TangoFoxtrot’s Rifle Dust Tests: Mini-14, AUG, ARX-100, SCAR

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Dust, mud, dirt, sand: Ideally, a firearm should be kept clean and free of debris so that it functions optimally at all times. After all, the user’s life may depend on the firearm working properly!

Sometimes, though, the worst happens and a firearm is exposed to the elements in such harsh conditions that even the toughest rifle may fail. To that end, debris tests help give an idea of which firearms perform the best when exposed to detritus and which rifles need to be kept immaculately clean to function, and all points in between. Previously we’ve covered mud and sand tests conducted by Guns & Ammo TV, InRange TV, and the Military Arms Channel on everything from the AK to AR-15 to the Vz. 58, to the MAS-49.

To add a few more data points to the set, we’ll take a look at TangoFoxtrot’s two dirt test videos, the first of which covers the Mini-14, AR-15, and Steyr AUG:

More than two years later, TangoFoxtrot conducted an even more thorough test on the Mini-14, AR-15, ARX-100, SCAR-16S, and Arsenal SLR-107FR (AK-103 clone):

The results were surprising to them, but if you’ve been following these articles they shouldn’t be too shocking:

Mini-14 w/ grease – 1 round

Mini-14 w/ CLP – 1 round

AR-15 – 32 rounds

ARX-100 – 31 rounds

FN SCAR 16S – 12 rounds

SLR-107FR – 1 round

The second TangoFoxtrot test has some positive and negative aspects to its methodology. On the plus side, the test was conducted in an especially controlled fashion, with a sieve acting to provide each rifle with an even, uniform coat of fine dust, helping to eliminate error caused by differently sized particulates. Also, the rifles were all dusted while on safe and initially with their dust covers closed (if applicable). After the second (dirty) ten rounds, the dust cover was left open (where applicable), another plus.

On the negative side, the rifles were retired as soon as they had a malfunction of any kind, which halted any exploration of whether the rifles would keep functioning with the assistance of manual operation, or whether the rifles could be successfully put back into action with remedial action. The rifles were then rated only according to how many rounds they fired before malfunction, which limited the utility of the results. Finally, the SCAR 16S was tested (probably by accident) with the regulator on the “suppressed” setting, which almost certainly led to its premature malfunction.

Having said all that, the TangoFoxtrot tests are still informative. Once again, the AR-15 proves to be a remarkably dust-resistant rifle, in spite of the reputation it received in the GWOT. The AK puts out a particularly poor performance (although it possibly could have continued working with manual assistance), but the true loser of the test is once again the Garand-style open action, in this case in the form of a Ruger Mini-14.

Thanks to commenters mosinman and Gecko9mm for the tip!

UPDATE: The SCAR owner writes …

The complete story is that I thought the SCAR was horribly overgassed when I first got it. Even with the gas regulator set to the suppressed setting it flung brass and the bolt carrier crashed into the buffer.

So I got a set of gas screws (that form the actual gas port) and tuned it for the ammo I actually shoot. I set the gas regulator to suppressed, inserted the smallest gas screw (1.00mm) and fired from a magazine loaded with only one round. I kept increasing the gas screw size until the bolt carrier locked open on the empty mag, then went up 2 sizes (the gas screws come in 0.05mm increments) for a little reserve power.

When we did the test about two or three years later I had completely forgotten that I had set up the gas system that way. If I had remembered I would have returned the rifle to the stock configuration before shooting.

Two other notes:
1) All the rifles were shot with a new, clean magazine.
2) The reasoning for stopping after the first malfunction was to keep everything similar and make the whole run shorter. The first test with the Mini-14 and the AUG was a miserable experience in hammering the Mini’s bolt open and shut after it choked.

I just wanted to clear up what actually happened with the SCAR, just plain incompetence, not malice.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • SuperBoy

    stupid rigged test with the scar on ‘suppressed’ setting – like the article pointed out. dude who made the vid probably take us for idiot and think we wouldn’t notice.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      You must really like pictures of SCARs to automatically assume it was malice?

