Why the Legendary Mini-14 Rifle Was Forgotten
A fascinating weapon.
Key point: This rifle has served in several conflicts.
One of the most enduring and popular semi-automatic rifles in America traces its lineage to the battlefields of World War II and Korea.
The Mini-14 rifle, designed and developed by Sturm Ruger, is in widespread use as a ranch rifle, defensive weapon, and even a hunting arm. Now in its fifth decade, the Mini-14 shows no sign of going out of production anytime soon.
In the late 1960s, firearms designer Bill Ruger and James L. Sullivan went to work on a new semi-automatic rifle design. The new weapon was based on the M14 battle rifle then being phased out of service with the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The M14 was a short-stroke gas piston, rotating bolt rifle that traced its roots to the World War II M1 Garand rifle. The M14 differed from the Garand primarily in being chambered for the NATO standard 7.62-millimeter cartridge and having a 20 round removable box magazine.
The new weapon was externally similar to the M-14 and would use the same operating system but was rechambered for the .223 cartridge. Just as the M14 in 7.62-millimeter was the M1 Garand scaled down from the .30-06 cartridge, the new weapon was scaled down again to handle the .223 cartridge. The .223 cartridge was nearly identical to the 5.56 cartridge adopted by the U.S. military with the AR15, then M16 and XM177E1 rifles. Ruger had evidently gambled production of .223/5.56 for the Vietnam War would give the cartridge staying power in the States long after the war ended. He was right.
The resulting rifle was smaller and lighter than its military cousin and was introduced for sale by Sturm Ruger Inc. as the Mini-14 in 1973. The Mini-14 weighed 6.39 pounds unloaded, a wooden stock, and iron sights. It weighed just 6.39 ounces empty. It had a practical rate of fire of 40 rounds per minute and could take both 20 and 30 round magazines. Like the M16, the Mini-14 had a right-handed twist rate of 1 in 12 inches, better to stabilize the .223 round in flight. The Mini-14 had an effective range of 200 yards, a distance primarily dictated by the ballistic performance of its ammunition.
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