Ok folks, today I’m going to get us started off with perhaps one of the most widely adopted weapons platforms in the U.S., the 5.56mm/.223rem semi-automatic sporting rifle/defensive carbine. When most think of this platform, they immediately jump to theseries of rifles. These are a battle proven design that I carried for many years in the and placed my life on the line with on more occasions than I would have liked. The AR-15 today is one of the most reliable and adaptable platforms known to man. There are pistol variations and sniper variations and everything in between. Perhaps the most widely used is the 16″ barrel model which is the shortest legal barrel length for a rifle under the , that is without paying for a $200 tax stamp and registering it as an (short barreled rifle) but we will get to that another day.
The AR platform is of course not without it’s drawbacks. First and foremost is that they are generally expensive. It’s not uncommon to see rifles on the rack at your local dealer with a base price of over $1,000. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t really have a grand sitting around that’s really all that disposable for a firearm purchase. The other problem with the cost is that generally that $1,000 will only get you a base rifle with no bells and whistles that are so popular today. They also work off of a direct impingement gas system which is a fairly dirty way of doing things. This system uses a tube from the gas block to vent hot gasses and carbon from the barrel back into theto push the bolt carrier group back against the buffer and recoil spring. This causes a buildup of carbon and fouling inside your upper receiver and in your trigger group in the lower receiver as well. There are models that utilize a piston to drive the bolt carrier group instead of the hot gas along which certainly run cleaner. I myself have zero experience with this particular system as it was not adopted by the U.S. Military and they are cost prohibitive for me to own (take that $1,000 price tag for a base model and jack it way up). There are also conversion kits to a gas piston system for the AR-15 which seem to be well received.
Enter the Kel-Tec SU-16C. At $575(Price paid, MSRP is listed at $770) this 4.7lb firearm is a long stroke gas piston operated carbine with a 16″ threaded barrel. It accepts the same reliable magazines that feed the AR-15 platform which range in capacity from 5rds on up to 100rds and any muzzle device that the AR platform accepts. This firearm is constructed of a glass reinforced polymer known as Zytel where possible and steel where necessary to save weight and reduce cost. It sports a parkerized finish on the steel and the barrel is chrome lined (earlier versions were unlined and newer versions I’m told, will be salt bath nitride treated). It has an integral picatinny rail on the upper receiver for optics mounting and the fore end converts to a bipod to stabilize longer shots. The “star” bolt will look familiar to those of you who know the AR platform. This model also has the underfolder stock that permits the carbine to be fired while folded, and stored very compactly. The front sight was borrowed from the AR platform as well. The operating system for this rifle however, is pure AK-47.
Just last week I took myto the local range to put it through it’s paces. Prior to my range time I took the time to fit the carbine with an A2 flash hider. Ammunition used was 55gr American Eagle Tactical 5.56mm. The owners manual very clearly states that the carbine requires at least a 200 round break in and that you may experience a few malfunctions during this process. I experienced none, although in full disclosure my buddy that went to the range with me experienced a double feed during his string of fire. The double feed was cleared and no other malfunctions were experienced. Being as my local range is an indoor facility, the range only goes out to 25yds, so that is the distance to which this carbine was zeroed. Sight adjustment is simple and straight forward. If you shoot high adjust the front sight post up. If you’re shooting right, adjust the rear sight to the right. I was able to get a good zero in 9 rounds. Kel-Tec includes a tool to adjust the windage, they do not include a tool to adjust the front sight elevation, so I was left to make adjustments with a pick from my OTIS cleaning kit and a Leatherman Wave Multi-Tool. You can buy a tool to adjust both windage and elevation from Kel-Tec for around $15. This kinda bothered me though. If they are going to include a tool to adjust one sight, why not include the ability to adjust all of them? One issue I experienced was heat. This carbine does get hot, although so does an AR when you put 200 rounds through it in fairly rapid succession. If you intend to do a fair amount of shooting I highly suggest a good pair of shooting gloves and judicious hand placement.
My final impressions of this little lightweight carbine are quite favorable. Accuracy is on par with any AR type rifle I have fired. This carbine is well suited for outdoor use when you’ve got miles to cover and weight is a concern. It also makes a pretty outstanding truck/ranch gun. The durability remains to be truly seen as I’ve only done the initial break-in on this rifle but it’s looking promising. Just prior to writing this review I did notice upon a teardown and cleaning that just in front of the hammer, it appears as though the hammer had impacted an area of plastic in front of the trigger housing group and has caused some stress to the plastic. A phone call to Kel-Tec support left me with the answer that this is a common wear point on the SU-16 series of rifles and will not impact the performance of the rifle in any way. I will however be keeping a keen eye on this and make any updates necessary. All in all I’m satisfied with this carbine and look forward to using it for years to come. As for now stay safe, train and, have a good ‘un.