The steampunk Kel-Tec M43 bullpup and it's plain little sister, the RDB

There are times that you see a new firearm and it just speaks to the artist within you. Flowing lines are as much art as function, and your heart skips a beat the first time you see it, the way it does when a pretty girl smiles at you.

The Kel-tec M43 is not that rifle. The M43 is harsh, angular and all roughly finished stamped parts that make it look like it was hammered together from scrapped AK metal, and yet… there is something appealing about it, all the same.

Keltec M43 left

The M43’s metal is butt-ugly, but is beautifully contrasted by a very nicely finished and comfortable wood handguard, grip, and whatever you want to call that little woodchip at the rear of the rifle ahead of the buttplate and ejection port.

Yes, the rifle ejects downward, behind the magazine well and ahead of the woodchip.

Keltec M43 foreend


KeltecM43 grip

One of the most interesting features of the M43 is the ugly but incredibly fast mag release.

Keltec M43 mag release

Yes, that big, ugly flap of metal wrapping around the top of the magazine well is the mag release, and you can grab your next magazine with your support hand and use the full mag itself to drop the empty mag, or simply flick your firing hand backward if you so desire.

The RDB is the same rifle, but in more conventional modern furniture. It frankly lacks the panache of the retro-futuristic M43, and doesn’t have any sort of soul too it. It’s just kind of… there.

Keltec RDB

They’s going to be coming out with the .5.56 variants of these rifles first, but will follow up with my favorite, the 6.5 Grendel, sometime afterward.

Unfortunately, the price tag on these is absurdly high, and doesn’t justify the cool factor. The pedestrian black RDB version of the rifle will set you back $2,000, while the factory rep tells me that the M43 is going to run a blistering $3,000.

I like the look of the M43 and love the future 6.5 Grendel chambering, but I wouldn’t expect to pay more than $1,500-$2,000 for it. Find a way to make it cheaper, guys.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET