So I took my new (to me) Mini-14 GB out to the range today to get it properly zeroed and see what it would do. It came with no magazine, but luckily I have a dozen new in-the-wrap Ramline universal mags that fit the Mini as well as the AR-15 and the old Armalite AR-180 that I'd originally bought the mags for. I sold the Armalite a few years ago but wisely kept the mags after the rifle's buyer declined to buy them as well.Like it's big brother, the M-14, and it's grandfather, the Garand, the Mini has nice, solid feel to it that only comes from a wood stock. The two-stage trigger breaks crisply and cleanly and pretty delightfully lightly, but there's virtually no take-up in the first stage, and to be honest, I'd personally prefer a bit more. But the peep sights are sized about right for what this rifle's made to do, and the rear adjusts for windage and elevation easily using a bullet tip as a tool. It didn't take long to get it right on at 50M, and it only needed the smallest tweak to zero it at 100M. Firing from a bench, as I must do at this range, I rested the rifle on my range bag and found that it grouped nicely with my own 55-grain reloads at 100M. turning my attention to the paper plate I'd put up at 200M, I was pleased to see the rifle put 24 rounds of 24 fired on the paper plate. Could I have gotten better groups with my AR-15s or Garands? Probably. (With my M-1A? Definitely.) But this isn't a match rifle--I bought it intending it to be a camping gun/truck gun/all-around beater brush rifle and plinker.
That being the case, I'm now confident that it'll hold "minute of bad guy" well past 200M if need be. I didn't try to heat it up and see what effect that has on it's group size; I know that it'll only go downhill, but this isn't a weapon designed to put down suppressing fire--it's a varmint rifle and plinker that was modified slightly in the GB version to fill a police and security role.
These rifles also have a bit of a personal draw to me as well. A government agency that I worked for briefly a couple of decades ago issued me one of these and I'd always enjoyed shooting them even despite the lead instructor's best--and failed--attempts to convert me to shooting right-handed (I'm a proud southpaw and always will be) that resulted in nothing but sore arms and chest muscles from punishment push-ups--first for me alone, and then for the rest of my class--until finally he gave up and let me shoot left-handed. (I went on to place as the third-highest shooter in that class, but that's another story for another time.)
Bottom line: This Ruger Mini-14 GB is a quality shooter. It's light, reliable, aesthetically pleasing in a way that no black rifle will ever be, and more than accurate enough to do the job that it was intended to do. New 20-round factory mags are a bit pricey when compared to AR mags, and spare parts are harder to come by (Thanks, Ruger!) but with firearms, as with anything else, you have to take the bad with the good. And I'm happy to take this rather shopworn GB into the Lair's armoury.
Oh--and for those of you wanting a hint on the inbound replacement for the Browning, let me say just this: It's lighter, and while it can benefit from a tripod, it doesn't require one. It also doesn't have that damnable headspace issue to deal with. Guesses will be entertained, especially if they're entertaining.