Throwback Thursday: 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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

View all articles by Bob Campbell

Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (90)

  • chris

    |

    I don’t know about the original 180 series I have a 185 series gb model that as yours will shoot 1 1/2 groups @ 100 yrds. all day never any problems or jams I understand that in the manufacture ruger would put aside all the best parts that came off the line for the gb”s the gb';s were supposed to destine for law enforcement I was fortunate to have a family member work for ruger at the time I have owned this weapon since 1987 I am the only owner and will never sell it too much fun

    Reply

  • Bob M.

    |

    O.K., my bad. I had an M-14 that was made in 1954 by Springfield Armpry, so that may be why I thought they had them ther. But then it was the M-1 which was too big and too heavy for the smaller Korean soldier to use effectively. That was why they brought in the second-string — the M-16, with all its worts! — And we have been stuck with it since, even in its revised form, which is not much in the middle East.

    Reply

  • Tom R

    |

    My original Mini 14 was a 180 series. Though it would only shoot minute of barn wall at 100 yards, I still loved that old rifle.
    My current one is a 581 series with an after market pistol grip adjustable stock and the standard factory sights. It will and does shoot an 1 1/2 groups all day at a hundred yards and is a pure blast to shoot. Totally reliable with any and all brands of ammo and bullet weights.

    Reply

  • Bob M

    |

    Time to get some history straight!
    The M-14 was dumped during the Korean war because the Korean military was smaller in stature and needed a smaller weapon! That is why the M-16 was adopted even tho it could not perform like the M-14! The other reason was weapon size — the M-1 was unwieldy in the jungle and too hard to swing quickly with all the brush, so a shorter weapon was needed. Again the poorer shooting M-16! Some folks swear by it, others who had to put up with it swear at it! They called it a “mattel Special”!

    Reply

    • Bob Campbell

      |

      This is so wrong it is almost funny.
      The Korean War was fought from 1950 to 1953, before the M14 was even developed.
      Be careful with research.

      Reply

    • Bob M.

      |

      O.K., my bad. I had an M-14 that was made in 1954 by Springfield Armpry, so that may be why I thought they had them ther. But then it was the M-1 which was too big and too heavy for the smaller Korean soldier to use effectively. That was why they brought in the second-string — the M-16, with all its worts! — And we have been stuck with it since, even in its revised form, which is not much in the middle East.

      Reply

  • Gilbert Boisvert

    |

    Did the company replace the adapter, with the proper one?

    Reply

  • Kaff

    |

    My tactical Mini-14 has an Eotech sight mounted on board. I can keep both eyes open when sighting down range.

    Reply

  • Bob M

    |

    I bought a NcStar rail, said to be for the Mini14 and Mini30 rifles. It does not fit on the late model rifles! Holes do not line up !

    Reply

  • Bob M

    |

    This applies to the late-model versions, where the rear sight does not fold.

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

%d bloggers like this: