The Mini-14 was first introduced in 1974 by Ruger. The name Mini-14 is derived from the military M14 rifle implying a miniature version of the M14. Ruger used the M14 as a model for the new rifle while incorporating numerous innovations and cost-saving engineering changes. The Mini-14 proved popular with small-game hunters, ranchers, law enforcement, security personnel and target shooters. It was one of the weapons used by Anders Behring Breivik during the 2011 Norway attacks.
The rear sight on standard models was an aperture sight with large protective wings, and there were no integral scope bases, until recently. In 2005, Ruger made design alterations to the Mini-14 altering the receiver, rear and front sights. All new Mini-14s are built with integral scope bases, non-folding ghost ring aperture rear sight and a winged front sight similar to that used on the Ruger Police Carbine.
In 2008 Ruger began marking many Mini-14 rifles as “RANCH RIFLE” instead of Mini-14 on the receiver. These rifles are the most basic models, they generally come in a wood rifle stock, and feature a 18.5″ tapered barrel; although some are available with a 16″ barrel. These rifles feature an adjustable ghost ring rear sight and winged front sight. They are sold with a 20 round detachable magazine, however in some states like California where High capacity magazines are illegal, the rifles are sold with 5 round magazines instead. The “Ranch Rifle” variant has scope bases integrated into the receiver, and an ejector that ejects the spent cartridge case at a lower angle to avoid hitting a low-mounted scope. The old original Ranch Rifle rear sight was a folding-type aperture, which would fit under a scope, and lacked a winged front sight. This model will chamber both .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition.
Mini-14 Tactical Rifle
The Mini-14/20GB featured a flash suppressor and a bayonet lug. A “Target Rifle” version with a heavy barrel, adjustable harmonic dampener and target stock was introduced in 2006. While never adopted by the U.S. military, both civilian and military Mini-14 variants are popular with many police departments as an affordable medium-range patrol rifle to fill the gap between short-range weapons (handguns and shotguns) and sniper rifles. Newer models have a 16.12″ barrel (1:9″ RH twist rate) with flash suppressor, and are available with a standard fixed stock/forend, or a collapsible ATI brand stock with Picatinny rails. This rifle is marked on the receiver as “Tactical Rifle”. It is very similar to the “Ranch” model except for the “bird cage” flash suppressor, synthetic stock, and shorter barrel. This model will chamber both .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition.
The AC-556 is a selective-fire version of the Mini-14 marketed for military and law enforcement use. The design incorporates a selector on the right/rear of the receiver to select either semi-automatic, 3-round burst, or full-automatic fire modes; the manual safety at the front of the trigger guard operates the same as a standard Mini-14. The front sight is winged and incorporates a bayonet lug. The 13-inch (330 mm) or 18-inch (460 mm) barrel incorporates a flash suppressor, which can be used to launch approved tear-gas and smoke grenades. A folding stock was used on the AC-556F and AC-556K. The rifle came equipped with 20-round magazines and a 30-round version was available for a time. The AC-556 is currently not in production.
In 1987, Ruger began production of the Mini Thirty. The Mini Thirty is chambered for the Russian 7.62x39mm cartridge, used in the SKS and AK-47, as many states prohibit hunting of deer with calibers smaller than 6 mm (.243 in). The 7.62×39 mm has similar ballistics to the well-known .30-30 Winchester. The Mini Thirty was only available as a Ranch Rifle, with integral scope base. Current production Mini Thirtys are similar to Mini-14′s except for caliber. The Mini-30 is available with a 16.12″ or 18.50″ barrel, with a twist rate of 1:10″ RH.
Some early Mini-14 rifles were chambered in the .222 Remington cartridge. Since the .222 Remington is not completely dimensionally equivalent to the 5.56x45mm, Ruger chambered Mini-14s for both 5.56 and .222 Remington. Civilian firearms chambered in 5.56 are highly restricted in countries that restrict or prohibit firearms that chamber military cartridges (such as Mexico). By chambering the Mini-14 in the similar but not interchangeable .222 Remington caliber, the Mini-14 could be sold in those countries.
A larger version of the Mini-14, called the XGI, was developed by Ruger in .308 Winchester and .243 Winchester. Although it was advertised in 1984–1985, it never entered production due to unresolved mechanical and production issues.
Bolt-Action Only (BOA)
There is a wide range of after-market accessories available for the Mini-14 (e.g., folding stocks, scopes, flash hiders, bi-pods, etc.) all of which make the Mini-14 a highly adaptable rifle and add to its popularity.