Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle - Stainless Steel

Spending some time with a firearm before I pass judgement is important to me. Even more so, when I'm passing on my thoughts and opinions to others.  I have been shooting Ruger Mini-14s for almost thirty years now. My first Mini-14 was a "180" series noted by the three-digit prefix on the the serial numbers. It was a solid, reliably functioning semi-auto rifle with mediocre accuracy back in the day when the only ARs around were full-size M16-looking rifles which were long with triangular ray-gun furniture out front.


That first Mini-14 and I parted ways not long after we purchased our first "580" series rifle which was a significant improvement in accuracy and tolerances. I won't bore you with the long history of the Mini-14 as there are already great resources out there for you, such as this from the American Rifleman and of course the Wikipedia version too.


The gals and I now have several Mini-14s, all stainless steel, including several Ranch Rifles with synthetic stocks, a Mini-14 Target Rifle... yeah, but before you say that "target" paired up with "Mini-14" is an oxymoron... you should see how ours shoots, which is pretty darn good with 69 grain Sierra Match King BTHPs out to three-hundred yards... and finally, the Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle in stainless steel which I've now spent enough time and ammo with to share some thoughts about it here.

The blued version of the Mini-14 Tactical Rifle has been out for a while, but the good news is that the stainless version I purchased through Ruger's Law Enforcement side while back is now available with their regular offerings. This rifle is handy at just less than seven pounds in weight and less than thirty-seven inches in length, which includes the threaded flash suppressor on a sixteen-inch barrel. It is slightly lighter and more compact in overall profile, but relatively comparable to our Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport equipped with a Streamlight TLR-1s and an Aimpoint PRO... in terms of cost, size, and weight.


The intent of this rifle is for self-defense, home security, and an occasional varmint, be they four-legged or two-legged. We wanted the best, but affordable, components with excellent reliability matching the Mini-14's reputation for reliability while keeping the slick, lean, and light-weight nature of the Mini-14's size and profile. With that in mind, I've added the Ruger-branded Mini-14 Scope Mount III rail made by Amega Mounts, an Aimpoint Micro H1 red dot optic, an Inforce WML HSP weapon light with 200 lumens to light the night, and finally a simple, quick adjust web sling until I decide which way to go for a better sling arrangement.


The entire weapons system we've created in this slick little package weighs in at 7.2 pounds without a magazine and just a pound more, at 8.2 pounds, with a loaded twenty-round magazine. It's just a bit lighter than our AR-15s, but I'm not here to argue the whole Mini-14 verses AR-15 thing here.

The rifles does feel a little front-heavy, but that is due to the sturdy and light synthetic stock... and maybe that helps because with a solid mount and a forward off-hand grip... the muzzle seems to stay right on target without noticeably climbing, even under rapid fire. The slanted press-to-turn-on power button is positioned just right for me with the forward mounted Inforce WML HSP weapon light.


When it comes to aiming, Ruger offers several options including the rock-solid, built-like-a-tank fixed front blade and adjustable rear peep-sight. I find the peep-sight aperture... er, hole... to be just right for quick acquisition of targets and threats, but it might be a bit large for precision shooting at longer distances.


Ruger also includes their proprietary scope ring mounting system and a set of Ruger stainless steel scope rings which they will exchange for other sizes and heights. One new feature many folks will like is that Ruger has pre-drilled and tapped the receiver to attach the INCLUDED picatinny rail over the action for those who prefer a more industry-standard optic mount.


So if Ruger included a picatinny rail, why did I add the forward rail in place of the upper hand-guard? First, I wanted more of a smaller caliber scout rifle configuration, similar to that propagated by the late Col. Jeff Cooper, and second, the Amega Mount rail also offers the perfect ten to eleven o'clock mounting position using the side mounted rail for the Inforce WML HSP weapon light.


