The Dust Test: Is the Ruger Mini-14 Unreliable?

In this episode of TFBTV, James responds to comments about the unreliability of the Mini-14. Notably, a number of viewers have mentioned in prior comments that the Mini-14 is especially sensitive to dust and dirt in the action. SO what better way to see if this is myth or fact than blasting the Mini right in the action with ultra-fine baby powder?

This test uses a new model Ruger Mini-14 (with about a 500-round count) that has not been cleaned since it was manufactured.

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Transcript ….

[coming soon]



James Reeves

• NRA-licensed concealed weapons instructor, 2012-present
• Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior
• “Co-Director” [air quotes] of TFBTV
• Former Regional Sales Rep, Interstate Arms Corp., MA
• Champion, Key West Cinco De Mayo Taco Eating Competition
• Lawyer
► Instagram: jjreevesii
► Twitter: @jjreeves
► Vimeo: JJReeves
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► YouTube.com/c/JamesReeves


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  • EC

    So what happens when you do this same test with an AR-15 or AK variant?

    • Sermon 7.62

      AK won’t even notice such a fine powder.

  • ExMachina1

    Isn’t baby powder mostly talc?

    And isn’t talc used as a dry *lubricant*?

    Maybe try the test again with some good ol’ dirt?

    • CommonSense23

      It is used as a dry lubricate.

      • Josh

        In guns though? I haven’t looked into dry gun lubes.

        • CommonSense23

          No. But in industrial applications. The paper mills where I grew up used a lot talcum powder on high speed machinery were liquid based lubricants would have interfered with the paper making. Don’t know if they still use talcum powder.

    • It’s also a pretty good desiccant, and it did seize the gun up, after all. It’s not WD40. I’ve done dirt and mud tests before, and those tests don’t really show much of anything since the gun jams up almost immediately. I’ve done submersion tests, also, but I didn’t get Ruger’s permission to do that here, plus I don’t like to do it with .223s. Sand would have been alright, but I couldn’t find a fine enough grain on short notice. This was a fun video to shoot regardless, and feel free to draw your own conclusions from it.

      • James Earl Jones

        I think the point he’s trying to make is that talc is pretty soft, whereas silicate sands are pretty hard.

      • Amplified Heat

        “Fine enough sand”
        Uh, cement, anyone?

      • Cameron Bissell

        Open up a stress ball, if I remember it’s mostly silica. Cheap and nasty.

      • Raginzerker

        You should of used salt, since everyone is salty about the test and taking it way to seriously

      • Redheaded Rambler

        Basically, you were afraid that normal sand would scour the metal and Ruger would be rightfully PISSED upon receiving the gun back. I get it.

    • Bob

      baby powder no longer talc due to health concerns.. Now corn starch

      • jonp

        No health concerns just some people trying to get rich using trial lawyers and activist courts.

  • iksnilol

    Can… can you redo the test with oil?

    • James Earl Jones

      And I think the A-Team would be wearing those shorts you reviewed…

    • Don Ward

      Baby powder. Oil. What other lubricant do you want James to use?

      • Haha. Don, this is an underhand pitch if I’ve ever seen one.

      • Anonymoose

        Blood makes the best lube.

        • Dougscamo

          Nah, blood will jam the mighty Barrett! If I had your talent for memes I would find something from The Hurt Locker. Help a brother out, eh?

          • Anonymoose

            I got nothin right now. :

          • Dougscamo

            That’s okay….it happens to everyone sometime or another…. 🙂

      • Justin

        Spit

    • jonp

      You referring to the infamous oil video on running a gun wet?

      • iksnilol

        Yeah, sure.

        • Dougscamo

          Yeah right…

  • CommonSense23

    While I appreciate James going out and trying real world testing on weapons. Assuming that baby powder is primary talcum based. I’m not sure I feel using something like talcum powder to simulate dust is a intelligent choice. Talcum powder has been used industrially as a dry lubricant.

