RUGER AR-556 223 Rem/5.56 NATO 16.1in 30rd Collapsible Stock Semi-Auto Rifle
Dubbed the AR-556, it is an M4-style carbine chambered for a 5.56 NATO and .223 REM. The 7075-T6 hard-coat anodized aluminum forgings, shot-peened and proof-tested 9310 steel bolt, and 8620 steel bolt carrier are designed for longevity as well, and isn’t likely to ever give you a moment of worry.
Called the “everyman’s gun” and the “best AR for the money”, the Ruger AR-556 certainly is a popular piece to come from this iconic firearm manufacturer. I’m of the mind that any gun is a good gun, and any good deal associated with a quality option is worth investigating.
Luckily, I didn’t need to make more than one phone call to find somebody with one to head to the range with since they are a hot seller. Even the local gun store said they sell the minute they get them in (although don’t most ARs these days?). I’m always partial to my personal firearms, but it didn’t take me long to covet this option as well. Check out my Ruger AR-556 Review below to see if it belongs in your gun cabinet too.
Sturm, Ruger & Co History and Overview
American born and still American built, Ruger is one of the last remaining 100% American-owned gun manufacturing companies. Started in 1938 by a young student, Ruger introduced a lightweight military machine gun for the military. By 1949 he had introduced his first sporting firearm with help by Sturm, who invested into the business- still represented in the company name despite his passing only a few years later.
With factories in both New Hampshire and Arizona, the company has manufactured more than 20 million firearms. Dependable and built to last, you really can’t go wrong when investing in any of their products.
Ruger first introduced their AR-style rifle in 2009 with the launch of the SR-556 models in the form of a two-stage, piston operation. Pricy, but top-notch, they introduced the more budget-friendly gas-impingement in 2014.
At just over 6.5 lbs. unloaded, it is a lightweight, comfortable option that boasts a 16-inch medium contour cold hammer-forged steel barrel detailed by M4 feed ramp cuts. The 1:8 inch rifling twist rate is a popular option, and the threaded muzzle comes with a flash suppressor. It also includes A2 style adjustable front sights, a bayonet lug, and a QD (quick detach) sling mount. The handguard is a simple M4 style nylon option that is easy to swap out since that is one of the most popular options to customize. Plus, the black oxide finish is sleek.
- Well balanced and easy to shoot
- Handles both 5.56 NATO and .223 REM effortlessly
- Incredibly easy to modify
- Barrel isn’t chrome lined, and so may wear out faster through the years
What to Consider Before Purchase
No matter how popular the brand name or cool a specific gun looks, you really do need to do your homework before purchase to ensure it is a good fit for you. The Ruger AR-556 is considered an entry-level AR, but as an American-owned and built company, they have a lot of control over price. This almost always results in a higher quality product compared to many other similarly priced options. Take a look at the features and benefits below:
Ruger AR556 Features & Benefits
I’m of the mind that any gun is a good gun, and any good deal associated with a quality option is worth investigating. Luckily, I didn’t need to make more than one phone call to find somebody with one to head to the range with since they are a hot seller. Even the local gun store said they sell the minute they get them in (although don’t most ARs these days?).
Entry-level AR-style rifles are abundant, but you never want to settle for the only available option, or cheapest in the gun store. Doing a bit of homework in advance can definitely land you a quality AR to start with or use as a project base. Although I am partial to my own Anderson Manufacturing AM15 (click to see my review), I am absolutely impressed with the Ruger AR556 and without hesitation would place it as a top budget AR pick.
32 ¼ inch – 35 ½ inches
5.56 Nato, .223 REM
As the name suggests, the AR556 is capable of handling the 5.56 NATO cartridge, which means it also can take the .223 REM without issue. Personally, this is my choice of caliber to allow you the ability to swap between both and also stock up on more than one type of ammunition that you know is dependable. It also comes standard with a 30 round magazine and easily handles various after-market mags of different sizes easily.
The fire and safety switch is located a comfortable distance from the grip and is easy to switch back and forth without having to even look for it. Its location is standard and so provides a universal feel to location and how tight it is.
Grips, Handguard, Flash Hider
The 16-inch stainless steel rifle barrel is cold hammer-forged and coated with the company’s proprietary anti-corrosive coating. It is threaded and comes with a basic handguard that we’ve swapped out here with a more tactical rail for further modification. It also comes with a flash hider as well.
The rounded grip is narrow and comfortable, and designed for a wide array of hand sizes for a comfortable feel. Despite my very narrow grip, I had no issues with it’s over all feel both in stabilizing, or absorbing recoil.
6 Position Adjustable Butt-Stock
Quick and easy to adjust, the 6-position buttstock slides effortlessly and is also easy to replace for further personalization if you want. It comes with an attachment ring along the bottom that you can use for straps or other easy attachments. In our gun, we also have added an aftermarket ring at the front of the stock as well.
Pinckney Rail and Sights
The upper comes with an integrated Pinckney rail for optics, but unlike many entry-level ARs, this one comes standard with built-in front and rear sights rather than optics ready. We’ve added a Truglo Red Dot (an affordable first-timer choice – see our review here) to the rail and use the sights as a backup for an incredibly effective way to acquire a distant target sans a scope. The rear sight is fully adjustable and folds down flat as well.
The A2 style front sight is designed in a manner that is easy to adjust for elevation, and allows you to co-witness with various optics, as well as serving as a decent stand-alone. It’s raised elevation should place it right on target.
Ejection Port Cover
I know this issue gets beaten to death over and over, but seriously, have you ever been to a gun range? Barring a few well-manicured skeets and trap ranges, most are dry, dirty, and dirty holes back out in the middle of almost nowhere. You definitely need the ejection port cover to help keep things clean and save you time getting into all those little parts to get out the grime.
The magazine release is located on the right side and is easy enough to get to when swapping out mags. It doesn’t stick, and provides a smooth motion for release. I like the texturized feel for quick location when you aren’t looking.
Open Trigger Guard
As with most AR rifles, the open trigger guard allows for easy swapability to an aftermarket trigger or something that works better for you. Despite that it’s quite large over all, and provides plenty of space for a gloved hand. It is a single-stage trigger that provides a smooth pull right around 6 lbs. I had no issues with it and found it both comfortable and resistant free for a nice pull.
My Bottom Line
Even though I usually stick with my own AR, I had more than enough fun popping off a few mags with the Ruger AR556 to highly recommend anyone in the market to take a closer look. The price point is awesome for what you get, and I love how it comes ready with optics for easy shooting right out of the box; no need to invest in optics to get going.
I also love how comfortable it felt to shoot, with low recoil and easy target acquisition. Although I was shooting a gun that had been modified a bit from its original version, all the main components were still there, and since I am not a broomstick handle girl, I kept a good grip on the handguard while shooting and had no issue with the weight of the barrel.
To Wrap It Up
I’ve never been one to buy for a brand name, but in gun manufacturing, you can almost never go wrong with a tried and true industry name- and Ruger doesn’t disappoint. Since they first introduced an AR-style rifle, they have only improved upon the design and what they offer in their AR556 is great quality for a budget price.
Ready to roll right out of the box, it is incredibly easy to customize to your own personalized needs, and offers a lot of perks to help you get there. Complete with both rear and front sights, you can use them as a stand-alone or co-witness, and the included rail allows for easy addition to various other optic choices.
We’d love to hear about your experience with the brand, and have the chance to answer any questions you may have. Let us know in the comments below, and, as always, please share!