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Ruger’s AR-556 is a company milestone product. When introduced, its direct gas impingement design was Ruger’s first departure from the company’s gas operated, piston driven Ruger SR 556 and SR 762 MSRs and it was the first Ruger to be designed and manufactured entirely at the company’s Mayodan, NC facility.

Ruger has incorporated popular features, quality materials the AR-556. Subsequently, they are shipped in ready to go configurations, not as rifles in need of serious upgrades or completion and, to Ruger’s credit, they do this at a better than competitive price. Ruger has further extended its market reach by incorporating a buttstock and combination of rifle features that qualify the AR-556 for sale and use in California.

Ruger  AR-556-10CAC California Compliant

Manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Model# 8510
Gas System  Carbine Length – Direct Impingement
Caliber 5.56 NATO / 223 Remington
Magazine Supplied 10 Round
Barrel 16.1″ Medium Contour 4140 CM
Rifling 1:8″
Weight 6.9 Lbs
Overall Length 32.85″
Stock HERA CQR-CA
Receivers 7075-T6 Aluminum Forging
Receiver Finish Type III Hard Coat Anodized
Barrel & Gas Block Matte Black Oxide
Length of Pull 11.88″
Front Sights Adjustable Post
Rear Sights Adjustable – Ruger Rapid Deploy
Accessory Mount Picatinny Rail
Trigger Pull 8 Lbs 2 Oz Single Stage
Safety Rotating
MSRP $899

In some ways the AR-556 is very much a spec gun; all 20,000,000 popular AR-15 accessories will fit, so if you are one of those people who can’t rest until their rifle looks like an open Swiss Army knife… have at it.

For folks who want a reliable all purpose rifle, the AR-556 is ready to go for hunting, security and self defense applications. It is very compact and, at 6.9 lbs, at the reasonably light end of the aluminum receiver AR spectrum. Manufacturers listing lighter ARs types tend to leave off sights, magazines,… barrels, etc. for the weigh in.

Some of the mechanical detail…

As a standard AR firearm, pulling the aft take down pin out to detent allows the upper to pivot down for cleaning and routine service. Pulling the forward pivot pin to detent separates the upper assembly from the lower. Whatever knowledge a person has required with the M16, AR15, M4, etc carries over to the Ruger AR-556, as would any AR-15 type uppers that might be laying around.

The upper and lower receivers are Type III hard coat anodized 7075-T6 aluminum forgings. Present are a forward assist and dust cover, both appropriate for a general purpose firearm that may see less than perfect ammo and environmental conditions. The upper lower fit is very precise and they stayed tight through a considerable amount of use, without resorting to the use of plastic wedges some companies stuff between receivers to use to hide their slop fit.

The star of the California compliant edition is the German HERA CQR-CA, fixed stock. A shield prevents a shooter’s thumb from wrapping around the pistol grip and the stock length and comb are fixed. This allows the use of a conventional AR type magazine release to be used in place of the California bullet button type release.

The HERA stock provides quick attach points for a sling as well as conventional sling attachment. A compartment under the buttstock can be removed to provide access to an eight slot Picatinny under rail. I have to say it felt just a little rebellious hanging a silencer and eventually a 30 round mag on a what is supposed to be California restricted firearm. So I’ll just stand on the border of Maine, look out toward California and metaphorically moon our friends to the west.

The pull is short at 11.88″ which is actually pretty nifty with the pop up rapid deploy sight set up, but no so much with a scope. The Ruger is supplied with a 15mm buttplate spacer, but HERA Arms also offers 30mm and 45mm spacers. for 11.88″, 12.47″ and 13.06″ length of pull individually, or 14.83″ if stacked for our Orangutan arm like friends. I read where someone was whining, “Where do I put my thumb? Passing on the reflexive response, I can only suggest the same place you would put it on every sporting rifle with a pistol grip. The adjustment is a non-event.

AR-556 handguards are made of glass filled nylon. The rifle does not employ the standard sprung delta ring that requires two people, six hands and a Johnson bar for removal. The Ruger’s delta ring is twisted counterclockwise (as viewed from the rear), until it clears the handguard flanges, then the handguard halves are pulled out. Installation is just a reverse of that sequence. This set up will accommodate any standard handguard, however, the AR-556 can also accept a standard barrel nut and delta ring set.

The pull is short at 11.88″ which is actually pretty nifty with the pop up rapid deploy sight set up, but no so much with a scope. The Ruger is supplied with a 15mm buttplate spacer, but HERA Arms also offers 30mm and 45mm spacers. for 11.88″, 12.47″ and 13.06″ length of pull individually, or 14.83″ if stacked for our Orangutan arm like friends. I read where someone was whining, “Where do I put my thumb? Passing on the reflexive response, I can only suggest the same place you would put it on every sporting rifle with a pistol grip. The adjustment is a non-event.

AR-556 handguards are made of glass filled nylon. The rifle does not employ the standard sprung delta ring that requires two people, six hands and a Johnson bar for removal. The Ruger’s delta ring is twisted counterclockwise (as viewed from the rear), until it clears the handguard flanges, then the handguard halves are pulled out. Installation is just a reverse of that sequence. This set up will accommodate any standard handguard, however, the AR-556 can also accept a standard barrel nut and delta ring set.

