Monday, April 2, 2012

Ruger SR-556FB

Well, I wasn't kidding around when I said I was going to get the Ruger SR-556.  I just didn't know it was going to happen so quickly.  After selling my RRA carbine, I started calling the Local Gun Stores (LGS) in my area.  When I called the first LGS, they told me they didn't have any SR-556 rifles in stock, nor could they order any.  Curious as to why, I asked and the man on the other end told me that Ruger is not taking any new orders for the rest of the year.  You gotta be kidding right?  It's was only the end of March!  Is Ruger that slammed with orders?  Well, I don't know if he was blowing smoke up my butt or not, so I took that data point and called the next store.  They didn't have one either, and they didn't know if they were going to get any in stock anytime soon, but were happy to give me a price.  Another LGS didn't have the SR-556FB, but tried to convince me to buy the SR-556E model instead.  Nope, no thanks.  After calling about 14 gun stores, I was starting to get really bored.  So, I went online and found one at Bud's Gunshop.  Their price was okay, but a $50 FFL transfer would negate a good price.  So, I checked to see who their preferred FFL vendors were and realized that I had forgotten a LGS only two miles from my house!  I quickly called them up and asked if they had any.  They did, and the price was right.  I asked him to put it on hold for 30 minutes, and I'd be down to look at it shortly.  Long story short, I ended up dropping a grand on this bad boy to secure it until I could take delivery today.  I wasn't about to let a perfectly good rifle slip through my fingers.

After getting the rifle home, I took it out of the boldly labeled box.  Side note: I had posted a Facebook picture of the box, which has the Ruger logo, and the letters "SR-556" printed in big bold black letters across the middle and captioned it, "Bet you can't tell what's in here."  Well, it was good for a chuckle.  I like the padded case that comes with the weapon.  The outside of the nylon case has the Ruger logo on it, but nothing else.  It's a nice touch.  The inside has straps to keep the rifle secure, and little pockets to keep PMAG's in place.

The rifle also came with three cheesy hand guards that I tried on, but didn't like.  They made the grip area too fat, and they rattled a bit.  I think I'll just use some ladder rail covers instead.  While trying to remove the Troy covers, I accidentally broke the little retainer tabs.  After getting them off the weapon, I pitched them.  It was a nice thought, Ruger, but you should just send the weapon with the ladder rail covers instead.

 What I did find already installed were the fantastic Troy Industries back-up front and rear iron sights (BUIS).  These are expensive sights (about $100 apiece) and they are great.  Of course, Ruger couldn't help but make it so the bad guy knows just what gun killed him by having their name engraved on the front of the sight mounts.  Clay pigeons, steel targets, and soup cans beware!  A Ruger is bearing down on you!  Actually, I really like the HK style front hood.  It helps me better align the sights than the flared out standard AR sight does.  Adjustments should be easy enough.  Ruger sends a Troy Industries sight adjustment tool with the gun.  It's not an expensive tool, but it is a nice addition.  No need to use a cartridge tip to adjust the front elevation.  Apparently, you can adjust the windage on the rear BUIS as well.  Overall, I'm a fan of these sights.  They have a positive up "click" and they don't budge once in place.  To fold them down, you simply push the detent on the side, which releases them.  To fold up, you simply push them up with your thumb.  Simple!

The heart of this system is going to start with the 16.12" 41V45 hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel.  The end of the barrel has the Ruger bird cage flash hider.  I'll see how I like it.  If I hate the flash hider, I'll get something else.  I wanted the chrome-lined barrel so badly.  Cleaning is easier.  The Chromoly steel barrel on my RRA was a bit of a butt to clean after a long day shooting.

The bolt carrier group is also chrome-lined, which makes it as easy to clean as wiping the carbon off.  Of course, Ruger ships their guns to the customer filthy as hell, so I went ahead and stripped it down to clean it.  At first, I was confused.  The bolt itself appeared to be missing an o-ring.  So, I looked at the exploded parts diagram just to be sure.  Nope, no o-ring listed on the bolt.  Guess it doesn't need it.  I have to remember that this bolt carrier is a one-piece design and no gas is getting back to the bolt carrier group anyway.

The bolt carrier is finished in a dull matte look to keep the shine down but still make it easy to clean.  Instead of a staked gas key on the top, they have a forged piece as part of the bolt carrier that the piston transfer rod acts on to actuate the system.  The transfer rod is pushed back by the gas piston, located at the front of the weapon, which then pushes the bolt carrier backward, cycling the action.  The transfer rod then moves forward under spring pressure.  When the bolt moves rearward, it heads down the upper into the buffer tube, ejecting the spent cartridge.  Upon it's return to the breech, it strips another round off the top of the magazine and sends it home.  There is a lot more to it, but this is the reader's digest version of what happens.  The rotating bolt goes through a rotation for extraction and lockup as well.

In my research, it was evident that the first Ruger SR-556 rifles experienced some carrier tilt issues.  After thousands of rounds down range, some guns looked like someone took a grinder to the inside of the buffer tubes.  Carrier tilt, as I understand it, is when the bolt carrier cants backward as the piston presses the key on the top.  As it moves backward, the rear of the bolt grinds away at the buffer tube.  Ruger seems to have mitigated this issue by putting a radius on the back of the bolt carrier, which will allow it to ride up into the buffer tube without slamming two flat surfaces together.  Of course, I'll be monitoring that closely.  Some surface wear is normal, but once the aluminum buffer tube starts galling, that's when you know you have a problem.  Here's to hoping mine doesn't suffer this issue, but you never know.  A lot of piston guns are having this issue, and I believe it's just the nature of the beast.  The design is still young.  Whether I build a piston gun or a direct impingement (DI) gun will depend greatly on this.

One of the things I really like about the SR-556FB is that mile of rail in front of the receiver.  That's about the perfect length for me.  I can get my hand up there really far and not feel all scrunched up like I did with the carbine length rail on my old AR15.  I'm going to cover the sharp edges of the picatinny rail and install a stubby VFG up near the front for hand indexing.  I might give the Magpul AFG a chance, but I wasn't too impressed with it on a carbine gun.  It might be better on a longer rail.  One thing is for sure: my wife wants a VFG up there because she holds onto it.

Since I had the gun o the bench, and finished cleaning and inspection, I went ahead and installed my Streamlight Scorpion X light, which used to take up residence on my RRA using a V-TAC light mount.  I'll see how it goes up there.  The gas regulator blows the excess gas out up there, so I may move the light back depending on how dirty it gets.  I also hear the gas block gets rather hot on these short stroke piston guns.  We'll see how the polymer mount holds up there.  If it melts, then I know I need to get a metal one.

For right now, I'm very pleased with this purchase.  While I haven't been out to shoot it yet, I look forward to wringing this gun out on the range.  While my old RRA was a nice gun, this is much better.  It's definitely worth the extra price you pay.  Speaking of price, it's amazing how little you are really paying for this weapon when you factor in the Troy Industries Rail, sights, and the piston system.  As for value, I'd say this gun is an extremely high value system simply because it inherits Ruger's exceptional build quality and affordability.  Should something go wrong, and nobody wants it to, the gun is backed by Ruger's famously excellent customer service.  I've used their customer service in the past to get my Ruger LCP repaired, and my experience was very satisfying.  If something broke on my RRA, I was pretty much on my own.  It feels nice to have a good company backing me with this weapon.

This gun is tight!  No, I don't mean to say it like your homeboy would.  What I mean to say is that all the pins, detents, etc are freaking super tight.  I had to tap the take-down pin to get it moving.  The piston detent was a bear to get moving too.  They will loosen up a bit as I get some rounds down range, but for now, they are just in there good.  As for receiver slop, there is none.  The upper and lower mesh together and create a nice tight marriage.  I know that some receiver slop is okay, and doesn't affect accuracy, but it just bugs me.  I prefer a tight assembly, and this is just that.  Ruger did a good job putting this weapon together.  The fit and finish are great, and the gun is just one mean bastard.  It's a great combination of mil-standard controls and commercial liberties that you just can't get on a government contract.  I like it.

 As for modifications, do I have any plans?  Yeah, I've got some ideas I'm kicking around.  I'd like to remove the M-faux stock and replace it with a Magpul CTR stock.  I want this rifle to stay black because it looks good this way.  I know, tan guns are the "in" thing nowadays, but I need to have at least one black "black rifle" in the corral.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll change things up and do the tan thing later on.  For now, I need to get some covers on the rails, a vertical forward grip, and I need to get this gun outside and send some rounds down range.

As for optics, I think I want to put a scope on it.  Yeah, I know.  Put an Aimpoint or an Eotech on there.  Um, well honestly, I want some magnification.  I know I can get a magnifier for an aimpoint, but I can also put a Trijicon scope on there for less money and still get the same result.  CQB capability might suffer, but I don't know.  I seem to have no problem using my 4x scope on my Ruger 10/22 in the house.

So that's my initial impression.  I know this entry was a little pic heavy, but I had a hard time finding any close up pictures online, so I hope that my contribution helps out anyone who wants to see some semi-okay pictures of the gun.  I plan on getting some really high quality photographs when the weather gets better, but until then, you can deal with this.  Enjoy!



  1. I got my SR556 last year (2011) and I love the thing. With the piston gun, everything stays nice and clean. Like you thought, the gas block does get warm (understatement), but It's never been too hot to handle. I also opted for rail ladders and they seem to do the job just fine. You also said that you were going to get a front grip. I bought a grip pod (I can't remember the manufacturer) that works nice. It also has a spot to install a momentary switch built in. I got a Nikon scope, 1 to 4 power, that I use at the range, but I got a cheap red dot sight zeroed at 30ft for around the house. I put a couple hundred rounds through it using the dot site and it's still on zero, so I suppose it ought to work in a pinch.
    Anyway, glad to hear you got the rifle. I hope that you enjoy yours as much as I have mine.

  2. I bought 2 FB's and will be using them when TEOTWAWKI takes place.