M-16/Ar-15 VS Mini-14
I served in the US Army from July 1972 until July 1988 with an 18 month break in service. When I arrived at my first duty station Fort Campbell, Ky assigned to the 101st Airborne Infantry, the division had recently returned from Viet Nam and was rebuilding. Most of the Officers and NCO's I served with were combat veterans and many of them had been on active duty when the M-16 was introduced to the Army. As with most things there were people who loved the M-16 and there were those that detested the little black rifle and wanted the M-14 back. I liked the weight of the '16 and loved the M-203 grenade launcher that could be mounted to the underside of the barrel, which was good because I was assigned as a grenadier. The thing that I disliked the most about the M-16 was the gas impingment system which exhausts propellant gases directly into the chamber of the rifle. This is the main issue I have with the M-16/AR-15 rifle and it is a big one, the gas causes the chamber to heat up and creates huge amounts of carbon build up, which can cause malfunctions as well as making it a real chore to clean the chamber of the weapon. On the flip side it does many fewer parts to break and insures a high rate of fire.
I bought my first Mini-14 shortly after leaving the service for use as a home defense gun as well as for the occasional small to medium sized game that might end up in front of it. I am not a huge fan of the 5.56mm/.223 cal ammuntion but it is readily available and fairly inexpensive. The Mini-14 and it's cousin the Mini-30 are both based on the Garand operating system which i have become familiar with in Junior ROTC in High School with the M-1 and the M-14. It is a rugged and reliable system that like the M-16 had been combat tested. The recoil on the Mini-14 was negligible a little stronger than with the M-16/AR-15, but still not uncomfortable for my wife at 5'3". Now I can hear some of you going why do you need a rifle for home defence. First rule of a fire fight, handguns are side arms and for defensive use and their main use is to get to a bigger gun ergo rifle or shotgun. I know a lot of people don't own a rifle or a shotgun and think that having just a handgun is all they will ever need. For the most part they are absolutely correct and will hopefully never need to use what they have. But I was taught early in my military career that it is better to have and not need than to need and not have. But I digress, back to the meat of this article. Let's look at some numbers, starting with the Mini-14:
Mini-14: Weight 6.75 Lb.s empty. Caliber 5.56mm/.223 cal., barrel 18.5" overall length 37.1, Effective range per Ruger is 366 meters/333 yards. I've consistenly hit targets at twice that range. It usually comes with 1 5 round magazine but you can purchase 20 and 30 round magazines both from Ruger and other aftermarket companies. There are also magazines that fit both the Mini-14 and the M-16/AR-15. The Mini-15 like the AR-15 is semi-automatic only except for the AC-556 version which has the selector lever behind the trigger mechanism on the right side of the stock, the safety in front of the trigger guard still operates as usual. Prices range from about $450 to $900 depending on if you're buying used, new and with what accessories. You can go with hardwood laminated stocks, target stocks or tactical stocks that either collapse or fold.
M-16/AR-15: The AR-15 is of course the semi-automatic verision of the M-16 and has the same characteristics as the M-16. The M-16A2 weight 7lbs. 3 oz, overall length 39.6" barrel length 20". The AR-15 comes with a 5 round magazine and depending on make may also come with a 10 or 20 round magazine. Effective range for the AR-15 is 550 meters/600 yards. Once again you can also purchase 30 round magazines for these rifles. I have seen AR-15's with custom wood stocks, but that is not a standard option, you can get a collapsible stock but due to the recoil spring in the buttstock, the AR-15/M-16 can not have a folding stock. You can normally find AR-15's starting about $700 and going up to better than $1500 depending on what accessories/stock you want to go with it. There are numerous AR-15 clones available and most are of good quality.
For me either of these rifles is a good choice, they are both easy to disassemble and reassemble. With a good X4 power scope they can both deliver well beyond any range I'm likely to see here in Florida. But for me just from the angle of cleaning the rifle after shooting I'll go with the Mini-14. I know a lot of you will disagree with me and that's okay, we all have our reasons for what we like, I still haven't had a chance to try one of the AR-15 variants that uses a piston system and that might change my mind. Thanks for checking out my longwinded comparison, If you would like to see comparisons with other firearms let me know, If I have the ones you want compared I'll give it a go and if I don't I'll try to see what I can borrow from friends and relatives. By the way my younger son disagrees with me and prefers the AR-15, but what can I say he served with the 82nd Airborne.