Ruger announced a new piston driven AR-15 rifle: the Ruger SR-556. Announced at the NRA convention, the SR-556 is a completely new line for Ruger, and part of an obvious effort to redefine the company.
The SR-556 has a host of quality features, the most significant of which is the two-stage piston system. But, in a market that seems to have an overwhelming number of AR-15 makers, will the SR-556 be interesting enough to survive?
The “black rifle” market is clearly hot, as AR-15’s have been selling extremely well throughout the United States. Some manufacturers have stated that orders are backlogged six months or more. Bringing a new AR-style gun into the market now, may be good timing for Ruger, as a scarcity of all AR rifles may push more customers into their rifles.
Let’s take a look at some of the features of the SR-556.
I know this is entirely subjective, but I think the SR-556 is a good looking gun. Obviously a gun that functions flawlessly beats a gun that only works some of the time. But, all other things being equal, I’d rather have a good looking gun than an ugly one.
The piston system promises enhanced reliability because you are not sending all of the by-products of a fired cartridge right back into your bolt. While good weapon maintenance is still the best way to guarantee a functioning firearm, a piston system does, in theory, make sense.
The SR-556 features a hammer forged, chrome lined barrel, and is chambered for 5.56 ammunition (and will shoot .223 also). The barrel is just over 16″, and has a 1:9 twist, helping to ensure the stabilization of heavier bullets.
Sighting is handled by flip up/down iron sights from Troy Industries. This is the same style sights that I have on my own AR. I much prefer a front and rear I can flip down, rather than the more common AR sights. However, the SR-556 is a true flat top rifle, so adding a EO Tech or other optic is extremely easy.
Unlike the Mini-14, the SR-556 accepts all standard AR-15 magazines. Plus, the SR-556 ships with three, 30-round Magpul PMAG magazines. I have found the PMAG to be an extremely good AR-15 magazine, and I think this was a great choice by Ruger.
The SR-556 also offers a number of other nice add-ons. For example, the rifle comes standard with a quad rail from Troy Industries and a Hogue grip.
Retail is set at $1995. While there are some nice features on this rifle, even in the currently inflated market, I don’t think this is a terribly aggressive price point for Ruger. First, there are already a lot of AR-15 manufacturers on the market, with a great number of them selling rifles that are half as expensive.
Second, Ruger is not known as a “tactical gun” manufacturer. The closest thing Ruger has in their line is the Mini-14. While the Mini-14 does fill a niche, it is not known for great accuracy, especially when stacked up against a lot of standard AR-15’s. While I suspect the SR-556 will prove to be very accurate, Ruger will have to overcome the accuracy shortcomings of the Mini-14 in some peoples’ minds.
Another negative for me on the SR-556 is the plain M-4 style buttstock. I’ve never been a fan of the six position, collapsible buttstock found on the majority of AR’s out there. I much prefer the Magpul CTR-style buttstock. As Ruger is already working with Magpul on this rifle, the CTR seems to be the no-brainer addition to the SR-556. And, at almost $2000, having a nice buttstock would be more likely to get my wallet out of my pocket.
My overall, initial impression of the SR-556 is that it has a lot of nice features, including a piston system, which will make it attractive to a lot of potential buyers. I just don’t know if a $2000 price tag on a new, untested firearm will scare off most of the buyers.
The Original Ruger SR556 Press Release
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE-RGR) is pleased to introduce the new Ruger® SR-556 autoloading rifle – an innovative two-stage piston driven rifle. The SR-556 offers Ruger’s legendary rugged reliability, redefining the AR platform with piston driven performance. The piston driven SR-556 runs cleaner, cooler, and is easier to maintain than gas driven rifles, offering significantly improved reliability.
The patent pending two-stage piston driven operating system in the Ruger SR-556 provides a smooth power delivery stroke to the action and vents combustion residue out of the bottom of the gas block. The four-position adjustable gas regulator allows the operator to tune the rifle to specific ammunition and rifle conditions, minimizing recoil and maximizing reliability and long-term endurance. Reliability is further enhanced by a one-piece bolt carrier with an integral transfer key.
