Ruger’s First-Class .223: The Mini-14 Rifle

By Bob Campbell published on in Firearms, Reviews

The .223 self-loader does not have to be an AR-15. There are some who like the classic handling of a wooden dog and semi-pistol grip. Do not put down anyone and do not get into a debate, as long as the choice works for them. As for myself, I obtained a Ruger Mini-14 as soon as possible after its introduction. I found the Mini-14 an excellent choice for personal defense, police work and predator calling.

Light haired young man in gray t-shirt sghts the Mini 14 with a wooded area in the background

Walking and firing shows the Mini-14 has what it takes to get the job done.

The rifle is sometimes called a scaled-down M14. There is nothing wrong with that; the M14 was a great rifle, and the Springfield M1A semi-auto version is great as well. I see the Mini-14 more as a modern .30 carbine updated for the powerful .223 Remington cartridge.

I have owned and used several AR-15 rifles and cannot recall a tie-up with any of them. I have used blue and stainless steel versions. The rifles are friendly in handling, reliable and accurate enough for most chores.

Why the Mini-14 is a Favorite

As for accuracy, most any carbine puts all of its shots into a single, ragged hole at 25 yards and a 2-inch group at 50 yards. I know that some AR-15 rifles cut a 1-inch group at 100 yards, and the Mini-14 gets the job done at moderate range for most.

The New York City Special Services District used the Ruger and enjoyed excellent results. That was before my time, but the special unit’s use of the M1 Carbine may have led to the adoption of the Ruger.

Brown Ruger Mini 14 lying on a wooden background.

The Ruger is inexpensive compared to many centerfire calibers and a ball of fun to fire and use.

The Ruger is also affordable. A well-outfitted Mini-14 sets you back about half as much as the AR-15. Quality is not an issue—this is a Ruger, remember? The rifle always hit where I aimed it, and it popped a few predators and feral dogs along the way. The .223 was an emphatic stopper, and I do not recall needing a single follow-up shot.

My friend, Roger, took 12 deer in a few years with his personal Ruger Mini-14 loaded with the Winchester 69-grain jacketed soft point. One shot each—on the ground and out!

The Ruger handles brilliantly fast. AR ergonomics aside, try the Mini-14 sometimes because it is a revelation. For the chores for which you may really need a rifle, the Ruger shines. However, riflemen appreciate accuracy. When we took the time to bench rest the Ruger, we discovered our handy, light-kicking rifle was not that accurate at a long 100 yards. Even with the better grade of commercial ammunition, a 100-yard group of 3 inches was excellent, but 4 inches was more common.

If you disassembled the rifle and did not properly adjust the gas block, accuracy was worse. Some sought custom-grade barrels, and those did work well. A less expensive trick is simply relieving the stock around the gas block area, and in some cases, relieving the gas block itself, stopping metal-on-metal friction.

The result was often shaving an inch off the total group size, sometimes more. With proper bedding and a bit of judicious gunsmithing, the Ruger became more useful. The point is, however, that straight out of the box, the least accurate rifles were as accurate as the US M1 .30 carbine and far more powerful.

Light haired man in black uniform leans on a silver vehicle, aiming a Ruger Mini 14

Even the older model Ruger Mini-14 was capable of staying on a man-sized target well past 200 yards. That is excellent accuracy for a relatively inexpensive rifle.

I am speaking of previous generations of the Mini-14. The new rifle features a gas block redesign that alleviates much of the concerns with the old rifle. There were no reliability concerns and still are not; however, accuracy is better. That upgrade occurred several years ago, so any Mini-14 over serial number prefix 580 has it.

New is Better When it Comes to Ruger

I am not eager to trade my long-serving Mini-14 while admitting the new product is a better rifle. That is as it should be. Some products are cheapened for ease of manufacture; Ruger has improved machinery. You can count on the current rifle for 3-shot, 100-yard groups of 2 inches with quality ammunition. The present incarnation gives you a good all-around accurate rifle. We tested the Fiocchi 69-grain Sierra Match King loading in the latest rifle.

Results were excellent with a three-shot group just under 2 inches. When you consider how light and handy the rifle is, that is excellent performance. The rifle is 38 inches long and weighs 7 pounds.

Postscript

When all is said and done, the Ruger Mini-14 is a great all-around rifle. If I trust the rifle for police service and the special units of NYPD do the same, it is probably going to do anything you need. My son, Alan, is the best shot I know, and he also likes the Mini-14. However, he prefers to load his own ammunition and the stainless steel rifle. That is fine; either is a great choice.

 

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Do you have a Ruger Mini-14? Which one do you have, and what do you love about it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

SLRule

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (71)

  • Wallace F Brogan

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    Who carries the new mini-14 in Knoxville, Tn. Wal-mart use to have the rifle, and I have always been partial to Ruger. I have a 10/22 for my grandson, but need to scope it. Any suggestions for a scope? Wally

    Reply

  • Mike B

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    I own a 581 series in stainless. I topped it with a silver Bushnell 3X9X40 and this has become my “go-to” pig gun. Accuracy is never a problem with hand loads using 22.4 gr of Hodgdon H335 behind a 55 gr Hornandy V-Max. This combo pushes 3000’/sec and has taken out many hogs with ear or eye shots out to 75 yards+. I always liked a Ruger, whether it be rifle or pistol and when I found this rifle at a gun show at a price I was willing to pay, I had to have it. It carries easily and is a pleasure to shoot. Hogs, coyotes and coons are no match for this rifle. Easily one of my favorites.

    Reply

  • Dave

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    What ammo are you shooting?

    Reply

  • Tom R

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    I used to have a 180 series Mini14. Reliability was second to none, but accuracy was minute of pie plate at a hundred yards.
    I purchased a 581 series 3 years ago. It has the same perfect reliability but this one will shoot a 5 shot group you can cover with a quarter at a hundred yards.

    Reply

  • amanda

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    I want a new mini I only shoot hornady ammo an I am a very skilled shooter will I b Abel to take head shots on deer an coy

    Reply

  • AZ X RINGER

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    Wasn’t sure what to think about all these posts that claim the 580+ series Mini 14’s are a 2 to 3 MOA rifle at best. I own one, in the tactical version, and wanted to see for myself. I installed a G,G & G rail, Weaver tactical rings, a Nikon Prostaff 3-9×40 BDC scope and a Mo Rod stabilizer. With the gritty factory trigger, I was able to get consistent 1 MOA 3 shot groups with my best groups measuring .750″ and .656″. I was on a bench with rifle on a bi-pod. I have 25 years of shooting experience under my belt, and I’m sure that helped. But unless I was lucky enough to obtain one of the most accurate Mini 14’s ever built, I say the Mini’s get an undeserved bad rap on accuracy. I used 2 different handloads of mine, both utilizing 55 grain bullets. The .656″ group was shot with 55gr Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets with 25 grains of BLC-2 and Wolf SR Magnum primers. Lake City brass COL 2.245″ and a medium crimp using a Lee Factory Crimp Die. The purpose of my testing was not to try to build a bench rest rifle, but rather to see what the rifle was capable of at distance for myself. My conclusion is that the inaccuracy myth concerning the Mini 14 has been dispelled.

    Reply

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