Time to put the Mini-14 to the test. The current Mini-14s are indeed an improvement over previous versions. But the from the bench, their usual 2-3 MOA performance with standard FMJ ammunition is a bit underwhelming (Ranch, Tactical, NRA models). How will it perform in real world tactical shooting? Come on along as buddy "InadvertentSmell" and I pit a Mini-14 "Tactical" against two of the best tactical carbine designs, the AK-74 (variant) and AR-15. The competitors are an Arsenal SGL31 in 5.45x39mm and a Rock River Arms "Entry Tactical" model AR-15, both highly proven shooters in Nutnfancy RunNGun courses of fire, including "The Sledgehammer." This course involved some pistol shooting for both fun and training (FNP9 and SW M&P9 at 12 yds) and then engaging paper bad guy targets from both kneeling (or prone) and barricaded positions. Distances were 50, 76, 80, and 175 yds (rusted propane tank...forgot the "Evil Roy Steel" plates to setup full SH Drill). Smell and I wore DL 2 level loadouts for the multiple runs on this sunny day in the desert (nice change from all the snow!). The Mini-14 was scoped with Weaver "V7" 2x7x32mm #849399 model and the system delivered impressive and undeniable results here. Credit the improved hammer forged Mini-14 barrel that's thicker over previous versions (and perhaps the Terry Gardner trigger job as well, 888-505-3086 or 801-409-1021). The Mini-14 "Tactical" #5847 proved to be the equal of the good-shooting and TNP-proven carbines like the RRA "Entry Tactical" (in DuraCoated Blackhawk Coyote Tan) AR-15 and Arsenal SGL31. In Nutnfancy shooting, this Mini achieved fist-sized groups at 82 yards and connected easily with the 175 yard target while being fired in somewhat stressful conditions (echoing the results with the NRA Mini-14 version in "Sledgehammer Intro Drill Pt 3" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mb0QYyrcNA). This hard-use testing of these Minis reaffirmed my confidence in the gun with the accuracy achieved and should make believers out of some ardent but usually inexperienced Mini-14 critics. Some minor issues still linger in these conventional stocked Mini-14s: difficulty in mounting lights, bipods, and VGs, the necessity of using Rugers heavy steel scope rings (5-6 ounces of steel...come on Ruger make aluminum ones!), inability to accept AR-14/M4 muzzle devices, more work to fully fieldstrip, the need to use the heavier Ruger factory full-cap mags for max reliability (9 oz empty for 30 rd versions!), and a conventional sling setup. Some of these issues can be rectified by the motivated owner like the application of short Picatinny rails on the stock. The standard Ruger flash hider is fitted and offers another compelling reason to go with the "Tactical" model as it provides more dusk and nighttime capability. Tough, lightweight, durable, and easy to DuraCoat (wicked "Underbrush" color used on this Tactical), the Ruger synthetic stock is a winner. Topped off with a nice rubber butt pad, it is ergonomic, comfortable, and trim. Battery of arms for the Mini-14 Tactical (and all Minis) is fast to the practiced user that has accustomed himself to it (reciprocating slide assembly, rocked-in mag insertions, no bolt release) but remains a bit slower than the AR-15 series. Steel magazines not withstanding, the weight is excellent in the Mini-14 Tactical at 6.75 lbs (this Tactical with sling weighs 8 lbs 7 oz as ran, with 30 rd Ruger mag). This is a remarkable achievement with the thicker 16.1" barrels (Tactical and NRA versions, Ranch rifles will have 18.5" barrel). A key attractant to the Mini-14 system is the amount of reliability, durability, and now accuracy provided by such a cost-effective platform. The AR-15 and SGL31 turn in impressive runs as well and remain outstanding high-value options in their type. But round for round, run for run, the Mini-14 matches them here and turns in an outstanding run other types will struggle to match. Small, compact, light, accurate-enough, and tough: the Mini-14 stands tough against the world! /////////// Music: Derek Audette, Torley Wong, Jason Shaw at audionautix.com
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