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.


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.


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)

  • Charley


    I have many AR-15s and one Ruger Mini 14 that was purchased in 1994. The Mini 14 is not as accurate as my ARs. But it is more reliable, without roll pins, small springs and gas rings. The Mini 14 would be the one I would keep.


  • Carl Rizor


    My Mini 14, is a black tactical firearm! Burris full-field scope, Harris bi-pod, many mags, Promag, Thermo, etc. I shoot both 223 and 5.56. Same deadly abilities. My prime targets are life size card board pics of the liberals in this nation and around the world. When I put them out on the shooting range, they don’t last long, at any distance. The range I attend is run by the county government. It is packed on holidays&weekends, 500 hundred plus people,in all sizes shapes and colors. I live in California, Northern California. This range is open to the public and never a charge. Recycle business should talk to the county about getting all the metal that is out their.
    Mini 14’s are great, in every aspect of shooting.
    Ruger has a Scout rifle, bolt action .308, with 10 rd mag, that is the same quality as the Mini 14., looking for a black model to match the 14.


  • Thomas Monroe


    I have also fired both the M-14 and M-16 rifles many times before, and I agree with your opinion that it was the best U.S. service weapon of all time. We are not alone either, since many military veterans I have spoken to say the same thing. The M-14 eliminated the awkward reloading process of the M-1 Garand,and solved the ammo capacity problem with the external higher capacity box magazine. I`ve heard many stories about how our soldiers could fire right through tree branches and other forms of cover to neutralize a well hidden opponent with the M-14. The rotating bolt design, and robust construction, made the rifle extremely reliable, and has not really changed in design since the Garand. If something works well don`t mess with it! I do feel sorry, however, for the troopers who had to hump the M`14 around in some nasty hot and humid locales since both the rifle and ammo are pretty heavy. The mini 14 solved the weight and unwieldiness issues perfectly, while still retaining the timeless and indestructable rotating bolt. Kudos to Ruger for a job well done!


  • Irish-7


    I was in the US Army for 30 years and consequently, fired the M16/M4 series rifles hundreds of times. I actually like the Ruger Mini-14 more! I own both the old type, with a wood stock and a new model with synthetic stock and flash hider. I believe that the original M14 in 7.62mm was the greatest rifle ever made. Powerful, accurate and reliable!


    • Steve


      I agree with your assessment of the M-14. I always wondered why ruger never came out with a .308 caliber version of the mini 14. I guess you would have to call it a maxi 14.


  • Steve K


    I have owned a mini 14 for over 25 years. I have put several thousand rounds through it and never had a malfunction. It is accurate enough to get the job done as long as you use the heaver weight bullets. Mine has never liked the 55 grain. It is more accurate than an AK 47 and in my opinion just as dependable. Plus it has the Ruger warranty.


  • Alex Eckelberry


    I have both the Mini 14 and a Bushmaster AR 15. I love them both.

    However, I disagree with your comment that AR 15s can be twice the price. It’s actually the AR 15s which are inexpensive these days. You can get a great AR 15 for about the same price as a Mini 14 (actually, probably less).

    As for the gun itself, it’s a beauty. Old world feel, like an M1 Garand. Nice and solid feeling. The wood furniture makes it feel like you’re holding an American classic firearm. It’s like driving a classic muscle car nothing can compare.

    However, based on merit alone, I’d take an AR 15 over the Mini if I had a choice. Lighter, many more accessory options, and (probably) more accurate. The AR is a platform designed in the 1950s; the M-1 Garand is a platform designed in 1919. Nothing bad about an older design; the 1911 was designed a bit before the Garand; but there is some argument for the more modern, efficient design of the AR (and I’m happy to be disproven, that’s just my opinion).

    The biggest reason to have a Mini 14 (putting aside that it’s just a wonderful firearm) is that the gun-banners haven’t figured out that it’s identical in functionality to an AR 15 (in other words, it doesn’t look scary, it looks like a typical hunting rifle). So there’s a better chance it won’t be banned. It’s a “safer” gun to own. Mark my words, guns with “pistol grip” and “muzzle suppressors” will be in the sights of the gun banners again, while the Mini-14 will sit innocently by the side, just being a “varmit rifle”. It’s worth a sad, sardonic snicker on the state of affairs.

    In any rate, I like both the AR 15 and the Mini 14 and so, own both. But that’s a luxury not everyone can have.


  • Sean


    I inherited a 181 series when dad passed away. I modified the stock to an ATI and did a couple of small things like an optics rail and scope. As I get older the eyes aren’t as good. With a warm barrel at 100yards I have put 3 in a quarter sized group. Stock barrel. Cheap 55gr ammo. No Mo-rod or other stabilizers. From a bench with a bipod. Stay away from cheap metal mags. Stay with stock ruger ones or Tapco 2nd gens. Can’t go wrong.


  • Paul


    Get the best of both worlds with the Mini-14 target. Incredible accuracy and mini-14 reliability.

    Watch the video.


  • BH


    What’s not to like , that’s what I am talking about. I love my #580 always goes bang and as accurate as I need….Ever!


  • Ivan


    A retired border patrol agent introduced me to firearms, hunting, and the Mini. I have fired this thing literally every week since i bought mine used in 2011. Mine is a 181 model in it has NOT ONCE jammed on me. It fires the cheapest, worst possible ammo with ease and sends quality ammo down range flawlessly. With a little work on my part it has become my go-to auto loader. Threw in a barrel stabilizer (though now i feel it hardly needed it) and a hooded front sight/flash hider as well as an ATI stock ( before Ruger sold them together). Not gonna lie, it weighs at 9lbs with a 30 rd mag but it keeps my recoil near unnoticeable. I have read about several safety mechanism malfunctions but i have never had that problem. I don’t mind sharing that i climb with this thing on my back and have even dropped it a sheer 25 some odd feet, it scratched the finish but i could still pick it up immedietely after and put 2 rounds in succession on a tree stump 60 yards away. Can’t say enough good things about it.


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: