The Ruger Mini-14 – An Unlikely Service Rifle

    Soldier of the Royal Bermuda Regiment with a Mini-14 during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 6, 2015 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ryan G. Coleman, MCAS New River Combat Camera/Released)

    For more than 30 years the Ruger Mini-14 was the Royal Bermuda Regiment’s service rifle. The unlikely choice saw service from the early 1980s onwards replacing the FN FAL-derived L1A1.

    Formed in 1965 the Royal Bermuda Regiment (RBR) is a territorial line infantry battalion, whose primary role is internal security. The regiment is essentially a territorial or Army Reserve battalion with around 600 part-time troops. Bermuda itself is a British Overseas Territory and is one of several territories to have its own British Army overseas regiments. Initially equipped with the British Army’s L1A1 self-loading rifle, the Mini-14 was selected in 1983 to replace the Cold War icon. The 1980s saw a number of other British Army affiliated units move away from the L1A1, with the Falkland Islands Defence Force selecting the Steyr AUG.

    RBR soldier with Mini-14 (USMC Photo)

    The Mini-14 GB semi-automatic rifle, not the select-fire AC-556, was purchased from Ruger. The Mini-14 GB had a thicker profile barrel with a flash hider and mounting lug for the US M7 bayonet. The Royal Bermuda Regiment issued the Mini-14s with 20 round magazines. They were initially shipped with standard wooden stocks but in the early 1990s black polymer stocks with pistol grips were procured from Choate. Another unique attribute of the Regiment’s Mini-14s is the regimental crest stamped on the left side of the receiver. Less than a thousand rifles were produced for the Royal Bermuda Regiment.

    A Royal Bermuda Regiment Mini-14 in original wooden stock (Rock Island Auction Company)

    The search for a weapon to replace the Ruger began in the 2010s with the German Heckler & Koch G36 and the US M4 both being tested. The HK G36 was selected but budget constraints saw the British L85A2 adopted instead. In 2012 the Royal Bermuda Regiment had entered into an agreement with the UK’s Ministry of Defence procurement office to allow purchase of some equipment such as the new Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) uniforms which replaced Combat Soldier 95 DPM uniforms. It was announced that in the future other personal equipment including boots, body armour and webbing could also be procured via the UK procurement system. This closer cooperation likely paved the way for the adoption of RBR configuration L85A2s. The rifles, along with 1,600 magazines and over 400 ACOGs were donated to the regiment. News reports at the time stated the value of the donated equipment was $1.4 million. The switch to the L85A2 began in 2015 and was completed in early 2016.

    Soldier of the Royal Bermuda Regiment with an L85A2 (RBR)

    The somewhat unique configuration of the RBR’s L85A2s is almost as interesting as the use of the Mini-14. The rifles appear to have the HK-designed conventional L85A2 plastic handguards instead of the 2009 A2 configuration which saw the instillation of the Daniel Defence railed forend. The SUSAT sight has been replaced by an ACOG, most commonly seen on what became known as the Theatre Entry Standard (or TES) upgraded rifles. The Bermudan SA80 has a riser Picatinny rail for mounting the optic, this was initially developed for British issue L85A2s. In British service, the ACOG had been procured earlier first for special forces use and subsequently as a wider urgent operational requirement.

    On top of the ACOG is a CQB red dot sight, the ACOG has subsequently been replaced in British service by the ELCAN Spectre. The ACOGs donated to the Royal Bermuda Regiment probably came from surplus stores. We can see on some of the photos released by the regiment that the ACOGs are marked ‘IW-LSW’ indicating that they may have previously been paired with the British Army’s L85 Individual Weapon and the L86 Light Support Weapon.

    Check out my video on the RBR’s Mini-14s and L85A2s below:

    The Royal Bermuda Regiment’s intriguing use of the Mini-14 represents one of the few military procurements of the rifle.

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]