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At first blush, the new AR-556 from Ruger seems to be nothing new. Ruger has been running their extremely popular SR-556 and SR-762 rifle lines for a couple years now, and the AR-556 is another black rifle in the same vein. But look closer and you see that there’s even less “new” about this “new” gun than one might expect. In fact, for a company that has been successfully producing a line of piston driven AR-15 rifles for years, this could be seen either as a step backward . . .

…or an attempt to fill a hole in their product line.

The AR-556, as opposed to the piston-powered brethren, is a gas operated rifle in the traditional AR-15 style. Gone is the clean piston system, replaced with the old yet reliable gas expansion system in all its glory. The rifle features all of the expected specs, from a staked gas key to a cold hammer forged barrel, as stated in the presser.

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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.

For Ruger, it seems like this is an attempt to offer their brand of rifle at a much lower price point. Their bog standard SR-556 runs at about $1,900 MSRP, but the AR-556 will only cost $749 MSRP. So, less than half the price for the same Ruger quality.

With the bottom falling out of the AR-15 market last year, a cheap entry-level AR-15 seems like the last thing that a major firearms manufacturer should be making. There are tons of similar rifles on the market, and while their brand will generate some sales it won’t be anywhere near the volume we saw over the last couple years (unless something awful happens). The only AR-15 makers that seem to be doing well are the custom makers and high-end shops, with the mass production guys slogging it out over an increasingly flooded market.

This new rifle puts Ruger in direct competition with other quality entry level AR-15 makers, such as S&W’s M&P-15 line of rifles that is the current top recommendation for me for new AR-15 buyers. I’m sure they will sell, but it seems like the latest from Ruger is a day late and a dollar short.

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96 Responses to New From Ruger: AR-556 Modern Sporting Rifle

  1. Too late Ruger, I’ve already got a half dozen AR’s. Thanks for the SR-556, though. That sucker runs like a tank, and weighs slightly less.

    • I’m liking my SR556 less and less. Had it for a few years, shot everything and every type of .223 and 5.56 throught it. It was absolutely flawless for just over 2k rounds then, no matter how much I clean or don’t clean it, occasionally it will have a stuck spent cartridge in the chamber. Happens with both steel and brass, new and reman, even if I haven’t touched steel cased in over a year. Doesn’t happen enough where I’ll never shoot it again, but probably once every 500-1k rounds. Also, I grow weary of its weight.

      • Are you heavy lubing the bolt? A lot of people make the mistake with the AR and light lube it like a pistol. The bolt (on any AR) should be saturated. Under-lubing can sometimes produce symptoms like that. When I have had heavy training/range days, I keep some CLP with me and will periodically put a ribbon on the bolt right through the ejection port every 300-400 rounds. It may not be your issue, but just a thought since it is so infrequent!

        • How would that stop a cateidge from sticking inside the chamber and the extractor from ripping the lip off the cartridge? I’m scientist, but it may be from really tight tolerances of the chrome lined chamber added to the fact of minute fouling making it even tighter/sticker, since it took thousands of rounds to developers this repeatable issue. Edit, also it did even on the all the gas settings. Like I said, not all the time, just enought to mad at what I paid for it.

        • Check your extractor for chips, cracks, burrs, etc. The extractor is relatively prone to replacement…

        • Scrubula,
          Good idea. I’ll check it out. Hell, probably a good excuse to upgrade the extractor anyway.

        • Bill,

          The only reason I was initially suggesting that was due to the possibility of the extractor spring sticking and not properly engaging the rim when chambering the round. I didn’t realize it was actually ripping the lip of the case.

          Jeff

  2. Eh. I like building my own. As an experiment, I built the least expensive M4 I could without resorting to crappy parts.

    Finished cost (not counting optics and mags): $487.34

    Is it a Les Baer? No.

    Is it a custom shop model? YES. Mine. Hits the target every time. Much more satisfying too.

    • What barrel did you use, and what kind of accuracy are you getting from it? I’m toying with this same idea of building the cheapest AR I can.

      • I’d have to look through all my records for a barrel mfgr. I think the group I bought it from said they were either Mossberg or Bushmaster. They couldn’t tell by looking but bought from both.

