EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol: Lightweight AR Pistol without the Buffer Tube

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol
EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol
Mike Searson
Mike Searson

USA -(Ammoland.com)- An AR-15 pistol is often the red-headed stepchild of the firearms world.

They are heavy, make a lot of noise, but can be a lot of fun at the range and are a great alternative for folks who live in states that restrict the ownership of an SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) or shooters who wish to travel to such states with their NFA (National Firearms Act) items.

EXTAR EXP provides a new take on the AR pistol concept with a redesigned bolt carrier and lack of a buffer system to unleash what is probably the world’s lightest AR-15 pistol without the ubiquitous buffer tube in their EXP-556.

Tipping the scales at 48 oz, the EXP-556 is probably the lightest AR-15 style pistol in the world that is chambered for 5.56 NATO.

While that caliber in a package that weighs the same as 3 loaded AR-15 magazines sounds like a nightmare for recoil, the EXTAR EXP-556 is easy to fire one-handed and yields no muzzle rise thanks to its muzzle brake.

Their proprietary muzzle brake works by diverting the muzzle downward and rearward simultaneously by way of a single large U- shaped port at the back end of the brake and 5 egg-shaped ports in front. There are no ports on the underside.

Instead of the standard bolt and buffer method of the AR, this one is closer to an MP5 clone with a long recoil spring.

The trigger breaks at 5.25 pounds according to our scale. Students of the AR platform will notice that there is no ejection port cover, molded brass deflector or forward assist. The charging handle a reciprocating side-charging version accessible from the left-hand side.

This is actually a huge improvement over the venerable AR platform in both ergonomics and resolving gas leakage through the rear of the receiver.

EXTAR uses a finger-grooved pistol grip with a trapdoor to store spare batteries or other items. The barrel is free floated and the no frills polymer hand guard can be used by the non shooting hand for stabilization and support, although we do not shoot it this way.

An integrated Picatinny rail graces the top of the polymer upper receiver to allow scope mounting and the factory rear aperture sight is mounted at the end of this rail. The factory front sight sits above the gas tube as a polymer blade.

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol
EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol – The Good

We have fired numerous types of ammunition: Norma Match Grade 55 grain. Winchester White Box 55 grain, Herter’s steel cased 55 grain, PMC Bronze and Federal 62 grain. In three separate 400-1000 round range sessions the pistol fed everything we loaded into a magazine, apart from a few Winchester 55 grains key-holing on the target.

The PMC Bronze proved the best rewarding us with a sub 1-inch group at 150 yards with a Lucid Optics M7 in place. Herter’s may have been the worst giving us a 4” group at 100 yards. Although Winchester key-holed on us a few times, they still fell well within 2”.

We found the best method for us to be a two-handed grip just as you would use on a large revolver or Thompson-Center Contender Pistol in the standing position. Some shooters have found success by gripping the magazine well as a form of support or even using the hand guard.

This is going to vary based on the individual. What works for one shooter does not always work for the next.

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol Receiver
EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol Receiver

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol – The Bad

The pistol is limited with regard to mounting accessories. The top rail provides an excellent platform for mounting sights and scopes, but unless you use a scope with additional side rails there really is no place to install a white light or laser.

If you are considering something like this for an ultra light SBR project or even using a device like the SIG Brace, you will be disappointed as there is no way to attach one without heavily modifying the pistol. (Editors Note: Although availability is spotty at best, TACTIMOUNT makes and Arm Brace Adapter for the EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol. )

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol
EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol

EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol – The Reality

As a lightweight AR pistol intended to be used as such, the EXP-556 excels as it represents a departure from the norm. This gives the power of the 5.56 round in a compact package. Out of an 8.5” barrel, there will be a loss of velocity and energy than the same round fired through a rifle but it is still at a comparable level of energy as a 357 Magnum round.

The EXP-556 may have limited use as a hunting or survival pistol in this regard, but frankly with a street-price of less than $450 it is just a fun piece to shoot. Sometimes a shooter does not need a reason to buy or test fire a gun other than the sheer fun factor of blowing up Tannerite or watermelons on a Saturday afternoon.

EXTAR’s distributor for the EXP-556 is New Frontier Armory out of Las Vegas, Nevada. http://newfrontierarmory.com/


Check out mixflip‘s video look at this unique American made pistol.


