Kel-Tec SU-16C 5.56mm Carbine


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

March 18th, 2009




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Back in August of 2004, I reviewed Kel-Tec’s SU-16 rifle. It was a handy little lightweight 5.56mm that proved to be very reliable, and plenty accurate enough for a defensive rifle or to serve as predator control around the farm. Back then, Kel-Tec had only one model of the SU-16. It has now become the SU-16A, as Kel-Tec now has three other designs of their SU-16 carbine. The SU-16B is very much like the SU-16A, but with a thinner and shorter barrel. The SU-16 CA model has the stock of the A and B, but with a sixteen inch barrel that is threaded to accept attachments. The SU-16C is the model featured here, and it has a true folding stock, and the weapon can be fired with the stock in its folded position, unlike the A, B, and CA models that are rendered inoperable with their stocks folded for storage. The final model is the SU-16D, which is like the C model but with a shorter barrel and a bayonet lug. The SU-16C is, I believe, the best of the bunch. Like the earlier SU-16 that I reviewed back in 2004, the forearm deploys without tools into a lightweight bipod, which makes a good field rest for better accuracy. It is not a heavy, rock-solid machine rest, but does help to steady the rifle, and adds no weight or bulk. Like all of the SU-16 models, the C can use any AR-15 magazine of any capacity, including the one-hundred round Beta C-Mag. The magazine release works just like on an AR, and is a push-button on the right side. Even with a thirty-round magazine in place, the SU-16C stock can be easily and quickly folded or deployed without removing the magazine. In either position, the stock locks in place solidly, and is very secure and steady.

The SU-16C is also very light weight. It weighed in at just four and three-quarters pounds, empty without a magazine. The sixteen inch barrel measures .622 inch in diameter, and has a one-in-nine inch twist. The overall length measures 35.5 inches with the stock deployed, and 25.625 inches with the stock folded. Again, it can be fired with the stock in either position. It will also fold by removing the cross-pin, like the rest of the SU-16 family, reducing the overall length even further for storage. The SU-16C has a crossbolt safety that pushes from right to left to fire, and blocks the trigger when in the “on safe” position. The SU-16C has an integral Picatinny rail atop the receiver for mounting a scope or other optical sight, and the windage-adjustable rear aperture sight mounts to the rail as well. The front sight is a marked improvement over the sight that was on the SU-16 that I reviewed earlier. The SU-16C front sight is a vertical post, adjustable for elevation correction, like the sight on an AR-15/M-16, and is well-protected from damage. Very good choice. The muzzle of the barrel is threaded 1/2x28 to accept standard flash suppressors, muzzle brakes, or sound suppressors, and wears a knurled thread protector. Disassembly for cleaning is very quick and uncomplicated. The gas system uses a piston above the barrel, and is both simple and reliable. As for reliability, it was perfect. Using a variety of 5.56mm and .223 ammunition, every round fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. The action remains open after the magazine is empty, and empty cartridge cases were thrown slightly forward and to the right. The cases showed no damage of any kind. The operating handle on the right side also functions as a case deflector, and even though I shoot left-handed, no brass or powder fragments were thrown into my face. The trigger pull measured six and three-quarters pounds, about like a typical AR-15 trigger feels, but with a slightly crisper release. Pretty good trigger for a carbine of this type.

Shooting the SU-16C for accuracy, I mounted a Vortex Viper 6.5 to 20 power target/varmint/sniper scope atop the Kel-Tec’s Picatinny rail. Vortex is a relatively new scope company, and I had never used one of their scopes before. Vortex is a new advertiser on, so I was anxious to try their product. The Viper is built on a 30mm tube, wears a non-glare black finish, and multi-coated lenses. This Viper has a mil-dot reticle for range estimation, adjusted for accurate ranging at the 14 power setting, and side focus for better target clarity and ease of use. The adjustment turrets are well-protected by heavy-duty caps, and each click of adjustment is equal to one-quarter minute-of-angle. The turrets are resettable for zero, and are marked for easy reference. The adjustments seemed to track true throughout the tests, and the adjustments proved to be repeatable. The view is very clear through this Viper scope. They claim ninety-five percent light transmission, but I have no way to measure that. However, the image is mighty clear looking through the scope. I really like the power adjustment ring on this Vortex Viper. It is easy to grasp, and the power setting can be read from the shooter’s position with the rifle shouldered. The Vortex has a lifetime repair/replacement warranty, and is priced well below the competition. As I stated above, the Vortex is new to me, but so far, I am impressed. I will be using it again on other rifles to see how well it holds up.