      There is no specifically saying the SCAR would or wouldn’t have done any better with more gas. The AK and mini14s are typically severely overgassed and it didn’t seem to help. It definitely didn’t help, but it’s almost always oversight and not malice.

      • NewMan

        you need to realize the mini isn’t known for reliability. And the only thing that’s similar between the AK and SCAR is that they are piston gun and that’s where it’s end.

        Proper gas setting would’ve make this test far more believable.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Skip the first video. Unless you like 15 minutes of watching someone struggle with a mini14.

    Second video is better as it at least has all the guns mentioned.

  • Travis

    Had a friend critizing me for building an AR instead of buying a mini 14…. He claims a mini 14 would pass this and any test.

    • Paul White

      Mini 14s…..eh. I don’t know any way in which they’re objectively better than ARs. More expensive, so/so accuracy by and large, hard to mount scopes, etc.

      • Travis

        Yeah, a couple years ago I really wanted to like the mini-14 but after doing research, they don’t look that great. Also, now that there is no AWB I don’t think they have much of a place. Although I have heard of good results with suppressors.

  • Bear The Grizzly

    I really like the mini, but it’s performance even as a simple farm gun is really poor. My dad bought his for $650ish, but now with prices in the $900 range the gun is a complete ripoff.

    • iksnilol

      It would be worth it if it cost something like 300-400. ARs can be had for like 500 nowadays.

      As is it is beyond stupid. I mean, crappy accuracy, not really good reliability and all that for the price of a good AR/AK.

      • Joshua Knott

        Have you ever owned one past the 580 series…most of you that chime in on mini’s have never even handled one, and generally speaking totally biased. For one even with the InrangeTv videos, you ARE NOT going to come up in some hell hole of a mud pit they did, nor are you going to be using the means to protect your life as a boat paddle, mud waders etc. To me the test is always going to favor a closed system, but every day abuse ctfo.

        • iksnilol

          Eh. Saw one on the range.

          I am convinced a shotgun with an open cylinder choke is more precise with birdshot than the Mini is with Lapua.

          • Joshua Knott

            well thank you for proving my point, seriously :). Actually having both I can attest the new mini’s are1.5-2 moa, almost no different than a chrome lined barreled AR, in regards to the dust, yes a closed system will triumph, however in colder applications the closed operation becomes a hindrance. Every comment I’ve ever seen you post either is brown nosing or completely biased bs, open your mind a little bit and educate yourself life is much happier that way.

          • iksnilol

            Oh noes, I care about what you think.

            It’s just that Mini-14s are trash. Crappy accuracy, limited aftermarket and the Ruger staple: overpriced for what you get (I mean, that much money for cast guns? Screw that).

            Consider my situation for a moment (AKA open your mind): Where I am a VEPR 5.56 or 308 costs less than a Mini-14.

          • Joshua Knott

            Again with what experience do you have with the platform itself?I hear nothing, and I do value all opinions, yours just always seem highly biased from a third person perspective. Consider this, the Mini I did buy (581 series all stainless) I paid 750 for in 2008 as ar’s were a staggering 1500+, the gun is capable of moa accuracy with the right loads and an accustrut but the norm is 1.5, my ar prints about the same group size. Ruger also has a proprietary investment casting procedure that is actually pretty damn good if you do some actual research. I live in the Midwest, where about are you in the world? Also considering if you do a simple google search and the fact that they have sold over a million Mini’s. While im not arguing the ar’s are far superior in terms of accessories, what happens when you take a seven pound rifle, add a flashlight, a bipod(or stubby grip,angled fore grip etc) an optic, and BUIS now you have an 10 pound rifle . So really i can say i like them both but thats just from experience…..

          • iksnilol

            My experience with them is limited.

            One guy I regularily shoot with bought one. We took it out for a couple of spins. It was useless as a hunting weapon… at least in Norway since it lacks the precision needed for small game (small game defined as stuff you can use intermediate cartridges on). He sold it. Shotgun spreads weren’t an exagaration.

