Friday, September 30, 2011

Fallkniven F1, S1, and A1 Knife Review

Fallkniven F1, S1, and A1 Knife Review

Recently a friend asked what was the best survival knife made without regard to price. That had me looking back and reflecting of my life long love affair with knives.  Over the years I collected the most premium production and custom knives ever offered.. I have a few. There are many fine knife brands, however one of my most coveted brands has been Fallkniven knives of Sweden which sadly a few years ago I sold and was financially ready to pony up for the replacements. To be up front, they are not inexpensive by any means due to their laminated VG10 steel, but they offer a level of performance un-available from any other knife manufacturer I have tested.


ABOUT FALLKNIVEN KNIVES
Fallkniven started in 1984 focused on manufacturing the highest quality production cutlery available anywhere using current materials and manufacturing.  After ten years participating in Swedish military testing of a multitude of other knife manufacturer designs, they found most would not survive the harsh cold environments the Swiss military. Fallkniven started back at the drawing board and developed a fundamentally different approach with the then new VG10 steel and by updating an old Japanese laminated steel Kasumi technique to produce a harder, tougher, and sharper blade. In 1995 Fallkniven began producing the now famous laminated Fallkniven F1 Survival knife for the Swedish military which many, including myself, consider to be the best light-weight survival knife ever produced. Today they offer a variety of knives, sizes and options, including the Fallkniven F1-3G, S1, and A1 knives I am reviewing here.

WHAT MAKES FALLKNIVEN KNIVES SPECIAL
Where many knife manufacturers focus on the latest and greatest trendy knife design, Fallkniven focuses on offering no-nonsense knife designs that are safe, comfortable, strong and sharp with the best steel available anywhere. The old clip and drop point designs used by them are nothing new, but they have proven to be the most useful designs through time. What makes Fallkniven special is really the steel used in their knives.  Very few knife manufactures use the extremely expensive VG-10 steel for their blades outside of the kitchen knife industry, Fallkniven is unique in that they enhance the strength and durability of this steel further by laminating the knife through another forging process called the Kasumi technique.  Think of the Kasumi lamination as plywood or an Oreo cookie where there are outside and inside layers.  This process typically will increase the strength and flexibility of a blade by an exponential factor.  

The resulting knife blank is contoured for a convex edge.  This again is a very expenseive process that few manufacturers offer. Most manufacturers just grind a simple edge into a slightly contoured blank.  The convex edge retains more of the steel in support of the edge, which provides for a stronger finer sharper cutting edge which will be less prone to chipping than a ground edge.  The smooth grind itself cuts and passes through things much more easily than a multi-angle  ground blade.  This expensive convex grind process nets a very strong but extremely sharp edge which is typically only found on hand made custom knives.

Fallkniven bested themselves when they introduced the 3G steel. This steel increases performance of the VG10 steel significantly and is from my experience the most advanced cutlery steel anywhere.  Of course Fallkniven laminated this as well so we end up with a insanely strong and sharp knife with no equal.  If you choose the 3G steel option on their F1 knife as I did, you will be rewarded with the longest sharpest edge holding knife you can buy, however at a $364 ($270 street) price, perfection comes at a price.
FINISH, FIT, FEEL, FEATURES, FUNCTIONING
FINISH & FIT
The finish and & fit are perfect and the edge grind is pure convex ground perfection.  Put a Fallkniven knife in your hand and you will see custom knife quality in a production knife. Some might look at the molded on Thermorun handle on the F1, S1, and A1 knives and yawn a bit when comparing them to the glittery materials of other knives, however this handle is one of the most comfortable long-term use handles I have used and assures your hand will not slip during use.

FEEL
These knives feel like an extension of the hand and It is obvious that Fallkniven spent significant time assuring balance and comfort were perfect.  The small 3.8oz Fallkniven F1 (flight survival knife) with a 3.8” blade is the most popular design in the company’s line and was the original design for the Swedish Military and provides the ultimate light weight knife option for survivalist.  My overall favorite size is the 6.7oz S1 Survival Knife with a 5.1” blade which offers a light knife, but with a longer thicker blade which can take on more substantial tasks but still remain useful for delicate bushcraft and small game cleaning needs.  On that point you will notice that the Fallkniven knives are thicker than most other knives which adds to their durability.  The third knife I purchased was the Fallkniven A1 (Army) which is a beefy ¼” thick, 12oz, 6.3” blade design which will stand up to any military hard use environment. 

FEATURES
The Fallkniven S1 and A1 I purchased feature the same construction and sheath as my F1-3G but are made with the laminated VG10 steel which still outperforms any other production knife on the market.

The core of the Fallkniven knife design is a modified clip point, or in the case of the F1 series, a simple drop point design.  

Although the Fallkniven F1 is available in the standard VG10 steel, I purchased the new Fallkniven F1z3G with Zytel sheath with Fallkniven’s own 3G steel.  The 3G steel and resulting knife is very expensive with a $270 street price, but from my perspective has no strength or sharpness equal. Based on my testing, the edge on this knife remained sharp far longer than any other knife I have in my inventory.  It an outstanding steel that just continues to cut far past my patience for testing.  The F1, S1, and A1 all feature a tip to butt full tang construction that protrudes through the rear of the handle.  This is a great feature and allows use of the knife as a hammer if needed.  The handles on all the knives are riveted in place and provides a secure hole for lanyard attachment.

The sheath is really nice, safe, durable and high quality, however If there is a weak point with Fallkniven some may say the non-tactical sheath is it.  The Fallkniven Zytel sheaths do everything a standard leather sheath would while offering the safer carry of a Kydex sheath however it does limit carry options to a belt attachment.  Fallkniven did initially offer custom Kydex sheaths with Tec-Locks however after testing and complaints of knife wear due to the sheaths they switched to the Zytel sheaths instead. Another reason for Zytel design was Kydex has an abrading quality Kydex has which affects blade and handle wear. Just the act of pulling the knife in and out of a Kydex sheath will wear on the knife. The other reason is Kydex would not sustain the extremely cold temperatures without fracturing where Zytel will and this is one reason the Fallkniven sheaths have such a loose tolerance. Go run your Kydex sheathed knife under water and then freeze it... changes are that suction fit will freeze the knife in the sheath which is not so good in a survival situation. Zytel is also more easily sterilized than Kydex due to smoother surface structure. More advanced flexible Kydex carry system sheaths are available from a number of custom sheath manufacturers if you feel you have the need however the standard Fallkniven sheath does everything it should plus outperform most tactical sheaths.  Look for a future article where I show you how to make your own Kydex sheath.


FUNCTIONING
Testing included a range of brushwork, bushcraft, and even a little game cleaning.  As an general purpose camp and hunting knife the Fallkniven F1 is a tough sizes to beat and is so light you forget it is attached to your belt.  With a more flexible kydex sheath, this would be a great backup and carry knife for those having that need. There are many sheath manufactures who offer accessory sheaths for the knife line to accommodate this carry need. The Fallkniven’s roughly 4” bladed F1 is the quintessential backpacking knife that will not add un-necessary weight and provides substantial utility.

The S1 is an all around great compromise size for all types of survival and utility tasks.  The size is big enough that it could be baton’ed through large trees without having to repositioned but small enough that you can still accomplish the detailed tasks.  A couple snap cuts is all that was needed with this knife to bring down 1” saplings and I even baton’ed it easily this through a 2” tree. This would be my choice for my a general purpose extended survival knife. A nice in between size without a lot of weight.

The Fallkniven A1 is a large heavy duty Military and survival knife for more difficult environments requiring a larger more substantial blade that will see prying and substantial abuse.  I found it was simple to snap cut 1” saplings and the thick blade easily provided hatchet level utility to split small logs for fires.  The Fallkniven A1 is a brutish knife than can stand up to anything you can dish out... all while remaining razor sharp.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Many will gasp over the idea of spending $300 on a 4” bladed knife or around $200 for a larger VG10 bladed knife, however as any military person or hard core survivalist will tell you, never gamble your life on budget equipment. Fallkniven is technical knife equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron and is not available everywhere nor do I expect it to be.  It is a knife which provides the best that manufacturing and technology have to offer regardless of where the price ends up and I for one am OK with that. If you want a less expensive knife there are other options and I will be the first to note that everyone will not be able (or willing) to afford Fallkniven’s quality for an outdoor and survival knife. There are a variety of great manufacturers out there with very good high quality knives, however once we start talking about long term cutting performance, strength, durability, & comfort no other manufacturer comes close.  Cold Steel’s laminiated San Mai line is close and similar in price, however the VG10 and 3G steels used on Fallkniven’s knives are still superior.  I consider the knife the most basic and important tool in any survival and outdoor kit and the investment in an extraordinarily sharp & tough knife is money well spent.

