A Canadian Made Contender: FS 556 – A Collector Grade Tactical Chassis for the 10/22
By J.M. Ramos
The Ruger 10/22 is the world’s most successful semiautomatic .22 rifle ever made with nearly six million being produced to date. Bill Ruger’s wonder gun has made quite an impact in the gun industry many times over since its introduction in 1964. It was touted as the front line import fighter during the subgun era of the 1980s, when the American gun scene was dominated by European made rim fire look-alikes. The never ending demand for the 10/22 is made possible by the helping hand from countless independent accessory producers who then created many bolt-on gadgetries such as folding stocks of various style and configurations, hi-capacity magazines (many still produced today), muzzle devices, metal and plastic hand guards and clip-on type bipods, etc. These first generation dress-up kits undoubtedly inspired many of the latest tactical type accessories offered for the 10/22 today. One of the most interesting innovation in the 10/22 accessory field in the 21st century is the introduction of the modular chassis that can instantly transform a stock 10/22 to a near perfect replica of the weapon it was designed to emulate such as the Krinker-Plinker kit (AKSU-74), RB Precision (Evolution AR), Nordic Component (AR22), Troy Industries (T-22), Zimmerman Arms (Rezolution), Pro-Mag (Archangel) and the Canadian made Fabsports FS 556 (SIG 556 style) just to name a few. With all these ultra-modern tactical attire, it was the FS 556 chassis that saw very limited number in production. With only 50 units ever made it is destined to become a future collector item. As a point of interest, noted Canadian AR manufacturer North Eastern Arms Group (NEAG) also produced a limited number of their own version of 10/22 AR kit in 2010 and is almost similar to the FS 556 in exterior but in much simpler format with full length serrations on both sides of the chassis. Compared to the FS kit, the NEAG chassis is much simpler to assemble and disassemble from the gun.
The FS 556 was the brainchild of Fabrice Nevue, a very capable French Canadian with an extensive background in CAD programming and CNC machine operation. He is also a master lathe operator with a keen interest in tactical firearms. This interest eventually inspired him to open his own firearms accessory importing business in his home town of Montreal to cater for many Canadian shooters who are having difficulties importing firearms accessories due to ITAR regulations in the USA. Fabrice anticipated that by being a licenced importer, it would greatly minimize legal hurdles in the importation of tactical firearms accessories to meet the demand among Canadian shooters. He soon realized this was not necessarily the case since many of the gun accessories he wanted to bring in to the country are strictly regulated by ITAR and involve more red tapes than he had ever anticipated. In order to stay afloat in business, he was soon forced to focus more attention to other less regulated items such as the Ruger 10/22 chassis made by RB Precision (Evolution stock). He landed a short tern agreement with RB and became the sole distributor/importer of Evolution stock in Canada. When Nordic Component introduced their AR22 chassis in the market, Fabsports ordered two samples to examine. Fabrice was impressed by the Nordic kit and become interested in importing the chassis to add to his expanding product line. His plan, however, did not materialize when he failed to meet the minimum amount of order required by Nordic in order for Fabsports to qualify as a distributor. Frustrated and disappointed after this setback, Fabrice set out to create his own 10/22 modular chassis to compete with the AR22. At this point in time, RB was in the process of phasing out their production of the Evolution stock and Fabsports desperately needed a new product to replace it. For this new venture, he selected the very popular SIG 556 assault rifle receiver format as a basis for his FS 556 creation. Fabrice noted that there were many custom chassis now being offered for the 10/22 to replicate the AR-15 but not the SIG rifle format. When the FS 556 kit was introduced, the factory produced SIG 522 rifle was still two years behind. By the time SIG introduced their first model 522 rifle, Fabsports has discontinued the FS 556 chassis manufacture and introduced another kit; the Thompson M1 .22. The FS M1 22 was offered with a choice of 12 inch finned or plain barrel. Like the FS 556, the M1 22 is a very hi-quality Ruger 10/22 dress up kit for Thompson SMG fans. Production of this item was short lived with even more limited numbers being produced than the FS 556 version along with a two-piece housing for a standard 10-shot rotary magazine to emulate a 20-shot .45 ACP stick magazine for realism along with a Cutts compensator style muzzle device. Coincidentally, the American firm Scottwerx, LLC was marketing their Thompson deluxe style 10/22 kit at the same time the Fabsports version was introduced. The Scottwerx kit is still available today and offers many interesting optional accessories to enhance its authenticity.
