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The Mini-14: A Cost-Effective Scaled-Down M14


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here today at the Rock Island Auction Company taking a look at two Ruger Mini-14s, which are definitely not forgotten weapons
by any stretch of the imagination. However, I think there’s some very valuable
lessons that we can take from these two rifles. Because they are still considered such common
guns, and where they’re literally such common guns, we’ve never looked at these up on the channel
before and, well, I think it’s time that we do. So, these are of course Mini-14s, the
original intent, the idea behind the Mini-14, as the name implies, was to take the M14 US military
rifle and scale it down for the 5.56 / .223 cartridge. Now it’s interesting, Bill Ruger … honestly believed
that had he come out with this rifle five years earlier it would have been adopted by
the US military instead of the M16. I don’t think that’s really quite realistic, but the Mini-14 has
become, and remains today, an extremely popular rifle. It’s seen service with a whole bunch of different
law enforcement and military organisations. This one here is actually a Texas Rangers rifle. There are French security organisations
that have adopted the Ruger as the A.M.D., Mousqueton A.M.D., and put them together in France.
They’ve been purchased by a couple of militaries, although not a lot, but a whole
lot of police and security services, as well as hundreds of thousands
of them made for the civilian market. So, we have a bit of a conundrum in, how do
you sell hundreds of thousands of these guns? Well, you have to do it by
making them economically priced. We know that the M14 is a really
ridiculously expensive rifle to manufacture. So how do you scale it down, but not maintain
the same sort of expensive price and manufacturing? That is one of the things that Ruger is really good at.
So let’s take a look and see how they did it. Alright, so we’re gonna compare an M1A up
here, which is effectively the same as an M14 in terms of manufacturing, to our Mini-14 down here,
and we’re going to look at a couple different elements. First we’ll look at design, and then we’ll look
at the machining and the fabrication techniques. So as you can see just from the outside,
the similarity is really quite obvious. But our design differs, especially in the gas system. The M14 gas system is really the most substantial
thing that differentiates the M14 from the M1 Garand. Yes, I know there were detachable box magazines
added, but that’s a pretty simple adaptation. You’ll see the Italians do that with the
BM 59 very quickly and easily and cheaply. And the M14 was not a cheap rifle to develop,
and a lot of what they spent their time doing was adding this gas system. So where the M1
had an operating rod that ran all the way up and … it had the gas piston at the end of the operating
rod, the M14 splits those into two separate pieces. So you have the operating rod here, and then the gas
piston is actually confined in this gas tube right here. There’s a little vent hole, and so the idea
here is that this is a self-regulating piston. When it opens up all the way, it clears that
hole, any remaining excess gas vents out there. And if you can see slow motion footage of an M14 firing, you’ll see a little spurt of gas here every
time it fires from that excess gas venting out. You can pull the front of it off to clean it out. … This system was really quite a
lot of the developmental process. Naturally that’s going to be expensive. So, Ruger took a look at that and went, “Mmm,
yeah, we don’t need that, how about instead we just have a little gas vent,
right here, connected to our gas block?” And instead of finely pressing the gas block onto the barrel,
we’ll just clamp it on there with four hex head screws. And then we’ll just vent gas directly
into this block of the operating rod. (Go ahead and take the mainspring out here.) So the front end of the Mini-14
operating rod is just a blind hole. Gas vents into that almost like
a direct impingement system. There is no moving piston in this gun, gas vents in there, and then this whole piece, this
operating rod, gets pushed backwards. That really simplifies the design of the gun, and by the way,
it wasn’t Bill Ruger who actually designed the Mini-14, it was actually Jim Sullivan, the same guy who had been
50% of the team that scaled the AR-10 down into the AR-15. Well, by the late 1960s he had gone to work for
Ruger, and he designed their M77 bolt action rifle, and he designed the Mini-14 for them. Another example of this simplification is
the roller here on the Mini-14 bolt, which yeah, that’s not actually a roller, that’s a solid protrusion. It’s designed to look the same
as the roller on an M14 bolt, … and I should say actually at the very beginning, the
very first series of Mini-14s, this was actually a roller. But they fairly quickly realised, “Yeah, we don’t
actually need it to roll.” So they got rid of that. And now it’s just a solid protrusion,
that saves some more machining time. If we look at the sights, the M14
of course has this military-lineage adjustable, very fine, excellent, high quality,
and time consuming to make blade front sight. The standard Mini-14 front
sight is a single pinned-on block. It’s got a big slightly tapered post
to it, but far easier to make than this. And the rear sight is the same. The M14
(or M1A), has this very precisely made, very fine, click-adjustable
windage and elevation rear sight. This really is one of the major strengths of the M14 rifle. Get too cynical, one might say one
of the only strengths of the M14 rifle. But when Ruger copied it they
vastly simplified that design. So it’s now just a little sheet metal peep
sight there, and you have a spring plunger and you can push that plunger down and
rotate this wheel to adjust your elevation. Not quite as easy as the click system on the
M14. You’ve got the same thing for windage. So far cheaper, far easier … you know, your
precision shooters are obviously not going to like this, but there’s a vast market out there of
people who have a much more pedestrian role in mind for their rifles. And this works,
you know, this is fine for 90% of people. And that’s the sort of attitude that Ruger
takes is, whatever is fine for most people is going to keep our costs down and make
the gun much more affordable and accessible. One more element that we’ll look at
here is the bolt hold open on the M14. You know, we’ve got machined cuts
