[Review] KelTec PMR30: Max Capacity .22 Mag Plinker
KelTec has made a reputation for both innovation and an almost habit-like need to buck the status quo and try new – even Cyberpunk-strange – designs. The company’s somewhat awkward looking but impressively endowed PMR30 is no exception and offers a standard capacity of no less than 30 rounds of .22 WMR.
Oh, and did I mention that it somehow rolls in at a fraction of the weight of a Glock 19 with double the capacity?
It’s been over a decade since I first saw a PMR30 and wanted to take one out for a date at the range. That date just never came until a bundle of PMR30s showed up at the Guns.com warehouse, with one lucky handgun destined for a few summer range trips.
Origin Stories & First Impressions
Released by KelTec in 2010, the company says the PMR30 owes much to Chief Design Engineer Tobias Obermeit’s “vision to build a semi-auto .22WMR pistol that holds 30 rounds in a flush-fit magazine.” That capacity stands out, but so too does the unique chambering that pushed the form of the PMR30 into some relatively unexplored places.
The simple fact of the matter is that the more powerful but longer .22 WMR cartridge doesn’t allow for a .22 LR-sized pistol frame. But neither does it require some of the beef and muscle that runs more potent 9mm and .45 ACP semi-autos. So, the PMR30 came out as a bit of an odd duck with dimensions to fit its needs more than its looks.
Specs & Features
This is hardly built as a minimalist pistol, featuring instead a host of extra screws and parts that are mostly part of the assembly process and need not be part of your regular maintenance regimen.
Even the takedown procedure is a unique experience compared to the vast majority of modern-production semi-auto pistols. In fact, a small mallet and punch make the whole process easier to remove the takedown pin that is not exactly a combat field-strippable design. The guts are also fairly unique. You’ll notice an added rubber buffer pad that lives at the front of the slide and a dual recoil spring that is semi-housed inside a barrel block that is separate from the barrel itself. It might seem a bit complicated, but after you remove the takedown pin, the disassembly and reassembly process is fairly painless and less so than some.22 LR plinkers.
I do struggle to imagine how you could fit more ammo into the gun without just extending the magazine. The spring pressure alone is already pushing the boundaries of what the casing can handle. After about 22 rounds, I noticed some dimpling of the brass casings as I loaded the magazine. The manual actually instructs you to tap the magazine once loading is hard to seat each round.
That can add to loading time, but there is no denying the joy of having a full 30 rounds at the ready. An ambi thumb safety also accompanies the gun, alongside a non-ambi slide stop. Just looking at the frame also reveals a host of nuts and bolts, most of which you should probably never really attempt to remove.
I did occasionally find it frustrating to get a solid grip on the very narrow slide, though it is light and easy to rack. Overall, it’s clear that KelTec wasn’t concerned so much with minimizing parts as it was with maximizing the uniqueness of the gun at a low price point. In an interesting feature, you also can rack the slide and load the gun with the manual thumb safety engaged. I added some additional specs below:
The trigger pull from KelTec is listed at 3 to 5 pounds, but it came in lighter for me. What I didn't yet list that is quite significant is the longitudinal grip width of about 2.25 inches at the center of the grip, putting it a bit ahead of a standard full-size Glock 17. So, somewhat awkwardly, the PMR30 is both wider and thinner than a fairly normal full-size gun grip but also chambered for a lighter caliber. That wide yet narrow grip is a learning curve for your hand.
There’s also about a half an inch to the trigger reset, but I only really noticed that when testing the trigger. The reset is audible, and the trigger hosts a travel stop on the rear of the trigger blade, which provides you with a nice and predictable travel distance for the reset every time.
Pew Pew Review
KelTec is currently running their marketing of the PMR30 around three tag words: fun, unique, powerful. I think that mostly sums up the gun. Certainly, I wouldn’t dispute the fun or the unique qualities to the gun. Power is relative, but at 30 rounds of .22 Magnum, I can tip a hat to that claim as well. I think, however, it’s also worth noting the sights and trigger as a nod to the gun as a target shooting companion.
The trigger is crisp and surprisingly light. At the same time, the sights are clearly a target friendly fiber-optic design, and you can also add a dot to the slide if that is your preference.
For all its eccentricities, the gun isn’t that much of an awkward turtle to actually shoot. The steep grip angle points the gun naturally with a single-hand grip and even better with the wide surface area to weld some flesh to for a two-hand grip. I burned through my first magazine mostly just trying to make the uncleaned gun fail, more on that in a second. But the second magazine of 30 rounds was a fairly easy 5-inch group at 25 yards even on a target that was swaying a fair bit in the wind.
Reliability is something I have heard complaints about for the PMR30, and I did have some issues myself. In the first 100 rounds, I had two light primer strikes. Granted, .22 WMR is a rimfire, and the gun was not really broken in. The next 150 rounds spent on my following range visit cycled flawlessly and ejected with gusto.
Anyone who wants to spend some serious time with the gun can certainly expect better results than my initial 5-inch group. Or, if you wanted to pop on a red dot, the gun is also ready to give you optics-ready precision. I can’t even blame most of the straying shots on my target on the gun. Most of them actually came from a relative amount of fatigue and impatience from the need to burn through 30 rounds in the same standing shooting position.
Where Does the PMR30 Fit In
I’ve been running into more and more pistol shooters who have been interested in stretching their shooting legs with a handgun to greater distances. A favorite, though more expensive choice, has been the flat-shooting 5.7 NATO round to stretch out their shooting ranges.
There are some relatively budget-friendly guns to do that, like the Ruger-57. But the PMR is playing somewhat inside the same space, with a budget firearm that has some range to it and adds on a more affordable chambering. Beyond that, it also rolls deep in the capacity category and at a weight that is undeniably light.
When I first got this gun in for testing, a buddy commented that he could see the appeal of having such a light package with a relatively effective small round just as a backup piece for a cabin visit, hiking trip, or even a hunt. The capacity and weight certainly make it an appealing ace in the hole at a minimal footprint.
I wouldn’t discount it for those rolls, and, with some more breaking in and testing, I might even be willing to toss it into the role of an emergency backup home-defense or survival firearm. It did have some hiccups in the first days of testing, but it improved over time and could earn that spot for some needs.
For my money, the PMR30 is a fantastic range gun, but it’s not really a pick I would make for self-defense. I would want to see more reliability over time to trust it to save my life, and .22 WMR is not exactly my preferred self-defense caliber – not that I would volunteer to be shoot with it. There are just better options for me. Small-game hunting, however, could certainly be in the cards.
In my mind, the PMR30 has three appealing features: capacity, weight, and innovation. It’s already pretty qualified to be a pest control gun for weight, caliber, and capacity, but target shooting and plinking seem to be where it fits in most naturally.
I wouldn’t call it a competition gun in its standard format, but it’s certainly a budget-friendly, enjoyable, and accurate option for anyone who wants to hone their pistol marksmanship. My only caution there is to map out your ejection pattern, because this gun can kick brass a good 35+ feet back and over my right shoulder.
Regardless, it certainly hits the mark on KelTec’s goal to make a “fun, unique, powerful” gun inside the .22 rimfire family.