Ruger AR vs. Springfield Armory AR, by Pat Cascio

I’ve had a few requests for doing another AR versus AR article, since I did one several years back. I personally don’t like doing any sort of “Versus” firearms articles, because it is difficult, if not impossible, to remain totally unbiased. In the end, a person will usually like one firearm over another, and probably for no solid reason – just a personal bias. However, I will lay out my findings for our readers and you be the judge when you finish this article.

Right now, AR-15 styles of rifles are difficult to come by, because of all the violence in the USA – everyone wants the best of the best, to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their homes from this violence. It is obvious to most, that the politicians have tied the hands of the police, and most police officers are pretty much a target for AntiFa and Black Lives Matter. The police are being told to stand-down in many places, and allow these people to throw rocks, bottles, and fireworks at them. And, when they are actually allowed to make an arrest, many times it is for disorderly conduct. The district attorney in Multnomah Oregon – the Portland area – has told the police there to not arrest people for simple crimes like disorderly conduct, because he will not prosecute those people. Why this guy hasn’t been recalled or tossed out of office is beyond me. In any event, civilians are now having to protect themselves from this horrible violence.

Okay, I’m off my soap box!

When we look at the Ruger AR-556 and the Springfield Armory Saint AR, under much of the window dressing, they are very similar rifles for the most part. They both have different “furniture” though, and that means something to many people – we have our preferences, of course. Both guns have a barrel that is slightly over 16-inches long and have a 1:8 twist, so they can handle some heavy bullet weights. Both guns have a flat top receiver – and both come with a standard military-style front sight, however, the Ruger front sight has horizontal serrations on the back, and it made the sight (picture) really stand out for some reason, and both have a fold-down, pop-up rear sight. Both guns came with a MagPul PMag 30-round magazine, and I believe these are the best of the best when it comes to AR magazines – period! The US military has finally figured this out, and is phasing in these mags to all branches these days.

Some Specifications

The Ruger weighs in at 6.5-pounds, while the Springfield comes in at 6-lbs 4-ounces – a little bit lighter in weight. The furniture, as already mentioned is completely different on these guns. The Ruger has a skinny, polymer handguard, and standard M4 telescoping stock. The actual pistol grip is not mil-spec, and it feels great in the hand. The Springfield, has a mid-length gas system with a very slim handguard, that I was determined to NOT like – I was wrong – I loved it. The buttstock is a telescoping version and the pistol grip is quite a bit different than a mil-spec version – it is one that I love – a lot. Feels absolutely fantastic in the hand.  The Ruger comes with a polymer rear sight, and the Springfield has a metal rear sight – much more robust if you ask me. However, I took off both rear sights on the guns, and replaced them with a detachable carry hand rear sight.

The trigger pull on the Ruger is heavier than I like, however, I learned in the past, after about 500 rounds of ammo through these ARs, the trigger pull lightens up quite a bit. The good news is that it is a very crisp trigger pull. The trigger pull on the Springfield is much lighter and crisp as well, but very smooth thanks to the coating Springfield applies to the trigger group.

I won’t go into any more of the specs on these two guns, you can read all of it on the respective web sites for yourself… www.ruger.com and www.springfield-armory.com  and it is well worth the time to read all this information for yourself. Again, the particular models are the Ruger AR-556 and the Springfield Armory Saint AR.  And, to be sure, both of these ARs are the “basic” entry-level ARs being offered by these two fine companies. Of course, you can trick these ARs out to suit your tastes, however the only change I made was replacing the rear sights on both guns – in my humble opinion, both are combat-ready right out of the box.

I’m sure all our readers know that we are in another ammo drought – the worse one ever – and I don’t think we will recover from it for many years, this time around. So, I didn’t want to waste too much ammo for this article. Here is what I did: I loaded-up three 30-round magazines for each gun, and one at a time, I emptied those mags as fast as I could pull the trigger – just making sure the guns had no malfunctions. I didn’t expect any and didn’t have any problems – and the barrels on both guns were very hot after 90 rounds down range.

As to my accuracy testing, I did 5 groups with each gun at 50 yards, and took the best group as an average for my findings. Now, I did the rapid-fire test with one gun, and then immediately followed it with the accuracy testing, while the barrel was hot. When I was done with one AR, I then did the same with the other – 90-rounds rapid-fire and then 5 groups for accuracy. Both guns were fired for accuracy over a rifle padded bag, over the hood of my pick-up truck.