here, we’ve got a separate piece there. … It has to be milled out, you know, this isn’t a casting or
stamping or anything. That’s how you hold the bolt open. Sullivan (and Ruger) took a look at that and went, “Well, that’s
complicated, we can probably do this much more easily.” And so they have this recess on the side of
the receiver covered by a little stamped plate, and under that is their bolt hold open (which kind of flies out when you take the plate off). It is a little cast part here and a spring,
and this just pivots up and down. Now, while this looks like it has,
you know, as many features to it, as many different cuts and dimensions
and everything as the M14 version, this is actually a much simpler
sort of piece to make because this can be cast as a single part with
very little required finish machining. None of the surfaces on this are really
all that precise, they don’t have to be. And the same thing with the receiver, you can cast (and we’ll talk about the receiver casting in a minute),
you can cast all these features, these holes, into it. And again, there’s very little finish machining required, and
that makes this a much faster and easier thing to produce. Now let’s talk about manufacturing processes,
because Ruger is, at its heart, a casting company. That’s their core strength, that’s what they understand
how to do. And they understand how to do it really well. A lot of people will … hear the word “cast” and
just automatically assume that this is some sort of crappy, inferior methodology for
making cheap parts quickly. Well, it is a less expensive way to do things,
it is a relatively quick way to do things. But if casting is done right, it is absolutely no worse
than plain machining, and it can be a whole lot faster. If you want to take a block of steel
this big and use a massive press to … squish it into the basic outline of a receiver, and then spend a lot of machine time cutting
away all the parts that aren’t M14 receiver, you can do that and you’ll end up with
something like this. And as long as it’s done right, and heat-treated right (this is an essential
element that some people leave out), you can end up with a really good receiver. But you can also end up with a
really good receiver by casting it, as long as your heat treat’s good, your finish machining
is done where it’s necessary – just like a forged receiver. Like, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong about this. And because Ruger has developed the
company expertise in how to do casting, this is really an excellent option for them. So, if we look
up close at this, you can see a lot of the cast surfaces. Looking at the bottom here in particular, you can see that
this is a cast surface and because Ruger is good at this, they don’t need to do as much finish
machining as a lot of other companies would. People with less experience and less
expertise in this type of manufacturing would have to do a lot more finish machining. Ruger’s got this down really well, and that
allows them to keep their costs way down. The whole operating rod assembly here is cast,
although it looks like they’ve used weld to reinforce this joint, which is probably a wise decision. That’s
obviously going to be the weak part of this component. But most of this doesn’t require any finish machining,
you know, the outside profile of this block for example, it doesn’t matter if it’s within a thousandth of an inch
of spec because it doesn’t interact with anything. It doesn’t need to be. So you can save a lot of
money by loosening the spec on something like this, casting it, don’t bother with any finish machining.
In fact you can see a seam line on there, right here. And you know, your part’s much more rapid to manufacture.
If you’re trying to market this to people who are really, well, I could say snobby, or I
could say really particular about wanting a very highly finished firearm,
then OK fine, they’re not gonna really like this. But if you’re trying to market this to a much broader
audience of people who want a gun that will work and don’t really care about how the insides look,
well, this becomes a much more enticing option. The surfaces back here where the
cam track is controlling bolt movement, those do require better precision,
and so those are finished machined. You can really get a feel for this in
the fire control groups as well. So our M14 fire control group (or M1A fire control group),
every piece in here is elaborately machined. Which is fine, that’s great, that makes a good
product, but it is time consuming and expensive. These guys in the Mini-14, pretty much every
component in here is cast and it’s a lot quicker to make. And so surfaces that require finish
machining, like the sear interfaces here, those get it. The ones that don’t require it, don’t get it. I think this is a good example of, like, the 80/20 rule. 20% of the effort will get you 80% of the results in most
things. And of course in design and manufacturing everything is a trade-off and a compromise.
And so Ruger has deliberately looked at, “How do we minimise the amount of work
required, without sacrificing too much quality, in order to get a gun that is reliable and effective
and will meet the needs of a very wide audience, everyone from private civilians to security, law
enforcement agencies, and even some military agencies.” And they’ve obviously come up with a winning solution, not
just here in the Mini-14, but in a wide variety of their products. Hopefully, hardcore fans of the show will have enjoyed taking
a look at some of the technical elements here of the Mini-14. I think … hopefully what we have here is a little bit of a different
line of discussion than what you normally see about these rifles. And hopefully you guys enjoyed it
and got something interesting out of it. These rifles are both, of course,
coming up for sale here at Rock Island. It’s not like Mini-14s are hard to come by but
these are both actually pretty cool examples: a pre-ban stainless steel folding stock
model, and a provenanced Texas Ranger gun. So if you’d like to take a look at the
catalogue pages for either of these, hit up the description text below. You’ll
find a link there to ForgottenWeapons.com and on the Forgotten Weapons blog post with this video
you’ll find links to both catalogue pages for these two rifles. Those have their pictures, Rock Island’s descriptions,
their price estimates, and all that sort of stuff. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “The Mini-14: A Cost-Effective Scaled-Down M14