    • DW

      Not at excessive amount though.

  • John

    Never seen talc (a clay mineral composed of hydrated magnesium silicate) as a testing element. I’ve seen sand, dirt, mud and water but never talc.

    As long as we are being experimental, can you do crushed Pizza Bagel Chips next? Those things are DELICIOUS!

    • Haha. I bet bagel chips would be even more slippery than talc once all the oils got crushed out of them.

  • The_Champ

    Valid test or not, I think it’s worth mentioning that the sand I experienced in Afghanistan was extremely fine, much like flour or baby powder.

    No a Mini-14 (and M1 and M14) is not nicely sealed up like an AR rifle. However this is irrelevant to 99% of civilian shooters.

    • That’s more or less where the idea came from. Guys I know who served in the middle east said something similar. I also had corn starch and powdered sugar, but I felt like the desiccating effect of talc would probably be the best substitute. Plus, starch or sugar would probably turn into glue when heated up. In any event, it was a very fun video to make.

      • Giolli Joker

        “starch or sugar” in fine powder suspended in the air can easily catch fire… it could have been quite pyrotechnic.

      • EzGoingKev

        Should have used cocaine.

      • UnrepentantLib

        The AR is “nicely sealed up” but nicely sealed up also means that if/when dust gets inside, its got nowhere to go. Overall probably better than the more exposed Garand style action, but nothing’s perfect.

        • int19h

          It would be interesting to test Galil ACE this way (and also with mud). In theory, it’s the best of both worlds: sealed up similar to AR, but with plenty of empty space inside the receiver for the dirt to get pushed out into by the action, like AK.

      • raz-0

        Diatomaceous earth is the gold standard for dust/grit testing. If i wanted to do something like that, I’d just grab a handful of the sand form one of my ranges. It’s super fine and just works it’s way through cloth etc. It’s not as easily blown around as talc, which is probably the only reason to object to the use of talc.

    • Bill

      An accurate test would be for it to be locked in a patrol car rack untouched for 5 years, then see how it does.

      • Anonymoose

        How about 20 or 30 years? Like seriously, who the heck still uses Mini-14s as “patrol rifles” (Commiefornia notwithstanding)?

        • DW

          France?

        • Bill

          I dunno, they are cool little carbines, mine rides in my POV as a truck gun. They are overpriced in today’s market, but I’d be fine with it as a duty gun. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the AR, it’s just that my county doesn’t cover Khandahar Province and I’m not sure that I need the same kit.

        • Frank

          A lot of PDs and Corrections still use them. They work fine in that role.

    • Alahahahah

      How many stories of the M-1 style action failing due to mud/dust have filtered down to us from WWII and Korea? I heard ONE recently, it was 3rd hand and was aimed as a personal attack and upon examination, if true, resulted from snow-melt water freezing inside the action due to lack of proper care by the user. PS: 90% of all malfunctions are caused by user error (source: US Army)

  • JD

    You could put horseshit in the mini 14 and after it operates like in the video, there will still be some nitwits that will claim, horseshit is a lubricant, that’s not a realistic test. Come to terms people, the mini works, period. If you get that much crap in your weapon, you have other problems. Yes I know it’s not sealed up like an AR, but the only time my mini has choked was when using cheap aftermarket mags. Other than that, it runs like a sewing machine.

    • CommonSense23

      Are you seriously trying to suggest that people saying that using a dry lubricate in a test which was apparently meant to replicate fine dust or sand isn’t misleading?

      • JD

        Yes.

    • Klaus Von Schmitto

      So you can use it to fix the holes in your ACU’s too?

  • Edeco

    Pfft, everybody knows a Mini-14 will seize right up if you shoot it while wearing a tank top.

    • BillyOblivion

      Does the Mini-30 seize up on tank tops as well?

      Or do you have to wear a tube top?

      • Edeco

        You know, I’ve heard the 30/tube-top thing a few times, but that one smacks of bro-science to me… still James will have to test it in order for his previous vids to be scientifically valid.

