The Kel-Tec PLR 16. More than a good time


Many people buy a firearm for a specific reason (and even wanting a new adult toy is an acceptable reason). Be it for hunting, concealed carry, home defense, local matches, and so on. One of my favorite reasons to buy a new firearm is wanting a new adult toy, and it is a bonus if that firearm fills several needs.


I first saw the PLR-16 at the Kel-Tec booth and the 2014 SHOT.


Speaking of firearms that also serve a few purposes Kel-Tec sent me a PLR-16 to wring out. The PLR-16 is as a gas piston operated, semi-automatic pistol chambered in 5.56 x 45 NATO that uses the multi-lug rotation bolt system of the AR- 15. The receiver and grip are made of an impact resistant glass reinforced Zytel and has an aluminum insert molded into the front where the barrel attaches . Also machined into the top of the receiver is a  MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rails well as a rail integrated into the bottom of the optional hand guard. The muzzle is threaded 1/2 by 28 to accept standard accessories such as flash hiders. It is somewhat reminiscent of an AR- 15 pistol (without the buffer tube,) which are very popular.


Disassemble is pretty easy, by pushing the take down pin at the rear of the receiver and folding the pistol grip down the innards are exposed and can be field striped from there. The instruction manual does a good job going through the steps with text and photographs.


The bolt face and spring tube.


The stripped bolt, extractor, and firing pin.


The military style front sight that is adjustable for elevation.


The rear sight that is adjustable for windage.


The trigger which broke clean at 7 1/2 pounds.


You can see the red ring on the safety denoting the safety is off.


The PLR-16 ships with a ten round magazine but accepts standard AR type magazines and proved reliable with the supplied magazine as well as a variety of surplus AR- 15 magazines. You can see the bottom of the magazine and the bolt catch. The bolt catch is the square between the rear of the magazine well and front of the trigger guard.


The pistol grip with added texture for increased purchase on the firearm.


The charging handle also with added texture to aid in charging the bolt.


The ejection port and magazine release.


The magazine well.


Factory supplied magazine that fits flush.


The optional hand guard installed. I highly recommend these for this pistol.


The instruction manual, trigger lock, phillips head tool, and factory magazine shown here with optional accessories I installed.


This will give you an idea of the size of the PLR-16 as compared to a Colt Sporter HBar (top), Barnes Precision CQB (second from top), and Glock 20 (bottom).

When I picked it up I said to myself “self, it looks cool but what good is it”  When I got it home and began to really check it out I found Kel-Tec also sent along an optional hand guard and a sling. Once I got the hand guard and sling installed the PLR-16 began to make sense. I could see this pistol being a great option for home defense, especially with a light and a laser attached. As for hunting, a lot of people hunt with a pistol so I see no reason why not.  Having such a compact firearm with that much firepower could be useful also in a variety of situations. Since it is a pistol if you have a concealed carry permit, and could figure out how to conceal it (a duster would work) you could use it as a carry gun. I would not think of carrying it every day but I could see it working well as a discreet trail and/or camping gun.


It can be fired one handed pretty easily.

Range day was approaching so I took the PLR-16 out for a quick test drive. I ran a few magazines of factory ammunition through the pistol to check for function only. It functioned without issues but it was quite loud and had a great deal of muzzle flash. There is not much I could do about the noise but I had a solution for the fireball that was released.

I called a friend of mine and secured a flash suppressor from Barnes Precision and installed it on the factory threaded barrel. After another test fire the muzzle flash was all but gone and had the added benefit of some compensation due to the design of the flash hider.


The Barnes Precision muzzle brake I installed.

I rounded up all of my gear as well as my reloads and some factory loaded ammunition and set out to the Range Hot proving grounds (otherwise known as the rifle range). I met up with a few friends so they could have the chance to shoot and offer input on the little Kel-Tec. Up to now I had run around 100 rounds through the PLR-16 so there was no need to clean it. I did hit the high spots with some CLP (mostly because I love the way it smells when the gun gets hot).


Cycling through the factory supplied magazine as well as various AR-15 magazines we burnt through another couple of hundred rounds. From slow controlled fire to full magazine from the hip (quite enjoyable to say the least) the PLR-16 had zero issues. I stepped off about thirty yards and lined the sights up to see how such a pistol in 5.56 x 45 would group at about self defense distances. I had no trouble putting five rounds inside the two inch bullseye.

I brought out my Colt Sporter HBar to compare velocity loss from the shorter barrel of the PLR-16

Kel Tec velocity loss

After the fun was over we policed up a pile of brass and went back to the 100 yard line just to see how it would group over a distance from a rest. I do realize this firearm is classified as a pistol but for the sake of experimenting I wanted to try it at 100 yards.  .

Kel-Tec PLR16 data

My reload consisted of Winchester brass, Hornady 55gr FMJ bullet, and 23.5gr of IMR 4895, a mild load for the 5.56.

Three shot group I was able to get from a rest using the factory sights.

In my opinion the little PLR-16 did really well at 100 yards all things considered (especially my 40 year old eyes) with the factory sights and I also believe it would do better with optics mounted on the top pic rail.

I found only a few things about the PLR-16 that I questioned, and they were minor. First of all the manual bolt catch is in an odd place, in the rear the magazine well. The bolt stays to the rear when the magazine runs dry. To reload you insert a fresh magazine and pull the bolt to the rear about an inch and let it go to battery. This works great but you cannot send the bolt home with the magazine catch as you can on an AR 15. I believe the PLR-16 is a great candidate for a flash suppressor but I get why it is not shipped with one. There are so many choices for flash suppressors it will near about lock up your search engine when you start looking online for them and for those with a sound suppressor for such a caliber you will not have to remove the factory installed flash suppressor to install your can. The factory magazine holds ten rounds, not that there was anything wrong with it but ten rounds does not last very long when you get hard on the trigger. I can see why it ships with such a magazine though. Some states are fine with violating our civil rights by placing magazine capacity limits. So if Kel-Tec shipped the PLR-16 with a larger magazine that could keep people from owning one. Thankfully Kel-Tec engineered the PLR-16 to function flawless with AR-15 magazines. With a twenty or thirty round magazine in the PLR-16 it does get a lot bigger and heavier.

To sum up, I really liked the little Kel-Tec and after running several hundred rounds through it I believe it is more than just a good time. Though burning through thirty rounds from the hip is a lot of fun I can also see this as a great pistol to keep in your car or bug out bag. It is reliable and uses very common magazines and ammunition. If you are using an AR type platform for home defense this offers you an option for a great defensive pistol with plenty of room to add on as you see fit.


Caliber:5.56 NATO
Weight unloaded:3.4lbs
Barrel length:9.2″
Capacity:10 round factory magazine but compatible with AR-15/M-16 magazines.
Trigger pull:7.5lbs
Sight radius:12.5″
 MSRP $665





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    […] The Barnes Precision flash suppressor that worked well for suppressing the muzzle flash as well as helped with muzzle rise. I also installed one on the Kel-Tec PLR-16 test pistol, you can see that review here. […]

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