Good And (Maybe) Better?

I have waxed lyrical before about pistol-caliber semi-automatic carbines, and I remain fond of them, for all sorts of reasons.  However, a couple of recent articles are making me rethink my fondness — not towards total rejection of the concept, but perhaps towards a better option.

I speak firstly of this article, about the TNW Aero Survival Rifle LTE – 9mm:

There’s a lot to like about this:  it uses Glock mags, it has an AR-15 clone action, you can get it in multiple barrel lengths, it breaks down easily for storage, and so on.  (Of course, as it shoots the plentiful 9mm Europellet, practice is cheap too.)

My antipathy towards said cartridge is well known, however, and I would far rather have such a carbine chambered for the .45 ACP — but from what I’ve read about the Aero, it’s going to be offered solely in 9mm.  Fine.  But then we come to the retail price of $650 (street), and about a hundred more for the short-barreled “pistol”.  That makes me wonder whether one couldn’t do better, cartridge-wise, for about the same money.

And right on cue came this article, suggesting that it may be time to reconsider the venerable Ruger Ranch Rifle (Mini-14 or Mini-Thirty):

Now my own experience with the Mini-14 has been dismal — it couldn’t hold zero, the hot barrel whipped like a cooked noodle, and the larger magazines (aftermarket, because Bill Ruger thought that nobody should ever need more than 5 rounds) were Jammin’ Central.

But apparently, Ruger has fixed all that — even unto offering 20-round factory magazines — and they’re apparently now manufactured as they should have been made in the first place.

What I’ve always liked about the Ranch Rifles is that they’re not threatening to the gun confiscators, appearance-wise anyway.  (That doesn’t mean that the bastards wouldn’t go after them with similar fervor to the hated AR-15, but there’s less justification for doing so — at least, in the public’s eye.  Yes I know it’s all bullshit — the AR and Mini-14 are functionally identical — but these are the times we live in.)

The Mini-14 retails for just over $800 right now — and given that you’re shooting the 5.56mm poodleshooter instead of the 9mm Europellet, the price difference might be justified.  (You know where I’m going with this, right?  Yup, the Mini Thirty in 7.62x39mm Commie is the one I’d pick, if I was going in this direction.)

All the above assumes that the boys at Ruger have fixed all the old problems with the Ranch Rifle, of course.

If anyone near north Texas has recently bought one of the latest generation of the Ruger Mini (with the 20-round mag) in either caliber, I’d love to give it a little impromptu range test.  I’ll supply the ammo.

Comments, as always, are welcome.


  1. For me, the Ruger looks like a scaled-down Garand action, which is why I’d love to have one, with the same caveats you mentioned. I bought one used back in the 1980’s and it couldn’t hold a zero at all. 50 yard accuracy was so poor you couldn’t keep all the rounds on a 11″ paper plate. Sold it quickly.

    I’ve heard they’re better now, but the price is still high. In the poodle shooter caliber, any discount AR is half the list price. Still, looking forward to seeing your future range report.

    1. Seconded on the ridiculously poor accuracy.
      We acquired some in stainless steel for the boat.
      Eight-inch ‘groups’ at twenty-five feet… but the galling rendered them unusable.
      Every variation in temperature required filing to re-fit the action.
      The kicker was the safety inside the trigger guard.

      How could any instructor advocate keeping your trigger finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot on every other firearm… but require different skills for this one version by sticking your finger inside the trigger guard to NOT shoot.

      1. Yes, it is the same as the safety on a Garand or an M-1A.

        You DO NOT have to put your finger inside the trigger guard to put it on safe. You push the safety back from in front of the trigger guard.

        You do not place you finger inside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot and push the safety forward.

  2. IIRC, the TNW is caliber convertible. The reviews I’ve seen are shaky, especially for the price.

    1. Yep – the TNW can be converted between 9mm, 40, 45, 10mm, 357 Sig…and I think one of two more. I have heard mixed reviews. A buddy has one of their multi-caliber kits with the backpack and absolutely loves it. Some have had reliability issues.

  3. If the 9mm versions are so weak in general, I’d rather just spend the extra on ammo for my $600 Ruger AR.

  4. WRT the Mini-14, I also owned one in the 80’s and can attest to their less than optimal accuracy. I have been doing some internet “research” as well and the conventional wisdom seems to be that the “580” series improvements have eliminated most of the accuracy problems (which I think was related to the too-thin barrel that heated up very quickly.) So if shopping for one, make sure it has a 580+ serial number.

    Of course, this is all second-hand, so take it for what it’s worth. I love the look of the Mini, it’s a classically “American” profile, and I’d like to think that Ruger finally got it to be as accurate and reliable as a rifle in its price class should be.

    When I got mine in 1983, the Mini was half the price of the AR (at that time, AR’s were $500 and the Mini could be found for ~$250.)

    The funny thing is that 37 years later, the Mini has increased more than threefold to $800+ …. and with the plethora of AR clones on the market, you can still get a basic AR-type rifle for the same $500 that you could in 1983!

  5. I got a Mini-14 for $500 when WalMart clearanced them out last year. It had been manufactured about a month before I brought it home. Accuracy was terrible (approx. 6″ at 50 yards), it jammed on multiple varieties of ammo, and magazines were $25/each, instead of $8 each for AR mags.

