Laws and regulations related to firearms in California are constantly changing. It's confusing to say the least. Cali-lawmakers have made owning America’s best selling rifle - the AR-15, very challenging. Whether it's a "bullet-button", pistol-grip, or flash hider; most stock AR-15s need to be modified, or purchased as wonky California-compliant models.
The Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle on the other hand, if purchased in its original and proven "Ranch" model, is at the time of writing this article, 100 percent legal in California. In this article, we'll cover why the Mini-14 is both an awesome rifle, and also what makes it "featureless" and legal to own in California.
A VERY CAPABLE RIFLE
Like the AR-15, the Mini-14 is chambered in .223 Remington / 5.56×45mm NATO. This is a very capable round well out to 400-yards and beyond. The ammo is widely available and relatively cheap. Ruger also offers the Mini-14 and Mini Thirty in a variety of other calibers, but for this article, we're going to focus on the Mini-14 chambered in .223 Rem.
47-YEARS OF DEPENDABILITY
Some people claim that Mini-14s are less reliable than AR-15s or AK-47s. Although it's hard to compete with an AK, I've put well over 1,500-rounds through my 580-series Mini-14 rifle, with two jams related to the ammo. The rifle's self-cleaning, fixed-piston gas system with rotating bolt has been going strong since the rifle was introduced in 1973.
ACCURATE WITH GOOD AMMO
Some people say the Mini-14 is not accurate. While I would agree that the Mini-14 is no sniper rifle, I conducted an accuracy test not long ago that produced some decent results. (See the video above.)
Although not 100 percent scientific, I fastened my 580-series rifle in a vice grip that was attached to a weighed-down table. The gun had had very little play. I then fired five-rounds of Nosler Trophy Grade ammunition from a cold barrel at a piece of foamcore 50-yards away. The resulting group was a touch bigger than a quarter.
I’d say that if you know how to shoot, the Mini-14 can perform.
OLD SCHOOL RETRO RIFLE
If you asked me why I originally bought a Mini-14, it was because I came across a used Ruger side-folding stock for sale for $200. I bought it immediately because I wanted one for years but they were selling for upwards of $1,000, which was out of my price range. After I had the folding stock, I then purchased a stainless Mini-14 to go with it.
I love the classic old school retro look of the rifle with the side-folding stock made famous in the 80s TV show The A-Team. Unfortunately, if you plan to own a Mini-14 in California, you won't be able to add a stock like this to it because it has a pistol grip.
"FEATURELESS" CALIFORNIA-COMPLIANT MINI-14
Fortunately, Ruger offers a California-compliant "Ranch" model of the Mini-14 that is considered "featureless". This means it has no flash hider or muzzle device at the end of the barrel, and no pistol grip. The stock must resemble a traditional hunting rifle, like in the photo above.
Rifle magazine capacity in California is 10-rounds and there are plenty of 10-round mags available. The rifle comes with decent iron sights, but it's legal to add an optic in California. There are a variety of mounts and Picatinny rails available.
I personally love my Mini-14 and enjoy shooting it. It's accurate and reliable. I picked mine up, used, for under $1,000. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those of you living in sunny California.