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!
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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