M&P Sport 2 vs Ruger AR 556

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mp sport 2 vs ruger ar 556

Both m&p 15 Sport II and the Ruger AR-556 are entry-level Ar-15 rifles. Whoever makes a list of the best entry-level AR 15 rifles, these two names will always show up. Both Ruger and Smith and Wesson are trusted brands in the US. In an argument of Smith Wesson m&p 15 Sport II vs. Ruger AR-556, it isn’t easy to declare one winner as both brands have their loyal following. Both the rifles have similar furniture and accessories; the difference lies in the detailing of the two. 

This article is an m&p 15 sport 2 vs Ruger ar 556 comparison. It intends to point out some differences between the two rifles so anyone who decides to buy their first AR can choose. 

The Ruger AR-556 has a cold hammer-forged barrel missing in a Sport II; both rifles also have a different barrel twist rate. The Ruger AR-556 doesn’t have a standard A2 grip, whereas S&W Sport II has an A2 grip, and both have a difference in barrel and receiver finishing. 

Ruger AR 556

The AR-556 is an assault rifle. Ruger introduced this product in 2014. Ruger is a reputable brand, so you know that the quality is not compromised. It has similar functionality and quality as an AR-15. You can say that it is a stripped-down version of an AR-15. It includes a gas-impingement system identical to the original AR-15. This system has a less reciprocating mass that gives accuracy to the rifle.

M&P Sport II

M&P 15 Sport II is a semi-automatic rifle manufactured by Smith and Wesson. When you hear the name Smith and Wesson, you know that reliability is guaranteed. The m&p series of AR-15 by Smith and Wesson are sporting rifles that are ideal for recreational activities, sports, and professional shooting. Smith and Wesson launched the sport II version of it in 2016. Sport II in itself is an efficient rifle, but you can increase its efficiency by adding a suitable scope with it.

Ruger AR 556 vs m&p Sport 2

Below is an explanation of some differences between the two rifles.

Barrel Design

Both m&p 15 Sport II and Ruger AR-556 have a 16-inch barrel. Both barrels are threaded and have a flash suppressor. The significant difference between barrels of m&p 15 Sport II and Ruger AR-556 is the barrel twist rate. We need a little explanation to understand what twist rate is and how it makes a difference. 

Barrel Twist rate

The barrel twist rate is the significant difference between the two rifles. The twist rate of m&p 15 Sport II is 1 in 9″ whereas the barrel rate of the Ruger 556 is 1 in 8″.

What is a barrel twist?

Barrel twist is the rate of the twist inside the barrel. That means the speed of the bullet inside the barrel before it comes out.

Twist rate and accuracy

More barrel twist rate means the bullet rotates faster inside the barrel, which indicates that it will be more stable in its flight. The stability of a bullet is directly related to its accuracy. The barrel twist rate of an m&p 15 Sport II is 1:9″, which means the bullet makes one revolution every nine inches. On the other hand, the barrel twist rate of a Ruger AR- 556 is 1 in 8″, which means the bullet makes a revolution every 8 inches. Some shooters believe that Ruger 556 has more accuracy than a Sport II in dealing with heavier bullets. So, a Ruger AR-556 can deal with bullets from 35 to 77 grains, whereas a Sport II can take bullet weight up to 62 grains. 

Barrel Finishing

Neither of the two barrels is chrome-lined. Barrel finishing of Ruger AR-556 is matte black oxide, and that of the m&p 15 Sport II is nitride. 

Does Chrome-lined finishing matter?

The general belief is that chrome line finishing protects the rifles against corrosion and increases their life. But, what’s also true is that people don’t use sport rifles to an extent where chrome-lined finishing would matter. It might be a big deal for professional rifles, but it doesn’t matter for sporting rifles.

Cold Hammer-Forged Barrel

One more difference between the two rifles is that the Ruger AR-556 has a cold hammer-forged barrel which an m&p 15 Sport II does not have. 

It might not be an essential consideration for some shooters, but gun enthusiasts believe in the importance of this feature. 

Why is cold hammer-forging important?

Through the cold hammer forging process, the structure of the steel changes, and the surface stiffness of the metal increases. It results in longer barrel life and gives more accuracy. Other barrel manufacturing processes such as button rifling and cut rifling do not make the metal as smooth as the cold hammer forge process. 


Coming to the grip, a Ruger AR-556 doesn’t have the standard A2 grip. It is Polymer made, stippling grip. It’s a little more slim-lined than what you usually find with AR 15 rifles, and the texturing of the grip is mild. Those who like a little aggressive texturing can change it. 

In contrast, the M&P 15 Sport II does have a standard A2 grip. The standard A2 grip has a finger groove which the Ruger AR-556 grip does not have. 

Receiver Finishing

The finishing of the Ruger AR-556 receiver is a type 3 hardcore anodizing finish. This finishing is known to be long-lasting, the one that doesn’t scratch easily. The receiver finishing of a Sport II is armornite.

Is it different?

Some argue that the armornite finishing is not much different from the hardcore finishing of the Ruger AR-556. 

Rear Sight

Both have folding rear sights with windage adjustment knobs. The rear sight of the m&p 15 Sport II is Magpul MBUS flip up sight. It has dual peep apertures, and also both sides have a release button. Contrary to this, Ruger 556 has a single peep aperture, and only one side has a release button.

Front Sight

Both have front sights with elevation adjustment knobs, and both use the standard A2 type front sight post. The difference is that the front sight post of Sport II has a bayonet stud at the front and a permanent sling loop at the back. Contrarily, Ruger has a quick-release sling swivel socket, and it does not have a permanent sling loop. Also, the gas block on the front sight of the Ruger AR-556 is serrated to reduce glare.


