|Type / action
|gas operated, semi-automatic rifle
|5.56×45 / .223 Remington; also 7,62×39 M43 in Mini-30 and 6,8×43 Remington SPC
|3,1 kg / 6,8 lbs empty
|943 mm / 37,2"
|470 mm / 18,5"
|5 or 10 rounds
Bill Ruger, one of leading US arms designers of post-WW2 period, began development of a new semi-automatic rifle circa 1970. The rifle was intended for civilian, police and para-military use; it was patterned after then-current US issue military rifle, the M14, and was chambered for relatively new 5,56x45mm (.223 Remington) ammunition. Since its commercial introduction in 1973 the Ruger Mini-14 rifle found wide acceptance among both civilian shooters and a variety of police and security forces around the world. For government users, Ruger produced two specialized versions of the basic rifle – the Mini-14GB semi-automatic and AC-556 assault (select-fire) rifles. All weapons in the Mini-14 family share same basic design, although there are differences in certain parts; for example, AC-556 rifles had slightly longer receiver, which hosts the fire mode switch at its rear part.
The first major modification to the Mini-14 family appeared in 1978, when Ruger introduced an all-stainless version of the basic rifle. Until now, all Ruger Mini-14 rifles are available either in carbon or stainless steel versions. In around 1982 Ruger introduced its next civilian modification of the Mini-14, known as the "Ranch" rifle. This version was optimized for use with telescope sight, and thus was produced with integral scope bases on receiver. Ejection mechanism was changed to eject spent cases to the right side, clear of the scope, and rear sight was fitted on the folding base. In 1986, Ruger introduced a Mini-30 rifle, which was same basic weapon but adapted to 7,62×39 M43 ammunition of Russian origin. Next change in the Mini-14 line-up appeared as late as in 2005, when Ruger company introduced a new version of the Mini-14, which incorporated integral scope bases of the earlier "Ranch" rifles with protected front sight and non-folding diopter rear sight, which has smaller mount that of previous rifles. Recent additions to the Mini-14 rifle family are the Mini-14 Target rifle, which is optimized for accuracy and use of optical sights, and the all-stainless Mini-14 in the new 6,8×43 Remington SPC caliber which has less recoil than 7,62×39 but offers better terminal effectiveness than 5,56 / .223. The 'Tactical" line, which was introduced by Ruger in 2009, features factory-standard 20-round magazines, improved stocks and slightly shorthened barrels.
In general, Mini-14 rifles are known for their good reliability and durability. Accuracy is usually quoted as somewhat inferior to AR-15 (M16)-type weapons, which are very popular in USA, but this may change with recent introduction of Mini-14 Target model. Despite some claims, Ruger Mini-14 rifles are accurate enough for most purposes, and quite reliable and durable, being excellent weapons for hunting, home defense, certain police and security applications as well as for general plinking and practice.
Ruger Mini-14 is gas operated, semi-automatic only weapon which uses Garand-type rotary bolt with two lugs. Action is operated by the long-stroke gas piston, which is located below the barrel and is concealed within forend of the stock. The gas piston has cup-shaped head, and is linked to the bolt via Garand-type operating rod which runs at the right side of the weapon. Manual safety also patterned after M1 Garand or M14 rifle, and is located at the front of the triggerguard. Standard stock of the Mini-14 is of single-piece type, with semi-pistol grip and separate heatshiled above the barrel. Early Mini-14 rifles had wooden heatshileds which exposed operating rod; current production civilian guns feature polymer heatshields which cover most of the operating rod. Over the time, Ruger also produced a folding-stock versions with wooden stock, plastic pistol grip and side-folding metallic shoulder stock. Ruger also makes "all-weather" polymer stocks for Mini-14 and Mini-30 rifles. It also must be noted that there are many aftermarket stocks for Mini-14 rifles.
Standard sights consist of a blade-type front and adjustable diopter-type rear sight; "Ranch" type rifles also had integral scope mounts on the receiver, which will accept proprietary Ruger scope rings.
Original magazine capacities for Mini-14 rifles were 10 or 20 rounds, but since infamous American "Assault weapons ban" of 1994 Ruger offered civilian Mini-14 rifles with magazines containing only 5 rounds; however, some magazine makers produced aftermarket magazines for Mini-14 and Mini-30 in capacities of up to 40 (box) and 90 (snail-drum) rounds.