Ruger AR-556 Review: An Everyman’s Entry-Level AR?

Ruger AR-556 Review

Ruger SR 556


A robust and affordable AR-15 style carbine that allows for use of upgrades and options as any rifle of this type.Ruger also has produced, often as dealer exclusives, cerakoted models including gray and olive drab green, offering something a little different in a market currently glutted with entry level “black” rifles. The threaded D Ring makes handguard swapping a comparative breeze, and Ruger stands behind its products, as always.


Bolt carrier group non interchangeability makes it incompatible with those hoping to have parts that could be swapped among different platforms. Beyond that: it is a start up AR carbine: it is designed, may even expected, to be subject to after market mods and customizations. This does not, however, mean that such upgrades are necessary to use the rifle effectively or comfortably.

This is best for

A stand alone AR rifle where it will serve for an individual with no obligations to have parts that can be commonly used with non-Ruger rifles (unless parts interchangeability is not a strong necessity or desire). This is a personal consideration, not a standard requirement by any means. Ruger appears to have made the rifle for someone who would like to accessorize it without having to invest in specialty tools to do so. Therefore, it really does fit the bill of an entry level AR for someone who is not ready to commit to wholesale upgrades, but still wants to dress it up with no fuss and shoot until they settle on a configuration they really like.

In late 2014 Ruger introduced the AR-556, their entry level M4 type AR (Armalite Rifle) style firearm. Designed as a direct competitor to Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 series, the AR-556 uses the traditional gas impingement system as opposed to the company’s earlier SR series of AR rifles which utilizes the piston cycling system. This keeps costs down to make it appropriate for a starter or start up AR rifle. Of particular note, if even just a coincidence: the Ruger AR-556 was introduced with a dust cover and forward assist, something its direct competitor - the S&W M&P 15 Sporter - did not. Shortly after the release of the Ruger rifle, Smith & Wesson replaced their rifle with the Sporter II which had the forward assist and dust cover as standard.

In addition to raising a new standard of entry level rifles, Ruger employed a few unique properties to their model: the milled gas block/front sight not only looks nicer, it incorporates a QD sling mount on the bottom. Also, the D-Ring holding the forearm in place does so with a threaded ring rather than the traditional spring loaded clip that has earned many an upgrader’s ire. Ruger also chose to use a proprietary bolt carrier group (BCG) that reportedly is not suitable for use in other upper receivers, though mil spec BCGs will operate in Ruger receivers. This notably takes the rifle out of running with multiple AR platforms that have universal interchangeable parts without some considerable replacements.

Ruger AR-556 review: Sight plane

Ruger ar 556 sight

The original Ruger AR 556 is set up like an M4 clone with the triangular A2 style front sight that is adjustable for elevation. Since introduction, however, a flat top model has also been offered with over 20” for open sight radius.

The receiver is a flat top with a flip up style “back up” rear sight with two apertures for 100 and 300 yards. This is almost universally considered as a last ditch, worst case scenario “back up” as the popularity and proliferation of affordable and “cheap” red dots and reflex sights can attest.

The flat top has a picatinny rail for mounting a variety of these and other quality optics with and without magnification, however, if using the original M4 style model, the fixed front sight should be taken into account when making a selection.

Ruger AR-556: Barrel

ruger ar 556 barrel length

True to the M4 stylings it aspires to, this carbine has the 16” barrel and is available in with either a flash hider or a simple crowned barrel for use where muzzle devices are prohibited by law.

Ruger AR-556: Grip frame size

ruger ar 556 grip

There is no shortage of AR aftermarket parts, that said, Ruger delivers the Ruger AR-556 with their own monogramed pistol grip that is arguably more comfortable than the mil spec pistol grip found as stock virtually everywhere else.

Ruger AR-556: Balance of the build

Rugers are renown for their rugged dependability, so it should come as no surprise that the Ruger just “feels” heavier or more solid, but this is a deception: it is a light handling, easy pointing rifle ready to serve for competition, target shooting and, if need be, defense.

ruger ar 556

Source: Tactical Life

Sight choices and accessory options

It is an M4 AR platform, so accessory options abound aplenty for this rifle. However, out of the box, the M4 style carbine handguard does not allow for accessories as is - the best thing to do, if desired, is replace it with a quad rail by MFT or the Magpul carbine length handguard or the like. This is especially simple for the Ruger thanks to the threaded D Ring as opposed to the standard spring loaded option.

For optics, consideration of the fixed front sight must be made, whether a zero power red dot used to co-witness with the “iron” sights or if there will be magnification utilized. If the latter, a riser may be necessary to get past any interference the front sight post may cause.

It is important to remember that there will be a parallax involved: the higher the scope is mounted, the further down range the bullet will hit point of aim. However this should not involve more than a 3”+/- variation in elevation as the typical use for this rifle does not exceed 300 yards.

Ruger AR-556 with Vortex Strikefire 2 Red Dot

Ruger AR-556 with Vortex Strikefire 2 Red Dot

Ruger AR-556: Capacity

The Ruger AR-556 is capable of taking any size of the AR15 5.56/.223 magazine on the market be they PMags, STANAGS or other. This includes reduced capacity 10 round, standard 20 and 30 rounds and the high capacity magazines.

Ruger AR 556 Review: Conclusion

Ruger makes good, reasonably priced firearms, always has, and hopefully always will. As everyone and their nephew has jumped on the AR platform building craze, there are a LOT of options out there for entry level guns.

While companies like Del Ton, I.O. (International Ordinance) and CMMC may offer options that come in for less (though not always) those are often picked up by individuals that not only expect, but who want to tear them down and rebuild into custom builds.

These people often have bins of extra parts to employ when needed and like to tinker. The Ruger AR-556 is a well built, dependably performing rifle out of the box that can easily be accessorized with less fuss than the already convenient, modular AR design allows.

While some have complained on the lack of total parts interchangeability, this is only an issue if one has multiple rifles that parts will migrate amongst. Even then, however, keeping this rifle set up as is will keep a trustworthy rifle at the ready should a necessity arise. There are far worse options out there, and few much better for a general purpose AR15.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this Ruger AR 556 review helpful. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

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