It had the friendly ergonomics of an M1 Carbine or 10/22, and it possessed coyote-dropping potential with its .223 chambering. And it’s been reliable, even after months of being ignored behind the seat of the F-150. Later, the Mini 30 brought ballistic espectability, but accuracy had always been so-so. It had the right feel and Garand lineage, but four- to six-MOA groups frequently kept it in the back of the safe.
Three years ago Ruger resolved to realize the design’s potential, retooling and tightening up critical tolerances to finally recreate the Mini into a rifle that Townshend Whelen would consider “interesting.”
The Mini is now available in Remington’s 6.8 SPC, the first cartridge that will fit into a Mini receiver that has the accuracy potential of a .223 but with better terminal ballistics than the 7.62×39. The taper of the 6.8 preserves some of the inherent reliability of the latter round.
Gone is the pencil-thin barrel that produced vertical stringing, as well as the unusual blade front sight. The new barrel is beefy, and the rifle stays zeroed even as ammo boxes empty and surface oil smokes.
Getting the rifle hot required some serious effort with the factory five-round mags, with results like playing patty-cake with Edward Scissorhands. Pro-Mag is working on a prototype and promises larger-capacity, zombie-capable magazines soon.
The new stock has a very narrow grip, suitable for younger and female shooters. The comb has drop for field shooting, which is a sound design feature considering that the Mini is built as a working carbine and not as a creature of the bench.
The stainless action was very loose, and this is a good thing. Reliability requires that there be room for dirt to get out of the way and for overheated parts to swell without binding. Ruger’s learned where to put some tolerances and where to keep things tight for accuracy.
If I could get the two-stage, military-style trigger to a good gunsmith, the groups might tighten up a tad. It broke at just over five pounds with a slight creep, but I prefer the safety of a two-stage trigger and will trade that for something more bench-resty.
For test and evaluation, ATL synthetic cleaner/lubricant was tried. This is one of the new-generation lubes where you can see the powder residue floating around—and failing to build up on working surfaces. There were no stoppages, and this product may have contributed to that fact.
Ruger mounts were included, which would allow the mounting of any one-inch scopes less than 42mm in diameter.
As test ammo arrived, the Mini made several trips to the club range and was fired by a number of regulars. From adolescents to old veterans, it was enjoyed by all. A lot of old-timers were impressed with the accuracy and potential of the 6.8 SPC. A Vietnam vet promptly went out and bought one—and cussed me out for ruining his budget.
The Mini is the rifle we always wanted to love. Now we can, while respecting it as a serious rifle, too.