Ruger SR-556E Economy/Essential AR-15

Ruger has just introduced a cheaper model of the SR-556 called the SR-556E. It will retail for $1369, over $600 cheaper than the standard and compact SR-556 models. Other than the price, its most notable point of difference is a cheaper handguard that has only a 12 o’clock rail. Rails can be purchased that will screw into the 3, 6 & 9 o’clock positions.

Ruger is not clear on what the ‘E’ (‘Essential’ or maybe ‘Economy’) version of the SR-556 lacks compared to the standard SR-556 and SR-556C. From what I can make out looking at the photo, it lacks the following …

  • Quad rail & rail covers
  • Troy Folding BattleSights
  • Barrel and chamber are not chromed
  • Bolt carrier, bolt & extactor are not chromed.
  • Houge pistol grip.
  • Ships with only one P-Mag magazine (the standard model ships with three)

Note, it does ship with the soft case and the gas system is chromed (chrome-lined gas block, chrome-plated piston and regulator).

It weighs a fraction less than the SR-556C and 0.58 lbs less than the standard SR-556. The SR-556 is well known for being heavy.

Caliber 5.56mm NATO/.223 Rem.
Capacity 30
Finish Black Oxide/Hardcoat Anodized
Grip Standard A2
Barrel 16.12″
Stock M4-style
Twist 1:9″ RH
Overall Length 32.75″ – 36.00″
Weight 7.36 lbs.
MA & CA Approved No
Sights None
MSRP (Price) $1369

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Bill Lester


    I think you’ve covered all the differences between this and a standard SR-556. I discussed these new models with a Ruger rep at the NRA convention and don’t recall anything beyond the points mentioned above.

  • TCBA_Joe

    The chrome linign is the one thing thats lacking they shouldn’t be doing to cut cost. Otherwise, it’s a very good price on a popular piston gun. The handguard is the real winner.

  • Buster Charlie

    $1,400 will buy a lot of gun(s and accessories) so even if it’s $600 cheaper, I’ll wait till it’s $600.

  • Zander

    Damn. TCBA_Joe beat me to what I wanted to say. I wonder if Ruger will make the chrome lined barrel an option on it.

  • Sian

    I for one like the move away from standard quadrails, as they’re heavy and almost always unnecessary for us civvies. Give me a full-length toprail and a lightweight modular rail system (With a variety of reasonably priced rail sections) and I’m happy.

    That said, $1369 MSRP (That would probably come to about 900 street?) for a stripped piston AR that’s still a bit heavy and with no chrome seems a bit off still.

  • armed_partisan

    Barrel and chamber are not chromed = Ripoff. Even the Kel-Tec SU-16 has a chromed bore and chamber these days.

  • MibZ

    Is there any real advantage to the chrome finish of the more expensive model? Forgive me, I’m a noob.

  • charles222

    yeah, no chrome lining means having to be extra watchful for rust in the bore. That’ll send your rifle to the grave a hell of a lot more quickly than lack of a piston….

    • LastoftheBreed

      You in the habit of leaving your weapons in the rain and not cleaning/firing them are ya?

  • Lance

    Id rather just save up and at least get the quad rails. Other than that the A2 pistol grip and the no sights is OK lets you get your own gear for it. Still rather expensive. make it $800 that’s more of a good price.

  • Other Steve

    That rail is so much better than the other one (Troy TRX), lighter and more comfortable to hold.

  • JT

    I don’t exactly get it. One can assemble a full upper and a full lower receiver for close to $600, then they can add on a piston kit for $400. And they can do it over time as they save more money. I thought that the 556’s were for those people who wanted a quality rifle with the latest advancements and had plenty of money to spend or at least enough money to spend to buy quality. If someone doesn’t have $2000, why would they spend $1300 unless they really couldn’t wait? Just an opinion though.