As an aside, while testing the SU-16, I tried out a new flash suppressor that I had here. It is made by Micor Industries, and is a good-looking, very well-crafted flash suppressor. Micor cuts the slots into the flash suppressor to match the rifling twist of the barrel. Interesting concept. Micor makes three claims for the suppressor; reduced muzzle flash, better accuracy, and higher velocity. I threaded the Micor suppressor onto the SU-16C and set out to test those claims. While I have only tried the Micor on this one rifle, there was little to no difference in velocity readings firing the Kel-Tec with or without the flash suppressor attached. In some cases I got higher velocity readings, and with other ammo I received lower readings. In no case did the readings exceed the normal shot-to-shot variations, so on this particular firearm, the Micor flash suppressor made no difference in velocity. The results might be different on another weapon. However, Micor only claims a velocity increase over the velocity using a standard A-2 flash suppressor, not a claim of higher velocity by simply adding the flash suppressor, so my velocity tests were not relevant to their claim, but just as a curiosity. For the claim of better accuracy, that claim is true, with some ammunition. With the ammo that this carbine liked the best, the Winchester 62 grain load, accuracy was greatly improved using the flash suppressor, cutting the group size by about forty percent. With the Wolf Gold 75 grain load, no improvement was observed. This load was already a very fine performer in this Kel-Tec. However, with other ammunition like Black Hills 55 grain and Winchester USA 55 grain, a noticeable accuracy improvement was observed using the Micor suppressor, with group sizes reduced by about one third. For the claim of flash suppression, the Micor definitely makes a huge difference, as can be seen in the video. The Micor adds one and one-half inches to the overall length of the SU-16C, and about two ounces of weight, but it is one of the best flash suppressors that I have ever tried.

The SU-16C turned in very good accuracy performance. Very good indeed, especially for a lightweight folding-stock carbine. While the SU-16C is well-suited for social work and as a knockabout carbine to throw in the pickup or on an ATV, this rifle is accurate enough for varmint hunting, especially with the Micor unit attached. The relatively inexpensive Winchester USA white box 62 grain load would group into less than one inch at one hundred yards, repeatedly. The Wolf Gold did almost as well, shooting right at the one inch mark every time, with or without the Micor flash suppressor. I am well-pleased with the accuracy performance of this little Kel-Tec carbine. It is lightweight, compact, one hundred percent reliable, and made in the USA. I like it.

For more information on this and other Kel-Tec products, go to

For the location of a Kel-Tec dealer near you, click on the DEALER FINDER at

To order the SU-16C online, go to

To order the Micor flash suppressor for this or other rifles, go to

For more info on the line of Vortex optics, go to

Jeff Quinn

For a list of dealers where you can buy this gun, go to: To buy this gun online, go to:




Buttstock folds for compact use or storage.



SU-16C can be fired with buttstock folded.



Micor Industries flash suppressor.





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Click pictures for a larger version.


Kel-Tec SU-16C 5.56mm Carbine.



Charging handle doubles as case deflector.



Crossbolt safety.



Magazine release.



Muzzle is threaded for attachments.



Open sights are simple and rugged.



Receiver sports a flattop Picatinny rail for optical sights.



Vortex Viper scope.



Forearm deploys as a bipod.



100-yard groups show the SU-16C to be impressively accurate with a variety of loads.