By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2023

“Folding / Accurate / Firepower: If 5.7x28mm velocity is your thing,

the R50 is the right carbine for you. This side-folding, tack-driver

gives you maximum speed, accuracy, and power downrange with

its 16-inch, threaded barrel, and optic-mounting option…the

R50 is ideal for small-game hunting, (and) bullseye shooting.”

— Kel-Tec web site, 2023.

Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc., of Cocoa, Florida, just introduced their latest firearms design at the SHOT Show 2023 in January, the all-new R50 (meaning “Rifle-50 rounds”), holding a whopping 50 rounds of powerful, 5.7x28mm ammunition. This is a modification of their innovative P50 semiautomatic pistol, unveiled in January 2021, using a transparent, 50-round, FN P90 personal-defense weapon (PDW) magazine, except that the pistol has a 9.6-inch barrel, and the R50 rifle version uses a 16.1-inch barrel.

Kel-Tec states, “This carbine features a side-folding stock that rests nicely on either side of the grip when folded, and a ½ x 28 threaded, 16-inch barrel. It does come with some utility sights that are adjustable for windage and elevation…(with) over seven inches of Picatinny rail…for mounting just about any optic or accessory you like.” The P50 pistol also features a threaded barrel.

Guns Week added on January 21, 2023, that “Kel-Tec R50, the 5.7x28mm carbine of the future: Boasting a retro-futuristic design, the R50 features the same key structure and building of the P50 pistol…(with) helical-feed, clear, polymer magazines used by the FN P90 submachine gun. The difference between the Kel-Tec R50 and the P50 pistol is all in the stock and barrel: the Kel-Tec R50 carbine features a metal, side-folding buttstock with a black polymer buttstock and a 16-inch barrel with a threaded muzzle… MSRP for the U.S. market has been announced at $815.”

Kel-Tec R50 rifle with side-folding stock. Photo credit: Kel-Tec.

The new R50 is only 30.5 inches long, or 21.5 inches with the stock folded, and weighs a mere 3.48 pounds empty, with a five-pound trigger pull. It’s expected to become available for purchase in the third quarter of 2023.

On February 13, 2023, Moondog Industries noted that “Kel-Tec is the Mad Genius of the firearms world, creating a range of innovative and unique gun designs…(They) developed a fully assembled R50 rifle variant of the P50 pistol.”

The National Interest called the previous P50 pistol version “unique, buzz-worthy, and the all-around, coolest new gun of 2021.” Outdoor Life called the P50 “a cross between a space gun and a bullet hose” and named it one of the best guns of the year, so that’s the short-term heritage of the newer R50 rifle version. The P50 pistol has an average shot grouping of 1.5 inches at 50 yards and can consistently make accurate shots from ranges up to 100 yards.

Kel-Tec R50 rifle at SHOT Show 2023 (Guns Week.)

The FN 5.7x28mm cartridge was designed in 1990, specifically to offer new PDWs such as the FN P90 and FN Five-seveN pistol terminal ballistics and stopping power comparable to a 9mm +P+ round, but with a much higher muzzle velocity of 2,350 feet per second from the P90 weapon’s 10.35-inch barrel. It was never intended for frontline combat weapons; however, the compact, futuristic P90 PDW became wildly popular and is currently used by military and police forces in at least 43 nations worldwide. It’s especially desired by Special Forces units for its awesome firepower in close-quarters combat.

Likewise, the popularity of the FN Five-seveN pistol has spread like wildfire, and it’s known to be in active use by at least 21 nations. It’s the primary service pistol of Belgium, where it’s manufactured, and it’s widely used by French police and counterterrorist units, Italian special forces, and the U.S. Secret Service, among others.

Clay Martin, a former Special Forces soldier, wrote for Guns America Digest on February 7, 2021, “5.7x28mm: The Ultimate Survival Caliber? Now we are starting to look at a system that has the potential to turn the survival-caliber debate on its head…My take on the 5.7x28mm is fueled by my combat experience and…scientific data…(It) very nearly matches what 5.56mm will do…(especially) if you are packing a shorty…5.7×28 doesn’t create the dragon’s-breath fireball of a shorty 5.56. 5.7mm has less recoil…like a rimfire…(and) the 5.7×28 weighs roughly half as much per loaded round of 5.56×45…you could carry twice as many bangs per pound by switching to 5.7x28mm.”

So, the introduction of the Kel-Tec R50 in 5.7x28mm is a significant, new development, offering civilians a compact, handy, semiautomatic rifle with greater range, muzzle velocity, and accuracy (and less recoil) than many other weapons in this unique caliber. While it’s certainly great for hunting small game, as Kel-Tec states, the R50’s fearsome firepower from 50 rounds of 5.7mm ammo is likely to be far more useful as a home-defense gun or survival weapon that has few equals.

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Warren Gray is a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism and is an NRA member. He served in Europe and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings and four college degrees, and was a distinguished Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course and the USAF Combat Targeting School graduate. He is currently a published author, historian, and deer hunter. You may visit his website at: