I know, I know. Only a fraction of the people who read this blog live in Arizona. Still, given the current political climate, a lot of people are supporting Arizona. A quick-thinking entrepreneur has begun selling subdued Arizona flag patches, and I couldn't resist buying one. They're $8 shipped and available here. They have a velcro "hook" backing and also include a "loop" backing just in case you don't have anything to stick the patch on.
Today I made it to the range with the SR-556. I had 6 other rifles to shoot, so the total round count was limited, but I started to get a better feel for how the weapon handled.
I was in luck - also at the range was Mike Pannone of CTT Solutions and Viking Tactics. An all-around good guy, Mike seems always willing to take a minute (or an hour) to help me with my shooting technique. Today, he ran me through a drill he was working on for the Border Patrol agents that he's paid to train - two shots to the chest and one to the head of a silhouette at 20 meters, two shots at an IPSC A zone steel plate at 50 meters, then two to the chest and one to the head of the silhouette again, and finally back to the steel plate for 2 more hits.
My times with the Ruger SR-556 and an EOTech were in the 10.5 second range, though I was consistently missing shots on the steel plate at 50 meters. Shooting his own AR, Mike was in the low 6 second range - he said an 8 second run was, for him, "slow". Note that the EOTech XPS2-0, my time with it having expired, has been replaced with my well-used 552 on a LaRue LT-110 riser.
Below, I run through the drill with a BCM lightweight midlength. The steel plate is the black dot to the left of the silhouette. With the BCM (equipped with a TA33 ACOG), my times were in the high 8s to high 9s - no misses. Although the magnified optic certainly helped, it took a little time to get used to the extra weight out at the front of the Ruger, and I kept "overshooting" as I switched from target to target, which led to frustration, wailing, and gnashing of teeth on my part.
I did not bother with accuracy testing after zeroing the optic, though the weapon seemed consistent enough for the task at hand. Later, I shot the drill once more with the Ruger. It was a "clean" run - no misses - and although the timer was not available, the pace was similar to my earlier ~10-11 second runs. I should add that Mike Pannone considers a 10.2 second "clean" time to be average for the shooters he was training.
Recoil is quite mild - as one might expect from a 10.5lb AR-15 with a rubber buttpad shooting .223 American Eagle. Still, recoil characteristics are not ideal, and the weapon exhibited a little more muzzle rise than I expected. As you can see in the first picture of this review, fired cases were ejected between 4 and 5 o'clock - more to the rear than I'm used to. I left the weapon on setting 2 for the day, and experienced no malfunctions. My only functional complaint - if I really wanted to get nit-picky - was that the selector was stiff when going from "fire" to "safe", but not "safe" to "fire".
After that last drill, I tried holding the rifle at the ready for as long as I could - after only a few minutes, my arm became quite sore. Unlike a lightweight standard AR, which I feel that I could hold at the ready or low ready for a very long time, the SR556 was just too much for my weak limbs to hold up all day.
My initial impression of this weapon is that it is a decent firearm - it functions, and it puts the bullets where you want them to go. If you are willing to train with this weapon and this weapon alone - or its SR-556C brother - you will probably do quite well with it (them), and be happy with the performance of the weapon(s). However, as an AR-15, for my intended use, it is not exactly satisfactory. Its handling characteristics are so different than a "standard" AR-15 that I would find it disconcerting to go back and forth between the two, or at least, I would personally have a fairly steep learning curve every time I switched. It is also unsuited for comfortable all-day carry, such as when hunting or backpacking.
I would like to thank Mike Pannone for taking a good chunk of time out of his busy day to help me out with my shooting yet again. If you get the chance to take a class taught by him, don't miss out.
I'm going to be honest. I would probably never purchase this rifle. It just has too many drawbacks, in my mind - it's heavy, it has an extreme forward CG, it's not fully end user serviceable, you're effectively limited to one rail system, and it's a gas piston/op-rod weapon. These are the items that came to mind when I first examined an SR-556 at the 2009 NRA show in Phoenix.
