> TEOTWAWKI Blog: My Take: The Ruger Mini-14



My Take: The Ruger Mini-14

The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle
Yesterday, I posted up a review on Suarez International's recent DVD, Mini-14 Rifle Gunfighting: Just as Good as Any Other Rifle. Today, I'm going to give you my take on the Mini-14--general pros/cons of the rifle and some thoughts about why you would want one.

Cons of the Mini-14
I'm not going to dwell too much on these. Simply put, the Mini-14 has the unfortunate place of competing with the AR-15 and AK-47s. It falls somewhere in between the two, and it's priced right in there with AKs and cheap AR-15s, which makes it difficult for many to consider. Why get a Mini when you can get an AK for $100 less or an AR for $100 more? The Mini-14 also has a reputation for less-than-stellar accuracy, though Ruger has addressed these concerns in recent years. Stock Mini-14s are geared towards a general purpose "Ranch" rifle, not a combat weapon. The ergonomics are similar to the AK--mag release location, magazines need to be rocked into place, bolt is on the right side, etc. Ruger factory magazines are generally the only reliable magazines, and generally sell for $25-$40, two to three times more than mags for the competition.

Pros of the Mini-14
While it certainly has its tradeoffs, the Mini-14 has a host of positives:

  • All-American, politically correct Ranch/farm/hunting rifle. Friendly and outdoorsman-like.
  • The Mini-14 is gas-operated, which is generally considered more rugged and reliable.
  • Robust Garand-style action
  • Safety is easy to use ambidextrously.
  • You can equip the Mini-14 with a folding stock - big plus for portability/conceal-ability.
  • The magazine release is similar to the AK, which means that you can perform the speedy "Spetsnaz" style emergency reload, demonstrated here.
  • Factory-made in America by a quality manufacturer, not a 3rd world country. If there's a problem with the rifle, you can take it up with Ruger.
  • Bolt hold open feature
  • Lighter weight and "handier" (7-8 lbs versus 9.5 lbs for the average AK)
  • Typically cheaper than even budget-bin AR-15s. $600 or so is typical retail price, with used rifles often coming in at around $400-$500. $400-$500 is low-end territory for AKs--WASRs and such.
  • A stainless steel "All Weather" model is available.
  • Similar to the ubiquitous 10/22, which can make a viable training rifle for the Mini-14.
  • Likewise, the Mini-14 is a downsized version of the M-14/M1A and can be used as a training analog for that rifle.
    Recommended Configurations
    There are two configurations where the Mini-14 shines--a PC SHTF rifle and a folding 5.56mm assault rifle.

    PC SHTF Rifle
    PC rifles from Ultimak.com
    The marketing, looks and reputation of the Mini-14 as a Ranch/Farm gun are a big asset not to be overlooked. The Mini-14 is more acceptable and mundane than the AK or the AR-15, while still having all the capabilities of a 5.56mm assault rifle.

    Big advantage number one - Mini-14s are available in states where the AK and AR-15 (in recognizable configurations) are not. This pattern of Mini-14, with 10 round magazines is about as good as it gets in places like California.

    Other benefits: 
    • The Mini-14 will draw less unwanted attention than competing designs, which is an important consideration for a truck/trunk gun, woods gun and so on. 
    • If your spouse/family/friends are anti-gun, a plain jane Mini-14 is less likely to draw ire than an evil black AR-15. 
    • If you're concerned about the legal ramifications of using a rifle in self defense, this pattern of Mini-14 is more jury friendly than the alternatives.
    In this configuration, I would recommend a wood stocked rifle with very few modifications or after market dohickeys. A simple two-point sling, of course. A forward mount like the Ultimak and a red dot or low-magnification scope are still quite "PC" in appearance, and would be useful. If you intend to use the rifle in a home-defense capacity, an offset mount and flashlight would be the last modification that I would make.

    Overall, this configuration of Mini-14 makes an excellent options for those living in anti-gun locales, for a truck/trunk gun and for a politically correct home defense rifle.

    Folding 5.56mm Assault Rifle
    There are many advantages to a folding stock--conceal-ability and maneuverability in tight spaces (vehicles) being the some of the biggest. There are lots of pictures out on the interwebs of folding AKs hidden away in tool boxes and tennis racket bags; you can hide them in places someone wouldn't normally look for a gun. For a "bag gun," truck/trunk gun, get home weapon and in many other roles, these are important considerations.

    Folding stocked AK-47s have been around for ages, but you can't put a folding stock on a normal AR-15. If you need a folding stock rifle, it's either AK-47, an expensive gas-piston AR variant--or a Mini-14.

    Why would you choose a folding stocked Mini-14 over an AK? Well, if you have other rifles in .223/5.56mm, it makes sense in order to keep # of calibers down (Yes, I know they make .223 AKs, too). And if you prefer some of the other qualities of the American-made Mini-14, it makes sense too.

    There are several decent folding stocks available--the Butler Creek model has been around for years, and ATI has recently released a "tactical" side folder with a six-position adjustable butt stock. Mini-14 stocks are very easy to install as well, so you could switch a PC pattern rifle to a side-folder as missions require. Add a forward mounted optic and a basic two point sling and you're done.

    Closing Thoughts
    Like all weapons, the Mini-14 has its trade offs, but in the end, it's an affordable, politically correct-looking semiautomatic rifle that fires the same .223/5.56mm cartridge as the AR-15. It is a totally valid choice for a vehicle weapon, knock-around gun, varmint/hunting gun, home defense rifle or SHTF carbine. The ambidextrous safety may make it a favorite or lefty shooters. It excels in some specific roles that the AR-15 and AK-47 struggle to fill, namely as a "friendly" semi-automatic rifle and as a 5.56mm folding stocked rifle.  While most survivors will probably opt for a competing design, the Mini-14 should still be given consideration, and judged for its own merits.