Throwback Thursday: KelTec SUB2000 9mm Home Defender

I am certain that I will never be accused of failing to make a honest comment when needed. As an example, some years ago a friend owned an Uzi carbine and thought it was the best thing in the world for home defense. I disagreed completely. The trigger action was too heavy to allow good hits, and it was difficult to get hits within the combat range.

KelTec SUB2000 profile left
The KelTec SUB2000 is a neat package and potentially a life saver.

The real thing — short barrel, full-auto Uzi — is another matter. So is the Thompson SMG. They served a real purpose in house-to-house fighting. The semi-auto versions with 16-inch barrels are quite inferior to the shotgun for home defense and particularly to the AR-15 carbine or an AR pistol.

The purpose-designed 9mm carbines such as the Beretta Cx4 Storm and even the Hi-Point carbine are better choices. Easy to use well and with decent triggers, these firearms are not collectible, but they serve a real purpose. Many shooters find the handgun a difficult proposition to master. Considerable time and effort, as well as expense, is involved. In the end, you’ll have a firearm that isn’t as accurate or powerful as a shotgun or rifle.

The answer for many is a pistol caliber carbine. Like Rand Paul’s wife, many of us like to keep a firearm beside the bed, and the 9mm carbine is an excellent choice.

SUB2000 Features

The KelTec SUB2000 dispenses with all of the problems of the semi-automatic SMG and is a neat trick compared to the best of the competing 9mm carbines. The SUB2000 isn’t heavy, it has a usable trigger— perhaps I should put more emphasis on it isn’t heavy — it is a feathery-light firearm that handles quickly.

KelTec SUB2000 with several Glock 17 magazines
Compatibility with Glock magazines is a big plus for this 9mm carbine.

You have to aim it carefully. You cannot use the figure-eight tactic or the “shoot through” that was developed for fully-automatic shoulder-fired firearms. But it handles quickly and has a much higher hit probability than a handgun. On a purely personal defense basis, the 9mm carbine is more effective than any handgun based on handling and accuracy potential. However, there is more to the equation.

The 16-inch barrel carbine also develops greater velocity with a given load than a pistol. The powder burns more completely and the long barrel results in nearly complete combustion. I did not detect muzzle flash (unburned powder) with any load tested in evaluating the KelTec SUB2000. You must realize this is a niche firearm.

The KelTec SUB2000 is a great carbine for carry in the vehicle for an emergency and practically an ideal home defense firearm. It isn’t as versatile as an AR-15 .223 rifle. The KelTec is less expensive than an AR, requires less maintenance, and exhibits less much less muzzle flash and blast.

The 9mm carbine isn’t well suited to long-range shooting or taking medium game, and it certainly isn’t a varmint rifle, but what it can do, it does very well. I do not abuse a firearm, but the SUB2000 will take hard use and thrive.

pebble grained pistol grip
A pebble grained grip offers excellent adhesion and abrasion.

The SUB2000 is hinged in front of the chamber and pivots to fold to a neat 16 inches. (Never keep any long gun chamber loaded in the home or vehicle. It doesn’t take a second to make it ready, so there is simply not a need.) Unfolded, the KelTec SUB2000 is at 30 inches with just over 16 inches of 9mm barrel.

There is a rail for mounting red dot or laser sights, or even an inexpensive scope if desired. You may mount a red dot up top and a combat light in the lower rail.

Someone mounted a low-profile handgrip on the lower rail before I owned the SUB2000 illustrated. The SUB2000 carbine is a straight blowback action like a .22; it isn’t gas-operated. Common sense would tell you that the heaviest loads would batter the rifle, but the KelTec SUB2000 never stuttered with +P loads.

The rifle uses Glock magazines, but there are versions for other magazines. This makes for easy availability of magazines whether you own a Glock 17 9mm or not.

The SUB2000 folds easily by releasing the trigger guard and folding the rifle into the storage position. Be certain the piece isn’t loaded! When the rifle is folded, the front sight is snapped into a catch on the SUB2000 stock. This catch must be released to return the carbine back to its firing position.

releasing the hinged trigger guard
A hinged trigger guard is pulled to fold the carbine.