        Accuracy? Fine. Standing, no sling, iron sights, I repeatedly hit a 9″ gong at 200yrds. I’m good with that. Much better with optics. Tight groups. Much happiness. Fine zombie gun.

        I kept costs down by having patience. Waiting for sales, free shipping offers, etc, and kept a spreadsheet on all the stuff I needed and URLs. That also allows me to find what I need again. And again. :^)

      • Give Palmetto State Armory a look, they make their uppers with FN barrels. I dont know if that’s for all the uppers, but they seem to have a pretty good track record. Very reasonably priced.

      • I would love to see this brought back. The Kel-Tec Sub-2000 is an option, but I’d prefer something from a maker like Ruger.

        • I can also attest to the Beretta CX4 carbine. I have one in .40. I ended up buying a .40 Inox PX4 pistol (and TLR-1 HL light) to match. I love both of them. I keep it in the CX4 soft case and the pistol in the side pouch with plenty of 17 round magazines. It’s a nice little “grab-n-go” for the house. 😉

          This is what Virginia Tech PD went to after their massacre. The university wouldn’t allow them to go AR, but they switched to PX4 pistols with CX4 carbines in the vehicle. My agency authorizes the AR (Colt & Bushmaster) as well as an 870 shotgun. I prefer the rifle round, especially for punching through body armor. On the flip side, I like the pistol round in the home. Supersonic rifle rounds in a small room disorienting and deafening. Frankly, I think patrol rifles should be something like a 6.8 SPC 8″ barrel with a suppressor (think LWRC PSD). I think if the suppressor had been invented in the last 10-15 years, the EPA would have mandated it on all new firearms for “noise pollution” purposes! 🙂

          I wish Ruger would bring something back like their old PC9/40, but maybe with SR series magazines.

      • A Mini that takes AR mags would be a HUGE winner at that price point. But again, I feel that the Mini should’ve always been able to take AR mags instead of the over-priced proprietary mags that Ruger makes.

        • I agree. I like the Mini-14, but my major issue with it has always been the proprietary mags. Annoying.

        • I found and acquired some 30rd TAPCO mags that work great in my Mini, they’re polymer, but for $17 I’ll take it.

        • Back when the mini’s first came out I would take a cheap surplus M-16 mag, grind off the mag catch bump, then cut a catch slot in the opposite side. These worked just fine in my Ruger. Little trick, after grinding the bump off the mag should fit the mini’s mag well. Smoke the side of the mag and insert and the catch will mark exactly where you need to cut the new slot.
          This was back in the late ’70s when surplus mags went for about two bucks each.

      • The Camp 9 carbine was sold my Marlin. They sold a version in .45acp as well. I have a Camp 9. Not very interesting to look at but out of the box I was tearing up the center circle free standing @ 25 yards with reloaded 115g JHP. Sights were adjusted just right. Purchased Ruger M59 20 round mags for the Camp 9. I’ve not done much with it since I purchased it. Just a gun I wanted at the time just for the heck of it.

    • Ruger needs to make something of a Takedown 10/22 in 9mm/40/45. With the market to “preppers” being what it is, I would see sales through the roof.

    • That’s true, but the popularity of the AR is more recent than that.

      I’d have to say that I didn’t see my first AR-15 on a range until about 1984. And I saw only a few of them here and there throughout the 80’s.

      After the first Iraq war, the numbers of AR’s on ranges started going up – rapidly. Then Clinton, DiFi and Schumer started running their mouths about the AW ban – suddenly, everyone (including yours truly) “had” to have an AR – just because they were talking about banning them. My first one was an EA-15 HBAR-20 made by Eagle Arms. Chrome 1:9 bore, shot OK, very reliable, A2 furniture/sights. Accuracy was OK.

      After that, the AR market never looked back. It just ramped up from there to where it is now, pausing for another huge expansion with Obama running his mouth about banning them. Along the way, with the flattop uppers and carbine vs. rifle length, it became the “Lego gun” of the late 90’s to today. That’s when the market just seemed to explode, and the parts for AR’s section of Brownells’ catalog became the thickest and first section, followed by the 1911 market. You can tell what is moving in the market just by counting pages allocated to those parts in Brownells catalog. AR’s have a whole accessory industry behind them that no other gun type has – not event the 1911 comes close.