    Just bow to the inevitable and buy an AR. Hell, if you wanna spend $800, get a Ruger MPR and a Burris RT-6 LPVO.

  6. I had the same experiences with my 1980’s Mini-14. Only gun I’ve ever sold (the rest went on a canoe trip one day…). Used the money to buy a Browning Hi Power.

    As far as Pistol Caliber Carbines I’ve been hearing good things about the current Ruger version from local shooters. Easily switchable magazine wells for Glock and Ruger mags and take down configuration kind of caught my attention.

    If they came out with one in .45ACP that might be worth a look for devotees of that cartridge.

    1. Randy,
      I bought the Ruger PCC in 9mm back in the fall of 2018. It’s a fun, dependable rifle – within the limitations of the 9mm cart. Topped it w/ a Sig Romeo5 red-dot, and added a second charging handle so I can rack the bolt with either my left or right hand. With this setup, I pretty much OWN anything inside of 50 yards.
      And … for your reading enjoyment … this:

      And since that screed of mine back in ’18 … Ruger *has* introduced their carbine in .40 s&w. They’ve also introduced new handguards, and … Midwest Industries has come out with a whole slew of accessories too.

  7. I bought a Mini 30 in 1990 or 91 as a short range mild recoiling deer rifle for my 16 year old 120 pound son. The rifle has the Ruger open Williams style sights – same as found on the 10/22s of the same vintage.

    My Mini is reasonably accurate with good quality ammunition. Back when the Russian and Chinese steel case rounds were cheap and available I shot lots of that ammo just to make noise and throw steel core lead down range. I remember that I had one or two failures to extract but I blame that on the lacquer coated Chinese ammunition I could buy at the time. With American or European brass case rounds the gun is 100% reliable. I have a couple of no name steel gun show magazines and they work great.

    Right now the gun shoots into 4″ or so at 100 yards with Academy 120 gr brass case rounds. I’ve been told that their ammo is from Serbia but I wonder if their generic line isn’t from whoever can make it cheapest on this year’s contract. I don’t have a set of 7.62×39 dies but I might be able to tighten the groups up if I started to load my own.

    I understand that the new guns have heavier barrels and better accuracy but I can’t verify that. I’ve kept the old gun in the collection because I wanted something that would fire “no longer as cheap” 7.62×39.

    From the comments posted here I guess that I got lucky but I suspect that the 14 and 30 were two slightly different animals.

    When people talk 80s vintage Rugers the subject of the XGI usually comes up. The XGI was a Mini chambered in .308 and the rumors say that Ruger actually built some prototypes and intended to put it into production. The prototypes suffered serious failures due to the barrel and bolt lockup just not being strong enough to handle the high pressure .308 rounds. Since Ruger wanted a .30 caliber for deer hunters they went with the Eastern Block round. I’d bet that with the improvements in modern metallurgy somebody could make the gun work today, but it would probably kick like a whole team of mules and anyway nobody wants a gun that isn’t an AR.

  8. Classic: pistol caliber lever action. Hard to beat .357 at rifle/carbine velocities. Light and handy, too.

    I had two PCCs before the tragic boating accident, both Just Right Carbines. One’s in 9, the other in .45 acp. The 9 mm runs like a clock and is hella accurate. The .45 was a bit problematic for JR, in my experience the gun just doesn’t like to run dirty. Otherwise it’s fine, also very accurate. Others who tried both guns said the 9 actually had more recoil than the .45. Magazine adapters let you run Glock, 1911 and other mags. Both have been somewhat superseded by the advent of pistol caliber ARs. The JRs are not ARs, though they do use AR components. Heck, PC ARs aren’t really AR actions, for that matter–both guns are simple blowback. One thing the JRs have over ARs–the bolt handle and ejection port can be switched to either side.

    The Ruger PC9 may run, but gawd, it’s fugly.

  9. Two things:
    1. Darrell is right about the .357 lever action. It’s not an actual bottle of pure joy, but it’s awfully hard to tell the difference.

    2. When I was in my early teens, I wanted a Ruger Mini-14 because that’s what the A-Team used. Later, I was somewhat interested in the Min-30, but was turned off by the magazines. ([tangent] The 7.62×39 cartridge has its pros and cons; one of the pros being that the AK magazine is a wonder of bomb-proof reliability. I just can’t talk myself into owning a rifle in this caliber that doesn’t use those magazines.[end-tangent]) As an adult, I find I grow less and less interested in guns that have to be coaxed into performing well. Project guns are interesting, but I’m finding that I’d rather just shoot. All of which is to say that I haven’t been seriously interested in a Ruger Mini for a long, long time.

    That said, IF Ruger made a Mini chambered in .450 Bushmaster, AND said rifle fed from Garand en-bloc clips instead of a magazine, I would fight all comers to be first in line to buy one.

  10. Nah. I’m good with my Camp 45.

    Another one I can’t sell now that #1 Grandson has shot it.

  11. Kim, I own a Mini-30 that I bought in 2007. It is IMHO very reliable and reasonably accurate, but I’ve never found a good after market magazine in the 20 round class. It’s been a few years since I looked, and it may be time to look again.

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