The firearms industry continues to experience unprecedented consumer demand for guns, from pistols to shotguns to rifles, as well as for related accessories and ammunition. One of the most popular firearms available today is the AR-15, a rifle platform produced by multiple firearms manufacturers. These modern sporting rifles, as they are sometimes called, are usually chambered in 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington and many mimic the M4 carbine used by the United States Armed Forces.
While the AR-15 is a semiautomatic version of the M4 and its predecessor the M16, it otherwise copies its light weight, detachable magazine, and near limitless ability to be accessorized with lights, lasers, and other gear. Not everyone needs or wants an AR-15, however, so related weapons such as the Kel-Tec SU-16C provide an interesting alternative and perhaps even greater value. The SU-16C you see here offers unique built-in features including a bipod and an innovative folding stock for greater adaptability.
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington
- Weight unloaded: 4.7 lbs/2.1 kg
- Length: 35.5″/901.7mm
- Length folded: 25.5″/647.7mm
- Barrel length: 16″/406.4mm
- Magazine capacity: 10-round magazine supplied, STANAG compatible
- Twist rate: 1:9″/1:228.6mm
- Trigger pull: 5 lbs to 7 lbs/22.2N to 31.1N
- Sight radius: 15.5″/393.7mm
- MSRP: $770
Kel-Tec’s SU-16 series of rifles (available in variants A, B, and C) are almost entirely made of high-impact reinforced polymer. Only the barrel and operating components are metal. Designed and engineered using precision CNC machining, all of the SU-16 rifles offer excellent fit and finish.
Each SU-16 variant features an integrated bipod that doubles as the forward handguard when not deployed. While not as robust in construction as a traditional metal bipod, the SU-16C’s bipod’s strength lies in its versatility. If you want it, it’s always there. If not, it tucks away and serves as the handguard. Further enhancing its adaptability, the SU-16C adds a “Charlie” style folding stock allowing a user to shorten the overall length of the stock for easier storage or use.
Other than those features, the SU-16C is a standard rifle chambered in 5.56/.223. The included magazine holds 10 rounds and sits flush with the bottom of the magazine well. If a user prefers more capacity, standard AR-15 magazines will fit with the stock extended or folded.
While equipped with a standard ghost ring rear sight and post front sight, an integrated Picatinny rail allows for the addition of other sights, optics, or lasers.
On the range, the SU-16C delivered consistent hits—all 10 rounds inside an eight-inch ring—to a steel silhouette target at 80 yards using only the ghost ring and post sight while standing, unsupported. Deploying the bipod and shooting while laying prone allowed me to quickly put all 10 rounds inside a four-inch ring. Adding a red dot optic improved shooting speed at shorter ranges.
The new Remington .223 rounds and old, bulk-purchased .223 rounds I ran through the SU-16C fed, fired, and ejected reliably with a couple of exceptions: two spent cartridges failed to fully eject. Both were old, dented rounds from the bulk pack of .223.
All of the SU-16C’s components functioned as they should and the heavy bolt managed recoil very well. It wasn’t as easy to fire as an AR-15 but for such a small and lightweight rifle, the recoil of the SU-16C was very manageable. Firing the SU-16C with the stock folded up but without a laser aiming system of some sort was an exercise in futility; the folded stock, however, made it possible to store or pack the SU-16C very easily.
At a retail price of $770, the Kel-Tec SU-16C is at the low range of the price scale when compared to most AR-15s. For that price, however, the SU-16C comes ready to go, right out of the box, with very good sights, a built-in bipod, and a folding stock. So while it can be further accessorized, it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking for an accurate, 10-round .223 that stores and deploys very easily, the Kel-Tec SU-16C seems like a tremendous value.
A solid performer all around, the Kel-Tec SU-16C gets four stars for referability. Without any prodding from me, others at the range were intrigued at the weapon, asked lots of questions, and friends gladly took up my offer to shoot several rounds through it. They liked its light weight, manageable recoil, and simplicity of use. At half of the price of many AR-15s, the versatility and value proposition seemed strong to most as well.
Images by R.J. Prees