  • Zach

    I think this econo edition makes a lot of sense. The only thing I might miss is the chrome-lining in the barrel. Thinking about that, with a hammer forged CMV barrel, not having the chrome lining is a much smaller concern from a durability perspective than it would be in a button rifled 4140 barrel, and it may result in this model being more accurate. Wouldn’t mind seeing a stainless steel barrel as an option too.

    Losing all the weight of the quadrail is a good thing, the buyer can install whatever BUIS they want (but keep MBUS off the gas block itself), and there are better grips than the Hogue anyway.

    The new handguard looks similar to, but different from, the Troy VTAC Extreme (and slightly different TRX Extreme). It it the same diameter and basic extrusion as those handguards? Will TRX Extreme rail sections fit? They’re not very expensive, and anyone who has a TRX Extreme handguard on another rifle may well have one or two lying around anyway.

  • Buster Charlie

    armed_partisan: As a happy owner of a su-16, they’re probably more reliable (simpler action, more inertia in the bolt carrier to overcome fouling) and about a quarter of the price so you can spend that extra cash on mags, optics, and ammo.

    Also If you look how Ruger is shamelessly copying kel-tecs compact pistols it really makes me question how competant Ruger is that their ability to ‘improve’ on kel-tec is limited to ‘lawyering up’ the guns with giant loaded chamber indicators and magazine blocks.

    And while Ruger is YEARS late to the game on the AWB ending, Kel-tec is always on the ball with providing the customers with the features they want when the AWB ended.

    On the down side? Let’s face it, kel-tec stuff is not as pretty as Ruger, but to me price and quality matter more than looks.

  • armed_partisan

    @ Buster Charlie
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bad mouthing Kel-Tecs, I’m bad mouthing Rugers. I could never understand what people see in Ruger. My first NEW rifle was a Mini-14 that I bought as a reward for myself when I got out of USMC boot camp, and I was disappointed with how basic it was. Didn’t even have a gas system on it, just a hole in the barrel with a weight and a spring behind it. Less sophisticated than the AR-15 and it’s “dirty” gas system, and just as hard or harder to clean. The accuracy wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great, magazines were impossible to find that worked (this was in 2001), it only came with one magazine, the barrel wasn’t chrome lined (I bought a Stainless model to prevent rust), the sights were mediocre, the poly stock was hollow and didn’t balance the gun, the trigger guard had the wrong sized hole if you wanted to use a bullet for take down purposes, the trigger pull was atrocious, it didn’t come with a sling. I traded that Mini-14 away for a (very nice) scope. It was the first gun I ever bought that I sold or traded for anything. I’ve owned several Ruger products over the years, and none of them have impressed me, even the ones I thought were quality constructed, they always have some flaw in their design that gets on my nerves. I have long felt that Ruger was terribly overrated.

    Years later, I got the opportunity to extensively handle a number of SU-16s for my job, and they had MUCH better triggers, they took plentiful and cheap AR mags, they had mediocre sights, but at least it came with a standard Picatinny rail so you could mount a red dot or scope, they had a built in Bipod which I thought was very cool, you could store extra mags in buttstock of the A and C models (one 30 or two factory ten rounders), it had an actual gas system, Parkerizing was an available finish, and then someone actually convinced them to chrome line their barrels, they fold in half for storage, and all for under $600 street price, I was amazed. They’re a super value in semi autos.

  • I for one would rather go with an A2 stock an USGI mag than without a chrome-lined bore.

    Just my $0.02.

  • Stella

    Apparently the bore of the super expensive HK MR556 is not chromed or otherwise treated, their argument being that the steel they use is so good that it is unnecessary. Perhaps Ruger feels the same way! At least they are not going to charge $2500 for the privilege of seeing if they are correct.

    How anyone can find fault in more varieties of accessibly priced ARs–piston of otherwise–is beyond me.

  • MibZ

    Thanks for the info guys!

  • me

    $1400? For an AR that doesn’t even have a chrome-lined barrel? Not even just chroming the chamber as Colt occasionally does to cut costs, when the weakest point of the AR system has always been known to be extraction problems due to the low mass of the bolt and carrier? I’m sorry, what? You meant $599 MSRP, right? This is a typo, right? Because today isn’t April Fool’s Day.

