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  • Astra Defense MG556: the civilian-grade Minimi

Astra Defense MG556: the civilian-grade Minimi

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Astra Defense MG556: the civilian-grade Minimi

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IWA 2017 - We've been waiting for an entire year, and now it's finally here: the Astra Defense MG556 semi-automatic rifle will be available from early Summer, as a faithful reproduction of the FN Minimi squad automatic weapon to European collectors

We first saw this rifle exactly one year ago, at the 2016 edition of the IWA OutdoorClassics expo in Nuremberg (Germany). But the time has finally come: the Italian-based Prima Armi S.r.l. company, distributor for the firearms manufactured in Switzerland by Astra Defense, announced this year once again at IWA that the Astra MG556 5.56mm/.223 caliber semi-automatic rifle will ship to dealers in Europe by May/June.

That's it, the MG556 will be here in the turn of a few months. As far as we were told, pre-orders are already piling up – and we could tell from the level of attention that the gun caught at the expo.

The MG556 caught the attention of many a visitor at the IWA expo this year

The MG556 caught the attention of many a visitor at the IWA expo this year

The Astra Defense MG556 is a gas-operated semi-automatic rifle designed and built to be a faithful replica of the FN Minimi light machinegun – a firearm that revolutioned the concept of modern squad automatic weapons and is today in service, in its many iterations, with the militaries of over 50 Countries worldwide. Of course, the system had to be adapted for civilian purposes.

As such, the trigger group and working mechanisms – and the relevant housings – are incompatible with those of the full-automatic counterpart. Given the fact that the Astra MG556 is also a closed-bolt firearm, it is basically impossible to convert it to full-automatic operation.

The metal buttstock is also locked in the open position, and most important of it all, the Astra MG556 rifle does not feature a belt feeding system – as that specific feature would make it banned in many Countries.

The MG556 only feeds through detacheable STANAG magazines

The MG556 only feeds through detacheable STANAG magazines

The adjustable rear sight on the Astra MG556 semi-automatic rifle

The adjustable rear sight on the Astra MG556 semi-automatic rifle

The MG556 features a 18.3" cold-hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel

The MG556 features a 18.3" cold-hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel

One year after its debut, the Astra MG556 is finally ready for commercial launch on the European civilian markets!

One year after its debut, the Astra MG556 is finally ready for commercial launch on the European civilian markets!

Just like the original Minimi, the Astra MG556 comes with an underfolding bipod

Just like the original Minimi, the Astra MG556 comes with an underfolding bipod

The MG556 also comes with a carrying handle and a quick-detach barrel system

The MG556 also comes with a carrying handle and a quick-detach barrel system

The belt-feeding port located over the magazine well is a dummy

The belt-feeding port located over the magazine well is a dummy

The end of a long wait: the Astra MG556 will begin shipping in May/June 2017

The end of a long wait: the Astra MG556 will begin shipping in May/June 2017

There is indeed a belt-feeding port on the left side of the Astra MG556, and the top cover – which also hosts a MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for optics – flips open, but the system is entirely dummy, for the sake of faithfulness in reproduction: the Astra MG556 feeds solely through AR-15 type, STANAG 4179 compliant magazines.

The remaining features of the MG556 are also finely crafted to replicate the look and feel of the original SAW: a quick-detach, chrome-lined, cold-hammer forged 18.3" barrel; an underfolding bipod; a polymer handguard and pistol grip; and more generally speaking, an excellent level of craftmanship and quality as one would expect from an Astra Defense firearm and from a Swiss-made gun.

There's not much else that we're in freedom to say, so far, but GUNSweek.com is in line to test and evaluate one for you faithful followers. The only other civilian-grade variant of the Minimi currently in existence is the FNH USA M249S Military Collector model, which is not exported outside of the United States and goes for twice the price of the Astra MG556. Collectors, take note!