Evidently, Ruger heard enough about weight from customers that they recently introduced the SR556C model, which has a shorter, fluted barrel, resulting in a significant weight savings. Unfortunately, it also has an integral muzzle device; this severely limits the options of the end user, and it's nothing that I'd want to deal with. Some may be perfectly happy with it - more power to them. It's just something that makes me scratch my head and wonder, "What were they thinking?" It's good that they listened to consumer demand regarding weight, though.
You're probably asking yourself why I bothered with this rifle, given the previous few paragraphs. Well, although I had shot one, I had not owned one, and I figured that it would make for an interesting comparison with the POF P-415 I have for T&E. In addition, a major reason for acquiring it (in a trade, I should add) was to determine the center of gravity of the weapon, and add it to my weight and balance calculators. I'll get to that later. First, an overview of the weapon.
The SR-556 includes a number of nice extras. A decent soft case, three Magpul PMags, the aforementioned Troy rail, Ruger marked Troy front and rear folding iron sights, three rail covers, and a Hogue grip are the items that immediately come to mind.
The supplied stock is modeled after the Colt M4 stock body, with minor differences in construction that cause it to weigh approximately 1 ounce more than the M4 stock. I found it wholly inadequate for the purposes of balancing out the muzzle-heavy weapon, so I immediately installed a Vltor EMod. Any decent "fighting rifle" will have a white light, so on went a spare Surefire G2 with drop in LED, and I also added an EOTech XPS 2-0. With these items, the three rail covers, and a 30 round PMag loaded with 55gr ammunition, the weapon weighed in at almost 10 pounds 8 ounces. I should add that the XPS is less than 2 ounces heavier than an Aimpoint T-1 Micro in a LaRue mount, so if you want an optic and a light on your SR556, you're going to be staring at 10 pounds loaded even without a heavier stock.
While swapping out the stocks, I checked the receiver extension tube to see if it was straight. Like every other SR556 I've examined, it was not. This is easily avoided during assembly - the tube needs to be held straight while the castle nut is being tightened, or the tube will turn with the nut. This really will have no effect on the function of the weapon, but it provides some insight on assembly and QC practices.
Ruger SR-556s are test fired with a full 30 round magazine. This is a test regimen I wholeheartedly approve of, and wish more manufacturers would follow.
This is the wear on the receiver extension tube after test firing. It is similar to the wear my Ares converted AR exhibited after a similar round count. Like the Ares weapon, the receiver endplate has not been staked to prevent nut rotation; so far, unlike the Ares weapon, carrier impacts on the tube have not caused the nut to come loose, allowing the stock to rotate and the weapon to become nonfunctional. There is no excuse for any hard-use AR - but especially for a piston/op-rod AR - to not have this item staked.
Ruger is a recognized industry leader in investment casting, and it's my understanding that they make their own fire control group parts. This can be a mixed blessing, but the trigger pull is quite good for a stock trigger, with little to no grit. Unlike other manufacturers, Ruger does not put grease on the fire control group contact points.
Ruger utilizes a notched hammer and a non-shrouded firing pin carrier. Should the disconnector fail, these items will hang up on one another, causing the weapon to become completely nonfunctional. This is fine as a safety feature to make lawyers happy, but is not preferable for a weapon that one might stake their life on.
Moving to the front of the weapon, we see the Ruger muzzle device, similar to those used on Mini-14 variants. The barrel, as many know, is hammer forged 41V45, chrome lined, with a 1/9 twist rate. The profile can only be described as very heavy. The gas port is forward of the standard midlength location, and the massive gas block is pinned with two massive pins that were pressed in with a massive press. These pins are the reason why the weapon is not completely user-serviceable (although Adco Firearms tells me that they can remove the gas block without any problems, allowing them to reprofile or flute/dimple the barrel - normal disassembly rates apply). The gas regulator is easily adjustable with the mouth of a cartridge case or other such object, but seems very resistant to unintended rotation. It offers four positions, from "no gas" to "full gas".
