Ruger AR-556 Modern Sporting Rifle: Ruger AR-15 on a Budget

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Ruger’s first entry into the AR-15 market was the Ruger SR-556 introduced in 2009. Selling at the premium price point of $1995, it was a solid addition to the AR-15 market, but it was never going to fill the same niche as Ruger’s former flagship semi-automatic, the Ruger Mini-14 that retailed at $900-$1000. Ruger expanded the SR-556 line, both in breadth (with a carbine model, a lightweight model, a target model and upper receivers) and depth (the SR-762 chambered in, you guessed it, 7.62x51mm / .308 Win.), but Ruger was obviously reluctant to dilute the brand (and/or profit margins) by competing with the crowded low-end AR-15 market.

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The company has now decided that the time is right to enter the entry level market with a basic M4/sporting carbine, the Ruger AR-556. With a MSRP of just $749 it undercuts even the cheapest Ruger Mini-14 by a significant margin, and is similar in both price and specifications to entry level AR15s from Ruger’s competitors.

The Ruger AR-556 features the usual combination of A3 flat top-style upper receiver, nylon handguard, M4 stock and 16″ barrel. Ruger also adds their own ergonomic pistol grip, enlarged trigger guard, Ruger Rapid Deploy Rear Sight and their patent-pending easy-servicing barrel nut system. The full specification are below …

Ruger-AR556

AR-556™ Technical Data
Weight: 6.50 lbs.
Length: 32.25″ – 35.50″
Length of Pull: 10.25″ – 13.50″
Width: 2.50″
Height: 8.00″ (Without Magazine)
Barrel: 16.10″ Medium Contour
Cold Hammer-Forged 4140 Chrome-Moly Steel
1:8 Twist Stabilizes Bullets from 35 to 77 Grain
5.56 NATO Chamber
M4 Feed Ramp Cuts
PT Tested
Threaded 1/2″-28 with Ruger® Flash Suppressor
Barrel Contour is .850 Under the Handguard, .750 Under the Gas Block, .700 Forward of the Gas Block
Matte Black Oxide Finished
Gas Block: A-2, F-Height, Pinned in Place
Multiple Sling Attachment Points and with QD Port and Bayonet Lug
Machined Low-Glare Serrations on Angled Face
Sights: Elevation Adjustable Front
Windage Adjustable Ruger® Rapid Deploy Folding Rear
Front Sight Tool Included
Upper Receiver: Flat Top 7075-T6 Aluminum Forging
Forward Assist, Dust Cover and Brass Deflector
Type III Hard Coat Anodized
Lower Receiver: 7075-T6 Aluminum Forging
Type III Hard Coat Anodized
Bolt Carrier Group: Staked Gas Key
Chrome Plated Bolt Carrier ID
Chrome Plated Gas Key ID
Matte Black Oxide Finish
Bolt: 9310 Alloy Steel
Shoot Peened
PT Tested
Trigger: Single Stage
Buttstock: Six-Position Telescoping M4-Style
Mil-Spec Buffer Tube
Handguards: Heat Resistant Glass-Filled Nylon
Barrel Nut/Delta Ring: Patent Pending Design
One Person Removal
Accepts Standard Handguards
Uses Standard Wrench, Can be Swapped with a Mil-Spec Nut if Desired
Grip: Ergonomic Improved Trigger Reach
Enlarged Trigger Guard Opening
Capacity: One 30-Round Magpul® PMag®

Overall the Ruger AR-556 is a solid entry-level carbine with an appropriate price tag. I am not surprised Ruger has introduced a budget AR, but I am left scratching my head as to why they waited so long to do it. The AR-15 boom is over, they would have sold a lot of these two years ago more so than they will now. I suspect they decided it was better to dedicate existing production capacity to make high-margin premium rifles than low-margin entry level rifles until more capacity came online. Or maybe they are planning ahead in anticipation for the almost-certain sales boom that will occur in the months before (and maybe after) the next Presidential elections in 2016. Regardless, I expect this to be the first in a line of similar lower-end AR-15 rifles. The Ruger playbook has always been the same: introduce a basic model then expand, expand, expand.

