Photo courtesy of Nick Jacobellis.
The earliest configurations of the Mini-14 were plain vanilla versions with iron sights and a wooden or basic nylon stock. This first Mini-14 had an 18.5-inch barrel and weighed 6.75 pounds. In contrast, the tactical Model has a 16.12-inch barrel and weighs 6.75 pounds and the Tactical Model with the ATI Stock and the accessory rail has a 16.12-inch barrel and weighs 7.25 pounds unloaded.
All Mini-14s are powered by a breach bolt locking fixed position gas system and are super reliable and as combat accurate as any rifle you will probably ever need to use in an emergency. The ATI stock and the pistol grip were both comfortable to use, with the collapsible stock enabling the operator to adjust shooting position and length of pull.
The length of pull with the ATI stock model extends from 11.88 inches to 15.82 inches. The average Mini-14 has a length of pull of 13 to 13.50 inches.
Stainless steel Mini-14s have always been popular patrol rifles for law enforcement marine units and agencies that operate in tropical and swampy environments. However, it must be noted that stainless steel firearms still require proper maintenance and must be properly lubricated and properly cleaned after being exposed to salt water or salt spray.
On the Range
I sighted in the Ruger Mini-14 using iron sights while shooting from a stable metal table and using an improvised bench rest. It took about 20 rounds of ammunition and several adjustments to get the rifle shooting a 2- to 4-inch group at 50 yards while engaging a 2-inch Shoot N See round "sticky" target. The best groups noted were a tad under two inches using Federal 110-grain .223 FMJ ammunition.
I also fired the Ruger Mini-14 test rifle from the 50-yard line from a standing unsupported position using iron sights and no accessories. During this test, I emptied a 20-round magazine about as fast as I could pull the trigger at a TQ19 Police Firearms Qualification Target.
Despite the fact that the top accessory rail has a U-shaped slot running down the middle it did not appear to be cut deep enough to work well with my eyes. I compensated for this by concentrating more on the front sight. The results were quite satisfactory, but I still don't like the way the accessory rail blocks the front sight on this rifle.
Like many rifles with accessory rails, the Mini-14 Tactical was made for optics. So I sighted in the test rifle using an Aimpoint Comp M4 red dot optic. I also added a CAA brand folding forward vertical grip.
All it took was a few adjustments and a small amount of ammunition and the Mini-14 was nailing targets with combat precision. The Aimpoint optic made it possible for me to bang away at targets at a much faster rate of fire than when I used just the iron sights.
I like the Mini-14, especially the Tactical model, but its design has not aged well. The main problem with the Mini-14 is that this rifle can only evolve or advance so far unless major revisions are made to the basic platform. And I don't know if Ruger is willing to invest the time and effort to really update the Mini-14, especially considering that the company is now offering its own AR variant, the SR-556. Still, despite its shortcomings, I would have no qualms about carrying the Mini-14 Tactical on duty or using it for home defense.
Nick Jacobellis is a medically retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent.
Sturm, Ruger & Co. Mini-14 Tactical Carbine Specs:
Caliber: .223 Rem, 5.56mm NATO
Capacity: 20 rounds
Barrel Length: 16.12 inches
Overall Length: 3 4 inches
Weight: 7.25 pounds
Length of Pull: 11.88 inches
Twist: 1:9 inches
Stock: Black synthetic, collapsible folding stock
Sights: Rear adjustable; Front blade