Who is the Man behind Kel Tec

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While Kel Tec owners across the world love and enjoy their gun, few know the full story of the forward thinking engineer who started the company and still helms it today. George Kellgren.

Early life

George Lars Kellgren (sometimes spelled with just one 'L' as Kelgren) was born in Boras Sweden on born May 23, 1943. Kellgren cut his teeth as a firearms designer for Husqvarna and Swedish Interdynamics AB in his native country. It was while working at Interdynamics that the inventor tried his hand at a straight blowback operated submachine gun that fired at a blistering 1000-rounds per minute from a closed bolt. Labeled the MP9 by the company, some 25 prototypes were made and shopped around to various countries including South Africa without success.

Made of inexpensive molded polymers and stamped steel parts it was cheap to manufacture but nobody was buying.

In the 1980s, Kellgren immigrated to the United States with some thoughts on his mind about new firearms and some initial backing from Interdynamic.

The Tec-9 Era

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In South Florida during the 1980s, engineer, entrepreneur and future firearm visionary George Kellgren was very interested in jumping into the polymer firearm frenzy. Interdynamic introduced Kellgren to his business partner in Florida, a Cuban immigrant by the name of Carlos Garcia. Taking the MP9 design and labeling it the KG-99 (after the first letters of the last names of each of the principals) the gun became the US subsidiaries main product. To comply with the ATF regulations the KG-99 differed from its original Swedish version in that it was semi-auto only and was later changed to fire from a closed bolt.

When Kellgren grew dissatisfied with the company, he and Garcia went their separate ways.
Garcia started a new company called Intertec and quickly renamed the KG-99 the Tec-9. Looking for bigger and better things, Kellgren split away and formed his own company, Grendel Firearms, in 1987.


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In the late 1980s, the hottest gun in the US was the polymer-framed Glock series of handguns. Kellgren decided to make his own, inexpensive polymer pistol. Designated the P10, the pistol was as basic a .380 design as one could imagine. It was DAO with no levers, used very basic sights, and had a curiously enlarged trigger guard. It was however light, at 14-ounces, and small, at 5.4 inches overall, which is about the size of today's Ruger LCP pistol-with nearly twice the capacity; holding ten rounds in an internal magazine. This gun was replaced by the better-designed P12 in 1991 and supplemented by the 30-shot P30, a large frame .22WMR chambered pistol.

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Other designs that never left the drawing board included a polymer .410 shotgun that used a bullpup stock and twin over barrel magazine tubes. This gun later became the KSG Shotgun, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc.

In 1994, Kellgren shuttered the doors on Grendel and its line of inexpensive polymer framed pistols stopped production. A few years before he had started Kel-Tec as a CNC machining company then in 1995 started making firearms under that company's name and the rest is history. Currently George is still alive and very much kicking at his home in Cocoa Florida at the age of 70-years young. The manufacturer is among the country's top five handgun makers, "specializing in innovative rifle designs and handguns for concealed carry by law enforcement personnel and qualified citizens."

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George with one of his SU16 rifles, photo by Oleg Volk, gun photographer extraordinaire.

Old designs such as his Grendel P10 and P30 have been revamped as the Kel-Tec P11 and PMR-30 respectively. The KG-99 saw a rebirth as the SUB-2000 series of 9mm semi-auto carbines with a lot of improvements. He holds at least three patents D527788, D665042 and 7469496 and as the President of Kel-Tec, continues to bring new designs to life.

Odds are the Kel Tec story is just starting.

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June 19, 2013  •  09:40 AM
During the late 1990's, I visited Sweden on business. I was impressed with the Swedish people and, in particular, Husqvarna the company. Anyone that comes from that background has much to bring to the United States in the way of know how and dedication to the perfection of the art of technology. George Kellgren, thank you for choosing the USA!
June 19, 2013  •  10:23 AM
Now if he only learned something about maintaining proper production volume (think Sub2000, KSG, and RFB) his company would be far more successful. Still love the designs but it seems like alot of that inexpensive polymer was replaced with expensive unobtainium.
June 19, 2013  •  10:49 AM
@kboxvegas The production bottlenecks are mainly due to the innovative nature of the products. Generic designs don't require re-training production staff, while making something like an RFB to high quality require expertise that has to be worked up within the company. And the production numbers aren't low -- just that the guns get snapped up as quickly as they are made.
June 19, 2013  •  01:04 PM
I've been a big fan of Kel-Tec for many years. I'm drawn to the innovative designs, in an industry that could use much more innovation and new ideas. George Kellgren is definitely not an engineer who is interested in adding some minor innovation to a 1911 or an AR-15, and firearms enthusiasts and the firearms market has rewarded Kel-Tec with more growth than they've been able to manage lately. I can't wait to see what Kel-Tec offers next. Whatever it is, history indicates that I'm going to want to own one. Thanks George, and to the great people who work at Kel-Tec!
June 19, 2013  •  02:36 PM
I love my Kel-Tec firearms and their innovation, but I wish production would keep up :)

God Bless you guys!

Doc S
June 19, 2013  •  04:15 PM
I am now and as far as I can see will always be a fan of Kel-Tec firearms. George is an innovator and a forward thinking designer. A big Thank You to George Kellgren and to all the employees of Kel-Tec.
June 19, 2013  •  04:35 PM
I have an SU 16 with short barrel, and Sub 2000 9mm. Very,very happy with overall quality and shootability of these 2 weapons. I may down the road pick up a PMR 22. Semper Fi....!
June 19, 2013  •  04:53 PM
@kboxvegas "Unobtainium"? Booooo.
June 20, 2013  •  08:17 AM
I really like the wood-like appearance of the furniture in the photo of George!
June 20, 2013  •  01:53 PM
Geo Kelgren is a great designer. His products speak for themselves.

I have an SU16CA and a S2K40G. I shared some ideas on making the S2K line modular to include 10MM and .45ACP at the SHOT Show this year and I hope your Customer Service guys forwarded them to you.

My two guns function perfectly and the SU16 has been thru a Rifle Class at Front Sight as well as my go to 3 gun rifle. At 5.5 lbs it is lightnig fast to get on target, and the reliability with Pmags is damn close to perfect.

Plus when you are standing around waiting to shoot with the gun hanging off your shoulder 5.5 lbs is a lot better than 10lbs. Fatigue is your enemy.

I am about to start using my S2K for three gun and it is even lighter, plus using the same mags as my Glock 35 means I don't have to double up on mags. One pouch one, place to go for ammo when reloading two guns.

The other thing I can say is that Kel-Tec's production is struggling to keep up with demand and as a result thier guns are hard to find at dealers.

I got lucky on both of my purchases, adn I'm glad I did.

If you are looking at any of the Kel-Tec guns I would suggest doing an internet search for dealers near the factory. You might just get lucky like I did!

July 22, 2013  •  01:31 PM
I only live 45min from Keltec's headquarters and Ive gotten to know the route to their front door very well.
Word is there expanding to up production for the new RMR30.
I dont think theres a problem with their production capabilities, its just that the products are so good and affordable that the demand is out of control.
I hope George continues what hes doing down there for a long time.