  1. I'm sure glad that I don't own guns – because if I did, I would be the sort that would want everything precision machined to the highest specs because I'm just that way – also I probably wouldn't be much of a shot even after spending all that money.

  2. Why do you think all prisons have them in their towers the 2 to 3 if you mess with the two to three you can't shoot except plain and simple those guns are very simple to shoot and they are very accurate that's why they have them in prison Sharp Shooting Towers yeah that's one of the better guns that Ruger has brought out

  3. Ian, once again you delivered a well balanced, objective inspection! Identifying Ruger's targeted market segment and their mfg methods to address it was the more interesting element in your commentary. It answered the age old debate of which is better, the Mini-14 or ….. Neither, they are not equals in manufacture built with a different purpose in mind, thus Ruger's first 5.56 offering stands alone.

  4. Ateam a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team a team hey look Im super original and think I'm the first to comment about this gun being used a positively shitty TV show a team a team a team a team a team douche team

  5. They need to make it with a 18 or 20" barrel with the 1 to 7 twist they need to make it so use their AR15M16 magazines There many 30 they need to make it so use they AK47 mag I need to make one and a 5.45x39mm Where I can use the The AK74 mags They need to make 1A 6.5 Grendel hes an AK47 mags with 18 to 20th barrel 1/7 or a 1/8 Twist They need to make E side scope malik you have on romanie PSL and AK rifles

  6. I personally really dislike the Mini-14 for one reason. My hand is too big to hold it comfortably as my fingers rest right over the plastic bolt/charging handle cover. This impacts my ability to get a decent grip and it feels really nasty to me. Decent firearm but personally I would take a full M-14 instead.

