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.
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.
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.
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.