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.
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.