In part one we discussed the Mini-14’s features and some of the variants. But many only know the Mini-14 as a civilian-marketed firearm. The history and service this rifle has given over the years is far more interesting and it has popped up in a number of surprising places around the world. Let’s take a look at a few.
A small UK colony off the US east coast, Bermuda has its own territorial militia and it participates in regional security operations in the Caribbean as an associate member of CARICOM. A regional economic and security alliance of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies.
When the UK adopted the SA80/L-85 Pattern bullpup rifle to replace the FN FAL, Bermuda wasn’t interested. The bullpup had a number of issues and as a territorial force, they were allowed to select their own arms to meet their particular needs. The M16 still had the stigma attached to it from its introduction during Vietnam and HKs were ungodly expensive. So in 1983, the Royal Bermuda Regiment adopted the Ruger Mini-14 GB.
With their adoption, the RBR swapped out the factory wood stocks for a fixed Choate Machine & Tool polymer stock. Other than that, their Mini-14 GBs were bone stock.
The RBR was so good with their Mini-14s that they even beat the Bermuda Police Force ERT (Emergency Response Team) armed with AR-15s.
The RBR used the Mini-14 GBs at Camp LeJeune and set some records with them in joint training with the USMC.
Alas, the Mini-14 was finally finally retired from the RBR in January 2016. It was replaced with the reworked HK L-85A2 series of bullpups. The choice may have had something to do with the UK Ministry of Defence providing them free of charge to the RBR.
So the Mini-14 being put out to pasture by the RBR. As with all things soldierly. They don’t die, they just fade away.
In 1979, the Royal Ulster Constabulary began to buy Ruger AC-556 rifles for their Special Patrol Groups, Special Operations (E Services) and exposed border police stations and units. These rifles saw extensive service for twenty years, only being replaced by the HK33 when the RUC became the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 1999 after the Good Friday Agreement.
The RUC was involved in heavy police action against the IRA and PRIA during The Troubles. Originally, the RUC armed their officers with M1 Carbines but the situation heated up as the IRA and PIRA became better armed due to their American cousins in Boston and Uncle Gaddafi in Libya sending them money and arms.
The RUC needed something with more punch. Cost was an issue as was appearance. They could have used the British FN FAL (LA1A) but since they were a territorial police force, it would have been bad optics to police the community with weapons of war. So they chose the Ruger AC556.
The Ruger AC556 served the RUC until 1999 when the agency was disbanded in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.
The Ruger Mini-14 saw some limited, but interesting service the Rhodesia and South Africa, though the service in South Africa was more of a historical event than an official military one.
Mini-14s saw limited official use in Rhodesia. Al J. Venter used a Ruger Mini-14 while covering the bush war in Rhodesia 1978. Photo from a reprint of the 1979 G&A article ‘Guns of the Mercenaries.’
From left to right standing: Three Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) troopers, Robert K. Brown, former French Foreign Legionnaire Jerry O’Brien, and SOF art director Craig Nunn. Kneeling: RAR trooper, “Reb” Pierce, a guitar player from Atlanta; Major Darrell Winkler, OIC of the RAR unit; and Belgian army veteran Yves DeBray.
Robert Brown and Darrel Winkler are carrying stainless steel Ruger Mini-14’s in 5.56 mm. Bill Ruger, a close friend of Robert Brown, provided SOF with said guns at a “special price.” Robert Brown essentially smuggled them out of the U.S., as there was an arms embargo on Rhodesia at the time. Bill Ruger subsequently provided a number of Ruger Mini-14s free to SOF for operations in El Salvador. “He was a good dude,” commented Robert Brown.
Eugène Terre’Blanche’s Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging used Mini-14 rifles when they stormed the Kempton Park World Trade Centre in 1993 during the lead up to the elections that put the ANC into power in South Africa. In that era, semi-auto FALs were common and yet it was the Mini-14 that that used. The AWB also saw paramilitary action in the former Bantustan of Bophuthatswana during the coup d’état of 1994.
It didn’t end well for them.
Still with me? Here’s part three.