      Between the endless wars our political class seems intent on creating, the number of young people cycling through the military to engage in these endless wars, coupled with politicians jaw-jacking about banning them, I’d say that the clowns in DC put the AR on the ownership trajectory it is now on – where it will likely become as ubiquitous as a Ford F-150 in the auto market.

      Ruger has a habit of going where they smell money, and really doing their homework. They’ve gotten into both the 1911 and AR market much later than many other players. When S&W got into the market years ago, I couldn’t fathom why they’d bother – it seemed late to get into the AR market even back then. S&W seems to be making money at it.

  3. I don’t own an AR but I could see spending $750 on one. I don’t see the point of paying M-1A prices for a 5.56 that I can only use to put holes in paper or shoot varmints. I already own a 243 which is a much better varmint round. I can go deer hunting with an M-1A

  4. I love how people bemoan every “new” AR15 that comes out from every Tom, Dick and Harry company, but as soon as anything truly new or different hits the market everyone clamps up tighter than a frog’s butthole and derides it as not being an AR15!

    Well which is it? Either we stick with the 50+ year old design because it’s “good enough” or we move, however incrementally, to newer and better designs.

    FFS…

  5. About the cheapest you can build an AR is around $500. Most of the commercial ones I see advertised (maybe I look in the wrong places) are $900 to thousands. Assuming the actual retail will be less than $700, this is quite competitive to what you can build, and it comes with a warranty too.

    • Actually, Rugers don’t come with warranties. They just fix anything that’s wrong as long as your Ruger firearm is less than 65 years old (and counting – Ruger was founded in 1949). I’ve always heard stellar reports about the service at Sturm Ruger and Company, but I’m putting their reputation to the test for the first time – the Mini-14 I bought last year has a failure to eject about 10-15% of the time and I finally quit trying to figure it out myself and sent it in. Maybe if they had come out with the AR-5.56 a year and a half ago I would have gone with it.

      Oh yea, the street price will probably settle in around $600.

    • You can pick up a stripped lower for under $50 these days. At least one company I’m aware of has complete (minus lower) packages consisting of a full lower parts kit, stock assembly, and complete upper for right at $400. Just finished one of those builds myself and will be taking it to the range for test fire later today. I did add a cheap tactical scope. A Trijicon would have been nice, but just could not see having optics worth twice the cost of the gun. A different option would have been Magpul’s polymer flip down iron sights for just under $100 on sale. Or I could have gone with an entry level red dot. I have several I think I paid around $30 each for.
      Tack driver? Heck no, but baring any unanticipated issues at the range I’m fully confident it will be a fully functioning AR.

  6. Might of had most of the parts on hand (or on order) before the bottom drop out of the AR market. Building a cheaper gas system gun might rid them of the extra parts they had in their warehouse.

  7. I might have considered this if I were in the market for an entry level AR but these days I’m looking at the next tier. I’m considering either a Colt AR-15A4 or a 20″ FN-15.

    I’ve been curious about mounting a Keymod rail and a VLTOR collapsible stock to a rifle length AR.

    • I too want an old school AR15/M16A2 type rifle. I want a rifle, not a carbine. I do not want anything that screams tacticool.

  8. When I first saw the SR-556 I was surprised and pleased Ruger had made a piston AR, but confused why they didnt have a plain jane entry level counterpart, something comparable to a DPMS oracle.

    Seems like a very late entry for Ruger as the market is flooded with DI ARs right now from everyone who could possibly make one it seems.

  9. First, I got y SR556 for about $1200.
    Second, is this one in 1/9 or 1/7 twist rate? Big boos if it is on 1/9 like the SR556.

  10. Since its a ruger it still has that crappy 7.5 – 8 pond trigger pull. Had to invest another $200 in it. Mine doesn’t like Steel rounds or Polymor mags.

  11. I just can’t see how a piston-drive system costs $1100-1200 more than a DGI-drive system. It’s just not that much extra hardware or materials.

    • BINGO!! think you and I agree it is the eventual replacement for the mini and they can offer uppers much like past NH manufacturer T/C. If Ruger had been smart they would have the uppers already on intro and sell the new model with or without additional uppers in matched sets or cases…. ok maybe I need to get back into business!

