Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
Josh Wayner for TTAG
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The weather here in Michigan has been pretty nasty this year. We’ve had absurdly low temperatures, tons of ice and snow, barely any sunlight, and bad outbreaks of cabin fever.

While that seems bad, it is, in fact, the ideal conditions to test the stainless steel Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. The rifle is built for inclement weather and can blast through winter just like your dad’s old Toro snowblower.

The relatively simple Mini-14 design, one that Ruger’s been selling for more than 45 years, is rather simple and features a Garand-style action (it’s about he size of an M1 carbine). Compared to an AR-15, there are many differences and nuances to address. This rifle is something of an alternative to the AR, but is a stand-alone design that shares many of the same chamberings with Stoner’s semi-auto rifles.

This version is chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, but Ruger offers versions in 300 Blackout and the Mini Thirty in 7.62x39mm.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
Josh Wayner for TTAG

The Mini-14 is a fairly light and handy rifle, coming in at just over seven pounds fully loaded. It has great balance and points naturally with its iron sights.

For fans of older style rifles, the jump to the Mini-14 can be a smoother transition compared to the more common and popular AR-15 platform, which has a vastly different type of cheek weld setup and eye over bore height. The rifle’s synthetic stock is slim and trim, which contributes to easy handling.

One gripe I have with that stock is its length of pull. I’m not tall, but I’m taller than most of the general population. This Mini-14 rifle has a stock made for the six-foot-and-over-crowd who spend their time in conditions where they don’t need coats. I would have loved it of this compact rifle had a length of pull to match.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
Josh Wayner for TTAG

When I tested it in sub-zero conditions, I had to assume a somewhat awkward position in order to shoulder the rifle with my winter coat on. I constantly work outside in sub-zero temperatures. But we’re used to that up here in Michigan and I don’t wear an especially thick coat. Still, the length of pull while fully kitted out was a stretch.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
The Mini-14’s ghost ring adjustable rear sight (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

A substantial portion of the population is located in warmer, more humid southern states, and this is a good gun for those conditions as well. The cold had no influence at all on how the Mini-14 performed, but it did give my chronograph problems.

When I was recording the ballistic data for the ammunition tested in this article it was fifteen degrees below zero with a wind chill well south of that. That was too much for my chrony, so I didn’t get to record velocity. But the rifle kept on ticking so I was able to obtain accuracy data without an issue.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle’s protected front sight post (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

I fired several flavors of Hornady and SIG SAUER ammunition through the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle at a distance of 100 yards using only the iron sights and a sling, just as I would an M1 Garand in CMP competition. The length of pull gave me a problem here, as I had to stretch my neck out to get my head in the proper position.

While similar in overall design to a classic military rifle, the ghost ring sights on the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle are just different enough to be noticeable though they’re easy to get used to.

Groups are the average of four five-shot groups.

SIG SAUER 77gr Match—————————-2.5”
SIG SAUER 55gr FMJ——————————2.0”
Hornady Frontier 62gr FMJ————————3.25”
Hornady Frontier 55gr FMJ————————3.0”
Hornady Frontier 75gr BTHP Match —————1.75”

The rifle experienced no issues cycling. It was so cold that you could hear trees cracking due the severe temperatures, but the Mini-14 didn’t seem to care.

I fired about 300 rounds in the test before I had to call it quits and pack up for fear of getting stuck at the range. At no time did the rifle give me the slightest problem, even with ice and snow in the action.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
Josh Wayner for TTAG

As thousands before me have learned, shooting the Mini-14 is a pleasant experience. The recoil impulse is very different than that of an AR-15 and is downright pleasant. The low cycling mass of the bolt makes it feel like you’re firing a much smaller rifle.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
Josh Wayner for TTAG

Beside the action, there are a few other differences you’ll notice compared to an AR. Magazines (the rifle ships with 2 20-round magazines) have to be rocked in like an AK or M1A, but you can load them from the top through the action in a pinch.

If you have a scope mounted on the rifle, however, that becomes difficult (the Mini-14 ships with a Picatinny rail and a set of scope rings). If you’re planning on shooting with irons it’s a perfectly useable option. Unfortunately you can’t load it with stripper clips.