Designed for long-lasting accuracy, the heavy contour, 16-1/8″ chrome lined barrel is cold hammer forged from Mil-Spec 41V45 Chrome-Moly-Vanadium Steel. The barrel has a 1:9 twist rate and is capped with an AC-556 flash suppressor. Chambered in 5.56mm NATO, the Ruger SR-556 also fires .223 Rem. ammunition.
A one-piece, ten-inch Troy Industries Quad Rail Handguard provides ample room for mounting sights, optics and accessories. Made exclusively for Ruger, this SR-556-specific handguard is pinned to the upper receiver and provides a rigid mount for the piston driven transfer rod.
The SR-556 is equipped with Troy Industries Folding BattleSights™. These rugged, high-quality sights co-witness with Mil-Spec optics, and are easily removed or replaced. The sights can be folded down with the push of a button, or quickly flipped up with your thumbs. The windage adjustable rear sight includes an instantly converted short and long range aperture, and the protected front sight is elevation adjustable.
The Ruger SR-556 is equipped with a six-position telescoping M4-style buttstock that houses a Mil-Spec buffer and spring. A Hogue® Monogrip® pistol grip and three Troy Industries Rail Covers provide a comfortable ergonomic hold when carrying or shooting.
Durability and performance of the SR-556 is enhanced with the use of high-performance finishes: The barrel and gas block are chrome lined, while the bolt, bolt carrier, and extractor are chrome plated. The piston driven transfer rod is electroless nickel/Teflon coated. The flash hider and the exterior of the barrel, gas block, and regulator are manganese phosphate coated. All aluminum parts are Mil-Spec hard coat anodized.
The SR-556 is supplied with three, thirty-round Magpul PMAG™ magazines. These lightweight magazines feature a storage/dust cover, a stainless steel spring, and a self-lubricating, anti-tilt follower.
The flat top upper receiver and barrel assembly is specific to the Ruger SR-556. The standard lower receiver is built with Mil-Spec components, including a single stage trigger. The lower receiver is compatible with AR-style magazines, grips, buttstocks, and fire control components.
The 7 lb., 15 oz. (without magazine) Ruger SR-556 autoloading rifle is shipped in a padded carry case that features the Ruger logo, hook-and-loop fasteners to stabilize the rifle within the case, and internal magazine pockets.
Ruger’s new SR-556 is in production now.
Interview with Todd Wilkinson
Eric Shelton at the Handgun Podcast (no longer produced) has a great interview with Todd Wilkinson, the Chief Engineer for Rifles at Ruger. The interview covers the new Ruger SR-556 that was introduced last week at the NRA Meeting in Arizona.
For those just hearing about it, the Ruger SR-556 is Ruger’s new AR-style rifle that uses a two-stage piston rather than direct impingement, which promises greater reliability. In the interview, Wilkinson states that they have been running one of the SR-556’s without cleaning or lube for 15,000 trouble-free rounds.
Other information that Wilkinson provided:
- Even though the SR-556 uses a AC556 flash hider, the barrel is threaded to the standard 1/2″x28 so all of the aftermarket flash and sound suppressors work.
- The adjustable gas regulator has an “off” position, allowing for shooting it off the bench like a bolt action rifle. Additionally, this would make for a very quiet supressed gun, as the action would not cycle when set to this position. The only noise would be whatever the suppressor did not dampen.
- Parts are mil-spec, not commercial, which means just about any buttstock, etc. will bolt right on.
- The SR-556 also comes with a rifle case. The Ruger concept was to provide you with everything you need for the gun, except the ammo. Hence the three magazines, Houge pistol grip, Troy quad rail and other upgrades.
Shelton also notes that Ruger is not making the lower receiver (no surprise, as a lot of manufacturers are not).
Something that may be of interest to a lot of current AR owners: Ruger may sell the upper assembly alone in the future. This would allow the average guy to bolt on a pistol system with little fuss. (Yes, I know other companies are selling retro fit kits, etc., but I think Ruger would be the only major manufacturer to do so.)