First, the basics of the Ruger mini 14 in general...
The Ruger mini 14 family of rifles was first produced in 1974.
Mini 14’s are chambered in .223/5.56mm, 6.8spc, 7.62x39mm
Mini 14’s are popular because they are traditional styled, light weight, simple, compact, quick handling, affordable rifles. Good or bad…mini 14’s are an American legend. My father’s mini 14 (187 series) was the first center fire rifle I ever shot.
They are gas piston operated, Garand style rotating bolt, detachable magazine fed, semiautomatic rifles that are basically miniature versions of the Springfield Armory M14, hence the name mini 14.
Mini 14’s are famous for being extremely reliable and durable and can cycle almost any quality of ammo you feed it. They are also popular for being a nice alternative to AR15’s and AK47’s which have negative reputations in non-gun friendly states. The mini 14 looks more like a hunters rifle vs. a military style rifle.
Mini 14’s have a long history of proven performance under fire with police departments and prisons in America. The AR15 has pretty much taken over the role of patrol rifle today but in the 1970’s & 1980’s thousands of police officers trusted their lives to a mini 14. Many prisons still choose the mini 14 over the AR15.
Average prices today range from about $600 up to $900 depending on the model. In the old days they were a lot more budget friendly at about $250.
Ruger makes various models –
-standard ranch rifle = 18.5” barrel
-tactical and NRA = 16.12” barrel
-heavy barrel target model = 22” barrel chambered in .223 only (not 5.56)
-mini 6.8spc = 18.5” barrel
-mini 30 (7.62x39) 18.5” barrel
-AC556 model has a 13” barrel and is select fire made for police & military use only. Very rare.
The older (pre-2005) mini 14’s were made with a thin profile barrel which was notorious for stringing its groups as the barrel heated up.
The sights have changed over the years from peep sights with a single front blade, to flip down rear sights to clear scopes to ghost ring sights with 3 blade protected front sights.
Ruger has been making the “Ranch Rifle” model since 1982 starting with the 187 series. You can tell a Ranch Rifle by its scope mounts on the receiver and side ejecting shells to clear a scope. Previous models had no factory scope mounting options and shell ejected out of the top of the receiver. Ruger did not start stamping “Ranch Rifle” into the receiver until 2005.
In 2005 Ruger began production of the new 580 series with a thicker barrel profile.
The all new and improved 580 - 581 Series Mini 14
Produced from 2005-Present.
Designated as the Mini-14 “Ranch Rifle” which is stamped on the heel of the receiver.
The 580 series are built off of all new tooling machines with thicker profile “heavier” barrels which improved accuracy due to the barrel being stiffer and decreased heat sensitivity due to the thicker barrel. This basically put a stop to the reputation of mini 14’s being inaccurate when they heat up.
Now you can shoot all day and expect 2 to 4 inch groups at 100 yards which is a significant leap forward in accuracy for the 40 year old design of the thin barreled mini 14’s of the past. Of course quality ammo helps with accuracy also.
The Tactical model mini 14
The tactical models come with a blued 16.12 inch barrel.
Ghost ring rear peep sight adjustable for windage & elevation, Winged (3-blade) Front Sight.
Some tactical models come with a birdcage style flash hider and some have no muzzle device at all.
Integrated scope mounts machined into the receiver.
Side ejecting shells to clear any optics mounted to the receiver.
Polymer traditional style rifle stock. Some models come with an ATI stock with a folding buttstock and multiple picatinny rails on the handguards.
Tactical models weigh roughly 6.75 lbs in the standard rifle style polymer stock.
Integrated front sling swivel in the gas block and a sling swivel mounted on the rear of the stock.
Ships with 2 Ruger factory 20 round steel magazines.
It’s easy to see inside the chamber just by glancing down. No need to tilt the gun to inspect the chamber.
The magazine release is ambidextrous, similar to the M14 and AK47. The down side is that it uses a “rock in” style vs. a straight insert and drop free style of an AR15 magazine. Mag changes are only slightly slower than an AR15 but it’s still quick with practice.
The safety selector is ambidextrous. Its styled after the M1 Garand and M14. The down side is that you have to insert your finger into the trigger guard to disengage it. If you make a mistake or have an accident as you go to disengage the safety, you could have a negligent discharge? This is why this style of safety is not copied in any modern rifle today. Its old but it works and as I mentioned, it is ambidextrous.
It has a “last shot- bolt hold open” feature. This obviously makes mag changes easy. When the bolt locks to the rear it needs a new mag. The downside is that it does not have a bolt release button like an AR15. You must insert a fresh mag, then “rack” the charging handle to release the bolt. With practice it can still be done quickly.
It field strips quick and easy. No pins to push. Simply yank on the trigger guard and the whole assembly pops out and unlocks from the barreled action.
The bolt can be a little tricky to remove and re-assemble but with practice it can be done quickly.
It has a plastic handguard. While it does a great job of protecting your hand from heat and the reciprocating op-rod...I think it looks freakishly ugly. I want to replace mine with an older style vented handuard with no op-rod portion.
Lots of magazine options. 5, 10, 20, 30, 40 round magazines and drum mags. It’s said that the factory Ruger magazines are the most reliable. From my own personal experience I would have to agree. I own a 40 round mag and it has malfunctioned more than I am comfortable with.
The Ruger mini 14 tactical is a great rifle for all kinds of uses from law enforcement to home defense to hunting to SHTF to the zombie apocalypse.
Its rock solid reliable and rugged and can take a fair amount of abuse, neglect, cheap steel ammo and keep on shooting.
It may be almost the same price as an AR15 but some people actually don’t want an AR15 believe it or not. Some people actually prefer the look and feel of a more traditional rifle setup.
It has its strengths and weaknesses just like any other gun. Some may not be a fan of the M14/AK47 style where you have to “rock in” the magazine vs. straight insert and drop free AR15 magazines?
Some may not be a fan of the Garand style safety lever in the trigger guard?
All in all, I think the Ruger min 14 tactical is a fun American classic that has been upgraded with a new barrel and better sights, that is worth every penny. Inside of 200 yards I think it is just as effective as almost any other .223/5.56 rifle that costs twice as much.