Gun Review: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless
Josh Wayner for TTAG

The Mini-14’s two-stage factory trigger probably won’t win any awards. There’s more than a fair amount of creep, though it breaks cleanly enough at just over five pounds. This is undoubtedly a contributor to the accuracy results I got. The blade safety (again, similar to the Garand’s or the M14) just forward of the trigger guard is convenient enough to use, if not exactly elegant.

Overall, like the Mini Thirty, I’m a fan of the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. Despite the temperature, shooting the rifle is tons of fun. While it shoots the same rounds as an AR, it’s far less scary-looking to the un-initiated. While not match accurate, it’s very soft-shooting and easy for a beginner to use.

If you are in the market for a non-AR semiautomatic rifle, the Mini-14 is easily one of the best guns you can get. After my testing in extreme cold and snow, I would trust this gun to work as advertised in almost any conditions.

Armscor ammunition

Specifications: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Stainless

Caliber: .223/5.56
Capacity: 20+1 rounds (larger and smaller magazines available)
Barrel Length: 16”
Overall Length: 34.75”
Sights: Fixed post front, adjustable ghost ring rear
Weight: 6.6lbs
MSRP: $1069 (street price about $900)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * * 
While accuracy could have been better, the Mini-14 is certainly no slouch. I’m attributing some of my results to the sub-zero conditions as well as to the average-at-best stock trigger. The gun comes with scope mounts, but wasn’t tested with an optic, which would have tightened groups up a bit. That said, the accuracy with iron sights are fine for most work inside 200 yards which is the kind of job it’s designed for (think varmint control).

Reliability * * * * *
I had no failures to feed or fire at all with this rifle at all. The gun ran everything and ejected several feet away. The rifle was easy to shoot with and did well during rapid fire.

Ergonomics * * *
The major gripe I have with this gun was the longish stock and rubber butt pad. When you are wearing a coat or thick clothing it tends to get hung up on fabric and is also hard to shoulder. The magazines are a change from the AR pattern in that they rock in instead of just inserting straight up.

Customize This * * * *
There is a large aftermarket following for the Mini-14 line, but they generally come in the form of stocks and some accurizing accessories.

Aesthetics * * * *
The Mini-14 is a relatively simple gun designed to be used outdoors. It’s designed to be rugged and looks the part. The plain stock and stainless construction are tough, but won’t win any beauty contests.

Overall * * * * *
The target market for the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle is a person who values dependability under the worst circumstances. I had no issues with it in the deep cold of Michigan’s most recent winter storm and it functioned well even with snow and ice all over it. This isn’t a match-accurate rifle, nor is it a beauty queen, but if you need a lightweight, soft-shooting rifle with all the essentials, this is a great choice.

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68 COMMENTS

  1. I had a mini 30, and my accuracary was nothing like what you got. After a handful of shots I would have trouble keeping the shots inside of a 12 inch circle at 50 yards, and it would fail to fire at least a couple of rounds per box of 20, and that was with an after market spring behind the firing pin. I hated it, and got rid of it as soon as I could.

  2. well the stock issues is an easy fix, find one that’s more your size. The mags are expensive. Hopefully the fixed the barrel issues.

  3. It would be interesting to see the difference in the accuracy in, say, 80 degree weather with same ammo and wind speed. For that kind of price , I would buy a Mauser Mod. 18.

  4. Totally agree with this review. I’ve owned several mini’s and have managed to hold onto a stainless ranch Mini-14 and a mini 30. I usually shoot reloads for both and have seldom had any malfunctions, usually due to my reloads. I think they are more fun to shoot than my AR and even my wife loves the Mini 14, it being her favorite rifle. But then again, I also love my M1A Scout, so maybe it’s just the design I love.

  5. I own 2 mini 14 . one chambered in 5.56 NATO , the second which you did not mention is chambered in 6.8 spc. I have to say I love them both , the 581 series in 6.8 spc is my favorite of the 2. The rifles are gas piston and are clean running , reliable , great rifles. Thank you TTAG for the review.

  6. I’d love to see a version where the rear sight base is part of the casting like an M1a, no scope mounts, and a stripper guide.

    • Thank you. It saddens me that stripper clip guides and guns that use them are gone for good, particularly with the looming statist doomsday. Stripper clips are fun too. There is one small company I ran across a few years ago that made a guide for the .223 and 7.62×39 versions but I don’t know if they are still kicking.

