June 23, 2022
By D. Faubion
Guns are my life, so I’m always on the lookout for deals on unique firearms. Last fall, while perusing an upcoming Rock Island Auction, I stumbled upon a rare and mysterious Sako AII in .358 Winchester. What caught my eye was the black polymer underfolding stock, which I recognized immediately from a handful of photos I’d seen on the internet. When hours of research produced more questions than answers, I decided the only responsible option was to buy it.
I had stumbled upon a Grendel SRT, which you’ve maybe never heard of. If you have heard of it, you’ve likely never seen one in person. This is the first and only bolt-action by legendary firearm designer and KelTec founder George Kellgren. To learn more about this design, I reached out to Kellgren, and he was kind enough to answer my questions on this very cool rifle.
D. Faubion: The Grendel SRT is a fascinating design, one of the most unique and rare bolt-actions to encounter. It uses a Sako AII action but sits in a stock of your own design. I’ve read that it’s the only bolt-action you’ve done. For a prolific gun designer, that’s hard to believe. To start, tell us about Grendel, the precursor to KelTec.
George Kellgren: I founded Grendel in 1983 after deciding I wanted to focus on my own designs under my own brand. The driving design originally for Grendel was the ballistic knife, which has long since been banned. From there I designed the SRT, followed by the P10.
Faubion: The most unique part of the Grendel SRT is the injection-molded underfolding stock, but there’s a lot going on here. The forend has a bipod/sling-mount stud protruding forward on the handguard, and the stock is locked in position by a flexible shaft that twists a screw into the pistol grip, which eliminates the need for tools. It’s a brilliant design even by today’s standards. What else can you say about the stock?
Kellgren: You’ve mentioned everything. Although, it is worth mentioning that the SRT stock was the first time we used the glass-reinforced polymer Zytel, and we have been using it ever since in our product designs. Also, the original molds for the stock were CNC-cut from a piece of 1018 steel, which is highly irregular and turned out to be a poor choice due to warpage during the manufacturing process. I was still new to mold-making at the time.
Faubion: This folding stock design obviously influenced modern KelTecs like the SU-16 and SU-22. The similarities are uncanny.
Kellgren: Yes, it was a very functional design. However, the new designs don’t have a screw-in lock.
Faubion: How exactly was the stock attached to the rifle? It appears to be two clamshell halves that bolt together. The front action screw is visible, but I see no access to the rear screw without taking the shell off. To be honest, it looks like it cradles the action more like a chassis.
Kellgren: It had a round, threaded aluminum spacer that the receiver dropped onto.
Faubion: The variant shown here is chambered in .358 Winchester, but I’ve read that SRTs were available in .22-250, .243 and .308. Am I missing any? Who were the Grendel SRT variants marketed to, and approximately how many were made?
Kellgren: You got them all! It was originally marketed dealer-direct for hunters. Some police snipers used them. Not many were made—maybe a couple thousand. I no longer have the Grendel records. They were turned in to ATF once I closed Grendel.
Faubion: Another surprising feature is the integral box magazine that holds 9 rounds. Were there additional magazine variants of the SRT?
Kellgren: No there weren’t. The idea was that the magazine would fit in the folded stock.
Faubion: My sample features a heavily tapered barrel, but all the other photos I’ve seen of SRTs show a fluted barrel. Who made the barrels, and how many variations are there in length, profile and fluting?
Kellgren: All of the SRT barrels were Douglas barrels. There were three lengths: 16, 20 and 24 inches. All of them were tapered, with the 16-inch .358 barrel being heavily tapered. The 20-inch barrel was the standard production barrel and was fluted. Neither the 16- or 24-inch barrels were fluted.
Faubion: The muzzle brake has a collar at the rear that twists maybe a quarter turn. For the life of me, I can’t figure out if it’s a suppressor mount, a harmonic tuner, or maybe just a lock nut to time the brake. What’s going on there?
Kellgen: It’s a nut holding the muzzle brake that has a left- and right-hand twist to be able to line up the muzzle brake. The muzzle brake itself was done after the principles of F. Smith’s single-baffle brake in an optimal configuration, mounted on a standard tool taper, and we’ve been using that design ever since.
Faubion: I know it would be heresy to desecrate such a rare design, but I dream of rebarreling this SRT with a short, carbon-wrapped barrel in .260 and making it my ultimate backcountry hunting rifle. I can’t imagine an easier rifle to stow in a pack yet deploy quickly for action. Is there any chance for KelTec to enter the bolt-action world, or do you plan to stick to pistols, carbines and bullpups?
Kellgren: Yes, there is a fair chance we would develop a bolt-action in the future.
Special thanks to George Kellgren for taking the time to answer these questions. We hope this interview was of interest. After all, this folding gun from the 1980s is one of the rarest rifles a shooter may come across.
If you do stumble upon one like I did, consider buying it. With a Sako action, Douglas barrel, and the most compact folding stock ever made, it’s a premium rifle that has yet to be equaled. Almost 40 years later, there’s still nothing like it on the market.
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