            Are you really going to whine about a 10 pound rifle? My rifle is 13.5 pounds… without any tactical accessories. Then again I am in the precision game. I digress, after market support is a + since you can get cheap magazines that work well (for the AR/AK), replacement triggers, barrels and stocks that aren’t too expensive as well. Oh and the scope mounting, don’t forget that part.

          • Joshua Knott

            No not at all making a fuss about a ten pound rifle, I have bolt guns as well and even with the mini, placing it in an ebr chassis, glass and the such it runs up there in the weight dept., The older mini’s were terrible in the accuracy department I.E 191,192 series, but after re tooling for the 580 series upwards, they are in fact alot better than the prior. But here where I live i cant think of any friends of mine that use an ar platform for squirrel hunting (coyotes is a whole nother story) .22LR alll day long for that. I am not at all disagreeing with you on the older mini’s but just pick up another one sometime and check it out. Like i said to other guy the ar is better in a lot of ways, but that isnt saying the mini is totally outclassed like that of comparing a henry repeating rifle vs the musket of the civil war era.

          • iksnilol

            Hmmm, if I can get one of the newer ones into the country I might check it out.

          • Bear The Grizzly

            Accustrut is another $100. Can you even mount a light on a mini in it’s oem stock? The 10lb ar may be a credible argument five years ago, but not now with all the high speed low drag fad stuff going on. You could always build an AR for less than you could buy the mini, especially now. I’m a ruger fan boy, I don’t even care that much for ARs, but that doesn’t change the fact that the mini has been outclassed for some time now.

          • Joshua Knott

            You are correct with the fact that in oem form you cant attach one, but You can alter the original stock to accept rails with measurement and a drill of course.Again i bought the rifle in 08 whereas the AR was out of the league at the time price wise. Still even with high speed low drag youre talking about even more added expense, Mil spec is totally different at the price points they speak of. Ar is better in some ways but I wouldnt say totally outclassed.

          • SM

            My friend’s Mini-14 is every bit as accurate as my PSA AR-15. We can hold each of our rifles at 3 moa at 100 yards with factory irons. Neither of us are amazing shots either.

            I will admit that I think the AR-15 is a better rifle overall, especially at current prices.

          • iksnilol

            Hate to be the jerk here but… 3 MOA isn’t really good.

            I know, AR/Mini14 =/= Sauer 200 STR, but still.

          • SM

            Take into consideration that we’re both novice shooters using factory stock rifles with iron sights (MBUS rear on the AR) and Tula ammo shooting off of a folding plastic table.

            My point is that the Mini-14 has the same practical accuracy as a basic AR. I have yet to see shotgun patterns out of it.

          • iksnilol

            If it is crappy Tula ammo that is some decent precision.

            Well, since no shotgun patterns the new ones must be somewhat decent. I refuse to call them good simply due to the price.

          • Malthrak

            3 MoA is perfectly acceptable for most people’s uses and is widely considered a militarily acceptable level if accuracy in a combat rifle, and is about what you’d see out of a US military M16 with m855 ammo.

            More to the point, 3 MoA is more accurate than most people can shoot, particularly off hand without a rest.

            Theres a lot of things to ding Mini’s for, price these days in particular, but accuracy is entirely acceptable for what it is.

          • iksnilol

            You don’t really think I’d ding the accuracy of 3 MOA if I couldn’t shoot better than that? Granted, with a sling but still.

        • Zachary marrs

          My father owned several (4), 2 180’s and 2 580’s. He owns ar’s now.

          Malfunctions, popped primers, poor accuracy… you name it.

  • Blake Allen

    Why does everyone hate the Mini-14 series? I get that the early ones had accuracy issues, but they have been fixed. It’s really just a miniaturized M-14, which a lot of people love. Yeah, it’s not an Ar-15, but that’s part of what makes it unique. I also think the AUG, ARX, and SCAR did pretty well. I will say that I used to be a hater if DI ARs. But I decided to do a sand test on a few of my guns. Needless to say the AR come out on top, both the DI and Piston upper I tested. But still, why so many haters on the Mini series?

    • Bear The Grizzly

      Expensive propriety mags, no replacement parts, little aftermarket support, easily over heated barrel, difficult to work on.

