Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

July 7th, 2004




It has been thirty years since Ruger first introduced their Mini-14. The year was 1974, and the AR-15 was still hated by many shooters who preferred their rifles made from blued steel and genuine wood. The Mini-14 was basically a scaled down US M-14 without the selective fire option, which Ruger did offer on their military version of the new weapon. Most shooters who liked the M-1 Garand and M-14 really loved the new Mini-14. Ruger simplified the Garand gas system, and the little .223 cartridge worked very well in the Mini.

I was working construction at the Eddyville, Kentucky State Prison when I first laid my eyes on the Mini-14. The wall guards there carried them on patrol, and I knew that I must have one. It took a few months of saving, but I scraped up enough cash to purchase a brand new Mini-14, along with a few of the factory twenty round magazines. That was back before our Congress decided that free citizens should not have a rifle that would hold in excess of ten rounds in the magazine.

Over the years, I have owned a few Minis, and each one has proven to be absolutely reliable under all conditions.  The design of the action is somewhat out in the open. When the gun cycles, it just slings off any dust, water, snow, ice, sand, mud, or other debris that might fall upon it. The Mini is also not as ammo sensitive as some other rifles. The gas system is very simple in design, with the gas impinging directly upon the operating rod.  It is as reliable as a rock, unless allowed to rust, which I will explain.  One problem that can occur with shooters who live in humid climates is that they will shoot the gun, then put it away with no lube on the gas system. If stored this way with the bolt fully closed, the gas system can rust, thereby sticking itself shut. Stored properly, it gives no trouble at all. In fact, I prefer to store the Mini with the bolt slightly open, and to treat the gas system with Militec lubricant.

One of the best improvements to the Mini-14 came along in 1982 in the form of the Ranch Rifle. The Ranch Rifle is the Mini-14 adapted for the easy use of a scope sight. I have tried various scope mount systems on the original Mini-14, and none were satisfactory. On the Ranch Rifle, the scope bases are cast into the receiver, and Ruger ships the gun with its medium height scope rings. The ejection pattern is also altered to assure that the fired cases clear the scope when ejected, and a bolt buffer system was added at the same time. The Mini-14 is one of the easiest rifles available to strip down for cleaning. Inserting a punch, screwdriver, or even a cartridge into the hole at the rear of the trigger guard and prying it from its catch allows the trigger assembly to be pulled from the stock, and the stock to be separated from the barreled action. The operating components lift easily from the action. The trigger system is very simple and reliable, and the safety is at the front of the trigger guard where it is easily reached with the trigger finger.

In the past few years, I havenít read much about the Mini-14 in gun magazines. It seems that most press is given to the latest and greatest in gun design, but the Mini has been around for three decades, and is still one of the better auto loading carbines available for a rugged, reliable, everyday gun to keep along on the farm or ranch. Its .223 Remington chambering is great on varmints and predators, and, where the law allows, is adequate for most whitetail deer with the proper bullet. In addition, it works very well for social situations which require a quick-handling carbine when fitted with an extended magazine. I prefer the twenty round version. As a patrol rifle for rural police, a Mini-14 in the trunk or rifle rack is much better than a pistol or shotgun in many situations.  The Mini can provide plenty of accurate firepower with minimal recoil.

For this article, I ordered a new Ranch Rifle in the basic blued steel version with the wood stock. The hardwood stock is steel reinforced for added strength, has a smooth black plastic carbine style butt plate, and a synthetic ventilated hand guard. It is also fitted with sling swivels, and comes supplied with the above-mentioned Ruger scope rings. I mounted a Simmons three to nine power compact scope, which is proportioned well to the little carbine. The trigger pull on the test rifle measured just under four pounds, which is about half of the pressure required to fire most AR-15 type weapons, and made the little Ruger much easier to fire accurately. The accuracy of the Ranch Rifle matched that of other Minis that I have owned. It grouped regularly under one and one-half inches at one hundred yards with good ammunition from a good rest. I have never had a Mini-14 that would shoot as accurately as a target rifle, but the Mini was never built to be a target rifle. It is plenty accurate for its intended purpose, and adding a heavier barrel to enhance accuracy would detract from its excellent handling abilities. The Ranch Rifle did, however, exhibit excellent accuracy with Winchester Supreme 55 grain Ballistic Silvertip ammo, grouping between three-quarters to just under one inch with each three-shot group fired. The Ranch Rifle was also function tested with a variety of commercial .223 and military 5.56mm ammunition. Functioning was, as expected, perfect. The large extractor and fixed ejector sends brass flying swiftly to the right of the shooter. The Miniís action locks open after the last shot in the magazine, and can be manually locked open by depressing a button atop the receiver. All of the major action parts are robust, and the springs are sturdy coil designs.  The Mini-14 is built to last, and to work reliably for a long time.

The ranch Rifle comes supplied with one five-shot magazine. I also had on hand a few Ram-Line thirty round magazines that fit both the Ruger and AR-15 rifles. The Ram-Line mags worked reliably in the Ranch Rifle as well. In addition to the excellent scope mount system on the Ranch Rifle, it is supplied with a fixed blade front sight and a fold-down fully adjustable rear peep sight for when the scope is removed.  With the eighteen and one-half inch barrel, the overall length is just over thirty-seven inches, and the weight is six pounds and ten ounces, making for a quick-handling and compact little carbine.

The Mini-14 rifle series may not be as racy as the latest carbon fiber and space-age alloy European wonder weapons, but it is a strong, reliable, and handy little carbine that has been around for thirty years, and will be just as good of a rifle thirty years from now. It is fun, accurate, and easy to shoot, and I highly recommend it.


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Ruger's Mini-14 Ranch Rifle



Author demonstrates the handy size of the Ruger Ranch Rifle. Jeff has long been a fan of the Mini-14 and its variations.



Ruger's Mini-14 features (top-bottom): a well-designed plastic butt plate, positive and easy-to-operate safety, synthetic ventilated hand guard, sling swivels, manual bolt hold-open stud, steel trigger guard, and a well-located magazine release.



The Ranch Rifle variation of the Mini-14 features a ramp front sight, flip-up rear sight, and Ruger's excellent integral scope mounting system.



The Ranch Rifle comes with one five-shot magazine (top and center). Jeff also likes the thirty-shot Ram-Line magazine (bottom).



Hammer & sear.



Based on the U.S. M-14 design, the Min-14's action is strong and precise.



The Mini-14's gas system is simple and reliable.



The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle proved to be 100% reliable, and more than accurate enough for the rifle's intended purpose with a wide variety of ammunition. Best groups were achieved with Winchester's 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip load.



Ruger's classic Mini-14 Ranch Rifle - a proven design that excels even in today's world of composites and synthetics.