EXTAR EXP-556 AR pistol

When New Frontier Armory first dropped hints about an upcoming AR pistol product, I immediately let them know I wanted to be first in line.  The new EXTAR EXP-556 pistols are now rolling off the assembly line and I had an opportunity to take one out last night to get a feel for this new pistol.

Overall, I’m impressed with how this pistol feels and performs.  Mind you, an AR style pistol isn’t for everybody.  It firmly sits in that space between “Too small for a rifle” and “Too big for a handgun,” yet there is something alluring about a pistol that fires the venerable 5.56mm NATO cartridge.  Not to mention the sheer “head-turning quotient” for a firearm that looks like it was designed for a movie set (and the future appearance of an EXP-556 in future movies/TV shows would not surprise me).

I’ll avoid making this a wordy review, instead choosing to force you to watch my inconsistent voice narration in the video below (but I do offer some handy advice for assembly/disassembly of the EXP-556).  For those of you that don’t want to watch a 10-minute video, I’ll offer up some quick review points below.

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * *

At 25 yards, this yielded impressive accuracy.  I haven’t had the time to test it at longer ranges, but I was surprised at how accurate it was out of the box (good thing too – the sights that come with the EXP-556 have no elevation control and only drift-adjustable windage)

Ergonomics: * * * *

This pistol shot nicely and recoil was very manageable.  Manipulating the pistol was very similar to an AR-15 and felt comfortable in the hands.  After 90 rounds, the handguard was only moderately warm.  EXTAR claims their trigger pull is 5.5lbs, and that is probably accurate after a couple hundred rounds, as the polymer fire control group definitely smooths out after that amount of time.  Out of the box, trigger pull was measured at a very consistent 7lbs, which is still not shabby.  I limited ergonomics to three stars though because of the incredible noise and muzzle flash when firing. No, seriously, if you’re at the range, people to the left and right of you are going to be drinking gallons of Haterade.

Reliability: * * * *

Although only 90 rounds were fired, several mag changes were performed in the process.  Bolt hold-open, charging handle operation, and ammo cycling was flawless.  It’s difficult to give a goot reliability rating to a new gun after only putting 90 rounds through it, but given that this pistol is based on the proven New Frontier Armory polymer lower, there’s no reason to expect it would be unreliable.

Customizability: *** (the video is says one star, but read on)

You can replace the lower parts with a smoother drop-in trigger and different grip, and the upper half has a picatinny rail that works nicely with red dot and reflex sights.  However, the EXP556 has a lot of proprietary components, ff you’re hoping to turn this into a 300 BLK AR pistol, or some other caliber, you are going to be disappointed.  The good news is that you can replace the muzzle brake with standard muzzle addons, but EXTAR points out that the muzzle brake was specifically designed to keep recoil to a negligible level for that specific design.

Value: * * * * *

For about the same price as a new Glock ($599), this AR pistol gives you a LOT of bang for the buck, literally.

Overall: * * * *

As AR pistols go, this is an amazing value.  It gives a great out-of-the-box experience and is just all-around fun to shoot!  Just remember: Hearing protection is required.

I hope you enjoy this firearm as much as I have!

David Weller,

Owner, The Old Cannon Armory

(Note: As an FFL/SOT, I offer these firearms for sale, but this article reflects my unbiased opinion, and is not influenced by the manufacturer)

By: David Weller

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20 Responses to EXTAR EXP-556 AR pistol

  1. Robert (Tim) Ford says:

    What do you recommend (not too pricey) for a drop in metal trigger, hammer and selector switch to replace the polymer one? Thanks

  2. Macten says:

    Well I went ahead and bought one and luv it. The report was unbelievable even thru the earplugs so I got a birdcage and put it on. Getting the old flashbang off the barrel was a bear. I had to heat it almost to the point of red then used a giant set of lockpliers and a cheater bar to twist off very fast. Noise is waaaay down and flash is close to my ar. Still waiting for the 300 upper to come out.

  3. AUG 223 says:

    AUG 223

    Extar muzzle brake is not welded on. I would check the allen set screw on the gas block is tight. Then put some duck tape on smooth vice jaws or tape washers on the jaws if they or not smooth. Don’t use a padded jaw cover because of movement. Put the pistol in the vice around the gas block at 45 degree angle and use a large plain tip screwdriver in the large slot in the muzzle brake. Use a quick movement on the screwdriver to twist the brake off.

  4. Cale Terrill says:

    they told me at new frontier armory that that wouldn’t fit cause i liked that better

  5. andinconclusion says:

    I have a SIG SBX on mine.

  6. andinconclusion says:

    The Extar Pistol is awesome. I’m trying to figure out how to remove the stock muzzle brake. It’s as if it’s welded on. I’d like to install a better flash hider.

    • Cale Terrill says:

      did u ever get it off because I’m wanting to install a new one on mine and i yet to have attempt

      • andinconclusion says:

        Yes Cale, I tried everything but the stock muzzle brake / compensator would not budge. I decided to go for broke. I was able to eventually remove it, BUT, to encourage it I had to carefully make a lateral cut along the length of the top of the muzzle brake / compensator with a Dremel. I went very carefully and deep enough so that I could just see the top of the threads on the barrel. But it would still not unscrew. I then supported the muzzle brake / compensator on a block of wood so that there was no pressure on any other part of the pistol, placed a good size cold chisel onto the Dremel cut and gave it 4 good wacks with a large rubber mallot. Very scary but I thought W.T.H. The muzzle brake / compensator showed a hair line crack where I had cut it. It now very easily spun off. I found minimal microscopic Dremel cut along the top of the threads. I clean that up and to my joy the AAC Blackout flash suppressor easily spun on and tightened up.

        RESULT and CONCLUSION: No more fire ball from the Extar. No perceptible increase in recoil or barrel rise. Very, very low night time signature. I also tested a Krinkov style flash suppressor which also worked out well but I decided to go back to the AAC Blackout. Reason: the Krinkov style was designed for SBRs conversions and is designed to greatly increase the back pressure to cycle standard rifle components with reduced gas pressure due to the shortened barrel of the SBR conversion. The Extar is designed as a short barrel fire arm and does not need the increase gas pressure and I became concerned as to long term stress on the Extar. The Krinkov also weighs in at around 9 oz, and the AAC Blackout weighs around 50% less at below 4 oz. The original muzzle brake / compensator weighs in at around 3.5 oz.

        Sorry for the length of reply, I hope all this helps.

        • Cale Terrill says:

          putting this on if i can get it off file://localhost/Users/melissafox-terrill/Desktop/$_35.jpg

          • andinconclusion says:

            No access on your /melissafox-terrill/ .jpg

          • Cale Terrill says:

            its the 223/5.56 socom gen 2 on ebay not sure why this won’t let me put the link or pic

          • andinconclusion says:

            .. excellent choice. That’s a very highly acclaimed, tunable, combined muzzle brake and compensator. It would be my choice as well. Tests on YT show that you will still get the fireball. Most of my use for the Extar is at night.

        • Cale Terrill says:

          ordered sig brace and trying to find a rail system that would fit

  7. Sckarekrow says:

    No buffer tube = No Sig Brace
    No Sig Brace = No practical value or use.
    Novelty junk.

  8. Mac Ten says:

    If this came in 300BLK I would buy it in a heartbeat.

    • Clifford427 says:

      I agree with Mac Ten, it is ideal for 300BLK. I have a Kel-Tec PLR-16 which is very similar but highly proprietary. I wish someone would just make something like this using standard barrels so you could swap them.

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