Sunday, July 25, 2021

Guns: Ruger Mini-14 Tactical review - A plan comes together


If you watched The A-Team back in the '80s, you might remember all the bloodless gunfights with hip-fired Ruger Mini-14s that were standing in for Ruger's fully automatic AC556 assault rifles:

The Rugers in the show looked impractical and silly as hell, but they still seemed fun to shoot. Since not every gun has to have some Serious Purpose, I set out to build something similar. I quickly discovered that getting a reproduction folding stock like Hannibal and Co. used would cost almost $300 (on top of the cost of a stainless steel Mini-14).

So, I went the cheap route, picking up a Mini-14 Tactical chambered in 5.56, along with a Choate folding stock. Could the Mini, configured like it was on The A-Team, at least keep up with my two ARs, the Housegun and Son of Frankencarbine?

Sights and Trigger

The Ruger Mini-14 rifle has always been the RC Cola to the AR-15's Coke - it does the same thing in the same way, but without the refinement and flair of the name brand. It starts with the iron sights: the Ruger fixed front blade and rear aperture are about as tough as a set of A1 or A2 sights, but adjusting the Mini's rear sight requires a hex wrench and is just a lot more finicky. Ruger includes scope rings and bases so that you can mount a traditional scope relatively easily, but adding a modern red dot takes slightly more effort than a flattop AR.

The Mini-14 trigger situation is much like the sights - serviceable enough for a defensive carbine, but a bit outdated in 2021. The trigger can certainly be gunsmithed into something special, but it's tougher to do compared to the hojillion AR drop-in replacement match triggers you can get off the Internet. And don't get me started on the M1 Garand-style safety - not sure what genius designed a safety that requires you to put your finger insider the trigger guard to use it.

Folding Stock

The synthetic fixed stock that came with the Mini-14 Tactical worked fine, but I think the Choate folding stock suits the gun much better. The default fixed stock is too long for a lot of cases and bags designed for 16" barrel AR carbines, but with the Choate stock folded, the Mini is actually shorter than the typical AR. Plus, if you're in a very tight space, you can shoot the Mini with the Choate stock folded, though I won't vouch for your practical accuracy.

Range Report

That brings us to the big knock on Mini-14s - that they're less accurate than an equivalent AR. Broadly speaking, I found that to be true, though the Mini might be "accurate enough" for your purposes. 

Like most folks these days, I had limited ammo to spare, so I carefully shot a few groups with the stock iron sights off a hasty rest. I got about 1.5" from PMC XTAC XP193 55 gr. at 25 yards - that's a little worse than my DDM4, but not by much, plus you don't get any height-over-bore issues with a Mini:

Lake City XM855 wasn't as accurate, grouping at over 2" at 25 yards.

Finally, I got roughly 2" from TulAmmo 55 gr. .223 at 25 yards.


Even today, there are diehard fans of the Mini-14, and I do see the appeal - it's a relatively handy, lightweight semiauto rifle with a cool Garand-like action. The wood-stocked models are a little less threatening than the typical AR, and can sometimes be used in jurisdictions where the AR is verboten. But in the end, it's a civilian-developed gun, and I'd much rather use a rifle system where the bugs have been worked out through decades of combat.


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