I recently got my hands on an elusive piece of hardware from everyone’s favorite Florida-based specialist in innovative designs made in frustratingly small numbers. The Kel-Tec PMR-30 pistol stands out as being one of very, very view .22WMR chambered pistols out there, as well as having a massive 30 round magazine. In true Kel-Tec form, the market demand for the PMR-30 has vastly outpaced their ability to actually make the pistols, driving prices through the roof. At the MSRP of around $450 it’s a hell of an interesting piece for fans of the .22WMR cartridge, assuming you can find one for under MSRP that is.
Overview and Features
The PMR-30 is definitely a strange duck: a full size magnum rimfire semi-auto with a supersized magazine, single action only internal hammer with manual ambi thumb safety, and semi-adjustable fiber optic target sights. The gun certainly won’t win any beauty contests with its unusual proportions, trademark Kel-Tec grip texture or abundance of screws holding everything together. The pistol’s slide is tiny and its grip is quite long fore to aft, requiring a bit of grip adjustment to get a handle on it. As you can see, a Hogue grip sleeve will fit on the elongated grip albeit with some effort!
I did some weighing in and can’t emphasize just how light this pistol is:
- Pistol, unloaded, with magazine: 15.8oz
- Unloaded magazine by itself: 1.5oz
- Loaded magazine, 40gr FMJ: 5.6oz
That puts the loaded weight of the gun around 20 ounces!
Design and Function
Mechanically speaking the pistol isn’t a major departure from existing designs. The trigger bar system will look familiar to anyone who’s peeked under the hood of any of Kel-Tec’s other pistols, as will the long pull-spring arrangement down the back of the grip. Unlike most of the company’s offerings, the PMR is strictly single action only, however. Looking at the relationship between the hammer and slide, I would venture that the hammer itself and its mainspring tension aid in delaying the slide’s motion.
Speaking of the slide, that’s where things really get weird. There’s not a whole lot to it, as pictured above. Taking the polymer “lid” off of the back by removing those four button screws reveals the firing pin and retaining roll pins for the dual extractors. The firing pin is a flat, horizontal affair with no spring load and a solid physical stop to prevent chamber dings. In short, the gun is completely safe to dry fire, assuming of course that unlike some of George Kelgren’s prior works with Intratec the firing pin is properly heat treated.
The dual extractor system seems well designed and follows the rules of extractors in angle and relief cuts, as well as having properly machined extractor cuts in the barrel to match. The barrel itself is a simple affair with a tiny feed ramp and two large rectangular shoulders which ride in the locking block along with the fully captive dual spring recoil assembly. The locking block is pinned to the frame by the takedown pin, which the conical point of the guide rod rests against as a detent. All the way forward, a polymer buffer rests between the locking block and the slide itself.
The recoil cycle seems to work like this:
- Cartridge fires, weight of the slide, spring and hammer spring delay motion
- Barrel and slide travel rearward together until the barrel’s shoulder contacts the locking block
- Barrel stops, slide continues on to overcome the hammer spring tension and cock the hammer
- As the slide returns forward, the breech face bumps the barrel and both return forward to rest
The whole system is cleverly arranged to take advantage of weights and spring forces as much as possible while minimizing the size and weight of the slide. In a sense, the use of the hammer as a delaying force is reminiscent of the original Browning design for the 1911’s firing pin stop, which made the slide harder to rack with the hammer down but gave a little extra lockup time to the overall system.
Additionally, the locking block makes up one of two sets of slide rails while the second set is part of the fire control assembly. The rail cuts pictured below fit into the frame’s polymer internal rails to hold the locking block in place, while the slide and locking block have a set of rails on the top side of the block.
It’s no secret that Kel-Tec loves polymers, nor will it come as a surprise that the PMR-30 has very little steel in it. The safety, trigger, magazine catch and slide stop are all polymer and I would go so far as to joke that the steel in the gun is equal parts slide and screws. The magazines are entirely polymer sans the spring, which makes me extremely interested to hit the range and see how well this arrangement works.
The gun may be bolted together, but it’s bolted together well and seems to be free of sharp edges or mold defects. Honestly aside from the grating plasticky sound the slide makes when operated manually the gun on the whole seems to be a bit tight on the fit side and is perhaps even nicer than the normal price tag would indicate. That said, it does make a bit of color commentary to mention that for what this strange .22WMR mostly-plastic creature costs to make in the USA, one can purchase an all-steel CZ clone from Turkey.
Trigger, Safety and Operation
I’ll just say it plainly that the SAO trigger on the PMR-30 is at best middle of the road, or at worst kind of bad. It’s light certainly, I gauged it right around 3 pounds out of the box, but it suffers from a tremendous amount of creep before dropping the hammer. It seems like the trigger has a little less than a quarter inch of travel after takeup before it breaks. In normal plinking use it’s really not that bad, but being the stickler I am for pointing out excess sear engagement I have to slam Kel-Tec a bit for this one.
The good news is the hammer arrangement is pretty conventional, so a trigger job could certainly be an option if someone wanted to clean up the trigger creep and turn it into a more serious target pistol. I don’t think “serious” is a term that will often be applied to the PMR-30, but there you have it!
The manual safety is placed a bit far back and is not the most ergonomic design in the world, but it sweeps on and off with a solid click. It can only be engaged with the hammer cocked and appears to lock the sear as well as disconnecting the trigger bar. If the slide is more than a tiny fraction of an inch out of battery, about 60-100 thousandths of an inch actually, it disconnects the trigger as well. I would hazard a guess that this aggressive disconnector setup is intended to all but eliminate any chance of the gun firing out of battery, which has been known to occur on many blowback type magnum rimfires in the past.
Stay tuned for part 2, the range report!