The SG 550 series of rifles has been in service for over 20 years and continues to dominate in special forces, counter-terrorism, and special weapons police forces in Europe and Asia. But it has not seen wide adoption in the U.S. That could very well change. The newly-available SIG-Sauer SIG551-A1 is an American-made SG 550 carbine based on the original Swiss design.
Like many rifles of a non-sporting nature, the Swiss rifles don’t pass 922R muster. They have too many foreign-made components to be sold in the U.S. for commercial use. By making them Stateside, this variant is fully-compliant with U.S. gun laws.
About the only thing that differs between the American SIG551-A1 and the Swiss SG 551 is the barrel length. The European carbine variant has a 14.3-inch barrel, whereas our rifle’s measures in at 16 inches in length. The rest, down to the magazines that rock-and-lock, is identical to the SG.
The SIG551-A1 is a gas-operated semi-automatic rifle with a long piston operation, similar in function (but not construction) to the AK, which can be considered a patron saint of reliability. The long piston operates in conjunction with an adjustable gas valve. In addition to being adjustable for normal and dirty operation, the valve is designed to only release enough gas from the propellent to operate the piston; after enough gas is used to cycle the bolt, the valve lets off the extra gas through an exhaust port, to prevent excess gas getting into the rifle’s action and fouling it internally. It’s pretty sweet.
Which is why Americans want them. Until now, there has been some middle ground. The SIG556 is similar to the SG 550 guns, but has a modified receiver which uses STANAG/AR-15 magazines. The SIG551-A1 uses Swiss transparent polymer magazines, which are a bit hard to come by… for now.
The SIG551-A1 has the same furniture, including the adjustable folding skeletonized buttstock and ribbed polymer handguard and pistol grip, which is similar to a M249 SAW grip. The receiver is grey hard-anodized aluminum. While the rifle has a flattop rail for optics, it does come with the iconic rotary diopter sights included. It also uses SIG’s proprietary flash hider. The other specifications are as follows:
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Overall Length: 36.1 inches
- Length w/Stock Collapsed: 34.6 inches
- Length w/Stock Folded: 26 inches
- Rifling: 1:7
- Sight Radius: 18 inches
- Weight w/out Mag: 7 pounds
The MSRP is $1,986, but stores are showing them off in-stock starting at under $1500, so that’s a lot of win right there. Later, hopefully this year as well, SIG will be offering short-barreled rifle (SBR) options to go with their new SBR program.
This is going to make a lot of purists proud. We’re definitely excited, but we also wonder, with SIG556s being a little cheaper in some configurations, and their ability to accept AR magazines, will the cachet of being true(er) to the original be enough to win hearts and minds?