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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

KelTec Wants to Send Guns to Fight Russia in Ukraine

KelTec arms headed to Ukraine. Image Credit: KelTec.

From around the world individuals, non-profits and small companies have stepped up to aid the Ukrainians in their defense. Police departments and even individuals from across the United States have supplied body armor and helmets for the war effort.

Some U.S. firms have also been working to put arms and ammunition in the hands of Ukrainian fighters.  Ammo Inc. and Remington have each pledged to send a million rounds, while Cocoa, Florida-based KelTec announced that it would send 400 firearms – valued at $200,000 – to arm civilian volunteers.

The semi-automatic rifles had been ordered by a customer in Ukraine prior to Russia’s unprovoked invasion last month. After Adrian Kellgren, who heads up the family-owned KelTec, failed to reach his client, he looked into how he could still send the cache of weapons to Ukraine.

Kellgren told The Associated Press that he felt it was necessary to supply the rifles to Ukraine’s nascent resistance movement.

“The American people want to do something,” explained Kellgren, who is also a former U.S. Navy pilot. “We enjoy our freedoms, we cherish those things. And when we see a group of people out there getting hammered like this, it’s heartbreaking.”

Lots of Red Tape

However, getting the firearms to Ukraine wasn’t just as easy as boxing them up and printing a shipping label. While KelTec’s export license allows it to export up to 10,000 weapons, it must still contend with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which often require approvals from the Departments of State, Commerce and even Defense.

That process can often take months.

Kellgren, who said he has dealt with such red tape for years, was able to cut through after a Ukrainian neighbor helped connect him with a diplomat in the Ukrainian Embassy. That enabled KelTec to secure the necessary federal arms export license in just four days.

Workers at KelTec’s warehouse have since prepared four plastic-wrapped pallets containing the company’s 9mm foldable rifles for delivery to an undisclosed NATO-run facility. From there, the shipment’s new recipient, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, will be responsible for smuggling the weapons into the war zone.

Kellgren has looked to do more, and even offered the Ukrainians their own production line for the rifles along with weekly shipments of components.

To aid other gun companies that wish to help, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) – the firearms industry’s trade association – has posted the contact information for the individuals at the Department of Commerce who can likely assist in the efforts to export firearms and other military equipment to Ukraine. In addition, the NSSF provided a list of what weapons and types of ammunition are now being sought after by the Ukrainians.

Arming Ukraine

While the rifles from KelTec and other U.S. gun makers may not be much of a match for Vladimir Putin’s Sukhoi fighter jets, hypersonic missiles, and cluster bombs, small arms could be just as crucial as Russian troops, including Syrian volunteers experienced in fighting in close quarters, move into the urban centers. Ukraine is ready for the fight ahead but still lacks enough weapons to arm everyone ready to fight.

Images have already circulated that show recruits having to learn weapons handling with broomsticks and planks of wood cut to look like an assault rifle. Moreover, antiquated World War II era firearms have been taken out of storage, and citizens are being taught to make Molotov cocktails, which can be used against Russian tanks.

“Every shipment of firearms is critical,” Major Spencer, U.S. Army (Retired), an urban warfare analyst at the Madison Policy Forum, a New York-based think tank, told The Associated Press. “You’re giving one more fighter, out of tens of thousands, the opportunity to resist with a simple-to-use weapon.”

Ukrainian volunteers – including women and children – are already training to fight with any weapon they can find.

“The people of Ukraine have had mostly just civilian firearms and they’re holding off a superpower,” added Kellgren. “So the X-factor here not isn’t necessarily what equipment you’re holding… it comes down to the will to fight.”

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.