KelTec R50: Poor Man’s P90?

in Authors, Garrett Negen, Gun Reviews, Rifles
KelTec R50 on ground with spare mag

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Our favorite Florida-based gun company has cooked up yet another unique firearm. The R50 is a rifle-length version of their popular 5.7×28 pistol, the P50. Expectations are high but let’s see if they are warranted. 

KelTec has a rich history of producing unique firearms and the R50 does not disappoint. The rifle looks more like a stormtrooper’s blaster than anything you’d find in our galaxy. And that is exactly what I appreciate about KelTec. They are never afraid to push the boundaries and field completely new designs.

General Overview of the R50

Starting at the front, the muzzle is threaded 1/2×28 and comes fitted with a knurled thread protector.  I decided against mounting my suppressor for the concern that it would add too much weight to the end of the thin barrel and make the gun unwieldy. That and the added length would take away from the rifle’s greatest feature, its compactness.

KelTec R50 laying on damp grass. threaded muzzle.

The R50 features a sixteen-inch barrel with a one-in-seven twist. The barrel profile is slim and it protrudes about seven inches past the body of the gun. A 9.6-inch barrel is available on the R50 Defender but a tax stamp and registration would be required. 

The main feature that sets the R50 apart from its pistol predecessor is the addition of a folding stock. This stock’s unique design allows it to fold in either direction without having to swap any parts. Folding the stock is easy, simply pull the hinge on the bottom of the grip downward and rotate it to whichever side you prefer. Then, pull the stock back straight when you are ready to deploy it. No buttons need to be depressed for either function.

Gun on wet grass

With the stock folded the overall length is 21.5 inches and the total weight is just 3.48 pounds. Even though the stock is just held in place by spring tension, it is very sturdy. I haven’t found it to flop around, even when folded. 

Sights and Optics

The R50 comes with built-in sights that nest inside the centerline of the Picatinny top rail. They are hardly worth mentioning as they are too low to effectively use with the stock unfolded. Even with the deepest cheek weld I can muster, my eye is still far too high to use these sights. 

Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on the stock sights. The top rail gives us plenty of real estate to mount optics but our options are still limited. As a general rule, traditional scopes are out. The location of the ejection port prevents you from mounting a scope in the right location to get proper eye relief. Even if you were able to straddle a scope over the ejection port, the scope would constantly get pelted by ejecting brass.

Rifle on wet ground

You won’t have any trouble if you plan to use a red dot. Just mount it forward of the ejection port and you are good to go. If you still want some magnification I have found that the space behind the port is just enough for a small magnifier. Having my red dot and magnifier separated looks strange but it works and this HM3XT fits that small space perfectly.


Ammunition for the Keltec rifle

The R50 shares mags with one of the most iconic 5.7×28 Personal Defense Weapons (PDW), the FN P90. The fifty-round capacity and crazy feed lips that rotate each bullet ninety degrees as it enters and exits make these mags some of the coolest ones around. Even with that complexity, they are still reasonably priced ranging from $12 to $35 each. 

The R50’s Reload

The most awkward function of this rifle has to be the reload. I have tried a few different ways and this sequence seems to be the most reliable. 

KelTec R50: Poor Man's P90?
  1. Grip your optic with your support hand and pull down on the mag release lever with your primary hand. 
  2. Lift the upper to open the mag compartment and let the empty mag fall free.
  3. Index a full mag in the upper with your primary hand while still holding the optic with your support hand. (The lower portion of the gun is being held by the sling.) 
  4. Move your primary hand back to the grip and slam the upper closed, locking the mag in place. 

The sling is vital in this process because it holds the lower from flopp[ing around while you install the fresh mag. 

The reload Is a hassle but keep in mind the prime use case for a PDW. Traits like ease of carry, concealability, increased range over a handgun, and a larger onboard round count are prioritized. The PDW is not intended for sustained combat but instead as a middle ground between a handgun and a fighting rifle. Since its prime purpose is to quickly respond to threats and handle them within a single mag, a slow mag change isn’t the end of the world.  

Mounting Accessories

One thing this rifle does not have going for it is accessory mounting options. There is rail along most of the top and a few inches on the bottom but none on either side. It seems that it would have been easy to mill M-LOK slots into the aluminum handguard instead of useless round holes but holes are all we got. 

Mounting a light to the six o’clock rail section is an option but I opted for the twelve since it gives me more control and ease of activation. 

There is one QD sling cup at the very rear just below the charging handle. I used this attachment point in conjunction with a loop I added to the front of the rifle to attach my sling. I put slings on all my rifles but this one is especially needed since it helps the reload so much. 

At The Range With the R50

The trigger is pretty good. It has a firm wall and breaks cleanly right at five pounds. The crisp trigger combined with the light recoil from the 5.7 cartridge makes this a really enjoyable gun to shoot. It is a lot of fun when you can rip off a rapid string of fire and the rifle barely moves. 

KelTec R50 sitting on target sheet with ammunition

I know this isn’t meant to be any type of precision gun but I still wanted to see what type of accuracy to expect from it. To test this I shot two five-round groups from fifty yards. One with 40gr Federal FMJ and the other with 40gr Speer Gold Dot. Both gave me about a two-inch group. For this type of rifle, I think that is more than adequate.

READ MORE: The KelTec Sub 2000 – A Folding Phenomenon

I also wanted to see the difference in terminal performance between these two rounds so I shot a couple of water-filled bottles to compare the hydrostatic shock. Each bottle is shown in 1/60-second increments after impact. We can see that the FMJ tumbled about six inches into the bottle and caused some cavitation but then zipped on through. The hollow point created much more shock as it fragmented and blew out the entire back side of the bottle. 

KelTec R50: Poor Man's P90?

I shouldn’t neglect to mention that I have not had a single malfunction in the three hundred rounds I’ve put through the rifle so far. Three hundred rounds aren’t enough to predict long-term durability, but at least you don’t have to worry about an unreliable “break-in period”.


Overall I have had quite a bit of fun with this gun. The soft recoil makes it easy to put fast follow-up shots on target and its light weight means it’s a breeze to carry. Unfortunately, the sixteen-inch version is a bit bulky and therefore misses out on the true utility of a PDW. The NFA is a pain but I think this is a case where the extra time and money to get the SBR version may be worth it. 

Both the R50 and the SBR R50 Defender have an $815 MSRP. Compared to other PDWs on the market this is a great deal. A full spec sheet for both of these rifles can be found on Keltec’s Website. Head over there for more information or to find a dealer near you.

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