One of the best things about the AR market today is that you can buy a reliable, accurate AR-15 for around $550. So, if you’re looking to get a basic AR pistol without breaking the bank, the Ruger AR-556 Pistol in 5.56 NATO (also available in 350 Legend and 300 BLK) may be one worth considering. Ruger of course, is a U.S. firearms manufacturer who’s been around since 1949 and is based out of Southport, Connecticut with manufacturing facilities in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Arizona.
Ruger AR-556 Pistol Features
- 10.5″ cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel with ultra-precise rifling for exceptional accuracy, longevity and ease of cleaning. The 1:8″ twist rate and matte black oxide finish reduces glare and provides corrosion resistance.
- M4 feed ramps for improved reliability.
- Slim 9″ free-floating handguard. Magpul M-LOK accessory attachment slots along the 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00 positions.
- SB Tactical SBA3 Pistol Stabilizing Brace
- Carbine-length gas system for reliable function with a variety of ammunition.
- Bolt carrier and gas key have chrome-plated inside diameters to provide exceptional resistance to hot gases. The gas key is staked so that it will not loosen after extensive firing. A matte black oxide finish on the exterior of the bolt carrier provides corrosion resistance. Bolt is machined from 9310 alloy steel and is shot peened and pressure (proof) tested to ensure strength, structural integrity and durability.
- Forged upper and lower receivers made from aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum. Upper receiver has a forward assist, dust cover and brass deflector.
- A Ruger flash suppressor with 1/2″-28 threaded barrel.
- One, 30-round Magpul Gen M2 PMAG.
I have not yet been able to take the Ruger AR-556 pistol out to the range but what I can tell you is that the overall fit and finish is good, although not outstanding. For example, there is a little rattle from slop between the upper and lower receivers. If this bothers you, for about $5, you can get the Tacfire Accu Wedge which should solve this problem. There is also a very slight misalignment where the upper meets the lower to the left of the bolt catch/release paddle. Not enough to affect the functionality of the AR-556, but something I noticed.
Price of Ruger AR-556 Pistol
MSRP is $899 but I’ve seen seen it on sale for around $550.
3 Essential Upgrades for the Ruger AR-556 Pistol
Out of the box, the Ruger AR-556 pistol is definitely a solid, budget-friendly AR pistol. However, here are three must-have upgrades that I think will make it even better.
- Velocity Classic Drop-in AR Trigger, Straight with Finger Stop. It’s no surprise that the Mil-Spec trigger in the Ruger AR-556 pistol feels very heavy. Velocity Precision Engineering makes an affordable single stage, drop-in trigger, with a flat face and finger stop for $159.95. The Velocity trigger reminds me of a Timney, but for considerably less money. It has no take up or creep, a crisp, clean break and a short, very tactile and audible reset. The Velocity trigger is available in pull weights of 3lb, 3.5lb, 4lb and 4.5lb. I prefer the 4lb trigger. If you live in the Phoenix, AZ area, you can visit their production facility and pay cash to get a discounted price. Before stopping by, its recommended that you call them first to let them know which trigger you’d like to pickup.
- POF USA Tomahawk Charging Handle. The standard Mil-Spec charging handle that comes with the Ruger AR-556 Pistol is just too small. I prefer the much larger POF Tomahawk charging handle which I found for a good price ($65.99).
- Mission First Tactical Engage V2 Pistol Grip. The Ruger AR-556 Pistol’s grip angle is 25 degrees which I don’t find very comfortable. It also feels very cheap and plasticky with a somewhat slippery surface. I prefer the Mission First Tactical Engage V2 Pistol Grip ($16.99) because it has a more comfortable 15 degree angle and better stippling.
2 Upgrades when Running a Suppressor
If you’re going to run a suppressor on your Ruger AR-556 pistol, here are two additional upgrades that I think are worth investing in.
- Velocity Adjustable Gas Block. The Velocity adjustable gas block is a high quality product for a very affordable price of $59.95. As with their trigger, if you are able to swing by their production facility in Phoenix, AZ and pay cash, you’ll get a discount. By the way, the handguard on the Ruger AR-556 Pistol is perfect for use with the Velocity adjustable gas block because it has large cut-outs that offer easy access to the gas adjustment screw.
- QD Muzzle Brake. When using a suppressor, a QD muzzle brake makes it easy to change your suppressor between different hosts. The muzzle brake can also act as a sacrificial baffle taking the main force of the muzzle blast which can extend the serviceable life of your suppressor. I prefer the original Yankee Hill Machine Turbo 5.56 suppressor which uses the YHM Phantom QD muzzle brake.
Other Upgrades for the Ruger AR-556 Pistol
Here are a few other upgrades that you might want to consider for the Ruger AR-556 pistol.
- Odin Works XMR Extended Mag Release. This oversized mag release makes it easier to drop your magazines without changing grip or position. It is machined from billet 6061 aluminum and is anodized in a variety of colors. It’s currently available from Odin Works for $20.
- Magpul M-LOK QD Sling Mount. Since the Ruger AR-556 does not come with a QD sling mount on the handguard, you can easily add one. Magpul’s M-LOK QD sling mount is machined from Mil-Spec anodized aluminum and uses an anti-rotation design that prevents swivels from spinning. The best price I’ve seen for it so far is just under $15 at Tombstone Tactical.
- Phase 5 Weapon Systems Sloped QD End Plate. For those who prefer to have a QD end plate, this may be a good option. I especially like that the QD socket is positioned at a 30 Degree angle behind the lower receiver to allow a 360 Degree rotation for ambidextrous use. It’s currently available directly from Phase 5 for $39.99.
- Aero Precision M4E1 Stripped Lower Receiver. If you prefer having a closed (integrated) trigger guard on your lower receiver, Aero Precision makes an excellent stripped lower for about $100. This lower is forged and machined from 7075-T6 aluminum. It has a threaded bolt catch roll pin and an upper tension screw enabling users to adjust the fit of the upper and lower receivers with a nylon tipped tensioning set screw within the lower receiver. The Aero M4E1 also has a larger flared magwell and a threaded takedown pin detent recess.
- Trump PMAG. This is a 30-round Magpul PMAG Gen M2 with laser engraved featuring “MAGA” underneath an image of Donald Trump. You can buy it here for $20.
Add a Red Dot Sight
If you’re thinking about adding a red dot sight, the Holosun HS510C may be worth considering. It’s an open reflex optical sight featuring Holosun’s Super LED with up to 50k hours battery life, Multi-Reticle System, Solar Failsafe and Shake Awake. The Holosun HS510C is also Parallax-free and offers Unlimited Eye Relief. I’ve seen it on sale for as low as $260.
Ruger AR-556 Pistol Upgrade Images
View some of the upgrades to the Ruger AR 556 Pistol below.