Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle – Review

Ruger's Tactical Mini-14
Ruger's Tactical Mini-14

U.S.A.-(Ammoland.com)- We have had a love/hate relationship with the Ruger Mini-14 since we first became aware of them back in the 1980s. Like a typical kid growing up in New York City at the time, my first exposure to the Mini-14 was watching the A-Team when I was in the 8th grade. I always liked their look and who wouldn’t? It was basically a scaled-down M14 and Ruger used to offer them with a metal folding stock.

Mini-14/30 Folding Stock Rifle
Mini-14/30 Folding Stock Style Rifle

I have owned two over the years and thus the nature for the “hate”. Despite placing optics on them, they never came close to an AR in the accuracy department. Magazines made by the aftermarket companies were less reliable and more expensive than their AR counterparts and it just seemed as if you had to pour more money into them to get them to run the way you wanted them.

Until now, that is!

Well actually until a few years ago (2005) when Ruger basically overhauled the Mini-14’s shortcomings.

The Mini-14 piqued our curiosity when we started seeing their prices inch higher than comparable ARs and knowing Ruger’s marketing and sales strategies led us to believe that they were doing something right.

We asked Ruger to send us one for review. They responded by shipping us a Mini-14 Tactical stainless model with a threaded barrel, flash suppressor and a traditional type black synthetic stock. The rifle shipped with a Picatinny scope mount, 1” rings and a pair of 20-round magazines.

Mini-14 Tactical stainless model with a threaded barrel, flash suppressor and a traditional type black synthetic stock
Mini-14 Tactical stainless model with a threaded barrel, flash suppressor and a traditional type black synthetic stock

The Good

While we love the classic looks and styling of the Mini-14, it is all not just for show. The sights are reminiscent of the M14 as well.  The front sight is a blade protected by wings on each side, just like the M14, M1A or M1 Garand. The rear receiver mounted aperture sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation.

Even though our rifle came with a scope base and rings and one of the first Minis we fired was a scoped ranch rifle, we strongly prefer these iron sights to optics.

factory 20-round magazines made our day
Factory 20-round magazines made our day

At the range we had a Mini-14 flashback and were expecting something on the order of a 4 MOA rifle. We were pleasantly surprised to achieve less than half that with the irons!

The 20-round factory magazines were impressive and proved reliable on every shooting session. However, it made us call to mind a conversation with a Ruger sales rep over 20 years ago when we asked if Ruger would offer a 10-round magazine instead of the current (at the time) 5-round magazine.

His answer was: “Why would you need more than 5-rounds in a hunting rifle?”

We sold our Mini-14 within a week but are thankful that the company has since taken a better outlook about accessories. The factory 20-round magazines made our day.

The Bad

One of the reasons we wanted to try the Mini-14 was to see if we could address one of the rifle’s shortcomings regarding mounting a suppressor. A true gas gun like its bigger brother the M14 means that the shooter will end up with a face full of gas due to the open top receiver.

We solved that problem with the M14 but found no way to beat the gas system on the Mini. A few of our friends on the hardware side had ideas, but none came to fruition in time for our review. It is a shame because this version has a threaded barrel, but the only real solution might be an OSS type suppressor that eliminates this type of pressure significantly.

OSS HELIX-QD Suppressor
OSS HELIX-QD Suppressor

The factory trigger breaks at 6.5 to 7 pounds from the factory. Take up is long and gritty. This is not the type of trigger that we like on a rifle. There are aftermarket triggers available that can improve this, but we would like to see Ruger step it up here as they have with their factory AR and 10/22 triggers. This is one of their flagship rifles after all.

All that said, the suppression and the factory trigger are minor concerns. The trigger can be cleaned up and some rifles simply will not suppress well.

The Reality

If you are looking for an accurate, reliable, semiautomatic rifle with more of a traditional sporting rifle stock, the improved version of the Mini-14 may be what the doctor ordered. It can also help those suffering from AR burnout or shooters who live in “ban states” governed by prejudiced lawmakers who base their legislation on appearance over function.

It is one of the few semi-automatic rifles available in stainless steel and that may be enough of a reason for some shooters interested in an “all weather” rifle. Ruger offers the rifle in other calibers as well such as 300Blackout and the rifle's cousin known as the Mini-30 in 7.62 X 39.

Apart from all of that, the Ruger Mini-14 is a classic American design that is perfect for the M14 aficionado or anyone who was a fan of the original A-Team series from the 1980s.

Specifications:

  • Model Number: 5819
  • Caliber: 5.56 NATO
  • Stock: Black Synthetic
  • Front Sight: Blade
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable
  • Thread Pitch: 1/2″-28
  • Bbl Twist: 1:9″ RH w 6 grooves
  • Magazine Capacity: 20
  • Finish: Matte Stainless
  • Weight: 6.7 lb.
  • Overall Length: 36.75″
  • Barrel Length: 16.12″
  • Length of Pull: 13″
  • MSRP: $1169.00

About Mike Searson:Mike Searson

Mike Searson's career as a shooter began as a Marine Rifleman at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire adult life as a Gunsmith, Ballistician, Consultant, Salesman, Author and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1989.