  7. M1 carbine is hands down my favorite gun to shoot, with the Garand and 10/22 close behind,so I love the Mini as well. That said, chasing accuracy too far with a Mini is a losing game. A gas bushing, a set of shok buffers,a bedding job and a barrel strut will get you to around 90% of it’s potential, but pursuing that last 10% is basically setting your money on fire.

      • this gun’s appeal is it gives the appearance of a scaled-down M-14…and is far less threatening in appearance… which can be an asset in certain circumstances….

    • I have a mini-30, and accuracy was poor as well. I made my own barrel support/heat dissipator rod, put in a .065 gas port like you mentioned, but I did a lot of work with reloads, actually converting Russian steel cases to Boxer primers, loaded with 150 Hornady bullets, and I actually shot a 3 shot one contiguous hole group at 200 yards. I haven’t shot the rifle since.

  8. Is it normal for a Mini to ‘dent’ the neck of brass being ejected?

    And can ‘dented’ neck brass be safely reloaded?

    And who put the ‘run’ in the ‘Do-run-run’?…

    • Mine dents the brass. I believe (but not 100% sure) that this happens as the bolt returns forward and the bolt handle hits the brass just as it clears the ejection port.

      I don’t reload (yet?), so I can’t say about whether brass would be safe to reload if reshaped back into form. Now I’m kind of curious though…

      • What nap and esoteric said. Mine dents casings too but I’ve never had more than one that wasn’t safe to reload.

        I just make sure they get a good dose of case lube before resizing and carefully measure the neck before and after trimming. Usually reinspect after trimming too to make sure there’s no thin spot.

    • So long as the “dent” is merely superficial and doesn’t compromise the case’s integrity (puncture or remove excessive amounts of material), then it will be fine to resize and reload. Granted that case life will likely be shortened due to such things, and resizing doesn’t completely obviate the dents (shooting the reloaded round typically takes care of this as the case is reformed to the chamber). Kalashnikovs and SVDs are notoriously hard on brass, however, Esoteric Inanity has frequently reloaded for both with no noticeable degradation in accuracy due to a marred cartridge case.

    • I found that changing the gas port helps reduce case denting (and a bunch of other things, like throwing your brass 30 feet away). I don’t have any problems at all with damaged cases anymore.

  9. I prefer the Mini because it handles better for the way I like to use a rifle.

    I used to think I wanted a stock with a rubber butt pad instead of the carbine butt plate ( mine has wood stock)……until I shot one. The butt plate comes to my ahoulder easier and quicker without dragging on clothing or gear.

    I also like the open top (scopes are bad) in case I do have a stoppage.

    Mine was purchased when Minis were much cheaper than ARs somthe new price seems steep. I do wish they would make one that took cheap PMags.

    Nice review…thanks for living in the cold so I don’t have too.

  10. This article brings up an interesting point: verifying that my firearms function flawlessly in extreme cold, extreme heat, and extreme humidity.

    I am NOT looking forward to that testing.

  11. “The relatively simple Mini-14 design, one that Ruger’s been selling for more than 45 years, is rather simple…”

    So a simple design is simple?

  12. “[P]ursuing that last 10% is basically setting your money on fire.” I’ve found this to be true with so many things in life. If you can forego that last ten per cent 98% of the time, you should be able to splurge on the things that matter to you most. Maybe even get that Lamborghini. Or Pappy van Winkle.

    • TFB on youtube has a test for this. If I remember right, it did just fine. The only catch is that it is designed to run subsonic suppressed. Some subsonic may not cycle properly without a silencer.

  13. If it was in .308 I’d get one.
    The barrel is the weak link in the guns accuracy. But it’s a reliable shooter and worth a look.

        • True story, but it’s the closest you’ll probably get if you truly want a “scaled up” Mini-14. I’m no expert (living in NY I’m not really allowed to be, sigh), but it strikes me that other rifle platforms have done a better job hitting the sweet spot for a lightweight, easy-shooting, semi-auto .308.

    • Ruger tried….the XGI….308 and then 243…..didnt work.

      So…..we ended up with the mini 30….and now a 300AAC.

      It is great for what it is. Are there any semi 308 rifles as light as a Mini 14?

