Did you know that for years, the Ruger AR-556 you just picked up or have in your safe is consistently one of the Top 3 rifles sold in America? It’s true! Did you also know that Ruger DID NOT think about you specifically, Bob, when designing it? Also true! The point is, you really should consider customizing it to you…Manbearpigs or skinny Elven folk… We’re here to help, now scroll on!

Difference Between an AR-15 and an AR-556?

The name AR-556 is the model designation for Ruger’s AR15 rifles. Just like with Smith & Wesson and their Sport II series or Springfield Armory with the Saint lineup. The Ruger AR-556 is an AR15.

Ruger jumped into the AR-15 game back in 2009 with their SR-556. In typical Ruger fashion, this wasn’t just another AR-15. Instead of the direct impingement gas system that continues to be the default choice in AR designs (as in almost all of them), the SR-556 used a gas piston system that kept things running cool and clean.

Piston systems can get expensive, are usually heavier, and it is an upgrade that many don’t understand since for the most part none of it is standardized, so Ruger eventually introduced the most cost-conscious direct impingement gun, the AR-556.

Is The Ruger AR-556 any Good?

This was a hit when it came out as it provided an entry-level AR-15 with Ruger’s quality. Ruger makes rock-solid guns. That doesn’t mean there are no ways to improve the design. Like many of the larger manufacturers, Ruger makes more than one version of their AR. While I’m focusing on modifications, I’ll refer to the standard configuration, their most economical model, the standard AR-556.

-Made from aerospace-grade 7075-T6 aluminum forging, the flat top upper receiver features a forward assist, dust cover and brass deflector.

-Made from 7075-T6 hard-coat anodized aluminum forgings, shot-peened and proof-tested 9310 steel bolt, and 8620 steel bolt carrier. The inside diameter of the carrier and gas key are chrome plated and the key is staked for longevity.

-Equipped with a medium contour, cold hammer-forged alloy barrel with 1:8″ twist rifling that provides exceptional accuracy with bullets from 35 to 77 grains. M4 feed ramps and 5.56 NATO chamber allows the use of both 5.56 NATO and .223 Rem. ammunition. The barrel and 1/2″-28 Ruger® flash suppressor have a matte black oxide finish to reduce glare and provide corrosion resistance.


Much of this configuration will look like many other standard models. Ruger has chosen a very simple stock. The handguard is a two-piece clamshell design that shields heat nicely.

On the front end, there’s a simple muzzle brake and an A2-themed gas-block front sight. The rifle comes with a Magpul magazine, which is a solid place to start. Beyond that, though, there’s nothing about the standard configuration that really distinguishes this rifle from many other ARs, except for the quality you know will be built into a Ruger.

If you are a more visual person we did cover Ruger AR-556 Upgrades on our YouTube channel.

The Ruger AR-556 w/ M-LOK Handgaurd

If you want to get ahead of your upgrades you could jump the gun and get yourself an already “pre-upgraded” version of the Ruger AR-556. This version of the Ruger AR-556 comes with an 11″ M-LOK free float handguard for more off-the-shelf versatility. Free float handguards help with accuracy at range and the M-LOk slots are extremely useful for accessories.

Ruger AR-556 Accessories

Without getting too in-depth or ahead of ourselves an easy place to start on modifying a Ruger AR-556 would be to add what’s missing. Three things come to mind immediately–an optic, a handguard-mounted accessory (bi-pod or grip), and a sling.

The AT3 Tactical Alpha is a good all-around red dot optic for any AR15 setup!

Can You Put a Scope on a Ruger AR-556?

Optics for AR-15s break down into three main categories: red dots, low-powered scopes, and scopes with magnification.

The RD-50 provides the immediacy of a red dot for rapid target acquisition. If you are setting up an AR-15 for close quarters, this is a winner. And if you do want more options, you can add a magnifier in front of the red dot to give you an extra edge.

The AT3 RD-50 comes in Black or FDE!
AT3™ RD-50 PRO™ Micro Red Dot with Cantilever Riser Mount

AT3™ RD-50 PRO™ Micro Red Dot with Cantilever Riser Mount

The RD-50 Pro is also available in Flat Dark Earth options to match custom AR-15 builds.


