Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>

[Review] Ruger AR-556 Pistol: Compact Value

Looking for a reliable and compact AR-15 pistol from a trusted manufacturer? We hands-on review Ruger's AR-556 pistol for all that and more.

Believe it or not, I’m a bit slow on gun trends. 

For the most part, I have what I need when it comes to firearms.  People will be running around with this barrel, that new caliber, or some other geejaw for years. 

Occasionally though, a trusted name will pop up with something I’ve been interested in checking out, and I’ll bite

Ruger Pistol
The Ruger AR-556 Pistol comes with everything you see here.

So it was with AR pistols. I know, people have been using them for a long time now!

When I saw Ruger recently entered the foray with a pistol version of their AR-556 platform, I decided to find out what this AR pistol business was all about.

The Ruger AR-556 series has been around a while and they have built a reputation as a solid, entry-level AR-15 that is affordable.  You can find them out there for $500 or less, on the regular. 

While they may not have a lot of bells and whistles, they are solid and you can set them up however you like.  When the pistol version recently came out, I thought it would be an economical way to explore the concept of an AR pistol.

at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

What Is It?

The Ruger AR-556 Pistol has a 10.5-inch barrel that is cold hammer-forged of 4140 chrome-moly. 

The 9-inch, free-floated, handguard offers MLOK on the sides and bottom, with a traditional Picatinny rail running down the top. 

The gas system is direct impingement and takes advantage of the entire length of the handguard as a “carbine-length”.  

The upper enjoys traditional features like a brass deflector and a forward assist, as well as a dust cover.  The configuration is slick top and has no BUIS.

It does come with a 30-round Magpul PMAG and also has an SB Tactical, SBA3 Brace on the end that can be adjusted to various positions for different lengths of pull. 

Best AR-15 & AK Pistol Braces
Best AR-15 & AK Pistol Braces review!

All the controls are normal AR-15 standard (not ambidextrous), though the grip appears to be unique to Ruger.

The trigger feels mil-spec and is all business, coming in at 7 pounds, 2.3 ounces on my Lyman Digital Scale. 

However, it is solid and only pulls back about 1.5mm before breaking. Reset is tactile and audible. There is also a slightly bowed trigger guard to accommodate a gloved trigger-finger.

Let’s Go Shooting!

I took the Ruger AR-556 Pistol out to the range for the first time after I had mounted a Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-12×40 scope on a cantilevered mount. 

Available Coupons

It looked completely ridiculous with the scope being nearly as long as the weapon, but I wanted to test the accuracy of the platform.

I set up at 50 yards and loaded up some magazines with the Aguila Party Pack I was using for the test.  This box of ammo consists of 300 rounds of 55-grain 5.56 that won’t break the bank.

Using a Foam Action Sports rest, I shot 5-round groups at 50-yards.  Granted, I know the pistol is chambered in 5.56 but I felt 50 yards was a good gauge to check accuracy. 

While the results varied, they were all really tight with the best group coming in at around a half-inch.  

Ruger Pistol Day at the range
Properly braced, I was able to dial in a good group at 50 yards with the Vortex scope.

During testing, I experienced one malfunction but it was a good one.  A round jammed into the feed ramp hard enough that I had to mortar the pistol to get it to disengage—nothing else would clear it. 

The side of the neck of the casing was a bit marred but once ejected, I continued shooting with no other issues. I learned the 556 Pistol was accurate.


At last I began to see the potential of the small (but otherwise erstwhile) AR-15.  Here was an accurate package that was small enough to conceal in a truck, but could deliver accurate fire and other than one mishap, was reliable to boot. 

I began to imagine the possibilities and thought how I might dress the pistol out.

I got a folding stock adapter from Law Tactical because I really wanted to double down on the concealability of this small but potent package. 

When it arrived, I spent a short while reviewing videos before installing the unit on the Ruger.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

It went smoothly and operated just as advertised, folding the pistol down to a compact 21 inches.  Next, I installed a Vortex SPARC AR.  This is one of my favorite red dot sights for the AR for a few reasons. 

It’s no-frills, simplistic, has a keeper for the lens covers, and does exactly what I need it to do.

at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons
Ruger Pistol and folding adator kit
I had finally realized the potential of the small package.

With the installs done, I had to head back out to the range to try out the pistol again.  The Law Tactical Folder uses a small plug at the end of the BCG to serve as a connector to the buffer spring when the stock is closed. 

Since this changed (to a minor degree) the function of the pistol, I had to check reliability.  

