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GUNS Magazine December 2011 Digital Edition - Page 44
I Mike Cumpston n 2009, with consumer confidence plummeting and political uncertainty rampant in the land, the demand for defensive firearms reached a fevered pitch. AR platform longarms were in short supply with many manufacturers sidelining their target and varmint models in favor of the popular A-4 carbine models. They flew off the shelves faster than the industry could produce them. Ruger entered this seller’s market with the up-scale SR-556, a richly featured compact carbine operating on the relatively new to the Stoner System piston/transfer rod principal. A variable aperture valve admits expanding gas from a barrel vent into a piston chamber driving the transfer rod back against a flat at the top of the bolt carrier causing the cam-actuated bolt to unlock. Advantages over direct gas impingement derive from concentrating heat and powder residue in the transfer rod assembly, making the receiver substantially cooler and eliminating invasive fouling from the bolt assembly, and action. Improved functioning, longevity, and greater simplicity are the putative benefits of the system. Internet research will quickly reveal a possible Baby Ruth floating in the Piston/rod AR punchbowl. Some rifles have shown damage to the buffer retaining plunger and buffer housing from the rear of the bolt carrier tilting downward from the impact of the transfer rod. If it exists, it shows up early and gets progressively worse. Ruger says their design elements eliminate any potential problem and based upon our sample SR-556E, this seems to be true. Any degree of carrier tilt would abrade the finish of contact parts after a couple of hundred rounds and this did not happen. High-end features of the SR-556 Standard Rifle include the very well engineered Troy Industries folding battle sights and the Troy Industries quad-rail handguard. Gas piston, bolt carrier, barrel and chamber are all chromed. A soft compartmented carrying case and three MagPul magazines are included. The SR-556 earned a solid reputation for reliable function and accuracy. Subsequent variations include the 6.8mm SPC chambering and upper units usable on any AR rifle. Critics deemed the rifle excessively heavy at 1 ounce under 8 pounds and deplored the quad-rail assembly because of its large size and a perceived tendency toward muzzle heaviness. As the buying frenzy eased off and more ARs became available, they also began to question the near $2,000 price tag. A clammer arose for a more basic rifle eliminating such niceties as the expensive battle sights and slimming down the handguard by trimming the cluster of Picatinny rails. In the spring of 2011, Ruger began delivery of the SR556E bringing the price down about $600 and paring the weight down to the low 7-pound range. The slender aluminum alloy handguard puts the point of balance just WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • DECEMBER 2011 44