KEL-TEC KSG Shotgun Review for 2022: Worth It?

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By John J. Woods •  8 min read

There is nothing else like it on the market today.  The look, design, feel, and features make the Kel-Tec KSG one unique firearm.  One can maybe debate its principal utility, but not the functional alternatives it offers.


The KSG’s Specifications Profile

The KSG is a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun of the classic bullpup design orientation.  This means the pistol grip and the trigger are forward of the receiver action.  Underneath the 18.5 inch barrel are twin parallel tubular magazines capable of holding 14 2 ¾ -inch shotshells, or 12, 3-inch shells.   The smooth-bore is choked cylinder bore or open choke.  It will handle slugs, buckshot, birdshot, or any combination.

The KSG’s overall length is 26-inches with an empty weight of seven pounds.  Loaded the weight climbs to roughly 8.5 pounds.  The main action components are made of 4140 steel, while the stock unit is glass-reinforced nylon polymer.  The twin magazine tubes are welded under the barrel.

These magazine tubes are loaded separately with a switch lever pivoting from one to the other.  Each tube can be loaded as the shooter desires with any combination or mix of shotshells for hunting or defense applications.  There is a pump mechanism action release lever forward of the trigger guard, when pulled down allows the forearm to be pumped open like a traditional pump-action shotgun.

On top of the barrel is an integral 12-inch Picatinny rail for mounting electronic sights/optics, or BUIS flip-up open sights.  A six inch rail is available under the pump forearm for positioning a vertical grip and or a laser device or flashlight.  These design features make the KSG very easy to customize and accessorize by the end user.

The black matte finish appearance definitely projects a foreboding to the weapon’s application options.  The factory is now offering an olive drag green version as well.  The matte finish dispels any reflections to spook game, or other targets.

Set Up Options

I have had the Kel Tec KSG for about a month now and am still in the process of using it in the field and wringing out its shooting potentials.  The KSG from the factory is pretty well set up to go to work as a stock firearm.  With some practice in sighting and shooting, it can certainly be used as is without any major add-ons.

However, having said that, I tend to be an accessory nut, so I had to add a few things just to enhance the basic design and functional utility.  First I added a set of the fine Magpul ® BUIS flip-up open sights front and rear.  These low profile sights are easy to fold down out of the way or push-button pop up when needed.  The black versions I had in stock look quite handsome on the KSG and tightened down well on the rail.

Instead of the standard ubiquitous 1-inch nylon sling supplied with the gun, I opted to install a Quake Industries soft touch sling to help offset the pull from the weight of the fully loaded shotgun.  I will admit the attachment points for a sling at the KSG’s muzzle are a tad bothersome for use and carry, but I see no other plausible option for this feature.  Live with it.

I also played with mounting a Leupold electronic red-dot Prismatic sight on the top rail, but the jury is still out on that.  My thinking is after all this is a shotgun with an open choke, so I expect the shot patterns to be somewhat wide spread.  Thus the utility of an electronic sight might be questioned.

If one were shooting buckshot or slugs or serving on night duty then I could see using such optics.  During daylight hours, I would think most KSG shooters would use instinctive point shooting or a set of open sights.  That’s the shooter’s option.

Form and Function

So far I have fired a selection of shotshells through the KSG.  If you read other reviews of this shotgun, you will encounter commentary about how peculiar it is to load the twin tubes basically from the bottom, meaning the firearm has to be turned over to do this.  It seems awkward at first, but practice improves the process.

The loading “port” does not have the feel of a traditional pump like a Remington 870.  I found it difficult to load with the firearm up right.  The good news is once fully loaded with 12-14 rounds, the shooter should be good to go for a while.

I noted that pushing shells into the magazine tubes was met with the sharp edge of something in the mechanism yet undetermined.  I cut my finger the first time.  I think there is a sharp edge on the lever that switches from one tube to the other.  I plan to investigate this further and file if necessary.  Also do not use brown cotton gloves, as they get hung up, too.

The KSG is a substantial firearm.  Its weight when loaded has a welcome hefty feel to it.  One might think a firearm of this short stature and design would kick like a blue tack mule, but it does not.  If one gets a firm grip on this gun and leans into it, the recoil is not a serious issue.  It points naturally and hits what it is aimed at.

Truthfully the trigger could be considered heavy, but personally I like that.  I sure don’t want a light trigger on a shotgun I am hunting with or using for other means.   It is not a bad trigger, just a heavy pull.  Again, practice will overcome this.

Now, to the one issue I have had thus far with the KSG.  To date I have experienced a number of double feed jams with this shotgun.  I was using 2 ¾ inch No. 6 birdshot, plastic hull shells for my initial shooting, because I wanted to test the shotgun for potential squirrel and rabbit hunting.  It jammed over half the time.

Since, I have consulted the owner’s manual, which curiously fully describes the problem I am having.  I hope to determine a fix.  It seems that perhaps the KSG may have a propensity for the extractor claw to override the shell’s rim upon firing and pumping the action.  Thus, the fired shell is not pulled from the chamber as the loading ramp is trying to insert the next shell.  This causes the jam.

The jam is not easy to remove.  The owner’s manual gives a full description on how to clear a jam, which incidentally I had already figured out sans the manual.  Have a screwdriver handy to get the fresh shell pried out of the loading ramp.

Furthermore I have gone back and given the chamber a thorough scrubbing with solvent and a brass 12-gauge brush.  My hope is that this will smooth out the chamber helping a fired shell to release better.  I also have a feeling that this being a new gun that things will improve with more extended use.

Let me point out also that I reviewed several online videos on using the KSG and found that my shooting/pump-action technique might have also contributed to the jams.  The shooter has to have a firm grip on this shotgun when firing and making the pump action extraction a smooth deliberate movement, not a jerking motion.  A jerk of the pump forearm could cause the extractor to be too easily pulled over the chambered shell rim.  I will practice my techniques further.

Hunting or Defense?

If you study anything about the Kel-Tec KSG, you are not likely to see any review relative to its use as a hunting shotgun.  This may be primarily due to its configuration and also the cylinder bore choke.  The ads for the gun typically show a para-military or security type application scenario.  To me that is like saying that a combat Hummer (HMMWV) could not be ridden around town on a Sunday afternoon.

I know enough now about the loads I have used in the KSG that it can definitely be used for hunting small game in trees or on the ground.  With slugs and practice, this rig can take down a deer or a feral hog.  Ditto with buckshot.  Once the shooter learns where their bullpup prints its loads, then it is perfectly suited to hunting use.

I’ve said this before, but society has changed on public lands and private.  Hunters need to be ready for anything including personal protection if need be.  For this, the Kel-Tec KSG is the perfect tool.  Go hunting with small game loads in one tube, and buckshot in the other.  Switch back and forth as needed.  Show me another smoothbore with that versatility.

The Kel-Tec KSG may take some getting used to, but with practice it might take a while to get that smile off your face.

John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here.