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 (91)

  • Ken Mangold

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    Over the years I have owned and enjoyed a Mini 14 Ranch, a stainless 580 series, and the newer Mini-30 Tactical. The Mini-30 has always had its issues with chamber pecs, twist rate and accuracy. Without getting to a caliber spit fight, the 30 tac is what the 30 should have been. It has all the great qualities of a semi-auto carbine, is far more accurate with modern ammo that any 7,62×39, packs more umph at close range and is good to excellent out to and past 100 yards. My wife can handle it and with a 3×33 Nikon on it is just about perfect for me. Of course the stainless is a great carbine and serves its purpose but love the Mini-30 Tactical.

    Reply

  • Marcus

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    well be prepared for sticker shock but if it puts me on target faster it’s worth it.

    Reply

  • oilyfishhead

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    A mini 14, really? If you consider accuarcy 5 inch groups at 80 yards with factory ammo accurate, go for it.

    If you want 2″ groups at 80 yards, try 52g Sierra Match Kings with 22.3g of AA2015.

    Reply

  • Marcus

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    The good thing about it is you can leave both eyes open instead of closing one and squinting over iron sights; more of a head’s up display. Mine is the L-3 model. Takes a battery to run it so carry spares. It will shut off by itself after a few hours so it won’t run down. Overall an outstanding sight system for a weapon that has the rail to mount it on.

    Reply

    • BH

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      Thx my friend I agree on eyes open will go shopping, wanted to keep it light and not made in China crap.

      Reply

  • Marcus

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    I have a Ruger Mini-14 tactical rifle w/ an Eotech holographic sight system. It’s a sweet shooter.

    Reply

    • BH

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      Marcus.
      What’s your comfort range with your Eotech, was thinking of getting one for a short carbine. Ruger pc40 , I have never owned one I here good things about them better to wait and get the good stuff. my eyes are getting old like me. Thx

      Reply

    • Marcus

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      50 yards out is about all I have room for. I don’t hunt and it’s mostly for critter control of the dangerous kind in the driveway. I do have neighbors within range so gots to be careful out here. I got a laser bore sighter, pointed it down range at a black dot on a paper plate and adjusted the sight to put it’s red dot on my red laser dot. load it up and the rest is up to the operator.

      Reply

    • BH

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      Marcus
      Thx my 40 cal truck gun carbine needs a sight cuz my eyes sight sucks hard to focus with open sights,that’s what happens when we get older, want to keep it light, it’s good to 50-75 yards after that I am guessing. (My eyes)I’ll check one out. They make a lot of models anybody’s input will help.which one.? Thanks the old man.
      BH

      Reply

    • Kevo

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      BH, Aimpoint also has a variety of good 1x red dots available. I run one on my AR and have no issue hitting 2-litre bottles around 100 yards.

      Reply

  • eg

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    I have owned 2 mini 14s for 34 years. one of the best guns I own. Gave one to my son a couple years ago and he loves it to.

    Reply

  • JLH

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    I am on my second mini, the current model is a blue ranch model with a Nikon 3×9 scope on it. With a 5 round flush magazine it looks like a mundane hunting rifle to the the anti assault rifle crowd. I am very happy with the handling and style of the mini 14 and it is a great gun to shoot and it is accurate enough for me. It”s very reliable and well made.

    Reply

    • BH

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      With the short carbine, check out the true 1x scopes(both eyes open) my 1×4 nikon monarch. W/ German #4 retical , it’s the money, for close in predictors they have no chance. At 200-300 yards 4x is plenty. Good shooting stay safe.
      BH

      Reply

  • Slamskie

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    I own a Mini and a Palmetto State Armory AR Mid Length, I enjoy both but if I had to give one up it would not be the Mini. It is more enjoyable to shoot…and I really don’t know why.

    Reply

    • BH

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      I know what it is its a ruger with a garrand action, hi power,feels like a garrand and sounds like one, you can use it like a club if needed with half the weight of the M1 and no recoil, equals
      A lot Of shots on target. But one usually does the job. Remember you can’t call the shot back, stay safe, stay armed.
      BH

      Reply

    • Violater1

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      SLAMSKIE:Betcha I know Why Slam? HINT: The Halfbreed in DC goes through it like it is water! And you spent more on the AR? Ya think?LOL

      Reply

  • B H

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    Bob
    I love my mini 14,# 580 series stainless with black plastic stock , I never worry about scrathes or dings A nikon 1×4 monarch african sits atop. Good to 300+ yards, with a butstock ammo pouch strapped to her butt. If i had to sell all, this would never leave my side. straight shooter quick to handle and i dont look like iam back in the military.and it always goes bang even when dirty just the way i like my girls.Best friend i have ever had and I have had a lot of them . BH

    Reply

  • Smitty 550

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    I would have appreciated your noting the barrel twist rate. Also, I’m sure that you are aware of the new adjustable anti-harmonic barrel-end weights now being offered with the Mini-14. Saw it a couple of days ago on the tube. I don’t remember if these weights were an option or if they will be offered across-the-board with all new Minis.

    Nice article, BTW.

    Reply

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