      • It seems like it would be pretty tough to do the same kind of gun in .308 and make it very light – the strength of the receiver and operating system would be an issue, and if you could resolve that, the lightness of the gun would still make it a bear to handle and shoot well. Then again, the AR-10 is/was quite light… I don’t own one, so I don’t know how it handles compared to the Mini-14, but I assume very differently!

      • POF’s Revolution… I have one in 308 and it weighs in at 7.2lbs or so without optic and unloaded. Perceived recoil is somewhere between a AR 10 and and an AR 15. Very reliable so far (about 800 rounds), no FTF’s, 1 or 2 stovepipes that were my fault. Its fun to shoot. Easy to clean (piston as well as a Robar-coated BCG). The rifle is pricey though, but for me, it has all the positives of an AR-15 (or Mini-14) and the AR10 without the negatives of either.

        Recently got a WITT Machine can for it (about $460 and waiting for the Feds to give me my permission slip) – I hate the blast/noise from it’s brake.

    • Keep in mind that that’s shooting from a sling in very harsh conditions, not from a mechanical rest/bipod/sandbag in nice conditions. It’s still less accurate than a comparably priced AR, but more than good enough for most purposes.

  14. I wish they’d make a wood stock in a grade of walnut worthy of an $800-900 rifle. These days I think the biggest selling point to the Mini is to thumb your nose at the tacti-cool crowd.

  15. When I was in an assault rifle ban state last year I looked at the Mini. But I went with a Fightlite “SCR.” it shoulders like a mini 14 ranch, but the SCR is about 75% AR-15 parts and near 100% AR accessories like magazines.

    I was able to get an SCR lower and BCG only. The stock it uses is Remington 1000 stock, so there are dozens you can use from plastic to wood. The BCG is slightly proprietary but the bolt is standard AR. mags are AR, upper is AR, barrel and rail are AR. Optics are AR, except you mount them lower due to how you shoulder the gun higher.

    And mine shoots much better and more accurately than the minis at my range.

    Mini is a great gun, but if you are getting a ranch version because you live in a ban state, there are better options.

  16. I’ve owned five Mini-14s that I can recall. Reliable, but accuracy was mediocre. On par with most AKs. With one exception. A stainless GB model with factory folding stock. It would drive tacks. Should have held on to that one.

  17. I have a Mini 14 ranch rifle I purchased last year. I understand the stories of these things being inaccurate, but my experience differs greatly. Mine has the new, thicker barrel, and I couldn’t be happier with the accuracy. She’s become one of my favorite guns.

  18. Remember the days when TTAG would give guns less than 4 stars? IDK how the Mini-14 gets 5 stars, it’s 2019, there are better options available for less money that are more accurate, have better customization and variety of aftermarket parts, and be just as reliable.

    IMO, it’s a 3 star rifle. Not great in any respect, but average to good in several facets.

  19. I have the mini14 and mini30 and they are just so fun to shoot. My daughter has pretty much taken the mini 14 from me as her own now. We both have piled up the deer and pigs over the years with both of them. We don’t have to shoot more than 100 yds where we hunt, so the 2″ groups don’t really factor for hunting. I have the 2×7 Vortex and 3×9 Nikon on the rifles and they are a great combo. I have the 5/10/20 mags and I even have some off brand 10rd mag that work perfect in the Mini30.

  20. I have an old Mini 14 that is known for it’s “Minute of Milk Jug” accuracy. As I reload all my ammo, found that a slightly reduced charge of Accurate 2230 powder turned it into a MOA rifle. Others that I have talked to over the years have found the same thing. Your mileage may very.

    If you don’t reload, Find the factory ammo that shoots best and buy it in mass quantity. If you do roll your own, give it a try and let us all know how it works for you.

  21. Bill Rugar supported gun restrictions and his mini was left alone, {self serving gun control) I’ve owned 3 of these POS all so inaccurate you could not hit the side of a barn at 3 feet, they were bending the barrels when pushing the front sight on!, FYI got better accuracy out of a Norinko SKS.

  22. I have had a stainless steel Mini-14 for decades. It is my truck gun (I own about 1,000 acres). I bought the obligatory AR-15 for each of my three children as well as an M-1A scout, but I also gave them stainless steel Mini-14s. My daughter took her Mini-14 with her when she went to college in Arizona. Just FYI, my little daughter is a dead ringer for the Terminiatrix who was kicking Arnold Swartzenegger’s ass in T-3 RISE OF THR MACHINES. Watching her do her Colonel Hannibel Smith impersonation complete with cigar is hilarious. Very similar disposition. She got into politics and was on campaign staff for a certain Senator who had far more security than he imagined when she had to chauffer him.