The FS 556 chassis is quite attractive, very well made and had a seamless fit with hard anodized finish. Made from CNC machined aircraft grade aluminium material consisting of two halves (upper and lower) much like the Nordic AR22 but differ in assembly and modular arrangement. The exterior outline of the FS chassis closely resemble that of the famed SIG assault rifle but much wider with square edges to accommodate the 10/22 receiver. It is also heavier being a two-piece CNC machined component in comparison to the stamped receiver housing of the SIG rifle. Although the design pattern of the FS 556 bears a strong resemblance to the Swiss assault rifle, the chassis was tailored to accept AR furniture and accessories. The writer particularly favored the uninterrupted rail pattern of the upper shelf of the module that lines up with the top rail of the free-float forearm like on a flat top AR. On the Nordic AR22, the rail on the upper shelf is raised much higher than the forearm rail and was very difficult to find the appropriate BUIS front sight to co-witness with the rear sight accurately. After much experimentation, a perfect matching front sight BUIS was found for the Nordic while trying on various brands that happened to have variations in height. The only one that will co-witness with the AR rear sight BUIS (fix or folding) when installed to the Nordic AR22 is the Midwest Industries (MI) gas block mounted AR-10 flip up front sight. This sight is made for .308 ARs and is a bit taller than the .223 version. The AR-10 sight can be mounted directly to the forearm. However, my personal preference to achieve better precision in shooting with BUIS, is mounting the front sight directly to the gas block. For proper set-up, the gas block’s top rail must be the same in height as the forearm rail. Midwest Industries makes same height steel gas blocks for standard .750 dia. barrels, while Yankee Hill Machine makes a raised rail aluminum gas block for .936 dia. heavy barrels. The incorporation of the forearm adaptor directly to the lower half of the FS module by five large hex screws instead of it as an integral mount precludes the option for a two-piece forearm set up. This is where the Nordic kit shines. Also with the FS, it will takes longer to assemble and disassemble the action of the gun from the module since the five screws that secures the forearm adaptor to the chassis must be disassembled first before the barrel can be remove from the receiver (another separate procedure) in order to be able to lift the receiver off the gun (with the barrel disassembled) from the lower half of the chassis. Obviously, the FS system needs further refinement in this specific area.
The FS chassis was perfectly tailored to match the Yankee Hill Machine free-float forearms. This is the brand of forearm being imported by Fabsports at the time the prototype module was being fabricated by a local machine shop. The FS will take any stock extension tube made for the AR and pistol grips without the beavertail. However, any AR beavertail grips such as the CAA UPG16, Magpul MOE/MIAD, Ergo, MFT EPG16, Mako-G27, Tango Down BG-17 and others can be fitted to the FS chassis by simply cutting off the beavertail section and squaring it off to fit the grip seat. Any AR-15 BUIS sight set will co-witness perfectly with the FS rail including a forearm mounted front sight as long as the forearm is rigid and perfectly centered to the bore axis. If the front sight is mounted directly to the forearm and was overhanging, or has a play and not perfectly aligned to the bore axis of the barrel, it will result in poor accuracy with grouping. In some cases wherein the misalignment between the barrel and forearm is really bad, the windage and elevation of the sights will run out of adjustment to compensate for the sight correction. This is where the barrel mounted front sight has the advantage. What is important is that your rear sight lines up with the barrel sight; it will guarantee a better accuracy and consistent grouping unless the barrel is bent or worn out. For this reason, an AR gas block must be installed to the barrel to accommodate the front sight BUIS. There are many gas blocks available for the AR that will accommodate the standard .750 O.D. or the .936 O.D. barrels. Custom 10/22 barrels are also available in different sizes and length ranging from tapered .750 O.D. on the Ruger SR22 or you can buy the .920 O.D. match barrel from various sources including Brownell’s, Green Mountain, Kidd, Yankee Hill Machine and others. Note that in order for the .936 I.D. AR-15 bull barrel gas block to fit snug with a .920 O.D. 10/22 barrel, the gap must be shimmed with a rolled aluminium pop can sheet (2½x4½ inches). Short threaded barrels for 10/22 pistols and SBRs are available from Tactical Innovations ranging from 8 inch finned or plain tapered barrels, 5.5 inch tapered and 4.5 inch fluted. In the past several years, Dlask Arms in Canada has been manufacturing high quality 10/22 barrels and were offered in various lengths and style ranging from 8, 10, 12, 16 and 18 inch, tapered and bull barrel style. In addition to making threaded 10/22 barrels, the company also produce AR rifles and CQB’s as well as high quality railed CNC machined 10/22 receiver and bolts. Dlask also produces AR-15 muzzle devices of original designs to complement their .223 and 10/22 barrels.
