Gun Review: Ruger Mini 30 Rifle in 7.62x39mm
The Ruger Mini 30 rifle is something of a unique creature. I was first introduced to it a number of years ago as an alternative to the AK series of rifles. I’d spent a great deal of time with AK rifles and became used to their performance with the 7.62x39mm cartridge. Looking back now, if I had wrapped my mitts around a Mini Thirty first, I may never have owned an AK to begin with.
So let’s take a look at what the Mini 30 offers today’s shooters. Sure, it isn’t a modular tactical platform covered in miles of rails and no, it doesn’t fire 6.5 Creedmoor (how will Ruger ever recover?). But it managed to do just about everything that most shooters need a rifle needs to do and it look great while doing it. Wood and steel haven’t gone out of style just because soulless polymer is the thing today, and this gun is classic and modern in all the right places.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Mini Thirty is its wood stock. It gives it a more docile appearance like grandpa’s old Savage 99. Although it’s functionally no different than any other semiautomatic rifle out there, it is far less ‘scary’ to the uninformed and uneducated masses on sight. Which may have something to do with why the Mini Thirty and its Mini-14 little brother have been excluded from past “assault weapons” bans.
Granted, we laugh at this type of visual discrimination and are often happy to point out the irony of today’s regressive progressives and gun-grabbers, but these imbeciles often congregate in large numbers and make laws that reflect their baseless fears. As a result, the Mini Thirty is legal in areas where the common AR and AK pattern rifles aren’t, despite not being functionally different.
What makes the Mini Thirty so appealing is that its blend of several proven ideas that meet at a very functional point. The gun has an M1 Garand and M14/M1A style action that’s a battle-proven, extremely reliable design. It allows for a compact action and intuitive user controls. Even the safety is similar to that of the M1’s.
Another great point to consider in the Mini Thirty’s favor is that it’s chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge. I know some people will probably try to call me out and say that I don’t like the cartridge based on what I’ve written about it, but that’s not true at all. I like the cartridge well enough. I just don’t like that the national supply of 7.62x39mm is based heavily — exclusively one might say — on foreign imports or the fact that it’s often low quality. It’s a very good cartridge overall and offers a great number of benefits, among them a case taper that aids in reliable feeding and extraction and good power for its size.
A recreational shooter and hunter would be well suited with the Mini Thirty. It’s a lightweight, light recoiling rifle that carries well all day and has enough oomph for deer-sized game with enough accuracy for shooting both targets and game at ranges inside 200 yards. That’s about as far as anyone should try hunting with the 7.62x39mm.
You’re pretty much good to go with the Mini Thirty right out of the box. It ships with two five-round proprietary magazines (20 and 30 round mags are readily available) and has a very nice set of adjustable iron sights that are again similar to the M1. Once zeroed at a range of 100 yards, the gun only requires a little holdover for 200.
Shooting the Mini Thirty is comfortable and easy. To load it, simply rock the magazine in, pull the charging handle back to release. The safety is a blade lever located in the front of the trigger guard. Firing is smooth and intuitive. The rifle points naturally and recoil is extremely mild, making it great for experts and shooters new to rifles alike. The Mini Thirty’s two-stage trigger is smooth and very crisp, breaking at just over five pounds.
Cases eject with gusto, launching well clear of the shooter,the next couple lanes over. Maybe the next street as well. If you plan on reloading your brass, you’d best have a spotter watching where they go. An added bonus is that you can load the Mini Thirty from the top with loose ammo, but sadly it cant use stripper clips like its Garand ancestors.
I fired several types of ammo through this rifle and despite a reputation for average accuracy, I was pleased to see how well it did, even with inexpensive stuff. I did most of my shooting with Hornady 123gr SST BLACK. This is a great load and probably the most accurate 7.62x39mm on today’s market in my experience. That was the only load I chronographed for this article. Average velocity for ten shots was 2325fps over my Oehler 35P.
At 100 yards this load generated 1.5-2” for 10 shots with iron sights. I didn’t shoot the Mini Thirty rifle with a scope. It just seems to want to be shot with irons, but it does come with rings should you want to mount an optic. An optics rail is also included.
The other loads I used included Wolf Military Classic, Tula, and some Red Army Standard. The thing about 7.62x39mm is that you can get ammo, and lots of it, in bulk with steel cases. Steel-cased ammo isn’t bad in principle, but it isn’t the same as brass. Lots of people will end up firing cheap, common 7.62 in their Mini Thirty, although I wasn’t particularly impressed with it.
Feeding and reliability with all types of ammo was excellent, but the accuracy I came to expect from this rifle wasn’t. Groups with the cheaper rounds instantly opened to 3-5” depending on what I was shooting. The cheap ammo has its place, but don’t expect tight groups. The accuracy is very much there with better ammo like the Hornady BLACK 123gr SST.
Overall the Mini Thirty is a great rifle. I really enjoyed my time with it and was pleased at how nicely it shouldered and pointed. There are a number of AR and AK alternatives out there today, but the Mini Thirty is at the top of that list. There’s a world of aftermarket accessories for Mini series rifles, including stocks, magazines, and much, much more. They are well worth taking a look at, especially if you find yourself behind hostile lines in ban states.
Specifications: Ruger Mini 30 Rifle
Barrel Length: 18.5”
Length of Pull: 13”
MSRP: $1,069 (sometimes less at Cabela’s)
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy * * * *
When you feed the Mini Thirty good brass with Hornady SST bullets, it’s a winner. This gun shoots the good stuff really, really well and does pretty well with the cheap stuff.
Reliability * * * * *
I had not a single issue with this gun. It fed and ejected everything — even the cheap stuff — reliably.
Ergonomics * * * *
This gun has it where it counts. The wood stock is comfortable, but its 13-inch length of pull will be short for most shooters. Everything else rocks.
Aesthetics * * * * *
I love how the gun looks. I’m a huge fan of wood and metal and it just pleases my eye. The Mini Thirty has all the good looks of guns of yesteryear without sacrificing modern performance.
Customization * * * *
It isn’t an AR, but it’s not supposed to be. One star off for the lack of a threaded muzzle as every modern rifle should be threaded now. But I know why it’s made that way and I respect Ruger for making guns that have features that allow it to pass in la-la-land states.
Overall * * * *
The Ruger Mini Thirty is a cool gun in a cool caliber. It offers a number of benefits for today’s shooting crowd and those people who aren’t into more standard AR or AK pattern rifles.
The Mini Thirty can be seen at www.ruger.com. Ammo for this article can be seen at www.hornady.com.