The included flash suppressor seems to do a decent job when shooting in low-light or after dark, but I've seen some flash suppressors do a better job. Fortunately, the threaded barrel will allow you to swap out the factory flash suppressor for dozens of other options including a "can" to cut the noise down. Some folks might be tempted to add a muzzle-break, but I don't think the Mini-14 really needs it.

The synthetic stock is sturdy, light and has soft-rubber butt pad with rounded edges that provides a terrific shoulder mount for the shooter whether you're using a traditional rifle stance or a more straight-on tactical hold for the rifle.  Ruger includes one-inch stainless sling mounts which most folks seem to either love or hate.  I'm still evaluating various sling options and configurations, so for now I've just added a quick-adjust, nylon-web sling... the Super Sling, by The Outdoor Connection.


As for putting holes in things down range, this Mini-14 is not a precision benchrest or prairie dog rifle. It is a good rifle with good precision.  With the one-in-nine twist, the barrel can produce consistent accuracy and groups of under two-inches at a hundred yards with a wide-range of ammunition from 55 grains to 62 grains.  I've even managed several three-quarter-inch groups shooting Federal Gold Medal rounds with the 69 grain Sierra MatchKing bullets.


The stock trigger is typical for the Ruger Mini-14... a pretty stiff pull, but a crisp break.  I'm not interested in a one-pound, precision trigger in a self-defense rifle, but a smoother three to four-pound trigger pull would be better and so I'll have a trigger job on done on this rifle.  Even with the stiffer trigger pull, if you're looking for a good self-defense or handy hunting rifle, the stock trigger will still let the Mini-14 Tactical take care of hitting the center of mass quickly, even when acquiring multiple targets.


Look for some reviews of the Aimpoint and the Inforce add-ons coming in the near future...  But for now, if you're looking for a reliable, rock-steady rifle that will last just short of forever... you might consider the... Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle - Stainless Steel

9 comments:

  1. Nice! Can't wait for the Aimpoint review!

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    1. Thanks Keads... should have a post up on the Aimpoint Micro in the near future... just used it in the rain for two hours this week...

      Dann in Ohio

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  2. Great setup. I put together my older model Mini 14 very similar a few years back. Used a Mega Range mini-scout-mount and mounted a Aimpoint T1 micro on it. It was about the only red dot setup that you could use and still get a decent cheek weld on the stock. I put a Hogue overmold stock on it and have run both Streamlight TLR1 and now have an Innova WML with IR/White light capability. Sweet little setup for a truck gun.

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  3. Nice setup! The Inforce light looks great and incorporates nicely with the rail! Do the iron sights cowitness with the optic and the Amega rail? I use a Specter Gear sling (on my 197 series) and would recommend it. Here's some pics of my setup: http://savethegun.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/custom-tactical-mini-14-ranch-rifle-197-series/
    Great post!

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    1. Your set-up looks really nice, and very similar... I've heard very good things about the Ultimak rail too...

      Dann in Ohio

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  4. I like my old Mini 14. They get a bum rap when it comes to accuracy however I maintain they are more accurate than most people are capable of even if they had a target rifle. Certainly they are a good working rifle and you have to like their rugged good looks. The biggest complaint is mags are a little pricey and harder to come by.

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  5. I’ve owned a Mini-14 and it was a solid gun. Not as accurate as an AR but very dependable. With factory 20-30 round mags now more readily available (and much cheaper) the Ruger is definitely a much more viable option.

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  6. I have only owned two Mini-14's in my life, and the Mini-14 Tactical is off the chain... Great review and links.

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  7. Thank your this review, as well as the M & P AR review. I am trying to make a decision on one of the two rifles. I enjoy your straight forward writing without the ego and ranting. I want self defense/varmit rifle that takes as little maintenance as is possible and have the rifle perform as flawless as possible. I don't need a rifle capable of leading an assault, or sniping from 300 yards. I like my 10/22's so may be leaning towards a Ruger, but don't want to be ignorant of new technology that works.

    Thank you again.

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