June 29, 2010

Kel-Tec SU-16CA 5.56 NATO/223 Rem., $890

(GunReports.com)--Florida-based Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc. has carved a niche in manufacturing small, lightweight pistols which feature simple no-nonsense designs. The SU-16CA follows this same philosophy. The barrel and mechanism are constructed 4140 steel with the balance of the gun constructed of Zytel, a reinforced plastic polymer. Additionally, the barrel is chrome lined for corrosion resistance and has a twist of 1:9. It comes with ½-28 threads, but no flash hider is supplied. Instead, a knurled cap serves as a thread protector. The SU-16CA was by far the least expensive rifle in our tests, coming in at a little more than a third the list price of the Sig Sauer.

When we unboxed our test rifle we found that it came packaged… in the box. No pretense was even made in supplying a thin plastic carrying case. Our first reaction when eyeing the gun was not unlike the one we had when holding a Glock for the first time. Gads, there is a lot of plastic on the gun. This combination did make for a lightweight set-up, as our model weighed in at a little over 5 lbs. We did replace the standard folding stock with an optional collapsible version ($120). This bolt-on replacement had an integrated pistol grip and includes the trigger group for the gun. Adding the stock brought the Kel-Tec’s weight up to a still-svelt 5.4 lbs. The plastic forend had molded checkering and becomes a bipod by splitting in half, and folding forward. An optional AR-style compact forend ($48) was also provided, but we chose to leave the full-length version in place. We did note the Kel-Tec did a very good job in molding textured areas on the SU-16CA. We found that holding the gun was secure, and found the pistol grip particularly comfortable. Two plastic 10-round magazines are supplied with the rifle, and it can accept standard AR magazines as well.


Courtesy, Gun Tests

Our initial qualms over the Kel-Tec's heavily plastic construction were soon replaced with appreciation for its light weight and nimble construction. While not a target rifle, it ate everything we fed it and delivered reasonable accuracy in the process.

Once we reconfigured our gun to the retractable version, and made sure to align and tighten the stock and trigger assembly, we took trigger-pull measurements. We noticed a slight clicking sensation as the trigger was taken up, followed by relatively clean break at a slightly higher than advertised 7.1 lbs. The testers all rated the Kel-Tec’s trigger as average for a defense-style rifle.

The SU-16CA differed quite a bit from an AR in its control location and operation. The Kel-Tec uses a side-mounted operating handle rather than a charging handle It is made of plastic and has a series of molded ridges on it to assist in grasping it. The lever reciprocates upon firing and acts as a brass deflector. We did note that this surface did become nicked from ejected brass during the course of our testing.

The bolt head is an AR-15 style, and locks open when the magazine is empty. The gas piston system on the Kel-Tec is non-adjustable, and is reminiscent of one found on the AK-47. The magazine release consisted of a plastic rectangular button located just forward of the trigger guard. The safety was a crossbolt configuration located above and slightly behind the trigger guard. It was beveled on the left side and cupped on the right. Firing position is achieved when the bolt is pushed from the right to the left. The bolt lock/release is located on the bottom of the SU-16A adjacent to the mag well. It is not readily detected, and a couple of our testers were rummaging around the gun in an effort to find it.


Courtesy, Gun Tests

We replaced the standard fixed stock on the Kel-Tec SU-16CA with an optional adjustable model ($129.90). Note that the trigger assembly is part of the stock replacement unit.

The sights on the SU-16CA consisted of a partially hooded sight post that can be adjusted for elevation and a single aperture rear peep sight. The rear sight is adjusted for windage and elevation by repositioning the sight up and down the flat-top rail and by using a pair of Philips-head tensioning screws. The sights on the Kel-Tec were by far the hardest to fine tune of our three guns, and the least accurate.

Accuracy testing found the SU-16A to be surprisingly well behaved despite its light weight. It lagged just behind our other two test rifles with all three types of ammo tested, turning in a best average group of 1.4 inches with the Remington 55-gr. MC loading. The piston in the Kel-Tec seemed to moderate the felt recoil and supplied consistent performance with no malfunctions. Empties were thrown slightly forward with some inconsistency in their pattern.

The action testing of our gun proved to be problematic. The first shot elicited a note of surprise from our tester on the firing line and others inside the rifle tunnel of Bass Pro Shops, as a watermelon-sized ball of flame leapt out of the barrel. The iron sights were completely overwhelmed by the fireball, making fast firing at 25 yards all but impossible. We had to move the target to the 15-yard mark to allow us to overcome the flashbulb vision effect to complete our testing. Our Team Said: Despite the operating problem of the fireball, several of our testers came away more impressed with the SU-16CA than their first impression had given them. It was agreed that after a flash hider was added, the Kel-Tec would make a good backpack or in-vehicle rifle.

Comments (3)

You folks aren't fair! Why didn't you add a $45. Flash suppressor still a dirt cheap rifle. Why not look at the 7.62 bull pup version? There's a real gun!
P.w.PRAWL CDR usn ret.

Posted by: longarm45 | July 22, 2010 4:57 AM    Report this comment

It is unfortunate that you added the pistol grip/stock accessory. That changed the configuration of the CA model. Therefore, not a test of a true CA.

I have a C model. I love it. I may add the pistol grip accessory. I have added a Levang compensator/flash suppresser.

It is a compact, lightweight, reliable, accurate (for it's intended purpose) carbine.

I would like to get another one (a CA model) and install the pistol grip accessory to make a viable alternative to an AR. I am just waiting for my local gunshop to have a sale on that model.

I would recommend this carbine to my friends.

Posted by: RICHARD H | July 1, 2010 11:07 AM    Report this comment

This may be worth a look.

Posted by: esqlaw44 | July 1, 2010 10:21 AM    Report this comment

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