The bolt carrier group has been completely hard chromed, with the exception of minor pins and the ejector. It weighs in at 11.1 ounces, the same as the lightest of AR-15 bolt carrier groups. For the sake of comparison, the POF P-415 bolt carrier group is 11.4 ounces, and a standard M16 carrier group is 11.5 ounces.
Though the extractor spring did not appear to be as large or have as much oomph as the Bravo Company extractor springs offered in their upgrade kits, it did have an o-ring installed.
I have only conducted very limited function testing as of yet (it works so far). I'll be at the range in the next few days and will update the blog accordingly.
Side note - A friend of mine is a gunsmith for a major firearm retailer, and he tells me that he's had 5 Ruger SR556s returned for functional issues. When he tested them, only one of the five actually exhibited problems - failures to extract with Wolf. Given the appearance of the extractor spring, I'm not completely surprised. As for the other four, maybe the owners decided that they just didn't like the weapon. If so, that's a pretty crappy way to deal with it. Don't lie to a dealer in order to get a full refund on a used product that works fine.
I rarely stray from the subject of firearms on this blog. Today will be "one of those days".
If you've had Fox News on in the past few days, or cruised right- or left-leaning blogs or websites in the same timeframe, you've probably come across reports that the Department of Justice has dropped portions of a voter intimidation case. Nightstick-wielding New Black Panther Party members stood 5 feet away from a Philadelphia polling place during the November 2008 election, verbally threatening voters and calling a black Republican poll watcher a "race traitor". You've probably also seen video of one of the men involved making incredibly racist statements. I won't cover that subject very much.
What you may or may not have seen - perhaps you have, if you saw Fox News' Megyn Kelly verbally destroy Kirsten Powers during a debate on the subject - is that in addition to feverishly attempting to perform a character assassination of the DOJ attorney/whistleblower who resigned as a result of the DOJ decision, left-wing folks brought up an alleged case of voter intimidation in Pima County, Arizona, during the November 2006 election, a case which was not pursued by the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush. This is another "Bush's fault" attack.
In this case, three men, one openly carrying a Glock handgun, were outside a polling place, allegedly to intimidate Latino voters. Two men are repeatedly identified by name - Russ Dove and Roy Warden, and they have histories of making, shall we say, inflammatory statements. Both have been arrested for various public confrontations with illegal immigration activists. Both, in my opinion, are an embarrassment to true conservatives, just like that moronic neo-nazi, JT Ready. But that's not relevant.
In this case, they were supposedly photographing voters who didn't speak English well enough in an attempt to dissuade voting by illegal aliens. Media Matters boldly asserts that the circumstances were "nearly identical" to the 2008 incident.
If you read the last article cited by Media Matters, though, you'll notice that a Pima County election official makes a reference to events occurring outside the 75 foot barrier between polling places and those who are not voting or assisting those who are voting (among other allowed persons). In other words, the three men were not inside that 75 foot barrier. Many references are made to the fact that Warden was carrying a firearm, although under Arizona law, it is only illegal to carry a weapon into a polling place. It is legal to stand, armed, 75 feet away from one, even if you are not there to vote.
Section 11(b) of the federal Voting Rights Act, however, does not specify that anyone in particular has to be intimidated, only that intent to intimidate is illegal. Thus, anyone (like Kirsten Powers) who says that the NBPP thugs in Philadelphia "didn't really intimidate anyone" - even though they did - has not read the law and does not know what they are talking about.
Still, isn't standing 75 feet away from a polling place, armed, taking photographs and distributing a petition to require a perfect understanding of English in order to vote intimidating? That's the case Media Matters and Kirsten Powers and everyone else on the left is making. They're also saying that because the DOJ (under "Evil Overlord Bush") declined to pursue any action, civil or criminal, against the men in Arizona, it is okay for the DOJ under President Obama to essentially drop the Philadelphia case, and stupid for anyone else to talk about it. "Where were you then?!" they cry. The real question, as you will see, is "where did all the lefties go in 2006?"