  7. Been waiting for this one! THANKS. I finally understand how its so cheap, doesn't make me want one any less though. <3

  8. Bought an old one (1978?), bought 100 round drum magazine, 30 round magazine and 20 round magazine. Light handguard on fire. Kept shooting until every magazine was empty. 10/10 would burn down local range again.

  9. I'd buy an M14, no way in fucking hell would I buy another mini 14. If you have no clue what you are buying.. Sure, go for it, and you will learn the hard way why it was a shit purchase.

  10. I've always found the mini14 to be a reliable weapon with decent accuracy. Both mine and my father's could easily drop a 2 inch group at 100yds with stock sights. It isn't match grade but it more than gets the job done.

  11. Had one with the metal folding stock and stupidly sold it. Stock locked up solidly. Easily to get in and out of action.Only problem was the butt plate was slick. Fixed that with some scateboard tape.

  12. Not so cost effective any more, my AR15 cost less then a mini 14. I have both plus a mini30 which I prefer due to the round difference (7.62×39).

  13. Mine is a 580 series. It has the thicker barrel base and has moderate accuracy, good accuracy if you reload. The newer models are machined on a single rack, rather than moving the process from machine to machine. This makes for better tolerances and a higher quality weapon. They are a little pricey, especially when you consider the mags, but they are lots of fun.

  14. Always wanted to buy one then some new ninja stuff would come out THST I just had but didn't need I still look all saw one in 300 blk I might pick for 769

  15. Hi from havasu,Whats with knocking on the m14? Your jealous go play with your plastic ar and its baby bullets . my 2 m1as are great . a loaded in a j allen w/4x14x56 springfield scope crazy fast follow up shots out at range makes my shooting buddy cry like hes getting hit and a scout in a ebr open sights for now . i hardly shoot my mini14 and my ar but still like them. its no fair to compare the 2 not that is what you are doing here. i saw you shoot the m14. You never used a bipod holding it like the m60 how it was ment to fire in full auto. I like your vedeos keed them coming

  16. These suckers were never cost effective. Used a unique magazine and were always similar priced to an AR-15 when I was a teen. Back then they had a reputation as inaccurate truck rifles to boot until Ruger started doing better work with the barrels. As long as money was a consideration there never was a reason to get one of these especially now that they are MUCH more expensive than even mid-range AR-15's which are much nicer rifles. In the end it still hits that niche of people that wanted an M14 in 5.56 and that niche is exactly where it will continue to stay.

  17. The mini 14 is a decent rifle but at $900+ over here it is not economical considering i can get a decent budget ar15 for $400 and I've found a couple of ar10 platform rifles under $800 and one was them $650

  18. Some nice selling points for the mini 14 by themselves are the folding butt stock and pistol grip. Modern marksman's rifles are subjectively better with these kind of simple ergonomic features.

  19. I have no problem with how ruger cast for their firearms, their firearms are extremely durable and the negativity they receive are from die hards who think they know everything.

  20. Always wondered why the mini 14 sounded so different when fired, thanks Ian for answering my wondering. 5:06 the connecting rod slips out your fingers and I heard that familiar cast metal clank/ring. Keep up the great work.

  21. I enjoy the Ruger approach to manufacturing doing only 20 percent of the work to get 80 percent of the result. Ruger's use of casting parts and the minimization of expensive machining is a good example of smart engineering. Good engineering follows the Russian WW2 example of building a Ppsh-41 submachine gun or a PRS-43 submachine gun with the use of simple heavier parts, metal stamping and spot welding. The idea is to get the marginal costs per unit down to as low a level as possible but still have an effective weapon for the general user. This approach is the only approach to take when making firearms or anything else. Costs have to be kept down. The AK-47 uses heavy metal stamped parts, spot welding, with a minimum of parts making the weapon, simple durable, reliable and easy to use but highly effective for a minimally trained soldier or militiamen. The Ruger Mini-14 seems to follow this tradition.