The AR-556’s 16.1″ barrel is hammer forged, made from 4140 chrome moly steel. The twist rate is 1:8″, tight enough to stabilize bullets within the range of 35 to 77 grains. The AR-556 has a 5.56mm NATO chamber that is also compatible with 223 Remington ammunition.  The muzzle thread is 1/2″x28, the rifle is supplied with a Ruger flash suppressor. The barrel diameter under the gas block is 0.750″ making it compatible with all popular adjustable and Picatinny rail gas blocks.

The pinned gas block is fixed metering and locates the front sight at standard flattop height. The ramp face is serrated to cut glare, the sight is elevation adjustable. The bottom side provides a bayonet lug and multiple sling attaching points, including a push button quick detachable sling swivel port.

Since the front sight takes care of elevation adjustment, the rear needs only windage adjustment, which is exactly what the Ruger Rapid Deploy folding sight provides. A steel cross bolt prevents fore and aft movement and a push of the side button, and some spring assistance, locks the sight in the upright position. The peep sight is a good one, scalloped on the face to reduce glare at the aperture.

The bolt carrier and gas key are chrome plated internally, matte black oxided externally. The bolt material is shot peened 9310 alloy steel. Shot peening creates compressive stresses which increase the material’s resistance to corrosion fatigue, stress corrosion cracking, fretting and galling. If there is anything I dislike it is fretting and galling… used to drag race against them in the 70s.

Interesting things on this end also…

Factory ammo performance was very good and consistently so. Quantifiably consistent with earlier exposure to the Ruger AR-556 broader range of ammunition was tested, this weight range seemed sufficient to demonstrate the rifle’s ability to handle light to heavy weight 0.224″ bullets.

Cartridge Bullet
Type
Bullet
Weight
Grains
Chrono
MV
FPS
100 Yard
3 Shot
Group”
American Eagle Poly Tip 50 2978 0.7
PPU FMJ BT 55 3005 0.9
PMC XTAC Green Tip LAP 62 2913 1.1
Hornady  Superformance Match HPBT 75 2811 0.6

In addition to factory ammunition, handloads that have become a test standard at Real Guns were assembled and incorporated into the AR-556 assessment.

Manufacturer Type Bullet
Weight
Grains
Bullet
Length
G1
B.C.
Maximum
COL ”
To Leade
Maximum
Practical
COL “
Berger FB Varmint SPFB 50 0.718 0.201 2.363 2.250
CT Ballistic Silvertip PTBT 50 0.790 0.238 2.410 2.260
Hornady SPSX SPFB 50 0.652 0.214 2.340 2.200
Speer TNT HPFB 50 0.693 0.228 2.440 2.235
Barnes TAC-X BT 62 0.945 0.287 2.393 2.250
*G1 measured at 200 yards.
Warning: Bullet selections are specific, and loads are not valid with substitutions of different bullets of the same weight. Variations in bullet material and length will alter net case capacity,  pressure and velocity results. Primer selection is specific and primer types are not interchangeable. These data represents maximum loads in our firearms and test equipment and may easily be excessive in other applications. All loads should be reduced by 3%,  and developed following safe handloading practices as represented in established reloading manuals produced by component manufacturers. Presentation of these loads does not constitute a solicitation for their use, nor a recommendation.

Cartridge: .223 Remington

 Firearm: Ruger AR-556 Suppressed  COL Min-Max: 2.125″ – 2.260″
 Bullet Diameter: 0.2245″ +0.000/-0.0030  Primer: CCI 450
 Barrel: 16.10″ 1:8″ Twist  Reloading Dies: RCBS
 Case length: 1.760″ +0.0000″/-0.0030″  Group: 3 Shot 100 Yards
COL and Capacity   Load Data & Performance
Bullet Type Bullet
Weight
C.O.L.
Inches
Net
Grains
Water
  Powder Charge
Grains
MV
FPS
Actual
Muzzle
Energy Ft/Lbs
Group Size ”
100 Yds
Berger FB Varmint 50 2.250 26.6   CFE-223 29.0 2955 970 0.4
CT Ballistic Silvertip 50 2.260 26.0   CFE-223 28.5 2830 889 0.7
Hornady SPSX 50 2.200 26.7 CFE-223 29.0 2908 939 1.0
Speer TNT 50 2.235 26.7   CFE-223 29.0 3008 1005 0.8
Barnes TAC-X BT 62 2.250 24.3   CFE-223 27.0 2852 903 0.9
No significantly compressed charges

 

Closing time. Last call…

The Ruger AR-556 is a good product, built with premium parts and processes at a reasonable cost, generally under $650 at discount retail. It is a super substitute for rifle built from sloppy fitting and mismatched components and it can be modified to suit as the needs arise. The rifle shoots well, is adaptive as any other AR for sighting systems and does just fine with the mechanical sights supplied.

Personal perspective, it would be nice if a wider buttplate spacer was included or if the 45mm spacer was the installed piece. The short LOP set up is fast to the shoulder, but it is a bit short for stand up shooting at a distance. The trigger can be improved. At 8+ lbs it is a deterrent to accuracy, requiring a degree of concentration and a bit of an educated trigger finger to overcome. Neither issue is substantial and both are easily resolved, the former with the purchase of a right size spacer and the latter with time, use and gun oil. The Ruger AR-556 is a big step forward for California AR owners.

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