Sturm, Ruger & Co. announced a new rifle: the AR-556. This new gun is a direct-impingement style gun aimed at the lower-end of the market pricing on AR-15 style rifles. Quite frankly, it is a gun that I never thought would happen. More on that in a minute…
In general, the Ruger AR-556 rifles have the appearance of a large number of other AR-15 rifles. They take all of the standard accessories and furniture, but they still offer some small refinements that the company has traditionally been very good at making. And, like a great number of Ruger products, these guns will be affordably priced.
Where to the Buy AR-556?
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The new guns will be made in the company’s Mayodan, NC facility. That manufacturing plant was recently acquired by the company, and they are adding new gun lines there as quickly as they can bring on the correct engineering teams.
Ruger states they are using only “top-quality components” to create a rifle that is both affordable and rugged. Uppers and lowers are forged 7075-T6 aluminum. Things like the forward assist, brass deflector, a dust cover and an enlarged trigger guard are all present.
Caliber & Barrel
Nor surprisingly, the new gun is chambered in 5.56 NATO and will also run .223 Rem. The gun uses M4-type feed ramps and standard AR-15/M-4/M-16 magazines. Ruger includes a single 30-round PMAG from Magpul with the rifle.
Ruger is using a 16.1″ cold hammer-forged barrel with a 1:8″ twist. The barrel is made of chromoly steel, and it is not chrome lined. The barrel is threaded and topped with a Ruger flash suppressor. Threading is a standard 1/2-28 pattern.
Sights are pretty standard on the AR-556 rifle. Ruger chose a folding rear sight that is spring loaded for quick use. The front sight is an A2-style with gas block and a bayonet lug. However, two things about the front sight set it apart from much of the competition.
First, the sight is milled, not cast. This gives it a much cleaner, more precise look. Secondly, the underside of the bayonet lug has a QD attachment point for the addition of a sling.
The AR-556 uses the standard Ruger adjustable stock that is already found on the SR-556 rifles. This is pretty standard on most AR-15 rifles today.
A traditional round handguard is up front. While many people will want to add a rail system, using a standard round handguard helps keep the price of the gun low. Also, there are a lot of people who will never use, need or even want rails on their handguard.
All of the furniture is black. I would expect the company to offer some variations of this either as an off-the-shelf package or as accessories in the Ruger online store.
Pricing is one of the nicest things about the AR-556. The gun has a suggested retail price of $749. I would expect dealers to be selling these in the $600-650 range. At that price, I doubt a shooter could find a better deal.
Here are the updated specifications on the AR-556 rifle:
|Caliber||5.56 NATO/.223 Rem|
|Barrel Twist Rate||1:8″|
|Barrel Material||4140 CrMo|
|Weight (unloaded)||6.5 lbs|
|Magazine(s) Included||1x Magpul PMAG|
|Front Sight||milled A2-style|
|Rear Sight||polymer flip up|
|MSRP – at Launch||$749|
|MSRP – Current||$989|
Why I Am Surprised
In 2014, the AR market is in a slump. Late 2012 through 2013 saw a huge spike in sales of AR-15 type rifles. However, by the start of 2014, those sales began to wane and by mid-2014, many manufacturers were offering very low prices to move the guns. At the precise time Ruger introduced the AR-556 is the exact time I would have thought Ruger would stay away from such a gun.
In fact, in a 2013 earnings call, Ruger CEO Michael Fifer seemed hesitant to expand the AR-style rifle line. Based on the apparent softness in the modern sporting rifle market combined with Fifer’s earlier comments about the market, I am genuinely surprised the company is introducing an entry-level 5.56 rifle.
Since the original introduction of the AR-556, Ruger introduced additional models of the rifle. These include:
Model 8515 – This version of the AR-556 is equipped with Magpul MOE furniture. Up front is the MOE M-LOK handguard while in back the company is using the MOE adjustable stock.
As with the original Model 8500, the 8515 is chambered in 5.56 NATO, has a folding rear sight and a milled A2-style front sight. The price is pretty reasonable also at just $1,039 MSRP.
Model 8516 – I find this one to be the most interesting offering from Ruger. It is a complete lower. While I’m used to seeing a lot of manufacturers offer incomplete rifles, I did not expect to see Ruger to do so. Nevertheless, here it is.
The complete lower comes with a Magpul MOE pistol grip, the Elite 452 trigger group and an Magpul MOE SL adjustable stock. The MSRP is only $349.
Model 8502 & 8511 – These are “state compliant” models of the AR-556. In other words, they are intentionally hobbled so that they can be sold to gun owners in less-free states.
Hopefully, these unconstitutional laws will be overturned in the coming years. Until then, Ruger is offering an option to people forced to live in those states.
When Ruger introduced the AR-556, I did not know if the gun would be successful. The market was fairly saturated, but the price was attractive. Also, Ruger is known by a lot of people for building rugged, reliable products.
As it turns out, the rifle has sold well. The line expanded and the company discontinued its piston-driven AR rifles in favor of this one.
Ruger has a solid track record of winning when it comes to delivering products the shooting public wants. While not every gun introduced has been an unqualified success, the company has an enviable number of hot sellers in the stable.
Let’s face it – the AR-556 is a solid, feature-packed gun at a very attractive price point. I’ve always been perplexed by the pricing in much of the AR market. The current softness has pulled prices lower. With both S&W and Ruger making good quality, low dollar AR rifles, I suspect the overall prices in the market will continue to trend downward. Probably the best bang for the buck AR rifles come from PSA.
I don’t know how well Ruger will do with these guns, but I suspect that consumers will buy them. I also believe that the increased price competition will do nothing but make things a little easier on the buying public.
Final Update: July 2, 2022
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