Fallkniven knives are simply designed knives featuring the best laminated knife steel in the world which have been developed specifically to handle the most harsh environments.  For those in the know about cutlery, there is a bit of exclusivity to Fallkniven ownership due to the price and performance. Super exclusive extra credit is due those owners who have added a custom kydex sheath.  Fallkniven has certainly delivered on their design goal of safe, comfortable, strong and sharp knives, which comes at a premium, but provides the owner with the ultimate survival knife. To answer my friends question, invest your money in a Fallkniven if you want the best.

KNIFE SPECS
Fallkniven F1z/3G

  • Total length:    210 mm (8.3")
  • Blade length:     97 mm (3.8")
  • Blade thickness:  4.5 mm (0.18"), tapered
  • Tang:           Broad, protruding
  • Weight (knife):   150 g (6oz)
  • Steel:                     3G
  • Blade hardness:      62 HRC
  • Handle:              Thermorun
  • Sheath:            Zytel sheath
  • $364 ($270 Street)
Fallkniven S1z
  • Total length: 9.7" (247 mm)
  • Blade length: 5.1" (130 mm)
  • Blade thickness: 0.2" (5 mm)
  • Tang: Full, protruding
  • Weight (knife): 6.7 oz (190 g)
  • Steel: Lam.VG10
  • Blade hardness: 59 HRC
  • Handle: Thermorun
  • Sheath: Zytel sheath
  • $220 ($170 Street)
Fallkniven A1
  • Total length:   280 mm (11")
  • Blade length:   160 mm (6.3")
  • Blade thickness:  6 mm (0.24")
  • Tang:  Almost full tang, tang visible at handle end
  • Weight (knife):   305 g (12 oz)
  • Steel:              Lam. VG10
  • Blade hardness:  59 HRC
  • Handle:            Kraton®
  • Sheath:             Zytel®  
  • $290 ($216 Street)

SOURCES
http://www.fallkniven.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

DPMS Oracle AR15 Kit Review



DPMS Oracle AR15 Kit Review
There is a reason Legos, Tinker Toys, and Erector Sets are so popular, at some point everyone wants to assemble their own toys and for big boy toys earning your stripes means assembling your own AR15. One of the all time most popular choices is the $489.99 DPMS Oracle AR-15 kit due to the price, weight, and performance of this great DIY AR15 kit.

ABOUT THE DPMS ORACLE KIT
Now a Remington Corporate company, DPMS is of course famous for accurate high value 
AR15 rifles and their most popular rifle of all time has been the simple and light Oracle.  It was inevitable that the most popular DPMS AR15 in the line up would end up as a kit.  The Oracle kit comes with everything you need to assemble your AR15 minus a stripped lower receiver. Since the lower receiver is the only thing that is serialized and requires you to go through your local gun dealer for an FFL transfer, the Oracle kit can be shipped via UPS right to your doorstep.  I purchased a stripped Mega Arms Billet GTR-S3 lower via Mega Arms and my local FFL dealer to complete the build.

FINISH, FIT, FEEL, FEATURES, FUNCTIONING & ACCURACY
FINISH & FIT
Like all DPMS products, the fit and finish is great and I was happy to see that all of the parts were packaged well and arrived scratch free to my door.  We all take a deep breath when kits are involved because there is usually that once damn piece that that was left out to complete the build.  This was not the case with the DPMS kit, all the parts were there and were all quality pieces.  The dirty secret in the AR industry is that most manufacturers use the DPMS lower receiver parts kits so chances are high you have already used these parts on a rifle.  All good quality parts.

ASSEMBLY
Assembling a DIY AR15 from a kit is not an especially difficult task and can take as little as 90 minutes for the first time builder.  I found my DPMS Oracle kit build a fun rewarding experience which educated me on all the parts of the AR15 and of course those couple hours had me feeling like a kid again putting together Legos.  Aside from the fun project perspective AR kits are also an inexpensive alternative to buying an AR-15.  The Oracle kit will set you back just under $500 and a even with my jaw dropping $200 billet Mega Arms receiver my build was still $100+ under the cost of most complete rifles.  With a less expensive standard forged $120 receiver you could easily be under $620 for the entire build.  Another reason people like a kit is the option to upgrade from the beginning.  I took the opportunity to add Phase 5 Tactical's ambi-bolt release & Revo revolving sling mount and a Hogue grip, but upgrade options are almost limitless.

