! Again, thanks for the great write-up.

    2 months ago
  • george

    10 yds. use your pistol

    5 months ago
  • fcook

    You said you added a rubber guard to the stock. What brand is it and where did you find it?

    6 months ago
    • LazrBeam

      I cut a length of black foam water pipe insulation and slipped in the buffer tube of my SUB 2000. It compresses when the rifle is folded so there's no problem with folding. And can still lock the charging handle back.

      2 months ago
  • Nathan

    Just wondering how you're mounting the light there, have a part by chance? Thanks!

    7 months ago
      • Nathan

        David, thanks for the response. I picked up the Magpul one and it's just not doing it for me. May give that one a shot.

        7 months ago
  • Victor Connor

    With the red dot sight, does it still fold up or do you have to remove to fold?

    8 months ago
    • Sam Rhodes

      You swing the mount out and fold the gun then the mount swings back and the red dot is tucked under between the charging handle and the buttplate. You just have to place the mount so it doesn't hit the charging handle when its folded.

      8 months ago
  • Alex

    Three things. 1. This review while welcomed had limited utility. I appreciated the accessory review but it kinda seemed like an advert. 2. Why not mention the recall? I shipped mine out today. A barrel issue if I had that right by a third party manufacturer. 3. “Three types of 9mm ammo”. What did you fire? Did you shoot 147gr rounds? What about 124gr and vanilla 115gr? Did you chrono out of the barrel? How was performance compared to a G19? Ok thanks for the review but a little more detail would have made it top shelf.

    1 year ago
    • Kris F Hochstein

      I would advise to sell any sub 2000 Sent mine in 2 mouths ago and they can't find it. 300 rds and all kinds of problems. Email after email with tracking .no. And arrival date. They can't find it

      10 months ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Alex, thanks for your comments, it's all good feedback. I can tell you the recall came out just as details were finalizing on the draft. The details can be found here at https://recalls.keltecweapons.com/

      1 year ago
      • Robert Maletta

        Thanks for the information I've had this gun for about 8 months have shot 50 rounds and would have sent it back sooner if I'd known only have had two kel tec guns both needed to be returned one for a firing pin missing the primer on a p11 9mm in the middle 90s now this sub 2000 with a barrel that could explode not a good track record 2 for 2 l am starting to think l may have been better off with the new Ruger pc 9mm carbine it was about 80 dollars more sending a gun to the manufacturer for service is a giant pain in the ass

        6 months ago
  • Greg

    I'm sorry, one addition to my other post. The one major drawback to this rifle, which I failed to mention, is that the bolt does not lock to the rear on an empty magazine, which is a consideration if you are looking to use the weapon for home/self defense. As I've been told (no personal experience), the loudest sound in a gunfight is the click of your hammer on an empty chamber.

    1 year ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Greg, have you considered writing for a career? Seriously, great notes here and I totally agree. I think the one thing I would counter with on the lock-back issue is the fact that you can run some pretty high cap mags. and with practice, have quick reloads.

      1 year ago
  • Greg

    I have a Sub-2000 in .40 cal. I love it! Just a few notes. I bought the trigger upgrade from M-Carbo when it first came out. It is a great addition and makes it feel like a whole new rifle. Highly recommended! I later bought the metal feed ramp, metal sight, and extended charging handle. Again, all great additions. Now my rifle is almost all new internally (except bolt carrier and barrel). And M-Carbo is a veteran-owned company that gave great customer service with each purchase, following up to make sure everything was satisfactory. Lastly, I ordered the rifle in the Glock 22 magazine configuration. But then I bought a G23 pistol. The 23 version can use the longer 22 mags, but not vice versa. So I called Kel-Tec and ordered the G23 grips and they were not expensive.. The grip is just two polymer halves that fit together around the barrel and receiver extension to form the entire receiver. The point is, when I disassembled the rifle to upgrade the trigger, I simply changed the grips and now I had the G23 version. Voila! And the videos provided by M-Carbo were very good and easy to follow if you take your time. I had no prior experience assembling/disassembling weapons except to clean them. Thanks for the article and to anyone wanting a fun and really cool little carbine that will draw a crowd at the range, the Sub-2000 is a great choice. But I highly recommend at least the trigger kit and metal feed ramp (original is polymer). Especially if you intend to bet your life on the gun. The original polymer trigger, trigger guard, and feed ramp are not something I would depend upon. Happy hunting.

    1 year ago
  • Doug bethea

    Just traded for a 40 .cal version love it so far. Would like to add the optics

    1 year ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Doug, I seriously recommend the Midwest Industries mount, it has held up well and perfectly fits this application.

      1 year ago
  • Anthony

    I have a standard laptop case (case logic) that holds a 9 mm Sub 2000 with an undermounted green laser, a glock 34, 2 x 32 round mags, 1/2 dozen 17 round double stacks , a bipod foregrip, an led flashlight, and a survival knife. Don't ask me why I have a James Bond briefcase I guess it's my bug out bag. This sub rifle is what makes me scoff at an AR 15 ban. I would not prefer taking a 9 mm hollow point round over a .556. I wish I knew how to add a picture.

    1 year ago
    • Sean Curtis

      Anthony, this is a great way to carry your Sub 2K, total urban camouflage.

      1 year ago
  • noncompliant

    my friend has a sub-2k in 9mm and i have one in .40 cal. his has less recoil but both are a blast to shoot. we bought both at the same time and cut a good deal because of that. we both have su-16cs and he has a p-11. we have become kel-tec fans. looks are secondary to function with kel-tec - just browse the kel-tec catalog...

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      My biggest problem with Kel-Tec is it's so hard to find a lot of their stuff in stock because they sell so many units compared to what they make.

      1 year ago
  • Sam Rhodes

    If you have a Glock magazine you are stuck with that one because of the magazine width but if you have one of the others Kel Tec offers conversions for all the ones listed plus S&W 59, CZ75 and TP9 Canik. Cost less than $20 with shipping and takes less than a minute to change.

    1 year ago
  • Balthazar

    Lets see a comparo between the Keltec sub 2K and the Ruger PC takedown 9mm carbine. Price-wise the Ruger is a little more but looks, ease of cleaning, portability should make up for the $ difference

    1 year ago
    • Matthew Collins

      That's a really good idea, we should definitely get a PC takedown in for testing. I'll look into that today.

      1 year ago
  • Alihilly1

    Not to mention, this in 9mm with the larger barrel spits out the round closer to the power of a .45 cal. A very smart little bit of kit. I’ve been on the edge about getting one of these for a long time. Great at the range, in the house etc etc. The list goes on. Not to mention all the nice little upgrades you can stick on it!

    1 year ago
    • Anthony

      Most articles say it hits like a 357 mag at point blank range. That's why I didn't get the 40 cal along with the fact my only 40 cal is an MP shield which doesn't have comapible mags.

      1 year ago
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