Friday, May 17, 2019

Featured Gun: The Ruger Mini-14

The Ruger Mini-14 is a semi-automatic rifle with a gas piston driven rotating bolt.
The story of the Mini-14 starts with John C. Garand. 
Garand (whose real first name was St. Jean le Baptiste) was born in Canada in 1888, in 1917 he submitted a design for a gun to the U.S. Army. His design was chosen and he was given a job within the U.S. Government to perfect the design. 

Garand was issued a patent for the design in 1932 and it was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1936 as the Semi-automatic, Caliber .30, M1 Rifle. The M1 served the United States Armed Forces as the primary battle weapon throughout World War II. It was almost universally lauded for its accuracy and reliability.
General Patton held the rifle in such high regard that he once called it "the greatest battle implement ever devised".

the M1 Garand

In the early part of the 1960s the M1 Garand was replaced by an updated version firing the shorter 7.62x51mm NATO (aka 308 Winchester) cartridge and having select fire capability along with a detachable box magazine. The new rifle was designated United States Rifle, 7.62mm, M14.

the M14 rifle

During the time the M14 was being developed a firearms designer, working for a aircraft subcontractor was designing what became the replacement for the M14. 
Eugene Stoner had created the AR-10, which was an aluminum framed autoloading rifle chambered in .308.
The U.S. Military had asked Armalite to redesign the rifle in 5.56mm.
The redesigned rifle failed to get approval for use by the U.S. Military. Frustrated by this Armalite went shopping for a gun manufacturer to buy the rights. One of their first stops was to Bill Ruger's office, who turned the offer down. 
Colt in Hartford bought the rights and redesigned the rifle for semi-automatic civilian use. At the same time they kept in contact with government officials eager to get a 5.56mm rifle approved. 

The Colt-Armalite rifle was adopted in the mid 1960s in 5.56 x 45mm caliber as the Rifle, caliber 5.56mm, M-16.
It appeared perhaps that Bill Ruger felt as though he missed out on a great opportunity.
The adoption by the U.S. Military and early reports of issues with the design, probably influenced Ruger's decision to design the Mini-14.  
Bill Ruger saw an opportunity to make a rifle that looked more traditional (like the M14) and was more reliable than the Colt/Armalite rifle.

The Colt/Armalite M16 rifle

In the late 1960s work began at Ruger's Southport facility to design a scaled down version of the M14. From the beginning it was to be chambered in .223 Remington (the commercial version of the 5.56mm), although other options were examined. Author R.L Wilson has stated in his book Ruger and His Guns, that had Ruger introduced the Mini-14 five years earlier it would have become the standard Army Rifle (instead of the Armalite designed M16). Imagine how that would have changed the firearms landscape today?

Bill Ruger chose Jim Sullivan to get the project off the ground. Jim was involved in the development of the M16 and other firearms.
The Mini-14 was introduced to the public in 1973 with an introductory price under $200. This was important as it was much cheaper than the commercial AR-15. In typical Ruger fashion every bit of economy was put into the manufacturing process to make sure that the Ruger was a better value. Another distinct advantage, the Mini-14 had a gentler sounding name and the look of a traditional wood stocked hunting rifle.

The prototypes and first 1000 or so rifles were built in the Southport plant, after that production was moved to the the Newport, NH plant.
The first 150 or so rifles were destroyed due to a manufacturing defect. 

The specs below are for the current generation of the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle

Caliber: 5.56MM/ .223 Remington
Action: Gas Piston operated Semi-Automatic
Weight: 6 lbs, 6 oz
Length: 37.25"
Barrel Length: 18.5"
Rifling:  6 grooves, 1 turn in 9", right hand twist
Length of Pull: 13.5"
Magazine Capacity: 5, 10, 20 and 30 round
Material: Carbon or stainless steel, birch wood stock

The Mini-14 and Ranch Rifle have been made in both blued steel and stainless.

There were a couple of special models geared towards Law Enforcement/Security and Military. The Mini-14 GB (Government/Bayonet) had a flash suppressor and a bayonet lug, adding a F to the suffix got you the folding stock. 

There was also a select fire (semi & full auto) version called the AC556. you can see the "giggle switch" at the rear of the receiver.

The AC556 also had an option for a 13" barrel, making it's possession regulated by the NFA.

The French have built and used a licensed copy of the Mini-14, known as the Mousqueton A.M.D.- 5.56. "Mousqueton" means Carbine in French and AMD was the name of the police bureau who adopted the weapon.

Time Line of Events

1959 - Armalite offers the AR-15 to Bill Ruger, which he declines

1963 - The U.S. Army formally adopts the M16 rifle

1967 - Work begins on the Mini-14 design

1973 - Ruger introduces the Mini-14

1974 - The Mini-14 goes into production with serial number 180-00001 (the first 150 or so were destroyed)

1978 - The Mini-14 stainless model is introduced 

1980 - The Mini-14 is chambered in .222 Remington to get around rules against military calibers in some countries

1982 - Ruger introduces the "Ranch Rifle" a Mini-14 with improved ejection and integral scope mounts 

1984 - The A-Team aires on NBC, their favorite rifle is the Mini-14GB model.

1987 - Ruger introduces the Mini-30, a Mini-14 in 7.62 x 39mm, The A-Team goes off the air

1988- Ruger builds a straight pull bolt action version (sans gas system) for gun owners in the U.K. 

1989 - Ruger suspends sales of the "GB" model to civilians

1994 - The Democrat controlled Congress and Democrat Bill Clinton signed the "Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act" which includes a ban on the Mini-14

1999 - Ruger ceases production of the AC556

2000 - Ruger brings the .44 Carbine back as the "Deerfield" , now based on the Mini-14 action 

2002 - Bill Ruger passes away

2004 - The 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban" expires, Ruger begins selling the 20 and 30 round magazine to the general public, many are still marked with "Law Enforcement/Government use only" 

2004 - Production of the Mini-14 goes on a two -year hiatus

2006 - Production of a redesigned Mini-14 resumes, all models now based on the Ranch Rifle model with new updates

2007 - Ruger introduces the Mini-14 Target Model, also chambers the Mini-14 in 6.8 Remington SPC

2009 - Ruger introduces the Mini-14 Tactical Model, the same year Ruger introduces the SR-556, a copy of the AR-15 rifle. 

2010 - The A-Team is made into a feature length film 

2012 - The Remington SPC chambering is discontinued 

2015 - Ruger begins chambering the Mini-14 in 300 Blackout

The Mini-14 was the favorite long arm of NBC's The A-Team

When the A-Team became a feature length movie in 2010, the Mini-14 came along for the ride.

The Mini-14 played a part in the 2010 film The American starring anti-gun hypocrite George Clooney

As with all my featured gun posts, they are inspired by guns that I own, a friend or relative owns or I have worked on in the past.

I got my stainless Mini-14 Ranch Rifle years ago in a trade. It came with the Butler Creek folding pistol grip stock. I added a lower picatinney rifle and forward grip-pod. The rifle is a 580 series, being one of the first 4000 to be brought back into production.


American Rifleman
Shooting Times
Guns America
Forgotten Weapons
The Truth About Guns 
Small Arms Review
Military Today

Wilson, R.L., (2007), Ruger & His Guns, New York, NY: Chartwell Books, Inc.  

Lee, Jerry, (2014), The Standard Catalog of Ruger Firearms, Iola, WI: Gun Digest Books.