Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ruger Mini-30 7.63x39 Rifle Review

Ruger Mini-30 7.63x39 Rifle Review
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 which had proven itself through history. The 30-30 is by today's standards considered a medium weight rifle round and actually around the same 800 Ft/lbs of energy at 200 yards as a standard Russian 7.62x39 AK round (technically the AK round is more powerful). Even at 200-yards the 30-30 and 7.62x39 are still a very deadly round even for whitetail and hog hunting. On the other side of the equation, the 7.62x39 rifle round has proven to be a 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.
The reality is the Ruger Mini-30 is not a new gun by any stretch of the imagination. The gun has been reviewed and re-reviewed probably 1000s of times since its introduction. The Mini-14 was hugely popular, especially after the A-Team saved the day proudly tooting 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-14s introduction simply to provide a hunting (yes, hunting) option for Mini-14 fans. however 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 7.62x39 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 AR15 surged up as the dominating rifle in a platform that had enough picatinny rails to grate cheese and mount a laser. Today the Ruger Mini platform somehow became 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, however diehard fans kept buying the rifles, for one simple reason...they worked every time all the time, were cheap to shoot with surplus ammo, no matter how bad they had been or were treated.
A friend of mine crudely summed up the Mini-30 and Mini-14 lines this way. "Ruger Mini-30s are like the guy/girl you are dating who was hot in a 1980s kind of way, dynamite in the sack, a stunning cook, easy to get along with, all while being low maintenance."  For some, the M1 Garand looks of the Mini-30 does not look as lean and sexy as the AR15, however 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 does it all with fewer parts and higher reliability even with less expensive ammo... so I guess my buddy's analogy was unfortunately correct.  I will note that I did have reliability issues with the really cheap Russian ammo which I think requires an extended firing pin on any gun. 
The finish and fit has never has been show quality. Instead it features what I term as 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 deliver 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 AR15s are? “Welcome to WWII proven technology”  said the Mini-30.
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 design 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 simply amazing light speed hammer falls of AR15 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 is very stock feeling with a long take up and fairly gritty break, however it is designed for durability not a match grade feel. The trigger works and you don’t notice the feel once rounds starts flying downrange.
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, however 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 Ruger does have a button on the top of the receiver to allow for a manual bolt hold open during cleaning.
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.
As I illustrated this in my “Testing the Cooper Concept” article, I set up four tests varying the shooting positions and respective distances; standing - 50 yards, kneeling - 75 yards, sitting -100 yards, supported prone 200 yards & 400 yards. Standing, kneeling, and sitting positions were stabilized via national match style sling and the 200 & 400-yard supported prone position was shot with the rifle supported over my pack. The idea was simple to hit a large 4” can of corn at each distance out to the 200-yard line and then be able to ring the 400-yard 12” gong and do it at a pretty brisk pace.  Hit a can of corn with a 7.62x39 Hornady Z-Max round and you know it… “corn it's what’s for dinner in a 20-yard radius.”
In most cases this pace meant that if I hit each shot of the entire five shot string, the entire test would be over in around 30-40 seconds hopefully with a rather joyous spray of corn everywhere. This was also a no excuses test repeated three times. If I screwed up, flinched, or didn’t concentrate on the fundamentals of the shot, then it reflected in my performance.
The Mini-30’s performance shocked and stunned me. I had to send a couple extra rounds down range on the 200 on two runs and one extra on the 100-yard can on what would have been otherwise been a perfect run. With all the extra bullets down range, two of the runs were under 30-seconds and one was under 40. It required the highest round count but delivered the best times. Oddly enough the 400-yard 12” gong was by far the easiest target of all to hit.
The Ruger Mini-30 may not be the newest, sexiest, or most accurate rifle on the market, however it is incredibly reliable. 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” 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 AK47 7.62x39 ammo and do so cheaply.  Even today in early 2014 7.62x39 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 be a top recommendation for an all around defense, deer, and fun gun? You Bet’cha!

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

Buy the Ruger Mini-30 at and support


Anonymous said...

