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Ruger Mini-14 tactical.

You don't sell 2 million guns in a year without having a finger on the pulse of the American consumer. So it should be no surprise that Ruger has now introduced a version of its venerable Mini-14 chambered in one of the hottest cartridges of the past few years: the .300 AAC Blackout.

The rifle in .300 BLK I received for testing is a Mini-14 Tactical. The rifle has a 16.1-inch barrel tipped with Ruger's distinctive flash hider. It has a straight-grip black polymer stock with a soft rubber butt pad and 13-inch length of pull. Overall length is 36.25 inches, with a total empty weight of 6.75 pounds, which means it is as short and light as any AR but feels more streamlined due to the lack of a pistol grip.

Two 20-round steel magazines--both laser-etched ".300 AAC BLACK OUT"--were provided with this rifle. Mini-14 magazines resemble AR-15 magazines but aren't interchangeable. Even though the .300 BLK cartridge was designed to fit in standard .223 magazines, Ruger says this magazine is not interchangeable with standard Mini-14 .223 magazines. A company spokesman told me the firm designed it this way to prevent "kabooms." Spare magazines are available at online retailers such as Brownells or at ShopRuger.com for $40 each.

If the rifle design looks familiar it's because the name Mini-14 indicates the rifle is a scaled-down version of the famous M14. Many people think if the Mini had been introduced just a few years earlier it might have become our military's main rifle instead of the M16. In fact, the Mini-14 was designed with the help of famous arms designer Jim Sullivan, who also had a hand in designing the M16, Stoner 63 and Ruger M77.

The Mini-14 uses a fixed piston, gas operated recoil system with a rotating bolt. The bolt handle reciprocates with every shot. The bolt locks back on empty magazines and can be locked back by hand by pushing down on the button on the left side of the receiver with the bolt pulled to the rear.

The rifle comes standard with iron sights, a fixed post front protected by wings and an adjustable rear aperture. The receiver is made to accept Ruger scope rings, and a pair of rings is provided with the rifle.

The safety is a blade that protrudes into the trigger guard when engaged. Pushing it forward disengages the safety. The magazines rock in from the front, and the magazine release is a lever just behind the magazine well. Pushing it forward releases the magazine.

The .300 BLK is essentially a shortened, necked-up .223 case stuffed with a .30 caliber bullet. It can be had in two flavors: subsonic and supersonic. Subsonic .300 BLK loads feature 200- to 220-grain bullets traveling just more than 1,000 fps; common supersonic loadings feature bullets between 110 and 140 grains running at muzzle velocities of 1,900 to 2,300 fps. The Mini-14 .300 BLK also accepts .300 Whisper ammo.

Supersonic Blackout loads are nearly equal in ballistics to the famous 7.62x39 (which, if you didn't know, is available in the Mini platform as the Mini-30) and have proven to work well on deer and hogs. Felt recoil is only slightly more than that of a .223. Ammunition manufacturers are offering more loads seemingly every day.

The main reason for the popularity of subsonic .300 BLK ammunition is due to the popularity of suppressors. The Mini-14's barrel has common 5/8x24 threads, so if you want to mount a suppressor all you have to do it find a crescent wrench to remove the flash suppressor. For this article I mounted a SilencerCo Saker 762 sound suppressor onto the rifle.

The rifle digested all ammo it was fed without a hitch, whether it was wearing a suppressor or not, and I did everything I could to confuse it--stuffing magazines with alternating sub- and supersonic rounds or four different brands of subsonic ammo in one magazine just to see if any one brand was noticeably quieter (nope).

Ejection was weaker with subsonic loads, but that's to be expected. The 20-round magazines worked flawlessly.

Alas, the rifle is relatively loud with a suppressor because the Mini-14's gas system isn't closed like an AR's. There's a vent in the gas piston tube that allows excess gas to escape via a port near the handguard, and it exits at about 10,000 psi. So even with a good suppressor and subsonic ammo I don't consider the Mini-14 ear safe.

However, while a suppressor won't make it Hollywood-quiet, the Mini-14 with subsonic ammo is still tough to hear from a distance, and if you're looking to reduce your noise profile while hunting or shooting it's a viable option.

Whether or not you tip it with a silencer, the Mini-14 in .300 BLK is a lot of fun to shoot, and being chambered in a .30 means it's as useful for hunting as it is self-defense.

SPECIFICATIONS

RUGER
MINI-14 TACTICAL

TYPE             rotating bolt semiautomatic

CALIBER          .223 Rem., 300 BLK (tested)

CAPACITY         BLK-specific 20-round (where legal) magazines

BARREL           16.1 in. w/flash hider; 1:7 twist

OVERALL LENGTH   36.25 in.

WEIGHT           6.75 lb.

RECEIVER         alloy steel

STOCK            black polymer


TRIGGER          6.5 lb. (as tested)

SIGHTS           post front, adjustable rear; receiver cut for
                 supplied scope rings

PRICE            $1,019

MANUFACTURER:    Ruger, RUGER.COM

ACCURACY RESULTS

RUGER MINI-14 TACTICAL

.300 Whisper        Bullet    Muzzle    Standard    Avg.
                    Weight   Velocity   Deviation   Group
                    (gr.)     (fps)                 (in.)

HORNADY A-MAX        208      1,059        23       2.02
HORNADY V-MAX        110      2,344        24       2.24
.300 BLK
SIG ELITE            220       978         22       1.81
BARNES TAC-TX        110      2,344        26       2.18
REMINGTON ACCUTIP    125      2,301        19       2.93

Notes: Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at
100 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots
measured with an Oehler Model 35P12 feet from the muzzle.
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Title Annotation:RIFLE REPORT
Author:Tarr, James
Publication:Petersen's Rifle Shooter
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jan 1, 2016
Words:991
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