February 10, 2011

Kel-Tec SU-16 .223 Remington

The bulk of our evaluations at Gun Tests consist of head-to-head match-ups of like weaponry. However, every once in a while we come across firearms that occupy such a small niche, that competing products are hard to find. The best that we can do is match them up by job function, and see which product we prefer.

The job this month is long-gun self defense. The Kel-Tec SU-16 is, for all intents and purposes, a lightweight AR-15 that folds in half.

The Kel-Tec SU-16 version of the AR-15 rifle featured a barrel and mechanism composed of 4140 steel, but the remainder of the gun was constructed of DuPont Zytel, or reinforced polymer. The forend could be unlatched, splitting in half to drop down and form a bipod. We found that the amount of support this bipod offered was not rock solid but it was helpful when used in conjunction with additional support. For this reason our accuracy tests were performed with the forend locked into the traditional position. However, when we received the SU-16 we had difficulty locking both halves of the forend into place along the barrel. We were finally able to seat the forend by removing material along the edges where the two pieces met. The magazine release was in the familiar position just ahead of the trigger guard on the right side, but the safety and the charging bolt varied from standard AR-15 design. The safety was a crossbolt assembly mounted above and to the rear of the trigger guard instead of being available to the thumb on the left side of the weapon. The safety was hollow on the right side and capped on the left side. (Safety off required pushing the bolt right to left). The charging mechanism was a simple bar operating just above the magazine well on the right side.

Kel-Tec did a good job of adding grip to the slippery polymer and creating tactile clues for the safe operation of this carbine. The forend, pistol grip area, and the sides of stock toward the butt were textured with useful checkering. The magazine release, however, was left smooth, and we found it to be lost among other nearby raised surfaces. We would have preferred a checkered magazine release to prevent the index finger from slipping off into the trigger guard.

Courtesy Gun Tests

Courtesy Gun Tests

This "packable" AR-type carbine met or exceeded our expectations. How many folding high-capacity semi-automatic rifles are there anyway? The addition of a red-dot scope would make this carbine vastly more effective, we think.

Overall length of the SU-16 measured 37.5 inches with a maximum height of just over 7 inches. Folded for storage, the SU-16 became a package measuring 26.2 inches long and approximately 7.5 inches in height. Weight was 6 pounds with the two supplied polymer magazines stored (empty) in the underside of the stock. The SU-16 will also operate from standard AR-15 magazines. Kel-Tec claims this same storage space is compatible with either a single 20-round or 30-round magazine, but we couldn’t get a 30-round magazine to settle into this compartment. We found that a 20-round magazine could be stowed, but the resulting fit wasn’t ideal.

To fold the SU-16, we removed a single pin in much the same way that disassembly begins for an AR-15. But in this case the pin must be completely removed. Once folded, loss of the pin is prevented by slipping it back into the channel on the top end. A wire retainer mated with grooves in the pin kept it in place. It might be wise to keep an extra pin on hand.

The sights on the SU-16 consisted of an oversize aperture rear sight that was mounted on the Picatinny rail and a hooded front blade that sat about 2 inches above the muzzle. The front sight can be moved left and right to change windage and up or down to effect elevation. The manual provided exact information regarding how much the sight was to be moved versus the resulting change in point of impact. The rear sight can be moved forward or back, resulting in a change of sight radius that would further change elevation. However, in our opinion, the locking pin was seated so tightly into the rail that attempting to remove it would cause irreparable damage to the pin, the sight, the rail or all three. So, we decided to leave it in place and live with the original point of impact, which at 50 yards turned out to be about 10 inches high.

Courtesy, Gun Tests

Courtesy, Gun Tests

The SU-16 could be folded from about a 3-foot-long carbine to a 2-foot-long travel package. This meant removing a pin (shown loose at right). Also, magazines (either two 10-round magazines or one 20-rounder) could be stored in the stock.