        OwO

        • BillyOblivion

          Well, I need to know, because I don’t have any tank tops but if my tube tops are going to cause my mini to seize up I need to figure out something else to wear.

  • Larry Thomas

    Wondering if some of the powder got into the chamber between the case and “locked” the empty case in the chamber like the fine shellac’d steel casings used on some 7.62X54r? Yes, yes have to brush the gunk out of the chamber to remove the excess after so many, or does it become glue like from the firing heat? And isn’t modern baby powder more corn starch as the old talc stuff is now known (?) to cause cancer. I used to love using the talc on inner tubes as a dry lube but the day cam when I could only find corn starch based stuff. : (

  • The problem with the Mini-14 is that it’s a Mini-14. No matter how reliable or accurate you still have a Mini-14.

    • BillyOblivion

      So it’s kinda like a honda civic?

  • Don Ward

    So if you find yourself in a shoot out at the Johnson & Johnson baby powder factory, the Mini 14 won’t fail…

  • TheGAGLine

    in keeping with the theme, how does the Mini 14 perform when slathered with A+D Diaper Rash Cream?

    • BillyOblivion

      Well, most of them are magnesium dioxide or titanium dioxide in mineral oil.

  • David

    Trying to keep things on point and without getting into the Mini vs anything else – it’s really not a good go if the piece isn’t properly maintained, ie. starting things with a cleaned a lubricated weapon.

    But, there I go without making any jokes, so what do I know?

    As for myself, I think it did alright given the conditions. I moved from the Mini to the AR for accuracy reasons, and probably got more reliability thrown in to boot, but the Mini is still a great rifle.

    • Josh

      Mini 14 haters are going to hate, it’s shortcomings are over exaggerated by people that usually don’t have actual experience with one, or at least newer models. Don’t get me wrong, AR’s are great but the mini is better than most give it credit for. Even AR’s and AK’s have their detractors that exaggerate “flaws” as to why their preferred gun is better than the other. And for the record I do own both minis and ARs

      • iksnilol

        Actually, the best MSR made is the AG m/42 Ljungman. Y’all AK, AR and Mini fanboys just refuse to accept the truth.

        • DW

          It’s not made anymore, your church is dead.
          Instead you should embrace VZ58 masterrace (FAL worshipping is fine as long as you know you are worshipping a false god)

          • crackedlenses

            What, no love for the G3? Bow before your new German overlords, now!

          • DW

            #BrassLivesMatters

        • Amplified Heat

          Mas 49/56 is similar but without the retarded cocking system. VZ58 trumps all, however.

          • iksnilol

            Yeah… but everybody has heard of the VZ 58. It’s like the mainstream hipsters weapon of choice.

          • DW

            Hey, can’t be a hipster if you think even being alive is too mainstream

        • RocketScientist

          Just watching anyone work that weird bolt-cover/bolt-carrier/dust-cover action makes me feel tingly in my grown-up parts.

  • Zzz73

    Cool video. Thanks for doing this. IMHO the Mini-14 is a way underrated and often overlooked firearm. Mine is going on 40 years old and I’ve never had problems with it.

    • BillyOblivion

      They aren’t “under rated”, you just don’t get the firearm rating system. It is not linear, it’s more like a bell curve generated by an frothing 8 year old.

      As an aside, I was in a neighborhood bike shop to day while a MILF (hey, I have lots of taste and it’s all low) was having her moderately high end race bike looked at. Her 3-4 year old tow-head was wandering around the shop stated that he wanted a new bike because said his was too small. Mom responded that was 4 years older. Then child asserted his bike was too light and wanted a heavier one.

      This 4 year old is like most gun owners.

      First off the last gun you bought, regardless of whether it’s even been to the range or not is BEST GUN EVAR. Unless you own or have owned more than 30 guns. Then it might still be BEST GUN EVAR, but either you’re slow, or it’s a Glock[1].

