FIREARMS: Five Good Reasons To Reconsider The Ruger Mini-14

The AR15 platform is decidedly not the only way to go… Let’s revisit another American-made classic that might just win you over. Keep reading…



by Brian Sheetz, American Rifleman

When it comes to .223 Rem. semi-automatic rifles, Ruger’s Mini-14 has long been one of the obvious choices (technically, the Mini-14 has the more desirable 5.56 NATO chamber, which allows use of surplus ammo). And it’s no wonder, considering it offers nearly the same handiness as the M1 Carbine, the ballistics of the AR15, and the feel of the classic M1 Garand and M14. The Mini’s popularity confirms its strong perceived relevance among a wide range of users, and sustained sales for more than 40 years is evidence of its sound design — even if it’s unfairly judged by the same criteria as today’s predominant platform, the AR, which enjoys the huge advantages of U.S. military adoption and unlimited manufacturing sources. So while some consider the Mini a bit dowdy or lowly, it is actually a serious standout worth giving a second look. Here are just five of the many reasons why a Mini-14 Ranch, Tactical, or Thirty model should be on your short list the next time you shop for a modern rifle:

One: The AR may not be right for you.
 As difficult as it may be for some to believe, not everyone finds the AR platform appealing. There are a number of reasons why, but two come quickly to mind. The first is that its appearance may be too “tactical” for some people’s tastes; aesthetics can be subjective. And the second is that its controls may not be intuitive for some users because of their physical makeup and/or lack of prior training. In contrast to the former, most versions of the Mini have a sporter-like profile and some feature wood stocks, making them right at home in saddle scabbards, pickup trucks and, more importantly, in the minds of many for whom the sight of a traditional rifle is less likely to arouse unwanted attention. As to the latter, the Mini’s centrally located safety, its hook-rock-and-lock magazine design, and its beefy, integral charging handle make for a straightforward manual of arms with the respective benefits of rapid employment, secure loading and positive chambering. Add to these factors the Mini’s light overall weight (6 lbs., 12 ozs.) and handiness (36.75-inch length), and you have a combination of qualities that is difficult to ignore.

Two: The latest Minis are more accurate.
The Mini has long suffered from a reputation among many users for poor accuracy. Theories abound as to why that is the case: My own is that the considerable mass of the operating slide impacts harshly against the gas block, which is bolted directly to the relatively thin barrel, not allowing the barrel to return to its precise point of rest between shots. But in 2005, Ruger retooled the Mini-14 production line and most shooters agree that, beginning with the 580-prefix series guns made since then, shooting 2-inch groups at 100 yds. is not out of the question. Again, it may come as a surprise to some, but not everyone needs a half-m.o.a.-capable rifle. Many tasks just don’t require that level of accuracy. In fact, most hunting and self-defense situations are in that category. Also, my experience is that accuracy and reliability in semi-automatic rifle actions is usually inversely proportional. So, anything that the Mini lacks in the way of accuracy is, practically speaking, likely more than made up for in reliability and cleanliness of operation and in lack of ammunition sensitivity.

Classic lines and ergonomics make the Ruger Mini-14 appeal to those who have had experience with more conventional rifles.

Three: The Mini is one of few semi-auto .223s available in stainless steel.
 For boaters, coastal dwellers, and others for whom corrosion is an issue, the Mini is one of the few factory semi-auto rifles available in stainless steel, which can greatly reduce the necessity for fastidious, immediate maintenance. Because of their simple fixed-gas-piston system and Garand-style rotating bolt with two large locking lugs, Minis are generally not maintenance-sensitive anyway, but when it comes to harsh environments, particularly, the advantages of keeping stainless steel free of corrosion are undeniable — especially when gun maintenance cannot be performed as regularly as it should. Note that, with the Mini, stainless construction means that the barrel, receiver, bolt, operating rod, trigger group, and many other small parts are stainless steel. Blued guns, of course, use chromemoly steels in many of those same large components, but even in those guns, many of the smaller components are made of stainless. The broader point, of course, is that the Mini is made largely of steel — not polymers or aluminum — and steel’s material properties lend it a durability and longevity that lighter-weight materials simply cannot match.

mini-14 stainless
A simple, well-proven design that’s even available in stainless steel makes the Mini-14 appeal to many who just haven’t warmed up to the AR-platform firearms.

Four: 20- and 30-round factory magazines are widely available and reasonably priced.
This had been a longstanding bugaboo that plagued the Mini-14’s reputation. Ruger has produced 20- and 30-round magazines since the gun’s earliest days, but, until just a few years ago, it sold the latter only through law enforcement channels. That spurred the production of a raft of inferior aftermarket magazines, which did nothing to bolster the Mini’s otherwise enviable reputation for reliability. Nowadays, factory-fresh, Ruger steel magazines — a durable design that has functioned virtually flawlessly since its inception — are available for sale in the usual commercial channels at reasonable prices. In addition, flush-fitting 5-round magazines are also available. All feature a projection on the follower that activates the gun’s bolt hold-open once the last round has been fired. (The hold-open can also be manually activated by way of a button atop the receiver rather easily.)

mini-14 magazines
A range of quality steel magazines is available from Ruger, and there are many others on the aftermarket. Ruger offers 20-, 30-, and 5-round (flush-fit) magazines. Shown are a 30 and a 5.

