In a market inundated with AR-15 rifles that look alike, the 5.56mm Kel-Tec RDB Survival rifle certainly stands out. Similar to something you’d imagine from the Planet of the Apes, the RDB Survival is a bull pup rifle without a pistol grip!
The RDB Survival is lightweight and compact, tipping the scales at 5 pounds 14 ounces with a 26.1″ overall length. The rifle has a 16″ 1:7″ twist barrel.
Like other Kel-Tec products, the RDB uses a large amount of injection modeled plastic parts. On the left front side of the rifle, a folding charging handle reminiscent of the HK G3/HK91 is used to cycle the bolt. This handle can be locked to the rear similar to an HK. Additionally, the RDB is equipped with a last round hold open similar to the AR-15.
On the right rear of the receiver, behind the grip area, the RDB has a bolt release (center top of picture) and magazine release. Behind these controls is a black section of the receiver that houses the ejection port which faces down (the RDB is bottom eject).
The left rear of the receiver houses ambidextrous controls, including the magazine release and bolt release. While both of these controls work on the left side of the rifle, they aren’t particularly easy to use.
The RBD Survival is fitted with folding sights. The front sight is adjustable for elevation only. It is fairly wide, covering the black of a B8 target at 50 yards. It folds to the rear and doesn’t have a positive lock to leave it in the up position.
The front sight leans against the end of the gas piston system in the folded position.
The rear sight folds as well. It has an aperture and is only adjustable for windage with a knob at the bottom. It does have some knurled texture towards the top of the sight which doesn’t do anything other than lead you to believe the sight may be adjustable for elevation. I thought this feature was a little lame.
The RDB is field stripped with 4 takedown pins. You can see the adjustable gas piston system, as well as the bolt carrier.
To test the RDB Survival, I equipped with an EOTech and an assortment of magazines (Kel-Tec doesn’t give you any).
With the EOTech installed on the rail, the charging handle became crowded. While the handle still clears the sight, care must be used not to bump into it.
Shooting the RDB was an interesting experience. Loading and unloading a rifle without a pistol grip and with the ejection port that can only be viewed from underneath the rifle, feels odd after over two decades on the AR-15. The plastic cross bolt safety located behind the trigger-guard is reminiscent of the Remington 870, and can be disengaged quickly. The rifle points and shoots well.
After I zeroed the rifle at 50 yards, I placed a 5-circle target up at 7 yards to run a series of drills to familiarize myself with the RDB. Par times for a single shot from low ready were about 1 second, 2 shots 1.6, and 4 shots on 2 targets 3.5 seconds. These times were appreciably slower than my times with an AR, however, they would certainly get the job done.
The trigger of the RDB was serviceable, that’s to say it felt like any other mil spec trigger as far as break is concerned. The trigger reset, however, was much longer, similar to a Glock pistol, but without the positive reset.
Next, I shot a 50 round qualification course with the RDB. This course is shot from the standing, kneeling and prone positions at 7, 15, 25 and 50 yards. I ended up with a 96% (I normally shoot a 100-48X with an AR), not to bad!
What do I think of the RDB Survival?
- Fun to shoot. When you own a gun shop and write about guns for a living, shooting isn’t always fun. The RDB Survival changed that, it was a fun little gun to shoot.
- Handy. The streamlined profile of the RDB survival is possibly its biggest advantage. Compact, it could easily be added to the trunk of a car or backpack to provide a serviceable semiautomatic 5.56mm rifle when you need it. It is a lot like a stick, so to answer the question in the title, this is a better bang stick!
- Works well. When I first held the RDB and looked at the proximity of my face to the chamber, I had some reservations about my personal safety. After spending the day with it running Winchester M855 ammunition flawlessly, I’ve changed my mind and feel comfortable with the rifle.
- Ambidextrous. The rifle handles well from both shoulders. The only feature that favors a right-handed shooter is the charging handle, which could be manipulated by a lefty. The magazine and bolt release on the left-side of the rifle are needed for a right-handed shooter to swap magazines. I found they were both fairly difficult to use and could stand for a redesign.
- Ban state legal? If you live behind the lines where pistol gripped semi-autos are not permitted, the RDB looks like an option. With some work the threads could be removed and the stock pinned to make the rifle a viable option for restrictive states. For compliance work, you can contact my shop: www.782guns.com