Ruger AR-556 Product Review An MSR Without the MSRP

Ruger AR-556 Direct-Impingement MSR

Ruger AR-556 Direct-Impingement MSR

I am going out on a limb here by stating that the Ruger AR-556 is one of the finest MSRs that you can buy for the price right out of the box – at the time of this writing. The Ruger AR-556 is a call to the direct impingement crowd looking for an inexpensive MSR that doesn’t need a whole lot attention to become ‘battle’ worthy.

After I had came into possession of the Windham Weaponry “SRC” MSR, I began a search for a second MSR to serve as a back-up, since I am a believer in redundancy. Even before I discovered the WW “SCR” I had a chance to handle many MSRs at gun retailers and shows trying to find one that I liked. The WW “SRC” won out over many of them. I was not; however, going to expend the amount of funds on a second MSR as I had on the “WW “SCR” and I was sure that I could find a second MSR for a lesser cost but an equal in quality – even if I had to build one myself. Ruger; however, came through with the AR-556.

I had looked at and handled the Ruger SR-556 and it just did not appeal to me – nor did the price. I debated, as probably many do when they are considering a MSR, over direct-impingement vs. gas piston. I wanted to keep things as simple as possible and leaned to the DI over gas-piston primarily over the cost of gas-piston models. Gas-piston semi-automatic rifles have been in successful use for many years but do add a degree of complexity to the rifles that use this system. I needed simple and cheap.

The best part of all: The AR-556 is manufactured by Ruger in the USA, and I didn’t have to refinance the house to own one. At a retail price of $599, Ruger made it easier than ever for me to get into a second AR-15 platform without breaking the bank.

Hammer-Forged Barrel

Hammer-Forged Barrel

Chambered for .223 Rem./5.56 NATO, its 16.1-inch barrel is cold-hammer-forged from 4140 chome-moly steel and has M4 feed ramps. The barrel has a 1:8-inch twist, capable of stabilizing 35- to 77-grain bullets. Barrel contours measure .850 inch under the hand guard, .750 inch at the gas block and .700 inch from the gas block to the 1/2″-28 threaded muzzle with a Ruger flash suppressor.

No Glare on This Front Sight!

No Glare on This Front Sight! Note the QD Swivel Detent on the Gas Block

Quick-Deploy Rear Sight - Adjustable for Windage - Standard Feature

Quick-Deploy Rear Sight – Adjustable for Windage – Standard Feature

The AR-556′s folding rear polymer sight is adjustable for windage, while the A2-style front sight is elevation adjustable with an included front sight tool. The ramp of the front sight is serrated to reduce glare.

A pinned gas block has a QD port and a bayonet lug.

No Special Tools Needed for Hand Guard Removal/Installation

No Special Tools Needed for Hand Guard Removal/Installation

The Ruger AR-556 does not employ the standard sprung delta ring that requires two people, six hands and a Johnson bar for removal. The Ruger’s delta ring is twisted counterclockwise (as viewed from the rear), until it clears the hand guard flanges, then the hand guard halves are pulled out. Installation is just a reverse of that sequence. This set up will accommodate any standard hand guard; however, the AR-556 can also accept a standard barrel nut and delta ring set.

No Frills Hand Guard

No Frills Hand Guard

Upper-to-Lower fit is Without Fault. Shell Deflector is Required as is the Dust Cover For Me

Upper-to-Lower fit is Without Fault. Shell Deflector is Required as is the Dust Cover For Me

Since I don’t care to hang a lot of “stuff” on my rifles, the smooth M4-style hand guard fits my fancy nicely. The hand guards are made from heat-resistant glass-filled nylon for shooting comfort and durability.

Upper-to-lower gap is virtually non-existent. The only thing that rattles on this MSR is the six-position collapsible stock on a Mil-Spec buffer tube.

The Ruger AR-556 has anodized upper and lower receivers, both of which are forged from 7075-T6 aluminum. Lower components include a single-stage trigger (trigger pull on this brand-new MSR is about 7.5 pounds), a beavertail grip (hands like mine enjoy this feature), an enlarged trigger guard and a six-position collapsible stock on a Mil-Spec buffer tube.

The trigger; albeit heavy, is comparable to most MSR triggers on the market. Since this carbine is not intended for precision target shooting, the trigger is adequate for general purposes. With that said, the trigger will probably be worked on to get it in the crisp four pound to five pound range that I like.

