By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
The idea of a short, handy carbine has always been appealing to me. When I was a badge toter in two different Texas counties I generally relied upon a lever-action carbine in .44 Mag. I used both the Marlin Model 1894 and the Browning Model 92, both with receiver sights and the barrels cut to 16 inches. Even cut down, these lever guns still held 9 rounds of ammunition and were quite handy.
Another carbine that I have always liked is the Ruger Mini-14. While it has always had a good reputation for reliability, some have felt that the Ruger was not as accurate as it should have been. That always seemed odd to me because the ones that I owned and shot were certainly comparable, accuracy-wise, to the Model 94 Winchester and the .30 M1 Carbine. None of those three would win Honorable Mention at Camp Perry but they have won an awfully lot of gunfights.
Regardless, a while back Ruger made some changes in their Mini-14 machinery and even did some redesign work on the carbine. My understanding is that they tightened some of the tolerances and began using a slightly different barrel design.
Accordingly, I decided that it just might be time to retire my old Browning Model 92 carbine and spend some time, once again, with the Ruger Mini-14. The model that I ordered is called the Tactical Mini-14, blue steel with a synthetic stock. Staying with the iron sights that came on the carbine, I installed a web sling and ordered a canvas pouch that would hold five of Ruger’s 20-round magazines. I found that Black Hill’s 55-grain soft-point ammo would consistently stay between 1¼- to 1½-inch groups off sand bags.
However, I have never cared for those little wing-protector thingies on either side of the front sight. They may look Operator as hell, but they can mess you up if you have to make a quick snap shot. A friend of mine, working for a federal agency, got one of those wings in the center of his peep sight instead of the front sight and missed a quick shot during a serious episode. I decided that wasn’t going to happen to me.
The brothers that run our local welding shop are also shooters. The wing-protector thingies came right off and I find that snap shooting with this carbine is ever so much easier. However, when I reported the same on social media, you’d have thought I made disparaging remarks about John Wayne. So, by all means, if those little wing-protector thingies get in your way, cut them off. But you might want to keep the fact to yourself as much as possible. Some shooters are pretty sure that it’s an UN-American thing to do.
At any rate, this Tactical Mini-14 has become the regular resident in my Jeep Wrangler. I have no tales of daring-do to share with you regarding the little Ruger. It has, however, punched the tickets of a red fox and two coyotes. Handy and reliable, that’s what this Ruger seems willing to deliver.
Of course the Ruger Mini-14 is just one of many, many carbines that will give excellent service as a house gun or car gun. Why don’t you take a minute and tell us about your favorite carbine?
Thanks to the team at Shooting Illustrated. Click here to visit ShootingIllustrated.com.