The AR-556 press release follows …

Sturm, Ruger &amp Company, Inc. (NYSE-RGR) announces the AR-556™ semi-automatic, M4-style, direct impingement Modern Sporting Rifle. With all major components machined at Ruger’s Mayodan, NC facility, the AR-556 offers consumers an affordable, American-made Modern Sporting Rifle with the rugged reliability they have come to expect from Ruger.

“The AR-556 is the first firearm designed and built in our Mayodan, North Carolina, facility, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the finished product,” remarked Ruger President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Killoy. “Through extensive design review and product testing, our Mayodan team has delivered a solid rifle that our customers will be proud to own – and we are proud to call a Ruger,” he concluded.

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, and brass deflector. Other features include a 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.

The Ruger AR-556 was extensively tested during its development, with over a quarter million rounds expended during the final validation, endurance, and Ruger “jury” testing. With a MSRP of $749, the AR-556 is an affordable yet well-equipped M4-style Modern Sporting Rifle from Ruger – one of the most trusted names in American firearms.



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.


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  • big daddy

    I can get a Mil-Spec PSA upper and put together a lower, it seems like a better deal to me. You can get Mil-spec parts easily enough now and for good prices if you look around. Some of the PSA uppers offer CHF chrome lined barrel at 1:7. BCM also has some lower cost uppers of high quality. I don’t know why Ruger is using their own design on simple and proven parts like the FSB & barrel nut. Does the barrel and upper accept other Mil-spec parts? And a CHF barrel without chrome lining or even Melonite??????? It looks like a Corporate mentality miss here or should I say mess. This is the kind of rifle some guy who doesn’t know about ARs goes into their local big gun store and walks out with this POS. I’m sure it shoots OK and acts just like any other lower level AR. But there are better ways to go for the same money or a few bucks more and get a much better rifle. There are so many companies making parts for the AR and it’s so easy to put one together because of the modularity. This just seems like a huge waste of time.

    • Fred Johnson

      “This is the kind of rifle some guy who doesn’t know about ARs goes into their local big gun store and walks out with this . . . ”

      You are absolutely right. This is an AR for the non AR folk that are very comfortable with the Ruger name. Being a basic AR, and built by Ruger, it will probably run as good as any “noncombatant” would ever want it to. Which means use good mags and don’t worry about Mil-Spec.

      • big daddy

        Until he wants to sell it and finds out nobody will buy it. Or he wants to add something and it will not fit because the rifle is out of spec. It’s not about whether it works or not it’s about being out of spec and using proprietary parts that cannot be easily repaired and replaced. It just is a huge waste of time IMO. This is a huge problem with American corporate mentality. They are out of touch and it does affect the American economy. This is the use and throw away mentality of not being able to cheaply fix the item. The cost of a fix for it would not be worth the rifle. You’ll end up just using the receivers, that is if they are even Mil-Spec. To me Mil-spec means being pretty much able to use most other manufacturers parts as a replacement. That in fact the tolerances are close enough to be able to use any Mil-Spec part to repair or upgrade the gun. It is designed for people who do not know ARs but like the Ruger name, again corporate slugs designing guns. That’s what killed he US auto industry.

        • Fred Johnson

          “It is designed for people who do not know ARs but like the Ruger name . . .”

          Absolutely agree.

          Ruger already proved they didn’t care about meeting Mil-Spec with their SR556 and SR762 line.

          I think most Ruger consumers think of replacing Ruger gun parts with
          Ruger gun parts. For instance, a Ruger Blackhawk will not take parts
          from a Colt Single Action Army. Same can be said about the Ruger Hawkeye
          vs. a K98 Mauser.

          Yet, if a Ruger part breaks, odds are that Ruger will have that part on hand.

