Review: The Kel-Tec SU16CA


Review: The Kel-Tec SU16CA

To say I am a big proponent of the Kel-Tec SU16CA is an understatement. I have used this gun in various scenarios for about the last 3 years, and all I can say is that it is the best .223 carbine purchase I have made to date. It is light weight, reliable, and very accurate. It is also easy to operate, and once you learn how to run the gun, it has many operating advantages over the AR platform.

The SU16CA is not easy to find, but they are out there. And scoring one is definitely a good thing.

The SU16CA is a variant of the normal Kel-Tec SU16 A and C models with features of both combined to make a different model. The gun has the normal A model folding stock that will NOT allow firing when folded. (Many states don’t allow this.) And it has the Front Sight made as an integral part of the gas block like the C model eliminating the plastic front sight of the A/B models. It also has a Fore End that opens to become a Bipod. Some say it was created for California. I live in California and can’t really speak to that, however with 10 round mags it is completely legal to own and shoot here.

The weapon is a Gas Operated Semi-Automatic Piston Driven Carbine in 5.56×45/.223 Rem Caliber. The Operating System can best be described as a cross between an AR and an AK as it uses the same style Piston/Op Rod as an AK, but the bolt/breach lock up is like an AR. The action sees no gas or debris. As such the gun runs clean and can go many hundreds of rounds before needing cleaning. The barrel on this model is also Chrome Lined and runs Brass or Steel cased ammo equally as well.


The rest of the gun is made largely from Glass Filled Polymer, which yields a significant weight savings over similar caliber guns and yet provides the needed strength to keep all the important piece parts together and lined up. These guns are lightweight at 4.7 lbs stock. My gun with the mods shown in the picture at the top of the article, including the Kel-Tec M4 style Handguard (which eliminates the Bipod Fore End feature), a Bushnell TRS25 Red Dot Sight, a side mounted 1.5” Nylon Sling, a YHM Compensator, a Streamlight TLR1S Weapons Light, and two loaded mags in the butt. With all that it weighs in at 6 lbs 1 oz!

The magazines are interchangeable with AR mags, and the gun has a place in the buttstock for two spare 10 round magazines. The Kel- Tec mags are very similar to P mags but have an extra small dimple in them so they can be retained by detent pins in the buttstock. I keep loaded KT Mags in the butt and use P mags for the majority of my shooting, that way I always have a spare 20 rounds on board. The gun balances really well with 10, 20, or 30 round P mags. I favor the 10 and 20 round mags most as they aren’t in the way when going prone. I have enough problems even getting prone without having to fight a mag on the way.

This weapons system can literally be a “Grab and Go” tool that would give the owner excellent capabilities in a bug out situation, as well as many options for ammunition resupply. The gun is 26” long when folded and pulling the ringed pin on the pistol grip is all it takes to make this happen.


Shooting the Weapons System

My main use for this gun so far has been using it for Local 3 Gun Competitions and for Rifle Classes at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute. It ran flawlessly with a variety of ammunition on all occasions.

Accuracy is more than acceptable for these disciplines at about 1.5MOA, and with the TRS 25 Red Dot sighted at 50/200 I can hit an 8×10 steel target every time from 100-200 yards off a rest, and about 8/10 at 300 with @ 12” holdover. The gun comes to the shoulder quickly and points instinctively. The safety is a cross bolt type located above the trigger and is easily released when coming to point.


This gun has proven very effective as a 3 gun rifle, and since it is so light in weight when hanging off the sling during a transition to sidearm it doesn’t get in the way nearly as much as my AR or Mini14. It points and shoots so fast that shots on close targets are literally Dot-Bang! Dot-Bang! As soon as the dot comes to bear, the shot breaks. You don’t even think about it.

It is by far the fastest shooting gun I have ever owned, and that includes my skeet and trap shotguns.

My biggest accomplishment with this gun is 2nd place in a 60 man shoot-off at a recent Front Sight Rifle class. I beat 4 others with high end AR’s to get to the final.

The Final lasted a total of 3 seconds for me, and a little more than 2 seconds for the 27 year old Ex Scout Sniper fresh out of the Marines and Afghanistan who beat me. I am 65 years old! I got a lot of mileage out of that performance in front of 60 shooters and 5 instructors.

The SU in the Model number stands for “Sport Utility.” And when used in that context this gun really stands out. Many have criticized it for not being a true “Battle Rifle,” and not being able to take a beating. Some videos on YouTube say otherwise, but really it wasn’t designed to be a Battle Rifle. It was designed to be used for sporting purposes and could conceivably be used effectively for defensive purposes should the need arise. In this context or even in the role of a “Truck Gun,”or as an easily stowed lightweight weapon to carry in a back pack, it is second to none. There is literally nothing else like it.

I really like this gun, and you will, too, as soon as you shoot one.

Note: I don’t work for Kel-Tec or anyone else for that matter. I own a machine shop and do Aerospace work. I am simply a gun enthusiast that knows a great gun when I shoot it.

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