Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle – Model 8500




The Ruger® AR-556® Semi-Auto Rifle operates with a traditional, direct-impingement system. A 6-position M4-style buttstock allows rapid adjustment according to the clothing and tactical gear the user wears, or for moving from open environments to tight quarters. The standard tactical handguard is made from heat-resistant, glass-filled nylon. The medium contour cold hammer-forged barrel has a 1:8″ twist rate that stabilizes bullets from 35 to 77 grains. A Ruger flash suppressor is attached to the barrel with a 1/2″-28 thread. The barrel nut and delta ring are designed for 1-person removal and installation of most standard carbine length handguards. The anodized flattop upper receiver is made from aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum, and includes a forward assist, dust cover, and brass deflector. The Rapid Deploy folding rear sight adjusts for windage and elevation, and folds out of the way when optic sights are used; the A2-style front sight post is elevation adjustable (includes front sight tool). The Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle comes with one 30- or 10-round magazine. Operates with 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington ammunition.

Operates with direct-impingement system
6-position M4-style buttstock
Heat-resistant handguard
Medium contour barrel
1:8″ rifling twist
Anodized flattop upper receiver
Forward assist and dust cover
A2-style front sight
Folding rear sight
Ruger AR-556 – Review & Test


The Ruger AR-556 is one rifle that can do it all; in this deep-dive test and review, we’ll tell you why.

When it comes to rifles in the U.S., none has ever been more popular than the AR-15. I personally think that one of the reasons for the mind-numbing popularity of the AR-15 is because the platform has a military-proven pedigree, can be had at a reasonable price, and is ear-to-ear-smile fun all day long. It makes perfect sense then, that Ruger would make it a point to market an AR rifle for everyday Americans – because providing quality affordable guns to mainstream America is what Ruger does. And it did it with the AR-556. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

That said; one concern I had when I heard that Ruger was going to produce an AR-15 was that they might Ruger-ize it mechanically, by adding extra safeties or creating some sort of proprietary aspect. They have been known to be a bit overzealous in those areas in the past. Either of those would have rendered the rifle good for propping open doors, but little else in my opinion. Thankfully, the engineers at Ruger seem to have agreed. This rifle is essentially a mil-spec basic kit in a box. Don’t worry, if you are a Ruger fanatic there is nothing to fear – Ruger stamped their name and logo in just about every spot they could think of on the AR-556, but tastefully. What Ruger has given us is as close to a generic direct gas impingement black rifle as anyone, but with just the right amount of Ruger “flavor.” And, when I say ‘generic’ I mean it in a positive way. There is literally no shortage of AR builders in the marketplace that each try to separate from the pack by customizing the rifle, or adding more bling, or both. What they do, in reality is the opposite, especially when it comes to the new buyer. Buying a firearm can be intimidating for the unseasoned, and the AR platform is likely the most so. Ruger did what very few others have done by making the purchase of an AR-15 easy and comforting. They make it easy by building a “just what you need” rifle that doesn’t intimidate your skillset or wallet (with an MSRP of $799), and they make it comforting because – well, simply because the box says “Ruger”.


I said before that Ruger didn’t “Ruger-ize” this rifle. What they didn’t do was negatively change the specifications of the rifle in such a way that would either detract from its usefulness, or create a proprietary parts list. One thing Ruger did do that impressed this writer, was created a Delta ring that one person who has only two hands can remove – without tools or a vise. The Delta ring was designed so that one person could easily remove the handguard. Traditional AR Delta ring removal requires pulling rearward against some significant resistance, while simultaneously turning the ring, which can be tight. Unless you have a vise handy this can sometimes require the help of another person. With the Ruger AR-556, all you need to do is simply twist to loosen, and twist to tighten. It works wonderfully, and unless Ruger has a patent on it, we might start seeing this copied a lot. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

A cold hammer-forged 4140 chrome-moly steel barrel with 1:8″ twist rate should handle bullets from 35 to 77 grains nicely, and the chamber is 5.56 NATO. The barrel is finished off with matte black oxide which reduces glare and provides corrosion resistance. The barrel is not lined, nor is it coated. No chrome, no Melonite. In part, this keeps costs down. You can’t build a frills gun and sell it at a no-frills price. It is very likely too that the people at Ruger understand the reality that very few rifle owners are going to shoot out the barrel. It’s fun to put on tactical pants and skip a shave and talk about whether chrome lining or Melonite coating is better for accuracy and long barrel life – but in the real world, very few people will use their sporting rifle to the extent that it matters. And frankly, those who will are not looking at this rifle – except as a gift idea for a family member.

