Ruger® AR-556 Review
Part 1 - Introduction, Specifications and Summary
November 28, 2014

Ruger AR-556 Review

Ruger is clearly aggressive in growing their business in the tactical market and this is evident with the release of their new Ruger AR-556 Rifle.  Now you are probably saying "What...? They already have an SR-556 so what's the big deal?"  Well, the big deal is that Ruger is now addressing a completely different market sector.  They are targeting those who want a traditional (gas impingement, GI) entry level AR at an entry level price.  With the MSRP being $749 and online prices coming in between about $600 and $650, I bet that some other manufacturers are probably cringing.  If you compare this price against Ruger's most affordable rifle in the SR-556 family (the SR-556E) which has an MSRP of $1375, clearly the AR-556 coming in at about half the price of an SR-556E is very significant and should cater to a different group of consumers.

For Ruger to cut the price by nearly half, they had to do some things different.  The significantly different features that stand out at first glance are the gas system (GI and not piston), the handguard (glass filled nylon and not free floating aluminum with quad rail capabilities) and the sights (A2 front with rapid deploy rear versus rapid deploy front and rear).

On the other hand, some of the features that are the same are the cold hammer forged chrome-moly barrel, full featured upper receiver (case deflector, forward assist and ejection port cover), 7075-T6 upper and lower receivers, and the fact that both rifles come from a highly trusted manufacturer in the firearms industry... Ruger.  When I considered the features you get in this rifle for the price, I knew I had to take a close look at Ruger's new AR-556 Rifle which was the catalyst for this review.

If you don't look at any other parts of this review or any other photos, at least take away this... the Ruger AR-556 represents a great value rifle which has all the basic features you would want in an AR rifle and is made of industry standard materials and to industry standard geometries allowing you the option to customize this rifle in the future if desired.

 

During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the photo and following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Ruger website on 10/21/14 and gives an Overview, Key Features, and Specifications for the Ruger AR-556 Rifle.  The , and are my way to keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.

Overview

  • The Ruger® AR-556™ semi-automatic, M4-style, direct impingement Modern Sporting Rifle offers consumers an affordable, American-made Modern Sporting Rifle with the rugged reliability they have come to expect from Ruger.
  • Extensively tested during its development, the AR-556™ is constructed from top-quality components, including forged 7075-T6 aluminum upper and lower receivers and a cold hammer-forged chrome-moly steel barrel with M4 feed ramp cuts.
  • Chambered in 5.56 NATO, the AR-556’s carbine-length, flat-top, M4 design is fully configured with a Ruger® Rapid Deploy folding rear sight, milled F-height gas block with post front sight, forward assist, dust cover, brass deflector, telescoping six-position stock, improved trigger-reach grip, enlarged trigger guard and one 30-round Magpul® PMag®.
  • Standardized M4/AR components are utilized throughout, so the AR-556™ can be customized easily.

Key Features

  • Serrated Face Milled Gas Block - The milled gas block is located at a carbine length (M4) position for improved balance and handling. Multiple attachment points include a QD socket and bayonet lug, for many sling and accessory mounting options. Serrations on the angled face of the gas block provide a low glare surface.
  • Adjustable Sights - The front sight post is elevation adjustable, and a front sight tool is included. The A-2 Style F-Height allows co-witness with many optics. The Ruger® Rapid Deploy folding rear sight provides windage adjustability and is a solid, reliable aiming system when coupled with the elevation adjustable front sight. The rear sight can be folded out of the way to make room for optics but can be instantly redeployed if needed.
  • Six-Position Telescoping M4-Style Buttstock - The six-position telescoping M4-style buttstock and Mil-Spec buffer tube allow the rifle to be properly sized for different shooters, or varying levels of outerwear or defensive gear.
  • Medium Contour Cold Hammer-Forged Barrel - The 16.1 inch medium contour barrel is cold hammer-forged providing ultra-precise rifling for exceptional accuracy, longevity and easy cleaning. The 1:8 twist rate stabilizes bullets from 35 to 77 grains and the 5.56 NATO chamber allows the use of both 5.56 NATO and .223 Rem. ammunition. M4 feed ramps provide improved operational reliability and the matte black oxide finish reduces glare and provides corrosion resistance. A Ruger® flash suppressor is provided and the ½"-28 threaded barrel allows for standard muzzle accessories to be installed.
  • Ergonomic Pistol Grip - The ergonomic pistol grip features an extended trigger reach for more precise trigger control. The enlarged trigger guard is designed to allow for gloved shooting.
  • Matte Black Oxide Bolt Carrier with Staked Gas Key - The chrome-plated bolt carrier inside diameter and chrome-plated gas key inside diameter provide exceptional resistance to hot gases. The gas key is staked so that it will not loosen after extensive firing. A matte black oxide finish on the exterior of the bolt carrier provides corrosion resistance.
  • Also Includes one 30-round Magpul® PMAG® magazine.

