I last reviewed Rugerís
venerable Mini-14 Ranch Rifle back in July of 2004. I
reported then that the Ranch Rifle was a handy, reliable, and
accurate little carbine. I went into detail describing the rifle
in that article, and do not intend to plow the same ground over
again here, but instead refer the reader to that earlier
In this article, I will expound upon a couple of
improvements that Ruger has made to their already fine Ranch
Rifle. Besides the changes to the rifle, two things
conspired to renew my interest in the little carbine. First, I
had a surgery in August that left me with a breastbone that
needs a few months to heal. The surgeon stated specifically
"No shooting, you could re-break that bone." Now, I
know that "no shooting" donít really mean no
shooting, but it does mean no shooting with heavily recoiling
rifles. The second event that conspired to renew my interest in
the Ranch Rifle was that in late Summer of this year, the Tennessee
Wildlife Resources Agency, which oversees the local Rabbit
Sheriff (Ed. Note: Jeff's affectionate term for "Game
Warden"), allowed the use of "any centerfire
cartridge" for deer hunting during rifle season.
Suddenly, the .223 cartridge and the Mini-14 became legal for
deer hunting in Tennessee. My body can easily tolerate the
recoil of a .223, and with the right bullet, it should cleanly
take a whitetail deer.
To me, the right bullet in this case means the Barnes
X bullet, in either its original smooth-shank configuration, the
blue coated XLC variation, or the newer TSX version. I realize
that other .223 caliber bullets exist that can be used for
medium game like whitetail, but from past experience with other
X bullets, I have complete confidence in the Barnes. It is made
of solid copper, and has no jacket and lead core to separate and
come apart. In my experience, the X, XLC, and TSX, will hold
together and penetrate as well as or better than any expanding
game bullet in existence. The .223 TSX is offered in 53
and 62 grain weights, and the 53 grain version will be my choice
this deer season. Loaded to around 2800 feet-per-second
from the Ranch Rifleís eighteen and one-half inch barrel,
recoil is light and accuracy is good.
While the Ranch Rifle can be had in various
configurations, the one shown here is the stainless steel model
with a hardwood stock. It is a handsome little rifle, with an
overall length of just thirty-seven and three-quarters inches,
and a weight of six pounds and fifteen ounces with the unloaded
magazine. The stainless finish is a matte gray, and is pretty
much maintenance free, except to lubricate the moving parts
occasionally. I use Break Free CLP. It has served me well
for many years.
As every hunting rifle should be, the Ranch
Rifle comes supplied with good sturdy sling swivels. It also
comes supplied with Rugerís built-in scope bases and
detachable rings. It is a rugged and reliable scope mount
system. Like all Mini-14 rifles, the manual safety is very
handily placed, right in front of the trigger guard, just as John
Garand and God intended. Also like all Minis, the new
Ranch Rifle strips easily for cleaning. It has a rugged and
reliable gas system that needs very little care, especially with
the stainless rifle.
Improvements to the Ranch Rifle include a better
buttplate. The original Mini-14 and Ranch Rifle had a carbine
style smooth buttplate, being made of plastic except for the
earliest guns many years ago. That smooth plastic plate would
slide easily if the rifle was propped on its buttplate, and
would also slide around on the shooterís shoulder, depending
upon the clothing worn. The new buttplate is made of a synthetic
rubber, like that used on most of Rugerís other sporting
rifles. It is a big improvement. The sights have also been
upgraded on the Ranch Rifle. I have always been perfectly
satisfied with the older sight blade. It was a strong and rugged
unit. However, the new front sight wears protective wings on
either side of the blade, and should prove to be as tough as an
anvil. The rear sight is a great improvement over the flip-up
blade on the older Ranch Rifle. It also wears protective wings,
and is a sturdy aperture style.
The trigger pull on the test gun is a bit
heavier than I like, releasing with about five and one-quarter
pounds pressure, but that is easily lightened with a slight
stoning of the hammer and sear surfaces. If you arenít
experienced with this sort of thing, it is an easy job for a
gunsmith to perform. Of course, if you are accustomed to the
seven-pound triggers on most AR-15 rifles, and many bolt actions
for that matter, the Ranch Rifle trigger will seem like a dream.
Due to the configuration of the Ranch Rifle's
hand guard, mounting a scope with a large, light-gathering
objective lens has always been a problem, unless the shooter was
willing to use extra-high mounts. Leupold solved this
problem with their new VXL scope.
For more details on that scope, I refer the reader to that
earlier article. Anyway, I mounted a 3.5 to 10 power Leupold VXL
scope on the new Ranch Rifle, and it proved to work extremely
well on this rifle, easily clearing the hand guard using the
factory-supplied Ruger rings, and providing Leupoldís famous
optical quality and ruggedness. It is a superlative choice of
glass for the Ruger Ranch Rifle.
Sometimes the Mini-14 rifles receive a bad rap
for being inaccurate. This is mostly not deserved. I have owned
several Mini-14 rifles over the years, and with good ammo, they
all shot well enough for sporting purposes. If you buy
some Eastern European junk ammo at a gun show and expect
match-grade accuracy from the Mini, you will be disappointed.
However, good ammo should provide very good hunting accuracy.
The test gun proved capable of shooting groups of under two
inches at one hundred yards with all ammo tested, including
military full metal jacket, commercial varmint ammo, and my
handloads using the Barnes TSX bullets. The handloads grouped
into one and one-quarter inches. This was with the first load
tested using Hodgdonís Varget powder. I intend to fine
tune this load for accuracy, but I am fully satisfied with the
accuracy already exhibited. Most of my deer rifles will not do
as well. The Winchester Supreme varmint ammo shot into
one and one-half inches at one hundred yards. As expected,
the Ranch Rifle functioned flawlessly during all testing.
The only downside that I can see to the Ranch
Rifle is the limited availability of good quality high capacity
magazines. The best available are the Ruger factory twenty and
thirty round magazines. They are becoming hard to find, but they
are worth seeking out. The factory five-round magazine works
very well, and is adequate for hunting purposes, but I prefer
the larger magazines for social work. It has always been
Rugerís policy to not sell these to anyone other than law
enforcement, which is a shame. A man standing alone defending
his homestead needs just as much or more firepower than those
paid public servants who come to his aid. I think that Ruger
would sell a lot more Minis and Ranch Rifles if they would also
sell their high capacity magazines to the good citizens of this
country. Anyway, mags are out there if you are willing to search
for them, but it is an unnecessary inconvenience and expense.
Aftermarket magazines are available from sources such as Brownellís,
but I have not tried any of the ones currently available.
However, Brownellís has a reputation for selling quality
products, and I would trust them on this as well. They are good
people with whom to do business.
For many years the Ruger Ranch Rifle has been a
good choice for a light, handy, flat-shooting, low-recoiling
dependable carbine for hunting, plinking, or home defense. With
the new improvements, it is an even better choice than ever.
Check out the full line of Ruger products
For a detailed look at the VXL and other quality
Leupold optics, go to: www.leupold.com.
For the location of a Ruger dealer near you,
click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at: www.lipseys.com.
For high capacity magazines for the Mini-14 and
Ranch Rifle, check out www.brownells.com.
To locate a dealer where you can
buy this gun, Click on the DEALER FINDER icon at:
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