At the Range with Kel-Tec’s SU-16CA

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.Kel-Tec-SU-16CA-bipod 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. Kel-Tec SU-16CA 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 thrKel-Tec-SU-16CA-rightead 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.

Kel-Tec SU-16CA Stocks
We replaced the standard fixed stock on the Kel-Tec SU-16CA with an optional adjustable model. Note that the trigger assembly is part of the stock replacement unit.

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.


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Comments (17)

  1. If you replaced your Keltec SU16 standard stock with something else, I would like to buy the standard stock. I have an SU16 with the C stock & I hate that stock. I want something more substantial in a standard rifle stock not AT pistol grip style. If I had wanted an AR I would have bought an AR.

  2. My CA model has done nothing but jam from the day that I bought it. I replaced the extractor and that cleared up the failure to extract problem, but the empty cases hit the charging handle and don’t clear the exjection port. Kel Tec said they would sell me a new charging handle. Kel Tec has been less than helpful through this ordeal. I keep hoping to fix the problems so I can depend upon it, but alas, Kel Tec doesn’t want that to happen.

  3. The SU-16 series of rifles is in fact chambered in 5.56mm. The only ones that are marked differently are the ones that were manufactured for the canadian market. The rifles are still identical to the american market ones. Again, the SU-16’s are all chambered for 5.56mm

  4. Every review Ive see says these are fantastic rifles- downside is that they are NEVER in stock with a dealer/distributor… Prices are low but availability is scarce at best. Further reviews are simply teasing the willing but unable consumer!!!

  5. I saw one of the “C” models, with the folding stock, at a gun show 2 weeks ago and the price was $750 which, compared to an AR is cheap these days. I didn’t get it though because it’s a .223 cal. and not a 5.56.

  6. It is about time that the manufactor of firearms and accessories take a stand. The citizens have been resisting and fighting back for years to keep the rights under the second admendment.

    It is always the gun that is at fault, not the person holding it. A recent article I read showed that one state had not been filing information on mental subjects. After the Connect shooting that started reporting of 94,ooo names that they had held back for years. There is no place on this planet that your are absolutely safe. The only ground you own is under your two feet if you are armed.

    If you watch the news regularly, you will see that people are killing other people with knives, bow & arrows, cars, ropes, poison, clubs, etc. People who carry concealed weapons can stop them because the police only show up afterwords. Think of all the lives that could have been saved in Colo Theater shooting if a conceal carry had been present.

    I applaude the manfactures, developers, suppliers of guns for taking a strong stand against the gov infringement of law abiding citizens.

  7. Great little carbine. But the point of impact shifts about 5 inches between using the forehand as a bipod and just resting it on a sand bag. Very sensitive to how the rifle is supported. But sweet to shoot, nonetheless.

  8. The SU 16CA price was about $540 a few months ago in a local gun store. Current price is unknown based on all the changes that have occurred. I have fired one and really liked it. It had the folding stock and the ability to fire from a folded position is a good option. The folding stock, by what I have read, can fold up with 20 round AR magazines but not the Magpul due to the slot size in the folding stock itself. The only negative I have read a about them is there may be a “slowness” of operation with the spring but it was easily resolved with a small amount of oil to function correctly.

  9. I have become particularly fond of this particular firearm. I personally have the SU-16C and it has so far served me very well. During my initial break-in on the rifle I fired 200 rounds without so much as a hiccup. I have struggled with the decision of purchasing the pistol grip/collapsible butt stock for it however, I have come to rather like the folding stock of the “Charlie” model. It’s a sturdy rifle that does exactly what it was designed to do. It’s very light weight and has the molded in picatinny rail on the top which accepts all kinds of optics. As it stands now I’m looking for a good 1-4x optic for it. The front sight is also a AR-15 commonality part. It is adjusted identically. The rear sight does leave a bit to be desired though. Adjusting the rear sight is easy and straight forward but it’s advisable to dab a little thread locker on it to mitigate any creep. I will note that the stock you have installed on your model is currently out of stock at Kel-Tec and has been for several months now. This rifle is certainly a fantastic “survival” rifle and backpacking rifle. It accepts standard AR mags and the C and CA models accept standard AR muzzle devices. It should also be noted that the extractor is another AR commonality part and can be replaced and upgraded with aftermarket parts such as the BCM SOPMOD extractor kit.

