Hours after using a Smith & Wesson AR-15 to kill seven people and wound another 48 during Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade, the suspected shooter was arrested in Madison, Wisconsin, where police discovered more weapons in his vehicle, including a folded Kel-Tec SUB2000 rifle that had been stashed in a backpack.
Developed at the turn of the century by the same inventor who created the infamous TEC-9, the SUB2000 is a semi-auto rifle designed to fire pistol-caliber 9mm or .40 S&W ammunition. As Kel-Tec describes it, the SUB2000 is “light/compact/effective” and “picks up where handguns leave off” because it has a longer 16-inch barrel, and “[b]arrel length translates to velocity which translates to power downrange. You’ll get the most out of your pistol ammunition right out of the box.”1Kel-Tec, “SUB2000,” archived April 30, 2023, https://web.archive.org/web/20230430150531/https://www.keltecweapons.com/firearm/rifles/sub2000/.
More importantly, the gun folds in half. Kel-Tec states, “Folded, it tucks away nicely in situations where space is limited, but it’s quick to deploy in situations where time is of the essence.” The company even recommends it for “backpacking trips.”2Ibid.
The Kel-Tec SUB2000 was also one of three firearms used in the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, in March 2023.
Folding guns like the SUB2000 may seem like a niche product, but they have been embraced by larger manufacturers — Smith & Wesson debuted its own similar version of the SUB2000 in February 2023 — and are emblematic of an industry that has pushed a “guns everywhere” agenda for decades, urging more people to carry guns in more places. Dozens of gun manufacturers market and sell weapons designed specifically for concealed carry, for example, and lobby for states to ease their carry restrictions.
Folding guns are exceptionally easy to conceal on one’s person, or in a backpack, like a handgun. For years, a number of companies have offered full-size rifles, including AR-15s and AK-47s, with folding or collapsible stocks as well as “discreet” backpacks and cases to carry them in. But some folding guns are also very difficult to identify as firearms when folded. In other words, they can hide in plain sight.
For example, in March 2016, a startup called Ideal Conceal caught headlines for debuting the IC380, a “cell phone gun” that featured two .380 ACP barrels and looked like a smartphone until the grip was deployed, revealing the trigger. With the IC380, a shooter could easily pull the gun from their back pocket — as shown in an image on the company’s homepage — and unleash it on unsuspecting victims, raising concerns among police.
In May 2017, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) determined that the IC380 was legal to own — and not considered an “any other weapon” (AOW), a catch-all term defined and regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 to include concealable weapons, such as cane guns, pen guns, and other oddities — because the pistol could not be operated unless the grip was folded downward.
Moreover, the term “any other weapon” does “not include a pistol or a revolver having a rifled bore, or rifled bores, or weapons designed, made, or intended to be fired from the shoulder and not capable of firing fixed ammunition.” This caveat provides some leeway for guns like the IC380, which is a pistol with a rifled bore, and the SUB2000, which has a shoulder stock.
joining the fold
While Ideal Conceal closed its doors in 2022, other companies have carried on its legacy. In 2017, Trailblazer Firearms introduced the .22-caliber, single-shot LifeCard pistol, which is marketed as being “no bigger than a stack of credit cards” when folded, and more recently, the company unveiled a version with a threaded barrel so shooters can attach a silencer. Trailblazer Firearms also debuted a folding 9mm rifle, known as the Pivot, which can be stowed in a small bag or case like the SUB2000, at the 2022 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show.
In 2021, Magpul, the largest producer of firearm magazines in the U.S., announced that it was developing the Folding Defensive Pistol (FDP) and Carbine (FDC) in partnership with gun maker ZEV Technologies. Based on a design that had been in the works in 2008, the FDP and FDC look like small tool boxes when they are folded, but pushing a button quickly deploys them into fully functional firearms that use 9mm Glock magazines. Magpul first showed off prototypes of the guns at the 2022 SHOT Show and plans on releasing them in 2023.
The 2022 SHOT Show also served as the launching point for Standard Manufacturing’s Switch-Gun, a .22-caliber revolver that folds for easy concealment in a pocket, but at the push of a button, the top half of the gun flips outward, not unlike a switchblade.
These recent introductions — at the gun industry’s largest trade show, no less — reflect a growing trend toward smaller, easier-to-conceal firearms that put more people’s lives at risk, especially now that, thanks to lobbying from gun groups, a majority of states have enacted laws allowing residents to carry firearms in public without permits, background checks, or training.