MPAR 556: New Piston Rifle from MasterPiece Arms

MPAR 556
These photos are of the prototype, not production, MPAR 556 rifles.

Update: I just watched this video (click here) of the MPAR-556 Gen II being run in a competition shoot by the guys at Full30. I was not impressed by its performance.

MasterPiece Arms is releasing more information on the new MPAR 556, the company’s new piston driven AR rifle.

The new rifle sounds like it will offer a variety of features while maintaining a sub-$1000 price tag.  Considering this AR-style gun uses a short stroke piston, that price is extremely competitive.

As the name suggests, the MPAR 556  is chambered for the 5.56 NATO cartridge.  Standard AR magazines will work with this rifle.

MPAR 556 handguard

The handguard is a two-piece, floating system made from machined aluminum.  The handguard allows the user to place Picatinny accessory rails in the most advantageous places.  This allows for weight reduction, since the user can simply remove (or not install) rails in areas they are not needed.

The buttstock is made from machined aluminum and adjusts for length of pull.  Additionally, the buttstock folds to the left for compact carry and storage.

MPAR 556 muzzle brake

MasterPiece Arms has not stated the barrel length, but I would expect a 16″ barrel.  The end will most likely be threaded, and will ship with a muzzle brake attached.  Since MasterPiece Arms now makes sound suppressors, it would make sense that all of the company’s new guns would ship with threaded barrels.

MPAR 556 parts will be either anodized or black phosphate coated (depending on the part material.)

Masterpiece Arms states that “Disassembly will be very user friendly, both for access to the internals of the weapon as well as piston assembly housed in the front handguard.”  Since this design is a departure from the standard AR, I hope it is true.

MSRP is $959.00 and shipping starts in January 2013.  MasterPiece Arms will be at the SHOT Show, so expect to see more photos and information on the MPAR 556 then.

Special note:  The photos in this article are of a prototype MPAR 556 rifle, not the final production version.  As soon as we can get a look at the final version, we will post them here on

MPAR 556 rifle


Previously Reported Information

MPAR 556 Rifle
CAD drawing of the new MPAR 556 rifle. Red is not the color of the rifle, but indications of specs in the CAD program.

MasterPiece Arms is gearing up to launch the MPAR 556 rifle: a new piston-driven, AR-style gun.

Although clearly influenced by the AR platform, to my eye, the gun more resembles a SIG 556 than the typical Stoner gun.  While maintaining compatibility with many AR15 parts, including magazines, the MPAR 556 is not just another M4 clone.

First off, the MPAR 556 uses a short stroke piston, which is generally associated with a cleaner running gun.  A cleaner gun can help enhance reliability, though the buildup of carbon is rarely a serious issue for the typical civilian shooter.

Aside from the arguments about greater reliability, the use of a piston system allows the MPAR 556 to be equipped with a foldable stock.  The stock is also expected to be adjustable for length of pull.  Unlike the typical AR15/M4, the buttstock will be fully machined aluminum, allowing for greater strength and durability.

The charging handle is side mounted.  I am not sure if the handle will be swappable for left-handed shooters as other modern rifles have done.  The rifle does maintain a forward assist.

The foreend is a two-piece, floated design made of aluminum.  It is adorned with Picatinny rails on all sides, which allows for the addition of all sorts of gear and accessories.  While some people seem to go overboard, I am definitely in favor of adding a white light to my rifles.

The MPAR 556 rifle foreend uses a front cap that strengthens the assembly and keeps debris out of the system.

Flip up sights are standard, but a full-length Picatinny rail is integrated into the upper receiver allowing for the use of other optics.

No specifics on the barrel have been released yet, but it will ship with a muzzle brake standard.  Since MasterPiece Arms has gotten into the suppressor market, I would assume that the barrel will be threaded and ready for a can.  The CAD drawing above seems to support my thought on this.

According to MPA:

Disassembly will be very user friendly, both for access to the internals of the weapon as well as piston assembly housed in the front handguard.

MPAR 556

Currently, MSRP is set at $959.  That makes this gun very competitive as many piston driven guns go for hundreds more.  Assuming this gun is well built and reliable, I expect MasterPiece Arms can sell a few boatloads of them at this price.  Initially, the rifle will be chambered for the 5.56 NATO cartridge.  Perhaps we might see one in .300 BLACKOUT later?

The new MPAR 556 is set to begin shipping in the first quarter of 2013, and the gun will be on display at the 2013 SHOT Show.  We will be at the show again this year, so expect to see photos and videos of the gun.

Updated Information

The Masterpiece Arms MPAR 556 rifle, a piston-driven AR-15 type gun, is getting close to production.  The company released a video of the new firearm being shot.  While a single magazine does not prove the gun to be reliable, it certainly shows the gun is more than a fantasy on the drawing board.

MPAR 556

The rifle was in development long before the recent gun shortage, but the interest in AR-style rifles has never been stronger.  There will certainly be a market for this gun when it is ready for customers.

As I reported back in December, the MSRP on the gun is projected to be less than $1000, and Masterpiece Arms lists the gun as $999 on the company website.  In the pre-gun run days, a piston rifle for less than $1000 was noteworthy.  If the guns actually sold at MSRP right now, I imagine they would sell faster than the production line could make them.

MPAR 556 Comment

The MPAR 556 rifle is supposed to be loaded with features beyond a piston system.  As shown in the video, the guns are slated to be equipped with a proprietary two-piece, floating handguard made from machined aluminum.  The handguard can have rails attached by the user in varying lengths.  This allows the shooter to place the accessory rails only where they are needed.

The buttstock is supposed to be adjustable for length, and will also fold to reduce the over all length of the gun when stored or for carrying.

MPAR 556 Technical Review Video

MasterPiece Arms released a technical review video of the company’s second generation MPAR 556 rifles.  The new versions of the rifle have an adjustable gas block, and the video shows how that works in practice.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

8 replies on “MPAR 556: New Piston Rifle from MasterPiece Arms”

This looks up close like a tacticalled-up AR180, not an AR15 variant. Not a bad thing for sure, but not the type of AR that pops to mind when most people hear “AR”.

Charging handle is nicer that AR180 variants. FN FAL type? Much nicer than original 180 chargers.

This is a re-worked version of the Leader Dynamics T2MK5.

The Leader T2 MK5 Series weapons were chambered for the 5.56 mm cartridge and manufactured by Leader Dynamics of Smithfield, NSW, Australia (1978-1982/1983). The Leader was the brainchild of weapons designer Charles St. George. It was originally a contender for a 5.56 mm Australian military service rifle to replace the then-issued Lithgow L1A1-F1 SLR and Colt M16A1 rifles. What was unique about this endeavor was that Australia had never designed or manufactured its own commercial gas operated semi-automatic rifle. The rifle was abandoned when the Steyr AUG was adopted for use by the Australian military.

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