A set of punches, a no-mar hammer, screwdriver, Crescent wrench, lock-tite, and some sythetic grease and a good strap wrench is a minimum requirements for assembling the 
DPMs Oracle kit.  Attaching the barrel to assure proper barrel and gas tube alignment is without a doubt the most difficult part of assembly for the home assembler.  A barrel and Castle nut wrench will help considerably or another option is DPMS’s own $30 DPMS combo AR15 wrench which will also provides a flash hider wrench in the tool... spend the money on this tool, it will be worth it's weight in gold for this assembly and used going forward on all your ARs. Most of the other AR parts do not need anything other than a set of punchs to install.

To start the DPMS Oracle kit, take a look at my video at the end of this review. That video will walk you through the entire build however if you want detailed instructions see this link on AR15 for a step by step process. A couple tips are to pick up a DPMS combo tool, use a block of wood that will fit in the magazine well to support the rifle while torquing down the barrel, and to assure the taper spring is used in the trigger assembly and not for the bolt release.

FEEL
The Oracle kit when assembled Including your own stripped receiver will weight in at a feathery 6.2 lbs and points quickly when running drills.  The extremely light weight has always been one of the big draws to the Oracle rifles. I have heard more than a few people note they use the Oracle for extended week long tactical training due the fatigue reduction of not having to carry an extra lb of weight.  What makes the kit light weight is the "pencil profile" 1:9 twist 5.56 barrel.  Take it from me after the third day (9-hours) of active dry fire drills in the hot sun and any gun starts to feel like a giant lead weight so lighter is better.

The DPMS Oracle kit is designed and sold as a basic rifle and features a standard grip, non-heat shielded forend, and flat-top receiver ready for your choice of optice.  The Oracle can be an iron sighted gun however with the low-profile front gas block a special tall expensive front picatinny sight is required.  The rifle is better suited for a simple no-nonsense optic such as an EOTECH 912 or Bushnell TRS-25 which will both offer plenty of durability.  For my testing I used an EOTECH 912 which provided fast target acquisition from target to target.

FEATURES
The DPMs Oracle kit is a standard basic 1:9 5.56 Nato 16” barrel light weight M-4/AR-15 format rifle with forward assist (noting many rifles in this price range omit the forward assist). The kit includes a standard properly staked bolt/carrier group assembled from the factory, upper receiver, barrel, flash hider assembled charging handle, trigger and lower receiver parts kit, grip, non-heat shielded forend, Pardue 6-position stock and all the other bits and pieces to complete the assembly. Definitely the most notable features are the optic ready Flat-Top receiver and the light weight “pencil” barrel.  Premium upgrades like sights, a chrome bolt and carrier, T-Markings on the receiver are absent, but what do you expect for a $500 kit. With the exception of the optics, Hogue grip and Phase 5 Tactical Ambi-Bolt Release & Revo Sling swivel, everything else pictured was included with the DPMS Oracle rifle kit.

FUNCTIONING
The first magazine fired completely however the bolt did not hold open. After the first magazine, everything broke, the bolt held back and functioning was flawless.  Although certainly not a brutal test, I ran a little over 500 rounds through the gun the first day out, and then another 200 round of standard Wolf ammo on another trip to the range without any hickups, failure to feeds or failure to extracts. Great functioning little gun.
ACCURACY TESTING
DPMS has had a long standing reputation for delivering very accurate value based guns and the DPMS Oracle kit is no exception.  I have heard extraordinary claims of 100 yard ½” groups with the $500 Oracle kit. Every rifle shoots differently and the Oracle was still a good shooting rifle, but far from those claims.  I tried a wide variety of loads using a 1-4X Trijicon scope and was able to manage the below 5 shot 100 yard groups. The disadvantage to the lighter weight barrel is that it does heat up quick and accuracy does start to suffer as the heat goes up.  To combat this I counted to ten between each shot and waited for the gun to cool before moving to the next test.


