So I went to the Dixie Gun Show on Saturday. Mainly just looking around, but hoping to find a good deal. Since learning about it (last week), I have been eyeing the Kel-Tec SU-16 - it's chambered for the 5.56/223 round, and, unlike the Mini-14, accepts standard AR magazines. And it's significantly cheaper - at least, if you look around.
Well, I found one for only $479, which I considered a decent deal. Picked up some cheap Russian ammo (not Wolf) while I was there, and took it to the range yesterday to play with.
I didn't put a lot of rounds through it - only 40 (My son went with me to shoot his Crickett for the first time) - but I have to say I liked how it handled overall. No problems with feeding or ejecting, even with the cheap ammo, everything function smoothly right out of the box.
I did have a couple problems getting the first round of a magazine to load properly, but I'm convinced the problem was operator error, and not the fault of the gun.
Grouping wasn't too bad. Being the first time I've shot anything bigger than a .22 in over 20 years, I was pretty happy with my 5-6" groups. At least I know it shoots consistently in the same place - now *I* need to get better :), and it was fun to shoot, so I'm sure I'll be getting plenty of practice
The only real complaint I have is with the stock magazines - they're really tight. You have to shove them in pretty hard and double-check that they're fully seated, and you have to tug on them while pressing the release to get them out. From what I've read on other forums, this is pretty much a universal problem with the stock mags, but not for most after-market AR mags, so I'm looking forward to trying it again with some new ones. I have to wait until my birthday, though - after I bought it, my wife told me "happy birthday". I had to whine that I needed something to open, and she agreed to get me a couple of 30-round mags that she would wrap.
All in all, pretty happy with my purchase. If you're looking for an inexpensive 5.56/223 that's not a lower-end AR, I strongly recommend you consider the Kel-Tec SU-16.