Ruger Mini-14 All-Weather Ranch Rifle in .223

By Randy Wakeman

Ruger Mini-14 All-Weather Ranch Rifle
Illustration courtesy of Sturm, Ruger.

The Ruger Mini-14 has been with us since about 1974. It was designed by Jim Sullivan and William Ruger over a six year period from 1967-1973. The Mini-14 name comes from the last American battle rifle issued in large quantity, the M14, a 9.2 pound, .308 Winchester caliber, U.S. service rifle produced from 1959 1964 in quantities exceeding 1.5 million units. It remained standard issue until about 1970.


The Mini-14 itself has seen several design changes, a rework in 2003 and then a gas system tweak in 2005. Sometime between 2007 and 2008, the Mini-14 was revisited again, allegedly with new tooling, better tolerances and the current somewhat heavier profile, stiffer barrel to improve accuracy.


Ruger Mini-14 All Weather Ranch Rifle Specifications


        Catalog Number: KMINI-14/20P

        Model Number: 5817

        Caliber: 223 Rem / 5.56 NATO

        Stock: Black Synthetic

        Finish: Matte Stainless

        Rear Sight: Adjustable peep

        Front Sight: Blade

        Barrel Length: 18.50"

        Overall Length: 37.50"

        Material: Stainless steel barreled action

        Length of Pull: 13.00"

        Weight: 6.75 lbs. (no magazine)

        Weight: 7 pounds (with empty magazine)

        Capacity: 20 (As supplied; 5, 10, 20, 30 round magazines available)

        Grooves: 6

        Twist: 1:9" RH   

        2013MSRP: $1039

For a rifle of this type, I find the Ranch Rifle relatively attractive. The lines are classic U.S. military, at least according to my Garand sensibilities. The synthetic stock is well done, without the all too common excessive mold lines and the soft matte stainless finish is pleasant to the eye.


With an unloaded twenty round factory magazine installed, this Mini-14 comes in right at 7 pounds. The trigger is greatly improved from the prior incarnations I've used, breaking at five pounds after a short amount of take up. It is actually a bit lighter and crisper than the previously reviewed Benelli MR1 and hugely better than the 9.25 pound trigger of my Ruger SR-556. The Mini-14 itself is lighter and better handling than either the SR-556 or the eight pound Benelli MR1. The model is aesthetically indistinguishable from the Mini-14 All-Weather and Patrol Rifle stainless variations.


The Ranch Rifle has an 18.5 inch barrel. The velocity loss from shorter barrels can be substantial. Back in 2001, the folks at Accurate Reloading started with a Sako S491 with a 22-inch barrel and chopped it down in one inch increments all the way to 10 inches. Velocities were recorded using a variety of handloads, but all with 52 grain bullets. An example using Alliant H322 produced 3318 fps with the factory 22 inch barrel. Shortened to 19 inches, the velocity dropped to 3213 fps. At 16 inches, the velocity was 3085 fps. Factory test barrels are 24 inches for the most part and with any carbine you won't get near factory published .223 velocities.


A 3318 fps (MV) factory load could actually be 3085 fps from a 16 inch barrel. In a previous test using the Magnetospeed barrel mounted chronograph, the 3240 fps 55 grain Barnes VOR-TX .223 factory rounds produced an average actual muzzle velocity of 2879 fps out of a 16 inch barrel. While not a game-changer to most, losing 100 fps or so by dropping from an 18.5 inch barrel length to a 16 inch barrel length isn't atypical. With an overall length of just 37.5 inches, the Mini 14 remains a very fast-handling, diminutive rifle, despite its longer than minimum length barrel.


There have been improvements on the Mini-14, often indicated by three digit prefix numbers. This example has a prefix of 582; what precisely that indicates in terms of production changes, I have no idea. I can report this is easily the smoothest shooting, lightest recoiling, most accurate Ranch Rifle I've ever used. Ruger has really upped their game, for this is a significant improvement over earlier Ranch Rifles.


The factory front sight blade is fairly coarse; it completely obliterates a one inch bull's eye at 50 yards. Therefore, there is some guessing going on. However, the first five shots out of the box produced a two inch group. It was not difficult to hold shots inside two inches at 50 yards with the factory iron sights. Two inches at 50 yards with a coarse front blade on a cold and windy day is about all I'm personally going to be able to do.


Ejection was smart, positive and 100% reliable. The Mini-14 is a fun gun to shoot. We all have our favorites when it comes to this type of rifle, so I'll not attempt to compare the Mini-14 across the spectrum. I will say, as it stands, this Mini-14 Ranch Rifle is easily my favorite .223 autoloader.


With classic lines for this type of rifle, easy disassembly that takes exactly one tool (a drift punch), a weather resistant stainless steel barreled action, greatly improved trigger, noticeably improved accuracy and an attractive price, the current Ruger All Weather Ranch Rifle is hard to beat. It is a generally smooth little rifle. On top of all this, at an estimated $700 or so discount retail price, the Mini-14 costs less than some AR uppers alone. Sturm, Ruger & Company has done a fine job of retooling the Mini-14 into a superb little autoloader.

Note: Reviews of the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle in 6.8mm SPC and Mini-Thirty All-Weather can be found on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.