Clearly, though, the Bush DOJ "acted stupidly." The whistleblower, Christian Adams, who resigned over the Philadelphia case, must have thrown the Arizona case into the trash because he is a fat white Republican, which is everything that is wrong with America. Again, this is what Media Matters is pushing.
Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. They do not seem to be willing to dig any deeper than citing the May 2010 testimony of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, in which the Arizona case is referenced, and news articles about the incident immediately following the November 2006 election. If they did, they might find something...in fact, it's what you don't find that is most enlightening.
- The ACLU had been chomping at the bit to attack Ohio over its then-new voter ID law (Arizona had just passed a similar law), which the ACLU said would result in voter intimidation; it was also concerned about voter intimidation in general.
- MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund) is cited by name in most articles, as is the name of one of its' lawyers, Diego Bernal. The organization seems enraged by the account and states that it has contacted the FBI. They seem to want an investigation.
- The story was posted on the Daily Kos and other such websites.
After that, though - that is, a few days after the election - nothing. Absolutely no reference to the incident in any newspaper in the United States, that I could find, although the local story was picked up by several out of state papers, including the New York Times. One blog provided a link to a MALDEF press release about the incident, which has since disappeared - although other press releases from the same time frame are still online. Sure, there are obscure Youtube references and blog references in 2009 and 2010, not to mention the recent flareup, but these only cite old information. Why were all of those apparently concerned parties no longer concerned?
Because what the men did in Arizona wasn't voter intimidation. Even according to a blogger who seemed disgusted by their actions and was on scene that day, "nothing happened". Dove managed to get four people to sign the petition - this is not illegal or a form of intimidation - and Warden apparently did not directly interact with any potential voters. According to the SPLC, "Warden may come off like a raving lunatic, but he is well versed in free-speech and self-defense laws, and he exercises his rights to the limit."
Presumably, Warden might also be familiar with Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, relating to voter intimidation.
According to AAG Perez, "the standard for proof (for 11(b) violations) is high". In fact, only three 11(b) violations have ever been prosecuted since its inception. Also according to AAG Perez, "reasonable minds can differ and can look at the same set of facts but draw different conclusions regarding whether the burden of proof has been met." He apparently liked that line, because he said it several times during his testimony.
Still convinced that this is all Bush's fault? Well, the individual heading the criminal section of the Voting Rights Division today is the same person that led it back in 2006 - Mark Kappelhoff, who contributed over $2000 to Obama's campaign in 2008 and over $1000 to Kerry's in 2004. Thus, he would have had a lot of say regarding whether to proceed with criminal charges in both cases.
"The Voting Section sent lawyers to Arizona to investigate these allegations. They were told that the people in question (who were apparently there with some sort of English-only petition) did not enter the polling place and stayed outside the state-imposed limit around polling places where campaigning is forbidden. No one (including Democratic poll watchers) saw them talking to any voters while they were there — nor could the lawyers find any evidence that they prevented or discouraged anyone from entering the polling place (which is directly contrary to the witnesses in the NBPP case, who testified that they saw voters approaching the polls turn around and leave when they saw the Panthers blocking the entrance to the polling place)."
Thus, Media Matters' claim that the two cases are "nearly identical" is laughably false, and they would have found that out if they had bothered to do a few hours' worth of research. Then again, this is the same group that cited fake Research 2000 polls, right along with the Daily Kos (which is now suing Research 2000), because they fit their preconceived notions about the right. The same thing happened here. "It looks good for our side, so don't dig any further."
Hot on the heels of my weight calculator comes a balance calculator, which will tell you where the center of gravity of your AR is. Right now it doesn't have nearly as many components as the weight calculator, but I'm continuously adding more. It's meant to give you an approximation of CG, because to be exact would require knowing the CG and exact location of every component on the rifle, but it has proven to be quite accurate, within .15" in almost every case, and within .05" in a large portion.