  22. Mine is an earlier model with the exposed op rod. I think they look better. I don't like that big plastic lump on the new ones.

  23. A mini-14 with a full stock and a 5-round magazine is fully compliant with the law in every state as a "varmint rifle".  It is reliable, and newer models have much better range.  A perfect preppers small game survival gun.  Any folding or AR style stock is too scary for the anti-gun lobby to tolerate though.

  24. tbh I don't like how you have to constantly defend the Mini / reduce the M14. The M14 is a more expensive product, so the fit, finish, and milling should be better, that's what you're paying for. Some people go all the way with what they do, and go the extra mile, so it makes sense they want that in their products.

    The Mini is a less expensive product, so there are of course cost saving methods in place. Some people don't care about the extra mile, they are more practical and don't want to pay for extras. This is fine too.

    A McLaren car is not marketed to everyone, it's more expensive and has fancier parts made of more exotic materials and techniques. A Honda is less expensive, but also a great car in it's own right.

    I wish you would have been like "The M14 is more expensive to make, here's why" instead of "you don't need to mill every single part, Ruger did it the right way and their casting is amazing so they can make a gun that is just as good with cheaper methods." It's like defending the cheaper model, where it should have been explaining it.

    Other than that small commentary, this was an enormously informative video, and I really liked how you put the M14 next to the Mini to show the difference. Ruger's reduced-machining casts was something pretty interesting, and it lends an insight into how they can drop the price without making the piece out of garbage.

  25. OK, someone help me out. I remember watching the A-Team as a kid and basically every machine gun with a curved magazine was Kalashnikov ( hey I was about eight!). Searching my memory I don't actually remember seeing the over-barrel blowback of said gun, so was Hannibal actually shooting a mini 14?

  26. I grew up a mile form the original factory in Connecticut. Many of my friends and most of their parents worked at Sterm Ruger or Sikorsky aircraft. The contrary and drama that revolved around the Hartford Co. Colt and the Southport Co. Ruger. How could our government choices that formed plastic bag thats anything jams more than the Grateful Dead over our wood and metal god. That was the talk around town for decades. I've owned several mini's they have all been flawless.
    You have a great channel. I'd love to see something on all the firearm manufacturers that have come and gone in the Constitution State.

  27. Theres multiple reasons why the mini wouldn't be a contender of the m16. Lol Maybe if the US was doing something like they did in the past where officers had different weapons. MAYBE that could be the mini…. but probably not.

  28. I fired a match condition M14 at Camp Perry in 1973, there was nothing wrong with that system at 1000 yds with iron sights. I bought a Ruger Mini 14 in 1978. It in no way could compete with the M16 over any distance past 200 yds, partially due to the civilian sight system.

  29. I own both a M1a and a Ruger Ranch 30 in 7.62×39 ,I've put literally thousands of pounds out of both of them and they are accurate and reliable .Why the hate for the M14 ?

  30. Deer de derr, der de der, Deer de derr, der de der der, The A Team, Great Video Mathew and you did not mention MR T.

  31. Deer de derr, der de der, Deer de derr, der de der der, The A Team, Great Video Mathew and you did not mention MR T.

  32. Every max security prison yard in america as at least 1 of these. It is very effective as a tower/wall rifle.

  33. I loved this rifle shooting it as a kid on my grandpa's farm he'd set up cans across an old Idaho River/creek and cliffs like where the apache hide out and I'd pretend I was fighting Indians shooting at the rocks while my grandpa fished down behind me one time my grandpa saved mine and my sister's life we were walking back to the car and a rattlesnake was moving quick right toward through this tall green grass so we were losing sight of it so he swept us up me on his shoulders holding on my sister on his back and the rifle in his hand and my grandpa said "ears!" And me and my sister being trained by him immediately covered our ears and he blew the snake away wasted an entire clip on the snake lol his first shot I swear took the snakes head right off but it still twitched around so he emptied the rifle lol great memory. My grandpa was a air force security police the ones that covered up UFO crashes he's hinted to it and claims to have seen a UFO as a kid and my grandpa is a mean no nonsense guy he wouldn't lie. I think he was a silencer or enforcer cause he stays away from guns now it's really weird. And at 80 years old knocked some guy out at a traffic altercation lol.