One of the best attributes to the latest state-of-the-art CNC machined dress up kits is their ability to transform certain types of .22 cal. sporting guns like the 10/22 to militarized style such as the AR-15 or in the case of the FS 556, a SIG assault rifle clone using AR furniture. For me, choosing a high quality tactical chassis to create a rim fire simulator is the best route over buying a mass produced tactical .22 for two simple reasons – versatility and strength. When it comes to versatility with this type of platform, a hobbyist gunsmith can easily create countless weapon configurations by simple combination or substitution of after-market parts, accessories and furniture. The sky is the limit with the 10/22 when we take into consideration that it rivals the AR with the number of custom parts and accessories being offered for it today. Strength is another advantage of this custom made chassis using genuine Mil-Spec furniture and accessories made for the AR in comparison to most production tactical .22s, with polymer receivers and cast soft metal interiors held together by series of screws to enclosed the trigger mechanism and bolt assembly. Only very few of these factory tactical .22’s are offered with optional accessories thus extremely limiting the choice of weapon configurations with a single gun. The combination of CNC machined chassis and GI furniture truly replicates the feel, balance and ruggedness of the full bore battle rifle it emulates and guarantees a long service life. It is backed by the reliability of the 10/22 and abundance of spare parts in case you require one for a quick fix. With import clones, the chance that you may not be able to get spare parts in a hurry when you needed one is another concern. Any way you look at it, a custom tactical 10/22 is a better choice.
One of my favorite set up for the FS chassis was the incorporation of Ace Ltd. folding stock mechanism. This versatile accessory can be nicely set up with any AR stock (fixed or collapsible) using the right hardware or you can purchase their modular folding stock models directly from the company ready to be installed to your gun using the necessary hardware. Ace is currently offering three variations of their folding stock mechanism. These stocks are well made, light and strong with excellent finishes. These folders will not only make a long barrelled tactical rifle look good and compact, but easier for storage and transport. SBR/CQB aficionados will truly appreciate this folding accessory to make their compact guns even more portable with the stock folded. An FS dressed 10/22 with a 6-7 inch barrel and a short compensator will easily fit inside a briefcase with the stock folded. As noted earlier, the FS design precludes the use of a two-piece hand guard and will only take one-piece free float forearm. YHM forearms are a good choice for the FS 556 set up. They are well made and priced right. I particularly favor the matching end cap of these forearms, something other hi-end brands don’t have. It gives a nice touch to the accessory and makes the gun more attractive overall. The FS 556 will take any AR stock (fixed or collapsible). I have used many accessories made by Command Arms Accessories (CAA), Magpul, Fab Defence and Mission First Tactical (MFT) to the FS with amazing results. The beauty of having a tactical chassis like the FS 556 is that you will never run out of idea on how to create a new style gun every time by simply combining accessories of the same make or different brands. There is never a dull moment if this is your hobby. You progressed and get even better as you go along. Any professional tactical gun builder will attest to that. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Some people make extra income doing this as a part time job. Others opted to go full time and start their own business. It is fun. For some, it is stress relieving. The only drawback is that it gets expensive after a while once you get hooked onto it. On the positive side, you are not really wasting a lot of money here with a rim-fire gun compared to shooting a full bore rifle like a .223 or .308. Use the money you save from ammo and invest it to buying different brands of furniture or accessories and you can have a different tactical gun anytime that you can be proud to show off or compete with. And if you do happen to own an AR, AK or a tactical shotgun, the better it is, since all those accessories that you have accumulated over the years will also benefit your big guns in the long run. You win either way.
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