  12. While the market is flooded with AR pattern rifles right now, we can still unload the S&W Sports pretty consistently. This looks like a direct competitor to the Sport and I’m interested in seeing how it stacks up quality wise.

  13. Most people here are not the intended audience, so hold the meh, guys. This is clearly aimed as an entry level rifle for new shooters. In other words, not the kind of thing that you get for yourself, but rather what you recommend to that guy whom you took out to the range last week to have him shoot for the first time in his life, and now he liked it so much that he wants his own hardware.

    This has MSRP less than S&W M&P15 Sport (another contender for the same niche), and unlike the latter doesn’t shed features… dust cover and reflector are all there. 1:8 twist is also a good choice. Overall I’d say it’s a rifle that people would buy for their first, and end up keeping for a long time to come. Which is a good thing.

  14. At first blush, it’s easy to be underwhelmed by this announcement. Given a bit of additional thoughts, however, it appears there is a method to Ruger’s madness. I would compare this to the SR1911. Incredible features and value for the price. Smith and Wesson has been selling a boatload of their Sport model AR. It’s an excellent rifle, but it’s missing features AR guys like. For the same price Ruger gives you the stuff the Sport leaves out.

  15. I’m tired of “new” AR-15 rifles. I want to see new (and good) designs at reasonable prices.

    The ACR is expensive, lacks the promised kits and is heavy. The SCAR is way over priced and it lacks in some areas. The Tavor is somewhat expensive and isn’t reliable outside of the urban environment. The ARX is bulky, isn’t very accurate and lacks magazine capability. The XCR is over priced, heavy and not very well designed.

    A mixture of the AK, AR-15, ACR and ARX would be very nice. The operating system of the ARX seems very good and compact. The stock design, removable hand guard and operating controls of the ACR are good. The compactness and weight of an AR-15 is great. The fixed ejector and bigger bolt lugs in the AK would be nice to have.

  16. For the transaction price of $556-$600
    They will sell a boatload of these thing no matter what the snobs up above this text say.

    This is a good thing folks…they pretty much dropped the price of every single factory built AR by $50 -100 by releasing it. Competition is a good thing.

  17. While we’re at it, can we drop the “modern” out of the sporting rifle designation? The platform was developed over 50 years ago.

    Yes, it’s more “modern” than a musket, but 50 years old is ancient in tech terms.

    • “Modern sporting rifle” is such a nonsensical designation. As you note, they’re not necessarily particularly modern. And any rifle that’s being used in any way other than combat would be “sporting”, wouldn’t it?

      Coming up with a special label for ARs and AKs strikes me as a dumb move, anyway. I know it was done to counter the use of “assault rifle” by the anti-gunners, but all we’re doing is reinforcing the idea that these kinds of guns are fundamentally different in some way, which they’re really not. Personally, I just choose to call them “rifles”.

      • You’re correct, of course, but this is a war of words in PR.

        On the one side, you have mendacious twerps like Josh Sugarman creating terms like “assault weapon.”

        And on our side, there’s “modern sporting rifle.” It’s not a fabrication – they’re used in modern shooting competitions for sport, and they are rifles. It’s just a term that sounds contrived – and it is. But necessity is the mother of invention, so here we are.

        I, like you, would just refer to an AR as a carbine/rifle/SBR/pistol depending on the configuration, and if someone wanted me to become explicit, I’d call it a “box magazine fed, direct-impingment, gas operated, self-loading rifle.”

        I’ve actually used that nomenclature in debates with anti-gunners. Their reactions are hilarious.

      • Really doesn’t matter if they are different, the M1A1 used is the exact same as what was in war….any gun will be fundamentally identical to a weapon used in war. Don’t let the left sway your mind even an ounce, it doesn’t matter a guns designed use we aren’t talking chain guns here!

  18. Oh well – already have the “new” mini 14 with a TAPCO tactical stock and an S&W M&P 15. The S&W is more accurate, but the piston driven mini doesn’t have to be torn down every shoot. Goes about 1200 round before I have to clean the piston. The rest of the time I use a Bore Snake. Works great with Frog Lube.

