by Mike (The Gun Guy)
Not too long ago M.D. asked the group if he could get some product reviews, and he had a list with suggestions for review. In the list was the Ruger Mini-14 ranch rifle, newer style. I got mine about four or five months ago, and I guess that qualifies as new, or at least the newer style.
What’s different from the previous versions? I don’t think any of the internals changed. Really, the difference is in the sights and the barrel. You can tell a new one from the old one because the new one will have a barrel that’s thicker towards the receiver then it tapers in. The old style has a barrel that’s the same length all the way down.
I guess I should start with why I got a Ruger Mini 14 ranch rifle in the first place. There are several reasons for me. I wanted something in the .223 caliber because it’s a common round, because I wanted something I could coyote hunt with, and because all you AR owners in the states seem to be having so much fun with the .223! For me though, an AR-15 was out.
We have a class of weapons known as ‘restricted’ in Canada, and the AR-15 is on that list. That means I couldn’t take my AR out in the field and hunt with. I could only double lock it while transporting it to an approved range and only with something called an ATT, or authorization to transport.
Not to mention that we still have a registry for restricted weapons, but out long gun registry was scrapped. I got my gun license and my first rifle just after the long gun registry was scrapped so my name appears on none of the old copies, and I want it to stay that way.
For non restricted long guns in .223, there were a couple of options. There was the Kel Tec SU-16, a Remington pump .223, and I believe you could get a VZ 58 chambered in .223. I wanted a semi auto, so the Remington was out. I was leaning towards the Kel Tec SU 16 or the VZ 58 for the reason they took AR magazines (you could get a magwell adapter for the VZ) and in Canada there’s a loop hole where as long as a magazine is labeled ‘pistol’ you can use a 10 round mag in a semi auto, otherwise you are restricted to 5 rounds. In the end though, I went with the mini for two reasons:
- Reliability was not in question with the mini 14. They are many things, and reliable is one of them. The Kel Tec received mixed reviews on quality and longevity and I just haven’t seen too many VZ’s around.
- The pedigree of the Mini 14. The first time I ever laid eyes on an M1 Garand I fell in love. My love continued to the M14 and the fact the mini 14 used the same mechanicals as the M1 and M14 just in a scaled down and smaller caliber means I love the mini 14 too. Besides, John Garand was a Canadian, and you got to have some national pride. Right?
So, if any of you don’t know what a Ruger Mini 14 looks like, here is a picture of mine:
So, exactly how does the mini 14 perform in my opinion?
Ruger Mini 14 Ranch Rifle Sights:
One of the things with the new mini is it has new sights, so I thought I’d talk about them. It comes with a non adjustable front sight and an adjustable peephole rear sight. Both sights have ‘blades’ on either side to protect them from glare. I’m just guessing at that function, but it seems reasonable. Now, when they work, they work fantastic. But then they don’t’ work so well. Here’s a tip if you decide to buy this rifle. The rear sights will shake itself loose in less than 50 rounds. It’s mounted on a post and secured by one bolt. It will shake itself to the right or left and that’s where you’ll shoot.
The first thing you need to do is remove the screw (takes an Allen key), put a dab of the blue lock tight on it (not the red stuff, unless you want trouble) then tighten it back down. Once the lock tight sets you won’t have that issue. The sights also have windage adjustability with screws on either side of the post that use the same size Allen key as the securing bolt. To adjust left or right you must adjust BOTH screws otherwise it will leave a gap and the sight will shake itself around when firing. It’s a good idea if you want it right in the middle to ensure you snug up both screws or it will shift on you with the vibration of shooting.
I will make a note on the scope mount, as you can see I do use a scope. I like the scope mounts and included scope rings. Each scope mount has a tab that goes into a notch in the provided mounts, making a very solid and secure mount.
It’s not a tack driver. It never was a tack driver. For anyone who buys this thing and then is upset they can’t hit the middle of the target at 1000 yards probably shouldn’t be buying guns at all. The Ruger Mini 14 is called a ranch gun for a reason. It’s made to be a low maintenance reliable gun that you carry around with you in your pick up truck around the farm in case some varmints need killing. I would say though, it’s more accurate than just that. I took a 50 yard pistol target and put it at 100 yards, and that’s where I sighted my scope in. I sighted the scope in and then put a fresh target at 100 yards and took 10 shots (resting the barrel on a block). Two of the 10 hit right in the middle of the target, the rest were scattered around the middle (more low than high) but I’d say the whole group was about 2”. Sorry, I did not take a picture to show you, but I can say that any of those shots would have been in the kill zone of coyote, and definitely a deer. So sure, it’s not a tack driver, but it’s plenty accurate, more than enough, anyways.
