Photo courtesy of Ruger.
Editor's note: View our Mini-14 Tactical Carbine photo gallery for extended coverage of this carbine.
There was a time when the Ruger Mini-14 was one of the most popular patrol and tactical rifles in U.S. law enforcement. But it fell out of favor, as AR platform rifles added adjustable stocks and Picatinny rails. That's why I wanted to evaluate the latest version of the Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle with the ATI adjustable stock and accessory rail. I was eager to see if this rifle could be viewed as a serious contender in the 21st century patrol or tactical law enforcement rifle market.
I first became familiar with the Ruger Mini-14 back in the early 1980s. At the time these rifles were being widely issued and used in law enforcement. So when I transitioned from police officer to U.S. Customs agent, I trained with a Mini-14 before I qualified with and used other rifles. I also qualified with and carried a personally owned blued steel Mini-14 GB Model. Then when I retired I acquired a stainless steel version of the Mini-14 that was fitted with an aftermarket side-folding paratrooper stock.
Loading and Unloading
From my experience, I can tell you that there are some drawbacks to the Mini-14 design when compared to other patrol and tactical rifles, especially the AR.
The biggest problem is loading the Mini-14. With an AR, you just slap in a mag. In contrast, the Mini-14 is loaded by inserting the magazine at a slight angle then rocking it to the rear to lock it into position. Now don’t get me wrong. A trained shooter can certainly load a Mini-14 fast enough to get back into the fight. It’s just a lot easier with an AR.
The reason I mention this is because even though I consider myself to be an experienced end-user of the Mini-14, there are times when even I have experienced a problem loading one of these carbines and had to fiddle around with the magazines a bit in order to get them to lock into position.
Ruger also uses proprietary magazines instead of AR magazines on the Mini-14. I think this was a big mistake that needs to be rectified in the future. AR magazines are significantly more plentiful than Mini-14 magazines and therefore much cheaper than Mini-14 mags.
Several years ago Ruger modified the Mini-14 to operate with both .223 and 5.56mm ammunition. This is a confusing point because the receiver is marked .223 but my contact at Ruger confirmed that the notation on the box is correct and the new Mini-14s are designed to be used with all kinds of 5.56mm ammo. I tested the sample Mini-14 with both .223 and 5.56mm ammo. There was no noticeable difference in accuracy or reliability.
The Mini-14 Tactical with an ATI stock and accessory rail is the only model in the Mini-14 line that includes any modern options worth noting. But it has one major fault. The accessory rail is a bit too high and partially obstructs a portion of the front sight blade. This makes it difficult to quickly acquire targets. The solution, of course, is not to use the iron sights.
The accessory rail on the Tactical Model Mini-14 allows you to fit it with a high-quality optic. And that makes this rifle a much more effective tool for law enforcement operations and home defense.