Ruger AR 556

[Review] Ruger AR 556

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The Ruger brand is a trusted name in the gun industry. When Ruger introduced the SR-55 12 years ago, everybody loved it except for its hefty price tag. Thankfully, Ruger released the all-American-made and affordable entry-level version of the AR-15, the Ruger AR-556. As you may know, we have written many reviews and guides for AR-15s. In addition, we have previously named the Ruger AR-556 as one of the best AR-15s in the market. So in this review, we will delve into the how and why.

Pros
  • Proprietary Delta ring is easy to remove
  • Easy to clean and disassemble
  • 1:8 twist barrel can handle 35 to 77 grain ammunition
  • Rear sight is adjustable for windage
Cons
  • Heavy and gritty trigger
  • No interior chrome lining
  • No ambidextrous features

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Background

Ruger AR 556
Image source: Wikipedia

In 2009, the United States firearms company Sturm, Ruger & Co. introduced an AR-15 style rifle called the SR-556. It was chambered in .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO. Additionally, it was an AR-15 with a different, more complicated operating system and a hefty price tag of around $2000. However, by January 2016, Ruger had discontinued all SR-556 rifles.

Afterward, in September 2014, Ruger announced the AR-556. It is also a variant using traditional direct impingement action. With Ruger’s usually affordable price tag, it competes with other entry-level AR-15s. Like its predecessor, it is chambered in .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO.

The Ruger AR-556 is the first firearm designed, engineered, and built-in Ruger’s North Carolina facility. Ruger also made it an affordable, entry-level AR-15 packed with features. In addition, the Ruger AR-556 is a modern sporting rifle for everyone. You can use it as is, which is ideal for beginners or you can also upgrade and accessorize it to fit your needs. For hunting, self-defense, or recreational shooting, the Ruger AR-556 is a reliable AR-15.

Ruger AR 556 Gun Specs

Ruger AR 556 Spec Table
Ruger AR-556 Spec Table

The following are the features for the AR-556 Model 8500:

  • Ruger Rapid Deploy folding rear sight provides windage adjustability. You can also pair it with the A2-style, F-height, elevation-adjustable front sight for a solid andreliable aiming system.
  • Made from 7075-T6 hard-coat anodized aluminum forgings, shot-peened and proof-tested 9310 steel bolt, and 8620 steel bolt carrier. Additionally, it has a chrome plated inside diameter of the carrier and gas key. Additionally, it sports a staked key for longevity.
  • Barrel nut and delta ring allow easy, one-person service of the heat-resistant glass-filled nylon handguard. Moreover, the design also accepts most standard carbine-length handguards. The barrel nut also uses a standard wrench.
  • Gas block is at a carbine-length (M4) position for improved balance and handling. Additionally, multiple attachment points include a quick disconnect (QD) socket and bayonet lug. It also allows for many sling and accessory mounting options. Additional serrations on the angled face of the gas block provide a low-glare surface.
  • Handguards are made from heat-resistant glass-filled nylon for shooting comfort and durability.
  • Single-stage trigger provides durable and reliable fire control. The enlarged trigger guard is also designed to allow gloved shooting in cold weather.
  • 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.
  • Equipped with a medium contour, cold hammer-forged alloy barrel with 1:8-inch twist rifling. It provides exceptional accuracy with bullets from 35 to 77 grains. M4 feed ramps and 5.56 NATO chamber allow the use of both 5.56 NATO and .223 Rem. ammunition. The barrel and 1/2-inch-28 Ruger flash suppressor have a matte black oxide finish to reduce glare and provide corrosion resistance.
  • Front sight post is elevation adjustable, and a front sight tool is included. The A2-style, F-height front sight allows co-witness with many optics.
  • Ergonomic pistol grip features an extended trigger reach for more precise trigger control.
  • Made from aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum forging. The flat-top upper receiver also features a forward assist, dust cover, and brass deflector.
  • Also includes one 30-round Magpul PMAG magazine.

First Look

Ruger AR 556
Image: Static Flickr

Handling the Ruger AR-556 for the first time felt great as it is lightweight and easy to carry. You can spot the Ruger-branded parts: the birdcage flash hider, grip, and rear pop-up sight. The body is black-coated aluminum, with an anodized hard coat to prevent rusting.

The front sight post is milled from aluminum. The barrel feels like older AR models with no long rail running down it. Like most Ruger firearms, it is affordable with the price ranging from $700 to $900. The Ruger AR-556 has an upper receiver with a brass deflector, dust cover, and forward assist. Most rifles in this price range don’t have those features. For a beginner AR-15, it feels solid with enough room for customization.


One feature to love about this rifle is the Delta ring. Most AR Delta rings need you to pull towards the rear while turning the ring simultaneously. If you’ve ever removed a Delta ring, you know that single-handedly removing it is no easy work. With the Ruger AR-556, you can easily remove the Delta ring with a few turns and no tools required. This allows you to remove the handguard quite easily and aids in quick swapping out of parts. Look at this video on the easy Delta ring removal.

Ruger AR 556
Image source: Ruger

You can adjust the front post for elevation with a sight tool. Its serrated front face reduces glare. Beneath it is a slot for a quick detachable sling. You can find our suggestions for the best AR-15 slings here. In addition, you can flip up the rear sight using a side button and adjust it for windage. You can also fold it to add better optics.

