In the late 1960s when L. James Sullivan and William B. Ruger were kicking around a scaled down version of the M14 rifle, they did not originally think of it as a military gun. This 'Mini-14' used a similar action and operating techniques as the old M1 Garand, but fired the more subtle .223 Remington round in a detachable magazine. This helped make the gun a commercial success in 1973 when it was introduced, as legions of former citizen soldiers were familiar with the design.
Thinking that commercial success was nice, but possible military sales would be nice gravy on top, Bill Ruger started shopping the Mini around and made a few deals.
(Bermuda Regiment with Ruger Mini-14s)
In the 1980s, the US Navy's Special Warfare groups bought unknown stocks of AC556 and GB rifles for use. Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko relates in his autobiography about his service, "Rouge Warrior" that he equipped the original Seal Team Six with commercial stainless steel Ruger Mini-14s (among other arms). The simple fact was that the M16 didn't come in stainless at the time, and SEALS spend a lot of time in what could be called a high-rust environment.
A number of Mini-14s have were found around the world in the inventory at US Embassies and carried by US Marine security guards during the same time. The theory was that the wood-stocked Ruger with no pistol grip would be more acceptable in high-tension environments than the M16. These handsome rifles could also be pressed into use for ceremonial duties if spiffier M14s or M1s were not availble.
During the 'Troubles" from 19691998, Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was the para-military police force that tried to keep the peace in Northern Ireland. At its peak, the force had around 8,500 officers with a further 4,500 who were members of the RUC Reserve. Unlike police in the rest of the UK, the RUC was heavily armed. Over a three-decade civil war with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and other terrorist groups more than 300 RUC officers were killed, making membership in the RUC one of the highest risk occupations in the world. The PIRA was well equipped with ArmaLite AR-18 rifles, Thompson submachine guns, mortars, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi-supplied RPGs.
To even the odds, starting in 1979, the RUC began to buy Mini-14 rifles for their Special Patrol Groups, Special Operations (E Services) and exposed border police stations and units. These rifles saw extensive service for twenty years, only being replaced by the HK33 when the RUC became the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 1999.
Floating some 600-miles off the coast of North Carolina is the British overseas territory of Bermuda. The thing is, this strategic island, once known as the Gibraltar of the West, was abandoned by the British military in 1957. Since then this small, tranquil island nation and its population of 60,000 is protected from invasion by the 609-solider strong Bermuda Regiment. This unit originally armed and equipped as a unit of the British Army, needed to replace their aging stocks of L1A1 (semi-auto FN FAL) rifles in the 1980s. Stuck having to do it on their own dime, the Bermudians went with the AC-556 variant of the Mini-14. Originally, with wood stocks inlayed with the crest of the regiment, these guns were upgraded with either Butler Creek folding stocks or plastic Choate Tactical stocks in the 1990s.
While Bermuda has long been at peace, the Bermuda Regiment train regularly with US Army National Guard and US Marine units and has deployed overseas in response to disaster relief and counter-terrorism efforts. And their Rugers have gone with them.
While the Mini was never the military success that Bill Ruger hoped it could be, it has served and continues to do so to this day.
Not bad for a ranch rifle.