  23. In my state the 556 caliber is not legal for deer. I originally bought a mini 30 but just like everyone else, accuracy was dismal. I then picked up a mini 14 in 6.8 SPC years ago and it shoots fine. The modern 300 blk caliber may also be accurate, however the price of the new Mini’s are in the $900.00 dollar range, Way too expensive for the average guy when you can get a AR15 in 300 blk for the $600.00 dollar range. One plus is that I have never had a malfunction with any Mini 14 or Mini 30. Your mileage may vary.

  24. My brief encounter with a Mini 14 left me unimpressed. It was a stainless model and the receiver looked like pot metal. Also it jumped around and wasn’t very comfortable. I get along much better with an M4 style AR., Not to mention the price difference. My M&P 15 sport was $600, and AR magazines are much cheaper.

  25. The newer heavy-barrel Mini is a 1 MOA rifle, if taken to mean ‘Minute Of Asshole’. As a civilian, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where I would be trading bullets with anyone at distances beyond which this rifle is deadly accurate.

  26. I went to an indoor range today to sight in my stainless mini 14. I did add a 50mm Vortex scope. I had my bench rest with me and ended up gettting a 5 shot group that were all touching. This was at 100 yds. Great shooting rifle and I will never complain about a grouping like that.

  27. I have owned Mini-14’s since the 70’s. All have been as accurate as I can shoot. A reason for the earlier rifles apparently throwing their shots around is hardly ever mentioned. Oh, it’s the barrel whip, Oh it’s the lack of buffers, Oh its the lack of a “strut”. All BS. The main reason is that the old, original rear sight has play in all directions. If you have one, grasp the peep itself on the rear sight base and pull it up and down vertically. Then wiggle it left and right. And THEN wiggle it fore and aft. You will notice it has significant movement in ALL directions. It doesn’t take much movement to throw shots off. I have proven this to be the main reason for “wide” groups by shimming the rear sight blade temporarily and noticed that the rifle then shot superbly, at least as good as is possible with a variety of ammo.The current new sight is rigid once set and has zero movement. Therefore, it seems to be a more accurate rifle than the older model. Shim the old sight and the rifle will be accurate as the newer ones, skinny barrel and all. Do not replace the gas block, do not install a “strut”, do not glass bed the stock and most of all, shoot a lot and often, and then practice some more. In my 60 years of shooting I can count on one hand the number of shooters I’ve know that could shoot as well as the rifle can. Even 1 moa rifles will not group that well in the hands of the average shooter. Long live the Mini-14!

  28. Anyone see the 2010 movie, “The American”, with George Clooney? If you look closely at the Mini-14 used in that film, on the right side of factory folding stock, it has a strange bolt mechanism with a locking channel plate, mounted just below the receiver bed, just behind the stock screw. Anyone know what that is for? I’ve never seen that on any FFS before. It looks like it might hold the receiver to the stock after you take out the trigger assembly. But why?

    • I saw that too. Will have to guess it’s just a movie prop to make the rifle more interesting?
      i remember liking that move since Clooneys love interest was very attractive even though she was a prostitute in the film…I like her a lot……did I mention that I liked her? the gun, yes I liked that too. I have a Mini 14. great varmint rifle.

  29. I am about to make my first purchase of a Mini-14. I must say that for the $900 outlay the internet critic of the weapon overall gives me pause. I have never been an AR fan and this seemed like the right fit for me. Wish me luck!

  30. Ruger has been making the Mini 14 for 48 years at this point in time. That means they have made tens of thousands of these Rifles. I would think, if they are as bad as some people make them out to be, there should be web pages full of used Mini 14’s. There’s not. I was looking for a Mini 14. I went on 3 national gun classified ad sites. Plus a few smaller sites, and gun venders. All the stores are out of them. I found 6 used Mini’s for sale in the US. Those were going for $700 to $900 used. So they can’t be that bad. I did find one new, maybe the only new one for miles. I paid $1,000 all in. Model #8517. I haven’t had a chance to fire it. My friends had them years ago, and I liked them then.

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