    Granted, nobody pays MSRP, but still, I could get a no-name M4 lower and a decent flattop middy direct-impingement upper from BCM or CMMG that would have the milspec chrome lining, and get a decent set of clamp-on irons plus more mags than I’d ever be able to carry and a case or two of good quality M855 Ball and still have money left over, for what this rifle is going to go for once it hits the street. Plus the peace of mind that comes from knowing it’ll run with any brass-case ammo out there, no matter how filthy the gun gets, no matter how much carbon builds up in the chamber, it’ll still extract and cycle.

    No, Ruger. Just no. How much does chrome cost? Jeez. This is the one place NOT to cheap out.

  • Steve Hunter

    I would like to see this in a 6.8 for hunting as a cool alternative to a 1000 dollar bolt action i have a sr556c and a couple of ruger m77 bolt actions and the price would be about the same as my all weather 7mm mag or 22-250 all weather i could slap a leupold on it and sit in a tree stand! And I wouldnt be saying ruger is all show and no go! When every firearm manufacturer makes something thats close to other stuff from other manufacturers its alot of your own opinion on who is the best. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses if you like your cheap kel-tec thats your opinion and mine is if someone hits our beaches Ill grab my ruger plain and simple

  • Chris

    I never understood all these Grand/Grand+ AR’s… I built mine from a receiver here, an upper there… paid about 500 and it runs like a clock!

  • howlingcoyote

    Only $1400 dollars??
    Gee, I could buy a brand new Weatherby bolt action for less and what do you think will hold it’s value after 10 years or so?
    Even the Colt AR-15’s can be bought for less.
    I could also buy a M14 for the same price. Which do you think is a better rifle?
    I wonder what Ruger’s profit is on this rifle? (1200 dollars?)
    You could also purchase a new Reminton 750 semi-auto in 35 Whelen( or two,) for the same price. Which one do you think has more knock-down power?
    Or you could buy a Browning BAR in 300 WSM for less.
    Where do they get off charging these prices like this? Do they think everyone is desparate to buy a AR15 clone?
    Ruger could make it interesting and chamber it in:
    401 WSL
    450 Bushmaster
    458 Socom
    475 Socom
    50 Bewulf
    357-450 Bushmaster (wildcat)

  • Mike

    $1,400.00? Ruger must be out of there minds… We could purchase the original Colt H-Barrel Government Target model or the very well known and trusted Bushmaster for less than that.
    Seems Ruger and Mossberg both are in for a rude awakening…Especially in these hard economic times. Let’s see how long these rifles sit on the gun shelves before they get dusty and are forced to reduce the prices to where they should be: Around $400.00

  • scott

    If you store your weapons outs doors a chrome lined barrel might be for you! Look at the custom rifles professional shooters use for accuracy. You’ll find most don’t have a chrome lined barrel. As fa as a chrome lined bolt it my side eaiser but jesus if anyone is off to your right side they my see that shiny pos cycling thru rounds.
    I just bought my sr556e for 1000 bucks. I love knowing that all my gun blast isn’t being redirected into my bolt. I’m a keep it clean freak! Fire… 100 rounds at 60 ft just to zero in the reflex sight. Shoots strait and the best part, I get to say “my piston is better that your direct gas impingment!” Idk if its true but it’ll piss people off! Fyi this is a heavy rifle. If you got bird arms go get a bushmaster carbon fiber deal. They are so light its unbelieveable. Anyways id give the sr556 4/5 loosing 1 point for not doing a weight reduction on the hand gaurd. The bottom of the handgaurd has an almost1/2 think piesce that can be milled dow. Prob drop almost 1/2 lb. All that said I feel like I have made a good solid investment into a fire arm that should last a life tme. *assuming I don’t leave it out inthe rain and not clean the non chrome lined barrel…

  • Enzo

    You can pick these up for $999 and sounds like a good deal to me. Chrome lining the barrel is not necessary. None of the good sniper rifles have chrome lined barrels because the accuracy is worse. As long as you keep your barrel oiled it isn’t going to rust out. Personally, I don’t buy a rifle to let it sit around collecting dust. I shoot it. The barrel will wear out before it rusts out if I own it.