I love this synthetic version of the Mini-30. If I lived in USA, I'd buy one, a Century AK plus CZ 527 carbine, all chambered in this nice caliber.

Good review!

Unknown said...

i have one and I love it. A mini 14 owner too. good article.

Mark said...

Great review. I own both the AR15 and the Mini 30. The Mini 30 is most definitely superior on all fronts. The elite forces of the US military prefer the M1 design and heavier round. Who am I to argue?

Unknown said...

I plan to get a mini 30. Every article/source I have read says "threaded barrel" but doesn't say what the threading is. Is it 5/8 x 20, 24 or what?

Unknown said...

I recently purchased a mini 30 that has a wooden stock and a 3X9 powered Simmons scope! I have fired roughly one thousand rounds through it and really love the gun! I tend to shoot better quality ammo but I have shot the cheaper ammo fine! I have several Ruger semi auto rifles and would recommend the mini 30 to anyone!

Unknown said...

I have been looking around the internet trying to find some information telling me why my ruger mini 30 will not handle Russian surplus, steel ammo. The only thing it will function with reliably is commercial, high quality, American ammunition. Does anyone have any suggestions why anything else would cause every kind of malfunction known to man?

Major Pandemic said...

Barrel threading is 5/8-24

Russian ammo is inconsistent and dimensionally a little inconsistent as well. The biggest problem is that the Russian stuff usually requires an extended firing pin to really run reliably. In the end this was a rifle I sold.

Jeff said...

Major Pandemic,

Given the glowing nature of this review, and in light of your last comment around inconsistent ignition of surplus ammo and your eventual sale of the gun, I think it would be wise for you to update the post itself with that last bit of information. Most people won't scroll all the way to the bottom of the comments to find out that the gun wasn't so great after all...

JT said...

Yes.. Please tell us what changed your mind about the rifle? As a mini 30 owner myself, I would agree that Russian ammo has inconsistent performance with this rifle. However, I'm eager to hear more about the factors that weighed in on your decision to sell the rifle.

JT said...

Yes.. Please tell us what factors weighed in your decision to sell it. As a Mini-30 owner myself, I agree that the Russian surplus ammo is inconsistent with the rifle without modification, but it still doesn't take away from the many positive points you made earlier.

Major Pandemic said...

I loved the rifle and had a blast with it. That noted the reason I sold it was that over time I realized that I just like the AK platform better.

Houston, tx said...

I was excited and proud to own my first semi-auto rifle American made Mini 30 until I went to the range for the first time using steel ammo, the damn thing only fired 10 percent of the time. If I only knew that I have to use the expensive brass ammo I would not have bought it in the first place. I am very disappointed and went online notice tons other people have the same issues. It is very shameful for Ruger unwilling to fix this problem even though they are fully aware of the issues.

Unknown said...

You can get a more stout firing pin for the mini 30 to solve the issue of misfires. Seems kind of silly though to have to do that when Ruger should make the modification in their production line.

Unknown said...

Don't depend on Ruger to fix the problem, take care of your own problems. It's a fine rifle and a fine review. I bought mine shortly after they came out and don't remember all the different kinds of ammo I've run through it but I do know it has included Russian and never have had a problem with it. I agree said platform chambered for .308 would be nice but at 66, that 7.62X39 does good enough job for me.

Doc said...

The Mini-Thirty is a great choice for ban states like New York. About 1 of 6 Russian steel case ammo did not fire and most would fire on retrying. I replaced the hammer spring with a Wolff spring. It was definitely hitting harder but still had a 1 of 6 failure. I found a video on YouTube and basically marked the firing pin with a Sharpie at point where I thought it would hit the bolt. I put in the firing pin, hit it forward with a piece of wood, then saw where the Sharpie wore off. It was the shoulder or tapering part of the pin. I took some fine grit sand paper and rubbed basically to get the Sharpie all off then repeated one more time. This fixed it. I fired several hundred Russian steel case rounds without any failures.

Unknown said...

mine shoots 2" @ 100 yards with one type of ammo. most ammo and reloads so far shoot 3-4" (not pleased with 3-4") under 2" at 100 yards I am ok with.