      • Blake Allen

        Mags are expensive, but they’re great quality. Replacement parts and aftermarket accessories are actually plentiful, just not as much as the AR. My Mini-30s barrel doesn’t heat any quicker than any other gun I own.

        • cwp

          It’s true that the Ruger factory mags are well-made. It’s just that most people who shoot .223 already have a box full of magazines for that caliber, which they paid about a third of Ruger’s prices for.

          I’m not saying the Mini-14 is terrible. I have one — an older-production one, at that — and it’s a decent little gun. But it would be substantially more popular if it used AR magazines.

          The other thing is that its relative price has gone up. When I bought mine back in the ’90s, it was around half the price of a quality AR-15, and at that price, proprietary magazines, mediocre accuracy and 1930s-era ergonomics were acceptable compromises. But today a Mini-14 is actually *more* expensive than, say, an M&P 15 Sport, and at that price it is very difficult to justify.

          • Paul White

            Yep. I’m not even sure that’s its absolute cost–in real dollars–is any higher, but it’s just ARs have gotten so much cheaper for decent examples. Hell, a S&W Sport II can be had at 600 or less if you watch for sales. I paid 550 OTD for a mossberg MMR that’s been great. My friend has 2 mini 14s–an older one he inherited and one a newer (circa 2005?) model he bought–and my brother has one from late 90s/early 2000s. Uniformly worse accuracy than most ARs between the three of them. the two newer ones *are* better but still….

        • Bear The Grizzly

          I suppose, but when you compare it the Ak or Ar it just comes up short in every category. The mini does nothing better at best and falls short at it’s worst.

    • Paul White

      even new ones tend to be less accurate than ARs in the same price range.

      • Blake Allen

        Granted, but is .25 in really a difference maker?

        • Paul White

          when paired with more expensive accessories, and ergonomics that aren’t any better? For a gun of the same cost?

          Kinda yeah.

    • mosinman

      i don’t hate any garand action rifle

    • M

      This is heavy bias on my part but I interpret Bill Ruger’s statement (No honest man needs more than 10 rounds in any gun.) as the ethos of the mini-14 for me: that is, it is designed as a commercial gun that tries to come off as a military weapon. Ruger was trying to make a weapon to primarily sell to the ‘honest man’

      Yes, I am well aware there are select-fire variants marketed towards LE/Military and magazines more than 10 rounds for the Mini-14, but again, the philosophy of the weapon was that it was made for the civilian in mind. After all, there was a reason it was renamed the ranch rifle which made it more innocuous sounding.

      IMO for those reasons and the reasons listed by Bear, I don’t classify it in the same realm as the AR or AK. (and yes, I know there are many AKs and ARs that are made for the civilian market and not the military market)

  • The_Champ

    Everyone is cheering on the AR but where is the love for the AUG, or the ARX for that matter?

    It seems terribly self evident now after all of these tests, but maybe wasn’t so obvious before…. seal the action better and the gun will perform better in dust and mud.

    • Jake Barnes

      AUG is a fantastic little rifle. Despite being so old now and a little bit heavy.

    • It wasn’t too much of a secret amongst those who put their money where their mouth was a long time ago and conducted their own dust tests. 😉

    • Paul White

      I wouldn’t mind having those too but $$

  • Robert Powell

    I enjoy videos like this but my only question is, since using the same magazine and dumping the unspent rounds, did the guy clean the mag and the rounds after every test? If he did not then the test is compromised because 4 rifles used the same magazine and would have had dirty rounds. Not saying that would have changed the outcome but it makes the test questionable.

    • Not sure! Good question, and I bet the fellow who did the test could answer you.

  • MelR

    How did the AUG do? I’ve always liked the design, But I don’t have the bandwith to watch a long video.

    • I’ll check, but IIRC it had no issues.

      • iksnilol

        It is after all the universal rifle.

        :=)

  • mosinman

    you are welcome! (also there is a lot of angry SCAR fanboys in the video comments)

  • NewMan

    and ladies and gents, this so-called “test” is another example of a rigged test with an agenda.