      Anything in the middle of the curve is “Crap”, “Unreliable”, “Junk” etc. This encompasses ANYTHING Ruger except some revolvers, which are “Pretty good”–which means they go bang with five nines reliability. Everything Colt makes is in this category. Old Remingtons are in this category, except for the 870, which is BEST SHOTTY EVAR, except the new ones.

      Now, any gun you can’t afford? That’s “over priced junk”. If it is indistinguishable from one you already own by specifications and characteristics, but is more that 10 percent cheaper, then it’s “cut rate junk”, unless it’s on the left side of the bell curve, then it’s a “cheap knock off”.

      I could go on, but I’ve got this AR from CMMG that is simply the finest rifle ever produced and I have to go sacrifice a small fat goat.

      • Zzz73

        Seems like the gist of your soliloquy was to poke fun at gun owners who hold strong opinions about any firearm that isn’t their preferred brand whilst espousing some strong opinions of your own. I think most gun owners who’ve more than polymer pistols and military-type long arms would put quite a few of Colt’s firearms on the far side of your bell curve. As far a Ruger goes, I won’t dive into an argument to save them [anymore] as the list of their own guns they refuse to repair or service grows. However, their Mark I .22 pistol and 10/22 rifle created the standard for rimfire firearms.

      • Dougscamo

        You lost me at MILF….sorry.

        • BillyOblivion

          Well, come back after you wash your hands.

          • Dougscamo

            I’m back…took a cold shower instead…

      • JD

        AMEN BROTHER!!!!

      • Stan

        More about the milf please

  • Rusty S.

    Great video, James. I suggest the next time you need an abrasive fine dust for such a test, that you get some food-grade diatomaceous earth. You can apply it with a squeeze bulb and it is much more abrasive by nature than talc or corn starch. Wear goggles and a respirator or at least a wet scarf though.

    • Gary Kirk

      Found anywhere swimming pool supplies are sold..

    • Jim_Macklin

      White ashtray sand

    • Doug Miles

      I just bought an HCAR and I’m having some failure to feed issues. I bought the rifle second hand but it was new unfired. I’ve yet to be able to make it through an entire magazine without a failure to feed. Sometimes the bolt will start to strip a round from the mag but will stop before chambering the round, other times the bolt will actually lock open as if the magazine is empty yet there will still be rounds in the mag. I’ve only shot on the medium gas setting. I’ve only put 40 rounds through the gun. I lubed the gun thoroughly and it shouldn’t be dirty enough to behave like this with such a low round count. Can you offer any advice?

      • Rusty S.

        Could be an ammo issue. Have you used only one kind of ammunition? Does it do this with all magazines or just one? Try adjusting the gas. If you are still having issues, get a call tag from OOW and have them resolve the issue for you.

        • Doug Miles

          I’ll try some diff ammo tommorow. It has done it on both mags. I did pull the gas regulator and clean it. Hopefully that will fix it. What ammo do you recommend?

          • Rusty S.

            For plinking, American Eagle 150gr works fine for me. I get my best precision results from federal premium 168gr matchking BTHP. Also, try downloading your magazines by 2 rounds.

      • Klaus Von Schmitto

        Put some baby powder in it. That seems to make firearms function well.

  • Say what you want, I use them both. Try it…

  • Kivaari

    I don’t get all the Mini 14 hate. I have had half-a-dozen of them and they all worked fine given good magazines and good ammunition. I’ve had people complain about them, only to find out they used aftermarket magazines and commercial reloaded ammunition.

    • Sermon 7.62

      Ruger Mini-14 sucks!
      From the cold weather test in SWAT Magazine, April 1986:

      Ruger Mini-14 – Five rounds manually cycled, none fired, hammer frozen, safety frozen.

      • JD

        Hmmmm funny, because I’ve shot my mini in -10 temperatures dry, and it never stopped running.

        • Sermon 7.62

          Minus 10? Wow.

