The Ruger Mini-14 has been in production in one variant or another since 1973. Nearly three million have been made so far, the two most common models being the standard Mini-14 and the Ranch Rifle, which starting in 2005, was redesigned and the standard Mini-14 and Ranch Rifle became the same when the 580 Series came online.
The original Mini-14 was an iron-sight-only rifle and the Ranch Rifle had a small folding rear sight that gave the shooter the option of mounting a scope. The current production redesigned the rear sight to be solid while still giving the shooter the ability to mount an optic.
More variants have since been added. There was the Ruger AC556 and AC556K, of course, the regular Mini’s full-auto cousin introduced to the market in 1978. The AC556 is a standard 18-inch barreled Mini-14 with a giggle switch. The AC556K is the 13-inch version. Both came with a flash hider and the full-size model also came with a bayonet lug.
There was also the French contract Mousqueton AMD, a standard Mini-14 made for the French National Police with a checkered walnut stock, rubber butt pad and different receiver markings plus a M1 carbine-style sling & oiler mount.
Other variants were target models with adjustable barrel weights that look like a suppressor to dampen harmonics and even odd chamberings like the ‘Triple Deuce‘ (.222 Remington), along with more modern loads like the 6.8 SPC and .300 BLK.
But the most sought after variant that is available in the US market is the Ruger Mini-14 GB.
It was a semi-auto clone of the AC556, Ruger’s main Mini for law enforcement sales. The key distinguishers were the pistol grip and folding stock inspired for the AC556K. A solid design from a bygone era of wood and steel. In today’s markets; the folding stock actually costs as much as a current production Mini-14 due to popularity and scarcity.
Here my factory folder with all the proper hardware. They’re getting very hard to find these days.
The stocks were only commercially sold to the public until 1989 when Bill Ruger pulled them from the civilian market as a response to the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton, California. After that, until production ceased in the mid 1990s, they were sold only to law enforcement agencies.
Here’s my personal stainless GB Model in a factory laminated stock with all stainless components.
Mine was made in December of 1989 and shipped in January 1990 with full production ending in 2003. The Ruger Mini-14 GB is in my opinion the best variant of the rifle ever brought to market. Especially when it’s combined with the factory folding stock. You have a compact, lightweight, capable rifle chambered in 5.56 NATO that can withstands the rigorous of outdoor use in places like an airboat in the brackish humid swamps of south Florida.
Many bash the Mini-14 as a rifle that can only hit the side of a barn from the inside. They say the ergos and layout suck compared to those of the AR-15. But the most common complaint I hear from Mini-14 haters concerns the magazine.
Everyone always says that they’d buy a Mini-14 if they took standard AR-15 mags. Well, here’s the thing. The Mini-14 was designed in the late 1960s and hit the market in 1973, when the AR wasn’t what it is today. The idea of a rifle that ran on AR mags wouldn’t have made sense since at the time, the AR-15 was not popular on the civilian and law enforcement market. In that era, Steyr, Heckler & Koch, Armalite, and others all had their own 5.56 designs and they used their own proprietary magazines.
I grew up with Mini-14s and AR-15s and I can say this. The Mini-14 is a great rifle for its intended task. A small, compact rifle that feeds from reliable 20- and 30-round magazines that’s accurate at bad guy/nuisance animal distances. But every time someone mentions a Mini-14 on any online forum, this always seems to get posted:
The Mini-14 is accurate enough for self-defense and varmint/pest hunting. Here’s a seven-inch 15-round group shot in under two minutes from an unsupported sitting position at 100 yards.
It won’t win any competitions, but that looks minute of bad guy to me.
Folks can bash it all they want. But prior to the popularity explosion that the AR-15 had after the end of the Clinton AWB, the Mini-14 was a popular, affordable rifle and sold well in the civilian market. But along with civilian sales; the Ruger Mini-14 also sold very well to the law enforcement market as well as overseas.
For more of that juicy information, you’re going to have to read part two.