  34. Saw this and immediately thought "who cares about a mini-14" and almost passed it up. Glad I didnt. Learned things I never knew.

  35. Should have done a take on the A-team intro fornyour intro, like have the white bullet holes open up the forgotten weapons screen shot.
    For this mini14 video.
    Cus I mean A-team and mini14 are like Cocaine and waffles… two things that just go together. (Small Talladega nights joke there… your welcome)

  36. The A-Team spray hundreds of rounds and not kill a single bad guy just destroy everything else around them……. a claymore mine at 100ft has better accuracy than the A-Team

  37. A strange bit of irony with regards to the Mini-14 vs the AR 15. Here in Canada, the former was used in a mass shooting back in '89 (Polytechnique shooting). It is classified as Non-Restricted. Meaning it can be taken into the woods and used for hunting. The Ar 15, on the other hand (at least to my knowledge) has not been used in any mass shootings here, yet is Restricted (requiring special licensing with daily background checks and only permitted to be used at authorized ranges).

  38. I bought a stainless steel top of. the line mini 14 in 1992, it was a piece of crap jammed bad head spacing but it was a pretty rifle also bought a used plain Jane one that worked well.

  39. would you be willing to do another mini 14 video about all the different casting differences?. I tried to buy a well priced op rod charging handle and it turned into a more confusing task than I expected. "same" op rod charging handle part has many different casting marks such as: AD CA, AD CA with Relief cut where it meets fixed gas piston, some marked DA DA with Relief cut, some marked DA with Relief cut, Stainless marked G FK with Relief cut and tapered ear at handle end, stainless one with marked A, stainless marked K K, marked A A, 580 serial number or later stainless with k p. and 1 B K and 7 in between, and some mark with no stamps at all! I wasn't expecting so much variation in this "one" factory part!.. some what makes buying replacement parts very unrealistic for noobs. help gun jesus?

  40. потолок боя 300 ярдов мало. нужен тяжёлый ствол прицел Леопольд Стивенс тогда будет играть . проста и надёжна в работе как топор.

  41. Feel free to give me your stories on flawless mini 14s but I've shot probably 4 of them throughout my life so far and none were reliable various stocks and magazines idk my bad luck I guess

  42. Some years ago I spent some time chatting to a couple of the engineers from Ruger's Pine Trees Casting facility. These are the chaps who perfected the art of investment-casting Titanium; no mean feat. Oddly enough, a lot of the titanium casting is for the production of GOLF CLUBS. No idea where Ruger is up to these days, but about a decade ago, "Direct Metal Moulding" appeared and is now found on a LOT of the odd-shaped / complex, "fiddly" bits that inhabit the works of a lot of small arms, particularly pistols.

  43. I heard that the M14 is a very bad gun, with a high MOA and the armor-piercing ability is almost the same comparing to the M16 although it is chambered in larger caliber.

  44. FW – you're lost talking about production and appearance. NOT what matters here ! Mini-14 ? OK… Does it break down like an M-14 for field cleaning ? Same number of pieces ? Are the pieces smaller, easier to lose etc… Will it still fire when dirty or will a grain of sand stop it ? Saving a few bucks on production only counts if the weapon still fires as well as it did before in all conditions.
    I carried an M-14 for years. Great rifle if used properly. I'd like to give a Ruger a try, but it looks like a cheap knockoff. It reminded me of Hitler's last ditch weapons – cheap guns for civilian use against the Allies at the end of WW II. I want a mini-14 to be just that- a mini-14. I want it to be an M-14 in everything except caliber. Stock design can be modernized too. It should break down for cleaning as easily as a military M-14 rifle breaks down. I was once handed a "civilian M-14" that required tools to disassemble – a no go. I guess I'm particular. You tend to get what you pay for.

  45. Ruger's Pine Tree Castings division is still one of the top precision casting companies in the country, making castings not only for the arms industry but also for aerospace, defense, automotive and medical.

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