Following up on the selection of the Mini-14 Tactical as a standard carbine for my family, this is my review of the Mini-14 I put through its paces over Christmas 2010.
I’ve read that some rifles prefer certain types of bullets, so I had a selection of 55 grain FMJ, 55 grain HP, 62 grain FMJ, and 62 grain HP, in brass and steel cased (zinc plated, polymer coated, and lacquer coated) ammunition. Brands included Federal, (edit/add: Prvi Partizan PPU M855), Wolf, Silver Bear, Tula, and some no name Russian stuff.
Long story short, we noticed no significant differences in reliability or accuracy with these different types of ammunition – 100% cycled and was accurate out to 300 yards we shot to with this rifle.
The first 100 rounds were Federal XM193 55 grain shot mostly at targets within 50 yards for breaking in the rifle. After that my brothers and I took turns with it on our redneck range, which began in a corner of our parent’s yard with targets at 75, 100, 200, and 300 yards out into a field. The area goes out to 400 yards, which we’ll probably setup next time.
We used iron sights and a TruGlo red dot sight (review to follow) at 75 and 100 yards with identical results once sighted it; at or over 90% hits on soda cans and good groups on the targets. At 200 and 300 yards we used a Nikon Prostaff BDC 4-12x40mm scope. Due to my not adjusting the scope mount correctly (not factory rings), we had a hard time hitting the 300 yard target, but had consistent grouping at 12-16” between three shooters.
[Edit: The B-Square mount it must have been installed by my a little off kilter. When I sighted the scope in at 100 yards, had to adjust both windage/elevation a lot. At 300 yards it needed to be tweaked a bit but was out of range. So we picked spots on the upper left part of the old dryer the target was on, and got the grouping in the lower right of the dryer, which took awhile to figure out. This rifle is basically 2 MOA, maybe a bit better closer in.]
Rather than the Ruger rings provided with the Mini-14, I used a B-Square mount for the Mini-14 to mount both the red dot and scope. The B-Square mounts to the side and provides weaver rail to mount optics to. Testing showed the mount could be removed and reattached without loosing zero (review to follow).
We used 20 and 30 round factory magazines with zero problems. In addition to slow target shooting, we went through a few hundred rounds in rapid succession in order get the barrel hot to see if it would affect accuracy; it did not.
It wasn’t a torture test, but we shot 1,200 rounds over several days before cleaning the rifle. Yeah, I know, but I wanted to know. The barrel and chamber were amazingly clean, especially considering all the cheap Russian ammo that was used. Only the gas port was filthy, but not in a way that affected operation of the bolt. It cleaned up relatively easily.
The Good: The Ruger Mini-14 tactical is reliable and finally accurate. At 6.75 pounds and 36.75”, it’s light and compact. It does not require prompt cleaning and is not picky about the ammunition it shoots. Decades of use have shown the Ranch version to be durable and rugged, and Tactical version seems no different. For around $600, this rifle is outstanding.
The Bad: Options for mounting optics remain limited; Ruger rings for a scope, or an aftermarket solution for weaver/picatinny rail. Ruger needs to correct this. A second issue I had (but no one else in my group) was that I twice charged it in such a way as to pull the charging handle out of the take-down groove on the side (yellow arrow in photo), causing the bolt to be slightly misaligned an jamming. I’m used to charging AK and SKS rifles and sometimes pull a bit out as I pull down – don’t do this with the Mini-14. At the time I found in forums this had happened to a couple others.
Overall I was very pleased with this rifle, especially for the price, and can recommend it for a SHTF carbine on par with the AR-15 and AK-47.
Update: Forgot to mention that we tried the flash suppressor, at night of course. It works, really broke up the flash and would help maintain night vision.