Bolt Carrier and Bolt Assembly

Bolt Carrier and Bolt Assembly

Its upper receiver features a forward assist, dustcover and brass deflector. The upper also houses an oxide-finished bolt-carrier group with a staked gas key and a 9310 alloy steel bolt.

The UTG SCP-RG40CDG Sight Viewed from the Left Side - Note Deployed BUIS

The UTG SCP-RG40CDG Sight Viewed from the Left Side – Note Deployed BUIS

The UTG SCP-RG40CDQ Sight Viewed from the Right Side

The UTG SCP-RG40CDQ Sight Viewed from the Right Side

The flat-top upper also allows for the mounting of optics, should I decide to do so. The A2-style front sight is forcing me do so some homework on an optic and mount. I may go with a 45-degree unit for a red-dot sight mounted left-side so that I can keep the excellent rear sight mounted and ready to go. UPDATE: A TacFire 45-degree 4-slot Side Mount allows me to mount the UTG SCP-RG40CDQ sight without concerning myself with co-witnessing. The sight is mounted on the left side of the AR-556 and since I am a left shooter of long-guns all it takes is a slight twist of the firearm to view the target through the sight or the BUIS. Being mounted on the left of the firearm also keeps flying brass from hitting me; something that us lefties have to worry about.

I have noticed some play in the safety lever when in the safe and fire modes. It is just not as tight as that on my WW “SRC”, which also has a little play. The safety; however, does its job and is probably nothing to be concerned about. I may add an ambidextrous safety at a later time, but for now this will suffice.

A "Beavertail" Grip Helps In Control. Note the round Trigger Guard - Excellent for Gloved Hands

A “Beavertail” Grip Helps In Control. Note the round Trigger Guard – Excellent for Gloved Hands

The hand grip is a nice beavertail unit, but without finger groves. I had replaced the grip on the WW “SRC” with a Hogue beavertail unit with finger grooves and my left hand has become accustomed to it. It is also something that I won’t concern myself with as the grip that is installed on the AR-556 is more than adequate. I normally wear gloves when operating firearms anyway.

Six-Position Adjustable Stock - Soon to See Cheek Rest

Six-Position Adjustable Stock – Soon to See Cheek Rest

Cheek Piece and Butt Stock Cover Installed. Butt Stock Cover adds a 1/2-inch LOP that I Need

Cheek Piece and Butt Stock Cover Installed. Butt Stock Cover adds a 1/2-inch LOP that I Need

I have never cared for collapsible stocks, but I will leave it, and will probably add a cheek piece simply because I like them. UPDATE: A cheek piece and butt stock cover has been added. The butt stock cover is not for recoil; it is to cover the hole in the end of the butt stock and also to add 1/2-inch of LOP with the stock fully extended (minor surgery was required to fit the cover with the cheek piece installed).

Weighing in at a mere 6.5 pounds dry, the AR-556 is comparable with most MSRs on the market and makes for a very portable piece of hardware.

The one thing that is noticeable over some other MSRs that I have handled is that when charging the AR-556 there seems to be more buffer spring tension than with other MSRs (or that I am getting weak). There is a definite “feel” when the bolt comes out of battery and returns to battery. Since I don’t have a way to measure the tension, I am simply going by a feel rather than actual measurement.

30-Round Magpul Came Standard With My AR-556. States will vary In Magazine Capacity

30-Round Magpul Came Standard With My AR-556. States will vary In Magazine Capacity

The Ruger AR-556 came with a 30-round Magpul magazine. Of course, the magazine capacity will vary by state. I tested the 30-rounds, 20-round, and 5-round Magpul magazines and all went in and came out without a hitch.

The Ruger AR-556 Fits the Bill Without A Lot Of Bills Being Paid for it

The Ruger AR-556 Fits the Bill Without A Lot Of Bills Being Pulled From the Wallet

The AR design is well established and well tested, but Ruger’s version is built to a very high standard of quality and backed by a company I trust. I like the fact it is made in house, in Mayodan, North Carolina, with American labor and technology and not one of the many M4 types that are a hodgepodge of anonymous third party pieces. I also like the fact that the Ruger AR-556 is nearly range-ready out of the box. As soon as I clean it up and lubricate it in all the right places, I’ll test its worthiness as something to be relied on for defense of the homestead or simply enjoying the fact that I can deliver numerous accurate rounds downrange at paper targets in a short period of time.