Both m&p15 Sport II and Ruger AR-556 have standard, mil-spec GI triggers that are pretty heavy.

Trigger guard

Both m&p 15 Sport II and Ruger AR-556 have an integrated trigger guard. Wondering what a trigger guard is? The trigger guard is a protective loop around the trigger of a rifle. Its purpose is to protect the trigger from unintended pulling and avoid an accident. The Ruger AR-556 trigger guard is aluminum made and is curved and enlarged. It is easier to shoot a Ruger AR-556 with gloves on. The m&p 15 Sport II has a rounded winter trigger guard. 

Bolt Carrier Group


Bolt carrier groups of both Ruger AR-556 and m&p 15 Sport II are well functioning. The bolt carrier and the gas key of both rifles are chrome-plated. It protects them from hot gases. Both rifles also have staked gas keys.


With these similarities, there is a slight difference between the two bolt carriers. The bolt material of the Ruger AR-556 is alloy steel, while that of Sport II is carpenter steel. Also, the finishing of the exterior of the bolt carrier of Ruger AR-556 is matte black oxide, whereas the Sport II has an exterior with phosphate finishing. Moreover, the extractor of m&p Sport II has a Black O-ring that allows more reliable extracting. Also, Ruger has styled its bolt carrier group with squared-off edges. 

Firing pin

M&p sport II has a shrouded firing pin. It is debatable whether a shrouded pin is essential or not. Some shooters believe that having a shrouded pin is necessary, while others believe it is not that big a deal. But a shrouded pin is still more desirable than an unshrouded one.


AR-556 includes handguards. The handguards are glass-filled nylon and give resistance from heat and hence allow for comfortable shooting. The handguards of a Sport II lack the heat shield.

Delta Ring 

The handguards with traditional AR delta rings are hard to remove and usually require a tool or help from another person. You will need a tool for removing the handguard of the m&p 15 Sport II. 

What’s different with Ar-556?

The makers have put a little thought into making the delta ring of the Ruger AR-556. They have added a screw to the delta ring. With this, it is a lot easier to remove the handguard. Hence, with the innovative delta ring of the Ruger AR-556, you can remove the handguard without using any tool. 

Forward assist and dust cover

Both the rifles include a forward assist and a dust cover. The forward assist mechanism prevents the gun from any malfunction, and as the name suggests, the dust cover prevents the firearm from dust. The forward cover and dust cover were not part of the original m&p 15, and there was a lot of cry about it. So, Smith and Wesson made sure to add it in its Sport II version.


Both the rifles are budget-friendly. The MSRP price of Ruger AR-556 is $799, and the MSRP price of Sport II is $739. Low price is one reason that many people take an interest in these rifles.


AR 556

ModelAR 556
ManufacturerSturm, Ruger & Co.
Caliber5.56 NATO or .223 Remington
Barrel length16.10″
Overall length32.25″ – 35.50″
Weight6.50 lbs.
Stock6 positions, collapsible
SightsA2 front sight, folding rear sight

M&P 15 Sport 2

ModelM&P15 Sport II
ManufacturerSmith and Wesson
Caliber5.56 NATO or .223 Remington
Barrel length16″
Overall length35″ Extended
Weight6.5 lbs.
Stock 6 positions, collapsible
FinishBlack anodized, hard coat

How to choose?

How you choose a rifle depends on your preferences as a shooter. Both rifles are pretty similar in their quality and make-up, and they also cost the same. The difference is in the minor details of the two. These details can be a big concern for someone and not for someone else. For example, some shooters believe it is essential to have a shrouded firing pin, while others believe it is not. So, choose the rifle that is suitable for you.

Wrapping up

Both Ruger AR-556 and m&p 15 Sport II are quality, budget-friendly options for newbies in the world 0f AR. It is hard to pick one because you will find admirers of both brands. Both the rifles have basic AR features. However, there are some differences between the two. The Ruger AR-556 has a cold hammer-forged barrel that a Sport II does not have. The twist rate of both rifles is also different. The Ruger AR-556 does not have a standard A2 grip, whereas Sport II has an A2 grip, and both have different barrel and receiver finishing. This article does not intend to make you choose one rifle over the other but instead provides a detailed explanation of the features of both. You can use this information to make the correct decision. 


Which AR-15 is better, Ruger or Smith and Wesson?

Both Ruger and Smith and Wesson are reliable brands. Ruger uses cold hammer forged barrels in their rifles that add to their accuracy. Both offer quality and are known and trusted brands. 

Is M&P 15 Sport 2 any good?

M&P 15 Sport II is a good quality, low-budget entry-level rifle. Its accuracy, quality, and affordability make it a must-have. It has an additional dust cover and a forward assist that was absent in the original sport. 

Is the Ruger AR-556 any good?

Ruger AR-556 is a good quality, reliable and affordable entry-level rifle. It is comfortable to shoot and gives consistency in harsh conditions. 

Does the m&p 15 Sport II have a chrome-lined barrel?

The barrel of m&P15 Sport II is not chrome-lined. It has a nitride finish. 

Does the M&P Sport 2 have a threaded barrel?

Sport 2 has a 16-inch threaded barrel with a nitride finish.

Where are Smith and Wesson made?

Smith and Wesson’s manufacturers are in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Is the M&P 15 Sport 2 an AR-15?

The m&p 15 sport 2 is an entry-level AR-15. It is chambered in 5.56/.223 and uses an M16/M4-style magazine.

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Hannah Anderson is a gun enthusiast. She developed a knack for guns and ammunition when as a teenager she started accompanying her grandfather to his hunting ventures. Now, she shares her passion and immense knowledge on the subject with the readers.

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