I purchased a bone stock Ruger AR-556 during the time when everyone thought Hilary was going to win the election. Prices were a little higher back then. I paid a little over $700. Prices are currently hovering around $650 or so as of March 2017. I knew from the get go, I was not going to leave it in its factory configuration.
Here's what it looked like before my modifications. This black AR-556 actually belongs to my friend Will. I took these pics the same day we zeroed both rifles in. I thought it would be good to take a pic of both rifles to show the difference between a factory stock AR and a customized one. I noticed Will's rifle came with a different grip than mine. Other than the grip, the rest of the rifles are identical.
The Ruger AR-556 comes with standard furniture but, Ruger branding pretty much all over it. I almost changed the butt stock but decided I like the little Ruger logo on it. So it that stayed put.
The grip looks and feels exactly like a Hogue grip but, also has Ruger branding. I assume I have a later generation of the AR-556 because mine came with this Hogue or Hogue-like grip. Other AR-556's on Ruger's website currently have this Hogue style grip. It feels comfortable and grippy enough. It is a little too fat near the safety. My safety felt kinda sloppy as it slipped over the protruding grip. I fixed it by cutting some of the rubber off underneath the safety. The safety immediately felt normal. Problem solved.
The rear sight is polymer and is very good quality. It snaps up clean and crisp. It doesn't feel the least bit flimsy. I would even say they are better the MBUS sights. These back up sights also display Ruger branding. I can't say much about the front sight post because I removed it before using it. I can say it was aluminum and kinda cool for a standard A2 front sight post. It still had to go for a good cause. I removed the A2 sight post and gas block and installed a Yankee Hill clamp on low-profile gas block. The low-profile gas block was necessary for installation of a Midwest Industries 15" keymod hand guard.
I wasn't sure how easily the stock A2 aluminum front sight would shave down so I opted to purchase a low profile gas block from Yankee Hill. I got the clamp on style to completely eliminate the chance of screwing up the barrel with screws going in to far. I just didn't care to get the pinned type of gas block. I purchased a Midwest Industries 16 inch M-LOK hand guard / rail / forend or whatever you want to call it. I just refer to it as a "rail". I had it cerakoted to match the gray upper, lower, and butt stock that it came with. I only saw the gray, FDE, and OD green AR-556's for a short while at the end of 2016. As of now, I haven't seen anything but the all black version available. After installing the Midwest Industries slim rail, the look and feel of the rifle completely changed. I can maneuver a standard M4 or M16 around hallways, rooms, and barricades just fine but, now I can really grab hold of the forend. The slim rail fits in my hand quickly and perfectly. Its great for quickly engaging multiple targets.
I added a Fortis muzzle brake, mostly for looks. I don't really think the AR-556 has much of a recoil to begin with. I added the Fortis blast shield because my fellow officers aren't going to appreciate the output of blast that a muzzle brake sends out of both sides during qualifications. I also think the blast shield brings together the overall look. The outer diameter of the blast shield comes closer to the diameter of the rail so it kinda looks like I am shooting something bigger than a .223 or 5.56.
I ordered a front sight post from MFT (Mission First Tactical). Before I go any further about this front sight, let me say that I do like MFT products, just not this one. As soon as I tried to make an adjustment, a little piece broke off. It broke very easily. Eventually I will replace it with a Troy Battle Sight.
I have experience with Troy sights and it has been all positive. After the MFT sight broke, I went straight to sighting in my Vortex Strikefire ll. I keep mine on the green dot setting. The Strikefire ll is very easy to zero at 50 yards. I started at 25 for a few rounds, then completed the 50 yard zero. No problems to report. Yes, Vortex Optics function every bit as good as they look. The Strikefire ll also feels very solid, like it's actually part of the rifle. Good job Vortex!
The Amend2 magazine works just as well as my Magpul and MFT mags. I prefer the Amend2 because of the additional grip they have integrated into the design. That large "MADE IN THE USA" you see in the pic actually functions as additional edges to grip onto. These mags look and function great!
As for the range report, my eyes aren't the best but, they had no problem hitting a 4 inch circle at 50 yards. I credit the ease of shooting this rifle to my Vortex Strikefire ll. It's extremely easy to shoot with both eyes open, using this red dot optic (yes I use the green dot). The first time shooting the Ruger AR-556, I had no malfunctions of any sort. Will also shot his stock AR-556 right next to me when we zeroed them in. He did not have any malfunctions either. I did thoroughly clean and lube the AR-556 before shooting it for the first time.
In summary, I think the Ruger AR-556 is reliable, good looking, and functions perfect as a patrol rifle. It feels like one solid piece of metal. FYI, I use a Viking Tactics sling with my AR-556. I didn't show it in these pics but, I should add that Viking Tactics make great slings that are perfect for the AR platform.
The helmet you see in some of these pics is our Skull Crush German helmet. This one is Kevlar and Carbon Fiber with a clear gloss coat. It matches my Ruger AR-55 perfectly so I put it on the table as eye candy. Skull Crush currently has the Ruger AR-556 in OD Green.