  10. The gun and ammunition manufacturers need to be the leaders in this battle for the 2nd amendment assault the government is forcing on law abiding citizens. Any law they pass they should be held to the same standard… Quit selling ammunition, small arms and assault weapons to the government and see how quickly they change their tune…
    I say ban the government from assault weapons! Ban the government from clips over 7 rounds!
    And also make them take the same mental health tests that they want all prospective fun buyers to take!!
    That alone would disqualify nearly the entire administration!!!

  11. @ Jesse A. Daring…. you are correct. Being a good guy is no longer good enough. Despite the fact that good guys just want to be left alone, despite the many rulings by the SCOTUS and circuit courts upholding the Constitution, activist progressives and liberals just wont go away. Its no longer going to work to sit back and wait for onslaught after onslaught and always play political defense. There is a great effort underway to divide the rock solid gun lobby. Be wary of any democrat who says things like “I support our traditions” or “the right to hunt,” “the majority of Americans,” and the biggest red flag of all “common sense reforms.” These code words are indicative of liberal solidarity with Obama and the rest of extreme left. This is the language of the gun grabbers who support the eventual disarming of citizens. Progressives know conservatives are politically less active if not lazy. We got the govt we deserve unfortunately. Time for conservative constitutionally minded people to become activists too, progressives for the Constitution. Why should we not be like the Swiss? Every household in possession of and trained how to use “personal defense weapons” …talk about homeland security! Armed civilian volunteers patrolling and protecting our schools feom liberals off their meds. How about some laws that protect commerse barring legislation intended to stop firarms and accessory manufactures from producing and selling their goods? These are just some ideas. Start bogging your states legislature with double the amout of PRO gun and Consitutional bills as there are anti 2A and unconstitutional proposals being introduced. Lets face it being reactionary and complaining on forums isn’t going to be enough anymore

  12. I have had my SU-16 for a couple of years, bought it when they first came out. It shoots better than this shooter shoots and has been very dependable. I have shot at least a thousand rounds through it with no wear and tear evident. I have scope-mounted mine and it is just right for back pack carry in your bug-out bag. My wife’s bugout bag is also outfitted with the Kel-Tec PMR-30. I might also mention that I have the Kel-Tec SUB-2000 in 9mm, another excellent choice for a bugout bag. The Glock extended 33-round mags work quite well with it. Now, however, where can one even get a supply of military surplus to practice with (which is why I chose the SU-16 and the SUB-2000?????????????????

  13. My compliments.

    Unfortunately, your merchandising “tactics” toward government(s) has become necessary. We American’s have been taught, since we were kids, to do the right thing, show good sportsmanship, “don’t throw the bat,” so to speak, but apparently we need to fight back, metaphorically of course?

    I assume the media, soon enough, will have to be held accountable in a similar fashion. Wearing the white hat and being the good guy is not quite good enough anymore. We need to reiterate to a plurality of Americans, that Government works for the citizens and the Constitution limits the Government, not the citizens! Oh, and as for the media–“always tell the truth.”

    JA Daring
    Purveyor of Rhetoric

  14. The real su16C (not CA) has a folding stock the allows the rifle to be fired from the folded or open position. This makes it usable as a survival rifle and much easier to carry. When I saw the CA version my first thought was California!!

  15. I like the concept except for the trigger. I have all my AR-15’s triggers down to about 3 Lbs. I hope the Fix stock has a 13 inch trigger reach. You might make one model with a barrel with the muzzle break cut into the barrel or pinned to the barrel. Just in case there is a law against having a screw-on muzzle break or from having it look like an AR/military rifle.

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