Kel-Tec PLR-16 (Long-Range .223/5.56mm Pistol) Review

Published by the Author on August 2, 2010 at 12:01 am > Gun and Accessory Reviews > Kel-Tec PLR-16 (Long-Range .223/5.56mm Pistol) Review

Below is my review of the Kel-Tec PLR-16, which a pistol chambered for .223/5.56mm:


The Kel-Tec PLR-16 is a rather large polymer-framed pistol chambered for the .223/5.56mm rifle cartridge.  The name PLR stands for Pistol, Long Range, which is a rather apt name.  The PLR-16’s barrel is 9.2″ long, and the pistol is gas operated, using a gas piston piston system that is located above the barrel  The pistol is compatible with M-16/AR-15 magazines.  A 10 round magazine is included with the PLR-16, and the bottom of this magazine sits almost flush with the magazine well (which is forward of the trigger).  A Picatinny rail comes mounted on the top of the receiver, and rifle sights are also included from the factory.  What sets the PLR-16 apart from many .223 pistols is that it doesn’t have a buffer tube extending behind the pistol grip, allowing the PLR-16 to be rather compact for its barrel length. It is produced by Kel-Tec, an American company based in Florida, that is known for its inexpensive firearms.

Purpose of this pistol

I’ve had several people ask me why I bought this pistol, and the short answer is “just because I felt like it.”

While it could be an effective self defense gun when loaded with the proper ammunition, there are better self defense guns for most situations.  At home, a shotgun or pistol caliber carbine will be more effective and won’t produce nearly as much noise and muzzle flash.  Given its large size, the PLR-16 isn’t ideal for most concealed carry situations either (although it might make a good vehicle self defense gun).  I also suppose that it could be useful for self defense in case of civil unrest, thanks to its ability to accept large capacity AR-15 magazines, but then again an AR-15 could do the same thing.

In terms of target practice, the PLR-16 seems to be reasonably accurate (more on that below), but I don’t think it is as accurate as any rifle that I own.  Much of the PLR-16’s accuracy seems to come from its long barrel and correspondingly long sighting plane, so I also would guess that most match grade pistols will be more accurate.  Since it fires a rifle cartridge, most shooting ranges will restrict its use their rifle, rather than pistol range, so for all intents and purposes I only shoot the PLR-16 when I’m going to shoot my other rifles too.

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Build Quality

The PLR-16 costs under $500, which is incredibly inexpensive for a a .223 pistol.  For comparison sake, the .223 pistols made by companies such as Sig can cost 3x as much.  As such, I was concerned about the quality of this pistol.  Having taken it to the range a couple time, I can say that I am happy with its quality.  Disassembly/reassembly for cleaning is quite easy, and the parts fit together precisely.  Indeed, the fit is better on this pistol than on some of my firearms that cost twice as much.  Just about every component that can be made from polymer is made from polymer, which is something that I’m fine with (I prefer polymer over wood or metal), although some people may not appreciate this.  The pistol has held up fine to the couple hundred rounds I’ve put through it – including quite a bit of rapid fire – without any component failures.


I find the PLR-16‘s trigger to be acceptable, although it is not quite as nice as the trigger on my Rock River Arms AR-15 or Browning BT-99.  The pistol grip is comfortable to hold, although I wish the grip angle were ever so slightly less inclined.

This pistol is rather front-heavy, which shouldn’t be surprising given the fact that the action, magazine, barrel, and pretty much everything else is located far forward of the pistol grip.  While it can be fired with one hand, or with two hands on the pistol grip, holding such a front-heavy pistol in that manner gets uncomfortable rather quickly.  The solution is to purchase the handguard accessory (discussed below) and then support the pistol by holding on to that handguard.

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The gas piston system used in the PLR-16 seems to be quite reliable, and I have had no reliability problems other than one that was caused by user error: When I reassembled the pistol for the first time, I inserted the charging handle while the bolt was in its forward position.  This was error on my part, as the charging handle needs to be inserted when the bolt is in its rearward position.  When I went to fire the pistol with the charging handle incorrectly inserted, all I heard was a loud click from the hammer falling, but the firing pin didn’t strike the round.  After a few minutes of investigation, I noticed my error, correctly inserted the charging handle, and everything worked property from then on.


I found the PLR-16 to be quite accurate for a pistol, likely because of its rather long sighting plane.  So far, I’ve only fired it with the rifle sights, but had no problem shooting 3″ groups at 50 yards, firing offhand on two very hot days.  I’m sure that had I been more comfortable, and had I fired from a bench rest, my accuracy would have been even better.


