I’m not exactly sure why I always end up loving unusual guns. Perhaps it has something to do with my low expectations. When one outperforms its reputation, I get quite the pleasant surprise. What’s special about the .223 Remington-chambered Kel-Tec SU-16C “Charlie” model is its unique folding stock and ability to fire folded. The rifle isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but like may Kel-Tec guns, they are not known for their looks.
Kel-Tec built its reputation on making reliable, simple guns that are thin and easy to store, carry and conceal. Building on the overwhelming demand for Kel-Tec’s latest guns, it has become a giant name in the gun industry and acquired thousands of loyal fans. Besides the weird-looking PMR-30 and hyped KSG, Kel-Tec builds a no-nonsense gun you can depend on.
Not intended as a substitute for an AR-15, the SU-16C is piston operated like an AK-47 and uses a Johnson/Stoner breech locking system. It is a simple gun with few parts. Other than the receiver, barrel and operating parts, the rifle is made of high-impact reinforced polymer. The stock is not adjustable; however, it folds under the rifle for compact storage. Unloaded, the SU-16C weighs only 4.7 pounds. Though it sounds like there isn’t much too it, this is not a flimsy gun. Just wait until you shoot it.
The 16-inch barrel is medium weight with a 1:9 twist and ½ x 28 TPI thread. The gun has a chrome-lined bore and chamber. It comes with a 10-round Kel-Tec plastic magazine that fits flush into the mag well. It also accepts any standard AR-15 magazine of any capacity. The black polymer stock and forearm—that doubles as in integrated bipod—was scratch-free and the metal did not show any tool marks or rough edges. The overall parkerized finish was clean.
Unfolded, the rifle is 35.5 inches long. Picking up the gun and shouldering it is natural, with a good feel and fit, but also a little awkward. The barely-there pistol grip doesn’t give you much to hold and positioning my hands took a few readjustments to feel like I had a good hold. The forearm-combo-bipod is textured for a better grip. On either side of the forearm, there are too incredibly stiff buttons to release the bipod. I was only shooting off-hand, so I did not use the bipod feature. I’m sure it will come in handy when shooting for precision, varmint hunting and pest control.
The stock locked securely in place. There was no wobble while unfolded. When folded, the fit was also tight.
Even fully loaded, the gun is extremely lightweight and I worried about the effect the recoil would have on me. I was pleasantly surprised how much the thin recoil pad absorbed the shock. Recovery for follow-up shots was no big deal. This gun isn’t a shoulder beater. Though the stock is not adjustable, the length of pull was not too long. The 15.5-inch sight radius worked very well given the distances I was firing from.
For a basic, not-fancy sight, the front gas block with AR-15-style front sight post offered a wide and clear sight picture. I got on target quickly without a problem. Shooting nearly at point of aim, I didn’t adjust my sights before or during my range trip, nor did I need to. Rounds were hitting right where I wanted them too. My first groups measured one inch, but after I got more comfortable holding the rifle, I was soon hitting holes into holes.
The charging handle is on the right side of the gun and serves double duty as a shell deflector. Charging the Kel-Tec takes little force. The action was smooth and quick. Every spent case ejected away from me. The push button safety is accessible from the left or right side of the rifle and the location was perfect. I didn’t have to remove my strong hand to operate it. The trigger pull measures between five to seven pounds. Though the reset is crunchy, it broke consistently every time. I have no complaints. Also located on the right side is a square push-button magazine release.
A button on the back of the stock lets you fold it under the pistol grip, trigger guard and magazine. The SU-16C will fire while folded, with access to the magazine for reloads. Firing it folded is a hot mess. There is no good way to hold it and aiming is very difficult. I fired four rounds folded and I’m pretty sure I didn’t hit paper. But for it being a lot of rifle, 25.5 inches folded, it didn’t jump, or hurt nearly as bad as I thought it would. For me, the only convenience for the folding stock is for easy storage and transport and serves no shooting purpose.
Thoroughly cleaned and lubed before I took it to the range, I tested three different types of ammo—Australian Outback 55-grain Sierra Blitzking, Ultramax, and a mystery round found in the range bag. The Kel-Tec didn’t seem to prefer any particular one. I had no problems or issues with accuracy and did not experience one malfunction.
Purchased for the purpose of a truck gun, the Kel-Tec ran flawlessly. I was highly satisfied with its sights and accuracy. The owner was surprised and glad to hear I did not experience any problems. Did it perform? It sure did. I’m anxious to hear further reports from the gun’s owner after he has put hundreds of more rounds through it.
Specifications and features
- Caliber: .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO
- Barrel: 16″ chrome-lined barrel with 1/2×28 threads at the muzzle, 1:9″ RH twist
- Capacity: 10 round magazine
- Safety: Ambidextrous push bolt manual safety
- Sights: Adjustable front and rear sights
- Stock: Under-folding polymer buttstock folds for compact storage and still allows the carbine to be fired when folded
- Accessories: Integrated picatinny rail and forend folds down to form a bipod
- Overall length: 25.5″ to 35.5″
- Weight: 4.7 lbs unloaded
Do you have a Kel-Tec SU-16? If so, what version? What do you like and dislike about it? Tell us in the comment section.