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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.