(Cross-posted from Blog O'Stuff.)
It was cold and windy today so I didn't feel like hitting the range. I did however, go up to Surplus City with a couple of guns which I haven't shot in quite awhile, and did some trading. In exchange for my EMF/Rossi Hartford Model 1892 and my Ruger GP-100, plus some boot, I picked up a used stainless steel Ruger Mini-14 GB. It's a 186-series piece. It came with one Ruger factory mag (stainless, no less) and I bought two more Ruger factory mags, both used. (I figure I should get as many evil high capacity magazines as I can while the getting is still good.)
The GB or Government Model differs from the standard Mini-14 with the addition of a flash suppressor screwed onto the muzzle, and a winged front sight several inches back. The front sight block also has a bayonet lug, and the gun will accept standard M-16 bayonets. (Raspberries to Senator Feinstein and her partners in crime.) The GBs were never intended to be sold directly to the public by Ruger, but a fair number of them have become available as police or prison guard trade-ins, as many departments "upgrade" by replacing their Mini-14s with AR-15s.
I really like Mini-14s. They are not as accurate at AR-15s (at least without serious tuning) but they are very simple, ergonomic, and reliable little rifles. Mini-14s are accurate enough for their intended purposes -- potting varmints around a farm or as a social carbine out to a couple of hundred yards.
Getting back to the reliability aspect -- Mini-14s are much less finicky when it comes to maintenance or quality ammo than AR-15s. For example, Wolf .223 doesn't run well in my Colt AR-15A3, but runs just fine in my 182-series Mini-14. I expect it to work fine in the GB. A couple of features which help the Mini-14's reliability are (a) the fact that it taps more than enough gas from the barrel to work the action, and (b) fouling stays out of the action. IOW, it doesn't have the "shits where it eats" problem of the AR-15. Note that the AR-15's direct-impingement (DI) gas system can be reliable, but it demands more cleaning, and that more recent military rifle designs all use pistons, not DI.
One of my online friends used a stainless Mini-14 in Alaska for many years, taking a large number of deer and other game with it. It stood up to harsh conditions well and he still has the rifle, now that he's retired to WV. .223 isn't really a deer caliber but it will do if you take your time and place the bullets right. Perhaps surprisingly to guys in the lower 48, but the Mini-14 is one of the most popular bush guns in AK. It and it's ammo are light. It's reliable and easy to maintain, and has minimal recoil, so a lot of Alaskan natives like it. A stainless Mini-14 in a plastic stock would be a heck of a good choice as a defensive carbine, especially if you need one to keep on a boat.