Today I made it to the range with the SR-556. I had 6 other rifles to shoot, so the total round count was limited, but I started to get a better feel for how the weapon handled.
I was in luck – also at the range was Mike Pannone of CTT Solutions and Viking Tactics. An all-around good guy, Mike seems always willing to take a minute (or an hour) to help me with my shooting technique. Today, he ran me through a drill he was working on for the Border Patrol agents that he’s paid to train – two shots to the chest and one to the head of a silhouette at 20 meters, two shots at an IPSC A zone steel plate at 50 meters, then two to the chest and one to the head of the silhouette again, and finally back to the steel plate for 2 more hits.
My times with the Ruger SR-556 and an EOTech were in the 10.5 second range, though I was consistently missing shots on the steel plate at 50 meters. Shooting his own AR, Mike was in the low 6 second range – he said an 8 second run was, for him, “slow”. Note that the EOTech XPS2-0, my time with it having expired, has been replaced with my well-used 552 on a LaRue LT-110 riser.
Below, I run through the drill with a BCM lightweight midlength. The steel plate is the black dot to the left of the silhouette. With the BCM (equipped with a TA33 ACOG), my times were in the high 8s to high 9s – no misses. Although the magnified optic certainly helped, it took a little time to get used to the extra weight out at the front of the Ruger, and I kept “overshooting” as I switched from target to target, which led to frustration, wailing, and gnashing of teeth on my part.
I did not bother with accuracy testing after zeroing the optic, though the weapon seemed consistent enough for the task at hand. Later, I shot the drill once more with the Ruger. It was a “clean” run – no misses – and although the timer was not available, the pace was similar to my earlier ~10-11 second runs. I should add that Mike Pannone considers a 10.2 second “clean” time to be average for the shooters he was training.
Recoil is quite mild – as one might expect from a 10.5lb AR-15 with a rubber buttpad shooting .223 American Eagle. Still, recoil characteristics are not ideal, and the weapon exhibited a little more muzzle rise than I expected. As you can see in the first picture of this review, fired cases were ejected between 4 and 5 o’clock – more to the rear than I’m used to. I left the weapon on setting 2 for the day, and experienced no malfunctions. My only functional complaint – if I really wanted to get nit-picky – was that the selector was stiff when going from “fire” to “safe”, but not “safe” to “fire”.
After that last drill, I tried holding the rifle at the ready for as long as I could – after only a few minutes, my arm became quite sore. Unlike a lightweight standard AR, which I feel that I could hold at the ready or low ready for a very long time, the SR556 was just too much for my weak limbs to hold up all day.
My initial impression of this weapon is that it is a decent firearm – it functions, and it puts the bullets where you want them to go. If you are willing to train with this weapon and this weapon alone – or its SR-556C brother – you will probably do quite well with it (them), and be happy with the performance of the weapon(s). However, as an AR-15, for my intended use, it is not exactly satisfactory. Its handling characteristics are so different than a “standard” AR-15 that I would find it disconcerting to go back and forth between the two, or at least, I would personally have a fairly steep learning curve every time I switched. It is also unsuited for comfortable all-day carry, such as when hunting or backpacking.
I would like to thank Mike Pannone for taking a good chunk of time out of his busy day to help me out with my shooting yet again. If you get the chance to take a class taught by him, don’t miss out.