    I don’t think you are going to get a better gas piston rifle for $1k.

  • Lance Cole

    Saw the SR-556E in G&A, and thought…’wow, they say ‘cheap’ version’, so I had to look it up… OMG…$1400 MSRP? Even coming in at $1000, that is RIDICULOUS for a totally stripped AR15E3…geesh. I just sold an old friend of mine, a true ‘standing colt’ HBAR-15 (match grade, with chrome lined barrel) for $600, in pristine used shape! I was without it a month, missed shooting the 5.56, and instead of ‘plunking down’ another $750 for a ‘good black rifle’, decided to pick up a new Mini-14 (2nd one, and still as good as always)….for $425 NEW! So…someone, please, enlighten me…if I can get semi-auto fire rates comparable to an AR with the Mini, and can deck it out as ‘trick’ as any black-rifle, and it fires the SAME ROUNDS (with truly, better accuracy than any black-rifle, match-grade or not, that I have ever shot)…

    Then what is so special about the SR-556E, to warrant a $1400, $1000, or even a $900 pricetag? Unless you just turned 18, watched Rambo a few too many times, and want to ‘look tough’….I HIGHLY recommend the Mini-14 over the pseudo-black-rifle stripped-down wanna be…then you can put the $1000 difference into ammo, and GO HAVE FUN!!!

    Signed, A Former U.S. Marine (who has suffered FAR TOO MANY junky black rifles to EVER worship a single one of them)

    • Nathan

      Lance, where on earth did you get a Mini 14 for $425?!?!?! At that price, I’m getting two!

  • Well I just looked at this rifle at Cabelas, would you believe there asking $1599? I think the rifle is cool but thats just ridiculous. And I hear all the talk about a chrome lined barrel not amounting to much but to spend $1000 bucks and it not come with it is ridiculous. Chromed vs non chromed isn’t gonna throw the accuracy that far out of whack. Gimmie the chrome lined.

  • I don’t see what all the fuss is about prices on the Ruger. Of coarse most people are going to swear by the Colt being the over all AR, because they are the cause of the black rifle Explosion, and now everybody and their mothers make them. “But” just because they hold the standards for the Military, doesn’t make it the best out there. I own (both) Colt, which I paid $1,499.+tax, Sig Saur $1,699.+ tax, DPMS (basic version) $889.+tax, and the Ruger SR 556 E. $1,042. “After tax”. They all shoot just fine chrome lined or not. “Now” when it comes to spending big bucks for weapons, I seriously doubt any one with good sense is going to neglect their rifle. I wouldn’t. you can drive a Corvette and I could drive a GMC Jimmy (which I do) But if you don’t take care of that Vet, it wont last and a well taken care of Jimmy will last 3x as long, and as far as Ruger being a copy cat,,, think again. Who made the first rifle, who made the first Bolt action. Are all these companies copy cats? NO!! If you look at the SR 556 E, they has a cosmetic style of their own. If we only had 1 choice of everything, then this world would be a very sad place. Now going back to the ARs. after being experienced with all of my rifles. I would have to say that my SIG is by far my favorite. It’s a nice solid no slip rifle, My Ruger coming in behind it. Ruger may be new to the black rifle industry, but they have been in the Carbine Business for years and know what they’re doing. Don’t get me wrong. Colt makes a very good rifle, after all they had decades to perfect their AR platform, and for the piston styles, I guess all American piston AR’s are copy cats. The Russians have been making them since world war II.