Magnified red dot optics aren’t as fast as red dots, but they’re usually very close. Not to mention, they’re better for precision at slightly longer ranges. If you already have a red dot optic that you like you can always toss a magnifier behind it!

AT3 RRDM 3x Magnifier can be flipped to the side when it is not needed.
AT3™ ALPHA + RRDM Red Dot Kit - Includes Red Dot Sight & 3x Magnifier

AT3™ ALPHA + RRDM Red Dot Kit – Includes Red Dot Sight & 3x Magnifier

Enhance the new ALPHA Shake Awake Red Dot Sight with the RRDM 3x Magnifier! This optics kit gives your AR-15 capability at close or long range, for a versatile, reliable setup you can trust and run hard.


A good 1-4x or 1-6x scope allows for a modest amount of magnification and can help bridge the gap between the close-quarter’s scenarios and medium-range shots. For a rifle that might be used for hunting, tactical, or defensive applications, the AT3 Red Tail scope will provide everything you need, including the mount.

AT3’s Red Tail Riflescopes provide the clarity and speed you need at short range while helping you reach out to 600 yards with the BDC reticle.
AT3™ Red Tail™ Rifle Scope 1-4x or 1-6x Magnification - Illuminated BDC Reticle

AT3™ Red Tail™ Rifle Scope 1-4x or 1-6x Magnification – Illuminated BDC Reticle

LPVO stands for Low Powered Variable Optic. LPVO’s are different from traditional rifle scopes (and perfect for AR15’s) because you can use the scope as a red dot replacement at 1x magnification, and still have high magnification to engage targets at distance.


Ruger AR-556 Slings

As far as must have Ruger AR-556 upgrades go, adding a sling to the Ruger AR-556 simply makes the gun more functional. Carrying it is infinitely easier, and the sling–when wrapped around your arm–can be used to brace the rifle for standing shots.

For slings, check out the Magpul Multi-Mission QD sling. A two-point design that uses the strap to connect, like this Magpul MS1, is also a solid choice since it connects to traditional webbing mounts. Another option that finds its way to a lot of our personal rifles is the Magpul MS4 since it is highly adaptable.

The Magpul MS4 is built to be an extremely versatile QD sling.
Magpul MS4 Dual Multi Mission Quick Detach Sling

Magpul MS4 Dual Multi Mission Quick Detach Sling

Availible in Black, Gray, Coyote Brown, and Ranger Green.


Ruger AR-556 Bipod

While slings help with bipedal mobility and transportation, a bipod will stabilize a gun on the bench or on the ground. Check out the choices from UTG. These are easy on the wallet and built to take abuse.

If Magpul is your thing, they make bipods, too.

UTG makes solid bipods. Magpul’s bipods are great for M-LOK, MOE, and pic rails.
Magpul Bipod for AR-15, 1913 Picatinny Rail, A.R.M.S.®17S

Magpul Bipod for AR-15, 1913 Picatinny Rail, A.R.M.S.®17S

Availible in the following attachment types: 1913 Rail, MLOK, and ARMS 17.

Availible in Black and Flat Dark Earth.


Ruger AR-556 Trigger

Once you get the itch, you’ll want to fine-tune the rifle. This could be as simple as adding a drop-in quad rail in place of the clam-shell forend to removing pins to replace a trigger–as you might with this Rise Armament Rave 140.

We’ll start simple and build in complexity.

As far as Ruger AR-556 Upgrades go the stock Ruger trigger isn’t bad, but there is always room to improve.

Rise Armament Rave 140 Super Sporting AR 15 Trigger with Anti-Walk Pins - Gen 2

Rise Armament Rave 140 Super Sporting AR 15 Trigger with Anti-Walk Pins – Gen 2

Availible with a curved or flat face.


Ruger AR-556 Grips

The grip on an AR is one of the easiest things to replace. It usually involves no more than a large hex bit. The Ruger AR-556 grip is a very generic cookie-cutter hollowed-out straight-faced plastic grip, but there are a wide variety of options. My favorite are the Hogue grips. Their contoured texture is very ergonomic.

