Review: The Discreet Ruger SR-556 Takedown

Review: The Discreet Ruger SR-556 Takedown

More than just your typical piston-driven AR, the Ruger SR-556 Takedown is ready to go incognito.

With the ability to easily breakdown into easily concealed components, the Ruger SR-556 Takedown might be the ultimate knapsack AR.

Compact, covert, and discreet — all words that describe the relatively new Ruger SR-556 Takedown. Takedown rifles have a cool allure with the metallic sound of multiple parts mating together to form an accurately shooting rifle.

The Ruger SR-556 Takedown has that same cool, incognito presence, and after a few pulls, twists and clicks, it’s all business. It’s a refined AR that can do a job and melt back into the scenery slung over your shoulder in a knapsack.

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The DNA of the AR-15 design essentially makes it a takedown rifle. After all, the upper receiver can easily and quickly be removed from the lower receiver, breaking down the rifle into two pieces. The issue is that the upper receiver makes up the bulk of length.

By my estimation, the typical AR-15 with a 16-inch barrel has an upper receiver that is 24.5 inches long, and depending on the muzzle device, that length could be even longer. Stowing over 24 inches of forged aluminum and hammered steel is not particularly easy. Think a large duffel bag.

What the Ruger SR-556 Takedown does is allow the user to remove the barrel from the upper receiver so the respective lengths are 17.87 inches and 18.5 inches. The lower receiver is 15.75 inches with the stock collapsed. This small package fits inside its own knapsack that looks like it belongs in academia rather than in a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The beauty of the Ruger Takedown is its simplicity. It takes me about 10 seconds to assemble or disassemble the rifle. I'm not racing to complete that task, it is just that simple. And I like simple.

Breaking down in to three manageable sections, the Ruger SR-556 Takedown might be the perfect knapsack rifle.

The Ruger breaks down into three components: lower receiver assembly, upper receiver/handguard assembly and barrel/piston system assembly. The first step to disassemble the Ruger is to pull out the pivot and takedown pins and separate the lower from the upper and remove the bolt carrier group (BCG) from the upper.

Second, move the slider bar on the underside of the handguard toward the rear of the rifle. Third, twist the barrel assembly clockwise with the muzzle facing away from you and pull the barrel free from the handguard.

Done. What is left are three manageable pieces that fit inside a small knapsack with pockets for each component.

The knapsack does have MOLLE straps, so it does look a bit tactical, and the patch with the Ruger logo is attached with hook and loops so you can replace it. From the outside, you cannot tell an AR resides inside the bag.

There are no rattles or clunking of metal to belie the contents. The case measures 22.5 inches long by 7 inches thick and 7.5 inches wide. Ruger also supplies three Magpul 30-round magazines that fit inside the knapsack with the disassembled components.

Ruger really studied the takedown concept to make the system repeatable, secure and rugged. The rear of the barrel has lugs that mate with grooves in the upper receiver. The components lock securely together even when dirtied up from extended use. Plus, there are no small parts to lose because the parts snap together. And no tools are required.

Ruger was also smart to use its piston system AR. The Ruger barrel/piston system component was sturdy.

If I accidentally dropped it, it would no doubt come out unscathed. I don’t want to worry about babying a rifle, and the Ruger design gave me that confidence.

Another check in the upside column with the Ruger SR-556 Takedown is its ability to swap calibers. Ruger sells an optional caliber conversion kit so you can shoot .300 AAC BLK, as well as 5.56mm NATO, making the Ruger compatible for most situations: hunting, plinking and home defense.

Despite its modularity, the Ruger SR-556 Takedown is right on target in the accuracy department.

Finally, the Takedown is hands down easier to clean than the typical AR-15.

All the cool takedown characteristics aside, performance is where the bullet hits the rifling so to speak.

A concern I had was a shift in zero. How is the zero impacted when removing and replacing the barrel?

The answer is: It isn’t with the Ruger Takedown.

During range testing, I removed the barrel numerous times (if you do the same, remember to use gloves). In all cases, I found there was no significant shift in zero.

Ruger’s piston-system AR is the Cadillac of the company’s AR line, keeping the BCG cool with less felt recoil. The rifle employs a two-stage, four-position gas valve system. There are four settings marked “0,” “1,” “2,” and “3,” with “0” closing the valve so the SR-556 acts like a single-shot rifle.

The “1” setting allows the least gas to enter the system or is the lowest setting; “3” allows the most gas or is the highest setting. This system has less felt recoil and allows the user to regulate the gas to the piston to ensure proper operation especially when running subsonic ammo with a can.

The Takedown has a forged lower and upper receiver. Ruger decide to opt for premium furniture on the Takedown, with a Magpul MOE SL stock that has no rattle and gives a nice cheek weld. The Magpul MOE pistol grip feels good in hand.

The selector lever, bolt release and magazine release are all Mil-Spec. It is equipped with a forward assist and has a manganese phosphate, hardcoat anodized finish.

With all the accutraments of a top-end AR-15, including Ruger's Elite 452 AR Trigger, the SR-556 Takedown has everything a shooter could want.

The Elite 452 AR Trigger is Ruger’s proprietary two-stage trigger. My sample averaged 4.5 pounds.

I liked the take up in the first stage. The second stage had a short, crisp break. It is a trigger that helps accuracy at short and long range.

The upper receiver features Ruger’s proprietary KeyMod handguard, which feels thin and is comfortable to hold. Folding sights are mounted on the top of the upper.

The front sight can be adjusted for both elevation and windage, so zero stays with the barrel. The rear sight is also adjustable.

The barrel is cold hammer-forged Mil-Spec 41V45 chrome-moly-vanadium steel, chrome-lined, and is equipped with Ruger’s flash suppressor.

The vital specs on the Ruger SR-556 Takedown.

At the range, the trigger helped with accuracy. Using inexpensive Aguila 62-grain FMJs and IMI 55-grain FMJs, I was able to shoot five-shot groups of 0.8 and 0.9 inch, respectively, at 100 yards using open sights.

The economy Federal American Eagle ammo was no slouch either, averaging 1-inch groups. On average, you can expect about 1- to 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards with this rifle. I liked the smooth operation of the piston system, and along with the rubber buttpad, you get less felt recoil.

The Ruger SR-556 Takedown is good to go out of the box — I mean knapsack. It is an easy rifle to dis- and re-assemble, and it shoots just as easy.

As it turns out, big surprises can come in small packages.

Editor's Note: This article is from the November 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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  1. Is this a parody? I don’t get it. I feel like most ARs breakdown the same. Really, remove the pins to separate the upper and lower, put a sock over the working ends of both, and put the TWO pieces on either side of your pack. My First Tactical 3-day has pockets on either side that will fit a broken down rifle if it’s short enough.

    Maybe I’m missing something.

    • Go take the barrel out of your upper real quick and see how easy it is. Removing an upper is easy, sure. I understand your point, and really, how much more compact is it if the barrel comes out of the upper. But what if you have optics or accessories on the upper? You either have to swap them or have 2 sets. That is the real benefit here. Swap calibers quickly and easily without swapping accessories. There are some good systems that allow for swapping of accessories too, though.


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