Mike has written over 2000 articles for a number of magazines, websites and newsletters including Blade, RECOIL, OFF-GRID, Tactical Officer, SWAT, Tactical World, Gun Digest, Examiner.com and the US Concealed Carry Association as well as AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

  • 26 thoughts on “Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle – Review

    1. I had a Mini 14 ,bought from a friend at work (200 YEAR of Liberty). After a few rounds of Y Ranch reloads, the magazine was blown to the ground and the bolt jammed to the rear. Sent it back to Ruger and for$150.00 they sent back a replacement rifle. Lesson…..don’t trust any reloads but your own. A lesson applied when I started reloading a year later.

      1. On that note. Glen Zediker writes some very helpful and interesting hand and/or reloading articles on MidSouth Shooters Blog. I mean everything anyone wants to know or learn is there. I suggest veteran to starters have a look see if you haven’t already.
        http://www.mssblog.com

    2. I’ve had my stainless mini since ’80 (it’s a ’77 rifle), my dad got for me from a sheriffs deputy who lived across the street from us. I’ve shot just about any 223/5.56 ammo you can imagine through the years and it’s never let me down, although it is a bit over gassed-it throws the brass a good 20 feet right and forward. I took a deer in Eufaula Oklahoma with it some 25 years or so ago, one shot with a heavy soft point handload dropped him in his tracks. I have a few AR pattern rifles now and they’re fun but not the same, I guess I just like feel of the steel & wood. I still have that old rifle; it’s light, handy and reliable. I don’t see any reason to part with something that works as hard as that thing does.

    3. I have always wondered why the Mini-14’s are marked .223 but the web site says they are proofed for 5.56, expect for one model.

        1. I don’t know what a Wylde chamber is. If most of the Mini 14’s are proofed for 5.56 mm why don’t they say so?

          1. The .223 Wylde chamber was designed so that you can get better accuracy out of the rifle than you can get with the standard, mil-spec 5.56mm chamber and still be able to safely shoot 5.56 spec loads in it. There are also a lot of AR15’s that use the Wylde chamber for exactly that reason, better accuracy but still safe with 5.56-spec ammunition.

            1. So you can shoot a 5.56 from a .223 Wilde barrel ? I’ ve heard lots of back and forth about this !

    4. I have the exact folding stock early model mini 14 shown in the first picture. I have never had a single issue with it. I hear all these horror stories about the pre tapered barrel models of which I have experienced none. I don’t use it for things its not meant for either. Its not a sniper rifle, it’s not an ar and it isn’t meant to be suppressed.it has been a reliable rifle that does exactly what it was built to do. And being all stainless it looks exactly like it did in the late 80’s.with 4 30 rd. Stainless mags

    5. I have two mini 14’s One I have had since 1980 and a stainless 2016 model. The 80 model has been flawless and I would stake my life on. The stainless model l call a jamamatic! Clic, bang, click, click, jam. Has to go back to factory when I get around to it. Disappointed in Ruger quality control.

      1. Sent my Jam-O-Matic stainless ranch malfunction training device back to Ruger using the prepaid shipping label. They replaced the barrel, the bolt, the bolt lock and the upper hand guard. It was shipped back to me free of charge five days after they received it. I took it to the range and ran about 250 rounds through it. Mag dumps with a five and ten round factory magazine. Then blazed through a few 30 round Tapco mags. Various 556 and 223 rounds. Not a single hiccup. Can’t say enough about Ruger’s customer service. There’s just something special about this old school rifle. I grew up watching WWII movies, maybe that’s part of it. It will be my carry rifle for traveling from our place in Texas to our second home in the socialist occupied territories of Komiefornia, minus the 30 magazines of course. I kicked myself for not getting it in sooner.

      1. There are things that I like about the AR but not as is in your typical G.I. type. Without a piston driven gas system I wouldn’t have one. I’m not trying to offend any AR owners with this next statement because I’ve always preferred other better rifle platforms for their purpose and it’s caliber. So, I prefer some others first to the AR. I’m more old-school than most like the preference for all metal pistols. I hate glocks, I like the HK USP and some others but still reluctant to buy any polymer handgun. Besides worst case scenario there will be many ARs, AKs, Glocks, 1911s and Berettas laying around .

    6. I have an early model mini-14, for what I need it’s great. For those who have complained about accuracy at long distances; the 5.56 round was not really made long shots. The round was made for close engagement, high penitration at low weight. The change to a smaller round was also economic. So basically if you are really dead set on tight grouping at long range, use a higher caliber.
      The min-14 that I have, has never failed me. The only failures were caused by cheap ammunition. I can always hit my target.
      The mini-14 is good and reliable, I do have an At, but I would trust my mini with my life over the other.