These Hogue fit my hand in a way that most flat-sided grips don’t.
Hogue AR-15 Overmolded Beavertail Pistol Grip with Finger Grooves

Hogue AR-15 Overmolded Beavertail Pistol Grip with Finger Grooves

Nine different colors availible!


Ruger AR-556 Foregrips

Some prefer to dedicate real estate on their rail to a foregrip rather than a bipod. There’s no reason you can’t have both unless weight is a serious concern. For a solid foregrip on a rifle, check out the skeletal designs by Fortis.

The Fortis foregrips make a statement.
Fortis SHIFT Vertical Foregrip

Fortis SHIFT Vertical Foregrip

Availible in Picatinny, M-LOK, and Keymod.


For pistols, vertical foregrips are a no-go. You’ll need an angled foregrip. Check out the Magpul AFG.

The Magpul AFG is a great choice for AR pistol builds.
Magpul AFG Angled Foregrip

Magpul AFG Angled Foregrip

Availible in Black, Flat Dark Earth, OD Green, and Gray.


Ruger AR-556 Handguards or Forends or Quadrails

Handguards come in many, many varieties. The best way to begin to parse them out is to look at how accessories connect to them. Key-mod, MLOK, piccatinny… there are options that will determine the path you take for other add-ons, like lights or grips.

If you want a simple quad rail for the Ruger AR-556, check out the Midwest Industries designs. MI does great work with aluminum, and there’s something simple about the design that keeps it relevant.

Midwest Industries makes great metal add-ons.
MI AR-15 Gen2 Two Piece Drop-In Quad Rail Handguard

MI AR-15 Gen2 Two Piece Drop-In Quad Rail Handguard

Carbine, Mid-Length, and Rifle Lengths availible!


If Magpul is your thing, go with MLOK or MOE. The Magpul designs are an excellent upgrade and even provide clearance, on some, for front sight posts–meaning you won’t have to mess with the gas block, which can get messy for beginners.

Note the clearance for the A2 front sight post.
Magpul MOE M-LOK Carbine Length Handguard for AR-15

Magpul MOE M-LOK Carbine Length Handguard for AR-15

Availible in 8 colors!


The Ruger AR-556’s Stock

From its inception, this simple six-position M4 style stock was built for simplicity. Many don’t like the angles on these–they can wrap in slings and hang on clothing. Replacing them, though, is easy.

For speed at close quarters, check out the Magpul fixed stocks. These are minimalist designs that are designed to prevent any snags.

A fixed stock is both simple and hassle-free.
Magpul MOE Fixed Carbine Stock - Mil Spec AR-15

Magpul MOE Fixed Carbine Stock – Mil Spec AR-15

Availible in Black, Gray, Flat Dark Earth, and OD Green.


For long range work, nothing beats Magpul’s PRS line.

Not all of Magpul’s stocks are so bare-bones. Their PRS line is highly adaptable.
Magpul PRS Gen 3 Adjustable Stock Mil Spec for AR-15 and AR-10

Magpul PRS Gen 3 Adjustable Stock Mil Spec for AR-15 and AR-10

Availible in Black, Gray, Flat Dark Earth, and OD Green.


Once you get into stocks, you may want to consider fine-tuning your buffer system. This is ammo specific, and something to consider if you plan to shoot this gun suppressed. Odin Works makes weighted buffers that will help keep the timing perfect.

Weighted buffers will allow you to dial in the AR’s cyclic rate.
Odin Works Adjustable AR-15 Buffer Weight - Heavy

Odin Works Adjustable AR-15 Buffer Weight – Heavy

There is also a Light Weight option!


Can I Change The Barrel on My Ruger AR-556?

Ruger makes a mean cold-hammer-forged barrel. There’s nothing wrong with the barrels on their AR-15s. But not everyone likes the same length or the same profile. Just keep in mind that changing out a barrel isn’t as easy as changing out a grip. Even on an AR-15, which is the easiest rifle I know of for barrel swaps, you’ll need some specialized tools.

If you want to take the 5.56 further, check out Odin Works. The heavier profile and extra length will add some accuracy at distance. For those who want to work on pistols or SBRs, there are numerous shorter options. Some will require a new gas system, too, which will get you deeper into the DIY. Check out the barrels from Ballistic Advantage.

