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Ruger Mini 14 Review

The Ruger Mini 14 was one of the first .223 or 5.56 semiautomatic firearms offered on the market. It was introduced after the AR-15, but it was still one of the first non-AR-15 platforms to be introduced. This is our Ruger Mini 14 Review.

Ruger Mini 14 Left Magazine

Designed by Bill Ruger and further developed by James Sullivan, it’s a scaled-down version of the M14. James Sullivan was also a principal designer on the AR-15. Just like the 15, the Mini 14 has been through a long development cycle.

Since it was introduced in the ‘70s, the gun has been through a ton of changes. But it hasn’t gone without issues. Different variations had reliability and accuracy issues, just like the AR-15 had back in its day.

What is the appeal of the gun?

The Mini 14 is quite different from the most common gun in America, the aforementioned AR-15. Most of you reading this are likely familiar with the AR-15 and likely own one (or 10). The AR-15 has completely taken over American gun culture, which makes sense given its practicality.

Ruger Mini 14

New and Pre Owned
Mini 14s In Stock

The gun is easy to work on and has a great size. That makes it very easy for all shooters of varied experience levels to shoot. It’s manufactured by a wide variety of companies and there is no shortage of AR-15 options. 

Contrast that with the Ruger Mini 14, which is only manufactured by Ruger and has a much more limited appeal to the total market. Everyone and their brother owns an AR-15 or 10, while the Ruger Mini 14 is a little rarer. The AR 15 has also been greatly modernized in appearance since its original introduction.

While the Mini 14 variants still hold true to the original design introduced in the 1970s. This gun has been featured in multiple movies and television shows. Most notably the GB variant in the ‘80s show The A-Team.

It’s Classic

Ruger Mini 14 Right Side Pic

Many enthusiasts say the M-14 has a more classic look. While Ruger has models that are more tactical, the quintessential Mini 14 has a wooden stock and an 18.5-inch barrel.

Today, we’re going to be reviewing the Mini 14 Ranch Rifle. We’ll also talk about the other variants a little bit, but the Mini 14 Ranch Rifle is probably the most common version of this gun that you’ve seen.

Ruger Mini 14

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Mini 14s In Stock

The big reason for the Mini 14 Ranch Rifle is that its configuration makes it legal in most states.

Even states where AR-15s are not legal in an unmolested format. Most states require you to modify your AR-15 with bullet buttons, no flash hider, and stupid laws like no bayonet lugs. The Mini 14 wasn’t designed with a lot of those features on the gun. So it’s not something you have to worry about.

If you’re looking for a capable semi-automatic .223 or 5.56 rifle, the Mini 14 might be your only choice in some of these states. If you plan on doing a bunch of traveling and want to keep a capable long gun in your vehicle. This is a choice that a lot of people choose just for that reason alone.

Ruger Mini 14 Review Ergonomics 

Ergonomically, the Mini 14 is much more similar to a traditional rifle than the AR-15. But that doesn’t come without its downsides.

Safety

The safety on the Mini 14 is based on the same safety used on guns like the M14, M1 Garand, and the M1 Carbine. The Mini’s safety is a piece of sheet metal. You have to push forward from inside the trigger guard to disengage and put your finger in front of the trigger guard and pull it back toward the trigger guard to re-engage.

Ruger Mini 14 Safety On

That, frankly, is not that safe by today’s standards. Usually, you want a safety that you can activate without having to get your finger near the trigger. The reality is that it works and it can be used safely as long as it’s something you practice.

It’s also fairly intuitive and easy to understand for a newer shooter. Although (understandably) they may have reservations about the safety since they have to put their finger inside the barrier guard to disengage it.

Ruger Mini 14 Safety Off

Personally, it can wear your thumb out. I don’t know how it would work if I ran this gun in a carbine class doing multiple drills all day long. I’m sure my finger would get sore and perhaps even draw blood by the end of the day. You could always build calluses to build that area up, but I likely won’t shoot this gun enough to do that.

Ruger Mini 14

New and Pre Owned
Mini 14s In Stock

If this is a gun you’re using only for practical purposes, the safety is fine. But if it’s something you’re going to train with a lot, then you might want to look at other options. One of the few downsides in this Ruger Mini 14 Review.

Mag Releases

Operating the magazine on the Mini 14 is very similar to an AK-47, although I will say it’s a little more refined. It has a lever at the rear of the magazine, which is pressed forward to drop the mag. Just by pressing that lever, it will drop free. The downside of this design is that you will likely not be able to reach that lever with your trigger off the finger.

If you have massive hands, you may be able to. But if your hands are that large, you might also have trouble getting your finger inside the trigger guard on the Mini 14.

