Ruger AR-556 Pistol, by Pat Cascio

One of the hottest trends going these days, are AR-15 pistols, since the BATF in their finite wisdom re-decided that an arm braced pistol can be shouldered from time to time. (Prior to this, if you shouldered an AR-type of pistol, with an arm brace on it, you were deemed to be “redesigning” it and breaking Federal law.) But if you actually strapped on an arm brace, it was nearly impossible to get the AR pistols up near your face, for a proper sight picture. So, many folks were tucking the arm brace under their arm and firing it that way – sort of a spray and pray thing. This an ineffective a waste of ammo.

I’ve review a couple other AR pistols over the past year, and they are great shooters, with the arm brace installed. One had an adjustable arm brace, and one was fixed-position. To be sure, the adjustable arm brace is better. At first glance, you will think that these AR pistols have a buttstock on them – they do NOT! They are still designed to be wrapped around the forearm. However, some of these arm braces are outstanding in their design, and you can easily shoulder them.

Today, we’re looking at the newest offering from Ruger, and they call this one their AR-556 pistol. Many uneducated folks will think you are firing an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) when they see the 10.5-barrel on the AR-556. But it is still classified as a pistol, because of the arm brace and this meets all BATF rules and regulations for a pistol. Keep in mind that, because this is still considered a pistol, you can NOT put a vertical forward mounted pistol grip on the forearm of this handgun, if you did, you would be breaking Federal law.

Ruger AR-556 PistolA quick run down is in order on the AR-556: First of all, the arm brace is from SB Tactical and it is their SBA3 Pistol Stabilizing Brace – it is not classified by the ATF as a buttstock. And, this is one of the better arm braces I’ve seen out there, with click-adjustable length of pull. The handguard is free-floated M-LOK with attachment slots. As already mentioned, the barrel is 10.5-inches long, and the gas tube is that of the AR carbine length.  In contrast, some other makers used shortened gas tubes, and they had to tweak them to make the gun run reliably.

The barrel twist is 1:8, so it will stabilize bullets from 35-grains up to 77-grains – outstanding There is also a flash suppressor on the end of the barrel. This is Ruger’s own design, that I like very much, and the barrel is threaded ½”-28, so if you want to add a sound suppressor on it you can – once you jump through the Federal hoops and red tape. The finish on the receivers is Type III Hard Coat Anodized – tough stuff. Ruger says the weight of this pistol is 6.2-lbs, but it feels at least half a pound lighter than that. The arm brace can be adjusted so the overall length of the pistol is between 25.30-inches and 27.90-inches.

Ruger AR-556 PistolThis pistol comes with one 30-round standard AR magazine. They selected the MagPul PMag my favorite AR magazines.  (Unless you live where you can’t have a mag that holds this many rounds – then Ruger will ship it with a 10-rd magazine.) I should mention that the bolt is machined from 9310 alloy steel and is shot peened and pressure proofed, to ensure strength and durability.  This pistol will really last. The gun is chambered in 5.56mm – but will also safely fire .223 Rem ammo – there is a difference. Some AR makers are still chambering their guns in .223 Rem, so make sure you check which chambering it is. If you chamber a 5.56mm round in a gun chambered in .223 Rem, then it could blow up – simple as that. We also have M4 feed ramps – a lot of lesser ARs don’t have this feature, and it makes for more reliable feeding if your AR has the M4 feed ramps. Check out Ruger’s web site for further details on this handgun.

No Sights Supplied

The AR-556 Pistol does NOT come with any sights at all. This is a cost-saving shortcoming. I really like Ruger’s AR metal back-up sights, they are some of the best around. However, you can purchase them from if you want them. Or check around the ‘net and you can find any number of places that sell back-up sights for ARs – some are better than others.

My sample AR-556 had a terrible trigger pull, right out of the box…most mil-spec trigger pulls are between 5-7 lbs…my sample came in at just a few ounces under 9 pounds. Yeah, you read that right – it was almost 9-lbs and very stiff, VERY STIFF, for some reason. And it appears that Ruger all but dunked this gun completely in oil before shipping it. It took me almost two full cans of brake cleaner to get most of the oil out of this gun – and it is still leaking out in various places. I did lube the trigger group before taking this gun out to the range. The trigger pull improved a little bit – but it was still too heavy. I fired more than 600-rds though this gun during my testing, and at the end of my shooting, the trigger pull lightened-up quite a bit and was smoother. The trigger pull was slightly over 7 pounds. If you get one with a very heavy trigger pull, then send it back to Ruger – they’ll make it right. I want to think that, because this was one of the first samples to be shipped out, this one slipped past the final inspection when it came to the trigger pull.