Ruger did put money into the rifle in several places – just the right places, I think. The gas block that is milled from billet was one of the first things that caught my eye. The ramp up to the front sight post (which is adjustable for elevation) is nicely serrated to eliminate glare. It also has a quick-disconnect (QD) socket and the always necessary bayonet lug. Just rear of that is the most lackluster piece of furniture on the rifle in my opinion, the plastic handguard. It is the epitome of “no frills”, but it serves its purpose. Again, money saved here lets you take the rifle home cheap and upgrade later. The gas tube runs inside that, taking us back to the upper receiver. This is where Ruger cut no corners. The fit and finish is nice, and the parts are high quality materials and well made. The bolt carrier’s inside diameter and the gas key’s inside diameter are both chrome-plated, which should provide very good resistance to hot gases. The gas key is staked so that it will not loosen after extensive firing. Once again, a matte black oxide finish on the exterior of the bolt carrier provides corrosion resistance. The bolt itself is machined from 9310 alloy steel and is shot peened and pressure tested to ensure strength, structural integrity and durability. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

The upper receiver is a flattop, made from aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum forging, and includes a forward assist, dust cover and brass deflector, and is Type III hard coat anodized for maximum durability. The flattop includes an adequate portion of 1913 Picatinny rail, some of which is occupied by the flip-up rear sight. Mounting a short electronic optic can be done without removing the rear sight, but if you want a full-length scope on it, that rear sight has to come off. It’s easy if you have the right sized hex wrench, but the nut is not captured and easy to lose if you’re not careful. A scope mounted with just medium height rings easily clears the front post for a clear look down range.

Moving back along the mil-spec buffer tube, Ruger has equipped the AR-556 with a six-position adjustable stock. It proudly bears the Ruger logo, so the question of who supplies it remains a mystery for the moment. It is the essential stock we’ve come to expect on our sporting rifle, and though the cheek weld is a wee bit sparse, it’s a nice stock and it locks firmly into each position. It also includes a sling mount ring, an appreciated touch.

The lower receiver is also well built from top material and the fit between upper and lower on our test rifle was nice and snug. The pistol grip is a polymer material with some stippling for grip. I found it comfortable and practical, and as it does not have that annoying A2 protrusion for giant-sized fingers, I was pleased! The trigger is a single stage mil-spec type, and nothing to write home about. It is heavy and gritty, just like single-stage-mil-spec triggers are – but I found it to be consistent and it did not really prevent me from shooting respectable groups. If the buyer wants to sink $100+ into a new trigger, I have no doubt it will improve the rifle – but the average new buyer doesn’t need to pay for a trigger they can’t appreciate right off the bat. Once again, Ruger made smart choices with respect to which elements to spend the money on. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle


The AR-556 is a shooter. During extensive evaluation and testing with this rifle, I put somewhere around five-hundred rounds through it. And the ammo ran the whole spectrum – from bargain bulk buy stuff, to the “holy crap, they want how much… for how many!?” exotic brands. I shot everything from 40 grains to 77 grains, and at varying distances and with different sighting systems. The rifle performed well through all of it, proving beyond any doubt that it can perform better than I can.

Starting with the open sights, it’s an easy rifle to get acquainted with. The front post is adjustable for elevation, and the rear flip-up sight is adjustable for windage. I didn’t make any adjustments to them because they were “close enough” out of the box for the ranges I’d be using them. Putting on a quality electronic optic like the Aimpoint PRO, allowed me to stretch the distance a little and increase the precision of my aim. But where I really started to learn that this Ruger rifle is serious was when I mounted a good quality scope. I was fortunate to have Burris provide their excellent AR-5.56 4.5-14x 42mm scope, which paired beautifully with the rifle. With the adjustable telescoping stock set to the ‘just right’ position for my hold, the cheek weld and eye relief of the Burris was perfect. Now, with a tack sharp view of my target, I could do some 100 yard tests and see how she groups. Of course, whenever I make such elaborate plans, the forces of the Universe get together in a huddle, point at me and giggle, and then unite against me. The first time I did my 100 yard tests, the wind was gusting and swirling at speeds up to 35 mph. That’s part of it – as they say, but I’m not skilled enough to do the hardware justice in those conditions. Those groups were understandably larger, but surprisingly impressive. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

