In a world in which over two million of Ruger's handy .223 caliber rifle has been made since 1973, there were bound to be dozens of variants and subvariants. Sure you know about the Ranch rifle, the full-auto AC556, and the Mini-30, but what about the GB? What makes the GB so special? Well, we'll cover that...
Ruger's attempt at government sales
Styled after an amalgam of pre-1968 US combat rifles including the M1 Garand, M1 Carbine and M14 rifle, the Mini-14 had features drawn from almost all of these guns. Although the gun went on to sell many more copies in its standard form on the US civilian market, it was sales to law enforcement and the military that Ruger wanted a slice of. In the late 1970s, the company made a Mini-14 with a longer receiver and selector switch to change the gun from semi-auto to 3-round burst to full auto 9at 700 rounds per minute!).
This model, the AC556, and its chopped down little brother the AC556K were sold for two decades in small numbers. The thing is, while this was a good model for military use, many law enforcement agencies were leery of full-auto weapons or could get free M16A1s from the US government. What they wanted was a more tactical Mini-14 but still in semi-auto. This led to the GB variant.
Differences in the GB
These guns were simply standard Ruger Mini-14's that were given a list of extra accessories. This included a flash hider that adorned the muzzle crown of the rifle. The muzzle attachment allowed for use with a line of CS (tear gas) and smoke grenades, which were launched by blank 5.56mm rounds. This hider doubled as a recoil reducer as it ported the gases out and away from the muzzle.
About five inches beind the muzzle, under the front site, was a bolted-on bayonet lug. This would accommodate any M16 style bayonet (the M7, M9, OKC-3S, or others). This made the gun good for riot/crowd control scenarios for paramilitary forces overseas and was key in selling the gun to such groups as the French National Gendarmes and the Bermuda Defense Forces.
After all, nothing says 'keep off the grass' around a government building than a line of guys with rifles with fixed bayonets. This feature gave the gun its "GB" moniker, which stood for Government Bayonet.
Most importantly, these guns were sold with the option of folding stocks, which fit and worked well. These stocks, when compared to aftermarket ones by Butler Creek and others were the holy grail of Ruger compactness. Those shipped with factory folders had a "F" designator while stainless models had a "K" designator. This means a Mini-14GBFK would be a factory stainless Mini that had a bayonet lug, flash hider, folding rear stock and plastic pistol grip.
In the US the Mini-14GB was marked "For Government and Law Enforcement Use Only" on both the receiver and the magazines (20-round standard rather than the flush fit 10-rounders). Sales were enough to police and sheriff's departments to keep the gun in Ruger's LE line for several years.
Even the mags were marked as such.
State conservation officers, often having to confront armed poachers, frequently did do with a GB at their side. Corrections agencies, especially large state agencies, thought the GB was perfect for prison response teams, horse patrols, and tower guards.
A Louisiana conservation officer in NOLA after Hurricane Katrina. Note that this isnt an actual GB, just a Mini with a pin-on flash hider.
Further, these guns got away from the M16 black rifle look, which was important for many towns concerned with PR issues. A Mini-14, even if it could mount a bayonet, just looked a whole lot more like Andy Griffith than Judge Dredd. Moreover, it gave the opportunity to use the gun for ceremonial details as a nice sparkly bit of chrome on the end really snazzed up the rifle.
"In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem...if no one else can help...and if you can find them...maybe you can hire...The A- Team." In actuality, these were just visually modified 170-series Min-14s, not GB, or AC556 series guns. But you know you were thinking it.
Back in my LE days, the local sheriff stocked a few of these for both purposes. Patrol rifles by day, they could be shined up and, with the bayonet fixed, carried by honor guards at local parades, events, and funerals when needed. Blank 5.56mm rounds could be fired if needed for funeral volleys, with the user working the bolt after each round and cleaning the heck out of the gun afterwards.
(The Royal Ulster Constabulary, responsible for fighting the IRA and UDF in Northern Ireland for decades, loved the GB)
When needed, these guns could always shoot decent (they are still just regular Mini-14s under that bayonet lug) 2-3 inch groups. As with most Mini-14s, heavier rounds (60grain etc.) tend to work well with the gun's 1:9 twist with many hand loaders swearing by 63-grain Sierra soft points and 60-grain Varminteers among others. Some contend that the GB line got the first swipe at components at the factory, which gives these guns a tad more likeability in the community. Now of course we cannot substantiate this gun forum legend, but figured you should hear it from us since we are talking about these guns.
Getting your own
During the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994-2005) these guns skyrocketed in price, doubling and in some cases tripling in street value from their original MSRP. Today, not so much. Nice old collectable early GBs, especially if they have a factory original folding stock, still bring as much as $1500, especially with a few marked 20-round mags.
Newer guns, however, are typically about the same price as current stock Mini's. Buds, CDNN and others have carried /www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/product_info.php/products_id/411542028" "="">police trade in models of these in recent years for as low as $500-$600. There was another price spike in 2013 after the Newtown shooting and threat of a new AWB, but this seems to have peaked and prices are once again back to 'normal'.
2003 was the last year for the "old" style Mini 14 GB but today's 580 series 16.12-inch barreled Tactical rifles; carry the lineage well-- except for the fact that they don't have a bayonet mount. Ruger currently offers three different Mini'14s in its LE/Military line http://www.ruger.com/LE/products/mini14TacticalRifle/models.html but none have the bayonet mount.
Still, what's not to like about a Mini-14 with a bayonet?