Kel-Tec PMR-30 Review

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 2 months ago

I’ve had a Kel-Tec PMR-30 for a while now, and wanted to do a review of it.  But I had decided that I wouldn’t publish on this gun until I felt that I had a feel for what it did, why it did it, and how to operate it properly.  This is a unique gun for a number of reasons, and proper operation and maintenance isn’t intuitively obvious, even to an experienced gun owner like me.

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The Kel-Tec PMR-30 is a .22 WMR (or .22 magnum) pistol that fits 30 rounds into the magazine.  It is light, very narrow framed, and odd in its parts and manipulation.

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Below I show the Kel-Tec alongside a Smith & Wesson 1911 E Series pistol in order to show that the PMR-30 has a long barrel (both of these guns have a five inch barrel).  But in spite of the double stack magazine loading, the frame is still so narrow that the form and fit is different, requiring time at the range in order to accustom yourself to it.

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It disassembles into an assortment of parts that looks different than any other polymer frame pistol (e.g., my XDm or my M&P), and certainly different than the 1911 pictured above.

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But the PMR-30 is a finicky weapon, and one of the parts that failed on me after about two years of shooting is what I’ll call the slide retaining pin, pictured below.  The one that failed is pictured alongside the replacement from Kel-Tec, and as you can see, there is a stress concentration point in the design of the pin half way across the width of the slide.  This pin goes through the slide and holds it in place.  You can see the residual gun oil on my wife’s antique furniture, so perhaps she isn’t reading this article.

2014B 015

Another failure occurred about a year and a half ago with what Kel-Tec calls the “recoil spring guide lock ring.”  Once after shooting I attempted to disassemble the gun for cleaning and ended up having to force the slide off of the frame, with the result being that this ring elongated and became essentially a straight pin sitting on my kitchen floor somewhere (this happened because the ring had seized between the recoil spring guide rod and springs for some reason unknown to me).

After sweeping the kitchen, finding what was once the lock ring, and doing my own gunsmithing and reforming and reinstalling the ring, it worked fine and has worked ever since then.  The lock ring is shown below in what is admittedly a poor picture.


The PMR-30 has both a good and bad reputation within the gun community, good because it is a remarkably fun gun to shoot, and bad because it is remarkably finicky and picky.  I have suffered my share of failures to feed, failures to eject, and strange little parts failures with this gun.

That said, I have landed on what for me has made the difference in a horrible little bitch to shoot and a delightful partner at the range.  It all comes down to ammunition and magazine maintenance.

Pictured at the very top is nothing but personal defense ammunition in .22WMR.  I don’t shoot common .22 magnum ammunition any more in the gun, and I have had no failures since shooting high quality ammunition.  Rimfire ammunition is notoriously unreliable and dirty ammunition anyway and requires careful cleaning of the weapon after use.  Use of high quality ammunition makes the experience much more reliable with the PMR-30.

As for the magazine, it has a polymer follower combined with a polymer magazine frame, and the two don’t slide against each other very reliably unless I use a little oil in between the follower and magazine just prior to shooting.  I have not had any so-called “rimlock” failures, and I find that it’s relatively easy to load the ammunition.

I don’t want to repeat the other PMR-30 reviews out there, and there are a lot of them.  I also don’t want to repeat the ballistics gelatin tests of .22WMR ammunition (and there are plenty of them).  You don’t need me to perform Google and YouTube searches for you.

Basically, the .22WMR goes a full 14 inches or more into ballistics gelatin, and cavitates along the way.  The PMR-30 has a reputation for extreme muzzle flash, and I can vouch for this.  The round leaves energy in the barrel because of the slower burning rimfire load, but it still manages to achieve some 1375-1400 FPS muzzle velocity.

Readers know that I am a fan of .45 ACP, and this is my choice of personal defense weapons and ammunition.  Would I recommend carrying .22WMR for personal defense?  You’ll have to wait a moment to find that out.

The negatives of the PMR-30 include the polymer magazine, and I would willingly give up a little weight to have more reliable feeding of ammunition with a stainless steel magazine.  Also, if you are going to have reliable rimfire ammunition, you need to purchase high quality round, these being expensive enough to roughly compare to 9mm.  So if you’re going to shoot for training or carry a smaller defensive round, why would you choose .22WMR rather than 9mm?

The positives of this weapon and .22WMR are numerous.  First of all, I like the fiber optics sights.  Next, the .22WMR round has so little recoil that I can shoot it and retain or regain my sight picture with no effort.  This allows me to lay rounds on target much faster than I can with say .45 ACP or .40S&W.  I always end my range time with rapid fire of at least a couple of magazines, and no matter how much range time I put in, .45 is a hairy chested, big boy round, with a lot of powder pushing 230 grain fat boys.  That’s why I like it.  But it is difficult to maintain accuracy with rapid fire.  With the .22WMR it is effortless.  This means that for every two rounds of .45 I can put on target, I can put five or more .22WMR on target.  This means something, including in personal defense situations.

