U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Love it, like it, or hate it; there’s no denying that the Ruger Mini-14 has become a pop culture icon in the world of firearms. With a multitude of acting credits to its name, the Mini-14 was able to pop off round after round to the audience’s delight while wearing its distinctive side folding stock. Sadly, Bill Ruger halted civilian sales of the side folder stock (along with 20 and 30-round mags) in a misguided attempt to appease politicians in the late 1980s. Law enforcement sales and production of the stock would end in the late 1990s. All this meant a dwindling supply of these stocks. With supplies dropping, prices skyrocketed on auction sites and at gun shows. Not helping these prices is a healthy demand within the firearms community for all things retro. With demand far outstripping the limited supply, Samson Manufacturing stepped up to the plate to make a new factory folding stock. But is the pop culture appeal enough to justify its price tag?
Samson A-TM Mini-14 Stock
While some might still remain bitter about Bill Ruger’s decision to try and placate the politicians, I want them to hopefully realize two things. One is that Bill Ruger passed away in 2002. While the company still bears his name, barring any sort of necromancy he has no control over it today. Two is that once the horrid 1994 Assault Weapons Ban ended, Ruger Inc. began selling 20 and 30-round Mini-14 mags to anybody who could have one and started packing them in with rifles from the factory.
The Mini-14 has appeared in countless films and tv shows of the ’80s and ’90s, along with a few more modern video games. It made several appearances as a sci-fi blaster, dressed up in a Muzzlelite bullpup chassis with a variety of futuristic kipple added on. With some special effects magic, it passed for something far more futuristic than an M1 Garand derivative in films such as Terminator 2, Total Recall, Starship Troopers; and even a few episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. However, its most famous form on the big & small screens was when it was wearing the factory side folder stock. Whether it was Hannibal Smith in The A-Team, Tommy Vercetti in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, or Paul Kersey in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, each of those men used a Ruger Mini-14 in their adventures. Its distinctive appearance melding steel and wood along with its reputation among armorers as the “jamless wonder”, helped to make the Mini-14 a pop culture favorite.
Samson Mfg. has managed to expertly recreate the original Ruger factory folding stock. Dubbed the “A-TM Folding Stock”, they know their target audience. It is not a true recreation, there are a few differences between the new and the old. First off is the wood; originals were stained birch, while Samson’s is walnut with a semi-gloss finish. It is not exactly the kind of wood you would find on a high-grade Winchester Model 70, but it is nice in a world of cheap polymer stocks. The pistol grips on the originals were a shiny black bakelite while the new example sports a matte black polymer. The pistol grip retaining screws on originals were flat head screws while the repro sports a hex head.
One last difference between the original and the A-TM is that the old models featured a sling swivel on the folding mechanism. The repro instead puts in a small cutout in the swivel stud allowing you to install your own sling swivel should you choose so. That is a little cheap in my opinion for the price you’re paying for this, but it’s a minor complaint at best. The metal buttstock assembly is only offered in stainless steel; no blued versions are offered. While some might gripe about that, it nonetheless looks perfectly normal on my blued 581-series Mini-14 Tactical.
Installation is as easy as dropping the action into the new stock, though you’ll notice a tight fit. You will probably want to remove the pistol grip to make re-installing the trigger group easier.
While the Samson A-TM folding stock is quite utilitarian for those wanting a very compact package (Ruger once marketed it as the “Paratrooper Stock”); folded this 581-series Tactical model has an overall length of 26.5in and unfolded it is 37in. While you can certainly pull an A-Team and fire away from the hip with the stock folded, you’ll probably have as much success at hitting something as they did. Which is to say: none whatsoever. Of course, you’re going to want to shoot it with the stock unfolded to actually have a chance at hitting your target. At first glance, the unfolded stock appears to give too long of a length of pull. Once shouldered, however, it is perfectly normal. In fact, the LOP is comparable with a fixed stock AR, and the massive pistol grip is a bit more comfortable than the A2 grip featured on so many factory ARs. The only real issue I can see with this stock is shooting in cold weather. You might be in for a little bit of a shock when bare skin touches the stainless steel of the stock assembly.
One last note are the sights on the Mini-14. If you’re going to drop the cash for the Samson stock, do yourself a favor and drop a few more dollars for Tech Sights. The factory rear sight on current Mini-14’s are serviceable but cheap. The rear sight stem is held in place with hex head screws, requiring the user to unscrew them, and then move the sight over before tightening the screws again. Tech Sights instead offers rear sights for current and older Mini-14s with adjustment dials so you won’t have to fiddle with screws and Loctite. A great upgrade over standard sights in my opinion.
In a world full of nothing but AR accessories, it’s refreshing to see something as different as bringing back the old Mini-14 factory folding stock. These days the AR is rightly the dominant rifle in America, with the AK coming in second and relegating the Mini-14 to a distant third. So not only was it surprising to see the factory folder coming back into production but the massive demand for it. Maybe it won’t be a renaissance or rebirth of the old Mini-14; the AR is far too popular for that. Perhaps though, it might spark some renewed interest in the Mini-14. It is not modern tactical, covered in rails and mounts. It is retro tactical, from an age of change and a willingness to try anything with a little bit of style. With a price tag of $279.00, it is far more expensive than a Choate or Butler Creek option, yet those lack the style that this one has. If you own a Mini-14, I’m honestly not sure why you haven’t ordered one already to keep up with the trend in retro firearms. Granted, should you buy one you might find yourself aching for a vintage Sony Walkman and perusing vaporwave on Youtube. But that’s a small price to pay for unmatched style.
About Frank Borek:
Frank Borek is a former US Navy sailor and graduate of Delaware Valley College whose love of firearms comes from his love of historical minutiae and Soldier of Fortune magazine. You can usually find him at gun shops and gun shows digging through racks, tables, and bins of old guns and gear covered in dust and grease.