Five: It’s recently available in .300 Blackout.
This option should make an already proven platform even more appealing and versatile — especially for those who would like to hunt with a Mini in areas that require a caliber greater than that of the .223 Rem. Of course the Mini has been available in 7.62×39 mm for years as the Mini Thirty, albeit limited to 20-round factory magazines, but the new .300 Blackout Mini brings .30-cal. presence to the familiar platform with the advantage of feeding from the same .223-cal. 20- and 30-round magazines. Ruger is selling the gun with a magazine marked “300 AAC Blackout” simply as a precaution, but there is reportedly no difference mechanically between it and the .223 magazine. It makes one wonder if the smart move might be to buy two Minis, a .223 Rem. and a .300 Blackout, along with a raft of magazines to fit either interchangeably as a practical, powerful hedge against bad times.

Check out the Minis HERE

21 thoughts on “FIREARMS: Five Good Reasons To Reconsider The Ruger Mini-14”

  1. Had 2 Mini14’s and 2 Mini 30’s twenty or so years ago. None of them would shoot 2MOA with a scope and match ammo. Supposedly there has been a redesign since then and they are supposedly more accurate. I for one will never know.

      1. “The AR15 platform is decidedly not the only way to go… ”
        First line. He said it and made it sound like he was the authority on the subject.

    1. Laws in a small handful of states — including California, Connecticut, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — that criminalize the mere possession of highly popular semiautomatic long guns widely available throughout the rest of the country.

    2. Bill, I am not going to say that the AR-15 is not the way to go. My thoughts come from being an old guy, (76), who might well be a “stick in the mud”, but I just like the looks of the Mini-14 being more of a traditional looking rifle.

      Maybe someone who knows more about both rifles can add to my other reason, or disagree with my choice of a Mini-14 over the AR-15. In not owning or shooting either I have read things that seem like the AR needs more maintenance. (And I am a guy that don’t just clean a rifle….. I make love to it) .. 🙂

      I guess my reply is a starter for a “conversation” so myself and others can learn more from actual owner’s pros and cons of both platforms. (If I was in a fire-fight, I would choose the AR-15) …. Cheers Bob in Indy.

  2. I’m not sure I’d like to have two rifles of different calibers, both using identical magazines.

    1. Then paint one…. I have two identical ar15 pistols; 5.56 and 300 blackout. Identical except the 5.56 is all desert tan, including the magazines and the blackout is, as you might expect, black.

  3. Hello ? I am being asked to pay approx $900.00 for a .223 chambering in the Ruger mini 14 , that {shoots about a 2″ group @ 100 yards} as per reviews . “NEW & IMPROVED” ??? Is this where fluoride in the water, & a lack of Iodine intake has brought us ? The RUGER Mini 14 is nothing more than a $350.00 to “maybe $400.00 dollar” gun . Am I comparing the mini 14 to the AR platform ? NO , but the price seems WAY out of line . You read & You decide .

  4. my mini 14 is a well made piece of useless junk. The most inaccurate firearm I have ever had the displeasure of firing.

  5. I live in the Peoples Republik of Kalifornia and chose the Mini-14 specifically because it was NOT an AR platform. There is too much negative attention devoted to AR platform rifles. A Mini-14 get overlooked because it is “featureless”, no pistol grip, no flash hider, etc. It will do almost everything that an AR will do. As stated in the article, a Mini-14 handles like an M-1 Carbine and has controls similar to an M-1 Garand or M-14. We are shooting scores in the 90’s with aperture sights! Finally it is just plain fun to shoot!

  6. The AR style and Mini are both fine rifles. I took off the barrel band on older models of both the Mini-14 and the 10/22. Accuracy was substantially improved. For a light hunting rifle I prefer the Mini-30. I do not like the idea that a .30 cal round will chamber in .223 rifle. Besides 7.62 ammo is more readily available and cheaper.
    All that being said, if you pay the bill the choice is yours and no reasonable person should criticize your choice.

  7. I’d been told that the accuracy problem in the Mini was that it wasn’t securely bedded in the stock but there was a kit to add screws to the whole assembly that would better secure the metal to the wood – ether that or glass bedding. Has QA been improved in this area? Also are there aftermarket barrels that would improve the accuracy?

    It’s been a while since I’d seen a price for these. Current price shown is a shock! Demand must be off the charts.

  8. I did buy one of the new mini 14, this good is a dream to shoot and makes a great carry gun in the woods, truck and ranger. Shoots 1″ groups at 100 all day,

  9. I have two stainless Minis. One 223 and one 7.62. Both set up the same way down to scopes and slings. They do shoot much better than the older one I had. Like Terry said you need to double check your mags ! But they are much cleaner than my AR’S. Also shoot straighter than some of my M4’S. Well worth it in my opinion.

  10. I bought a mini-14 in the 90’s. It shot a 3″ group at 60yds. and a 5″ group at 100yds. At 125yds. would start to key hole bullets (with any weight or style of bullet). For a hunting rifle it’s nearly useless. As a home protection gun it would function very reliably for short range only! Now what do you do with a gun like this??? No one wants to buy it as is and it’s usefulness for the owner is very limited. Hmmmm. I sent it to a custom gunsmith who specializes in accurizing such guns and for $900 got back a gun that shoots groups all day long that you can cover with a nickel (if I do my part). Do you have a better solution? I’m good with mine. Now I have a target grade semi-auto and can shoot bullets up to 70gr. under 1/2 moa.

  11. I see that there are many whom do not REALLY know the Mini-14. Any made after 2004 or accurized:
    You’ll get shot! You’ll get shot real bad!!!
    It’s worth the price for the Mini. The Mini-14 and AR15 both have their places. Besides the Mini has none of the break-off Mattel or ALCOA parts.
    Heh… Heh!

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