Saturday, February 16, 2013

SR556 Project; Status: Completed

I've been chipping away at this one for a long time now.  I bought this Ruger SR556 (named SIR 556) in April, 2012.  Yes, it's taken me the better part of a year to get it dialed in just the way I like it.  Originally, I intended to put a magnified optic on top, but after examining the role this rifle was to, and still does, play in my arsenal, I decided that zero magnification was a better option.  I have absolutely no problem putting a good 8" group at 100 yards offhand, standing, with this thing.  Bench rest it, and the group tightens significantly.  For my eyes, that is plenty.  Realistically, this gun wasn't meant for super long range shooting.  It really isn't accurate enough.  Though I've made a couple 400+ yard shots with it, that's really out of it's scope of duty.  This gun is primarily for close in social work less than 50 yards.  I have no problem, however, stretching its legs and putting it to work well beyond that.  And with this setup, I can do it pretty easily out to 200+ yards.  Anymore than that, and I'm really going to need a magnified optic.

Okay, getting into details.  This is a pretty squared away gun.  Not only are the accessories chosen for it proven, but the rifle itself has been shaken down properly, and it's been reliable.  I did have a stuck case one time, but a solid smack of the buttstock into the dirt, as well as pulling back the charging handle, solved that problem pretty handily.

Under Construction
The first thing I should talk about is the optic.  It is an Aimpoint Comp ML3.  The ML designation means that it is not night vision compatible.  The red dot is 2 MOA in size.  This simply means that at 100 yards, the red dot appears 2 inches diameter.  Coming in closer, it appears 1 inch at 50 yards, and out further, it's 4 inches across at 200 yards.  Some folks prefer a larger dot for faster acquisition against the target, but I've found that turning up the brightness until the red dot blooms, and turning it down one click makes it plenty big and plenty bright.  Then if I need to settle down and take a precision shot, I turn it down until I can't see it anymore, and turn it up one click.  Hey, it works for me anyway.  I have the sight mounted in a Larue Tactical LT150 mount.  This 30mm ring and base setup is made of aluminum and as you can see, clamps down around the scope with four screws, providing a very stable platform.  The mount is a quick release, so it can be taken off with no tools.  Theoretically, you should retain zero, but if I remove it from my gun, the first thing I do the next time I go shooting is take a few minutes to verify zero.  I haven't experienced any drift yet, but you never know.

Under Construction
The next thing I should talk about is the weapon mounted light.  The light itself is an Elzetta ZFL-M60.  While Elzetta offers lights with various tail cap function options, I went with a simple rotary switch that provides momentary on/off with the push of the button, constant on if I rotate the switch, and lockout by twisting it out so the switch won't contact the batteries.  This is a simple setup because 99.9% of the time, I'm just pushing the button for a second or two, and releasing.  Light comes on.  Light goes off.  The head is their standard without a crenelated bezel.  I don't need it.  I'm not going to be hitting anyone with the light itself, and there's a barrel in the way of that sort of use anyway.  The output is 235 lumens, which will illuminate a target 3 blocks away.  The light is mounted to a Haley Strategic Thorntail light mount.  This is a solution to a problem that seems like it was made for this gun.  The main problem with mounting a light to the SR556 is that there is a gas block in the front, which houses the piston and the gas port regulator.  This section of the gun gets very hot during operation.  You can't mount a plastic light mount, like the VTAC because the heat will melt it.  Additionally, mounting metal mounts will transfer heat to the flashlight quickly, and heat is the enemy of all high intensity flashlights.  The Thorntail gives good stand off distance from the regulator with a good air gap, and the part that mounts to the rail sits far enough back that it doesn't absorb heat.  It also gives me a good reference point for my thumb when not operating the light.

Under Construction
Up front sits a multi-sling mount from Damage Industries.  It gives me two QD sling positions, as well as a loop and HK mount option.  It also acts as a good hand stop to keep me from over reaching when I'm driving the gun forward.  The vertical forward grip a simple Magpul RVG that acts as a reference point for my support hand.  My wife also likes it because she grips the RVG completely.  That's how she's comfortable shooting.

I removed the Troy BUIS from the weapon and replaced them with Magpul MBUS sights.  I like them better.  They are faster in deployment and it doesn't take three hands to put them back down when not needed.  Irons are necessary for any gun of this kind.  I also shaved a few ounces by switching to Magpul.  Because the Magpul MBUS sights are plastic, I had to mount the front sight back from the gas regulator.  It does nothing to my accuracy at the ranges I shoot, and actually works with my style of shooting because my thumb just comes up from the rail to the release lever for the front sight and it is instantly deployed.  Can't complain about that!

