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

    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.


    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 …


    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

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!