Guns that we can take apart and store in a bag are always a fun topic. Ruger's latest foray into these highly portable rifles, coming on the heels of the successful 10/22 Takedown rimfire repeater, is the new SR-556 Takedown AR-type rifle.
For those who thought every AR shared the same capacity for quick disassembly, the Ruger model breaks down into a much smaller package than your typical AR separated into upper and lower assemblies, Plus, Ruger now offers a .300 AAC Blackout barrel-change accessory kit that includes two .300 BLK-optimized 30-round magazines for an additional $450. More on that later.
The disassembly process is simple enough that I didn't even crack the manual the first time I pulled the rifle from the box. The upper and lower receiver assemblies are held in place by two familiar captive pins. Once we have the upper separated from the lower, we pull the bolt-carrier group out the back of the upper receiver and remove the charging handle.
The additional takedown capability comes when we separate the barrel from the rest of the upper receiver. There is a small spring-loaded tab at the tip of the forend, found at the 6 o'clock position. We move the tab toward the receiver, compressing the spring while simultaneously twisting the barrel counterclockwise (as viewed with the rifle shouldered). The barrel rotates about 1/8 of a turn, and then we can pull it out the front of the handguard.
Separating the barrel from the upper receiver shaves an additional 6 inches off the overall length of the assembly. While 6 inches might not sound like a lot to some, it can mean the difference between fitting the rifle into a regular backpack or being forced to use something more obtrusive.
What I like most about the quick-detach barrel on the SR-556 is how easy cleaning an AR becomes. By far the hardest component of an AR to keep clean is the barrel extension. It has teeth where the bolt enters and exits and then a large channel where the bolt lugs rotate and lock in place. I like to keep this area clean because of the critical moving parts operating there.
It can also be a nightmare to maintain. The only way to get a cleaning rag in there is to reach in through the bottom of the upper receiver or through the ejection port. Once we do get our rag-wrapped finger in there, we then get to drag it over the cheese-grater-like teeth, trying to wipe out all the fouling.
The SR-556 barrel pulls out of the upper and gives us unrestricted access to the barrel extension. Using a rag and Q-tips, we can have it clean in a minute or two. The chamber and barrel are also much easier to clean when separated from the upper receiver.
The Ruger SR-556 Takedown has a .300 Blackout barrel assembly available from the factory. The barrel is clearly marked ".300 BLK" in big letters on both sides of the gas block to discourage shooters from mistakenly putting the wrong ammunition in the wrong barrel. Putting .300 BLK ammo in a 5.56x45mm barrel can cause the rifle to have a catastrophic failure and lead to serious injuries.
I spent some time on the range with both barrels and had zero malfunctions. I even made it a point to leave the same-weight buffer in the buffer tube and still didn't have a problem when switching between 5.56 and .300 BLK. The rifle is on the heavy side for an AR, but it runs like a sewing machine. Also, the new Ruger trigger is a huge improvement over most AR triggers, and the ability to quickly break it down into small pieces is certainly convenient.