About Mike Searson

Mike Searson's career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

home page: www.mikesearson.com
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  • 14 thoughts on “EXTAR EXP-556 AR-15 Pistol: Lightweight AR Pistol without the Buffer Tube

    1. Keep in mind. For this to be a pistol, It CANNOT have a forward grip or a stock attached to the rear of the gun. The braces are a grey shaded area which might one day be outlawed as the bump stock was. That is the reason it doesn’t have a way to attach a stock (folding or not) and doesn’t have any pic rails on the front. If you add either of those items, you now have a “Class 3” weapon that is not a pistol but a short barreled rifle. Having a “Class 3” and no license is a felony which would prevent you from ever owning another gun and possibly jail or fines. Be happy with a rifle that shoots like a pistol and WOW does it ever make your heart beat faster when you hear the Boom that comes from it and the fireball. Its a rush for sure. Just don’t ruin it by pushing the limits and getting the rules changed to make it unlawful to have. Also, the firing group of the trigger is also polymer and you MUST use 556 and not 223.
      I broke mine after 10 rounds of 223. They fixed it for free and sent me a nasty note telling me only to use 556 whcih has more powder that makes it cycle properly. The 223 has less powder which makes it more enjoyable for the hobby shooter, Enjoy, Be SAFE and God bless the United States of America.

    2. So they made a polymer OA-93?
      Sure, it’s cool, but I find myself unable to get excited about it…this is just another example of firearms makers rehashing an already-invented product and tweaking it slightly then acting like it’s revolutionary..

      Again, it’s cool, I like it, take that upper, put it on a lower with an ace skeleton stock on a LAW folding adapter and you have a really cool little folder, but its no different than an OA-93 or LR300, save being made from polymer.

      1. New Frontier armory is the authorized distributorit is pretty cool. You can buy a machine screw and fix a side folder to it. My main concern is the polymer not lasting. It’s also not super strong, I broke an upper before it even went to the range. It was replaced for $50, but that may dissuade some people.from buying one. Otherwise r than that it’s a blast and fits in very small places. Great backpack gun.

    3. I purchased one last year, and I am totally happy with my buy.The only thing I can add is to be sure to use good quality ammo, I tried some 223 and it would jamb. Now I make sure I use 5.56 nato only.

      1. Make sure the extractor is working properly, I had to send mine back because it was faulty. They fixed and polished it and now fires flawlessly. I also only use nato ammo.

    4. “the no frills polymer hand guard can be used by the non shooting hand for stabilization and support, although we do not shoot it this way.”
      Why is it you do not use the support hand on the hand guard? Isn’t that the purpose?

    5. You forgot to add, Ben, it’s also way ahead in BLINDING FLASHES & DEAFENING EXPLOSIONS. Great for home defense. After shooting one indoors, the ensuing noise and nuclear fire ball will ensure that you will no longer be able to see nor hear the intruder..

      This is definitely an AR pistol that MUST have a can. A $200 stamp is cheap compared to permanent hearing loss.

      Now the flash hider on the EXP is an effective oxymoron. It will do a good job of hiding the initial flash, but since the 5.56mm was intended to have its propellant burned up inside a 20″ barrel, that 12″ of missing barrel leaves a lot of flash with no place to hide – except that a lot of it will be burned inside a suppressor – yet another reason to buy one. Since the EXP has a standard A2 brdcage, ti also has the standard 1/2″ threading on which you will screw on your suppressor.

      The good news is that suppressors have come down in price and gun trusts have gained in popularity as they represent the safest, fastest, and legally sound way to get one with minimal headaches.

      The EXP has been on the market for some time, but try and find a YouTube video of one being fired suppressed”

      Is there a problem with putting one on it? There shoulodn’t be. The biggest problem is finding subsonic 5.56mm ammo.

    6. Have had my extar for 6 months..purchased on gunbroker for 475…has been flawless.The lack of recoil is amazing…I have installed a trip rail mount on the handgun Rd and a sling mount..I have owned a keltech plr 16 and a keltex sub 2k in 40s&w…in my opinion..it’s far ahead of either in terms of accuracy, weight, felt recoil and overall usability. Great gun when you can find them.

    7. Glad someone FINALLY took a hint from the Koreans! A Daewoo K1 A1 costs an arm and a leg, if you can find one. I have ALWAYS hated that ([email protected]$T^$#@* buffer tube. I may have to give this a spin…

      1. The KelTec looks like an airsoft gun, this one is definitely a step or two up. Note the lack of wood screws.

      2. This review is good but not fully accurate. 1st, all you need is a hex machine screw, 1/4×2″, to fix a folding stock on it and it works perfectly. 2nd, when the bolt travels it shaves off small polymer bits so eventually it will not be usable. 3rd, it does not fire easily 1 handed. It has a hell of a kick compared to an ar. Just my experience, it is fun, but the REAL negatives aren’t covered.I reached out to extar with my concerns about the reciever issue and they ignored me.

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