    • I am inclined to believe that this is actually one of the best conducted dust tests on YouTube, that’s why I reblogged it despite it being a few months old.

      It’s not perfect, of course, and as I note in the text, the SCAR was on “suppressed”, so we can throw its results out. No need to get upset about it, it was probably an accident anyway.

      • NewMan

        Not angry. I’m just saying an “accident” like that can make the entire test questionable.

        Who to say the guys didn’t do it on purpose to make the SCAR looks bad thinking that thew viewers wouldn’t notice the wrong gas setting?

        • Err, if they wanted to make the SCAR look back, don’t you think they could have done a whole bunch of other things, such as tie up the return spring, or remove the sealing rings from the tappet?

          Or, hell, just use a bad mag.

          If sabotage was the aim, why do that in the most obvious and catchable way possible?

          It doesn’t invalidate the rest of the test, either, just the results for the SCAR. Actually, not even that, as now we have a datapoint that SCARs may run OK with the gas system on “suppressed” without a suppressor, but once you introduce gunk to the action they stop working. Good case to run your gun on “unsuppressed” most of the time.

          • Brian Nunes

            I ran my 17s with the gas on suppressed mode for a couple of hours at the range once. Didn’t really notice anything either, until my shoulder got sore, and I thought to myself “I really don’t remember it kicking THIS hard.” haha whoops!

    • mosinman

      even if that were the case, you can just discard the SCAR’s results and examine the rest of the findings

    • n0truscotsman

      Well then feel free to post the results of your own test. Ill be eaglerly awaiting.

  • Matt

    ARX-100 for sure is the best. It is a relatively “new” gun and shows top notch functionality.
    Ar15 has been fine tuned for 40 years in order to get this capability.

    • We’ve got one data point for the ARX. At this point, the only guns I feel comfortable drawing major conclusions for are the open-action Garand-based weapons and the AR-15.

      Also, what makes you think the AR-15 couldn’t pass this test when it was first introduced? It was just as well sealed with the initial models.

    • Joshua

      The ARX was already on its fourth revision before ever hitting the civilian market.

  • I doubt his 6920 had received much more love, either.

    My writeup of that video goes up later today (in less than an hour, actually, I think). Unless polyamide has some kind of weird interaction with water that would mean it traps less in those tight spaces like the mag release and safety, then I think the ARX did better than the AR or MCX essentially by chance. Of course, given the sample size, I can’t prove that, just a hunch.

  • Joshua

    Guess we can chock it up to another POS AK brand….oh wait.

    • M

      The algorithm goes
      1) Blame it on the brand
      2) Try to find any discrepancies in the test (the dust in the AK was way rockier than the AR’s!!!) and blame it on that
      3) Bring up other tests shown in the past (but, but what about that video when the AK buried for 18 years in africa still works?!?!?, there are other tests that show the AR fails!, What about the Russian sand room test???)
      4) If all else fails go “I don’t watch crap videos made by mall-ninjas”

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    So here’s the tests I’ve found noteworthy for dispelling the AR’s reliability myths:

    1. Ballistic Radio’s test of a KAC SR-15, which ran for over 20,000 rounds with zero cleaning and minimal lubrication.
    2. InRangeTV’s mud test (blogged about here earlier), where an AR fired all rounds loaded after a mud bath (and the AK failed).
    3. This test.
    4. MAC’s AR reliability test.
    5. The M16/M4’s service record.

    Case closed.

  • Brian Smith-Winsemius

    I’m the idiot with the gas regulator set to the wrong setting on the SCAR.

    The complete story is that I thought the SCAR was horribly overgassed when I first got it. Even with the gas regulator set to the suppressed setting it flung brass and the bolt carrier crashed into the buffer.

    So I got a set of gas screws (that form the actual gas port) and tuned it for the ammo I actually shoot. I set the gas regulator to suppressed, inserted the smallest gas screw (1.00mm) and fired from a magazine loaded with only one round. I kept increasing the gas screw size until the bolt carrier locked open on the empty mag, then went up 2 sizes (the gas screws come in 0.05mm increments) for a little reserve power.

