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SU-16A in stock configuration
|Place of origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc.|
|Cartridge||5.56×45mm NATO/.223 Remington|
|Feed system||STANAG magazines|
SU-16 refers to a series of semi-automatic rifles and carbines manufactured by Kel-Tec CNC Industries, Inc. of Cocoa, Florida, referred to in Kel-Tec's marketing as "Sport Utility rifles". The SU-16 series is notable for its compact, lightweight and simple design; and for being able to be broken down and folded into a compact configuration for transportation and storage. While the barrel, bolt-carrier and mechanism are steel, the SU-16's stock, receiver, and forend are manufactured of high-strength polymer plastic.
Design and features
All variants of the SU-16 are chambered in 5.56×45mm, and are capable of using standard M16 STANAG compatible magazines (where not prohibited by state or local law). The SU-16 features a 1:9 in (230 mm) twist rifling. The SU-16 incorporates design features derived from several weapons. It uses the locking bolt design of the M-16, and an operating system similar to that of the AK-47, in which a gas piston drives an operating rod, which is part of the bolt carrier and which rides on a spring contained in a gas tube mounted above the barrel. This design incorporates the operating rod and gas tube into the bolt carrier, allowing them to be removed easily for maintenance and cleaning. As with the AK-47, Armalite AR-18 and AR-180, and in contrast to the M-16, this design allows for the folding feature of the SU-16 and reduces the amount of propellant residue fouling that accumulates in the chamber and on the bolt carrier. The charging and bolt release handle is located on the right side and reciprocates with the weapon's bolt, allowing it to be used as a forward assist. All versions of the SU-16 incorporate a top-mounted Picatinny rail. In all versions except the short-barreled "D" model, the fore-end opens up to serve as an integrated folding bipod. The SU-16 breaks down into its collapsed configuration with the removal of a single pin, which can be pushed out with a round, and can be broken down for maintenance and cleaning without the use of tools. The bolt-carrier group and receiver constitute the only two assemblies of the weapon.
Despite this simplicity, one significant shortcoming in the design is that the chamber and breech of the barrel are not easily accessible from the rear, being blocked by the back of the upper receiver. This makes cleaning the chamber and the bore somewhat slower and more difficult compared to the AR-15, and prevents the bore from being easily inspected without the use of a small penlight or similar light source. A flexible bore-snake is a recommended cleaning accessory. When cleaning, particular care should be paid to the gas piston and operating spring, bolt face, chamber and barrel.
A further recommendation from some users is to replace the cotter-type pin used to secure the weapon in its open configuration—which is small, could be easily dropped or lost, and may be difficult to insert or remove under certain circumstances—with a larger hitch-type pin. Care must be used, however, as the OEM pin is a slightly smaller diameter than hitch-type pins commonly found in hardware stores.
There are seven variants of the SU-16.
The SU-16A has an 18.4 in (470 mm) barrel and comes with a windage-adjustable hooded light-gathering blade front sight mounted near the muzzle. A Picatinny rail is equipped on the top of the receiver. The stock and trigger mechanism fold down below the upper receiver and clamp to the barrel when the weapon is broken down (the weapon is non-operative when in this configuration). The fore-arm of the rifle opens out into an integrated collapsible bipod. The stock has a hollow recess with spring detents capable of holding two 10-round magazines or one 20- or 30-round magazine.
The SU-16B has the same features of the A model, but has a lighter barrel, an M-16-type adjustable-post front sight, and a windage adjustable rear sight. The B model has been criticized by some users for the light construction of its barrel, which is said to be too light for sustained firing.
The SU-16C has a true folding stock as it can be fired with the stock folded, rather than the folding stock and trigger group design of the other weapons. The C has a medium-weight barrel, presumably in response to the criticism against the lighter barrel of the B model. The barrel is threaded at the muzzle, and can be mounted with accessories, such as a flash-hider. The front sight, which is an M-16 adjustable-post type, is incorporated over the gas block and is not removable. The C also includes a reciprocating dust cover over the ejection port and a case-deflecting charging handle.
The SU-16CA model incorporates most of the features of the C model, except for the true folding stock design, instead using the collapsible stock and trigger group design of the A model, which prevents the weapon from being fired when broken-down. This change makes it legal for sale in jurisdictions with an assault weapon ban, such as California.
The SU-16D model is a short-barreled version which makes the weapon NFA-regulated as short barreled rifles, subject to ownership restrictions and transfer taxes. Owing to the short barrel, the D does not include the folding bipod, but otherwise contains the same features as the C model, including the folding buttstock. The D models also include a second bottom-mounted Picatinny rail.
The SU-16f model is a longer barreled version which cannot be fired when broken down. It has an 18.5 inch barrel, making it compliant with the Canadian Firearms Act, making it legal for sale in Canada as a non-restricted rifle. It includes the folding bipod/forend.
Intended market and comparison to similar weapons
The SU-16 competes with other 5.56 mm semiautomatic rifles, such as the AR-15 and Mini-14 and the Saiga 223 (AK-47 variant) in the civilian market. The B, C, and CA variants have a 16 in (410 mm) barrel, the minimum legal limit on a rifle barrel for Title I sales under the NFA. The SU-16 is compatible with M16-type STANAG magazines, allowing a broader buyer's market for magazines, particularly for higher capacity magazines, as well as compatibility across weapons.
The fact that the weapon in stock configuration lacks a pistol grip makes most variants of the SU-16 legal in jurisdictions that maintain assault weapons bans. All SU-16 variants come standard with a Picatinny rail, making them able to accept a wide variety of aftermarket sights and scopes. Due to the extensive use of polymers in its construction, the SU-16 is lighter than any variant of the Mini-14 or AR-15 with equivalent barrel lengths. The weapon is simple, comprising only two major assemblies, the bolt-carrier group and the receiver, and a total of only 14 separate components when completely field-stripped. Finally, as compared to its competitors, the SU-16 is more affordable, selling in many markets for between USD 500 and USD 800 versus a common price of USD 650–850 for the Mini-14 (Ranch Rifle) and often USD 700-1500 or more for the AR-15.