          I’m not sure a gun owner has to “know” ARs to enjoy the AR experience. Sometimes, it’s more about the shooting than worrying about the specs.

          • Ed

            Hmmm! I didn’t realize that piston driven rifles were mil-spec to begin with.

          • Fred Johnson

            😀

        • MK-EOD

          You realize the only non-standard part on the rifle is a modified handguard retainer ring, right? They changed it so it’s easier to take the handguards off.

          http://www.guns.com/2014/09/30/ruger-announcing-ar-556-and-collectors-series-1022/

          Everything else is standard. It would cost more to make the parts proprietary and would hurt sales.

          “The receivers are MIL-SPEC 7075-T6 hard-anodized forged aluminum with a
          standard flattop upper, shell deflector and forward assist. The lower is
          built with a military trigger and accepts all standard aftermarket fire
          control parts.”

          They even typed “mil-spec” in all caps, so you know they’re serious about their military specifications.

          http://www.gunsandammo.com/first-look/first-look-ruger-ar-556/

          “The most unique feature of the AR-556 is a proprietary barrel nut with a
          threaded delta ring for simple handguard removal. Ruger’s
          patent-pending barrel nut design accepts standard handguards and uses a
          standard-sized barrel nut wrench. It’s also interchangeable with
          mil-spec barrel nuts if so desired.”

          Just saying. I think you’re getting really spun up over nothing. If you like building ARs, fine, build one. Just realize that the vast majority of gun owners, especially new gun owners, aren’t inclined to buy parts and build their own rifles, and that’s good for the dozens of companies who make AR-type rifles and sell them as complete units.

          IF you manage to shoot out the barrel (bearing in mind that many premium AR barrels aren’t chrome lined, and even some widely-issued, combat-proven rifles like the FN FAL generally lacked chrome lined barrels), you can send it back into Ruger and they’ll fix it for free. Or you can buy a new barrel and put it on yourself. It’s really not that big of a deal.

          • David Sharpe

            I totally agree. If Ruger releases this rifle in Canada I would buy it in a heartbeat. I would also keep it stock except for a sight.

            It’s an entry level AR, guys who want to load it down with tacticrap are not going to buy a Ruger.

          • big daddy

            Modified retainer ring, does that mean all the many replacement handguards won’t fit? That’s exactly what I am talking about. How many people buy an AR and the first thing they do is Magpul it? Does a simple Magpul handguard fit? Do the drop in rails fit that many companies make? Is the barrel nut Mil-Spec so that you can use a Troy Alpha/Bravo rail? These are some of the fist things the average AR guy changes, handguard, pistol grip, stock. So off the bat can you change the handguard? This appeals to who exactly? A small number of Ruger fanboys, are there any out there, plenty of Colt & Glock ones. To me it’s a waste of good aluminum and steel. It shows one of the major problems of the corporate mentality in the USA, I saw the same thing happen to USA steel & car makers.

        • Anonymous

          No offense, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. At all.

          • big daddy

            First off yes I do know having served carrying the M16A1, owning over half a dozen ARs and having friends who do know more than me and asking them. Will a Mil-Spec replacement handguard fit? Will a drop in rail fit? Will a semi-drop in like a Troy Alpha/Bravo fit the barrel nut?

  • ensitue

    Ruger forgot to mention the faux bayonet lug on their ‘extra special” AR
    what a joke, I guess the Rem. R-51 was already taken

    • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

      Yeah I hear yah man. I hate it when I’m like operating really hard and I can’t find a bayonet lug to attach my bayonet for operating even harder when you run out of ammo.

      • Zachary marrs

        Dude, bayonets are f_cking cool

      • Yojimbo556

        You talk smack now, but when the zombies come Ill be bayoneting the shit out of them. As long as they are the slow moving kind. Not those fake fast moving ones. Hopefully your duct tape will hold out.

        • David Sharpe

          My dads Mini has an aftermarket barrel and bayo lug. I see no reason why you couldn’t put a lug on this after the fact.