    • Demouth

      Judge, You are point on…. I am Ex-Military, I am trying to understand why these people are complaining about something they obviously have not researched. Adjustable gas block….. Who else has that…. MMM No one! I like the fact that I can adjust the gas block to the ammunition and with the rod you can say goodbye to bolt jamming. The gas block is much easier to clean and I have a much more dependable weapon. While Colt or any othe AR-15 platform Is fun and have a good reputation, it is not so great when someone is shooting at you and it decides to jam on you. Now I am a clean freak when it comes to my weapons, as anyone that has served knows you don’t always get to clean them, but when you get the chance to, you do. In my experience Ruger 556 is an excellent weapon, it is dependable, you can fire thousands of rounds out of it and I have NEVER had a malfuntion. Which I can not say about any other platform, including Colt. Piont….. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. And definetly don’t complain about something you obviouly have never fired!!

      • TurnerJD

        i have the SR556E and i love it!, dont need all that chrome crap, i ordered the sights and rails from ruger and still saved about $400.

      • Josh

        Sig, LWRC, LMT, most piston rifles have an adjustable gas block.

      • 35Whelan

        Robinson Arms XCR is a piston gun and it has adjustable gas. It also has changeable calibers with quick remove barrels. You can change the caliber with a barrel/bolt kit in maybe 90 seconds without a whole new upper. They are worth a look, and are built like a tank, without weighing like a tank. Some people hate on the company because of the owner, but I have one of these and it is the most versatile tactical rifle i’ve handled. The hardest part about the XCR is finding out about it. Word of mouth is really the only press it gets. Just another option in the tactical rifle sea, hope it broadens your horizons.

        5.56, 5.45×39, 7.62×39, 6.8 SPC, 300 BLK in development

  • Duane

    I bought this gun really missed the look of the full quad rail. Any suggestions on what rails to get for the three, six, and nine oclock positions to make this gun look complete?

    • TurnerJD

      i ordered the rails and sights from ruger and saved about $400, you dont really need all that chrome crap.

  • mike

    I am reading all of these comments and I cannot believe all of the uninformed people out there. comparing a gas piston rifle to a direct impingement model ar is like comparing apples to oranges. compare the Ruger to other gas piston AR’s and the price is not out of line at all. If you don’t know what your talking about, don’t speak.

  • Mitch_ Hutchinson

    I traded a couple of Springfield Armory handguns for an SR-556E and it did come with chrome barrel, and receiver/Bolt and extractor. I bought some standard after market add on sights for under a hundred dollars and the rifle pegs the center at 200 yards every time. Added a Nikon 223 and am hitting metal targets at 400 yards. Completely happy with the Ruger…and if I were buying a new 3 gun AR this would be the one and well worth $1300 bucks. Although no one is selling it for that MSRP…usually find them for a couple hundred less. This is Oklahoma though so the dealers here aren’t in to ripping people off in my opinion.

    Mitch Hutchinson

    • Guest

      According to Ruger’s website, the E model doe NOT have a chrome lined barrel like the more expensive models. Maybe they put one on your rifle by mistake?

  • Michael B

    I just purchased this rifle, designated the SR556E, and it DID arrive with Magpul BUIS, along with the rather decent soft case, 5rd Magpul magazine as well as a 30rd magazine. My LGS is a longtime personal friend and allows me to purchase at cost, so I picked this up for $900 plus $8.50 S&H. (I was in the market for a piston upper and this ‘E’ series SR556 was actually $70 cheaper as a complete rifle than it would have been for just the upper). I called the sales rep for the company/vendor to ask if maybe I had been shipped the wrong model and if I owed him extra money and he said no and that is what the ‘E’ models are being shipped with now. I will tell anybody reading this that if they are paying over $1125.00 out the door, tax and all for the ‘E’ series rifle, they are taking it up the ass. The ‘E’ series rifle wholesales from the ‘Big Three’ suppliers/vendors for $900-$950 depending on which one you use. Davidson’s tends to run a little higher than Ellett Bros. and Sports South, but they provide a lifetime replacement warranty for the firearms they sell, so that benefit is reflected in their price understandably. Of Sports South and Ellett Bros., Sports South is usually cheaper by $10-$20 per firearm and has better shipping rates. Those prices are effective as of 10Dec2013.