Ruger Mini-30 Rifle

   03.27.14

Ruger Mini-30 Rifle

Many long time readers will remember Ruger Mini-30 featured in the Testing the Cooper Scout Rifle Concept article. The results from the Mini-30 were more than impressive during realistic testing.

Based on my research, I had found that Jeff Cooper hailed the 30-30 as an excellent all-around scout round that had proven itself through history. The 30-30 is considered by today’s standards to be a medium weight rifle round, with actually about the same 800 Ft/lbs of energy at 200 yards as a standard Russian 7.62×39 AK round. (Technically the AK round is a bit more powerful). Even at 200-yards, the 30-30 and 7.62×39 are still a very deadly round for whitetail and hog hunting. On the other side of the equation, the 7.62×39 rifle round has proven to be an extremely deadly defensive round in every country around the world.

Don’t let the modest looks and historic Ruger Mini-30 design fool you; it can be the universal scout rifle for home, hunt, or fun.

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About the Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30

The Ruger Mini-30 is not a new gun by any stretch of the imagination. The gun has been reviewed and re-reviewed probably 1,000s of times since its introduction. The Mini-14 was hugely popular, especially after the A-Team saved the day, proudly toting stainless Mini-14s with folding stocks.

Actually due to budget reasons, the A-Team featured the Mini-14 in a variety of versions simply because they had to buy all the weapons featured in the episode, so they just kept reusing the same guns over and over. The other most significant consideration was that blank rounds used for movies are horribly dirty and generally cause gun malfunctions, scene reshoots, and delays. With a budget show like the A-Team, they wanted to avoid problems and reached for the proven Ruger Mini-14, which is still noted in the movie industry as one of the most reliable, off-the-shelf guns to fire blanks from. The self cleaning system always allowed the A-Team to save the day without their guns jamming.

The Mini-30 was introduced in 1987 (almost a decade and a half after the 1974 Mini-14’s introduction) simply to provide a hunting (yes, hunting) option for Mini-14 fans. But even in the late 1970’s, there were states which did not allow deer hunting with calibers smaller than 6mm (.243”). Ruger provided a great large bore option with the Russian 7.62×39 chambered Mini-30. Ruger’s semi-auto platform delivered performance just a bit better than the proven whitetail harvesting 30-30 Winchester. The Russian ammo was cheap and the Mini-30 did very well.

If we fast forward a bit, the Mini-30 lost some of its appeal as the AR-15 arose as the dominant rifle in a platform that had enough picatinny rails to grate cheese and mount a laser. Today the Ruger Mini platform has become less sexy with what some referred to as an outdated look and design. For a while many were concerned that Ruger would drop the line, but die hard fans kept buying the rifles for one simple reason: they worked every time, all the time, and were cheap to shoot with surplus ammo.

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For some, the M1 Garand looks of the Mini-30 does not look as lean and sexy as the AR-15, but it is actually lighter in most cases by at least a pound. It is also delivers more power within the 200-yard range than the .223, and it does it all with fewer parts and higher reliability even with cheap ammo.

Fit, Finish, Feel, Features, and Functions

The finish and fit has never of the Mini line has been show quality. Instead, it features what I call a “service grade” finish. Of course, the A-Team had their stainless versions polished up a bit. Ruger knew early on that these rifles would get beat and decided there was little point adding 20%-30% to the cost with a high grade finish. Ruger has maintained that philosophy to keep the cost down on the Mini-14 and Mini-30 series, which consistently have street prices in the $750-$800 range.

Many people do not know that Ruger is one of the largest investment casting and heat treating companies in the US. Ruger shows off its capabilities, quality, and consistency with one of the most renowned and reliable semi-auto firearms on earth. The Mini-14 and Mini-30 rifles are based on the M1 Garand-style breech bolt locking systems, which is noted to be self-cleaning due to a fixed gas piston system. You know all the fireworks around how spectacularly reliable piston AR-15s are? “Welcome to WWII proven technology,” said the Mini-30.

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The Mini-30 system is amazingly simple with a very limited number of parts which do not particularly require a high degree of precision to work well. This of course means that you can pack the gun with gunk and goo wrap it in dirt and it will still work. In fact, the gun is so well designed that it will self-clean every time you pull the trigger.

Like all M1 Garands, the hammer fall (lock time) feels like it takes an eternity. Compared to some of the amazing light speed hammer falls of AR-15 triggers like the HiperForce Hiperfire, the M1 trigger feels like you could go get a sandwich between the trigger pull and round detonation. That said, once the giant anvil of a hammer finally does connect with the firing pin, the primer is hit with something close to the force of God. Ignition has not been a problem even with surplus rounds. The trigger has a very stock feeling with a long take up and fairly gritty break, but it is designed for durability and not a match grade feel. The trigger works and you don’t notice the feel once rounds starts flying downrange.

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In all, the Ruger Mini-30 is brutally tough and infallibly dependable. Perhaps Ruger should offer this in a .308 version to compete with Springfield.

The Mini-30 comes complete with a birdcage flash hider, iron sights, two 20-round magazines, 1” scope mounts, and even a weaver scope mount rail. I mounted a Nikon 1-4x P-223 optic and found it to be the perfect optic and power for this caliber and the intent of the rifle. At one point, Ruger noted that Ruger Mini-14 or Mini-30 owners of new guns could trade the included 1” rings for 30mm rings direct with Ruger if they needed. The current versions of Mini-30s all wear synthetic stocks, but the alloy steel version is available with a 16.12” barrel with threaded muzzle equipped with a bird cage flash hider.

Operation is pretty straight forward, Garand-style functioning. Lever in one of the 20-round magazines, pull the bolt back to charge, place the finger in the trigger guard and move the finger forward to disengage the safety, and then squeeze the trigger. The bolt locks back after the last round; press the mag release remove the old mag, lever in another, and pull back the bolt to release the bolt to chamber a new round. The gun does have a button on the top of the receiver to allow for a manual bolt hold open during cleaning.

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Accuracy

Like the Mini-14, the Ruger Mini-30 is not a tack driver. The gun delivers what I would term as realistic hunting accuracy with 10-yard groups in the 1”-1.25” range with decent ammo.

During my Scout rifle article testing I didn’t have any problems connecting with 4” cans of corn at distances from 50 to 200 yards, and ringing the 400-yard gong. The learnings from running those corn cans was that the Mini-30 is extremely friendly and quick at applying its accuracy to actual targets all while being a blast to shoot.

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Final Thoughts

The Ruger Mini-30 may not be the newest, sexiest, or most accurate rifle on the market, but it is incredibly reliable and fun to shoot. There is something special about sending nearly three times the lead down range with each trigger pull. I have pushed well over a thousand rounds of surplus Russian ammo through the Mini-30 and only given it one wipe down and squirt of lube (which, for the record, was done because of rain).

One of the main reasons I picked up a Mini-30 was the availability of ammo. Even during the peak of the ammo shortage of 2008-2013, I could still walk into almost any store and buy AK-47 7.62×39 ammo cheaply.  Even today, in early 2014, 7.62×39 is still about 30% cheaper than .223, which of course means I can shoot more for less all while owning a nice little deer rifle. Would this legacy throwback firearm be a top recommendation for an all around defense, deer, and fun gun? You Bet’cha!

Specs

  • 5854
  • Capacity:  20
  • Overall Length: 36.75″
  • Barrel Length: 16.12″
  • Material: Alloy Steel
  • Finish: Blued
  • Weight: 6.75 lbs.
  • MSRP: $989.00
  • Street: $750.00
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