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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Massad Ayoob

New Ruger in Hand

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

A few entries ago, you were promised that as soon as we got our hands on the latest new Ruger rifle, you’d hear back. Well, we muckled onto three or so of ‘em this past week, so here we go.

As noted here earlier, the rifle is designated SR556, for Sturm, Ruger 5.56 millimeter. It takes standard AR15/M16 magazines, and comes with three of them, produced by Magpul, one of the best makers. It’s the most “vendor-outsourced” firearm this company has ever assembled – really, pretty much everything but the barrel and barrel extension come from outside the factory – but it’s an AR15 clone, after all, and that’s the logical way to make one given the nature of the industry. The trick is to use the best parts.
We toured the production cell at the Newport, New Hampshire plant. Ruger’s switchover to “lean manufacturing” has changed the look of the factory dramatically in the last few years. SR556s were literally flowing off the production line.
But, enough of that: how does it SHOOT?
The subtle feel of the mechanism as it cycles is different from your usual Stoner-type AR15, because the Ruger entry works of a piston design, specifically a proprietary two-piece piston. One of my fellow shooters said, “It feels like a whoosh, not a sproing.” That about describes it, even if it ain’t engineer terminology.
My buddy Russ Lary threw a 6.5-20X variable power Leupold Tactical scope onto his T&E SR556, and cranked it all the way up. Twenty power magnification ain’t much for sophisticated bench rest shooters, but for us meat n’ potatoes riflemen, think “Hubble telescope with crosshairs.” At about 100 yards, he found sub-one-inch groups easy, with Match grade 69 grain and 77 grain loads from Black Hills Ammunition shooting the tightest.
The piston system does indeed run cool. I could race a pair of 30-round magazines through it as fast as I could pull the trigger, and the carrier (bolt) was still room temperature to the touch. I’m told by folks I trust at Ruger that this thing has gone 20,000 rounds without a malfunction OR a cleaning in factory torture-testing. In the several hundred rounds of 5.56mm and .223 Remington that we’ve run through it, we didn’t have any malfs either.
It’s early yet, but I’m likin’ this rifle!
Russ Lary discovers that the SR556 is accurate…
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…Gail Pepin discovers that the SR556 is reliable…
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…and Mas discovers that the SR556 is fun.
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On the SR556 production line.
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27 Responses to “New Ruger in Hand”

  1. Mitch Gurowitz Says:

    Very nice, please ask the good people at New Hampshire to manufacture at least one that can be legally shipped and sold in New Jersey. ;-)

  2. Phil Stracchino Says:

    Mitch,
    I think your problem there is not the source, it’s the destination. You live in a state that regards the Second Amendment as distilled evil to be thwarted by any means possible. The biggest problem with trying to make a rifle like this legal for sale in New Jersey or, worse, California is that the respective states keep changing the definition of legality every time someone finds a way to comply with their existing definitions. Have you seen some of the bizarre stocks people have come up with in efforts to make AR-15s that comply with the increasingly tortuous California laws?

    Mas, if I might ask:
    Have you an opinion on the Magpul Masada (aka Bushmaster ACR) and/or the Kel-Tec RFB? Both look very interesting, from what I’ve read, but I’ve never had the opportunity to inspect or try either. On the basis of this review, the SR556 looks like a very likely competitor to the Masada/ACR, although aside from being a gas-piston action the SR556 is (intentionally) otherwise a very conventional AR-15 “clone”, while the Masada appears to have significant design influences from the FN SCAR.
    The Kel-Tec of course is completely different from either; the closest I can see to an “intellectual parent” for its action is the FN FAL, and it uses FAL magazines, but at the same time it’s obvious from a single glance at the mechanism that it’s not simply a bull-pupped FAL. It’s unclear to me from the information and internal diagrams Kel-Tec has thus far published whether it’s direct-gas or gas-piston operated.

  3. Mike Says:

    Looks nice. Ruger is really trying to stay competative with the relase of some good service pistols, the upgraded mini 14 patrol and now this ar-15 style rifle. Good for you Ruger!I’m glad to see them staying competative.

  4. Mick Wood Says:

    Looking forward to seeing them hit the shelves. At nearly two grand, they’re a bit cashy, but compare favorably with some of the semi-custom rifles from other manufacturers here in Illinois.