You’ll likely use your support hand thumb to release the magazine.

Ruger Mini 14 Magazine Release

This is an ambidextrous magazine release that sits in the middle of the gun so it will be easy to use for both right hands and left-hand shooters. You have to rock the magazine into the gun when inserting the magazine. The good news about this design is that you don’t have to worry about over-inserting the mag or the magazine release and not catching. You will know if this magazine is not locked into place. 

Ruger Mini 14 Magwell

Bolt Release/Hold-Open

Ruger Mini 14 Bolt Hold Open Button


There is no bolt release on the Mini 14, but there is a bolt hold to open. The bolt will hold open when the last round is fired from the magazine and the follower pushes up a small piece of metal that will catch the bolt and their rearward position. If you want to do it manually, you can also push the bolt back and then press down on a small metal plunger sitting on the left side of the receiver. It’s just a small round dowel that’s fairly easy to find. 

Ruger Mini 14 Bolt Hold Open Button Engaged

To release the bolt, you’re going to have to hit the charging handle. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a feature that allowed you to quickly release the bolt itself from somewhere while doing a speed reload. But this gun isn’t really designed for that. It’s a Ranch Rifle — it’s designed to be used in applications where you likely won’t need speed to reload.

Charging Handle

The charging handle on the gun is located on the right-hand side of the firearm. It’s a reciprocating charging handle and is cast. It’s a typical metal handle, and for reference, it’s shaped similarly to the charging handle on a 10/22 with a slight curvature that is easy to use. There are multiple ways you can manipulate this charging handle and it works. Although it’s not my favorite design, it’s something that could definitely be worked around.

Ruger Mini 14 Charging Handle

It’s part of the classic feel of the firearm. I doubt we’ll see any new firearms introduced with this style or design. But it brings you back to a classic period and really gives that feeling that you’re shooting something old-school. That’s definitely a plus in this Ruger Mini 14 Review.

Ruger Mini 14

New and Pre Owned
Mini 14s In Stock

Handguard Ruger Mini 14 Review

The handguard on the Mini 14 is built into the entire rifle stock. It works well and is comfortable. I think it feels like any handguard on almost any bolt-action rifle you might handle. It offers you plenty of room to extend your hand out or bring your hand closer to the magwell. It works. There’s nothing special about it.

Ruger Mini 14 Handguard

There’s no provision for mounting accessories on the standard version. They do make tactical versions with Pickatinny rails or whatnot, but in my opinion, that defeats the purpose of the Mini 14 as it just destroys the look and overall feel of the firearm.

Trigger

The trigger on the Mini 14 is a hammer-fired trigger. Once you disengage the safety, you’ll go back to pull the trigger to fill just the slightest bit of take-up. It’s a fairly heavy take-up and you hit a pretty definite wall. Once you hit that wall, you’re going to feel a heavy but nice, rolling break. This is not a match trigger, but it is usable. It’s slightly heavier than the trigger on the AR-15, but definitely workable. 

Ruger Mini 14 Trigger

There’s nothing about the shooter that needs to be replaced unless you’re trying to shoot specifically for accuracy, which I don’t see most people attempting with his firearm. The rule set on the trigger comes right back to the wall. And again, you have just a little bit of take-up and creep before the firearm fires.

I know there are people who will work on a Mini 14 figure, but again, I don’t really think it’s necessary.

Stock Ruger Mini 14 Review


As we mentioned earlier, the stock on this firearm extends from the butt pad all the way to the front of the handguard. This is where my major complaint comes with this gun. The length of pull on the Mini 14 is just too long. If you’re a smaller or shorter shooter, this could be challenging for them, especially if they’re shooting iron sights or a variable power optic and they need to get their eye position correct.

Ruger Mini 14

New and Pre Owned
Mini 14s In Stock

The length of pull on this gun is just way too long for most people. I am used to shooting AR-15s and more tactical-style formats where you square up to the target. If you’re used to that, this rifle is usable as a six-foot-tall male, but it’s definitely longer than would be preferred. I’d like to see a couple of inches cut off the length of pull.

Ruger Mini 14 Stock Right

I have looked for aftermarket stocks that accomplish this, but I haven’t found any of them that fit the look that I still want to keep with the regular Mini 14. I really wish Ruger would introduce a youth stock variant as I think that would be more appealing to most users.

Mounting Accessories

Mounting accessories to the Ruger Mini 14 isn’t something a lot of people are going to do. This is a gun that just works well stocked.

This isn’t an AR-15 and I don’t believe you should try to turn it into one.