          • JD

            How much shooting do you do in negative 10 degree temps? Probably none.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Depends on the site, man.

          • JD

            Lol ya, ok. ZERO

          • Sermon 7.62

            You have left 5 comments and all of them consist of LOL.
            You must be a smart person.

          • JD

            It’s because your comments are so stupid they are making me crack up!

          • Sermon 7.62

            Chimpanzees like to laugh at people, too.
            Must be for the same reason.

          • int19h

            -10 F. That’s close to -25 C.

      • Kivaari

        From memory the Galil “won” that test. Yet, ASP use ARs. I think the Mini was not de-greased adequately. Or that open hole let it too much snow. Either way it doesn’t effect many people. I’d take an AR.

        • Sermon 7.62

          Yes, Galil and Valmet won the test. No malfunctions.
          Because AK was made to work in the cold.

    • Paul White

      It’s not hate, it’s just that it’s more expensive for less accuracy and worse aftermarket support these days.

    • Raginzerker

      Most of it comes from neckbeard ar fanboys, I like the mini, they are overpriced though

    • McThag

      I had an old 181- series Mini that wouldn’t hold a zero. It’d be fine for the day once I’d rezeroed it, but would be off 3-6″ again next trip to the range.

      Very frustrating, but it always went bang.

      My friend’s 184- series would stay zeroed, but wouldn’t group consistently with any ammo.

      Again, always went bang.

      At one time the Mini was the cheap alternative to the AR and had all the aftermarket support in the world. Ruger addressed a lot of the shortcomings of the design and it stopped being cheap.

      • Kivaari

        I found that much of the accuracy trouble came from that old-style rear sight. I found the blade to be loose on most when the gun was zeroed. I did two things. First i ordered un- drilled sight blanks. I found that drilling the
        hole higher gave me more adjustment range and then bending the two legs to stop the wiggle solved most gross problems. I found that with the original hole the sight had to be set quite high and was less supported. I would “nest” the new blade so I could use the original sight as a guide to drill a new hole. It worked well. I also played with different aperture sizes until I had a slightly larger hole, which worked better in dark timber. I never found as much group movement after that.

  • jonp

    I’ve had one for a long, long time and can’t say I’ve noticed any problems but I don’t drag it through sand dunes either or have subjected it to military trials. It works for the overwhelming majority of the market it was designed to work for, imho

    Great video, though. I like to see tests of commonly available firearms subjected to harsher conditions than they would normally be subjected to because…well, just because I guess

  • Sermon 7.62

    You are wrong.

    AK’s are tested in a dust chamber. Fine dust on the floor is made to swirl inside the chamber. The rifle is standing there with the fire selector open for 3 hours. Then, it shoots and doesn’t choke.

    That’s AK.

    • JD

      Hahahahaha yeah sure.

      • Sermon 7.62

        That’s how it is.

        • JD

          Lmao sure, ok

  • Some Rabbit

    Try that with cement dust. But seriously, I had a Mini, it was a fun gun, like the M-1 carbine. If you need a light rifle to tote around under more or less ideal conditions it will fit the bill. Under adverse conditions however, I’d prefer the AR.

    • marathag

      Except my M1 Carbine could group decently at 100 yards.

      Ruger, well, every SKS I owned shot more accurately.
      Operation wise, all three were similar.

  • CommonSense23

    There is a difference between in the action, versus spraying it down. I spent time in Afghanistan. We spent a lot of times LTATVs which are open air vehicles. We had to trash bag all our weapons except out M4s and MK13 and M79 grenade launchers for vehicle inserts. Our MK14s,our SCARs, and belt feds would all be rendered inoperable by the dust from the vehicle insert after less than a couple klicks.
    Trying to suggest that a fine powder that has had industrial use a dry lubricate is the same as the fine dust in Afghanistan is joke.

  • jmkco

    I have an inherited Mini-30 (7.62×39) and I also have a few AR platform rifles in various calibers.