  • HORNADY 75GR MATCH - 1.58"
  • HORNADY 60GR TAP PFD - 1.28"
  • HORNADY 55GR TAP PFD - 1.12"
  • Winchester USA FMJ 62GR FMJ - 1.21"
  • Winchester USA FMJ 55GR - 1.38"
  • WOLF FMJ 62GR = 1.85”
  • WINCHESTER PDX1 60GR = 1.17”
  • FEDERAL MATCH 69GR = 1.07”
  • HANDLOADS HORNADY AMAX 75GR = 1.63”
FINAL THOUGHTS
DPMS often offers this great little Oracle kit on special as was the situation when I purchased this kit.Sign up for the DPMS newsletter and get notified of specials and you might be able to save a few bucks off the normal price as well as be notified of any DPMS specials and offers.  DPMS will also notify you of some fun events such as a HUGE zombie shooting event up in Minnesota each year. I hear is a total blast. Basically run a speed shooting course and hit as many Zombie targets as possible.  It all looks like great fun.  

Take a peak at my AR assembly video to understand the process of assembly, tricks, and tips to making your AR15 DPMS Oracle kit build easy and simple. I do recommend purchasing the DPMS AR15 combo wrench as it will alleviate much frustration during the barrel assembly process.



The DPMS Oracle hit is a really nice light weight gun.  Both myself and Mrs. Pandemic like the rifle because it is light and easily maneuverable and has been pulled into home defense duty a couple times when we have been awoken by bumps in the night.  The DPMS Oracle kit was a blast to put together, has been really fun to shoot, and has proven to be an accurate fun and dependable carbine... even if I was the one who put it together.  

DPMS ORACLE KIT SPECS
Lite contour 16" barrel with single rail gas block
1-9 Twist
Chambered in 5.56x45mm
A3 Upper Receiver
DPMS GlacierGuard Handguards
Kits do not include Cleaning Kit, Magazines or sling.
Kit is Unassembled Parts.
Retail $489.99 (Street around $399.99)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ruger SR-556C AR15 Rifle Review

Ruger SR-556C AR15 Rifle Review

Historically Ruger has built outstanding durable and extremely high quality firearms with innovative features all for a reasonable price. Over the years we have seen truly unique designs which have become industry standards such as the GP100, 10/22, Mark III, and New Model Blackhawk which all have put the unique Ruger spin on classic firearms.   Truly new designs were slow to trickle out with most "new" products being innovations of old line products rather than completely new guns. About five years ago someone at Ruger apparently found and pushed the product development turbo button and since Ruger has been on a product release rampage with new products seemingly released monthly.

About the Ruger SR-556 Rifle Line
The Ruger SR-556 line is a new from the ground up AR15 based product line which fills the obvious AR rifle void in the Ruger line up.  When Ruger introduced their AR format they did so in their typical  fashion of solid feature rich value based design.  The SR-556 line is essentially a standard high quality AR15/M4 spec and compatible lower and upper receiver paired with a new Ruger tweaked piston driven system versus a standard direct impingement system... more on that difference later.  Customer wants netted several product versions based on the same familiar AR15/M4 compatible platform we are all familiar with; including several complete uppers to upgrade and pin on your existing AR/M4 format rifle and several complete rifle versions. Variations include calibers in 5.56/.223 and 6.8 and various accessorised versions and also a stripped down SR-556E “Economy” version.  The base rifle is the same with models differing by level of  accessories, barrel length and weight of barrel. 

About the SR-556C
I chose the SR-556C "C for Compact" which is a feature loaded rifle complete with sights and upgraded picatinny forend rail system.  If you put together a wish list of everything you would want in a rifle minus optics, the Ruger SR-556C would include it in a ready for the range package.  Primarily what makes the SR-556 line unique is a piston driven system versus a standard AR15 which has direct impingement.

Direct Impingement Vs Piston Driven Systems
Direct impingement siphons off a little gas exiting the barrel at the gas block; usually the gas block is also combined with the front sight block. That little blast of exiting gas blows a blast of gas back via a small tube to the gas key on the bolt which contains a small piston.  That piston unlocks the bolt and the bolt carrier cycles the action, ejects the spend casing, and loads a new round from the magazine.  The end result of many blasts of gas is the action can get pretty dirty and hot and start to malfunction after many rounds are fired.  To resolve this issue piston conversion kits were developed to convert a standard AR15/M4 to something that would run exponentially longer and potentially cooler than the older system ever could.  

This new system basically moves the piston from inside the bolt to the front of the rifle onto the gas block.  The bolt cycles in the same way except via a push-rod instead of gas.  The gas only travels less than an inch actuating the piston in the gas block which in turn moves a solid rod that cycles the bolt way back in the action.  The excess gasses are vented forward out the front of the forend away from the shooter.  The end result of this piston movement shell game is that no hot gas and accompanying crude are blown back into the receiver and bolt area of the rifle, so it runs way, way longer before gunk based malfunctions occur and is essentially cool running.  Cool running is more comfortable to shoot, yes, and in theory less heat equals less metal part fatigue which equals substantially longer run times in the ten of thousands of rounds before bolt parts replacement are necessary.  