Our test ammunition consisted of 62-grain FMJ rounds from Federal American Eagle and Winchester USA. Our third choice of test ammunition was a remanufactured load by Georgia Arms (770-459-5117) that featured Winchester cases and a 55-grain FMC bullet. Average velocity was topped by the Federal rounds that moved at 2919 fps and produced the most muzzle energy of 1174 foot-pounds. The sights proved to be as clear as they were simple, and we rated the 6-pound trigger as acceptable in terms of feel. Since each of the carbines was designed for high-capacity magazines, we dispensed with the practice of measuring mere three-shot groups. Instead, we fired five-shot groups, just like we would a pistol. Results from a sandbag rest met our expectations for this little folding carbine. We landed the most consistent groups in combination with the Federal American Eagle rounds, with little variation from the average measurement of 2.2 inches per five-shot group. The Georgia Arms rounds, which have scored well in the past with other rifles, managed a 3.0-inch average group, and the five-shot Winchester groups varied from 2.3 to 3.0 inches in size.

To improve this performance and simplify adjusting the point of impact we thought that the best bet would be to simply top the SU-16 with a scope. Our first choice would be the Sightron S33-4R scope, because it offers excellent light and a choice of four different reticles, ($233 from Brownells, 800-741-0015). But, any number of dot scopes would likely be up to the task making the Kel-Tec SU-16 even more appealing.

The only question left in our minds was durability of this folding gun. We opened and closed the SU-16 repeatedly in an attempt to disrupt alignment, and we fired over 250 rounds through it without the benefit of lubrication. So far we have not seen any hint of malfunction.

Comments (32)

I have a cu-16 only becouse it's very low milage piece,(taken out 2 times),and was bought for $300.00. Thats abought half what he paid, according to the reciept. I don't like the pin system, but the saddle ring fix is a good idea. The cheesey plastic mags can and do fall out, and the bipod is really crap. Other than that the gun fires with no problems of any sort.You get what you pay for, and I myself would rather pay extra to get the cheese out. But for $300 I felt I did pretty good

Posted by: Ryder James | March 23, 2011 4:52 PM    Report this comment

I have a cu-16 only becouse it's very low milage piece,(taken out 2 times),and was bought for $300.00. Thats abought half what he paid, according to the reciept. I don't like the pin system, but the saddle ring fix is a good idea. The cheesey plastic mags can and do fall out, and the bipod is really crap. Other than that the gun fires with no problems of any sort.You get what you pay for, and I myself would rather pay extra to get the cheese out. But for $300 I felt I did pretty good

Posted by: Ryder James | March 23, 2011 4:52 PM    Report this comment

I have a cu-16 only becouse it's very low milage piece,(taken out 2 times),and was bought for $300.00. Thats abought half what he paid, according to the reciept. I don't like the pin system, but the saddle ring fix is a good idea. The cheesey plastic mags can and do fall out, and the bipod is really crap. Other than that the gun fires with no problems of any sort.You get what you pay for, and I myself would rather pay extra to get the cheese out. But for $300 I felt I did pretty good

Posted by: Ryder James | March 23, 2011 4:52 PM    Report this comment

As long as you are building on an already established cartridge, what could be the problem? That's how I "sell it" to "my Queen".

Posted by: RICHARD H | March 22, 2011 1:07 AM    Report this comment

I went to a gun show this past Saturday, and I was sorely pressed not to buy a Kel-Tec SU-16C. Instead, I bought a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .38.....for my wife. She really digs the integral laser sight. I did, however, exact a trade with her. I called her from the gun show and offered her the S&W BG38 if she would give me her Kahr PM9. She agreed, and now each of us has a new piece to play with. The PM9 is only slightly larger than the Ruger LCP that I have been carrying as a pocket back-up, so I have semi-retired the LCP as I can now carry the PM9 in a Galco pocket holster as a more authoritative back-up than the LCP. I just love wheeling and dealing in firearms.

The problem I now have, though, is what's going to happen at next month's gun show when I see the SU-16 again? Even though I have the Kel-Tec PLR-16 pistol and plenty of other 5.56/.223 rifles I may have to relent.....

God, I love living in Texas!