As you can see, the stock was changed to a Magpul CTR.  Aside from it's good looks and streamlined design, it offers stock rigidity over the old skool Ruger stock.  It also offers a rubber butt pad, which lessens the shock to the weapon if I have to slam the butt onto the ground to unstuck a round from the chamber.  It also has metal QD swivel attachment points, which gives me a perfect place to mount a two point sling.  The sling itself is a Blue Force Gear VCAS in coyote tan.  Why tan?  Why not black?  Well, my LBE is not black.  Besides, who knows?  This gun my find itself in another color someday.  Plus, it's a good contrast.  The sling itself, as you can see, is padded on one side, which makes carrying the gun comfortable, and the hardware is metal.  It is a quick adjust sling, which uses a strap that you pull or push to adjust the length on the fly.  This comes in handy if I want to wear the gun on my shoulder, muzzle up (as I will at the Day of Resistance, 2/23 rally), or slung across my chest in training.  Since I used QD swivels, I can orientate the sling with the pad on whatever side I need, depending on how I wish to carry the weapon.

Giving myself another place to mount the sling up front, I installed an Impact Weapons Components 45 degree angle rail mount.  This gives me a two point tactical option for when I'm running and gunning in the desert and need the weapon to be fast, but the sling be unobtrusive in use.  I really like this position, and feel it offers me the best of everything when moving quickly.  The IWC mount itself is two piece, and is machined to fit a 1913 style picatinny rail system.  It clamps down via two screws, which pull the two pieces together.  Loctite is recommended if you intend to fire the weapon at all.  It's limited rotation means the sling won't get twisted up and bind during use.  Because it located the mount 45 degrees offset, it's very compact.  All the edges are smoothed over.  There are no sharp angles to get caught up on gear, slings, or fingers.  Tucked up just in front of my Aimpoint, it's out of the way when not needed, but in all the action when it is.

One thing that bothered me was the trigger.  I didn't like it much.  I changed the grip from the Hogue that it came with to a Magpul MOE and it changed everything.  Now the trigger is fine.  The reason is because that extra material on the back of the grip locates my hand further back, making it so my mongoloid fingers aren't scrunched up into the trigger guard.  It's also very comfortable and saved an ounce of weight in the end.

Right off, you might notice the B.A.D. lever.  I'm currently in my testing and evaluation phase with this piece.  Before getting it, my concern was that it would be really hokey and have no use on my weapon system.  Since running it out in the desert, it didn't impede normal weapon operation at all.  In addition, I had spent some time practicing double feed malfunction/clearing drills at home (with no rounds of course).  When I got to the range, I introduced actual double feed malfunctions using live rounds, and practiced clearing them with the B.A.D. lever.  Whoa!  It was intuitive and made it a very fast and easy process!  I'm stoked!  We'll see how it pans out in the long run, but as long as the screw doesn't work itself loose and falls off, it's staying there.

Under Construction
Because I'm an American, and I love my options, the first sling mount I put on was a Magpul ASAP end plate sling mount.  It works with my SKT Industries single point sling.  When I first installed the plate, I was worried that the ring would rattle and make noise, but it really doesn't.  Any noise is makes is not noticeable above all the other noises associated with handling a weapon with this many moving parts.  No rattle.

The SKT single point sling is very basic.  It employs a simple trigger snap buckle that is spring loaded.  The locking jaw overlaps 90+ degrees and provides a solid mounting option.  The sling also features a quick release buckle, which is covered by a protective sleeve.  The sleeve has a nylon tab that you can pull down away from the buckle itself.  This combination prevents the buckle from being activated accidentally, but allows easy presentation and use, if needed.  Honestly, I haven't unbuckled it but maybe a couple times to check function.  I don't want to use it too often and find it breaking someday.

After Initial Shakedown Last April, 2012
This weapon isn't the lightest thing in the world.  The reason why I opted to change the sights and the stock were born from the fact that this gun weighs in at 10 lbs empty.  Slam a fully loaded PMAG in the magazine well and you have a gun that weighs a shade under 11 lbs!  For everything that hangs off this weapon, that's really not too bad.  And I'm a big guy.  I can handle weight.  Oftentimes, my loaded backpack weighs in around 40 lbs for a weekend excursion over 10 miles into the woods.  There's good weight and bad weight.  An AR15 is definitely good.

Overall, I am totally satisfied with this gun and am happy with the way it turned out.  When you get right down to the bottom of it, the Ruger SR556 is truly a remarkable rifle.  The fact that you could (at the time) get a piston AR15 for less than $1500, with sights, is truly amazing.  As my gun has been used, tested, changed, and used some more, I have really gotten to know this weapon and have had a lot of fun getting it from where it was when I bought it to where it is today.  This is a rifle that will remain in my collection until I die.

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