Letter Re: Recommendations on Compact .223 Rifles


I came across this .223 rifle made by Kel-Tec that folds down to 25″ and would fit into some backpacks. Let me know what you think. – G.C.P.

JWR Replies: The Kel-Tec SU-16s are reportedly fairly reliable and accurate. It is nice that they use standard AR-15/M16 magazines, which have become ubiquitous in the U.S., the Philippines, and several other countries. However, I have heard that SU-16s have three significant detractors, the first two of which concern the stock:

1.) The stock is relatively fragile and hence not suited for vigorous field use. They might suffice for target shooting, but I have my doubts that they would not stand up to the vigors of a worst case survival situation where you might have to repeatedly jump to a prone position or perhaps even use the buttstock as a weapon. (“Buttstroking” an opponent.)

2.) It is difficult to get a consistent “cheek weld” on the stock to allow accurate shooting.

3.) As currently shipped from the factory, SU-16s do not come with a flash hider. Yes, they can be retrofitted, but that is a +/- $100 gunsmithing job.

If you want a compact .223, I would instead recommend a Rock River (or similar) M4 carbine clone with a 16″ barrel. (Commonly called an “M4gery.”) They are very compact when broken down into upper and lower halves for backpack carry. Re-assembly and loading takes less than 15 seconds. They are also relatively compact once assembled–that is if the stock is in the collapsed position.

If absolute compactness is a must (such as for vehicular defense), and you only expect short range shooting, then you might opt for an Olympic Arms AR-type pistol. (Note: for these pistols to be legal in the U.S., they must be assembled on a special “Pistol” designated AR-15 lower receiver. If you want both a short barrel and a buttstock, then in the U.S. such a gun must be federally registered as a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR). For example, you could register an M4 receiver as an SBR and then re-assemble it with a 11.5 inch barreled upper receiver group. One captivating alternative for those of you that prefer HK designs, is getting one of the new semi-auto Vector V53.223 (HK-53) SBR clones with a collapsing stock. Sadly, these too must be registered as SBRs in the U.S.