That said, it is always nice to have options, and the Mini 14 does have enough. You can buy an entirely new chassis, which will replace the wooden stock, and you can make the rifle look much more tactical. Personally, I think this takes a lot of character away from the gun, but it will make it easier to mount lights and lasers on the firearm.

I don’t see adding accessories as a plus on this firearm, but there are options that we’ll go over below.

Optics Ruger Mini 14 Review

Ruger Mini 14 Optic Mounts

Mounting an optic to the Mini 14 is fairly standard. Ruger has mounts built into the receiver itself, but front and rear of the bolt, front and rear of the bolt. Those mounts are fairly common and you can find them almost anywhere.

You can mount either a red-dot or a standard-style scope like a low-powered variable optic or something like a 3×9. Ultimak also makes scout mouths for this gun that can replace the upper portion of the handguard and mount a Picatinny rail forward of the receiver for. I personally don’t care for that option, but again, it’s always there if you want.

Irons

Ruger Mini 14 Front Sight

The iron sights on the Mini 14 are actually pretty good. They’re just your standard post and notch or peep sites. The rear has protective wings and the front has a wide front blade also with protective wings. They’re durable and work fairly well. They’re not super precise, but I think they’re perfect for shooting inside 100 yards.

Ruger Mini 14 Rear Sight Top

Lights Ruger Mini 14 Review

Mounting any light to the Mini 14 isn’t the easiest thing to do, at least for the standard stock option. There is a company that makes a replacement that puts one weaver slot forward of the handguard retainer, and that is the option I’ve decided to go with on this gun.

I’m still looking for a good mount that I can match up with. From there, I’ll mount a Surefire or Modlite light that has some sort of push-button ability at the rear. 

Ruger Mini 14 Light Mount

I’m looking for a QD mount so I can take this on and off quickly so the gun doesn’t look all tactical but I can easily and quickly add a light if I want. As we mentioned earlier, other options for adding a light are going to be changing out the stock or upper handguard to mount a light via Picatinny rails.

Control Devices

In its wooden stock format, there’s no real reason to add a control device to this gun like a vertical foregrip. If you have one of the more modern-styled chassis, you could definitely do that, but I don’t see the need.

Sling

Mounting a sling to the Mini 14 with the stock is a little more difficult than I would like. There are one-inch sling seat swivels or 1.25 inch slinks levels on the handguard retainer and at the rear of the buttstock. Those are at the six o’clock position, though, so you’re not going to be able to carry this rifle in a tactical-style format using those mounts. 

Depending on how you’re using this gun, that may or may not be an issue. For myself, I like carrying a gun slung across my chest vs. carrying it around my shoulder. But I’ll still have to work out and see what the best sling option is for this firearm.

Aesthetics

Aesthetically, the Mini 14 is an attractive gun. It’s definitely along the same lines as an M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, or M-14. If you’re looking for a gun that’s going to blend in more, this is a great option.

When people see this gun, it doesn’t speak to the uninitiated and uninformed the way an AR-15 does. An AR-15 can be scary to people who don’t know what they’re talking about or much about guns in general. 

Ruger Mini 14 30 Round Magazine Right

The Mini 14, on the other hand, will still probably look scary to those people but will look less scary and have more of the appearance and effect of a lever gun or bolt-action rifle.

We’ve all seen the infographics and the pictures or the videos where the gun control idiots go through and look at firearms and point to the ones they think are most dangerous. But they look at them without really understanding their operation or what they do. The Mini 14 is a good way to stay low-profile in other states while still being a fairly attractive firearm.

Shooting Experience Ruger Mini 14 Review

Loading the magwell, it definitely seems similar to an AK although it seems a little bit more refined and less rugged. The magazine release is just easier to use and it’s plastic, which doesn’t give you the best feel in terms of complete long-term durability. But it does have a more fine feel than an AK.

So going back to pull the charging handle, everything feels just right. If you drop the bolt, you know you’re firing an old-world-style firearm. It makes you feel a little bit nostalgic for your great-grandfather and World War II.

Ruger Mini 14 Grip

Now, when you go up to shoot, you’re going to feel weird pushing the safety off using the front of your trigger finger. Put your finger on the trigger, start your press, and bam — the gun fires, and when it shoots you just realize what a great balance this firearm has, especially when you’re shooting it with iron sights.

This gun actually might be more fun to shoot with iron sights than an AR-15. This gun balances superbly well and it’s a pleasurable shoot. It’s really fun to shoot still silhouettes at 100 yards with this gun.

It’s just natural and points exceedingly well. You see why it was a popular option for ranchers and farmers carrying one in their tractor to shoot coyotes with. For 100 yards and them, the iron sights are excellent unless you’re going into low-light conditions.

