The reason I love shooting it so much is its old-school Garand-style action. It sort of throws you around when you shoot it. I do enjoy shooting AR-style rifles, and they are in many ways better guns, but they don’t have anywhere near the character that the Mini-14 has. Mini's are also legal in many states where AR-style rifles are frowned upon.
My interest in Mini-14s likely goes back to the hit 80’s TV show "The A-Team" with Mr. T. We got to see the Mini in action and, like so many fans of that show, I wanted one so bad. So, when I saw this on Guns.com, I bought it right away for a really good price.
MARYLAND PRISON SYSTEM
This particular rifle came from the Maryland prison system when we did a bulk buy of a few dozen of them.
It’s chambered in 5.56 NATO and is a 580-series rifle. This means that it was produced by Ruger and purchased by the prison system sometime after 2007. It's unclear why the prison sold the guns.
Ruger began producing Mini-14s back in 1973. It was essentially a pared-down version of the M14 rifle that was chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. The Mini-14 was originally chambered in 5.56 or .223 Remington. However, Ruger has since added other models chambered in 7.62x39mm, .300 Blackout, and 6.8 SPC.
The original Mini-14 design remained largely unchanged for 30 years. However, in 2003, Ruger made some updates. They upgraded the sights, added the ability to attach a scope, and improved the gas system. Around 2007, they added a heavier tapered barrel.
These newer rifles are known as the 580 series. The easiest way to tell if you have one of these is to look at the barrel where it meets the frame. If it’s tapered, it’s a 580-series gun. If the barrel is perfectly straight, it’s an older model. Older series Mini's are by no means bad. In fact, they're often more collectible and worth more money.
USED GUN CONCERNS
I'll admit that I was a little concerned about buying a gun that was used in the prison system. I was concerned that it would be possibly mistreated, or abused, or have the barrel shot out. But when my Mini arrived, it looked to be in excellent condition. It came with a black synthetic stock and two blued-steel 20-round Ruger magazines.
I have a suspicion that it probably wasn't shot very much, or hadn't been shot for many years. The reason for this is that when I received it the action wasn’t as smooth as it should be. So, I removed the black synthetic stock, oiled the action, and worked it vigorously. It now runs as smooth as butter. At the same time, I put on my original Ruger side folding stock.
RUGER SIDE FOLDING STOCK
Sporting an original Ruger side folding stock, I believe the Mini-14 looks the way it was meant to be. The blend of metal, wood, and Bakelite turns this gun into a work of art reminiscent of the hit 80’s TV show "The A-Team."
Production of Ruger side-folding stocks stopped in the early 1990s. As a result, they're hard to come by and can cost a pretty penny. Just a few years ago, I saw them selling online for upwards of $1,000. The good news is that if you like how the way the Mini-14 looks with the side folder, a company called Samson Manufacturing produces an almost identical stock for under $400.
I will say that my Ruger side folding stock has some wiggle to it. If I were taking my Mini into battle, which I'm not, I'd keep the synthetic stock on it. But I love the look of the folder. When folded, it makes the Mini a compact little package. And, like an AK, you can fire it with the stock collapsed.
TRIGGER & SAFETY
I'll quickly touch on the trigger and sights. The trigger is basic at best. It's heavy and mechanical. It is not a target trigger by any means. There are aftermarket triggers available.
The safety is unique. It's featured at the front of the trigger guard and is operated by pushing and pulling it back and forth with the trigger finger. It takes some getting used to but works well once it becomes familiar.
The sights are black iron sights. They are adjustable but basic. You can add a scope on the included mounts, but I'm personally not going to use the Mini for hunting or long-range shooting.
Again, some good news is that Samson Manufacturing, the same company that makes the side folding stock, offers a brand new product for 2022 called the Hannibal rail. It allows you to mount a red dot, as well as lights and lasers, to the Mini-14.
I believe the Hannibal rail will bring the Mini-14 into the current day and age as red dots are all the rage. And seeing as the Mini is such a rugged and reliable rifle, I think it could serve well, especially for those living in states that frown on AR-style rifles.
Samson Manufacturing has been good enough to send me a side folding stock and a Hannibal rail to review. So stay tuned for that coming soon.