Posted by: canovack | March 21, 2011 10:58 AM    Report this comment

I have a comment... what is the matter with you? You have a new gun since February and you haven't shot it yet? That ain't right! ;)

Posted by: Markbo | March 20, 2011 7:12 PM    Report this comment

decesions:A Rug Mini or This Kel-Tech?I Have had my SU 16 since Feb and I have not tried her yet.The Q I ask is Converting the StockForend> Tripod to the ACC Forend and the Collapsable Butt Stock and a Sling System. Or Just Keep it Stock as I Like The Fold Up Stock for Bug Out Back pack Self Defense, and Matinance feature. I found a Saddle ring and Pin had a freind GS drill hole in pin for the"Ring, works great, for a fast take down! (to Replace the Stock Lock Pin!). I Like the Piston Op Cheaper simple.I Like The Reviews on Ammo You Guys Posted here! I Have Remm 55 g and 62 and The Tul 223.I want to try Fed 5.56X45 Lake City to! in 55g I hope to have some fun! Comments Apreciated.. Let Freedom Ring!

Posted by: nvvarmenter | March 17, 2011 1:43 PM    Report this comment

Markbo, I am getting <2" from the bench with 3 different types of cheap commercial ball. Spreads out a bit more than my AR at 200', but that probably has more to do with the ammo than the gun.

Posted by: jv2 | February 16, 2011 10:22 AM    Report this comment

First, "Praise the Lord for Texas" and second, just wish Kel-tec would spend as much time producing as they do inventing.-Try to find wholesaler who have PF-9 pistols for sale to dealers. Can't spell!

Posted by: ljones | February 14, 2011 11:03 AM    Report this comment

First, "Preaise the Lord for Texas" and second, just wish Kel-tec would spend as much time producing as they do inventing.-Try to find wholesaler who have PF-9 pistols for sale to dealers.

Posted by: ljones | February 14, 2011 11:02 AM    Report this comment

All f you guys that actually have one... what kind of accuracy are you getting with optics at 100yds. 2.2" average to me personally is completely unacceptable in ANY long gun. Maybe you are getting better.

Posted by: Markbo | February 13, 2011 1:49 PM    Report this comment

Well Bear 1, as an old retired Army officer, and equally as an old retired Texas educator, anything I can do to assist in the cause of freedom and liberty is something that I can relish. I am especially glad that I was able to help one of our Disabled Vets find something that would fit his income. While I have plenty of 5.56mmX45 pieces in my collection I do think the SU-16C is a really cool piece, and I may just have to find a way of trading something for one. This will likely also bring a smile to the face of Richard H.

Posted by: canovack | February 12, 2011 5:45 PM    Report this comment

Hey Canovack I want to say Thank You Very much because you kinda guided me to the Kel Tec when I was looking for a good AR still rifle that I could Aford on my Disabled Vets income. The first one I bought was the 16B and found out that my brother had gotten the 16CA, and after helping my brother set his up with a AR15 scope from Sportsmans Guide I went and bought the 16ca for my self and scoped it with Quick release AR16 scope, only problem was when I got my 16CA was the other half said now the 16B is hers no ifs ands or buts!!!! I do wish I could get the 16C with the pistol grips because it will fire with the stock folded but Commifornia Republic of say no no. God Bless America and Our Troops Past Present and Future. Keeping to My Oath Locked Loaded and Keeping My Powder Dry Get the US out of the UN and the UN Out of the US

Posted by: bear1 | February 12, 2011 2:25 PM    Report this comment

Yes, Richard H, magazine compatibility IS an important consideration. The fact is, I have that compatibility between the PLR-16, the S&W M&P-15, and the SIG Sauer 556. Unfortunately the Galil does not accept M-16 magazines. I'd guess that with the Kalashnikov heritage of the Galil, one would think that the Galil would take AK-47 mags, but that is not the case. I'd guess that the Israelis didn't want to borrow too much of the Soviet design, and they are independent enough that they didn't want to use M-16 mags either.

Posted by: canovack | February 12, 2011 12:00 PM    Report this comment

Well, unlike the fellow above carping about KelTec, I've had nothing but good experiences with the ones I've had/have. I myself recommend them to folks who need a good quality firearm on a limited budget. And I've been thinking VERY hard about getting a 16C for my bug out kit. While I would ultimately love to get an RFB, that one doesn't really fall into the low price category.

Posted by: cmblake6 | February 12, 2011 4:11 AM    Report this comment

Ah, I see.

You have everything covered with what you have. You have total magazine compatability between your PLR-16 and your S&W M&P 15, as an example. You don't NEED another rifle.