For my malfunction testing, I loaded all the magazines with Black Hills Ammunition 55-gr FMJ ammo. For my accuracy testing, I loaded the mags with three rounds each, of the following ammo from Black Hills: 62-gr Barnes TSX, 69-gr Matchking, 55-gr Barnes TSX  and 60-gr V-Max and 40-gr Hornady V-Max ammo…some of the best of the best, when it comes to accuracy testing – so, both guns were fed the exact same ammo. I didn’t see much sense in sending more hard to get, and expensive .223 ammo downrange for this side-by-side test article.

I honestly believed that the Ruger would handicap me with the heavier trigger pull, but it didn’t! I was more than a little surprised at this, I was sure the Springfield would turn out to be a little more accurate because of the great trigger pull. I was wrong! With both guns, all groups were right around 1.5-inches – again, at 50-yards, with “iron” sights…I think with more practice, I could shrink those groups down a bit more. However, I was shooting in a light rain and I might have been distracted a bit.

The Springfield loved the heavier 69-gr Matchking round, and I got a group just a tad under an inch and a half without too much trouble. The Ruger was matching the Springfield in this respect with this ammo. Both guns also liked the 62-gr Barnes TSX load – and both were giving me groups right at 1.5-inches. The “worst” groups of the day came from the 40-gr Hornady V-Max load, and if you call what I was getting a bad group, you’d be wrong – both guns just liked the heavier loads a little bit better. I believe that, if I mounted some kind of magnifying optics on both rifles, I could have easily gotten groups down to about ¾ of an inch or less, without too much trouble.

Both Will Do The Job

Here’s my thoughts on both the Springfield and the Ruger, either gun will more than meet and exceed your expectations for defense – be it on the mean streets or a battlefield. Both guns will last a lifetime, too. I can’t honestly say, when it came to accuracy, one gun was “better” at it than the other, and I was shooting premium .223 ammo in both guns. I thought about breaking into some of my personal stash of AR ammo, and running more varieties of ammo through both guns, but I didn’t want to get into my own ammo supply at this point in time – don’t know if I’d ever be able to replace the ammo, or when.

Of course, as I mentioned at the onset of this article, no matter how hard to try to not be biased in this sort of article, you will always “like” one gun over another – for many different reasons. When it came to the Ruger, I like that it is a “basic” no-frills AR carbine, and it felt great in my hands, and when I shouldered it. The Springfield, I like the mid-length gas system and handguard – really thought I wasn’t going to like the skinny handguard – I was 100% wrong on this. I liked the pistol grip on the Springfield a lot – of course, nothing wrong with the pistol grip on the Ruger, either – I just “preferred” the Springfield pistol grip a little bit more. Neither pistol grip was “better” than the other.

The Current Drawback: Availability

Now for the “bad” news, right now, it is extremely difficult, to almost impossible, to find any kind of decent AR-15 rifle at a reasonable price. Many ARs, when you do find them, are selling for a lot more than actual retail, and in some cases, double and even triple retail. The Ruger retails for $799 – however, I saw one distributor selling them for $850 – again, this was a distributor, selling to FFL dealers. The Springfield retails for $943 – and is going for a lot more than that, if you can find one at all.

In my opinion, regardless of who is seated as the next U.S. president, we will see a sharp uptick in violence and an even more severe gun, magazine, and ammunition shortage, all over the country. So, don’t wait. Find some kind of AR now – and pay the higher prices, if you wait until after January 20th you may not find any AR at any price. And, with a Democrat majority in both the House and Senate (with Kommie-lala Harris to break any tie votes) if Biden is seated then you can pretty much kiss new AR production good-bye. I try not to get political in my articles if I can avoid it…but in this case, you, our valued readers, had better heed my advice, and if you want an AR, get one nowif you can find one.

Sure, you can pay a lot more for a fancier AR than either the Ruger AR-556 or the Springfield Armory Saint AR, but I don’t believe you will be getting “more” of any AR. Its just hard to go wrong with a basic, no-frills AR, like the Springfield or the Ruger. And, if you want to make some changes to personalize either of these guns, you have a perfect base to start from.

I can’t say there was a clear winner in this AR versus AR article, I liked both guns – a lot! However, my biases might have come through in this piece, and I liked one a little bit more than the other – but no matter what it is a personal preference, and you have to make up your own mind as to which gun is “better” for you.

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