It should come as no surprise the Ruger name is synonymous with value, and its’ AR-556 looks to fit this mold as an entry-level AR-15 with a reasonable MSRP. So how does the no-frills Ruger AR-556 perform when put to the test? Read on to find out.
What Would Stoner Think?
The AR-15 has morphed over the last decade into so many different iterations, so I often take a baseline on any AR I review, looking carefully at what is different from the first model created by Eugene Stoner. Some manufacturers have changed features quite a bit over the years, but Ruger's AR-556 is only modestly dissimilar.
Everything you need to learn this platform is right here, standard controls. (Photo: Sean Curtis/Guns.com)
Chambered in 5.56 NATO, the rifle comes with a 16-inch, cold hammer-forged barrel with a heavy contour and a 1-in-8 twist. It’s capped with a 1/2-28 Ruger flash suppressor. Around the barrel is an 11-inch aluminum handguard. The handguard is wholly functional and is even replete with M-LOK at the 3-, 6- and 9-positions with a standard Picatinny rail on the top. The handguard is also free-floated and assisted with producing admirable accuracy. Weighing in at only 6.86 pounds, it’s a slick-top rifle for under $1,000.
The upper and lower hail from 7075-T6 aluminum forging, and the rifle is equipped with standard M4 feed ramps to accommodate .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO feeding. The lower has a slightly bowed trigger guard to accommodate gloved fingers. The trigger is a single-stage with a fairly strong pull. Measuring an average of 7.2-ounces on my Lyman Digital Gauge, the trigger breaks after a bit of gathering. Reset, though, is very crisp and can be felt and heard.
I love a handguard down to the muzzle, but this one works and gives the user plenty of options. (Photo: Sean Curtis/Guns.com)
Controls are standard and minimal, and there are no ambidextrous accouterments. In addition, the charging handle — a personal sticking point of mine — is stock, but I would expect nothing less on such an entry-level gun. The grip is one of Ruger’s designs with a comfortable angle and decent texturing. Everything has a black oxide finish designed to “reduce glare and provide corrosion resistance.”
The buffer tube is mil-spec, while the buttstock is a traditional M4-style, 6-position extendable. The actual butt has a good gripping surface with fairly subtle branding with the Ruger eagle. There’s also a sling mount affixed to the bottom. This stock has been around a long time, and you can get good bind in your shoulder, adjust length-of-pull, and establish good cheek weld too.
This buttstock will do just about anything you need it to do. (Photo: Sean Curtis/Guns.com)
The Ruger flasher hider gets the job done without precluding you from exploring other options. (Photo: Sean Curtis/Guns.com)
While many of the parts are what AR-15 connoisseurs might consider “stock” or even “pedestrian,” the Ruger AR-556 blends them well and puts out some solid numbers. I mounted a Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-12x40 scope and placed the whole affair into a CTK Precision Ultimate Gun Rest for accuracy. I will fully admit, the only ammo I was able to obtain during this pandemic-driven dearth was Wolf 5.56 NATO — and I was happy to have it. Armed with 500 rounds, I set out to see what the Ruger could do.
Granted, I did not have an array of brands of ammo to throw at the AR-556, but what I did have, I willingly subjected through a number of magazines, all of which fed reliably. I had no failures to feed or eject. The Ruger kept chugging through them without fault.
With the Vortex zeroed, I worked my way out from 25-yards. I started with small groups of three, two in the same hole. From here, I pushed out to 50-yards without too much spread. Finally, I zinged five groups of three at 100-yards to establish my MOA groupings. The AR-556 put up an impressive average of 1.86-inches, with the smallest group being 0.94-inches, or sub-MOA. The wind was a bit of a factor and to my mind, so was the ammo. Regardless, the results were promising, hinting that better ammo and an even better shooter might produce outcomes more implicative of a higher-priced rifle.
Would I Recommend to a Friend?
The Ruger AR-556 grip, left, is copasetic, has decent texture and a comfortable angle. This charging handle is about like Glock sights; you can run them or upgrade to your preference(Photo: Sean Curtis/Guns.com)
I stop and think carefully about recommendations I make to people because proselytizing the Second Amendment is part of my religion. That said, I would recommend this rifle to almost anyone. For what you pay, you get a superlative value. I would be willing to bet there are SWAT teams out there with lower quality rifles than the Ruger AR-556.
If you don’t know anything about AR-15s, this is an outstanding place to start. If you want this to be your home defender, your truck gun, your variminter, or your DMR, you can set it up to do an admirable job. From here, you can also learn what you prefer and move in that direction. Should you choose to upgrade this, that, or the other, you still have a good base rifle that will last you for years and serve you well.