The next outing provided only ‘breezy’ conditions and yielded more consistent results. What I learned during both sessions was that I could trust the AR-556 to perform consistently. It likes the heavier bullets a little better, but across the range of ammo the results were good. The trigger is fairly pedestrian – basic mil spec single stage. I measured the break at about 8 ½ lbs. and it does have some grit. But it remained consistent, which was the important thing.


Trying to sift through the AR-15 marketplace is like trying to find a blind date in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. That confusion is only amplified for new gun buyers, who often fall victim to the sales pitch at the counter and wind up either over spending for gear they don’t need or being fed some bargain junk the store owner stocked up on during the pre-election panic. For decades, Americans have come to rely on the name Ruger for good quality firearms that won’t break the budget. Not having America’s favorite modern sporting rifle in their catalog was curiously conspicuous. Perhaps realizing that the next logical step from the iconic Ruger 10/22 is the AR-15, there was a lot of money being left on the table. If Johnny or Susie cut their teeth on the 10/22, why not let their next Ruger rifle be the most popular style – the AR? Whatever their motives, I think it was a good move to put the AR-556 SKU into the catalog. I also think the team at Ruger did a fine job of outfitting this rifle to be just what the entry-level user truly needs. I think if there was a Norman Rockwell painting that showed a black sporting rifle leaning in the corner, a closer look with a magnifying glass would probably reveal the Ruger logo. I can count on one hand the number of ARs I would recommend to a new shooter. Rugged and affordable; accurate and reliable – the Ruger AR-556 is one of them. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

Ruger AR-556 Review


It goes without saying that Ruger is a trusted name in the gun industry. When they announced that they were making an AR-type rifle, every gun enthusiast was ecstatic. That rifle was the SR-556, and to say it was a big success would be quite an understatement. However, one of the not-so-great features of this rifle was the price tag.

Luckily, Ruger has now introduced the Ruger AR-556 to the world, and at a very approachable price.

Now the big question is whether this rifle has all the right features. In this review, we’ll take a look at the look, feel, accuracy, reliability, and of course the price of this rifle. First, let’s see what the Ruger AR-556 has to offer, look-wise.

The look of the Ruger AR-556

At first glance, the Ruger AR-556 is made of aluminum material and has a black coating. Taking a closer look, we see that the aluminum is 7075-T5. Upon picking it up, we were surprised at how lightweight and easy to carry the rifle is. Basically, it’s not over 6.5 pounds. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

The exterior of the rifle has a hard-anodized black coating that adds to the overall appearance of the rifle. But of course, the more important job of the coating is to keep the rifle from rusting. On the steel parts and on the black material of the synthetic parts we notice a black oxide finish. So far, so good.

Next, we notice that the Ruger AR-556 comes with a black polymer handguard. We won’t talk about the specifics in this section. We’ll leave that for the next one.

The Ruger AR-556 has a full-featured upper receiver which includes a brass deflector, dust cover and a forward assist. To clarify why we’re mentioning these features, it’s because other rifles in the price range of the AR-556 usually neglect to include them.

Finally, we need to mention that the Ruger added an interesting touch to this rifle by including a branded pistol grip.

Our rating

All in all, look-wise, the Ruger AR-556 gets a 9.4 rating from us. The whole package is quite pleasing and some of the additional features, like the brass deflector, dust cover, and forward assist are an extra bonus. And let’s admit, the branded pistol grip doesn’t hurt. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

Now, let’s move on to how the rifle feels.

The feel of the Ruger AR-556

As we mentioned while reviewing the look of the Ruger AR-556, this rifle has a branded pistol grip. But what we didn’t mention is the fact that the pistol grip has an extended trigger reach that gives you better control over the trigger.

Now, let’s get back to the black polymer handguard that we mentioned in the section above. The Ruger AR-556 has a two-piece handguard that is made from a round-shaped heat-resistant glass-filled nylon.

