Whenever something as iconic as the Kel-Tec PMR30 hits the market, alarm bells sound off in the heads of dedicated hand gunners all over the planet, and the mad rush to have a look-see quickly swells into a tidal wave.

In my case, the look-see produced a singular verdict: “I’ve just got to have one!”

What makes Kel-Tec’s PMR30 so special?

30-round Magazine Capacity

Let’s start with it’s biggest attraction—a 30-round magazine that fits flush in the pistol’s grip. Sure, a lot of handguns have been known to increase their capacities with extended magazines, but these extended magazines (like the 33-round extension for Glock 9mm’s) always protrude well beyond the handgun’s grip.

This makes the handgun somewhat unwieldy, and usually spoils the gun’s good looks. Not so with Kel-Tec’s PMR30.

Some years before the PMR30 came out, Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal (FN) of Belgium marketed a pistol called the Five-Seven, which boasted a then-unprecedented 20-round magazine that fit flush in the grip. It was a sensation at the time and still is, to this day; Kel-Tec’s offering simply upped the ante with a 30-round magazine.

Unprecedented Lightness

The second best thing about the Kel-Tec PMR30 is its almost incredible lightness. Thanks to space-age aluminum and polymer technology, the gun weighs a mere 15 ounces, empty. Actually less than one pound!

Fully loaded with 30+1 rounds of ammunition, it still weighs less than a lot of empty polymer pistols.

This appears to be the hallmark of Kel-Tec engineering. Kel-Tec’s handguns have always been recognized to be the lightest in their class, for any given caliber and magazine capacity.

Single-Action Operation

My only beef with the gun’s design is its single-action operation.

Because it fires in single-action mode, it requires a safety lever, and the only way you can safely carry the pistol with a chambered round is with the safety on. (My personal bias is towards guns like the Glock, which have no safeties to disengage in emergency situations.)

The draw-and-fire drill for this handgun mimics that of the 1911—you draw the gun, flick the safety lever down, and you squeeze the trigger. Not quite as fast as a Glock, but definitely manageable with adequate practice.

Firing Characteristics 

What you get when you squeeze the PMR30’s trigger is a startling, ear-piercing blast and an impressive ball of flame. Yes, you can see it even in broad daylight. This is because most .22 Magnum ammunition is manufactured for use in much longer rifle barrels, and not all of the propellant inside the .22 Magnum’s long cartridge case is totally consumed when the round is fired from a pistol-length barrel.

The big ball of flame you see is actually propellant that is still burning after the bullet has cleared the gun’s muzzle. The truth is that it represents wasted energy but, unfortunately in this case, it can’t be helped.

That ear-piercing blast, on the other hand, means that you have a bullet breaking the sound barrier. The bullet exiting the Kel-Tec’s barrel is traveling faster than the speed of sound.

Because of the relatively light bullet weight, however (.22 Magnum rounds use 32- to 40-grain projectiles), there is very little recoil to speak of. Anything resembling recoil movement can probably be attributed to a surprise reaction, a ‘flinch’ caused by the gun’s disproportionately loud noise and intimidating muzzle blast.

The full-size grips on the handgun make recoil control a non-issue; more so when you apply your best 9mm grip to the handle while shooting the PMR30.

Will it Work for Defense?

I suppose that the first thing that a defensive handgunner wants to know is, does the PMR30 have enough power to stop a deadly attack? Will it actually work as a defensive sidearm?

Employing a .22 Magnum handgun for personal protection has always been a controversial topic. Mainstream opinion says that the cartridge is underpowered, yet a lot of handgun manufacturers (North American Arms and Smith & Wesson, for example) produce “backup guns” in this caliber. Popular thinking says that the minimum acceptable caliber for self-defense applications is .380 ACP. This means that as a carry weapon, the PMR30 wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice.

Is the .22 Magnum actually underpowered?

It definitely is, compared to calibers like .45 ACP and 9mm Luger. Compared to the .380 ACP, however (which is considered the “minimum” acceptable cartridge for self-defense), the .22 Magnum isn’t far behind at all.

The .380 ACP cartridge generates between 165 and 220 foot-pounds of energy, depending on the ammunition brand and the barrel length it comes out of. A .22 Magnum round coming out of the PMR30’s 4.3-inch barrel delivers 180 foot-pounds of energy. This puts the .22 Magnum right in the .380 ACP’s ballpark.

Suffice it to say that a .22 Magnum bullet coming out of the PMR30 has the same power as a .22 LR high-velocity round fired from a rifle. It’s up to you to decide whether that is enough power and penetration to stop a threat.

Ease of Carry

In practice, the Kel-Tec PMR30’s lightness makes it a real pleasure to carry.

Even with two extra, fully-loaded polymer magazines sitting in your weak-hand-side pocket (providing a total of 90+1 rounds on tap) everything remains surprisingly manageable. Those .22 Magnum rounds are relatively small, and exceedingly light!

This is a full-size handgun, however, and takes a bit more savvy to conceal. Happily, a variety of Kydex and nylon holsters are now available to make this possible. If you’ve ever had occasion to carry a single-stack 1911 concealed, you should have no problems at all. The PMR30 is actually slimmer than a 1911.


Lately, though, I’ve noticed that my particular example of the PMR30 has developed a case of ‘sticky trigger’.

The trigger fires the cartridge, but will not reset afterwards. The trigger stays stuck in the rearmost position, and you have to push it forward with your finger before you can fire another shot.

At first I thought that someone may have sat on the gun and damaged it, or that exposure to heat may have warped the polymer frame.

On closer examination, however, I discovered that the trigger was grating on the right edge of the frame’s trigger recess, and it appears that the friction caused by direct polymer contact is preventing the trigger from resetting.

Since Kel-Tec doesn’t provide warranty service in my locality, I may have to take the gun apart and sort this problem out myself. (I’ll keep you posted on how this turns out.)