The magazine is long, and can hold up to 30 rounds.  I rarely put 30 rounds in, but whether it’s 20 or 25, this is a lot of rounds before reloading.  Would I carry .22WMR for personal defense?  I consider that to be an illegitimate question.  Hypotheticals don’t matter in personal defense.  The question is, “Have I carried the PMR-30 .22WMR for personal defense before?”  The answer is yes.

I carry different firearms at different times for different purposes and under different circumstances.  I would also recommend this round as a good backup round (say in an ankle holster).  Is it what I consider the premier personal defense round?  Of course not.  My choice for premier personal defense round would be a tossup between .357 magnum and .45 (both of which I have shot extensively).

But you may not have access to your premier round when you want it, or you may find it uncomfortable or unwieldy to carry.  I would certainly rather have this gun than not, especially given that I can lay so many rounds down range so quickly and accurately.

This gun is not a good recommendation for a single personal defense firearm for those who can only afford one weapon.  This gun is an extremely fun range toy, good for training purposes, capable of accurate rapid fire, and acceptable for personal defense in the absence of whatever you consider your premier personal defense round or as a backup weapon.

  • Jack

    Out of curiosity, is the polymer magazine issue only related to the PMR-30, or do you have a general complaint?

    I ask because I’m just getting started in firearms, and currently have an HK USP .40, and it’s magazines are polymer. I’ve not had any FTF or other problems with it so far, but have less than 500 rounds through it. Wondering if this will be an issue?

  • Herschel Smith

    I should also point out that I was discussing this round with the head gunsmith at Hyatt Gun Shop who told me he had the unfortunate experience to actually have to shoot someone with this round (what was later judged to be a good shoot in self defense). He told me the man dropped the knife, went for his leg and hit the ground. The round ended up breaking his femur.

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  • Nicholas C

    I have been using Hornady Critical Defense in mine. I have only had it for a couple months. Got it a week after SHOT 2014.

  • Dutch

    Nice review. I had a PMR-30 and loved it at 1st, but after a while of shooting over 6 months I encountered numerous failure to feeds. I live in c fl so I made a trip to kel Tec. Their cust svc was awesome! It’s a great company and I wanted to like is gun so bad, but it was so unreliable I finally got rid of it. I took it back to keltec, they replaced the entire slide and barrel. It shot fine for the 1st hundred or so shots, then started jamming again. Maybe I got a lemon….I was really disappointed.

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  • BobSykes

    Someone at Buckeye Firearms analyzed some 3,000 plus shootings and concluded that if making an attacker run away was the objective all pistol rounds from .22 LR to .44 mag were equally effective. The pain from any bullet wound fended off any but the most determined. Of course, the attacker shot with the .44 mag is dead, and the one shot with the .22 LR runs away to fight another day.

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  • Max Kingsbury

    Sounds like anecdata.

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  • Sean

    Actually, NO. An awful lot of people die after getting shot with .22. You would be amazed at how many shootings are with .22. The problem is they don’t die right away. They bleed to death an hour later due to their internal injuries. My brothers are Detroit cops, and have told me numerous stories of people dying due to wounds due to gunshot wounds from .22.

  • kabob

    While the body of the USP .40 and 9mm are polymer, they’re reinforced with metal at the feed lips. I wouldn’t worry about failures. I haven’t had any in the last few years of owning a USP 9mm.

  • Herschel Smith

    Um … yes. Of course it is. It meets that definition. I didn’t present it as anything else. Why would I?

  • Josh

    The sky is blue.

  • Franco

    I agree. The 22 does some unusual things when entering tissue. If you cant disrupt the nervous system you have to drop blood pressure. The 22 can bounce around a lot clipping lots of arteries and such causing a rapid drop in bp. Still not my preference in a defense round if i knew i was going to a gun fight. However, my daily carry is a NAA 22mag and the pmr might make a formable defense round against a gang. Its loud, holds a lot of ammo and condusive to taking multiple targets

  • Paul

    It would be really awesome if KelTec would make enough of these to allow potential customers to actually buy one.

  • Larry

    Isn’t that the damn truth. I’ve seen ONE available at a gun shop in my area, and they priced it at $999. I don’t go there any more.

    It’s been on my Guds wish list for over 2 years.

    When one comes in, Buds puts it on their damn auction site instead of satisfying customer’s waiting for it.