Posted by: RICHARD H | February 11, 2011 9:18 PM    Report this comment

Your point is well taken, Richard H, but with a Smith & Wesson M&P 15, a Golani Galil, and a SIG Sauer SIG 556.....all in 5.56mmX45 caliber and all with full shoulder stocks, in my collection, I am not particularly wanting for another small bore rifle. Still, the idea of a folding rifle is intriguing.

Posted by: canovack | February 11, 2011 7:03 PM    Report this comment

You would get a shoulder stock and a longer barrel (less noise). Other than that, you would be able to mount a more powerful scope for better sighting accuracy.

Now if you could mount a shoulder stock on your PLR...... (You would have to register it and pay the tax.) But Kel-Tec has their Delta version that pretty much does that.

Posted by: RICHARD H | February 11, 2011 2:44 PM    Report this comment

I have the PLR-16 pistol version of this piece, and it shoots every time I pull the trigger. I have thought about buying the SU-16, but I keep asking myself why I need a folding rifle when the PLR-16 pistol does just about everything I would need to do with the rifle.....and the pistol is considerably smaller than the folded rifle.

Posted by: canovack | February 11, 2011 12:53 PM    Report this comment

I am a arms dealer willing to have all new weapons report time to time.

Posted by: Cobra 4 | February 11, 2011 4:35 AM    Report this comment

Crap...like all Kel Tecs. Yes, ive owned a few, thats how I know. Their "customer service" sent me parts, but I had to do the gunsmith work myself. Not much of a warranty in my eyes. Junk, stand clear, and buy anything, anything else

Posted by: Myk9noseKnows | February 10, 2011 9:53 PM    Report this comment

It's "for all intents and purposes a lightweight folding AR15"?

Why? Because it'll accept AR15 mags and it's a semi-auto .223?

Give me a break. It's a completely different operating system and requires completely different manipulations.

... And it functioned through a whole 250 rounds?!... After opening and closing it multiple times??!!

Impressive.

What a joke.

Posted by: JJ4 | February 10, 2011 9:38 PM    Report this comment

You guys have got to try out the RFB 308 Nato too. They really outdid themselves with this one!!

Posted by: WINDRIDER53 | February 10, 2011 6:07 PM    Report this comment

I really like mine. Reliable piston operation keeps it cleaner than the dirty AR gas tube system.

I need to get a PLR-16 to make the set. Nothing better than ammunition commonality than magazine commonality!

Get the Kel-Tec muzzle brake for both. Accessories from Kel-Tec are priced reasonably.

I wish Kel-Tec would just sell a collapsing stock, pistol grip, fore-end rail system, muzzle-brake equipted version. It's the one you see being held in the promo box. I can't imagine it cost much more than their standard rifle.

Posted by: RICHARD H | February 10, 2011 5:31 PM    Report this comment

Agree with lotoofla and winrider53. I had a problem with one of my mags, and it was addressed promptly and cheerfully. Love this little gun. Compact, light, accurate, very tough.

Posted by: jv2 | February 10, 2011 4:02 PM    Report this comment

Have had the Charlie version for a year or so and love. It will consume any type ammo I feed it including steel case without a problem.

Posted by: Grizzly | February 10, 2011 3:18 PM    Report this comment

As with all Kel Tec products, these are tough little AR type rifles & if problems arise, Kel Tec will make it right under their liberal lifetime warranty...

Posted by: WINDRIDER53 | February 10, 2011 2:42 PM    Report this comment

SamWho This is a warranty problem,send it back for a free fix.

Posted by: lotoofla | April 9, 2009 3:13 PM    Report this comment

I've owned one of these for over two years. The extractor had to be replaced with one from Armalite right away and the bullets really go low when using the bipod. It's an good little plinkster, and for California, it's a great little evil black rifle. Ah, to be in a real state!

Posted by: schreibmachine | March 26, 2009 6:50 PM    Report this comment

I live in Minnesota and found this rifle does not function well in cold weather - clean or dirty, with or without lubrication. The bolt will not travel far enough forward to lock up and needs assistance with every shot.

Posted by: SamWho | March 26, 2009 4:32 PM    Report this comment

Obama, Hillary and Charles Schumer have sold more "Black Guns" than Stoner could have imagined.

Posted by: johnlaw | March 26, 2009 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Nice rifle- too bad you can't find one...

Posted by: KURT L. H | March 26, 2009 9:40 AM    Report this comment

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