Ruger Mini-14, .300 AAC Blackout Tactical Rifle, by Pat Cascio

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I still remember the very first Ruger Mini-14 I owned. It was in .223– the only caliber available at that time. It was 1983, and I really didn’t get a chance to shoot the little Mini-14 until a vacation from Chicago back to Oregon to my brother-in-law’s ranch a few months later. Some unforeseen circumstances found my wife and I stuck in the Chicago, IL area from 1982-1984. My stepfather and mother made the trip with us to Oregon, and my stepfather brought along his Universal M-1 Carbine. We had a lot of fun shooting, but my stepfather was blown away by the Mini-14 and the fast .223 round it was shooting. We would both fire at the same time into a hill about 200-yards away, and the rounds from my Mini-14 were hitting the hill a good second faster than the .30 M1 Caliber Carbine rounds were. You could hear the “thud” when the rounds hit the hillside.

Since 1983, I’ve owned quite a few Ruger Mini-14s, as well as the Mini-30 that fires the 7.62X39 round, and for some reason I’ve always had a difficult time holding onto a Mini-14. To be sure, some of the early Mini-14s were okay guns, but they were not the most accurate, in my humble opinion. That has changed a long time ago! When I went to work for the late Col. Rex Applegate, in 1990, I was afforded the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the firearms field. One I didn’t meet but talked to a number of times was Bill Ruger himself. He and Applegate were best friends, and they spoke on the phone weekly, if not more often. Not many gun writers could pick-up their phone and talk directly to Bill Ruger. So it was quite an honor for me, a fellow just starting out as a gun writer, to have that privilege.

I don’t believe Bill Ruger ever got the full recognition he so richly deserved as a firearms designer. Ruger probably designed more firearms than John Moses Browning did, and Bill Ruger wasn’t one to just copy someone else’s designs; he come up with fresh ideas and built his firearms tank-tough, to be sure.

When the Mini-30 first came out, I snapped one up. However, back then, there wasn’t much in the way of 7.62X39 ammo to be had. Additionally, the gun only came with a 5-rd detachable magazine, and everyone wanted 20 or 30 rd magazines. Some aftermarket magazine makers came out with higher capacity magazines, but none were very reliable. The Mini-30 languished for a lot of years. The gun was superb in all respects, and many people don’t realize that the 7.62X39 round is very accurate in the right guns. The AK-47 doesn’t allow you to squeeze the accuracy out of this round. It was my friend and famous gun writer, the late Chuck Karwan, who told me how accurate the 7.62X39 round was, and then he demonstrated it to me in a bolt action rifle he had. I don’t recall what brand or make it was.

Now, Ruger has come out with a new Mini-14, and this time it is in .300 AAC Blackout. To be honest, I didn’t have any first-hand experience with this round. Sure, I’d read about it quite a bit and was tempted to get an upper for an AR-15 in .300 Blackout, as it is commonly referred to, but I never did. I was content with the .223/5.56 round that most ARs fire. About a month ago, Ruger sent me a press release on the new Mini-14 in .300 Blackout, and for some reason it intrigued me to no end. A Mini-14 that can fire a more potent and .30 caliber bullet, using the same magazines that are used in a Mini-14 that fires .223 rounds. I had to have one. Well, it was two weeks before my sample arrived– a long two weeks. What we are looking at with the .300 AAC Blackout round is basically a .223 shell casing that is trimmed down and necked up to take a .30 caliber bullet. It works!

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A quick look at the .300 Blackout in the Mini-14 is in order. The gun comes with a black polymer stock with a nice recoil pad on it. It’s not that the recoil pad is needed; the gun doesn’t “kick” that much. The rear sight is adjustable for elevation and windage; the barrel is slightly over 16-inches in length; and needless to say, it is chambered in .300 Blackout. Instead of coming with a 5-rd magazine, like other Mini-14 do, this gun comes with two twenty-round magazines. In the press release, Ruger stated that the mags would be marked as .300 AAC Blackout; however, mine weren’t. The reasoning behind this is that you won’t load any .223/5.56 rounds into this magazine and then mistakenly load the mag into the rifle. It will more than likely chamber the round, and it might even fire it, but it’s a dangerous situation. I marked my two mags with a silver Magic Marker, writing .300 Blackout on both sides, and I purchased some aftermarket 30-rd magazines and did the same thing. The finish on the new Blackout is subdued black. It looks nice and very tactical in appearance. The front blade sight is protected by “wings” on either side of it. Looking through the rear sight, the front sight is nice and crisp for a good sight picture. The gun only weighs 6.75 lbs and has an overall length of 36.25 inches. It handles fast in the hand.

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By my count, there are at least 16 ammo companies that are making .300 AAC Blackout ammo. However, none was to be found in my neck of the woods. NONE! I called on long-time friend, Jeff Hoffman, who owns and operates Black Hills Ammunition www.black-hills.com with his lovely wife, Kristi. Jeff was able to help me out. Black Hills Ammunition is producing the .300 Whisper round that is almost identical to the .300 AAC Blackout round. The .300 Whisper was developed by J.D. Jones many years ago as a wildcat round that is extremely popular. However, what Advanced Armament Corporation did (they are the AAC in the .300 AAC Blackout nomenclature name) was to ever so slightly change their round and then call it something different. Now, Jeff Hoffman informed me that you can safely fire .300 Whisper in any rifle chambered in .300 AAC Blackout. However, there are reports of some .300 Whisper chambered firearms that won’t safely fire the .300 AAC Blackout round. So be advised, and don’t try to fire .300 AAC Blackout in a gun chambered in .300 Whisper. Jeff Hoffman knows what he’s talking about, and I take anything he has to say about ammunition as gospel.

