In the past few years, .223 (5.56mm) pistols have really taken off in popularity, largely due to BATFE rules on the use of stabilizing braces and the like. These interesting little range toys, to include KT's own PLR pistol, are now seen coast to coast. With that in mind, let us see how the Cocoa offering compares to the rest of the field.
(The PLR compared with a AK style pistol in 7.62x39mm and a Tantal in 5.45mm. Comparable in size, the Kel Tec is lighter due to its polymer frame as well as offering the benefit of using STANAG 5.56mm mags)
5.56mm pistols 101
Back in the 1990s about the only offering in this then-unique category was the Olympic Arms OA-93. The 4.46-pound 17-inch long overall AR-platform used a 6.5-inch barrel and took standard NATO mags (not to mention many regular AR internals).
(The Olympic Arms OA-93)
Following the end of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 and the days of legal 30-round mags came back (except for states like California and Connecticut), the growth of these pistols began to increase.
These included a number of both AR (made by LWRC, SIG, Rock River, POF, Daniel Defense and PWS) as well as AK variants (PAP imports as well as guns from Century and Arsenal).
Today, there are literally hundreds of offerings out there from these and other makers large and small. They make great hunting pistols (especially in the dense woods for feral pigs), compact "trunk guns," home defense pieces (keep in mind your penetration issues with 5.56mm rounds), and awesome range toys.
Then there is...
Kel Tec's offering to this category came as an outgrowth of their SU-16 line of rifles. Introduced in 2006 (as above, just after the AWB ban went poof-- let's keep it from ever coming back!), the PLR-16 used a black polymer frame to drop the weight down to just 3.4-pounds while offering a longer barrel than many in the competition (9.2-inch, threaded to 1/2-28 TPI) and keeping the overall length at 18.5-inches.
While a 3-pound/half-yard long handgun is far from compact or concealable, it's still smaller and lighter than many in its class.
Of course, it's a little hard to find holsters for the PLR, as evidenced by forum member DFWDave's Alligator Blaster
Better yet, it uses a long-stroke gas-piston operation that utilizes the Johnson/Stoner breech locking system. This is a departure from the rest of the field of ARs. Examples of other long stroke piston systems include the AK-47 series, and the M1 Garand rifle of WWII.
So no buffer tube system is needed on top of the added reliability of the piston. But how reliable is it?
IraqVeteran8888 working out a Keltec PLR-16 with 100 round Surefire Magazine. How much more fun do you want?
Best of all, the price (MSRP of $665, typical street price of around $550-$600), beats most of the other guys all day. If you want to go used, you can often luck into one for closer to $500, just shop around.
Stacking them up
For comparison, the LWRC International LWR PSD (which tips the scales at 5.5-pounds) runs about $1900. SIG's SIG 516 G2 SWAT Pistol, while it does come standard with a stabilizing brace and Magpul MOE grip, runs about $1400. Even more "budget" offerings like the Franklin Armory 3057 SE XO AR-15 Pistol, costs upwards of $900.
Yes, you can argue that most of the competition uses aluminum lowers, but when is the last time you found a PLR-16 with a split frame? Further, how many of these are piston guns?
In fact, about the only competitors we can find that really get the PLR-16 in price is the Century Arms imported PAP M85 Pistol, made by Zastava in Yugoslavia. These AK-ish pistols can be had for about $499 if you shop around hard enough. The thing is, to get one that uses AR-mags (the NP series), you have to often be willing to go a little higher.
In the end, you could argue that the AR pistol market is a PLR-16 world and the rest of the crowd just live in it.