Kel-Tec introduced its .22 Magnum PMR-30 in 2011 and has made improvements since then. In my professional opinion, the PMR-30’s development brought the .22 Magnum from the four-legged varmint realm to the two-legged arena. Yes, I know the two-shot derringer and five-shot mini-revolver were designed specifically for personal protection—personal protection at 5 feet with two or five rounds.

With its 30-round magazine and 4.3-inch barrel kicking out 30-grain projectiles at an average of 1,513 fps, the PMR-30 is a formable weapon for defense. The single-action pistol uses a hybrid blowback operating system and a lightly textured polymer frame to help reduce weight. To that end, the gun only weighs 14 ounces unloaded.

Real-World Testing of the Kel-Tec PMR-30

I tested a PMR-30 to see how .22 Magnum rounds would perform in terms of penetration at 15 feet. The first target consisted of two 2×2 sheetrock pieces mounted on 2×4 lumber to simulate an interior residential wall. I also tested the gun against a 1.75-inch-thick interior hollow-core door, which is typical around here in newer homes.

For ammo, I used CCI’s 35-grain A22 and 40-grain Maxi-Mag loads, Hornady’s 35-grain Critical Defense FTX rounds and Winchester’s 30-grain Supreme JHPs. All four sample rounds penetrated both sides of the mock sheetrock wall. In fact, these same projectiles also passed through both sides of the hollow-core door, which was directly behind the mock wall. Of course, the rounds also went through the door on its own, too.

I have no doubt that these .22 Magnum rounds would pass through the average solid-wood door at close range. I also shot all four types of rounds through a 55-gallon metal barrel, and they all penetrated easily.

Based on my testing, I can also say that any round fired within a home would not likely reach or penetrate a neighbor’s outer wall. If you live in an apartment, however, the rounds could penetrate into a neighbor’s home with possible deadly results. So this test showed that even though it’s a .22-caliber round, it will pass through much more than you would think. Always be mindful of the direction you are shooting in, especially if you have to defend yourself in an apartment.

Even though lighter bullets are not recommended by Kel-Tec, I fired 100 rounds of the Winchester 30-grain JHPs with flawless performance. In total, the PMR-30 digested over 1,000 rounds of various ammo with only one cleaning. Early on in the testing, two rounds failed to load when charging the weapon. But 900 rounds later, there wasn’t a single problem caused by the gun.

A Second Opinion

I set out to get the opinion of a woman searching for a home-defense firearm. The woman I chose, Dena, is a professional in the medical field, a wife, a mother and a full-time graduate student. Saying she’s busy is an understatement. And on occasion, her husband, Jamie, has to travel for work for extended periods of time.

To expose her to a few options, I handed Dena several firearms to try out. She fired a .22 Magnum mini-revolver, a larger .380 ACP, a five-shot .38 Special snub-nose and a 17-shot 9mm semi-auto. Then, after she finished shooting these samples, I handed her the Kel-Tec PMR-30 in .22 Magnum.

When Dena first handled the pistol, she remarked on how light it was. This reaction is typical; you expect a full-sized heft when you see such a large semi-auto. But when you pick it up, even when it’s loaded, you’re in for a huge surprise.

And Dena seemed to take to this pistol right off the bat. She had no problem racking the slide to load the PMR-30. After shooting 20 rounds for familiarity, I had Dena start shooting at a range of 10 yards. A home invasion, depending on the size of your home, would likely be closer in the 2- to 10-foot range.

Dena did rather well dumping a 10-round magazine, but she was firing low in what would be the groin area. I showed her the proper grip for this weapon and placed a fresh target closer to 5 yards, or 15 feet. She then picked up the charged pistol and fired 10 rounds at the target, with impressive results.

She repeated this drill once more in rapid fire, doing exceptionally well. I showed her how to shoot instinctually and explained that this type of practice needs to be repeated at least two times a month, but every week is preferable for serious home defenders. In high-stress situations when the flight-or-fight instinct kicks in, muscle memory will take over. So, I talked to Dena and her husband, a retired Marine, about having a plan. Since they have a teenage boy at home, they need to include him in this potential course of action. We discussed several possibilities based on their home’s physical layout.

At the end of the testing, Dena stated that she loved the PMR-30. Jamie agreed, shaking his head in an affirmative manner. They both thought the PMR-30 would be a good firearm for traveling the open road as well as an excellent home-defense firearm thanks to its sheer volume of rounds. The idea of having 60 rounds in two magazines greatly appealed to them. Jamie felt the PMR-30 would also make a good light firearm for backpacking.

Yes, it is possible to stop an attacking bear with the PMR-30 if you are close enough. In 1953, a lady named Bella Twin killed what was then the largest grizzly ever with a single-shot .22 rifle. It was reported that she dropped the monster bear with the first shot to the head. So, 30 hard-hitting .22 Magnum rounds from an experienced shooter should sway the tide of battle in your favor. I know the next time I backpack into the Rockies, I will have my PMR-30 in my Uncle Mike’s Sidekick holster, which is a perfect setup for outdoor adventures.

Have A Plan

If you want to defend your home, you must have a plan based on the dynamic layout of your home and who is most likely to be at home in the daytime, evening and overnight. A lady alone with several small children will have a different plan than a warrior-minded man alone. Herding several excited small children would be next to impossible in times of high stress.

A middle school child would take their cell phone and run in the safest direction out of the house, calling 911 as they exit the home. They would run to a predetermined safe location where they then would call their parent. Nothing in the home is worth this child’s safety. For you parents, you know your child and can plan from there.

An unexpected knock on the door or ring of the doorbell must be viewed with caution any time of the day. You must have some way to view this person to assess if you will open the door or not. If my wife does not know them and they are not wearing a uniform from UPS, USPS or FedEx, she ignores the knock.

Being married to a cop for 47 years, my wife’s dirt-bag awareness is keen and fairly accurate. If the foolish unwanted visitor tries the door knob, she dials 911 and gets out her handgun. Being one who does not want to be shot, I announce my presence when I come home through the garage.

In my case, a late-night caller better be an American hero with a badge on the other side. Anyone else would warrant an automatic 911 call while I simultaneously pulled out the Kel-Tec PMR-30. But as law enforcement, I would operate differently than a civilian would. If someone is at your door, do not confront them. If they are trying to kick their way in, then this is a different matter. Prepare to defend your castle and all who reside within it.

The PMR-30 can shoot through a medium-size wooden door. The first five rounds coming through may not be deadly but will leave no doubt in the mind of the attacker you are serious. If they still come through, you will have 25 more rounds to share with them.

Peace Of Mind

The innovation at Kel Tec cannot be understated, like in the new KelTec P17. In all, I personally and professionally highly recommend the PMR-30 for home defense. I also recommend this pistol to backpackers, hikers, survivalists and preppers. Also, in instances where critically injured animals must be dispatched for humane reasons, I believe the PMR-30 would be ideal for law enforcement.

Like the gun, the .22 Magnum test ammo all performed beyond my expectations. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Dena and Jamie for their participation; I’m glad they had a blast with the Kel-Tec PMR-30.

Kel-Tec PMR-30 Specs

Caliber: .22 WMR
Barrel: 4.3 inches
OA Length: 7.9 inches
Weight: 14 ounces (empty)
Grip: Textured polymer
Sights: Fiber-optic
Action: SA
Finish: Matte black
Capacity: 30+1
MSRP: $455

For more information, visit

This article was originally published in “Personal & Home Defense” #204. To order a copy, visit

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