Ruger’s AR-556: An entry level AR that deserves a closer look.

Last year I began planning to either buy or build an AR-15. I started watching YouTube videos and reading about the pros and cons of each. My interest was sporadic and not too urgent as it was a future purchase and not a necessity. I was either going to piece it together over time or get a reliable entry level platform that I could add or remove parts to suit my wants. I was sure that I wanted the satisfaction of a built-at-home experience. That all went out the window when I saw it.


I walked into one of my favorite gun shops and wanted to feel a few in my hands. I was sure that I’d be tempted to purchase one but I knew that the price wouldn’t be what I would be comfortable with. That’s when fate laughed and sat back to watch the show. I sauntered up to the counter and asked to hold a mid-range model. I held it and shouldered it, sighting a ceiling tile, and made casual remarks about it’s fit and feel. Nodding my head as I handed it back as I noticed the price. Hmm, maybe not. I was satisfied that I had gotten the “AR fever” out of my blood for a while. Despite that I let my eyes graze the selection once more and was intrigued by a green model amongst the field of black rifles. I focused on the tag, trying to read the manufacturer and price, and was surprised to read “Ruger”. I didn’t recall that Ruger made an AR-15.


I asked to hold “…the green one.” and the salesperson remarked on the uniqueness of this particular model. The first thing that I noticed was the Mil-spec OD Green Cerakote on the upper and lower. It had a six-position adjustable stock, rubberized pistol grip, and flip-up rear sights. I asked if the rear flip-up peep sight was aftermarket, it wasn’t. Strange, I didn’t think I had seen something like that on a rifle with a sub-seven hundred dollar price tag. I noticed the windage adjustment, good. The front sight was a standard A2 post, adjustable for elevation, with some texturing along the rear face. I found out later that this is intended to reduce glare. The front sight also had a bayonet lug on the bottom, something that I thought was unique but would most likely go unused, and a quick detach sling point. In fact, I counted three sling points in total. The QD on the front and two more on the M4 style adjustable stock, one being the typical strap bracket and the other for threading through the stock for a three-point-sling configuration. Both the six inch hand guard and the adjustable stock matched the OD Green of the upper and lower which made for nice presentation. The top of the upper receiver had a full length 1913 picatinny rail and I began to formulate plans for mounting a red dot sight. I was in love. I filled out the appropriate paperwork, paid, and walked out with it that hour.


When I arrived at the place that I was going to shoot for the day I affixed a Holosun HS403A red dot sight. It was then that I noticed that it had a dust cover from the factory as well as a brass deflector. It also had an enlarged trigger guard which is helpful if you’re shooting with gloved hands. Chambered in 5.56 NATO I decided to break it in with .223 Rem. It felt good knowing that I had a little bit of flexibility when deciding on ammo. Pleased with my purchase, I loaded the included Magpul Gen 2, 30 round PMAG and sighted in the target. I wanted to put it through it’s paces and see how it performed. I thumbed the mag release and was met with the satisfying sound of the first round being chambered. I gave the forward assist a few hearty bumps; because that’s what one does when they have an AR, right? I comfortably shouldered it and noticed that the red dot was the correct height to co-witness with the factory sights. Groovy. All 30 rounds met the target paper and I was a happy boy; giddy with my purchase.


When I got back home I couldn’t wait to tear it down and clean all of the day’s fun from it. One thing that I noticed was that the takedown pins were rather stiff. I had to employ the help of a wooden dowel and press them out. Since then they have become easier to operate. Tear down and cleaning are similar to that of any typical direct impingement AR platform. With it disassembled I really took the time to examine it. It didn’t have any odd measurements or things that would prevent me from making aftermarket additions, if I wanted. Another thing that I noticed was that the delta ring was threaded and could release the heat resistant, glass filled nylon handguards in seconds. No trying to fight the spring behind the delta ring with two hands while trying to simultaneously remove the handguard halves. The buffer tube is mil-spec, nothing crazy there. The AR-556 comes with a chrome-moly steel 16” barrel with a black oxide finish. This cold hammer forged barrel has a 1:8” twist which should, according to Ruger, accommodate bullet weights from 35 to 77 grains, I’ve only used 55 grain so far. The end of the barrel has ½”-28 threads and will allow installation of standard muzzle accessories. I haven’t felt the need to remove the factory equipped flash suppressor yet but I’m glad to know that I can. It has M4 feed ramps and seem to do the trick as I haven’t had any feeding issues after a few hundred rounds. To resist corrosion, the bolt carrier group has a matte black oxide finish and boasts a chrome plated interior diameter to improve resistance to hot gases. The gas key interior diameter is also chrome plated for the same reason. It also has a staked gas key. This is supposed to prevent loosening after many rounds of firing. I plan to put that to the test.


According to Ruger’s website there are two models available. Neither one of them are the OD Green that I purchased. The first model, 8500, is equipped with a collapsible stock and comes with a 30-round magazine. The other model, 8502, has a fixed length stock, no bayonet lug, and a 10-round, metal magazine. The forged aluminum uppers and lowers for both models come with a type III hard-coat anodized finish.The suggested retail price for these models according to Ruger is $799. I found mine for less, so who knows? All in all I think that the AR-556 is a good introduction to the direct impingement AR market for Ruger and should definitely be considered for an every level AR-15 purchase.

I guess I’ll build one next time. Well played, Ruger, well played.

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