Stock and Construction:
The stock of this particular unit is made of a black polymer. You can also get wood if you like. The polymer is light but I feel it’s very strong, and it does not feel cheap at all like a Remington 597 or a Kel Tec. I guess there is a huge difference between polymer and plastic. I’ve had it knocking about the woods on many occasions and it still looks new. The ergonomics are good, the rifle stock fits nicely in my hand and I get a proper cheek weld when sighting down the iron sights. This may change with a very large or very small person. I’m about average height and build and I feel they did a very good job with ergonomics for the majority of people. You can get a blued stock or a stainless steel. I really like the stainless steel. If TSHTF when gun oil and supplies are low, stainless will resist rust much better in the absence of all the awesome gun cleaning and gun oils we have access to now. Sure, it’s shiny and reflective, but you can easily take care of that with some dirt if you really needed to.
The gun easily comes apart by flipping it over, putting a screw driver or punch in the hole in the trigger guard and pushing up. The trigger group comes out and then you can simply remove the stock from the gun. It’s not complicated inside but I will advise to be careful when taking it apart. There is a large return spring along the underside and when you take it out, the part that holds it in that’s closest to the trigger assembly is held in by a loose pin. Turn the receiver either way and it’ll come out and you’ll lose it and you kind of need that little loose pin to keep your spring in place.
I would absolutely love it if Ruger used AR mags. But, they don’t. They use proprietary magazines. In Canada, they are almost impossible to find in anything other than the factory 5 round configurations. Not that it really matters, as we can only put 5 rounds in a semi auto mag at a time up here. I do have a couple of factory 20 rounders that are pinned to 5 (and those pins come out the minute TSHTF and WROL!) but they were $50 a piece. There is only one supplier that regularly gets these magazines, and they get a shipment in about 3 or 4 times a year and the magazines are sold out within a day or two.
Also, the magazines are a bit of a pain. You have to rock them in like an AR mag but it’s not as smooth. It’s easier with a longer mag as you can get a good grip on it. The factory 5 round disappears into the stock, which is something I actually like when shooting the rifle. It’s just tricky to get them in. If you don’t’ angle them in just so, they get stuck and then you’re in for a bit of a struggle. Also, I have one 5 round mag that goes in fine each time and another that’s more finicky. Now, I’ve never had a feed failure yet, so that’s a good thing. I still wish they used AR mags.
The receiver is marked as .223 caliber. Not Remington .223, .223 caliber. This means that you can feed .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO. I can tell you I’ve fed all sorts of different types of ammo through this gun. American eagle 55 grain FMJ. MFS stainless 55 grain FMJ. MFS 62 grain soft point, and 55 grain hollow point. American eagle tracer rounds. Unidentified 5.56 military surplus I picked up at a local gun show. It eats it all, and it eats it all without complaint. It’s not picky and that’s the way I like it because lets face it, .223 is getting pretty scarce. With the mini 14 you can horde whatever you can get your fingers on and not worry about it.
As a gun enthusiast, I have to say hearing the sound of that receiver closing and chambering that first round is just awesome. It makes that typical gun sound you hear in the movies, or perhaps in a well maintained AR-15. Just beautiful. If fires as slow or as fast as you pull the trigger. I’ve emptied the magazine (5 rounds, I’m a Canadian) in what I swear was less then a second with almost no muzzle climb. I’ve put about 1,000 rounds through it so far and have not had a jam or misfire. The barrel does tend to get pretty hot, but it doesn’t seem to affect the accuracy of the gun at all.
As far as aftermarket parts for this rifle, it’s on the same level with the likes of the 10/22, Remington 870 and AR-15. You can get all sorts of stocks in all sorts of configurations. Scopes, mounts, flash suppressors or muzzle breaks (if you need a muzzle break with a .223 caliber you should really start working out). I mostly prefer my rifle stocks to be rifle stocks, but if you want to make this thing tacticool, the only limit is your wallet.
I think the Ruger Mini 14 is a well built and well made gun. It does exactly what it’s advertised as. It’s a ranch rifle, a field gun, a reliable little buddy that will go into the bush with you and come out none worse for the wear. Sure, the magazine situation kind of sucks, you have to ensure when you field strip it a tiny little pin that’s very loose and 100% necessary to the operation of the rifle doesn’t take a walk, and you have to monkey with the sights to get them to work properly. I paid $830 for the rifle brand new, and I can more than live with those quirks for a gun that is that price and has the kind of reliability that the mini has. I don’t have to worry what ammo I put through it, it’s not picky. I don’t have to worry if it gets rained on, I just wipe it down when I get home and it’s good to go store if I don’t feel like cleaning it that day.
The charging mechanism is smooth, it doesn’t seem to jam and it’s accurate enough. I even think that the rifle is pretty, but beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.
From what I’ve read, the mini isn’t as accurate as an AR-15 but it’s a lot less expensive and apparently more reliable. Reliable in that you don’t need to clean it as meticulously to maintain that reliability. I’m sure that will cause arguments from the die hard AR people, but if it’s true than that makes the mini 14 a better TSHTF gun.
I don’t regret buying it, and I think I’ll be keeping it. If you ask me if I recommend it, yes, 100%, but the choice is yours.
Ruger Mini-14: Homestead Defender
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