          But I agree, they should have put one on for ZOMBIES!!

          Although I don’t plan on stabbing zees. Too high of a chance that it’ll get stuck.

      • Jow Blow

        Bayonets piss of the anti-gunners and therefore have extra value. Plus they have many uses. Even for the non operators. So until you know better every rifle should have bayonet or at least an option.

        Now the questions should be focused about the gas block, can it be changed out with a regular Ar-15 front sight? If it gets damaged, if not and they don’t have parts, are you screwed for custom machine shop fees?
        Too much Ruger “lock in” mentality & history (surprised they didn’t make it take there own mags…) for a budget AR-15.

        Hopefully any gunshop will steer the uneducated away from it and to AR with more standard parts for years down the road and in case accidents happen. Who says that new person won’t develop “Evil Black Rifle Disorder” (its a disorder not a disease folks)but I digress…
        Who says their new front sight and gas block design will work well or last? The front site adjustment tool makes me a little nervous because Ruger may have made that priority…. Now if it is milled from solid piece of metal then , we have durability improvement if they used the right materials.

        Patent pending on the delta ring and barrel nut? Seriously….why reinvent the wheel except to lock someone into buying proprietary hand guards and rails. The barrel nut being different might have reason if the hand guards were free floated….That whole accessories market may be pain in the buttocks with special hardware. The last panic made getting special parts even worse. Something every gun owner should be aware of and new ones warned by stores. Why would stores want to stock inventory that might never move for a rifle that production upgrades and redesigns might make getting matching/identical parts hard? At least it says it can be swapped with regular barrel nut but guess what that requires? Skills that the target demographic buying this rifle are not likely to have.

        Including one mag is just sad. Nothing says cheap cost cutting & profit whoring like one mag with a firearm. Even if they made simple one 30 round and one 10 or 5 type combination. Its not like magazines are that expensive , especially on the whole side in large quantities.

        Ruger needs to work on living up to their name. Hard to believe this comes from the company that made the great 10/22 everyone has known and loved…. They need to go back to build great reliable and affordable firearms. Which this is step in the right direction but doesn’t get there because some of the old school Mini -14 draw backs.

        • Fred Johnson

          You bring up the gas block. It is interesting that it is pinned on top of the barrel. It seems the pins on top may slightly wedge the gas block up off the barrel if specs aren’t kept tight. Could be a gas leaker?

          The delta ring is a neat idea in that it unscrews for those that can’t force down a traditional delta ring. Saves buying a delta ring compression tool when changing out handguards.
          http://www.downrange.tv/blog/torture-testing-the-new-ruger-ar-556/31594/

          • big daddy

            I’m disabled and I can push down the Delta ring with my arthritic hands. Are there men that weak or lazy? If you have a tool use it especially if you do it a lot. But I never had an issue using my hands.

      • FearNoEvil45

        I laughed for minutes at this ^^^

    • StonerRick

      Do people actually buy a carbine gas 16″ barrel expecting a bayo to fit???

      • valorius

        They fit, but sloppily.

        • big daddy

          There’s an extension you can buy that goes on your lug.

  • 1leggeddog

    With a price like this…

    I hope they make it up north to Canada asap.

    • David Sharpe

      I’d buy this before I bought a Norc.

      • 1leggeddog

        exactly my thoughts

  • TDog

    Oh joys… another “new” AR-15… just what we need. Why, one would almost think they were unwilling to innovate because why try to offer new items when the sheep will continue to stuff their unthinking maws with yet another AR-15 style gun?

    • C.

      Reminds me of the Ford Model T……you can have any colour as long as it’s black. In this case, you can have any rifle, as long as it’s an AR-15.

    • Bobbert91

      Oh joys, another fist shaker at how stubborn and lazy the firearms industry is for catering to market demand. Let’s be honest, all you guys complaining about the over saturation of the AR platform think innovation is a $400, gas-piston carbine wrapped in more plastic furniture, that STILL uses AR mags!

