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.
The Ruger AR-556 pistol’s overall fit and finish is good. However, there was a little rattle from slop between the upper and lower receivers. If this bothers you, for about $5, you can get the Ergo AR Wedge which should solve this problem. However, I prefer a more permanent solution so I ended up getting these Power receiver shims which are available from Midwayusa. You can use Gorilla Epoxy glue to adhere one shim each, to the inside of the front and rear of the lower receiver takedown and pivot pin areas. Now the upper and lower have a tight fit.
Overall, the Ruger AR-556 pistol performed reliably (no malfunctions with both 55gr and 62gr 5.56 and 223 ammo) and accurately.
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.
- POF USA Straight Drop-In Trigger It’s no surprise that the Mil-Spec trigger in the Ruger AR-556 pistol feels very heavy. Patriot Ordnance Factory (POF) makes an affordable single stage, drop-in trigger, with a flat face and finger stop with a street price of about $160. The POF USA trigger has no take up and a crisp, clean break with a short, tactile and audible reset. The pull weight is 3.5lbs. It comes with KNS anti-walk pins (but does not include the two T8 Torx wrenches you’ll need to install these pins). What I really like about this trigger is that there are no “set screws”…rather it has rubber urethane feet that provide upward tension against the anti-walk pins for a solid fit.
- POF USA Tomahawk Charging Handle. The standard Mil-Spec charging handle that comes with the Ruger AR-556 Pistol is just too small. If you are not planning on running a suppressor, the much larger POF Tomahawk charging handle which I found for a good price ($65.99) works better. Of course there are many other great aftermarket charging handles from companies such as Radian Weapons, BCM, etc.
- 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.
If you don’t want to spend $150+ on a drop-in trigger, for about $10-$11, you can buy the JP Enterprises Enhanced Reliability Trigger Spring Kit (JPS3.5T). This spring kit can drop the pull weight by up to approximately 2lbs (YMMV) on a standard Mil-Spec trigger. On the Ruger AR-555 pistol, it noticeably reduces the trigger pull weight.
3 Upgrades when Running a YHM Suppressor
- Aero Precision Adjustable Gas Block. The Aero Precision adjustable gas block is a high quality product for a very affordable price of $64.95. What I really like about this particular adjustable gas block is that it has an adjustment screw that is held in place by a spring and detent, providing consistent, repeatable audible and tactile “clicks” of adjustment. With this type of adjustment screw, there is no need for a secondary set screw (to lock in adjustments) which is a hassle if you have to later re-adjust your gas flow. It also has a low profile design ensuring that it should fit under just about any free floating handguard.
- Griffin Armament SN-ACH Charging Handle. Many suppressors increase back pressure causing more gas to your eyes even when using an adjustable gas block. The Griffin Armament SN-ACH charging handle helps to reduce gas to the eyes.
- YHM QD Mini Muzzle Brake. When using a YHM (Yankee Hill Machine) Turbo, Turbo T2 or Turbo K suppressor, a QD muzzle brake makes it easy to change your YHM 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 Mini 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 to make this solid budget AR pistol even better.
- 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.
- 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.
- BCM QD End Plate. For those who prefer to have a QD end plate, this may be a good option. It’s currently available directly from BCM.
- POF USA Enhanced Universal Bolt Catch. This bolt catch has a larger angled bolt catch pad to allow for faster and easier bolt catch engagement. It’s currently available directly from POF USA.
- Gearhead Works Tailhook 2 Pistol Brace. This is my favorite pistol brace because it is super sturdy (no flimsy rubber and straps), lightweight and looks cool too. You can find these online for a street price of about $150.
- Toolcraft Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Coating BCG. I was lucky enough to pick this up for about $110. Very nice slick finish and properly staked. Works flawlessly.
- JP Gen 2 Silent Captured Spring (SCS). The JP SCS significantly reduces friction from inside the buffer tube resulting in outstanding smoothness and spring twang sound mitigation. Cost is about $140 but I think it’s worth it.
- Radian Weapons Talon GI Safety Selector. Although not pictured in this article, the Talon GI is Radian’s non-ambi safety selector model for those looking for a quality non-ambi safety. Overall, it works really well and only costs about $35. It offers both a 45 degree short throw or standard 90 degree configuration. The 45 degree throw is a nice option to have.
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. Or you consider the recently introduced, Holosun AEMS micro red dot sight which as a street price of about $400. A more budget friendly option might be the Vortex Crossfire red dot sight which goes for about $160.
Ruger AR-556 Pistol Upgrade Images
View some of the upgrades to the Ruger AR 556 Pistol below.
Ruger AR-556 Pistol with Aero M4E1 Lower Receiver, Holosun 510C, POF USA Drop-in Trigger, MFT Engage V2 Pistol Grip, Magpul M-LOK QD Sling Mount, YHM Phantom QD Muzzle Brake, Aero Precision Adjustable Gas Block, POF USA Ambi QD Endplate, POF USA Enhanced Universal Bolt Catch and POF USA Tomahawk Charging Handle
Ruger AR-556 Pistol with Aero M4E1 Lower Receiver, Holosun 510C, POF USA Drop-in Trigger, MFT Engage V2 Pistol Grip, Magpul M-LOK QD Sling Mount, YHM Phantom QD Muzzle Brake, Aero Precision Adjustable Gas Block, Odin Works Extended Mag Release, Toolcraft Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Coating BCG, POF USA Ambi QD Endplate, POF USA Enhanced Universal Bolt Catch and POF USA Tomahawk Charging Handle
Ruger AR-556 Pistol with YHM Turbo Suppressor and Tailhook 2 Brace