  • TokenGimp

    Does the PMR also fire the .22WRF or just the.22 WMR magnum?
    Also, have you tried different springs?
    I’ve used various polymer magazines w/o issue for 5.56, but before filling the first time disassemble, round any burrs or sharp edges with a file, steel wool or sandpaper as required then rub down with non-petro based silicon oil.
    I sold my one Kel-Tec 9 years ago then was told by the buyer the slide was bent so she resold. Not sure about that or how it could have happened. So it goes. Thanks for the review.

  • Jack

    thanks for the feedback, and apologies for the late acknowledgement – death in the family interrupted my life…

  • cclark5195

    I concur. Shoot a criminal with any round and they will limp away as fast as they can if they can. No one likes to be shot and when you do shoot one, they see their miserable life flashing before their lives and only want to continue living their pathetic existence. A .45 ACP, .357, .44 mag or 12ga make it more likely that they will not be able to depart the scene of their greatest mistake.

  • Timothy Taylor

    They are coming back in stock, the gun shop in OKC got 5 in yesterday, I just purchased one.

  • the Jug

    30 rounds.

  • Nunyabiz

    Anyone that thinks that .22 Magnum wont stop an attacker in their tracks has what I call “In the Movies Syndrome” where 500+ rounds are fired and only one person is hit in the arm then says ‘I’m fine its just a flesh wound”.
    In reality any time a gun is pulled in defense that usually ends the attack right there, just the sight is enough. If the attacker already has a gun pulled then unless there is cover within 2 feet away (not likely) then you wont be pulling out any weapon unless you just want to die.
    Obviously there are 1000s of ways a life threatening situation could go down but in general it all boils down to who gets the drop on who and “Accuracy” with the ability to make the first shot count.
    ONE .22 Magnum round center mass or head will more than likely drop a 6’5″ 300# man like a rock, followed up with 2,3,4,5,6,7+++ in 2 seconds all rounds probably hitting their target because a .22 Magnum is so easy to shoot rapid fire and you have just as much if not more stopping power as you would any other round. There is no such thing as Dead and REALLY dead, its just dead. The Mossad standard issue pistol is a Beretta Model 71 .22LR for close range protection, .22LR in a 3 1/2″ barrel is only 93FPE using the hottest .22LR round in existence. The .22 Mag in a 4″ barrel is about 130FPE which is why I MUCH prefer my AMT Automag II which is a 6″ barrel which fires the CCI VMax at a bit over 1800fps for 217FPE. That is almost identical to a 38 Special in 4″ barrel. Extra 2″ of barrel length make a huge difference.
    This pistol is slim, light, easy to carry and easy to shoot, good accuracy and holds 30 rounds.
    It is actually probably one of the best self defense guns there are.
    Though I still prefer my AMT .22 Automag II only 11 rounds but in reality when are you ever going to need more than that?

  • vince

    Which gunshop in okc. I’ve been trying to.find one if these for moths

  • Charles Mayeux

    Until the 9mm became a favorite of the military and street thugs, the .22 had killed more people in non military situations than any other round.

  • jharrison

    Beware the use of bargain ammo. I had the rim cap come off just as the firing pin struck the primer. Blew the slide off the rails and I was picking brass out of my hand for 2 weeks. KelTec repaired my pistol no problem and the ammo maker paid me the full purchase price for the ammo. CCI and Hornady from now on. I have carried this weapon for self-defense with confidence. It has never failed with premium ammo. I love the pistol and intend to buy CMR-30 when my local dealer gets one..

  • Herschel Smith

    ” … and intend to buy CMR-30 when my local dealer gets one.” When my local dealer gets one. Hahahaha … that’s a good one. Let me know when that happens. Seriously, write me and let me know. Send pictures and a report too. I’m interested.

  • texas66

    I got one a couple of weeks ago and snagged 3 more magazines from for a total of 5. 150 rounds should take care of most varmints but shoot too fast and the buffer will melt, also, count on 1 FTF per mag most of the time.
    Now I “need” its sibling, the CMR-30 carbine, then I’d have the perfect varmint, small game, fun gun set.

  • weatheri

    You didn’t say anything about physical size – i.e dimensions. “About” the same size as a 1911 Colt? For concealed carry? I don’t think so. And if you are OK with being obvious about carrying, one of the combat calibers is much more suitable.

  • H2O MAN

    The optional threaded barrel with flash reducer (PMR30-505) is an excellent upgrade. The flash is reduced, and it does a much better job of cycling 30gr Hornady V-max. Kel-Tec also has a new buffer (PMR30-153) that is superior to the original. I like the PMR.

  • Ted Heavy

    It’s documented that in excess of 70% of all fatal shootings are .32 and below.

You are currently reading "Kel-Tec PMR-30 Review", entry #12023 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published March 17th, 2014 by Herschel Smith.

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