Ruger Mini-14 5.56mm NATO Tactical Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

April 7th, 2009




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The Ruger Mini-14 has been in production for about thirty-five years now, and is a well-proven design. It is, and always has been, a light, handy little carbine for hunting, predator control, and also serves very well as a fighting rifle. Above all else, I have always found the Mini-14 to be extremely reliable. Throughout the years, the Mini has seen improvements to make it better suited to scope use, and special versions have been built for the military and police with full-auto function and folding stocks. Several years ago, Ruger started marketing the Mini-14 more as a sporter than a fighting rifle. In its sporting Ranch Rifle version, it is indeed a handy little carbine, suited to hunting and as a knockabout rifle around the farm or ranch. However, lots of Mini-14 buyers purchase the carbines for defensive weapons, and in that role, the Mini excels. Recently, Ruger has begun marketing versions of the Mini-14 towards that purpose. Also recently, Ruger has started selling the very popular standard capacity twenty and thirty-round magazines to Mini-14 owners, instead of limiting us to the low-capacity five round version. For decades, we had to depend upon the aftermarket to supply us with substandard magazines, or pay black-market prices for the twenties or thirties that Ruger would only sell to military or police agencies. Thankfully, the thinking at Ruger has changed, and they no longer restrict their best magazines from being sold to those who want them. It never did make sense for a man trying to defend his homestead alone from having the tools to do so, but that those whom he hires to help him, the police, are able to purchase those tools. Anyway, Ruger is now selling their excellent twenty and thirty-round magazines to all Mini-14 owners.

In addition to Ruger making their magazines available, they are now also marketing the superb little carbine as a fighting tool, not just for the military and police, but to the rest of us as well. Shown here is their latest, the Mini-14 Tactical Rifle. The Tactical wears all of the recent improvements to the Mini-14, such as a stiffer barrel and better sights, along with the excellent ATI synthetic stock. The ATI stock has a six-position telescopic buttstock, that also folds to the side for storage or for use in tight quarters. Folded, the overall length is only about twenty-six and one-half inches, making it a very handy weapon for close-quarters fighting. With the stock deployed, the length of pull varies from ten and one-quarter to fourteen inches, making the Tactical Rifle adjustable to fit shooters of all sizes and shapes. It is also handy to retract the buttstock a bit when wearing thick clothing or a protective vest., and the adjustable length makes it an ideal carbine that grow with youngsters. The weight of the Mini-14 with the ATI stock and an empty magazine in place is seven pounds, fourteen ounces. The ATI sock has several attachment points for a sling, in addition to the standard Mini-14 sling loop at the bottom of the gas block. While on the subject of the gas block, the Mini-14 has one of the most simple and reliable gas systems ever designed. All the parts are robust, and the operating handle also serves as a “forward assist” to chamber a reluctant cartridge. However, in the many thousands of rounds that I have fired through various Mini-14 rifles over the years, I have never had to force a cartridge into the chamber. The moving parts have plenty of heft and momentum, and chamber cartridges with authority. Ejection is also forceful in the Mini design. Cartridges are always thrown clear of the weapon. This Tactical Mini is no exception. As expected, reliability was absolutely flawless. Accuracy varied from unacceptable to okay to very good. The sixteen and one-eighth inch barrel has a pretty stiff profile for a Mini-14. I attached a Leupold VX-III 6.5 to 20 power scope in the Ruger rings provided for accuracy testing. Wolf Gold seventy-five grain Match ammo performed the best of all factory ammo that I tried, with some handloaded fodder doing a bit better. The one-in-nine twist of the rifling seems to prefer the heavier bullets. The Wolf Gold would shoot three-shots into less than one and one-half inches at one-hundred yards, and do just as well with five and ten-shot groups. The fifty-five grain Winchester USA full metal jacket ammo would do no better than four inches in this particular rifle, and all other factory loads averaged somewhere in between. The trigger pull was very good on the test gun for a fighting rifle, measuring just under four pounds, certainly better than most AR-15 rifles. As on all Mini-14 rifles, the safety is in front of the trigger guard, right where John Garand and God intended it to be. It is easy to use by both right-handed and left-handed shooters. Velocities from the short barrel are listed in the chart below, chronographed at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle, with an air temperature of forty degrees Fahrenheit at an elevation of approximately six hundred feet. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. HPBT is a hollow point match bullet with a boat tail heel. SP is a jacketed soft point bullet. Velocities are listed in feet-per-second.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity
Winchester USA FMJ 55 2767
Winchester USA FMJ 62 2766
Black Hills SP 55 2728
Wolf Gold Match HPBT 75 2401

The Tactical Rifle has plenty of accessory rail that is Picatinny compatible for the attachment of lasers, flashlights, sighting devices, etc., so I tried out a couple of new items that I had here that seemed well at home on the Mini. First of all is a new vertical handgrip from Crimson Trace called the Modular Vertical Foregrip. The Crimson Trace Corporation has a well-deserved reputation for making reliable laser sights for handguns and AR-15 rifles, but the vertical grip can be used on any rifle, shotgun, or carbine that has a Picatinny rail under the forearm. The grip contains both a red laser which pulsates and a bright white light to illuminate the target. It proved to be very handy and reliable. In a close-quarters situation, the laser is ideal for accurate shot placement, and the light is plenty powerful to illuminate a room or a dark alley. The grip itself is very sturdy, and the activation switches for the light and the laser are easy and natural to use. There are no external wires or Velcro-attached activation pads. The unit is entirely self-contained, and is the best device of its type that I have ever used.

I also tried out a new Vortex StrikeFire dot sight on the Tactical Mini. The user has the option of both red and green dots available at the touch of a switch, and the intensity of the dot can be adjusted for use in bright sunlight or total darkness, and anywhere in between. There is also a very dim setting for use with night vision goggles, and the sight is also supplied with a two-power magnification piece that attaches to the ocular end of the sight. Eye relief is not critical, and the user can effectively use the sight with both eyes open. It comes complete with batteries and a sturdy mount to fit Picatinny rails.

There were no surprises in trying out the new Tactical Mini. It proved to be absolutely reliable, as expected. The ATI stock is well-built, and easy to use. The rifle comes supplied with one twenty-round magazine, and I recommend the purchase of a few spares, while they are still available. The political climate in the US is such that our leaders could attempt another ban at any time. In fact, that bill is before Congress right now. Many of our leaders seek to deny us the use of firearms, especially those with which we can best defend ourselves and our Constitution. The Tactical Mini is a weapon that is handy, powerful, and easy to use. Rock-solid reliable, and accurate enough for predator control, deer hunting, and defense. I highly recommend it.

Check out the full line of Ruger products here.

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For more information on the Crimson Trace Modular Vertical Foregrip and the Vortex StrikeFire, go to and

Jeff Quinn


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Crimson Trace light/laser forward grip unit.



Vortex StrikeFire red dot sight.







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Click pictures for a larger version.



Ruger Mini-14 5.56mm NATO Tactical Rifle.





Open sights are aperture rear and protected blade front.



Integral scope bases.



A generous amount of Picatinny rail is included for mounting a number of tactical accessories.



Also included are plenty of sling attachment points.



Safety is conveniently located for right-handed or left-handed shooters.



Twenty-round magazine.



Folding six-position telescoping stock.



Rifle can be fired with stock folded.



Cheek piece.



Disassembly is easy.





Garand-style trigger/hammer group is simple and reliable.