The branded beaver-tail grip is stippled to prevent slipping. Gripping it in my hand feels solid and comfortable. It has an extended trigger reach for better trigger control. It features a small trigger guard and the opening is big enough to fit a gloved finger. Near the trigger is the small point safety lock. It is comfortable enough to manipulate, allowing me to move the gun’s locking setup with ease. The Ruger AR-556 also has M4 feed ramps, which allow reliable feeding of ammo into the chamber.

Ruger AR 556
Image source: Flickr

The trigger is my least favorite feature in the Ruger AR-556. It is a single-stage trigger but felt more like a two-stage because of how gritty it is. I will discuss more about this below.

Ruger AR 556
Image source: Ruger

The buttstock is adjustable in six positions, ideal for any shooter size or gear. The Ruger AR-556 uses the standard Picatinny rail. That means you can outfit it with all kinds of lights, sights, and various hardware. Since it doesn’t use a Ruger-exclusive mechanism, the Ruger AR-556 is highly customizable. Unfortunately, this rifle has no ambidextrous aspects.

The Ruger AR-556 uses a direct impingement gas system. It’s a cost-efficient system that is lighter in weight and allows softer recoil. However, it can degrade more quickly than alternative systems if you don’t clean your weapon. If you are wondering, this rifle is easy to clean as you can see in the Ruger AR-556’s cleaning video below.

It has no interior chrome lining to prevent wear and tear. However, I doubt that you can break this rifle down unless you overuse it weekly.

I’ve mentioned that the Ruger AR-556 is customizable. It comes as no wonder then that the Ruger AR-556 is also easy to disassemble and reassemble. Assembly of this rifle can also be done even by a beginner as shown in the video below.

Shooting the Gun

I found the Ruger AR-556 was comfortable to shoot. In addition, I am confident that even beginners will find this rifle easy to get used to. It performs well when shot and consistently produces accurate shots. Because you can adjust for windage, I didn’t notice a huge difference in windy conditions. I also didn’t add any adjustments to the rifle. However, adding good quality optics will increase your aim precision. You can also increase accuracy if you add a scope as well.

As a MIL-Spec rifle, it is stronger than commercial-spec firearms in the market.

Ruger AR 556
Image source: Flickr

Because of the gas system, recoil is soft. A feature that most people won’t notice is that the Ruger AR-556 has a 1:8 twist barrel. The good thing about this twist rate is that it can handle light or heavy bullets, from 35 to 77 gr ammunition.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the trigger seems to be the weakest part of the Ruger AR-556. It is heavy and gritty, about 8-9 pounds vs. the usual 5-6 pounds. It is a single-stage trigger, but with the way that it feels you might think it’s a two-stage. For a better shooting experience, replace it with another trigger. I recommend the Elite 452 AR-Trigger.

I still found the Ruger AR-556 to be an accurate, easy-to-use, and reliable rifle with low recoil. It is an impeccable AR-15 in my opinion and would love to take it out for more shots.

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Competition

You’ve read just how wonderful the Ruger AR-556 is. Maybe now you’re wondering what AR-15s compare to it. I’m listing some competitors to the Ruger AR-556 and how they fare against it.

JR Carbine Gen 3

The Just Right .45 ACP is a pistol-caliber carbine. It has an AR-style trigger, stock, safety, pistol grip, and forends. You can customize the JR Carbine with aftermarket AR-15 parts. Unlike the Ruger AR-556, this weapon is ambidextrous. It comes with parts that can be switched from one side to another. It delivers rounds through a basic blowback system. Price-wise, it is also more affordable than the Ruger AR-556 and costs less than $700. While customizable like the Ruger AR-556, the JR Carbine Gen 3 is harder to disassemble. That also makes it harder to clean, unlike our Ruger AR-556.

S&W M&P Sport II

At similar price points, the S&W M&P Sport II is a direct competitor to the Ruger AR-556. What sets this rifle apart are its shrouded firing pin and nitride-lined barrel. Another thing to love about it is the dual aperture rear sight. It is comparable to the single aperture rear sight of the Ruger AR-556. Most people agree that these two are highly comparable. You’d probably go with the one you can get for cheaper on sale. You could go for the Ruger AR-556 for heavier grain target loads. For varmint loads with lighter projectiles, go for the M&P.

Accessories

Ruger Elite 452 AR Trigger

The Ruger AR-556 has a problematic trigger. So replacing it with the Elite 452 trigger is a great option to solve your trigger concerns. In addition, this is a two-stage trigger with a smooth & crisp 4.5-lb trigger pull and a lightweight hammer. It also has the same polymer pistol grip as the Ruger AR-556. Furthermore, it comes with an ergonomic and optimized trigger-reach.

Ohhunt 3-9X40 Tactical Optics Rifle Scope

What better way to improve your Ruger AR-556’s accuracy than by installing a scope? This is a high-power scope designed for long-range shooting. The Multi-X reticle offers a classic sight picture.

Conclusion

The Ruger AR-556 is a great AR-15 whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rifle shooter. The Ruger AR-556 has great potential, with an easy-to-use system and customization options. The affordable price tag is a plus, too. It is a reliable and accurate weapon that you can take to the range or keep at home for your home defense. While Ruger has made it easy to replace parts, I find that their branded grip and proprietary Delta ring are hard to swap out. The trigger on the Ruger AR-556 may be problematic, but it is quite easy to replace. With a 1:8 twist barrel and a direct impingement system with low recoil, you can use a huge range of ammunition for this rifle. I agree with Ruger when they said that the Ruger AR-556 is a modern sporting rifle for everyone.

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