Folks just need things to get their shorts in a knot about things, I guess. You see a lot of it in the motorcycle world – Harley versus Indian, Chinese motorcycles versus all other motorcycles (which actually have a lot of Chinese content, but that’s another story), what constitutes a dual sport versus versus an ADV bike, and on an and on it goes. It’s understandable, I guess, as a motorcycle tends to be an emotional purpose. In the camera world, it’s Canon versus Nikon (my good buddy Joe Gresh and I have had a few discussions about that). And in the gun world, it’s the AR concept (basically, adaptations of the M-16) versus the Ruger Mini 14. The AR guys think they have the better rifle and they dismiss the Mini 14. They’re wrong, of course. You probably can guess – I’m a Mini 14 guy.
Unlike most of the keyboard commandos who post incessantly on the Internet on this AR versus Mini 14 issue, I actually earned my living carrying an M-16 more than 40 years ago. I started my Army days with an M-14 and I thought that was a real rifle. I never took the M-16 seriously even though I qualified with it. It just seemed like a cheap toy to me. If you have an AR, my apologies; no offense intended. The preceding comments are just my opinion, and it you don’t like it, hey…you’re young. You’ll get over it.
When the gun forum AR guys badmouth the Mini 14, the common claim is that the rifle doesn’t shoot well. Usually, in the rifle world, when someone says a rifle doesn’t shoot well it means that it’s unreliable or it is not accurate. Regarding accuracy, the commonly-accepted standard is 1.5 minutes of angle. That essentially means the rifle will hold its shots in a 1.5-inch group at 100 yards. If it does that, it’s considered accurate. I’ll get to the reliability thing a few lines down.
I’ve had my Mini 14 for about 10 years. Mine is a special number…it’s a limited-run Circassian-stocked rifle one of the distributors offered back then. I knew I wanted one as soon as I heard about them, but I wanted one with nice wood. I watched the Internet gun boards for about a year until I saw one I liked. I couldn’t bring it directly into the Peoples Republik of Kalifornia because it had a flash suppressor and 30 round magazines, so I had to bring it in (without the magazines) to a Class III dealer who replaced the flash suppressor with a muzzle brake. With that muzzle brake it barks like a Ma Deuce, but that’s part of its charm, I guess. You gotta wonder what the people who wrote our gun laws were smoking, but I guess they knew what they were doing. I’m proof of that. I followed all of the laws and I am not a danger to our multicultural, gender-ambiguous, coastal elitist society. I’ve not held up any gas stations or robbed any banks with my Mini 14. It’s all working as intended.
The real topic of interest to me was the Mini 14’s accuracy, and that’s what I wanted to determine in a rigorous manner. I already knew my Mini 14 was reliable. I’ve probably put 10,000 rounds through it and I’ve never had a failure to feed, a failure to eject, or a failure to fire. Well, okay, I had one failure to fire, but that was due to one of my reloads having the primer seated upside down. I can’t blame that on the rifle.
To get serious about the accuracy test, I knew I needed to do two things: I had to put a scope on the rifle, and I had to load a bunch of different cartridges to see which provided the best accuracy. You just don’t decide on a gun’s accuracy using one load. You have to try different recipes to see which works best.
There’s no rhyme or reason to the loads I prepared for this test, other than I wanted to use the load I had been using for plinking with the Mini 14 and I wanted to use up the small quantities of bullets I had laying around. The first load in the chart below is my plinking load; all of the others were the ones I loaded specifically for this test.
Here’s what I got:
All of the groups shown above are three-shot groups at 100 yards. The conditions were not great (it was 94 degrees out there yesterday, it was breezy, and I was shooting into the sun). For some loads I shot one group, for some loads I had two groups, and for some loads I had three groups. It was all a function of how many bullets I had on my reloading bench.
My Mini 14 shoots terribly with some loads (but then, so does nearly every rifle). You have to find the right combination of components, or as In-N-Out would say, the secret sauce.
The Mini 14 shoots remarkably well with at least one of the loads I tried (the 55 gr FMJBT Hornady and 26.5 grains of IMR 4320 propellant). What’s nice about that load is that both of the groups I shot put the groups in the same location (see the photo below), I have a lot of 4320 on hand, and those are relatively inexpensive bullets. Basically, with no accuracy modifications (or any modifications, for that matter), my Mini 14 is damn near a minute-of-angle rifle. That’s pretty good for a rifle that is not supposed to shoot well.
Hey, this Sunday is our MILSURP get-together at the West End Gun Club. We’ve got quite a few CSC riders who shoot with us (Duane, Willie, Fathi, Matt, yours truly, and a few others). If you’d like to send some lead downrange, just drop me an email.