Review: Kel-Tec PMR-30
July 27, 2018
Kel-Tec's PMR-30 is a .22 Win. Mag. Rimfire (WMR) pistol that's been in high demand and low-volume production (due to design improvements) since it was unveiled in 2011. The big takeaways are that the PMR-30 is a semiauto that reliably chambers .22 Magnum and feeds from a 30-round, double-stack magazine. (Take a moment to wrap your mind around that.)
Kel-Tec describes the pistol's operation as "hybrid blowback." Hybrid? Think delayed blowback. Admittedly, I had my reservations about the design. For starters, pressure levels in rimfire ammunition vary greatly and that can lead to feeding issues. Additionally, rimmed cartridges make designing an effective double-stack magazine a challenge. But Kel-Tec's designers eventually proved that - with the right engineering - a double-stack semiautomatic rimfire pistol could be reliable.
The hybrid blowback action combines elements of both locked-breech and blowback designs subject to pressure levels. With higher-pressure loads, the barrel moves slightly rearward with the slide as it would with a traditional locked-breech design. When firing lower-pressure loads, the PMR-30 acts akin to blowback firearms. This versatility means that the PMR-30 will cycle the wide range of .22 WMR ammo available. The system is deceptively simple. A pair of beefy extractors holding the cartridge rim at the 3 and 9 o'clock then clears the chamber and readies again.
The pistol's magazine, along with its frame and grip, are made from durable Zytel polymer. The material is lightweight, as well as heat and impact resistant. A small notch in the top of the magazine corresponds with a tab underneath the slide. When the pistol goes into battery the tab scoops one of the rimmed .22 WMR cartridges from the top of the stack. The barrel returns to the full forward position as the slide returns to battery. Both the slide and barrel are machined from heat-treated 4140 steel, but the reduced dimensions of the rimfire's slide and barrel (as well as the liberal use of Zytel) help keep weight to an absolute minimum. With an empty magazine in place, the PMR-30 weighed only 15½ ounces on our postal scale. It weighed just under 20 ounces with a full 30-round magazine.
With an overall length of 7.9 inches, a 4.3-inch barrel, a height of 5.8 inches and a width of just 1.3-inches, this pistol might be the ideal trail gun. While there are those who decry all rimfires for personal protection, a .22 Magnum pistol with 30 rounds such as this is not without merit as a defensive option, especially considering that the PMR-30 produces scant felt recoil and little muzzle rise.
The controls are relatively standard with an ambidextrous, two-position, safety lever under the back of the slide. When the lever is down, a pill-shaped red bar indicates the gun is ready to fire. On the left side of the gun, just ahead of the safety, is the slide stop. If you have noticed, there's seems to be one basic control missing: the magazine release. The mag release button is on the grip's heel. This was likely an engineering necessity to accommodate and secure the oversized double-stack magazine. Other key features include an accessory rail under the barrel and fiber-optic sights (amber rear, green front). The front sight is dovetailed into the slide and loosening two screws allows the shooter to adjust for windage. There's also a plate in front of the rear sight that allows for the addition of a red-dot optic.
Even with all the neat engineering and features, the complexities of building a reliable double-stacked rimfire pistol still leave some concerned of its reliability. For us, the PMR-30 had zero cycling issues and proved to be completely reliable with the full range of ammunition tested. The sights are well-adapted for close-range shooting in low light, but they're rough for target work. If equipped with a red dot such as an Aimpoint Micro, I believe this pistol would be completely capable of dispatching small game at 25 yards - or even farther. Priced near $450, the PMR-30 is something of a bargain. If you're interested, take the time to check it out.