The other advantage of many piston driven systems, such as Ruger’s 556, is that it can be tuned on the fly via a simple knob.  Tuning allows the user to adjust the amount of push the pushrod has from none all the way to quite a bit.  Setting #0 turns the piston system off to make the SR-556 a single shot hand cycle gun to eliminate noise with suppressor use.  Ruger’s SR-556 Piston system also offers #1, #2, & #3 settings as well with setting #2 being the standard setting.  Depending on the rounds used or the situation. If the user feels the gun is cycling too hard they can lower the setting, if the guns starts to fail to feed/cycle as the gun gets dirtier and dirtier (think thousands of rounds) the user can increase the setting for harder bolt cycling that will assure cycling.  This is a great idea for budget shooters who may have odd charged cheap ammo and hand loaders out there who are playing around with sub-sonic and higher velocity rounds which can cause feeding issues on typical direct impingement rifles... you can tun the rifle however you like.  For the folks planning on having a rifle that will function over the long term the piston-driven system allows you to tune the gun easily should you start to have cycling issues in the field without having to result to a full gun cleaning.

RUGER 556 C FIT, FINISH, FUNCTIONS, FEATURES, VALUE, & ACCURACY

FIT & FINISH - Fit of the Ruger 556C is typical Ruger first class tight like a bank vault construction with not significant play between the upper and lower receivers. The finish is excellent and is everything you would expect from a Ruger branded firearm. Ruger does not list what level of anodizing or finish are applied the receiver and parts, however as Ruger has a long history of quality, you can assured it is of the highest quality.  Of note, the Ruger 556 line is all 100% made in the US with 100% US parts which does add to the price, however most will agree this certainly contributes to the quality. One nit pick is that the elector and bolt release are clearly cast or forged however these were very rough finished parts on my rifle however they did perform perfectly.

FUNCTION - I had no issues from a function perspective running basic dry-fire drills and shooting drills with the setting on the standard #2 and on setting #0 the SR-556C functioned perfectly as a single shot.  Throughout the testing of over 1000 rounds, I never cleaned the rifle and did not have one single malfunction which I was very impressed with.  All the Magpul Pmags dropped free without a problem and all the standard AR controls worked just as they should.  I noticed only minimal wear on the carrier, which indicates that Ruger has addressed the carrier tilt issues seen in many piston driven rifles. Throughout my testing I saw no reason to change from the factory #2 setting, however playing around I did move the Ruger 556C piston to setting #3 and it did produce a more noticeable snap and did start dropping brass behind instead of next to me.  The #0 position would be great for suppression however I saw no noticeable accuracy advantage operating in this position.

FEATURES - The Ruger 556C includes the same upper and lower receivers, stock and upgraded Ruger branded Hogue Rubber grip and upgraded hammer forged barrel as the other standard models and is chambered in the standard Nato 5.56 caliber which will also shoot .223 just fine.  It also includes a very high-end quad continuous rail forend that extended the top rail all the way to the end of the forend providing plenty of real estate for attaching everything from optics to lights to lasers. The forend is very rugged but is not fully floated and is pinned at each end to the receiver and gas block. Similar forends typically run in the $400 range.  Other upgrades are the inclusion of Ruger branded 6-position stock, T-markings on the reciever and forend, fully adjustable Troy front and rear folding sights, and Troy forend handguard covers.  Troy sights are regarded as the best folding sight on the market and generally go for around $350 per set, so this is a pretty huge upgrade. Of course you also have the factory installed piston driven system as well, which is a $400 upgrade from most manufacturers.  The bolt is also chromed which is a typical $100 upgrade. Other upgraded features are the hammer forged chrome lined 41V45 barrel which would be a $200 upgrade at the minimum for increased accuracy and long-term durability.  The “556C” model’s barrel is compact which means that the barrel is legal 16.125” including the permanently attached flash hider.  


The result is a more maneuverable military spec length gun that is 2” shorter than 16” barreled guns with removable 2” flash hiders.  For home, defense, or police duty rifle work this would be the rifle of choice from the Ruger line up as that 2” shorter length makes a big difference moving around obstacles.  Other accessories included are three 30 round Magpul magazines, a really nice soft-sided zippered case with internal and external pockets and velcro tabs, Troy rail covers, and a firearm lock.  The SR-556C is truly a feature packed gun for the price.