A longer, heavier barrel will help with accuracy. Shorter barrels will change the balance, weight, and maneuverability for close-quarters work.

The Extras

The Ruge AR-556’s magazine options are endless. Brands like Magpul, Hexmag, Lancer, Mission First Tactical, and Duramag offer colors and material options to best suit your needs. There’s nothing wrong with the PMAG it comes with, but you’ll need more. Magazines fail. It isn’t that they’re designed to be expendable, but they are. Buy them in bulk and save.

The PMAG has evolved some over the years, but they’re instantly recognizable, well respected, and come stock on most AR15s. Buy in bulk and save!
6-Pack - Magpul PMAG M3 30 Round - .223 / 5.56 NATO - MAG557 for AR 15

6-Pack – Magpul PMAG M3 30 Round – .223 / 5.56 NATO – MAG557 for AR 15


Ruger AR-556 Upgrades – Make it Your Own!

In the end, there’s no reason the Ruger AR-556 can’t be customized into the perfect rifle for your needs. It will run like a champ out of the box. And everything you add to it will improve either its functionality or its comfort.

Ruger AR-556 paired with our AT3™ ALPHA + RRDM Red Dot Kit. Maximize your field of view, speed, and precision.


Can the Ruger AR-556 shoot .223 Remington?

The short answer is yes. It is a whole article’s worth of information itself but .223 is dimensionally close enough to 5.56 where there are very rarely problems. From a manufacturer’s standpoint, you should only fire the cartridge listed on the barrel. From an everyday shooter’s perspective as long as it it chambered for 5.56 it can shoot .223 no problem. Not the other way around.

How far can a Ruger AR-556 shoot?

The Ruger AR-556 will perform similarly to any other AR-15 with a 16″ barrel. Your effective range is around 500 to 600 yards. Beyond that the .22 caliber bullet that the AR-15 fires will have lost a lot of oomph and get bullied by any wind.

What’s the difference between the Ruger AR-556 and Ruger SR-556?

The Ruger SR-556 was (it is discontinued now) a piston-driven AR-15 rather than the traditional direct gas impingement system. The AR-556 is not only that but it is also the flagship AR15 that Ruger sells.

Is the Ruger AR-556 any good for home defense?

The Ruger AR-556 would work just fine for home defense but it should be mentioned that 5.56 over penetrates everything so it is not ideal if you are concerned with going through walls.

How many rounds does a Ruger AR-556 hold?

The Ruger AR-556 comes stock with one 30-round magazine. It can use any AR-15 magazine of any round count.

One Last Tip

If there’s anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it’s the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.

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7 thoughts on “Best Ruger AR-556 Upgrades + Accessories [2024 Update]

  1. Nice Job… can you please help me upgrade my AR?

    1. Hello!

      Although we cannot personally receive and modify your firearm we do offer a free consultation to building and upgrading. Simply click the link to get started.

      FREE Build Consultation

  2. I can’t get a definite answer. Does Ruger make a .350 legend barrel for AR-15 ? I have the gun in a 556 but would like to put a350 on it .

  3. I would say to battle sight zero the weapon and make your sight adjustments from there!!!

  4. Good Afternoon, Reading your article on upgrades for the Ruger AR556 I read somewhere that you can only use a Ruger BCG for that specific rifle.. In your opinion can I use and shoot reliably your AT3 tactical BCG which is on sale now. Thank you

  5. I have a new Ruger AR 15 556. When I attempted to sight it in at 25 yards I could not adjust the front sight enough to zero it in. The site bottomed out. I still 12 inches low at 25 yards. Windage is find. Could you suggest any solutions to the above problem.

    1. Yea Rugers front sight/gas block is its worst flaw, unlike most AR15 manufacturers who use a riveted front sight bore holes in the bottom side of the barrel, Ruger for unknown reasons bore in the top. Mine happened to be bored crooked as a mfer. They wanted me to send it back but who wants to play that game?. I went and upgraded my gas block to a top/bottom side picattiny rails gas block for 65$ And replaced everything myself, then grabbed Allen wrench fitted iron sights and threw a light/laser attachment on bottom of gas block, MUCH BETTER!! Ruger needs to fix this flaw, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn out of the box and had to spend 100 dollars extra and that’s me doing labor.

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