    I did a similar test (using the sandy dirt common in my area) with my Mini-30 a few years ago and had similar problems.
    I started with a clean rifle, lubed using a firearms grease (per the M-14 field manual).
    As in your test, all Failures to Extract, with Mortaring frequently required to clear the chamber.
    I think the problem is the Operating Rod channel (like the AR’s Charging Handle) gets filled with gunk, and since it is attached to the Bolt, when it’s gunky, it stops the firing cycle.

    Once cleaned, the rifle went right back to 100% reliability.

    It’s disappointing, but in fairness I have seen MANY AR’s fail in class conditions (lack of lube and bad mags), and a few that have to be taken off the line with broken components, etc.

    I think we forget that the Mini-14 is NOT a modern design. It’s actually over 80 years old as it’s based on the 1959 M-14, which was itself based on the 1933 M1 Garand of WWII fame.
    Considering that Gen Patton asserted the Garand to be the single greatest battle implement ever devised, the Mini-14 has “good bones” at the very least.

    Would I choose the Mini-14 over a Mil Spec AR if I was going to war? Nope – and really, no other country has.

    Would I feel Under Gunned if i was a cop responding to an active shooter scene?
    Nope – and many police depts issued the Mini-14 for a long, long time (give me a Mini over an 870 ANY day).

    Am I comfortable facing a Bump In The Night, a few days chasing game, or general purpose civilian rifle stuff with my Mini-30?
    Yup. And hundreds of thousands of other people are, too.

  • Justin

    James, remember the time you blasted a big squirt into my gaping orriface? When we were doing that test? It was such a mess! The butt stroking really did the trick through. After about 5 butt strokes I was limp and exhausted!

  • scaatylobo

    Good test and I see it did TOO WELL,as only a total moron would not clean that much sand or mud from their gun BEFORE trying to fire it.
    And as priorly stated,civilians are not going to fight in a sand = OR talcum box.
    I have a mini 30 [ had a mini 14 ] and its a hoot and as reliable as any in situations I can imagine,coming in my lifetime.

  • Tom

    This was a cute test, and I have no dog in the Mini 14 fight, however, talc is anything but what you’ll find outside for dirt/dust/grit. I can understand not wanting to damage the weapon but it’s worthless as an analog for sand/dirt/dust. Let’s take a look at talc. It’s hardness is 1 on Mohs, 3x softer than your fingernail. In fact it’s the standard for the softest mineral on the hardness scale. Second talc has lubrication properties, and it’s not soluble in water. In fact one of its industrial uses is as a dry lubricant. Most sand/dirt is anywhere with silica in it goes up to 7 in hardness, and is easily transported with lube into places you don’t want it.

    You’re failures to extract are probably either the talc lubing the case and the extract slipping off, or it’s getting into the chamber and since it does not burn/melt (at least until over 1000C it’s effectively reducing the chamber to cause stuck casings. Similar to how you might see varnish coated ammo effectively locking cases into a chamber after a while.

    As to the Mini14, if the talc is gumming up the chamber, I’d say it’s not a huge deal, if it’s causing issues elsewhere I’d say it’s a pretty good case that much more abrasive water transportable dirt/find sand is going to cause even worse functioning with much less of it.

  • jonp

    I used Talcum Powder
    I have Cancer
    Talcum Powder must cause cancer
    Give me $100,000,000, J&J

  • mazkact

    OK, so it’s not grandma proof.

  • Redheaded Rambler

    Proves that you need to keep your rifle clean as every grunt already knows.

  • RazorHawk

    I prefer the mini-14 to the ar-15, nothing wrong with the ar, but the design of the mini-14 is just better, the sights aren’t so high.

  • PeterK

    We don’t need your science here! 🙂

    Fun video.

  • Alahahahah

    Talc is a dry lubricant, what we really need to know is how a Mini would stand-up to WWI trench warfare, because Time Travel. Without such necessary base line data the only logical option is to shit-can all Minis in favor of M-73 Winchesters