Kel-Tec has made a name for itself with its compact handguns and pistol-caliber carbines. Its latest offering, dubbed the SU-16C or Sport Utility Rifle, is a semi-automatic rifle chambered for the .223 Rem. cartridge. It will accept most standard AR-15-type magazines and the fore-end can be unfolded to form a bipod for more accurate shooting. Like Kel-Tec’s previous carbine, the SUB 2000, the SU-16C can be taken down to a size of 27x7 1/2 inches for compact storage.
The rifle is built around polymer upper and lower receivers that are hinged where the trigger guard meets the magazine well. The two halves are held together by a steel take-down pin that runs through the wrist of the stock. The lower receiver is split vertically and held together by six machine screws. It contains the trigger assembly and provides an attachment point for the stock. An aluminum barrel block is molded into the front of the upper receiver, which also contains the bolt assembly and the magazine well.
The rifle’s system of gas operation most resembles that of the Beretta AR-70. Inside a gas tube above the barrel, expanding propellant gases transfer energy to the operating rod that is fixed to the bolt carrier. A coil spring surrounding the operating rod compresses as the bolt assembly is pushed to the rear by the expanding gasses. Once gas pressure has dropped, energy from the compressed spring pulls the operating rod and bolt assembly forward and back into battery.
The 16-inch barrel has a stepped profile. Its diameter measures 0.74 inches from the receiver to the gas block, which reduces to 0.62 inches from the gas block to the muzzle. The gas block also serves as a base for the A2-style front sight post, which is detent-adjustable for windage. Wings extend upward from the gas block to prevent damage to the sight.
A Picatinny rail molded into the top of the upper receiver provides a base for the rear sight aperture, which is screw-adjustable for windage. The rail also serves as a mounting point for aftermarket sights.
A long vertical slot in the comb of stock allows it to fully rotate over a 30-round AR-15-style magazine. The supplied ten-round magazine, however, cannot be removed or inserted through the slot because of its wide floorplate.
Controls include a charging handle on right side of receiver, a round crossbolt safety button at the rear of the trigger guard (reversible for left-handed operation) and a square magazine release button forward of the trigger guard. The latter is fenced to help prevent accidental release. Neither factory nor aftermarket magazines will fall out of their own empty weight, so semi-circular cut-outs on both sides of the magazine well aid removal.
The bolt stop keeps the action open after the last shot from the magazine is fired, but there is no bolt stop lever.
The curved polymer trigger blade of the SU-16C has a grooved face. After a little take-up, the single-stage unit broke cleanly, but with an 8-pounds, 2-ounces pull, it was heavy compared to other semi-automatic carbines of this type. For our accuracy testing we chose a variety of hollow-point and soft-point loads from Federal, Winchester and Hornady. Given the barrel’s intermediate 1:9-inch twist rate, bullet weights were limited to no more than 62 grains.
Since the gun is compatible with AR-15-style magazines, we added some examples from Brownell’s to the gun’s testing regimen. There were no malfunctions of any kind.
The stock of our test gun locked securely in place when extended, and though it looks like the stock has just a top half, it had enough surface area for a good cheek weld.
No studs or loops are provided for attaching a sling, so backcountry adventurers on foot may find that limits its utility, but those in search of a reliable .223 Rem. carbine that can be stored in a small space for predator control, survival or self-defense need look no further because the Kel-Tec SU-16’s compact dimensions make it a useful accessory for a ranch truck, boat or small plane.
Manufacturer: Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc.; (321) 631-0068; Kel-Tec-cnc.com
Caliber: .223 Rem.
Action Type: Gas-operated, semi-automatic center-fire rifle
Receiver: Zytel upper and lower with aluminum barrel block
Barrel: 16 1/2" carbon steel
Rifling: Six-groove, 1:9" RH twist
Magazine: Polymer double column with 10-round capacity supplied, takes standard AR-15 magazines
Sights: Post front detent-adjustable for elevation, aperture rear screw-adjustable for windage, integral Picatinny rail
Trigger Pull: Single-stage; 8 lbs., 2 ozs.
Stock: synthetic: Length of pull, 13 3/8"; drop at heel, 1"; drop at comb, 1 1/4"
Overall Length: 37 1/2"
Weight: 4 lbs., 11 ozs.
Accessories: Manual, 10-round magazine
Suggested Retail Price: $640