    When we did the test about two or three years later I had completely forgotten that I had set up the gas system that way. If I had remembered I would have returned the rifle to the stock configuration before shooting.

    Two other notes:

    1) All the rifles were shot with a new, clean magazine.

    2) The reasoning for stopping after the first malfunction was to keep everything similar and make the whole run shorter. The first test with the Mini-14 and the AUG was a miserable experience in hammering the Mini’s bolt open and shut after it choked.

    I just wanted to clear up what actually happened with the SCAR, just plain incompetence, not malice.

    BSW

    • Brian, thanks a lot for clearing that up! For the record, I think it was a good test, I really liked how you controlled the media going onto the rifles.

  • iksnilol

    Well, I am old fashioned. For me if something is overpriced it is bad, simply because you don’t get value for your money. VEPR actually has decent precision out of the box, 2.5-3 MOA with the crappiest of Barnaul ammo.

    Problem with aftermarket for Mini-14 for me at least is that it needs it. At the very least you need an accustrut and better barrel.

  • MAUSERMAN

    Anyone think this proves AR is better over AK needs to watch AK operator unions testing AK with their dust test. They pour dirty, grit, dust directly over the AK as they fire the weapon sideways, and NOT ALL AK pass that test, just to show you not all AK are created equal, for anyone arguing ARSENAL MAKES THE BEST AK, Thus making this test a definitive answer that AR15 is more reliable than AK47, don’t believe it, ITS HORSE-SHIT!

    • Arsenal makes a damn fine AK, mate. I’ve got one, and it’s everything I could ask for in a rifle of that type.

      Thing about it is, dust testing is extremely erratic; that’s something the Army found out when doing their testing on lubricants and rifles in the late 2000s. So a test like this is, at best, just a data point.

      Having said that, I feel that there’s enough data out there to conclude two things: 1, the AR-15 has excellent debris resistance, and 2, the M1 Garand and other rifles that use a similar receiver/bolt design have awful debris resistance.

      For the AK… Clearly it can fail a dust test, as this Arsenal did. Sometimes it passes others. I reckon that it depends on exactly where media deposits in the weapon’s action.

      • MAUSERMAN

        Didn’t say arsenal makes a bad AK, but back to the point, i like to see how a AR15 performs turn side ways with ejection port turned up, while having fine dust, dirt, grit pour over it as it fires, i doubt it will do well at all.

        • You just watched a video where one did exactly that and worked just fine for 32 rounds…

  • lockwood

    my only complaint about the mini-14 is that its firing pin is a little fragile POS

  • Brian Smith-Winsemius

    I’d describe the AK as being ‘lightly oiled’ and clean befor the first shot. Its failure surprised me the most, as I expected to use the pile of loaded AK mags I had brought.

    What made the AK fail was so much dust falling into the front of the action and preventing the bolt carrier from returning fully into battery.

    BSW

    • BabyWookie

      It just looked caked in a thick layer all around the chamber like a bunch of lube soaked it in. In the Russian Military, they taught us to use like a tiny drop of oil in a rag to wipe everything down with. One of my best friends spent a long time in the US Army. The way that he runs his AR BCGs is ridiculous – completely soaking wet in CLP. He just pours that stuff all over the BCG and the oil mist hits you in the face every time you shoot. I thought that maybe you had the same instructions as him and applied them to your AK too. 🙂

      • Brian M

        Vy byl russkym soldatom? Kakaya sluzhba? Vojska? Gde? Goda? Nachalas’ zimoj li letom? Skol’ko let?

  • glenn

    Really tired of these torture tests. Mud, sand now dust. What kind of dust ? Here’s one for somebody to try……….. volcanic ash. Understand it kills jet engines.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a service weapon which could perform after so many rounds in quick succession. Also, evidence from one battle out of 50 years of service is not exactly convincing.

  • Justice

    Somehow someone always throws in the Wanat incident to disprove the reliability of the AR15/M4 rifle, but forgets about its decades of service to the Military without much issue. One bad incident doesn’t negate the rifle’s extensive service history.