The polymer frame and grip are durable, and the grip is comfortable in the firing mode. The trigger action is spongy and would be difficult to control in a handgun, but presents far less difficulty in a rifle with its leverage. The magazine release isn’t difficult to use.

The KelTec SUB2000 features a peep rear sight and bold protected front post. It takes practice to be able to quickly focus on the sight and align it. Perhaps the rear aperture could be a little wider. However, the sights are very precise when lined up. The sights are regulated properly for 115- to 124-grain ammunition. The front sight allows windage and elevation adjustment.

The rifle is supplied with a Magpul magazine but accepts standard Glock 17 or 33-round magazines. I fired the KelTec SUB2000 for handling, speed, accuracy, and reliability. I have fired over 500 cartridges during the past week without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire, or eject.

locking the KelTec SUB2000 in the folded position
A catch on the stock locks the carbine in the folded position.

Range Time!

The carbine has not been cleaned or lubricated. I began with the SIG Sauer 115-grain FMJ ammunition and also used 124- and 147-grain SIG ammo. Personal defense ammunition included the Hornady 115-grain XTP and Hornady 147-grain XTP. Function was good.

At 20 yards, I fired a magazine full of the 124-grain SIG load into a group that measured less than four inches. This group was fired as quickly as I could press the trigger after regaining the sights from recoil. In slow fire, firing from a braced position, I was able to fire several 5-shot groups of less than two inches.

While there are handguns this accurate, the KelTec SUB2000 9mm carbine is much easier to fire with this degree of accuracy. Speed to a good hit and follow-up shots were excellent.

When the rifle is at home ready or in the vehicle, the SUB2000 should be kept chamber empty. There is a cross-bolt safety that isn’t difficult to operate quickly. When action is likely, the bolt is racked and the rifle made ready. A few drills in quickly accessing the piece and racking the bolt went smoothly. While the pistol folds up neatly for storage, you have to decide how much time is spent in making the carbine ready if it is kept at the ready folded.

Bob Campbell firing the KelTec SUB2000 from a braced position
Firing from a braced vehicle firing position the KelTec featured good accuracy and authoritative power.

The KelTec SUB2000 is a fairly simple firearm to operate, but the owner must consider the specific role the firearm will be placed in. For home defense, for those who have difficulty with the handgun or shotgun, the KelTec SUB2000 carbine is an outstanding choice. For area defense on larger properties, the carbine is easily stowed and carried. The KelTec SUB2000 is one of the neatest tricks on the market.

Ammunition Performance

I have tested pistol caliber carbines in the past, and I am familiar with the advantages of a longer barrel when using standard pistol ammunition. However, the performance of the loads tested was exceptional. I tested the Hornady American Gunner 124-grain XTP +P first.

A 5-shot group at 20 yards measured two inches. Fired in a Glock 17 pistol on hand, the Hornady load averaged 1,180 fps. In the KelTec SUB2000 velocity was 1,409 fps. This is excellent velocity putting the KelTec SUB2000 in a different category than any 9mm pistol.

Moving to the SIG Sauer Elite 124-grain V Crown JHP velocity in the Glock was 1,201 fps. When fired in the KelTec carbine I fired a two-inch group at 20 yards. Velocity was a strong 1,386 fps. Yet, this type of velocity comes without the penalty of high recoil and excess muzzle flash. The 9mm carbine isn’t a .223 rifle by any means, but it is clearly an effective home defense firearm.

KelTec is currently offering a $100 rebate on SUB2000 firearms until March 2024. There’s no better time to buy!

KelTec SUB2000
Operating System Blowback
Caliber 9mm Luger
Capacity 17/33 rounds
Barrel Length 16.25 inches
Trigger Pull 9–10 pounds
Length 29.5 inches
Length of Pull  13.25 inches
Grip Width 1.25 inches
Max Height 7 inches
Weight 4.25 pounds

What do you think of the KelTec SUB2000? Are you a fan of pistol caliber carbines for home defense? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November of 2018. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

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