Although bullpup rifles have many positive attributes, most are, by the nature of the design, poorly suited for ambidextrous use. Their actions, located in the buttstock area, usually necessitate ejection of fired brass near the shooter’s face. Kel-Tec, a company known for innovative designs, recently developed a unique solution to this issue with its RFB, which stands for Rifle Forward ejection Bullpup.
The short-stroke gas-piston-operated .308 Win. RFB is part of an exclusive group of forward-ejection bullpups, which include the FN F2000 and the Kalashnikov-based A-91. What sets the RFB apart, however, is its completely ambidextrous nature and its .308 Win. chambering
We received an RFB Carbine variant for testing, which features a scant overall length of 27 1/2 inches and an empty weight of 8 pounds, 9 ounces. Simply put, this is an astoundingly compact .308 Win. rifle.
The RFB features a full set of ambidextrous controls, from dual safety levers located above its pistol grip to the dual action release levers on the rear sides of its magazine well, to the paddle-style magazine release at the rear of the well. Also, the RFB’s reciprocating charging handle can be easily reversed for right- or left-handed use.
Despite its short overall length, the RFB Carbine features an 18-inch barrel of Parkerized 4140 chrome molybdenum steel. It is chrome-lined for durability and topped off with an A2-style compensator set on 5/8-inch-24 TPI threads at the muzzle.
The RFB makes extensive use of polymers in its construction. The most prominent example is the grip, a two-piece assembly that includes the pistol grip and spans back to the magazine well. Forward of that is the two-piece handguard assembly that features a Schnabel-type protrusion at its front to help keep the support hand from slipping in front of the muzzle.
The cheekweld portion of the rifle, termed the “top cover,” is manufactured from 4130 sheet steel. The Parkerized top cover measures 13 1/4 inches in length and covers the RFB’s large, 14 1/4-inch-long bolt carrier assembly. Attached to the rear portion of the top cover is the polymer buttstock assembly, which features a 1/2-inch-thick recoil pad and a short strip of Picatinny rail on its toe. A 9 3/4-inch-long strip of aluminum Picatinny rail is mounted on the forward portion of the top cover.
Kel-Tec designed the RFB to accept the affordable and readily available FAL magazine. In addition, the RFB also features a tilting bolt locking system quite reminiscent of the FAL’s.
The RFB’s 4140 steel bolt has a lug on its rear. As the bolt tilts down into battery, the lug locks into a recess in the Parkerized 4140 steel receiver, which is housed inside the buttstock area of the rifle.
Dual camming extractors on the bolt tilt the fired case upward at a 12- to 15-degree angle as it moves rearward. On the forward stroke of the bolt, the case is pushed up onto a ramp, bringing it into alignment with the ejection chute located above the barrel. The bolt’s forward momentum propels the case into and often directly through the chute. The chute mates to an ejection port located on the left front face of the gas block in the forward portion of the handguard.
The RFB’s short-stroke gas-piston assembly is just to the right of the ejection port on the gas block, and includes a removable 4140 steel gas piston and a grooved, round adjustment dial. The system is plated to resist corrosion and with its 32 settings is finely adjustable. As gas is tapped off the bore, the piston moves rearward, striking the forward face of the long bolt carrier assembly and thus cycling the action.
We fitted the RFB with an Aimpoint CompM4s and 3X Magnifier and shot it with a selection of .308 Win. ammunition. Perceived recoil was reasonably mild and accuracy proved to be quite good.
There were no malfunctions during the testing. Because spent cases were simply inserted into the rear of the chute, they were ejected erratically. Sometimes one shot resulted in one ejected fired case, then no cases were ejected for a few shots, and then three or four were ejected at one time as the chute filled. This had no effect on functioning.
The steel top cover became hot after prolonged shooting, and a tight cheekweld resulted in sore faces after extended shooting sessions. Another point of note is that the only way to check the condition of the RFB’s chamber is to remove the magazine, retract the action and look up into the open magazine well. A loaded-chamber indicator would be a welcome addition.
As with most Kel-Tecs, the RFB stands apart from its competitors. It is a compact, handy and powerful .308 Win. bullpup carbine that can be easily employed by both left- and right-handed users.