All testing was done by myself – no helpers this time around for some reason. So, I had a long shooting session – with the more than 600 rounds fired. Much of this ammo was fired rapid fire, for the first six magazines – I wanted to get the gun good and hot.. There were no malfunctions at all. But it was smoking hot, to say the least. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 55-gr FMJ Remanufactured ammo, and their 60-gr Soft Point re-manufactured ammo. From their new line, I had their 50-gr Hornady V-MAX, 52-gr Match Hollow Point, 55-gr FMJ, 55-gr Barnes TSX, 60-gr Soft Point, 68-gr Heavy Match Hollow Point, and their 75-gr Heavy Match Hollow Point. An outstanding assortment of ammo to test, and the AR-556 never choked on any of this ammo.

I mounted a SIG-Sauer Romeo 5 red dot on the upper receiver – this little red dot is one of the best on the market in my humble opinion, and it is small. It has a very fast to pick-up in bright sunlight or after dark. And, best thing is, it will run for 40,000-hours on one CR2032 button battery. Plus, it is motion activated – when the gun/sight isn’t moved for two minutes or so, it turns off automatically. When the gun is moved, the red dot immediately springs to life. Now, stop and think, if the red dot was on all the time, that 40,000-hours equates to around 4.5-YEARS – outstanding!

One thing I noticed was that if you want to attach a single point sling, it has to be done on the arm brace – you need a quick-detach sling swivel that pushes into a large hole and you can then attach a single point sling. I’d prefer a position closer to the mid point on the gun for better balance. Still it works as-is.  But you might want to add a swivel plate at either the receiver back plate or at the rear-most M-LOK slot, to suit your personal preference.

Accuracy Tests

For my accuracy testing, I placed a target out to 50 yards, and used a big boulder as a rest – it worked perfectly – the bottom of the magazine fit nicely into a groove in the boulder. Once I had the red dot sight adjusted, and started firing, I was getting groups slightly over an inch and a half with most ammo. If I was on my game, I could get a few groups right close to 1-inch – that is outstanding for a pistol. I don’t take the credit for it. This was the gun/ammo combo. I found that the most accurate ammo was the Black Hills 52-gr Match Hollow Point – right there around 1-inch if I stayed steady. I believe that I could have gotten smaller groups, with a better trigger pull. Second for accuracy was the Black Hills 60-gr Soft Point, and this has a good performer for me in most ARs. If you plan on using this pistol for home defense, I would think that loading it with a lighter bullet would make good sense.

I plan on placing some back-up sights on this Ruger, and do some more shooting. If the trigger pull doesn’t get any easier/lighter, I’ll either polish the trigger group, of perhaps replace it with a match trigger group. However, the gun is good to go, as-is right now for self-defense. I picked some targets of opportunity, out to about 150-yards – big rocks averaging 12″ in diameter. I found that if I steadied the pistol, I hit the rocks every time.

Full-retail on this new Ruger AR-556 pistol is $899 – and right now, that is what they are selling for. But once supply meets demand, I’m sure you will find these guns for less money. I plan on keeping (purchasing) my sample. That says it all.


  1. I’m a big fan of 10.5″ barrel ar pistols with the sb brace. I have the sig romeo 5 on all sorts of ar’s. It is awesome. Now is the time to buy!

  2. What a stupid law! Somehow an AR-15 with a barrel shorter than 16 inches is more dangerous than one with a full 16 inches? Why? It seems to me that a person bent on killing innocent people would be more accurate with a 16 inch or longer barrel, thus making longer barrels more EVIL. Our government is a joke!

    1. This underscores the arbitrary and capricious nature of Statutory Jurisdiction. To codify in law that a rifle with a 16.0″ barrel is perfectly legal, but one with a 15.9″ barrel is a felony (without paying a $200 Federal transfer tax) shows you just how far down the Slippery Slope that we’ve tumbled!

  3. My primary concern would be spending $900 plus whatever extras on a firearm that the ATF later decides is the next bump-stock equivalent and then having to deal with that issue.

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