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Military surplus weapons have been around for as long as there have been armies. Ex-soldiers who had used them in combat always flocked to the counters to buy the weapons they had grown accustomed to carrying. As autoloaders became available, manufacturers realized that demand for semi-automatic versions would soon be high, thus the BAR, M1, M1A, and M14 models. Due to their firepower and overall intimidating appearance, people came up with the idea of ​​owning one of these. By the end of the Vietnam era, it was clear that there was a market demand for semi-automatic versions of the M16/AR15 rifles. Recognizing the market for such a rifle and the versatility of the .223 caliber cartridge, Sturm Ruger & Co. sat at the design table and developed the Ruger Mini 14 rifle. First introduced in 1973, the Mini-14 used the bolt design of the gas-pivot M1/M14 military rifle and featured a self-cleaning gas system with a fixed piston.

Due to the popularity of this rifle, many different variants of the Mini-14 were introduced. Following the initial model, the gun-specific Mini-14 AC556 and semi-automatic Mini-14GB were targeted at the military/law enforcement market. Then in 1982 came the Mini-14 Ranch, which had a receiver designation for telescope optics. There was an NRA model, and a few other calibers were introduced in 7.62×39 Mini-30 and 6.8mm SPC Mini-68. These aren’t all the changes, but it certainly gives you an idea of ​​the evolution of the Ruger Mini-14.

The Ruger Mini-14 is available in blue and stainless steel. Barrel lengths range from 13 inches for police and military personnel to 16, 18.5 and 22 inches for civilian models. Magazines for these rifles are not interchangeable with magazines for AR or other series rifles, but are available in 5/10/20/30 cartridges. Shafts are available in fixed or folding styles and are made from hardwood, laminate, and synthetic materials. It’s hard to tell you how many of these fine little rifles I’ve owned in the 43 years since I owned my first gun. I think the most disappointing thing about these rifles would probably be if I never owned my first rifle.