    • For the price you would think they would put a decent trigger on it. Having to spend an additional $200 after the $1900 price is pure BS.

    • YOu arrogant prig!

      For some of us, that $1500 price IS THE ONLY ISSUE.

      This gun is UNDER $600.

      That’s a BIG honkin’ difference, son!

  19. I, for one, have not yet bought an AR. Being a pistol man, I have not had a desire to get one, or see why I should buy one. Is the AR-556 one to get for a beginner? or perhaps the S& W M&P-15?

  20. I’m planning on getting one as soon as my Mini-14 sells. It’s about what I wanted when I got the Mini, but couldn’t afford. Now, the Mini has gone up in value and AR-15s have come down in price.

  21. Looking at the numbers its kind of a shoe in though. Consider this. You want a nice M&P 15/22. Then look at the big boy (Ruger AR 556). Its only $150 more. I also never had an issue with any Ruger. They are well respected by my old friend that is a long time gun smith. Its all he buys. Cheap and reliable. If you want to spend more its your choice. I would rather get two firearms than just one. You will get tired of that one high dollar unit in time and the firearm is not new. At this point it should be about price as long as the FA does what its suppose to.

  22. Don’t know how old you guys are, but in 1984, I bought a Mini-14 brand new for $350 dollars at a high-end gun store. (Fowlers gun room) It had a folding stock and a folding shoulder plate that locked into the wooden forearm. It was a 223 and before I knew any different, I also fired 5.56 ammo without a hitch. (some say you can’t fire 5.56 form a 223, but can fire 223 from a 5.56) Also I bought a Ruger stainless steel security six revolver in 1978 brand new for $165 bucks in Chico, ca. What I am saying is nowadays prices are a rip-off. As far as I know, steel is cheap, so is wood, and firearms is not rocket science.

  23. This didn’t show up in the edit.. I said to find a good friend who has a good machine shop and build your own. ( borrow a firearm from a friend for reference) Probably cost you $25 bucks. (I know, that’s how I built a 22 rifle for $15 bucks. The only thing he didn’t have was the rifling tool. That was easy to get.

  24. Yeah!! The heck with you jaded gun hounds.

    Thanks, Ruger!

    I just saw this at Rural King and I gotta have one.

    I didn’t want an M&P15 “Sport” cause they just look like junk, even though nutnfancy swears by one.

    But this new Ruger adds the dust cover and forward assist and comes backed by the Ruger name.

    I can’t find a new “old” SR556 (5905 or 5902) for under $1400. Even the used ones that pop up on gunbroker are $1000 to $1100.

    I can get TWO of these for that. So I’ll do without the piston for awhile yet.

    I was crushed when the school shootings drove these through the roof. Thanks to all you guys who bought ’em up at $1500 to $2000. Now guys like I who held off can pick up the scraps and save a $grand!!!

    Yeah! Way to go, Ruger.

    By the way, these are SO NEW that there is not yet one on gunbroker. SOmeone be the first and I’ll buy it!

  25. one thing for sure. don’t buy an ar that has the poly lower receiver. a web site thetruthaboutguns.com is where I look if I want to find information about firearms. not saying there’s not other good sites. a guy in the special forces told me to check them out.

  26. In the marked for a “shorty” AR ….

    Bought the RUGER AR 556 because of the NAME.

    BIG MISTEAKE !

    Brought it home….opened the bolt and checked it was not loaded. Dropped the bolt and pulled the trigger.

    HAD TO PULL MY ARS OFF TO OPEN THE BOLT !

    Returned to the “dealer”……NO HELP….”You will have to send it back….”

    Dealer would not let me exchange it…..would not take it back and let me purchase another brand.

    RUGER REALLY SCREWED THE POOCH ON THIS ONE……

    BOUGHT BECAUSE OF THE “RUBER” PLACARD ON THE BARREL…..

    BIG HASTLE….PACKAGE IT UP…..TAKE TO UPS (going out of town three weeks starting tomorrow) ….RUGER REPAIRS AND RETURNS IT….Had planned on “using” it on the trip…

    WILL THINK LONG AND HARD ON ANOTHER RUGER PURCHASE.

    BIG SCREW-UP …….WHAT HAPPENED TO QUALITY CONTROL??????

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