As usual, a range report will follow, at some point.

Ruger AR-556 Update:

The first course of action for the Ruger AR-556 was a trigger job to reduce the trigger pull and also to have the gun smith inspect the safety, which I felt was too loose for comfort.

This was the first time the gun smith had the opportunity to look at the Ruger AR-556 (the shop had not received any in yet) and he quickly showed the rifle to the other employees in the shop. The quality of the firearm was evident and the “features-for-the-money” was quickly realized for their value.

I picked up the Ruger AR-556 from the gun smith this morning and he had done two things for me; produced a most excellent trigger job, and replaced the original safety.

As a side note, the gun smith pointed out that the trigger was a true Mil-Spec trigger and a better example he had not seen. The material used is hard and polished out well, unlike many of the AR triggers that he works on – they are of soft material and are difficult to polish because of the soft materials used in most ARs. Ruger did it right!

The Ruger AR-556 now has a smooth, crisp 5-pound trigger that is my ideal pull weight for a defensive firearm. The gun smith also reduced the lock time. That, he said, will also improve with use since I had not yet shot the rifle.

Ruger AR-556 w/New Safety and Grip

Ruger AR-556 w/New Safety and Grip

The original safety was replaced with a unit with a slightly longer lever; the safety is now very positive and with no excessive play. The safety is stiffer than the stock unit, but a stiff safety is all right with me; I don’t need the safety moving into either safe or fire positions without my saying so.

Between the time I had put the AR-556 in the shop and picking it up from the shop, the Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 had come in. Although I did like the grip that came with the AR-556, it did not have finger grooves; I like finger groves and I really like the Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 on the Windham Weaponry ‘SRC’ so to install one on the AR-556 was an easy decision to make.

Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 Tab Removal - A Must Do!

Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 Tab Removal – A Must Do!

Installation of the Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 grip is a breeze; with one caveat. First, remove the original grip with a 3/16-inch Allen wrench, take care not to lose the safety spring. With the Hogue Monogrip for AR-15, there is a small protrusion of the grip that is supposed to bridge the gap between the grip and the rear of the trigger housing. With the Ruger AR-556, there is no gap; the protrusion has to be removed for the grip to fit correctly. Using a utility knife blade, I had to carefully trim the protrusion of the Hogue Monogrip close to the grip. Then, I used an emery board to file the remains of the protrusion flush with the grip. With that done, install and tighten the new grip with safety spring (being sure to use the star locking washer from the original grip (which embeds itself into the grip), and perform a function and safety check. The Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 has finger grooves, beavertail, and also a palm swell. I was first concerned that since the new safety lever extends into the grip area that it might not clear the grip. My concern was unwarranted, as the lever cleared the grip perfectly.

Note: Both the Ruger standard grip and the Hogue Monogrip for AR-15 fit tightly. The sides of the Hogue Monogrip are not flush with the lower receiver at the trigger; they protrude slightly at the front of the grip; whereas, the stock grip provided with the AR-556 are flush with the lower receiver. The upper portion of the grip does match up with the rest of the lower receiver. A slight mismatch is not a game stopper with me and the Hogue Monogrip is just fine, comfortable, and functional.

A UTG LE Rated 3-Slot Single Rail Angle Mount with Integral QD Lever Lock System already mounts a UTG 3.9″ ITA Red/Green Circle Dot Sight w/Integral QD Mount sight at a 45-degree angle.

The next step is to mount two UTG Medium Profile Riser 3-slot mounts for an optic to be used at long distances; it doesn’t have to be tactical, just practical.

So far, this AR project is going well. Including the base price of the Ruger AR-556 and improvements, I have spent far less than on the Windham Weaponry ‘SRC’ base price. In fact, two of the employees at the gun shop where the Ruger AR-556 was passed around want one.


RESOURCES:

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About Taurian

Taurian is an Oath Keeper, veteran, former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Until retirement, Taurian had over forty-seven years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

2 Responses to Ruger AR-556 Product Review An MSR Without the MSRP

  1. Will says:

    What kind/suze of cheek plate is that?

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