      • TDog

        I haven’t bought an AR in ages. I had one and I sold it. Innovation is the Chiappa Rhino (great gun), the Bullpup Unlimited 870 kit (a conversion kit, but still awesome), and the KSG (not a fan of it, but it’s at least something new).

  • Mark N.

    Assuming it sells for under $700, it is not too far from what it costs to build ($500 plus, depending on options). And hey, its a Ruger without proprietary mags! With the barrel it has, it should outshoot the Mini as well– chrome moly with an oxide finish–nothing wrong with that. There is no reason it has to be chrome lined as well.

    • big daddy

      I ask how long will the gun last when the cheap guy who bought it starts shooting cheap eastern Euro ammo?

      • David Sharpe

        I’ll do a test for you if we ever see these in Canada.

      • Anonymous

        Considering that the vast percentage of people who only buy one AR, and only spend $600 on it, *might* shoot a total of 200-300 rounds through that rifle in the next decade after they buy it….I don’t think barrel longevity is a pertinent concern. After all, the cost of 2k rounds is enough to buy another one.

        • big daddy

          I shoot a lot and go through a lot of ammo. So I should have said what if the person who shoots cheap ammo puts the rifle back in his closet without cleaning it. After a few hundred rounds of Wolf and without cleaning it what would the barrel look like in a few months when he wants to shoot it again. As I said, I ASK how long, I’m not saying I know for sure. There is a question mark after the sentence.

  • Cymond

    “In a flash sweepstakes similar to the one leading up to the new Gunsite Scout rifle launch, Ruger announced they will introduce a new firearm and that the company has “…saved the best for last.”

    And THIS is what they unveil? Saving “the best for last” means an entry-level AR-15?

    I’m an unashamed AR-15 fanboy (and still have a lot to learn), but even I think this is mediocre. Even another Kel-Tec ripoff would be exciting compared to this.

    • Tim Pearce

      Especially if it was a copy of any of the Kel-Tecs that people are selling their mothers into slavery to get.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    It fills a classic niche in the Ruger line. Why all the bad attitude? Another good rifle at a reasonable price for us married folks on a budget, Geoff Who thinks they are a couple years late to the party.

  • mig1nc

    Love the skinny CAR style handguards.

  • jeff

    LOOK you guys are getting the wrong idea about this rifle . it is for a noob who walks into a gunstore with 600 bucks and wants an ar15 plain and simple it is not meant to compete with the s&w m&p sport it actualy has less features than that rifle for a higher msrp.
    this is a great rifle to get new shooters interested in the ar platform cheap.

    • Fred Johnson

      Someone needs to do a “chart” comparing the economy models. Just keep commercial spec in mind. 🙂

    • Car54

      I think it is also the guy who wants another AR but doesn’t want to build one, or for the person who knows and trusts Ruger and may just buy another AR because it has the name on it.

    • FourString

      On the one hand, the M&P15 Sport does not have a forward assist, whereas the Ruger does

      • Fred Johnson

        shhhh . . .

        or a dust cover, or a fancy screw down delta ring, or a non A2 pistol grip, or a separate trigger guard, or a custom styled FSB . . .

        Not that it really matters. 😀

    • Lane

      Yes it is for noobs, but you also need to look at the other side. You havea bare bones rifle to build on. Its a great way to build the perfect AR for you. The s&w sport is a great gun, but the didnt make it so easy to customize. I think the classic AR body is easier to customize personally. But thats my opinion.

    • J.T.

      “it is not meant to compete with the s&w m&p sport it actualy has less features than that rifle for a higher msrp.”

      A $10 higher MSRP, which gets you the forward assist and dust cover that are missing from the M&P15 Sport. That $10 also gets you a more ergonomic pistol grip and a CHF barrel. Please name all of theses features that the M&P15 Sport has that this doesn’t? This is a rifle that is clearly meant to compete in the entry level market with the M&P15 Sport and give you a little more for your money.

