I’ve made this argument before. But given the renewed focus on gun control in the aftermath of the Uvalde massacre and all the misinformation that appears on Facebook, here we go again.

If you want to ban guns, that’s your opinion and you have a right to it. However, if you want to ban a certain class of guns based on reasoning like “no one needs a weapon like that” or “it’s designed for only one purpose and that is to kill people,” I believe it’s important to become educated on the guns that are being discussed.
This image shows a Springfield AR-15 on the top, and a Ruger Mini-14 on the bottom.

The gun on the top is similar to the gun used by the shooter in Uvalde (and many other recent mass murderers). It is a semi-automatic rifle, shoots a .223 round, and has a detachable magazine.

The gun on the bottom is often called a “ranch gun” because it is commonly used by farmers to shoot varmints. It is also a semi-automatic rifle, also shoots a .223 round, and also has a detachable magazine.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the AR-15, because it looks like a military-grade weapon. In fact, you’ve heard it over and over just since Uvalde: It’s a “weapon of war.”

There’s no controversy at all surrounding the Mini-14, because it looks like your grandfather’s hunting rifle. In fact, if you live or travel in a state with very strict gun control laws, there’s a good chance you will be prohibited from having an AR-15, but won’t be prohibited from having a Mini-14. That’s interesting since, ballistically, THEY’RE THE EXACT SAME GUN! Tactically, there are some differences, of course. But when it comes to their lethality, their knock-down power, their rate of fire, etc., there is absolutely no difference between the two…except that one is black and “looks like” a military weapon. The other has a wood stock and “looks like” a hunting rifle.

A little history: The AR-15 platform was designed by Armalite in 1956. It’s true that it was styled after weapons of war; in fact, Armalite developed the platform because it hoped to win a U.S. military contract. That didn’t happen, and so Armalite sold the AR platform to Colt (which was the biggest mistake the company ever made). Colt developed the platform as a semi-automatic civilian rifle rather than an automatic military rifle, and it became the most popular carbine rifle platform in America. It is beloved by so many shooters because it’s the most versatile rifle ever developed. Literally every component of the gun can be swapped or upgraded, which lends to endless customization options. And because Colt’s patent on the AR platform expired in 1977, many different gunmakers manufacture the rifles and components for them, leading to widespread availability and endless options. AR-15s are widely used in law enforcement, but they ARE NOT military-grade weapons. Soldiers carry the similar-LOOKING but very different M16 rifle.

If you aren’t intricately familiar with firearms, you might be surprised to learn that the Mini-14 was ALSO designed after weapons of war. Introduced by Ruger in 1973, it was called a Mini-14 because it was designed after a scaled-down version of the M14 rifle. The M14 became the standard-issue rifle for the U.S. military in the 1950s, replacing the M1 Garand. (It was replaced as a standard-issue rifle in 1967…by the M16.)

So if they shoot the same bullet, and have the same basic ballistic features, why is an AR-15 called a “weapon of war” so often while a Mini-14 isn’t? It’s simple, really: such statements are made innocently by people who aren’t really familiar with guns, or they’re made maliciously by people (usually politicians or political pundits) who are trying to deceive people who aren’t familiar with guns. The AR-15 LOOKS like a military rifle as we know them today. But the Mini-14 also LOOKS like a military rifle…it’s just that the garand platform became far less commonplace after the M16 was introduced in the 1960s. If this were the World War II era, everyone would be saying the Mini-14 is a “weapon of war” because it looks so much like the rifles American soldiers were carrying in WWII.

Obviously the AR-15 has some tactical and technical advantages over the Mini-14. It’s cheaper, for one, which helps fuel its widespread availability. Its availability is also helped by the fact that so many different gunmakers offer a version, while the Mini-14 is only offered by Ruger. But its greatest advantage is that it is easily customized. Everything from stocks to slings to barrels to foregrips to heat shields to optics are widely available in a lot of different options.

However, the Mini-14 also has tactical advantages over the AR-15. It is much sturdier in build, with a better trigger mechanism, better barrel, etc. Every Mini-14 comes off the assembly line with a forged barrel, whereas the AR-15 typically comes off the assembly line with a light-weight factory barrel. But the biggest advantage of a Mini-14 over an AR-15 is the design of the fixed-gas piston system. It is much more efficient than the action system on most AR-15s, meaning it fires way more cleanly with less fouling and jamming than an AR-15. That’s actually one of the biggest detriments to an AR-15: how often they tend to jam.

All the rest of the differences between the AR-15 and the M-14 are just aesthetics. The Mini-14 has a low profile like most hunting rifles, meaning if you add optics, they’ll be mounted lower and closer to the gun. The AR-15 has a higher profile to allow for options like top rails, and that gives the rifle more of a tactical look compared to the Mini-14. A lot of these deranged mass-murderers have an obsession with looking tactical (which also explains why they tend to wear black tactical britches with lots of pockets when they could just as easily wear a pair of blue jeans), and that’s why they choose an AR-15. But make no mistake, if the AR-15 wasn’t available to them, they could do just as much damage with other semi-automatic rifles.

(The AR-15 is also more accurate than the Mini-14, but that’s only applicable at distances of greater than 150 to 200 yards…and very few of the mass shootings we see are taking place at those distances.)

So, if by this point you’re asking yourself why the AR-15 is so demonized while rifles like the Mini-14 aren’t, that’s a good first question to ask. This isn’t an argument for Mini-14s and other semi-automatic rifles that don’t “look like” military weapons to be banned. It’s a suggestion that if we’re going to get serious about stopping mass shootings and reducing gun violence, we owe it to ourselves to stop making emotional arguments that are based on what something LOOKS like without much consideration for its lethality and broaden our approach. Saying “no one needs” an AR-15 without calling for other guns that shoot the same rounds at the same rate to be banned is an incredibly hypocritical approach. That’s excusable if you just don’t have much knowledge about firearms; that’s the purpose of posts like this. But if you’re the President of the United States or the Senate Majority Leader and you have advisers who can tell you anything you need to know about anything you’re about to say, there’s really no excuse for those type of comments except to purposely mislead your constituents.

Published On: June 3rd, 2022Categories: Politics

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About the Author: Ben Garrett

I am a journalist and erstwhile web designer from East Tennessee. Home is on the eastern border of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area. I write for a living, but not here ... because nobody is paying money for my opinions (except the New York Post, just once, and Donald Trump retweeted it).