In detail: The Steyr Mannlicher RS-556 rifle

    I had the opportunity to examine the brand new Steyr-Mannlicher RS556.

    This firearm is one of the contenders to become the next service rifle for Germany in 2019, and possibly many other countries.

    It took me a while, but I realize I am probably one of the few that have seen it outside of a brochure, let alone held it. Unfortunately I was not allowed to shoot it. (I think that would have caused quite some concern and a few years in prison considering the location!)

    I have some unique pictures to share and below are a few of them.

    The Steyr-Mannlicher RS556 in 5,56×45 NATO, with scope and Aimpoint red dot as well as a vertical grip.

    Unique picture: They Steyr RS556 vs. they Steyr AUG. I’ve never seen a picture with them together, so I had to take it myself.

    As you can see the bullpup design makes the rifle very short and handy. I have nothing against a bullpup – out of curiosity I bought one – but I would chose a traditional rifle design if I had to. Probably with a shorter barrel than the RS556 pictured.

    At least the RS556 gets the clever barrel switch function from the AUG, and it also has a short-stroke gas piston.

    The RS556 is a merge between the Austrian company Steyr-Mannlicher and the German Rheinmetall, designed to compete for the Germany G36 contract and others. The design is somewhere in-between an US M4 carbine and they Steyr AUG.

    Below: As you can see, one benefit with the Picatinny rail on the RS556 is that you can chose where you want your scope, as well as other attachments, with more liberty than on the AUG.



    Adjustable stock.

    As you can see those holes are hollow all the way through the stock. Probably to make it a little bit lighter, or just to annoy GI Joe as he has to clean the mud from the last exercise from 30 hard to reach places.

    The positions will lock.


    SAFE – SEMI – AUTO.  If you chose full-auto the rate of fire is around 600 and 800 rounds per minute.

    You can go to “SAFE” regardless of the condition of the rifle, typical German.

    As you can see the upper is monolithic, out of a single piece of aluminum. The standard STANAG 4694 is used for the top rail.

    Close up. Very nice ambidextrous features.

    SVG vertical grip, as pictured, or place for a 40 mm grenade launcher.

    I think the design of the handguard could be improved, it should really be a bit longer and cover the gas block as well. At least cover more of it, and allow for gripping.

    Aimpoint Micro T1 4 MOA on top of this German-Austrian AR15-AUG.

    Again, note the ambidextrous features with textures for extra grip.

    The lower takes STANAG magazines and AR15 triggers will fit.

    The main scope sits with three screws on the Picatinny.

    You can change the barrel easily. Here you can see the Steyr AUG gas system in a marriage with an M4. Notice the black AUG in the background.

    As demonstrated below, changing the barrel requires no tools and no disassembly and was done in front of us in less than a minute. Note the design of the barrel as it goes into locking position.

    Credits to Steyr Mannlicher for bringing a real, used rifle to the table. It looks like this rifle has been shot. You can notice carbon build-up around the piston. Most of the competitors had their rifles behind glass, not to be touched.

    There are several barrel lengths available, from 11.5, 14.5, 16, 18 to 20 inches. To my knowledge the one pictured is 20″.

    Transparent magazine. Traditional M4 charging handle.

    Note the adjustment turrets on the main scope.

    The RS556 is already quite heavy. I think this will be quite a negative as Germany and other nations start to test the rifle.

    Having written that, the handguard feels to short (one thing it shares with similar rifles from Heckler & Koch). Of course, this depends on how you hold your rifle when you shot, or for these types of rifles, how the Army you work for trains you.

    Close-up of the gas position. I cannot tell if the handguard and barrel is free floating and I forgot to ask. If not it’s a major disadvantage for shooting barricades and with bipod or any other kind of support.

    Notice the brass around the deflector. This rifle has been shot.

    The people over at Tactical-Life have some more experience to share, check their article out.

    Overall the Steyr Mannlicher RS556 is a well built rifle with an interesting merge between the M4/AR15 and the Steyr AUG. I think one of it’s strengths might also prove to be the biggest weakness, a reinforced design made to be as tough as possible adds weight. Probably too much of it.

    It’s more than likely that it is going to take a long while before any civilian sporting versions of the RS556 appear, but when they do you can most likely find them here (US):

    or here (EU):

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics and sound suppressors. TCCC Certified medic.