  5. DWW Says:

    Mas,

    Is the adjustable gas system really necessary or offer much advantage on a 5.56/.223 short barreled “urban rifle” such as this?

    I do like the piston concept since it’s more reliable than direct impingement. It’s a real chore cleaning the chamber of my direct gas AR after extended shooting sessions.I’ve read many arguments that the Stoner gas system is more accurate than pistons systems due to fewer reciprocating parts & “in-line” rearward recoil,but based on the groups posted,it sounds like this rifle is plenty accurate for a lightweight carbine designed for social work.

  6. Steve Says:

    In spite of custom features, price is a problem.

    But my biggest problem is this:

    Just how many proprietary or non-standard parts are in this rifle?

    I ask, because of Ruger’s stupid policies regarding mandatory factory installation of most repair parts. They seem to believe that they, and only they are competant to do so, and I’m not going to own any AR type rifle that requires a trip to the factory for repairs. I don’t care how good it is.

    In Ruger’s twisted world, a gunsmith of decades of experience is unqualified to fit a new firing pin to a mini-14 (much less us idiot end user’s, who have been home building AR-15’s for years).

    Whenever I am tempted to consider anything from Ruger, this comes to mind:

    Pack, insure, ship, wait, and hope some magpie doesn’t intercept my weapon along the way.

  7. Mas Says:

    Phil, I don’t have enough experience with either of the rifles you mention to offer a cogent comparison.

    Steve, pretty much everything outside of the piston system is interchangeable.

    DWW: How necessary the new design is depends on how hard the gun is going to be run, in how hostile environment, and how much/how little maintenance opportunity the user will have.

    best,
    mas

  8. Steve Racer Says:

    Heck, I just want to work there! Can you imagine the pride of producing a product like that in this day and age? That`s what is missing in America today. I see it daily, how the futility creeps in. I love the manufacturing environment, but we need to get back to the reason we are making a product in the first place. It shouldn`t be about getting paid and punching the clock wishing for Friday. I`d love to work in a place that made quality firearms right now. And the gas system looks like a winner in my book.

  9. Jim from Detroit Says:

    Now I wish I had waited and just picked up this Ruger rather than spending 6 months waiting on parts to build the gas piston AR I finished this week.

    Would have been about the same price in the end, too.

  10. Tom Young Says:

    Sounds like a very nice gun. I wish I was on a call list to come and try some. Look forward to reading a Magazine article on the SR556 in the future.

    I just picked up a used AR, The guy got tired of ‘dumping mags’ as he called it. I mounted a 4×16 scope on top and it shoots nice, has the heavier barrel. Now I’m just waiting on the other parts I ordered to mount the open sights on it angled as well as the new gasblock to replace the front sight.

  11. Jack Katz Says:

    Everything I’ve heard about this rifle so far points to a sound, reliable design. I wouldn’t sell any of my AR’s to finance an SR556 but I am hoping they are planning to manufacture an AR platform, gas piston rifle in .308. I would be all over that. Has anyone in the know heard any rumblings from Ruger about such a thing?

  12. Mas Says:

    Not to the best of my knowledge.

  13. russ smith Says:

    I wonder if ruger will make these available as uppers for the aftermarket, it could prove to quite lucrative

  14. Nathan Collins Says:

    This rifle makes the AR-15 look good to me. And that’s really saying something. I’ve always had a bitter taste in my mouth when handling Colt’s (and clones’) squirt gun-type, franken-gun offerings. And the gas system just always seemed hinky to me. This one looks like a coherent, precision-made machine outfitted with the best parts money can buy. When I just want to have some pure fun, I’m a wooden stock, traditional tube magazine, semi-auto .22LR shooter here. It’s what I grew up on. But I’ve always eyed that .223 for it’s fantastic trajectory. I like me some long-range shooting without having to hold 6 inches over, too. You look like you’re having a literal blast with that rifle.

  15. Fred Says:

    I am loving what I am hearing about this rifle and I want to know are they going to put it in other calibers? 7.62/39?

  16. james kallaher Says:

    what Ruger needs to do is come up with a .556/.762 GARAND type rifle with box magazine insertable from top down only… Although I’m in free florida i would be a first customer

  17. Ryan Speir Says:

    Has anyone heard the repair neccesary to keep my SR-556 from gouging a hole in the buffer tube? I have a request in to Ruger no news from them yet. I only have about 60 rounds thru it and gouge is small now. Did the test rifle show any signs of this?