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The .300 AAC Blackout round was designed to be fired from rifles in one of two ways. The lighter rounds, that come in around 110-125 grains in weight, are supersonic rounds. The heavier 200+-grain rounds are meant to be fired in the same firearms with a sound suppressor on it. Yes, you can fire the heavier rounds in any .300 AAC Blackout chambered semi-auto; however, without the sound suppressor attached, the action won’t function, and you’ll have a single shot rifle. The idea behind the sub-sonic rounds is specifically for firearms with sound suppressors on ’em for taking out enemy sentries; at least that’s one function of the round. The Ruger Mini-14 .300 Blackout has a birdcage flash suppressor on it that can be removed and a sound suppressor installed. I refuse to jump through the red tape to obtain a sound suppressor! So, my testing was limited to supersonic rounds.

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Right off the bat, I noticed that this new Mini was dead-on zeroed from the box, for a 300-yard zero. Nice! The ammo from Black Hills is their 125-gr OTM (Open Tip Match) round, again in .300 Whisper. Just for fun and to test function, I managed to “kill” quite a few large rocks downrange at my usual shooting spot. To be sure, the .300 Whisper blew those large rock into little pieces; a .223 round wouldn’t have done the same. The recoil is worth noting. This round recoils slightly more than a .223 does and less than a 7.62X39 does, and it was the brainchild of Advanced Armament Corporation to have a round that closely resembled the AK-47 round 7.62X39 that could be fed from existing .223 magazines without any alterations. They succeeded! Using the factory Ruger magazines and the 30-rd aftermarket mags I bought, there were zero feeding problems.

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Ruger includes scope rings, as well as a flat-top Picatinny rail for those wanting to install some sort of red dot sight on this rifle. I installed an inexpensive, real inexpensive, red dot sight, and it failed me. After every shot, the red dot sight would turn off. I replaced it with another identical red dot sight, and it wasn’t much better – maybe I could get 2 or 3 rounds fired, before it would shut down. And, I do NOT attribute this to the recoil of the gun/caliber – it is the cheap scopes. However, when I could get the red dot to stay on, I was getting 2-inche groups at 100-yard with this little rifle – I was more than a little impressed, to say the least. I’m searching my office, for a Nikon 3-9X40 scope I have here……some place – so I can really wring the most accuracy out of this new Mini and the .300 Whisper rounds, I still have on-hand, from Black Hills Ammunition.

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These days, it takes a LOT to impress me, when it comes to knives and firearms – so many are just the same ol’ thing, just dressed up differently. Well, I thought the same of this Mini-14 in .300 AAC Blackout – before I got it. Yeah, there was “something” that drew me to this gun, when I got the press release from Ruger – still don’t know what that “something” was, though. I’m impressed with this new Mini-14 in .300 Blackout!

Near the end of my testing, my local gun shop happened to get in one box of Hornady .300 Whisper “Zombie Max” ammo in 110-gr with a green tip, of course, designed for killing the living dead. This lighter-weight round shot a little bit lower at 100-yards than the 125-gr OTM Black Hills .300 Whisper round did, as you would expect; to be expected, lighter bullets tend to fall faster than heavier ones do. I was getting 3-inch groups, but with more of this ammo I can probably tighten up the groups a bit. Overall, the Black Hills .300 Whisper OTM is the round of choice for my target shooting needs.

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Still, after shooting this .300 Blackout Mini-14 for several weeks, I’ve yet to run across any actual .300 AAC Blackout ammo in my area. All shooting has been done with .300 Whisper, with the compliments of Black Hills Ammunition. I’m hoping the .300 Blackout round shoots just as nicely and as accurate as the .300 Whisper round does. In the meantime, I’m in the process of requesting some more .300 Whisper ammo from Jeff Hoffman. The problem with this Mini-14 in this caliber is that it is way too much fun to shoot. Since I got this gun sample, I have forsaken my AK-47s and my AR-15s. Sorry guys, but I’ll take you out shooting again soon, I promise!

There’s still “something” about this gun/caliber combo that intrigues me to no end, besides the fun factor. I’m seriously thinking about getting a 5-rd magazine and taking this gun out deer hunting this Fall. All the deer I’ve shot in the past were all shot at well under 150 yards, and out of those most were 100 yards or under. With the proper hunting bullet installed, the .300 AAC Blackout will get the job done. Through my research on this round, I’ve come to the conclusion that this round was designed to take out enemy troops out to 450 yards, which is the same as the .223 round will do, however, the .300 Blackout will do it faster. A heavier bullet will get the job done, and the 125-gr fodder should do it. Of course, if your shooting skills are up to it, you can take out the enemy far beyond 450 yards. Just remember your ballistic tables and bullet drop at longer distances.

All that’s left to do is for me to get my hands on some .300 AAC Blackout ammo, or lacking that, a good supply of .300 Whisper ammo. For any semiauto center-fire rifles meant for self defense or going into a SHTF scenario, I demand no less than 1,000-rds for each gun in that caliber. So, I have my work cut out for me, because .300 Blackout ammo isn’t cheap. I’ve checked online and the same is true for .300 Whisper ammo. However, I’ll start building up my .300 Blackout/Whisper ammo supply just as soon as I’m done with a little more fun shooting with this sample. Then I’ll have to raise the funds to purchase this sample, because it is NOT going back to Ruger. It has found a new home. So, if you’re in the market for something with a little more “umph” than the .223, and you don’t really like an AK (for some reason) take a close look at the new Mini-14 in .300 AAC Blackout. Full-bolt retail is slightly over $1,000. However, checking gun broker, I’m seeing them for sale for slightly more than $700. That’s a bargain in my book for such an outstanding shooter in a hard-hitting caliber. I got mine; you get yours!

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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