Perhaps the most fun part about the PLR-16 is its accessories:

The handguard covers the barrel and gas piston, allowing the user to hold the pistol from that point. As an added bonus, the handguard provides another accessory rail. Given the weight and front-heavy nature of the pistol, and the fact that the barrel will get hot enough to boil water after a dozen shots or so, this handguard is pretty much a necessity to comfortably hold and fire the PLR-16. The good news it it that only costs about $40.

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The muzzle brake attaches to the threaded end of the barrel, and redirects some of the gases from the burning gunpowder rearward and upward, greatly reducing recoil and muzzle climb.  While the threaded barrel of the PLR-16 can take any standard AR-15/M-16 muzzle brake (or flash suppressor or sound suppressor), the muzzle brake offered by Kel-Tec is optimized for the weight and barrel length of the PLR-16.  Having fired my PLR-16 with and without the muzzle brake, I can say that it greatly reduces the recoil and muzzle climb, at the expense of greatly increasing the noise generated by the PLR-16.

The sling attachment allows the PLR-16 to be easily carried.  I haven’t purchased the sling, and don’t intend to do so, since I rarely slings.

Below is a picture of a PLR-16 with the handguard, muzzle brake, and sling installed, along with a telescopic sight mounted on the receiver’s accessory rail:


The PLR-16 is an inexpensive pistol chambered for .223 and 5.56mm.  The build quality is high, given its low price, and many accessories are available.  In particular, the muzzle brake virtually eliminates recoil and muzzle climb, although those using the muzzle brake will want to bring along some good hearing protection.  The gas piston operation seems quite reliable, and AR-15 owners will be happy to note that the PLR-16 uses standard AR-15 magazines (including my favorite, the MagPul PMAG).  Accuracy seems good, especially for a pistol.  In sum, the Kel-Tec PLR-16 is an enjoyable gun at a great price.

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  • Cory

    Some would say it's a novelty gun with little tactical purpose. I would remind them that " a gun's a gun, son." Any gun is better than no gun. And this one looks like fun. Good info. Thanks for the review.

  • JD

    I agree with You and Cory, owning a gun is a constitutional right already earned and paid for. If you lose this right it is your fault.

    Thanks for the review. I myself had a desire to own a hi-capacity center fire carbine. The reason is I wanted it.I hope I never see the day I will have use for it against another man but who can say that one may never need the protection & firepower a weapon like this can offer. It & loaded clips are concealed in my safe bed room where it will remain with other articles of survival & not all is guns either.

    I am not a gun nut but very proficient for an older hunter/sportsman/marksman/collector and a voting citizen awaiting upcoming elections. Good day my civil friends!!!

  • Allie

    I have one of those sitting in my bedroom right now – my boyfriend loaned it to me – I love that gun – little recoil and true aim.

    • JD

      Thats great Allie!! You better make that man your spouse. He evidently wants you to stay safe by loaning you the weapon. Grab him!

      You can both enjoy the plr-16 and continue to keep it in both your bedrooms then.

  • Jose H.

    I totally agree with everything positive said about this weapon. Have one, traded a H&K USP compact in .45ACP for it. Felt bad at first, then I shot this little Bad Boy,and WOW!!!

    Love it's compact size (++++) and the fact that it feeds on standard AR mags. Light weight, with a rifle calibre punch. Now that's what I'm talkin' about!!

  • R9 451

    I would agree with what everyone is saying. I own 2 of these weapons. Its a very fun weapon to own. With all the mods u can do with this its great. 1 thing i have found out is that the 223 round seem to shead brass into the action and is not very accurcy with the 223. U have to shoot 556 brass only rounds. With my red dot i can hit a 10 by 10 inch.
    steel target at 125yds every time. This gun is a "HANDGUN" I dont own any other "handgun" that will do that consistanly. A handgun that shoots a rifle round and is compact and its cheap, and so much fun. you cant go wrong,besides everyone at the range wants to know, what that is and what it is. u dont know if you should go to the rifle range or the handgun range. depends what optic your using. if got a 3 by 9 scope on 1 and red dot blue dot on the other.

  • Larry RVN Vet

    I saw one last week in my local gun shop. I was lookling at it, and another man came in and said "I'll take it" and it was goine. I'll have one soon. Thanks for the review, very informative and convinced me to go ahead with my order. Thanks again.

  • Dudejo

    this must be a pretty convenient weapon in more outdoors-focused neighborhoods.