  18. Mas Says:

    Ryan, can you send along a photo?
    Thanks,
    Mas

  19. Ryan Speir Says:

    Mr. Ayoob i am having difficulty getting the picture on this format i need an email address to be able to get you the picture, as i do not have a regular camera just my phone, it is a decent picture tho you can definetly see the left side of gouge

  20. Alex Says:

    I love my SR556. It doesn’t have a lot of recoil and the gas piston systems allows it to fire a lot cleaner and cooler than a normal AR. It was a bit pricey but in my opinion well worth it. The only problem I’ve had is it jammed up after the the 3rd shot with steel casing ammo. That stuff is hard on equipment anyway. Ive fired 800 rounds rounds of brass jacket ammo w/o cleaning it and I had no trouble at all. It’s a great weapon!

  21. Ryan Speir Says:

    Its been over a month since they recieved my SR-556. I am not at all happy with the rifle or service. I cannot reccomend this rifle for anyones use nor will I reccomend Ruger’s service department. A month and a half may not be a long time to you guys but it seems like long dang time to me. I cant wait to get it back that way it can finance a real AR.

  22. Mas Says:

    Ryan, please keep us posted.

    I recall that you & I exchanged private emails on this, and a top Ruger exec was the one who said to send them the rifle.

    Please let us know when it comes back…and how it comes back.

    Thanks,

    Mas

  23. Ken Says:

    I own Several ak’s and two ar15s-{ colt and a Bushmaster m4} I like the looks of the sr556 but i’m still waiting for reports to come in from the field as to any problems with it. I’m now hearing that some owners are talking about bolt carrier tilt issues with the sr556? I would love to see a rugged , reliability test preformed on this Weapon system simalier to the hk mr556. Which, by the way, is due out in july. But at nearly 3000 a copy, it’s pricey. My Colt and Bushy m4 have never once failed to cycle,or, failed to extract ect. And i’m talking about shooting all types of ammo. Steel case, surplus, hollow points ect. I would love to own the Hkmr556. I own a HK91 which is mint. Some say that HK is the best in the world. I want to know how the SR 556 will hold against the HK mr556? Please give your opinions on the topic.

  24. MisterMyler Says:

    2000 rounds through mine with no malfunctions and only the initial cleaning. Has eaten some of the worst 223/556 ammo I’ve ever found and kept on going. Hands down the best rifle I’ve ever owned and is second only to my Springfield 1911gi. would put this up against any ar-style rifle including hk any day of the week. Thanks ruger, keep up the good work.

  25. Crburt Says:

    I own one and have put about 750 rounds through it. After the first 250 rounds I notice some evidence of BCG tilt. At that time I purchased a replacement buffer from Seth Harness (FIREARM READY SOLUTIONS LTD) and installed it. Since, I have seen absolutely no evidence of BCG tilt and the rifle has worked flawlessly. Great rifle, fun and accurate.

  26. Bill Says:

    I own one and just found an ACOG 3.5 x 35 with Red Dot for a steal. Cant wait to shoot it this weekend. I lov eit because I spent a lot of time cleaning M-16s in VN and the whole time I cursed whoever came up with the idea of having hot burning gas dumped into the chamber. The ruger shoots great, and cleans up quickly.
    I bought an aimpoint when they first came out. Put it on a Ruger 1022. It was boring to shoot. Took all the challenge of hitting dimes at 50 yards. Thought the concept was amazing. I was Infantry and then SF and I told everyone I could that we should get scopes for the M-16. They looked at me like I was nuts. Now scopes are common. The ACOG with doctor red dot is a wonder scope combination. The combination of SR556 with the scope is simply amazing.

  27. Hawkeye Says:

    I have an SR556 and love it! Mine was used…sold new in July and I bought it in September, so it was new in almost every regard. Mine came with an EOTech on it for $1700, plus some tax.

    I hear about “bolt tilt” from time to time but have not experienced it yet. The bottom/front end of the buffer tube (at the threads) shows no marring of any kind, nor does the aft/bottom of the bolt carrier itself.

    Anyone else experienced any evidence of bolt carrier tilt?

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