I recently had the chance to check out a Sig522 rifle, owned by my friend Dashiell. While I was evaluating the rifle it was pointed out that our friend Bill had the Sig556, on which the 522 was modeled. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at them together? Shazam! It was done.
I had both rifles for a week, during which time I shot them both several times, separately and together. What follows are my thoughts on the subject.
But first, some current events…
There is quite a trend lately by firearms manufacturers to build copies of their battle rifles chambered in .22lr. It seems to me that two things are driving this. First, a .22lr version is cheaper to buy and much cheaper to shoot than a 5.56/.223 version and second, the brand name and the form factor attract many folks who might not be nearly as excited by say a Ruger 10/22, which is arguably the best all-around .22lr rifle currently in mass production. Speaking of Ruger, even they have succumbed to the allure by producing the SR-22, which at its core is in fact a 10/22. Here’s how they summarize the rifle:
“The final product is an affordable, feature-loaded rifle that faithfully replicates the AR-platform dimensions between the sighting plane, buttstock height, and grip. Although it looks really cool out of the box, there is an extensive array of accessories available allowing a custom configuration, limited only by the shooter’s preferences.”
The SR-22’s internals are pure 10/22 but wrapping it in an AR-15 “skin” is apparently a marketing requirement. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that companies have jumped in like Lemmings to the sea, but perhaps there’s more to the story. After all, buyers aren’t foolish enough to buy a $400 rimfire rifle just because it “…looks really cool out of the box…” would they? OK, some undoubtedly will, but there’s more to the story I think.
Stay with me for a minute.
The Sig556 is an export version of the Swiss SG-550 military issue rifle. Actually, Sig has based enough of its business here in the US to establish themselves as a US arms manufacturer, so technically the rifle is not an import for us. The parts however are mostly from Switzerland and Germany.
I found the rifle to be a great handling weapon. It is a bit heavier than a standard M4-style AR-15 but lighter than my Ruger SR-556. It feels really solid. The rifle uses standard AR-15 magazines. (I used stanag and PMags without issue) The trigger was adequate but had a long take-up and reset. I suspect one could get perfectly accustomed to shooting this rifle and the ergonomics were great except for the safety. It is simply too far forward to reach with my thumb unless I un-shoulder the rifle and twist my hand 90 degrees around the pistol grip. I found it much simpler to use my index finger to operate the safety on the right side (strong side) of the receiver. This is not easy to do after being so accustomed to the AR platform. In fairness, it is much easier to operate than say an AK-47.
The setup of Bill’s Sig556 included an optional fore stock with small rail sections. This allows quick-disconnect sling mounts, etc. The rifle also sports a nice CompM3 battle sight, which is awesome. All this works just fine for me except for that darned safety. Shooters with larger hands will have no problem however.
With this rifle’s long-stroke piston, solid design and manufacturing, and the Sig reputation for quality, I am certain this gun would be a reliable weapon. For shooters with smaller hands it might be problematic however.
One functional issue I must mention is that the rifle is tough on brass. At first I couldn’t find my spent casings. After several minutes of looking further and further afield, I found them about 30 feet away at about the 1 o’clock position. The gun does have a gas adjustment so perhaps this could be dialed down a bit to keep the brass closer and more at the 3 o’clock position. I didn’t want to mess with Bill’s setup so I left it alone but I will say that every single case (a couple different factory loads and several different handloads) was dented significantly in more than one location on each. As a reloader this is a major concern. I would not reload these cases. Some would, noting that a full-length sizing die would do much to restore the case to its original dimensions. Nevertheless I suspect these dents would not be fully removed. Some were worse than those in the included photo. Given the tremendous stresses these cases endure, I would not feel comfortable reloading the brass coming from the Sig556. Of course if you don’t reload then this is irrelevant.
OK, so the Sig556 is a nice gun. But what about this .22lr version? Glad you asked. The Sig522 is a very interesting firearm to me. Leaving aside it’s pedigree, it is just a fun gun to shoot. The included mag holds 22 rounds of .22lr and with the weapon’s heft (slightly less than the Sig556) there is essentially zero felt recoil. I had intended to shoot only about 100 rounds and before I knew it I had burned a whole brick! This is of course the beauty of .22lr. All this for about $16. With the rifle’s top rail the installation of optics is easy and then you’ve got a pretty close replica of the Sig556. So, why have this thing?
I think that aside from pure cool factor, there’s a very good reason to have the Sig522: for training purposes if you happen to already shoot the Sig556. Perhaps it is obvious to others but this was a novel idea for me. Training with .223 rounds can quickly become a very expensive proposition, but if a shooter with a Sig556 wanted to get in some trigger time on the cheap, the Sig522 would work nicely as a substitute. This is particularly true when the actual shooting isn’t the most critical component of the tactical training. For movement drills, room clearing, stacked approaches, etc., this rifle would allow the same muscle memory development as the 556 and would even allow the trigger pulls, but without the cost associated with the 5.56/.223 rounds. Is this ideal? Probably not, but it beats dry fire drills or simply not training.
So, in summary I like both these guns and I think the 522 is a good replica for the 556. I can’t say that I would go buy either of these guns myself, especially with the safety location on both, but I can appreciate what others like about them. I will say that if push came to shove I would not hesitate to depend on the Sig556.