Specifications

  • Model Number: 8500
  • Caliber: 5.56 NATO
  • Stock: Black Synthetic, Collapsible
  • Finish: Type III Hard Coat Anodized
  • Front Sight: Adjustable Post Elevation only, 1/4 turn equals 1.75" at 100 yards
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable Ruger® Rapid Deploy Windage only, one click equals 0.625" at 100 yards
  • Barrel Length: 16.10"
  • Thread Pattern: 1/2"-28
  • Length of Pull 10.25" - 13.50"
  • Twist: 1:8" RH
  • Grooves: 6
  • Overall Length: 32.25" - 35.50" Review rifle measured 32.38" - 35.63" which is close enough
  • Height: 8.00"
  • Width: 2.50"
  • Weight: 6.50 lbs.
  • Capacity: 30 Comes with a single 30-round Magpul® PMAG® magazine but will accept other capacity magazines
  • Suggested Retail: $749.00 Online price coming in between about $600 and $650

Another great source Ruger has provided for finding out information on this rifle is their Technical Data Sheet.  This sheet provides a great summary on much of technical information I cover in this review.  You can view the sheet by clicking on the photo below.

This review is broken down into multiple parts with this page providing links to each part along with an overall summary of the specifications, pros and cons, and my final "bottom line" comments.  Make sure you take time to checkout the other parts of the review because they contain many photos and lots of commentary.  Also, there is an extreme amount of detail in those parts which is not covered on this page.

As you read these Pros and Cons below, keep in mind that it is hard to keep my particular preferences from creeping in the equation.  Therefore, it is important that you take the time to look at the other parts of this review so you can decide yourself on items which may be more of a personal preference.

Pros:

  • As I have been going through the details of this review, I kept thinking "what a great value!"  The materials and features of this rifle with a name like Ruger to stand behind the product for a potential price of $600 to $650 is truly a great deal.
  • The rifle shot great and has real accuracy potential if you can do your part.  When I was able to do my part, I demonstrated it has 1 MOA (or better) capability.
  • All the components are made from industry standard materials and Ruger kept the "Mil-Spec" configuration of this rifle to allow you the ability to upgrade it in the future if desired.
  • This rifle was potentially the tightest rifle I have reviewed.  The upper and lower receivers fit together perfectly with no noticeable free-play.  I know this is a function of overall manufacturing tolerances and there is no way to guarantee any other rifle will be the same, but the one I received for review was the best so far which may be an indication of the manufacturing capabilities of Ruger's new Mayodan, NC facility.
  • This comment is more a Pro for Ruger in general.  The documentation on this rifle's specifications and Instruction Manual are the best I have seen so far and you really know what your getting when you purchase the Ruger AR-556.  Always make sure you checkout the "Videos/Extras" pages anytime you are researching a Ruger firearm.

Pro/Con/Comment (you decide)?:

  • The front sight seemed odd in that the sight adjustment tool needed longer prongs to push the plunger down to make adjustments.  Ruger provided a tool with the rifle which was great on their part, but the tool (nor another I had in my box) wouldn't work on this rifle.
  • Everyone has there own personal preference on whether a flattop upper receiver should be paired up with an A2 front sight.  The point I like to consider is the type of sights I intend to use (fixed or flip-up, holographic, red dot, or variable power scope).  If my final configuration were to be a variable power scope at higher power levels, I might tend to consider some type of flip-up front sight as a backup instead of a fixed A2 front sight.  Having said that, I will say that you do not see the A2 front sight when looking through a typical variable power scope with your head at a normal eye relief position.  Also, it is hard to beat the durability of a fixed A2 front sight if you are planning on a co-witness setup with a red dot or holographic sight.

Cons:

  • One feature I found a little squirrely was the bayonet lug on a carbine gas system with a 16.1" barrel.  The bayonet seems mounted too far to the rear (See comments in Part 3 around Figures 23 & 24).  Although I didn't explore much and I didn't have any on hand, I know that there are aftermarket adapters that can utilize the bayonet lug for other purposes (e.g. bipod mount).

 

Bottom Line:

I feel it was a great move on Ruger's part to offer the AR-556 rifle as part of their AR style product line.  For those who are fans of Ruger firearms and are on a budget, this is the perfect opportunity to get budget minded Ruger AR styled rifle.  For those just interested in and entry level AR, the AR-556 has the features, materials and quality that you would want in an AR styled rifle.


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