VALUE - With most AR15s you buy you will need to go pick up a couple magazines, sights, upgraded grips, a nice range case, and perhaps a forend. When you consider the Ruger 556C includes the premium level of all those items, the $1995 retail ($1400 street price) price tag does not seem that high.  Ruger has added about $1200-$1300 of upgrades on this very high quality base gun.  Although a few manufacturers offer excellent $800 rifles, it would be tough to end up with a gun this well equipped for Ruger’s SR-556C $1300-$1400 street price.

ACCURACY - One of the atypical trade-offs of piston-driven AR15 systems is that the extra weight up front hanging on the barrel will affect accuracy.  Obviously the non-fully floated barrel does not help acuracy either. As such, the Ruger 556C delivered good 2 MOA type combat accuracy at 100 yards.  After shooting several of the Ruger 556 Series of rifles, I have noticed they tend to deliver a group average of 1.67” @ 100 Yards.  Now shooting both the 556C and 556CLA side-by-side they seem to have similar, but odd ammo preferences. One would think the lighter rounds would be the ones performing the best with the 1:9 twist, however the Ruger seemed to have preferences of random weight rounds.

  • HORNADY 75GR MATCH - 1.98"
  • HORNADY 60GR TAP PFD - 1.57"
  • HORNADY 55GR TAP PFD - 1.76"
  • Winchester USA FMJ 62GR FMJ - 1.31"
  • Winchester USA FMJ 55GR - 1.84"
  • WOLF FMJ 62GR = 2.24”
  • WINCHESTER PDX1 60GR = 1.22”
  • FEDERAL MATCH 69GR = 1.49”
  • HANDLOADS HORNADY AMAX 75GR = 1.68”
FINAL THOUGHTS
The Ruger 556C is a no expense spared highly upgraded rifle for about $400-600 more than a typical standard AR15 rifle that gives you everything you need for home defense, sporting, or tactical use right in the box.  The advantages to the Ruger 556C is reliability assurances and a higher degree of tuning flexibility than direct impingement AR15 rifles.  The Ruger 556C was a very accurate piston rifle, however my standard direct impingement rifles had a slight accuracy edge over the Ruger 556C.  As most shots are well under 100 yards for the majority of tactical shooting, this seems a trivial point for this type of compact tactical rifle.  The piston driven systems do offer recoil reduction compared to carbine length rifles, however because of the extra weight of the system the recoil was less noticeable than any of my mid-length rifles and definitely easier to shoot.  The piston system does heat up the front forend quickly and if you like to grip the end of the forend, then you should plan on wearing gloves for extended shooting.  

This rifle is not light and part of that weight is due to the Hogue grip, steel Troy sights, with most of the weight being the overbuilt picatinny rail forend. I will mention that I am not a fan of any full picatinny forend rails unless they are very light weight.  From my perspective they add over a 1lb of extra weight when most of us only attach a flashlight. Some will love all the rails to hang 20lbs of crap from, however I am looking forward to completing the testing of the Ruger 556CLA which is basically this rifle on a diet. Everything about the Ruger 556C is engineered for durability and durability adds weight however that weight does make this AR very comfortable to shoot fast and furiously. If someone asked me what they should buy for a high end AR or loaded AR, I would have no hesitation pointing them to a Ruger SR-556C or the equivalent upper.  Very reliable and durable rifle with good accuracy.

SPECS

  • Catalog Number: SR-556C
  • Model Number: 5905
  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO/.223 Rem.
  • Stock:     Black Synthetic, Collapsible
  • Finish:     ManganesePhosphate/HardcoatAnodized
  • Sights:     Folding BattleSights
  • Height:     7.75"
  • Barrel Length:     16.12"
  • Overall Length:     31.00" - 34.25"
  • Width:     2.50"     
  • Weight:     7.40 lbs.
  • Twist:     1:9" RH     
  • Grooves:     6
  • Length of Pull     10.25" - 13.50"     
  • Capacity:     30 (3- Magpul PMAGS included)
  • MA Approved & Certified: No     
  • CA Approved:     No
  • Suggested Retail: $1995.00 (Street Price >$1400)
SOURCES
Ruger Firearms
http://www.ruger.com