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Extar EXP-556 Polymer AR-15 Pistol Review

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THE FACTS:

The Extar EXP-556 is a polymer AR-15 pistol produced by Extar in the USA and is exclusively distributed by New Frontier Armory in North Las Vegas, NV. The pistol retails for a very attractive $449 price point.

The EXP-556 utilizes a polymer lower which is mostly standard other than the buffer tube area which is solid and unthreaded compared to a standard lower. Other than the pins and springs the entire lower is comprised of polymer parts. The trigger is marketed as a 5.5lb trigger. In testing, the trigger is very good considering it is polymer. There’s no real takeup or slack and it breaks very crisply. The lower has an integrated winter trigger guard to ease gloved shooting. The pistol is shipped with one 30 round Tapco magazine.

BoltAssembly

 The upper is also polymer and features a proprietary recoil spring system sitting over a somewhat familiar looking bolt assembly. Since it is spring dampened there isn’t a long bolt carrier like a standard AR, it’s carrier has an abbreviated length. The upper is also unique in that it features a reciprocating charging handle on the left side. There is no dust cover or forward assist on the right side of the upper.

The front gas block has an integrated front sight post machined into it and the rear sight is a ghost ring fitted into a dovetail in the polymer top rail. Between the upper and gas block is a stabilizing rod which helps keep the upper aligned and supported.

The 8.25” barrel features a very effective muzzle brake. The brake pushes the barrel length to 9.25” overall. Its so effective that when shooting, the gun actively pushes down and back against the shooter. This creates a flat shooting pistol with minimal recoil felt to the shooter. The flipside of this effective brake is an engulfing muzzle flash and a deafening concussion. This is definitely not a gun you would ever want to shoot without hearing protection.

 WE LIKE:

  • The price! $449 retail is a huge bargain for this much fun!

  • The fun factor, this is one of the most fun guns I have shot in a long time.

  • The weight, unloaded it only weighs an astonishing 2.98 lbs.

  • The minimal recoil, the very effective brake tames this beast.

WE DON’T LIKE:

  • The concussion created by the brake, its brutal but effective.

  • Some would argue the amount of plastic, but most of the plastic parts can be replaced with metal parts if needed.

  • Upper has some non-standard parts, which would only be a concern if replacement parts were unavailable by Extar or New Frontier Armory.

  • It drains the ammo budget in a hurry!

ACCESSORIES:

SlingPlate

One thing missing from the EXP-556 out of the box is a single point sling attachment. An AR pistol is really complemented by a single point sling which can be used as a support to fire easier. I made my own out of a Magpul RSA which I sanded on a belt sander to make the backside smooth to mate with the EXP-556. I acquired a longer bolt that matched the thickness and thread pitch as the original so I could reuse the stock nut. I had to open the hole in the RSA to the thickness of the new bolt. I then attached the RSA with the new bolt in place of the old bolt and I suddenly I had a handy place to attach a single point sling to the EXP-556.

I also swapped the grip for an Umbrella Corp Grip 23. The new grip features a much more vertical rake to it and holding the EXP-556 like a pistol felt much more comfortable with it.

 THE VERDICT:

As soon as I first saw the EXP-556 online I had to have one. With a retail of only $449 you really can’t go wrong. I’ve only experienced one malfunction so far and that was a Tulsa steel case round that got stuck in the chamber. Quick work with a cleaning rod got me back into action and no other malfunctions have occurred in the many rounds sent downrange thus far. I cannot wait to mount a red dot optic to this pistol to squeeze even more fun out of it. I find myself bringing the EXP-556 to the range almost every visit because its such a smile maker. Every time I have gone to the range the other shooters have stopped shooting to come see what I was shooting. Everyone that has shot it was very impressed and was really surprised to hear it retailed for only $449. I can easily recommend this pistol for anyone looking for a very fun range toy. I do not see many other uses for it other than a range toy but some could argue it has its place in a bug out bag or as a truck gun.

 Extra links:

 New Frontier Armory Product Page

 The Gun Bench tabletop review

The Gun Bench 100 round beta mag dump

The Gun Bench 100 round beta mag dump (alternate view)

The Gun Bench single point sling modification

 Umbrella Grip 23

About Zack Carlson

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