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Since the 1960s the .223 Remington/5.56mm rifle market has gone from never heard of, to must-have. Rifles (and a good number of pistols) in this chambering are now spread everywhere, being high on many gun owners 'to get list.' With that in mind, we're stacking up the Kel Tec SU-16 series against two of the other "bargain" 5.56mm rifles out there: the Ruger Mini-14 and the S&W MP15 Sport.

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The SU-16

Fifteen years ago, Kel Tec introduced their first centerfire rifle that wasn't chambered for pistol caliber rounds. Created as a 'sport-utility rifle' the SU-16 was an instant classic. Capable of folding into a compact 26-inch long package and only 37-inches with the stock extended, the gun weighed in at just 5-pounds flat. Although not based on the AR-15, it could accept standard M16-style magazines. Rugged and with a huge front sight, the SU-16 was about as basic as you can get.

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Best yet, the MSRP on these guns is just $665 today, (although street prices tend to be about $100 or so higher) and improved 'Charlie stock' models run about $100 more. The newer SU-16E series guns are decked out about as full tactical as you can imagine.

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The S&W MP15 Sport

Smith and Wesson has been one of the favorite handgun makers in the country for over 150 years. Getting into the long gun game somewhat late, they introduced their MP15 series of AR-15 style rifles in 2006. While they have made several versions of these guns, one of the most popular 'entry level' variants is the MP15 Sport series.

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Just 35-inches long (32 with the M4 style stock collapsed), the gun is a faithful and modern AR-15 style modern sporting rifle. Very few things set it apart from the more expensive AR's out there, including lack of a forward assist. These guns MSRP for $839 but typical street prices are more like $750, making it solid competition to the SU-16.

The Ruger Mini-14

Introduced in the 1970s, Bill Ruger copied the action by and large of the classic M1 Garand and M14 rifle, added the styling of the .30 Cal M1 Carbine, and chambered the whole thing in .223 Remington. The result was the Ruger Mini-14, a handy little carbine just 38-inches long that could accept 10, 20 and 30 round mags. The showman that he was, Ruger marketed the gun to military and law enforcement, even making full-auto select-fire versions as a selling point.

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Immortalized today as the Ruger Ranch rifle series, well over a million of these guns have been born. MSRP is $909 on these guns with street prices being closer to $750, like the Smith above.

Comparisons

It's a three-way tie in so much as pricing goes with these three American-made 5.56mm rifles, so with that being said, let's move on to other points.

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In the size category, the SU-16 wins hands down due to its lightweight (a pound lighter than the MP15 and a pound and half lighter than the Ruger.) Besides this, the Kel Tec rifle, with its folding stock, is capable of shrinking down to a much more manageable backpack-size envelope that the other two guns can't follow. Advantage: Kel Tec.

Gun Firearm Trigger Assault rifle Rifle


Accessory wise, the MP15 has a slight edge over the competition since it can accept the myriad of AR/M16 parts and aftermarket gear. Ruger also has a huge following of custom and semi-custom parts makers for its line of rifles. These two facts put the SU-16 behind the 8-ball in the 'neat stuff' department although it can accept AR mags of almost all sizes. Advantage: Smith/Ruger.

Functionality: This one is in the eye of the beholder. The AR-15 style S&W uses direct gas-impingement for its operating method which many see as a concept that 'poops where it eats' and is inherently dirty. Further, it does not have a forward assist to help the action when those dirty times come up. The Ruger uses a modified short stroke gas piston design that harkens back to the WWII days and, while functional, has a reputation as being a little lacking in the marksmanship department at ranges longer than 100-yards.

The SU-16 uses a hybrid AR/AK design that places the operating rod and gas tube into the bolt carrier and is similar to the same type used on the Styr AUG and Armalite AR18/180 rifle. This one, as we said, is up to the user's own preferences.

In the end, it seems that the SU16, when stacked up against the competitors, is powerful medicine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ1vbK0E_CQ
 

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You can't lose with any of them. I have an SU-16, want the others! When I got it in '08, the selling points were price,acceptance of AR mags (I already had a bunch), and the fact IT WAS AVAILABLE at a great price!
 

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This gun has always intrigued me, But I've handled a few and to me, it's a less than $400 gun, It just seems cheap and with AR's so easy to build, You can build a much better Rifle for the same price point, As for the Mini14 what is Ruger smoking over there? $750.00 - Again Price point Win AR15, with the AR being Overall a much better Rifle. While I'm not a fan of 5.56mm guns, they do have a place, If only KELTEC would get real and drop the price to a more realistic under $400 gun, I'd buy one. I'm willing to bet it cost them Less than $50 to build.
 

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I love my SU-16. It's lightweight and accurate. Never liked the Ruger Mini14 as it's always too expensive. I have shot one and it shoots O.K., but it just didn't doit for me. The KelTec was perfect.
 

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Just picked up my second SU16 CA. It's nice to have a backup and I got the second one with upgraded compact forend and an aggressive muzzle break for under 500 used. Looked new and probably only had a couple of hundred rounds thru it. Sighted it in with a new scope yesterday and was getting 1 1/2 inch groups at 50 yards and less than 3 inch at 100. Hitting 12 inch steel plates out to 400 yards so I'm pretty happy. I looked at the other cheaper .223 options or building my own AR but to be honest, my SU16 shoots every time and my friends are always complaining about their ARs being all dumbed down here in Kalifornia so I'm good.
 

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I'm on my second SU16 but only because the plastic receiver started splitting and had to be replaced. It was a warranty replace but I had to pay shipping and don't know when it will happen again :-( Their pistols on the other hand rock!
 

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I have both the Kel Tec SU 16F with the AR conversion kit and the Ruger Mini-14 with an Archangel stock, love them both. The SU-16 is definitely the lighter of the two and easier to clean, performance is equal. Price in Canada with upgrades is about the same, both are non-restricted here. The S%W is a restricted class firearm making it pain in the butt to own, at least for me. Ruger magazines are harder to find than AR type and cost a few dollars more. I've heard Ruger is more rugged in the long term, mine are only 2 yrs. old so I'll have to wait and see.
 
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