      • jeff

        the sport has a melonite lined bbl and the ruger has no treatment that alone makes the sport 100x better also the sport doesnt have the 10lb trigger the ruger does. and the sport is a 1in9 bbl you can buy a sport for under 550 everywhere online but the ruger is 600 min if you can find one they prob will be more like 650-700 everywhere . ill take a sport anyday

  • valorius

    Looks lime a winner.

  • Ditto

    Imagine if the Smith & Wesson M&P Sport was a brand new car that only cost $15,000. Great car, but lacking in some of the amenities people look for. Now Ruger says, hey, you can get our brand new car, but you also get all the bells and whistles on it for the same price. Sound good? Yeah. They’re going to sell a bunch of these.

  • J.T.

    Sorry, Ruger, but not having a chrome lined barrel and chamber is a dealbreaker. Other than that it is a nice rifle (although a mid-length gas system would have been preferred).

  • bluestreak_v

    Though its a nice rifle, I’m kinda bummed the rumors of a new Ruger PCC didn’t pan out… 😉

  • Ed

    I don’t usually chime in on these discussions, but here is my 2 cents worth. This new Ruger will fill a spot in the basic (budget?) AR market. For a street price of $600, it far less than any current basic AR that is already on the market. It is also about the same price that a person would spend on parts to build one. It will also be backed by a company who takes pride in their product. I predict that Ruger will sell a bunch of these, and the boutique manufacturers will fall on hard times in the near future.

  • Nimrod

    The reason Ruger waited to bring out a AR is because they didn’t need the sales during the panic. It wasn’t worth the effort. They now need products to generate revenue and entice people back to buy some more guns. Ruger makes good, affordable stuff and has good customer service. As such they have a large customer base who will buy it over similar guns just because it says “Ruger” on it. It is a perfect time to jump into the market with this rifle.

  • Kip Hackman

    Ruger really dropped the ball on this one. I am sick and tired of AR’s, and I can get them or build one from hundreds of different manufacturers. If they would have made a Takedown style semi auto rifle in 9mm, .45 ACP and .357 SIG, they would have had a winner. Yawn, Ruger. Get your act together.

    • David Sharpe

      I’d like to see the PC9 back, I’ve never used one but I’ve watched videos on them and love them. It’s a shame they were discontinued.

  • ARugerGuy

    It is interesting to me that not very many people in the comments seem to realize that this gun was made to Comply with mil-spec. I helped design some of the assembly fixtures for this gun, and we had literaly no room to adjust the design to make it easier to manufacture(we work closely with the design and manufacturing engineers). The main focus for us was to make this gun in such a way that most of the aftermarket parts would fit. That includes the delta ring, so you can replace the ring with any other that fit mil spec standard and the bbl guard can be changed with or without the ruger delta ring.

    • Anonymous

      Any plans to offer these in different barrel lengths? I love Ruger, but
      don’t quite understand their obsession with stubby rifle barrels –
      particularly in calibers like .308. It’s honestly the only thing that
      has stopped me from seriously considering a Scout or SR-762

    • Ed

      I just noticed that the upper and lower receivers are made by Cerro Forge. One of the best forging companies out there. The make uppers, lowers, and carry handles for Colt, Bushmaster, and many others.

  • Beaumont

    I agree w/ Jeff’s points, but still: Ruger introduces M4gery. In 2014. I am…sooo impressed.

  • Lane

    Im liking this gun a lot. I have friend who swear on Ruger and I like the S&W, but some of the things they took off to make it “lighter” kind of took the glory of the AR away like the dust cover and bump.

  • Daniel Wirth

    When will this rifle be available ?

  • Rich

    Does anyone know if this is a piston or gas MSR?

  • jeffery

    I just bought one of these bad boys for 417 dollars employee discount rocks anyways I will spend another 200 to get it customized to my liking it’s a sweet gun worth ever dime I spent on it. Complain all you like but Kruger will make bank off these guns