Florida-based Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc. is well-known for manufacturing small, lightweight pistols, and the company’s SU-16 line of rifles follows this same philosophy. The SU-16CA is a hybrid of the SU-16C and SU-16A rifles. It comes with the same 16-inch barrel with chrome-lined bore and chamber and 1/2-28 threads as the C model. All features from the C model are retained and combined with the stock of the A model. This combination did make for a lightweight set-up, as our rifle weighed in at a little over 5 lbs. When we bolted on an optional collapsible stock with an integrated pistol grip, it brought the Kel-Tec’s weight up to only 5.5 lbs. The SU-16CA differs 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. Made of plastic, it has a series of molded ridges on it to assist in grasping it. The lever reciprocates upon firing and acts as a brass deflector. This surface became nicked from ejected brass during our testing. The barrel and action are 4140 steel, with the balance of the gun constructed of Zytel polymer. Additionally, the barrel is chrome lined for corrosion resistance and has a twist of 1:9. It comes with ½-28 threads covered by a knurled cap thread protector. Two plastic 10-round magazines came with the rifle, and it can accept standard AR magazines as well.
The plastic forend had molded checkering and becomes a bipod by splitting in half and folding forward. An optional AR-style compact forend was also provided. Kel-Tec did a very good job in molding textured areas on the SU-16CA. We found that holding the gun was secure and the pistol grip was particularly comfortable. When we took trigger-pull measurements, we noticed a clicking sensation followed by a clean break at 7.1 lbs.
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. The magazine release consisted of a plastic rectangular button located just forward of the trigger guard.
The safety was a crossbolt located above and slightly behind the trigger guard. It was beveled on the left side and cupped on the right. It’s set to fire when the bolt is pushed from the right to the left. The bolt lock/release located on the bottom of the SU-16A is adjacent to the mag well.
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.
Remington .223 Rem. 55-grain MC L223R3V produced our highest average velocity at 3025 fps and also our smallest average groups at 1.4 inches. 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. At the line, we also shot Monarch Brass .223 Remington 55-grain Soft Points into 1.6-inch five-shot average groups at 100 yards. Silver State .223 Rem. 63-grain Sierra Soft Points were only slightly behind at 1.5-inch average group size.
If you’re not wedded to an AR-15 platform, this light little rifle offers a comfortable-to-carry option for a field carbine.