Ask Ian: Good Bullpup Conversions

From John on Patreon:
“You’ve covered your fair share of strange conversion of firearms. Have you ever come across a bullpup conversion that was actually useful, and not a kludge?”


That’s basically the whole answer.

Okay, to elaborate a bit, it’s because making a bullpup use blue from either shoulder requires specific accommodation of the empty case ejection, and converting a standard rifle to bullpup configuration basically guarantees it will only be usable right-handed. Also, designing a good bullpup trigger requires specific intent in the design stage, and conversion triggers are always kludges. And lastly, the sights often end up mounted to some wobbly plastic extension.


  1. I agree with your answer. About the usually bad triggers on bullpups, why couldn’t an electric trigger such as is used on some “free pistols” be used? I realize they can be quite touchy at times.

  2. Muzzelite, Bullpup Unlimited, and High Tower Armory will be most disappointed in your review. It’s interesting that Muzzelite has now been on the market for 30 years or more, and is older than both the Tavor and VHS-2.

    In no way am I saying those are good conversions; I suspect the Muzzelite proves Ian’s point to the fullest. To be fair to Muzzelite, however, one suspects their Mini-14 conversion might compete well w/ the original L85.

    • One “advantage” of Muzzelite is its cool, modern looks (like Pancor J.),
      so it was used in many sci-fi TV shows and movies in the 90s.

  3. Wonder why so many people like them? Games? Unless you’re working in the close confines of a tank or helicopter, where’s the need? Even countries that have used them in the past have moved on to conventional designs, the UK notwithstanding.

      • You laugh, but pretend you’re carrying a 20# ballistic shield on your raid. You can have a Smith & Wesson Model 10, or a bullpup 12 gauge. Now it makes a lot more sense. Now imagine fighting from a car during a pursuit. The one-handed shotgun is looking pretty great.

        • Having used the High Standard 10B on a few occasions, I can attest to the fact that it’s an unpleasant little bastard to use.

          Quite aside from moving the muzzle blast and flash back until they are right in front of your nose, there’s also the factor that the rotating buttplate was prone to breakage. Meaning, the gun fires, the buttplate mount bends or breaks off, and you get punched in the shoulder or crook of the elbow by the rear end of the receiver. Which leaves interesting marks to say the least.

          About the only practical way to use the 10B is to hold it in the right hand by the pistol grip, try to get a good grip on it in front of the trigger guard with the off hand, and fire from the hip, as if it were a submachine gun- being used by an actor in a bad war movie.

          If you try it, you quickly learn that a standard-length patrol shotgun, either semi-automatic or pump-action, with a proper forearm, is considerably easier to control.

          If you’re concerned about OAL (as some detectives I knew were), the Choate folding stock/pistol grip combination for the Remington 870 could have the folding stock removed, leaving only the pistol grip. I found it more controllable from the hip than the 10B and frankly easier to hit something with.

          Although my standard shotgun was a Winchester M1897 12-gauge with a standard walnut stock. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

          clear ether


        • The next time an officer in the US shoots a firearm from a vehicle in a pursuit will be the first in probably more than 30 years.

          This day and age, some places can’t even pursue. I don’t know what other nations allow, but I can’t believe it’s more open.

  4. Where is attraction to bool-poop coming from? Answer: technical curiosity; it is kind of boutique-ish. I was in it a looong time ago too. Happily gave up on it. It is adding unnecessary hurdles both technically and operationally, for very little gain.

    I even shot one – the civilian version of Chinese QBZ-95; did not like it.

  5. Where is the attraction for bullpup conversions coming from? In the USA it was a way to retain a 16 inch barrel but have a compact and handy rifle. Basically a work around of a silly law.

    I have one bullpup conversion that I would say is a step above a kludge. It is an SKS I built with a AWB neutered Chinese SKS, with barrel shortened to 16 inches and recrowned. I built it using a kit from SG gunworks. Yes, it will only eject for a right hand shooter, but I am right handed so that does not matter. The trigger is actually good as far as conversions, no worse than a standard SKS. The only part that is kind of a kludge is you have to use the 20 round duckbill SKS mags in it, the 30 round ones won’t fit. It does have a really good rail for a red dot, and it holds zero well. It would not be my first choice, but it would do well enough to be a step above Kludge for sure, and it is a handy package.

  6. A Bullpup needs to eject brass in a way it is ambidextrous. The Style Aug needed a bolt change and ejection port change, thus a lefty could not use a righty Gun without a risk of getting hot brass in the face.

  7. All bullpups in serious calibers have what I consider a literally fatal drawback.

    That being breech failures. They happen. And when they do, the chamber tends to be where the failure occurs.

    A typical rifle breech failure blows the chamber and blasts both hot gas and metal fragments in a roughly semicircular arc up and to the sides at the front of the chamber, and downward often with enough force to shatter the stock.

    In a conventional rifle layout, this is anywhere from 20 to 25 cm in front of the shooter’s face. The greatest risk of injury is to the offhand forearm, which can be quite serious.

    In a bullpup, it is right under their ear. Next to the neck, the aorta, the esophagus, the carotid artery, etc. The risk there is almost instantaneous death.

    If a 5.56 x 45mm fails, you have about 430 MPa (~62,500 PSI) worth of pressure turning that chamber into a creditable imitation of a fragmentation grenade. Conventional rifle layout means the directionality of the energy release is far enough from vital organs that it is probably survivable for the operator. The same cannot be said for the bullpup layout.

    The bullpup is the answer to a question no sensible person ever asked.



  8. Whether designed from the ground up or converted, the bullpup layout is really incompatible with current technology. If they manage to make caseless work…? Maybe.

    So long as you’re stuck with modern firearms tech, you’re better off defaulting to the standard layout, and sucking it up. Bullpups are just not amenable to actual use in combat. I twitch uncontrollably every time I see video of some poor schmuck trying to do close combat with them, and I’d never suggest taking one to war to anyone.

    Biggest issue is that whole “reach up into your armpit to reload magazine” issue. Ejection can be dealt with, but the reload cycle, where you have to take your attention off your surroundings and lose situational awareness? That gets people killed, and not necessarily the guy with the bullpup, either. I’d love to know how many fellow soldiers have been killed because the situation changed while someone was concentrating on their reload, and then failed to track that someone nearby had moved. Unfortunately, this kind of thing is never really examined by the “powers that be”, or documented as being of any import. I’d wager that there’s a much higher percentage of “blue-on-blue” in bullpup-armed militaries than in ones who issue conventional designs, and who pay proper attention to ergonomics when it comes to weapons handling. If you have to think about what you’re doing with your weapon while reloading, clearing, or doing misfire drills, you’ve done f*cked up, as a designer. Period.

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