U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- The Kel-Tec P50 is a modular handgun that if the company wanted to, could be adapted into a carbine, a submachine gun, or a drone weapon. The upper receiver, containing everything but the trigger, can be adapted to remote firing. The lower receiver, with a Picatinny rail and two QD sockets, can be quickly augmented with a folding stock and a vertical foregrip. In its basic form, it looks like a prop from Cyberpunk or Blade Runner.
Using 50-shot P90 magazines, the P50 overmatches all competitor handguns’ incapacity. Its 9.6-inch barrel fixed firmly in the receiver gives it accuracy beating most match pistols: fired from a sandbag with just a red dot sight at fifty yards, it shot groups under 1.5 inches. Chambered for the punchy 5.7x28mm, the P50 recoils like a 22 rimfire pistol. American Eagle 40gr FMJ leaves the muzzle at 1920fps, 40-grain expanding FN ammunition flies at 1960fps. With relatively low-drag bullets compared to 22WMR, it has a longer point-blank range than a .22 Magnum rifle!
The Kel-Tec P50 is quite light for its size at 3.2 pounds, and quite compact for the barrel length, at 15 inches overall. For comparison, FN P90 weighs in at 5.7lbs empty and is nearly 5 inches longer with only 0.8 inches more barrel length. The Keltec pistol comes with post and notch iron sights recessed within the Picatinny rail, with elevation adjustment on the front and windage adjustment on the back. 13 inches of sight radius and a good balance add up to considerable precision: standing, I can consistently hit a silhouette target out to 35 yards. At 50 yards, hit probability with factory-adjusted iron sights dropped to 50%, With a red dot, however, I had a group less than an inch at 35 yards. The initial test firing was done with the extra-sharp Vortex UH1 but later switched to Swampfox Liberator on a low mount to reduce weight and the reticle height overbore. With 1.5 inch sight over bore height, P50 greatly improves on the P90’s 4 inches.
Under The Hood
The P50’s action is a plain blowback with dual recoil springs above the barrel. The muzzle flip is negligible. The remarkably slight recoil for a pistol firing a high-velocity cartridge is achieved through very long bolt travel, more than double the cartridge length, and through the use of a polymer recoil absorber wrapped around each return spring. The long top rail and the shorter dust cover rails have plenty of room for lights, lasers, and other accessories. The reloading procedure is a bit slower than the P90: run the charging handle to cock the hammer, press the action release lever located above the web of the strong hand to pop over the ventilated steel top cover, which is the actual receiver.
With the cover raised, pull out the empty magazine, place a full one in its place with the ammunition facing up and close the cover. Run the AR15 style charging handle once to chamber the first round. Since there’s no last shot hold-open, it’s likely that the last trigger pull would drop the hammer. While the action can be opened with the hammer down, it should not be closed that way. Running the charging handle also ensures that there’s no misfired cartridge remaining in the chamber. Be careful to keep the sling from getting under the charging handle. The reloading procedure is a legacy of the original design placing a premium on highly dust-sealed internals. Since it only has to be done one-third as often as with a typical 9mm sidearm, so there’s no time lost overall. The pistol ships with two 50-round magazines, enough to cover any realistic defensive fight.
For firing standing, the normal two-handed grip works better than trying to reach the dust cover with the support hand. The included two-point QD sling steadies the pistol well. One end of the sling fits the receptacle on the bottom of the pistol grip, the other on the back of the grip frame. The pistol can be carried on the strong side or across the body and pushed out against sling tension for improved control. There’s no perceptible shift in balance as the ammunition in the magazine is emptied. One-handed firing is good to about 25 yards, with slower shot-to-shot recovery from a slight sideways twist after every round.
The ambidextrous safety lever blocks the sear and disengages the trigger. Personally, I would prefer a locked dead trigger to a floppy trigger, but it’s a matter of habit. The trigger pull is long but light — 5 pounds with a wide trigger face — making it easy to shoot accurately at the cost of reduced feedback through winter gloves. The geometry of the trigger pull works better with a two-handed hold. The reset is nearly at the start of the travel, with a feeling of very light double action. With dispersion at 50 yards just slightly over an inch and 5.7×28 trajectory being very flat, it’s reasonable to expect effective hits past 150 yards, with the velocity still above 1350fps at that range. Hit probability is much higher than could be expected with a conventional pistol. Terminal performance is moderate but has the advantage over slower calibers in being able to defeat soft body armor. High-velocity frangible loads in the 29-32 grain range are better suited for varmint eradication. The barrel length is sufficient for most of the 5.7×28 ballistic potential.
Muzzle flash is transient and small, at about 4 inches long and 1.5 inches high, and doesn’t intrude into the sight picture much. The barrel is threaded 1/2×28 for any muzzle device. P50 ships with a knurled thread protector. While a sound suppressor won’t reduce the bullet flight noise, the crack from the supersonic wave generated by a small projectile isn’t as injurious to the shooter’s ear standing inside its propagation cone. Most of the steel .22 suppressors are rated for 5.7×28 and reduce the report very nicely with only a small shift in the point of impact, thanks to the rigid barrel.
Disassembly is extremely simple, with no small parts or loose springs to worry about. With a cartridge tip, pull the recoil block forward and away from the receiver. The recoil springs, their guides, and the bolt all come out as a single unit. After that, the charging handle comes out of the back, providing full access to the chamber. The field-stripping is thus complete. Reassembly is in reverse order and takes only a few seconds. Ejection is up and to the front right, so left-handed shooters can use it with no concerns about hot brass.
Besides looking like a futuristic blaster, P50 brings significant capability in a small and light envelope. Significantly more accurate than 9mm machine pistols or their semiauto lookalikes, it sports a bigger magazine, better accuracy, and longer effective range. And it’s a lot of fun to shoot.
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About Oleg Volk
Oleg Volk is a creative director working mainly in firearms advertising. A great fan of America and the right to bear arms, he uses his photography to support the right of every individual to self-determination and independence. To that end, he is also a big fan of firearms. Check out his world-renowned photography and his YouTube channel.