One of our favorite features that Ruger added to the AR-556 is a Delta ring that can easily be removed without tools or a vise. This Delta ring was designed so that the handguard can be removed with ease. Just to clarify, basic AR Delta ring removal requires you to pull towards the rear, while turning the ring simultaneously. So, unless you’re using a vise, you’ll experience some difficulty doing this.

One thing you won’t have to worry about with this rifle is whether it will accidentally fire off. This concerned us at first glance, due to the fact that the rifle has an exposed trigger. However, Ruger thought of everything. The AR-556 has a small trigger guard that keeps the rifle from accidentally firing off.

Additionally, the guard has an opening that can fit a gloved finger, so no concerns there. For additional control over your shots, the single-stage trigger gives you extra control.

The safety lock feature is located near the trigger in the form of a small point. You can easily move the gun’s locking setup to move it from safety to fire with ease. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

Our rating

From weight to the overall feel, this rifle gets a 9.6 from us, since it’s easy to handle, and will practically fit you like a glove. Furthermore, the Delta ring is one of the features that amazed us the most.

The accuracy of the Ruger AR-556

Now that we’ve covered the look and feel of the AR-556, let’s get to the part that will interest you the most. The accuracy of the rifle.

This rifle performed impeccably at the shooting range. First of all, it’s straightforward and easy to get used to. The flip-up rear sight is adjustable for windage, and the front post is also adjustable, but for elevation. Without making any adjustments, this rifle performed admirably. However, for those of you that want to stretch your shooting distance, pairing this rifle with quality electronic optics will increase the precision of your aim.

If you’d like to further enhance your precision, adding a scope to the mix is a good idea.

Testing out the AR-556 in different conditions allowed us to get a better idea of just how precise this rifle is.

For example, in windy conditions, the rifle performed just as well as it did in slightly breezy conditions. With these rifles, consistency is key, and this rifle performed without fault. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

Overall, Ruger has made it easy to produce accurate shots each time by making it easy to adjust the windage point depending on the weather conditions. On the other hand, you can also fold down the rear sight to add a better optics setup.

Our rating

Ultimately, the Ruger AR-556 has no fault when it comes to accuracy. It performs well in windy conditions since it’s easy to adjust the windage to your liking.

As we mentioned, consistency is the most important factor when it comes to the accuracy of a rifle, and the Ruger AR-556 proved to be a winner. Therefore, we give a rating of 10.0 go to this amazing AR.

The reliability of the Ruger AR-556

All things considered, the Ruger AR-556 is one of the most reliable rifles you can buy. This rifle is basically an entry-level AR, with some adjustments. The handguard is basic, and the rifle is comfortable to shoot.

Tested in less-than-perfect conditions, this rifle proved to keep a consistent shot at all times. There wasn’t anything we could identify as a problem. All in all, the AR-556 has exceptional accuracy potential if you can do your part.

Next, since the AR-556 has a small trigger guard, you won’t have to worry about it accidentally firing off. Additionally, you can still fit your fingers in the trigger opening even with gloved hands. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

Our rating

The Ruger AR-556 is as reliable a rifle as you can get. From performance to safety, it deserves all 10.0 points.

The price of the Ruger AR-556

Ultimately, we can say that we are extremely pleased with all that this rifle has to offer. From the looks to the reliability, there wasn’t a single thing we didn’t like. In all honesty, we would be surprised if anyone that purchased this AR would have difficulty using it.

Now, let’s get down to the price tag. Since this rifle has so many great features, and it’s difficult to find any fault in the overall performance of it, the price must be through the roof, right? Wrong.

Our rating

Yet again, Ruger succeeded in impressing us. The Ruger AR-556 is priced between $600 and $650! This makes it accessible to everyone, and for that, we give it, yet again – 10.0 points!

The conclusion

When it comes down to it, the Ruger AR-556 is an entry-level rifle that Ruger managed to improve upon.

Overall, Ruger consistently produces top-quality firearms, at fair prices, and the AV-556 is no exception. The combination of great performance and affordability is quite notable. Ruger AR-556 Semi-Auto Rifle

There is no reason not to buy this gun, so if you’ve been considering buying an AV, but haven’t chosen one yet, you simply cannot go wrong with this gem of a rifle.


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