“Have more than you show, speak less than you know”

Shakespeare’s words could well be the theme for this review.  The Ruger AR-556 Pistol, combined with the Vortex red dot, and the Law Tactical Folder stowed up nicely in a backpack, but with a few swift movements, was all the AR-15 goodness I might need in a pinch. 

I felt comfortable engaging out to 100 yards but anything 50 and in was easy money. I took the pistol back out to the range a number of times, deploying it and running it through its paces.  

Ruger Pistol AR in a backpack
This average-sized backpack easily contained the Ruger AR-556 Pistol and 28 rounds. With some imagination, you could do a lot more.

I had one more failure with the Aguila 5.56 that needed to be mortared out.  I had a hard time diagnosing this and ran the ammo through an AR with zero errors.  I also ran Winchester, Tul Ammo, and Hornady through the Ruger and had no more problems. 

at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

All in I passed about 500 rounds through the gun and found it performed wonderfully. Shouldering the brace does not work as well as a traditional buttstock, it slides around a little. 

But it can be done to deliver accurate fire. The brace is also great if you want to strap it to your wrist as intended by the manufacturer.

By The Numbers

Reliability 4/5

While I struggled to understand what had occurred with the Aguila ammo in the Ruger, the jams only happened twice out of 300 rounds.  The gun ran fine on everything else I fed it. Notably, the Aguila used in an AR rifle did not produce the same jam.

Ergonomics 4/5

I am very comfortable with the AR platform and Ruger’s version does not disappoint.  The grip is fine and so is the handguard. It is small enough to add accessories, such as a light, and still be easy to grip.

Accuracy 4/5

I was a bit surprised at this, but the pistol’s accuracy was much better than I had anticipated with a 10.5-inch barrel.  You do tend to suffer with extra loudness with a barrel that short, but the accuracy obviously did not suffer.

I like to think of firearms as having a median, optimal range and this one excels from zero to 50 yards, with 100 not being out of reach.

Customization 5/5

Ruger did not miss any styling cues in this inexpensive offering.  You can add just about anything you want with the MLOK and Picatinny rail.  On top of that, I wound consider a trigger replacement, though the one it comes with is more than serviceable. 

Additionally, I would replace the charging handle with one more suited to a one-sided pull (simply a training preference). 

All The Charging Handles
All The Charging Handles!

Finally, one item I would like to add is a horizontal (not vertical dear readers!) grip to give me some assurance that I’m not getting my support hand too close to the muzzle.  I have long arms and tend to stretch out, testing that real estate.

Value 4/5

Given the street price we’re seeing for the Ruger AR-556 Pistol, I feel the Ruger is an outstanding value for the price.

It is accurate, reliable, compact, and can be readily customized into whatever configuration you want.  Backpack gun? Truck/trunk gun? You got it.

An AR-15 pistol that is this inexpensive while maintaining good quality has been the long-term key to Sturm Ruger’s success.

Overall 4/5

Parting Shots

So. What’s this AR pistol stuff all about?  I’ll tell you my friend. For me, it was a journey that led to a discovery. 

With the AR pistol, I can take all the proven capability of the AR-15 platform and shrink it down to a lightweight, compact, concealable package I can take with me just about anywhere. 

at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

While it certainly isn’t something I’m going to wear in the waistband, it is some extra firepower I can discretely stow or tote for those “just in case” scenarios. 

Ruger’s AR pistol is an outstanding value, and a great way to explore this platform for yourself!

What AR Pistol do you like best? Did you make your own or go with an established brand? Let us know in the comments! If you’re ready for some upgrades, take a look at the Best AR-15 Upgrades!

Tested Muzzle Brakes
Best AR-15 Muzzle Brakes – in-hand and tested!

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

19 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    I don't mean to rile anyone up, but how is this a pistol? I feel that a pistol is not a weapon that can or should be used with one hand near the barrel; that all pistols should have the hands towards the rear of the weapon. This would be a rifle, being that it's best to fire it with the barrel supported.

    March 26, 2021 10:15 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      Legally, it is a pistol.

      March 27, 2021 7:01 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Kevin Burdine

      We all feel that way about what should be considered a pistol. However, because ATF insists on defining what is and isn't legal for citizens to own, despite the 2nd Amendment, it is ATF/NFA rulings of pistol and short barreled rifles that is causing guns such as this to be defined as "pistols." If you don't like the ATF designations, don't worry, they will probably change their definitions soon... as soon as a director wants to make more weapons illegal for us to own.

      September 13, 2021 4:33 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Would it be best to run a H2 buffer weight with this firearm?