    7. Sorry you came to the party late – I have a Mini built in 1976 (when I bought it) something to do with the 200th year of American Liberty. Granted I don’t shoot it all that often (collectible more or less) but I never had a single one of the ‘issues’ that are supposedly inherent with this rifle. I’ll hang onto it thank you very much.

    8. My issue has been reliability … Accuracy is fine but I have had repeated problems with failures to eject and with the trigger group unlocking itself and dropping down … Have now had it back to the factory twice … Have not range checked it since its second return from repair a week ago … Ruger people are good folks and I’ve owned other Ruger products that were good but this one bothers me … Just don’t know if I can depend on it when the chips are down … It’s a confidence thing …

      Travel requirements mean I won’t be able to range check the latest fixes for a while …

      1. I have two mini 14’s One I have had since 1980 and a stainless 2016 model. The 80 model has been flawless and I would stake my life on. The stainless model l call a jamamatic! Clic, bang, click, click, jam. Has to go back to factory when I get around to it. Disappointed in Ruger quality control.

        1. MY MINI STARTED DOING THAT ALSO,BUT I HAD IT FOR 4 YEARS. MY GUNSMITH COULD’T FIX IT SO WE SENT IT TO RUGER. THEY SENT ME A NEW ONE….PROBLEM FIXED.

    9. Thanks for the article Mike all good points, I too have had a love/hate relationship with the Mini. However over the years I’ve appreciated some other very positive aspects of these newer Mini’s/ranch rifles:
      – you can top it off with loose rounds while the mag is still in place (even with a scope attached). this is very useful if you lose your other mags or you’re down to only one mag. can’t do that with an AR,Ak, HK93, etc
      -checking the chamber is easier and bolt returns to battery. this is a weak point of non reciprocating bolt handle guns like the AR . i’ve seen and had bolts not return to batter after i check the chamber when using AR’s and HK93’s. all experienced shooters know that you should check your chamber often so that’s a definite plus for the mini.
      – mini’s shoot steel cased ammo without complaint. i only have two mini’s left in my collection (they’re the newer style) and when using ruger brand mags, they run all day long no worries. i don’t shoot steel in AR’s nor do i recommend to newbie shooters.
      -mini’s reliably cycle soft points. AR’s do not. again, never trust and AR with steel cased ammo or soft points
      -factory trigger is just fine and really no different than any of the stock AR’s I’ve owned and used.
      -Accuracy Systems Inc. ! they can do anything you want to a mini!! Seriously. suppressor problem solved with their adjustable gas block and their trigger work is impressive.
      In short, the only legitimate shortcoming the newer min’si have is the magazine change. until the operator learns the acute angle required to insert the mag, it will be frustrating. other than that i’ve found the new mini 14’s to be real sleepers and overall outstanding weapons.

    10. Stumbled on this review, but before I get going, a heads up to Washingtonians. Lawmakers in WA State are preparing to ban all Semi- Auto Rifles. “ALL OF THEM” Takes effect July1st 2019 if passed. Billionaires Paul Allen and some other Microsoft Fool are hell bent on trashing the 2nd. Paul Allen is dumping 2 Million of his own into the mix. WA Sates is screwed 7 ways to Sunday. Their proposed Bill is so unconstitutional at both the State and Federal Level it is beyond absurd. It is 32 pages long and 100% Out of control. They have word smith-ed the definition of an Assault Rifle lumping all semi autos into this category. Including all Semi Auto Shotguns. These haters of the 2nd are doing this nationwide starting in the Fall of 2018. GIRD up Folks…So here I am looking at the Ruger Mini14 just because I can, at this moment in time as in Today. So at the end of the so called day..yes my friends, Ruger makes a great product. I own a few and love them. Great review on this nifty ranch rifle. Thanks for your insight.

    11. I’ve had and played with several Mini-14s over the years. I had a “fix” for the old ones that worked consistently for me. I’d replace the front sight with a finer sight (an HK type seemed to work best for me) and then stick with 64-grain Winchester JSPs for hunting and the 62-grain FMJ ammo for plinking. The groups would always shrink in half by doing this and friends who tried it also had good results.

    12. I bought my first Mini-14 post-2005 and kept hearing of their inherent flyer prone inaccuracy which I found non-existent in my scoped one. I was grouping around 1.5 moa and sometimes better depending on ammo quality. Hornady TAP 75gr .223/ HSM 77gr 5.56 (they stabilize, no keyholing) was best, the latter better and harder to come by, next Lake City/Win M855. I found it funny that Hornady’s TAP T2 75gr. had poorer grouping (shortened bullet profile/lower BC most likely). I also inadvertently increased accuracy that reduced barrel harmonics with out using/applying any of the after-market stabilizing braces. I do wish that had purchased it in SS. I’ve been wanting Ruger’s Mini 300BLK Tactical Rifle that has a thicker straight barrel (no taper). I’ve been waiting for an offering in SS. The thicker 300BLK barrel on the Mini-14/223 would make the Mini a real great buy but c’est la vie.

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