  • BR549

    Just got mine. Haven't been to the range yet, though.
    Some posts elsewhere have suggested not using steel casings, but when I called Kel-Tec they said it would take anything. Some .223 guns are not supposed to handle 5.56mm NATO, but this being a 5.56mm, I guess it does both.

    Like with all my weapons, I can break them down and reassemble them blindfolded and this was relatively easy. The one minor issue I found was the disassembly pin detent spring, which is mounted on the frame at the rear and concealed by the closed handle, snags on almost anything and becomes misaligned. The three sided spring is supposed to be twisted so that each 9/16" side lines up against a "flat" formed into the housing end for the disassembly pin. The left side of the spring is to be pulled back, the right side pulled forward.

    I doubt the pin would work its way out if the spring were flopping in the breeze, but the pin was designed for a reason and it can't ride in the pin detent grooves if it isn't seated.

    The little square hole in the left side of the receiver works well with a cable lock, too.

    Does anyone have any info on faster burn loads increasing the accuracy for this length barrel? I would think that the more standard loads for longer barreled ARs would be what makes this puppy so loud because of the wasted expansion gases. Correct me if I'm wrong

  • Dudejo

    is there a practical use for this weapon beyond a lightweight varmint hunting package?

    is the weapon and ammo cheaper than a Desert Eagle and its ammunition?

    • Steve

      Practical use? Okay, how about a camp gun? There's dangerous wildlife out there, and if you don't want to lug a full-sized rifle around with you for however long you're out in the woods, maybe a handgun that fires rifle ammunition would fit the bill – depends on where you are though, I hear some species of bear just get mad if you shoot them. If that doesn't do it for you, what about a range plinker? Or a survival-bag backup for a rifle or carbine?

      As for cost: A quick gunbroker search shows the PLR-16 hovering around $400-500, and a quick google search shows that 50 rounds of ammo to feed it goes for around $18. By contrast? A .357 Desert Eagle goes for anywhere from $600-1,500+ depending on who you're getting it from and what it comes with, with 50rds of .357Mag going for about $23. Now, I may not be a math professor, but I feel confident saying it's certainly cheaper to buy and keep a PLR-16 fed than a Desert Eagle. 😉

  • Kidd

    well i have this lil puppy on the way . i think there are several great home defense type weapons but for me this is the choice ( with 30 round clip ) . ive done alot of research an all say clean clean clean gun before first use ! didnt see that in here so thought i would pass it on . shot guns are heavy an dont have alot of capacity vs plr16 , also akward to bo running through door ways with . pistol also lack capacity for those ya never kno times ( which i pray i never see ) . for me an my wife an alot of practice i believe with the capacity – compact size – an automatic flash light attachment for that ( wake up at 3am in the dark from a dead sleep ) i believe this will be great option . and not to mention price an the fact it just looks cool as hell , maybe i just really want one an telling her its our home defense gun helps my adult side meet my inner child in the middle lol . by the way i hope to never have to point it at a person .

  • Danny

    Great review. This is the kind of comments I'm reading all over the net about this weapon so I ordered one. I was going to purchase the RRA piston driven pistol and am a big fan of RRA but 500 vs. 1500.00 convinced me somewhat since I plan on using it as a ranch/cabin gun and riding around shooting varmits.and such. The weight of the pistol was also a factor. I didn't feel like lugging around 10-12lbs of pistol while trecking through the woods. I just wish it would hurry up and get here.

  • Morris

    I been waiting 6 months for one! no one in the St. Louis area has any in stock and the dealer(s) I am working with can't get any in. Thanks for adding suport to my decistion to at least try to get one.

  • Dudejo

    I've been checking and they were saying how paratroopers could use this pistol.

    Both this pistol and the M4 carbine use STANAG magazines so in case you lose one weapon, you can still use your ammo in the other.

    I know I already posted about how I don't see a clear role for this weapon. However, I do have to admit that having all your weapons use the same magazines is pretty handy in the chaos of war.

    • .45 Hi-Point

      I shoot the .45 Hi-Point 4595TS Carbine and the .45 Hi-Point JHP ACP. The magazines are interchangeable, which makes for a fun shoot.

  • Dude

    Awesome firearm……………for those who don't think so, I can't help you. I own two AR's and lots of handguns, but none are nearly as much fun as the Keltec PLR.It is extremely reliable and I would have no problem with it in a close quarters battle. What a great deal at such a low price. The gun is very well made and easy to maintain. For those that wonder about longevity, I have approx. 4.000 rounds through mine, mostly PMC. It shows no signs of wear or failure and even if it did, it has a lifeteime warrany. Give Keltec the credit they deserve……great gun for the price.