    September 28, 2020 5:22 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I built my own AR-15 pistol. I think the folding brace is a great idea. That’s gonna be my next upgrade to ol’ Betsy.

    September 20, 2019 2:58 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dan Russell

    Is it legal to install a folding stock on the AR-556?

    September 17, 2019 9:09 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      It depends on the exact configuration, length, etc. In Sean's case, since he was putting it on what is already legally a pistol - it's legal for him in his state. Your state and your rifle might vary though, so double-check legality and length requirements before adding one.

      September 17, 2019 10:30 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bert the builder

    Pistols are cool, but the only thing i like anymore about ars is building them. I hate shorter barrels, sound/blast n reliable. But still we all love the ar platform...i have a ruger ar556, first model they made. Its absolutely awesome its still my favorite. But not the coolest i have but my fav. Extremely accurate. I have pics 100yards 1-2 moa all day. Ill never get rid of it Beto*. Another comment said about psa. I love psa but ar556s barrel is far superior against every psa barrel i have.

    September 17, 2019 8:13 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I'm a fan of the PSA AR pistols. I have a 7.5 and a 10.5 and both run great and accurate. I don't think I paid more than $450 for each. Unfortunately, I lost them in a boating accident.

    September 16, 2019 9:08 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis

      Good man. What Beto doesn't know won't hurt him.

      September 16, 2019 6:35 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    For us newbie's, can you be a little more descriptive than "needed to be mortared out"?

    September 16, 2019 7:09 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric Hung

      Great question...it's when a round gets stuck in the chamber of an AR-15 and cannot be removed with the charging handle. You tilt the gun towards the sky, and pull the charging handle while slamming the buttstock on the ground.

      September 16, 2019 1:54 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Sean Curtis


      Eric is absolutely correct. The only thing I would add is I try slamming the buttstock on my chest/shoulder first while pulling back on the charging handle. If you can free the stuck round this way, it is normally safer because it's easier to point the gun downrange, and in a safe direction.

      Sometimes its not enough though and you need to collapse the buttstock (if adjustable) and then bang the rifle down (buttstock first) while simultaneously pulling on the charging handle.


      September 16, 2019 6:38 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    m. layne

    As long as the brace does not touch your shoulder, your good ! Having the pistol brace
    against your cheek provides for a decent hold and adds to accuracy. Many of the
    photos I see appears as if the brace is against the shoulder but, if you look a little closer
    you can see there is space and the firearms is not touching the shoulder.
    To my understanding......as long as the brace is not against your shoulder.....your good !

    September 15, 2019 4:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Incorrect. As long as you do not modify or change the brace (remove Velcro strap, etc.) you CAN shoulder the weapon. Do your research people. Google is your friend.

      September 15, 2019 9:30 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        m. layne

        i've never heard this one. Hope it's true......I LIKE IT !!!

        September 15, 2019 9:34 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          James Kuykendall

          yes, the ATF has changed the rules on shouldering the brace. granted you're not supposed to ALWAYS shoulder it, but if you do it from time to time then it's totally fine.
          still no vertical foregrips though.

          September 16, 2019 7:13 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    You are correct. The ATF changed their original ruling.

    September 15, 2019 4:09 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Wait - the Ruling that they just changed a month ago or are you speaking of the ruling a month or two ago?

      September 15, 2019 7:08 pm
Join the community! Log in
Please provide a valid email address.
Password is required.
Please provide a valid display name.
Please provide a valid email address.
The password should contain at least 8 characters with at least one number or special character.
Please accept in order to continue.
Trouble logging in?
Type your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.
Please provide a valid email.
Type your new password and hit button below to confirm it.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We already have an account registered for email address () which is linked to your Facebook account.
To log in type your Pew Pew Meter password below.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We noticed that you have previously logged in with your Account which is linked to the same email address () - we can link both of your accounts together.
In order to link your accounts, hit button below and log in to your Account with the same email as above.

Account in Pew Pew Meter means more

Check what do you get by creating an account
Check and save your reviews!
Bookmark and compare your favorite firearms
Manage your newsletter subscription
pew pew tactical logo

new here?

Personalize your experience.
Select what level shooter you are!

pew pew tactical logo

level up your gun knowledge

Thanks! We'll send you the latest guides and training tips geared towards your level.

pew pew tactical logo


You'll now receive newsletters of our best articles on techniques, guns & gear.

$47 value

yours free!

targets targets

practice targets

printer icon printable

our 9 favorite targets and drills


practice targets

printer icon printable

enter your email to download

We'll only use the information provided according to our privacy policy.

success icon

Ready to Download

Click below to begin your download

download pdf