It Is What It Is

As long as you love this firearm for what it is and do not expect it to be something it isn’t, it’ll be fine. In this Mini 14 review, I’ve made a lot of comparisons to an AR-15, and that’s something you have to do when you’re talking about the Mini 14.

They were introduced around similar times and they definitely hold a similar place in American gun culture. Although this gun has been eclipsed by the AR-15, it can fill a similar role. But when you’re using the Mini 14, don’t expect it to be an AR-15. If you do, you’ll be disappointed.

But at the same time, if you expect an AR-15 to have the same amount of charm and characters as the Mini 14, you’ll also be somewhat disappointed. These guns are each unique and just like children, they each have their own gifts.

Ruger Mini 14

New and Pre Owned
Mini 14s In Stock

If you’re looking for a gun to throw a flashlight or optic and accessorize completely, then this probably isn’t the gun for you. But if you’re looking for a gun you’re going to keep almost bone stock and be able to throw in the back of your truck and feel good driving around most of the United States without breaking any laws with, this gun is going to be hard to beat.

There are lots of options for it when it comes to magazines. You can easily get 10-round magazines to stay legal in most states, while when you’re home in a free state, you can load it up with a 30-round mag and know that you won’t be any less prepared because your government regulations want to make it easier for criminals and harder for you.

Final Conclusions Ruger Mini 14 Review

The biggest downside of this gun is going to be the price. Every now and then you can pick one of these guns up used for a steal at somewhere right below $500, although I haven’t seen those deals much recently.

The biggest downside of that as well as you might be getting a gun that was made in a less-than-optimal time. Just like the AR-15 series, the Mini 14 has been through a lot of changes and some of the variants have accuracy and reliability issues.

For a long time, they had an inferior twist rate and the barrel itself was quite thin, so they just weren’t that accurate. The newer, more modern Mini 14, seemed to fix those issues, and that’s probably what I would suggest buying. The problem is those costs around a thousand dollars right now and it’s hard to justify the utility of Mini 14 over an AR-15 at that price point.

If you live in a state that is more restrictive, the Mini 14 actually might be the better choice. It really just comes down to preference, and I personally really liked the Mini 14. I just wish they were just a little bit more affordable. If the gun came in at under $750, it would be a lot more appealing to me personally. Your mileage may vary — let me know down below what you think about the Ruger Mini 14.

Related Articles

Pros

  • Looks less tactical
  • Excellent balance
  • Low recoil
  • Good optic-mounting options
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Price
  • Modularity (or lack thereof)
  • Safety position
  • Reloads slow
  • Long length of pull
  • Hard to mount accessories compared to an AR
  • Trigger

5 Replies to “Ruger Mini 14 Review”

  1. Trooper Joe (Joe Kimble) says:

    You should not have published this review if you dislike the gun so much. I just ordered a new, tactical model and will also soon be buying a model with a wood stock. I had a traditional Mini-14 in the early 90’s and it was a great gun. It reminded me of the surplus M-1 carbines we carried on patrol as a Trooper in the sixties but it was a lot more dependable.

    I never warmed up to the AR platform although I had a Bushmaster M-4 style from ‘08 to last year. It always seemed to me the guys that love AR’s are trying to play “Rambo” or something. As far as accuracy of an AR vs. a Mini-14, if you want a hundred yard tack driver, buy an inexpensive Savage, Mossberg or Ruger bolt action. I have a Ruger .243 with a Leupold/Redfield 3×9 scope that prints extremely tight groups at 100 yards.

    Just some thoughts.

    1. Harrison says:

      I don’t hate the gun by any means. You might be thinking of a different review? Definitely, my favorite 223/556 if I have to shoot irons. It’s just a gun that many hypes into being something that it’s not. Every gun has limitations and the goal of the review is to let people see that as well as its strengths. If someone wants to play Rambo a takedown bow or M60 would work way better than an AR! Haha

  2. Bill Perry says:

    So what precisely is that attached to the gas block??? Not seen THAT before….It’s definitely not an Accu-Strut or it’s kin, but looks cool due to the same aesthetic….I just hope that there’s some functionality as well as…

    1. Harrison says:

      It’s a light mount. I’m not a big fan of putting a pistol light on a rifle due to the throw of the light. I’ve been looking for a QD offset mount that would work with the mount I have on there now and I haven’t found one I’m happy with. I was the ability to take the light off quickly to make the gun more benign if need be.

      I found this which is similar and I’ll likely get it since it looks like it’ll work with 1913 options vs a single weaver spec slot like what I currently have. Looking at the site further it’s just an update of the old design.

      http://skinnersights.com/mini-14.html

  3. paultaylor911@gmail.com says:

    Interesting like to give it try

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