Ruger SR-556E 5.56mm NATO/.223 Rem. Rifle

By Randy Wakeman

Ruger SR-556E Rifle
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

The Ruger SR556E is presented as the no frills edition of the Ruger Armalite Rifle platform, a market Ruger entered belatedly in 2009. The SR556E comes with a 16.12 inch barrel and the E standing for essential, indicating that this is a basic, or stripped, model.


            Stock: Black Synthetic, Collapsible

            Finish: Black Oxide/Hard coat Anodized

            Sights: None Height: 7.25"

            Barrel length: 16.12"

            Twist: 1:9" RH Grooves: 6

            Overall length: 32.75" - 36.00" (stock extended)

            Width: 2.50"

            Weight: 7.36 lbs.

            Length of pull: 10.25" - 13.50"

            Magazine capacity: 30 rounds

            MA approved & certified: No

            CA approved: No

            2012 MSRP: $1375

The SR556E has no sights, but with its lengthy Picatinny rail it is easy to mount whatever sighting system you feel is appropriate for your needs. With a collapsible butt stock of dubious value, traditional scopes would be problematic, as your eye relief changes in concert with butt stock length. For testing purposes, I mounted a Burris Fullfield E1 3-9x40mm, the pick of the litter as far as I'm concerned in a two hundred dollar variable power scope. While I used medium Warne Maxima rings to get this rifle up and running, like many flat top AR platforms, high or extra high rings would be a better choice.

The general idea of the piston driven upper is suitability with a wider variety of loads, less bolt carrier fouling and generally better reliability than the old Armalite gas impingement system. The AR direct impingement system is over fifty years old and over due for improvement. As supplied, the Ruger easily digested whatever I fed it with no hiccups. A further feature of the Ruger piston driven upper is that you can use the Ruger upper with standard AR pattern lowers. However, the Ruger upper alone carries a MSRP of $1499, more than the price of the entire SR556E rifle!

The SR556E is nicely presented in a soft case and comes with one 30 round magazine. It accepts standard AR magazines, mandatory for a rifle of this type. The basic rifle (empty, without sights) is stated as weighing 7.36 pounds. You can, of course, add whatever accessories you choose on top of that. With just the 3-9 Fullfield E1 and steel rings, the SR556E weighed a startling eight and a half pounds.

There is no other way to describe the Ruger's trigger other than unacceptable, as it breaks at 9-1/4 lbs, heavier than the assembled rifle and scope. This is ridiculous, even for a blaster-type rifle. In previous articles, I've lamented about the relatively heavy trigger breaks of the bargain-priced Savage Axis (5.5 lbs.) and the Ruger HM77R Hawkeye (4-3/4 lbs.), compared to the delightful single set trigger CZ 527 American that breaks at 4 pounds in conventional mode, 1 lb. 6 oz. in set trigger mode and the Savage Model 25 Accu-Trigger that broke at 2 lbs., 11 oz., right out of the box. Even the Benelli MR-1 .223 gas autoloader had a 5-1/2 lb. trigger. We all have our own preferences, but rifles (or any firearm) that have triggers that break at over 9 lbs. isn't within any realm I could call remotely acceptable.

At the rifle range, the Ruger was tried with a wide variety of ammunition. In the accuracy department, the SR-556E was frustratingly ammunition-fussy. It strung shots horribly and couldn't form what I'd actually call a 100 group during the first range session. The worst load tested in this Ruger was the Hornady 35 grain NTYX SuperFormance NTX ammo, where it just sprayed bullets. In a subsequent range session, I tried some Barnes VOR-TX 55 grain ammunition and that one load this Ruger really liked, achieving its best 5-shot, 100 yard group, which measured slightly less than 1". With every other load, accuracy was either lackluster or unacceptable, depending on your point of view. As supplied, it is essentially a 4 MOA rifle and that is being charitable. Perhaps I got a poor example?

The Ruger SR556E is a rifle I can't recommend. If you enjoy the .223 Remington, as I do, you can look to CZ and Savage for 1/2 MOA out of the box walking varminters. If you want a really fun autoloader, suitable for general purpose and defense use, look at the Benelli MR-1. If the most advanced combat genre ambidextrous .223 is what you are after, the FNH SCAR-L is worth a look. If you just happen to like Armalite Rifle clones, consider Rock River Arms. I can't really say where the Ruger SR-556E fits, for to my way of thinking it doesn't, despite its superior operating system.

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Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.