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.

 

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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 (90)

  • Rocky

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    I own a stainless steel, synthetic stocked Mini14 and love it. I had wanted one, ever since I had first laid my eyes upon the one that a former lady co-worker owned (former enlisted US Army lady coworker).
    The author misspoke, when he referred to the .223 cal./5.56mm round as being ‘high powered’ though. It is a middle powered varmint round, that the US Army adopted. Their thinking was; it had better multiple enemy soldier penetration capabilities, than the .308 cal./7.63mm, was more apt to wound than kill (which takes additional enemy soldiers off of the battlefield to care for the wounded), the ammo is lighter and thus our soldiers could carry more of it, the AR was lighter than the previous M14, thus making the typical soldier’s load lighter to hump. I’m sure that there were other reasons, as well, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind.
    The .223 cal. is Not recommended for hunting deer sized animals and even illegal to use on such, in many states. That doesn’t mean that it cannot be used for such. I had a former coworker who took a deer, out the back door at work (at night, over bait) using a .22 Magnum rifle. It’s all about shot placement.
    Having said all of that. I love my Mini14 for exactly what it’s good for, varmint hunting, at medium ranges, as well as home defense, after my 12 ga. shot gun, and .45 cal. pistol, of course. The 12 ga. & the .45 don’t have the tendency to over penetrate or travel through walls, as the .233/5.56 has, putting innocents at risk.

    Reply

  • BH

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    Yes it will shoot 5.56 and .223. Mine shoots anything and likes it. No broblameo amigo. That’s why I own one, if you want a target gun get a bolt gun. If you want reliability get one( mini 14) always goes bang and gets the job done.

    Reply

  • greg arndt

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    Will the mini-14 shoot the 556 ammo I use in my AR?

    Reply

    • Labman

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      Hey Greg. Look on the barrel near the receiver. If it says 5.56 then by all means, shoot 5.56 through it. If it says .223, shooting 5.56 is not recommended as 5.56 ammo might be too long in overall length and be forced into the rifling causing an overpressure situation. Make certain the rifle is chambered for the military 5.56.

      Reply

  • Esteban Cafe

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    There’s a great circular diagnostic target I once saw, segmented by the typical errors a shooter may make. In the segments around the outside, each said “Mini-14″.

    I have two of their Ranch Rifles. First three shots out of each are .5″ MOA, 100 yds. But all following shots are between 6″ and 12″ MOA ! Incredibly inaccurate !

    Reply

  • shawn

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    I’ve got a 183 series mini 14 stainless & love it! Did a tactical carbine class with it and my AR. Surprisingly I came away from that class with a new respect & admiration for the mini. I had multiple malfunctions with the AR, & zero with the old mini…..I was shocked. I couldn’t believe how well that gun performed & how well it felt in my hands. I could go on and on…..I just bought a Mini 30!

    Reply

  • Doug

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    My observations of the cost of a Mini-14 versus an AR-15 differ from the article author from recent years. I can remember long ago that what he said regarding the Mini-14 costing much less than the AR-15 was true and some called the Mini-14 a poor man’s AR. During the last big gun scare I saw people asking prices for Mini-14s in the realm of AR prices. And after the fear reduced on gun bans AR prices fell drastically and the Mini asking prices where even more similar to some AR prices.

    Reply

  • Kurt

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    Thumbs up for the Mini-14! Glad to see there’s somebody promoting this great and inexpensive weapon. I have shot everything from 45 grain whizzers to 69 grain heavies and it doesn’t take long to get it re-sighted in. BTW, the Mini was bought for the wife but she didn’t like it because she learned to shoot in the NG on the M-16, thus her rifle is a Bushmaster AR…

    Reply

  • stewart pidashole

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    Not sure when this article was actually written, but the price of a mini-14 is by no means cheap anymore. Factor in buying reliable ( i.e. factory ) magazines at $40 a pop and this gun gets expensive real quick. When you can pick up a S&W MP 15 sport for less, get 3 p-mags for what one factory ruger mag costs, it just doesn’t make since anymore to keep buying the mini. While I did own a couple of minis in the past, it had it’s limitations when compared with the AR. Ergonomics was ok, the ranch factory sights were pretty dismal, mag changes were slow. God forbid you ever break a firing pin or anything else on your mini, “replacement parts” is non-existant.

    Reply

  • BH

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    Sorry I think I got switched from the blog, it was about a light weight scope 1x, max 4 for my Ruger 40 cal carbine truck gun. Bad eyes. Anyways. Stay safe. Thx
    BH

    Reply

  • BH

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    Thank you
    I will check them out are they made in USA I know there is quality made all over the world but just got laid off work and a few years left before retiring, born here gonna die here. So have to buy here only ( made in the good old USA Only)
    God Bless, stay safe, aim straight!! One shot one kill. Don’t waste ammo. BH

    Reply

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