Mini-14 a la Francais

In the comments on our post of the French police shooting at the Kosher store, Chrispy mentioned in the comments that some French police forces are armed with the Ruger Mini-14. Indeed they are. And Ian at Forgotten Weapons, of course has the details.

When French national police and security forces decided to replace the MAT-49 submachine gun as a standard weapon, they decided to look for a light carbine. Something less obviously military than the FAMAS was desired, and the natural choice was the Ruger Mini-14, whose slightly civilian appearance is often considered to be one of its primary strengths. Ruger licensed the design to the French, who have assembled them in-country with a few changes from the normal production model we are used to seeing here in the US.

French police officer with a Mousqueton AMD (Mini-14)

One of our very first purchases was a Ruger Mini-14 5R Ranch Rifle. Basically it was a Mini-14 with the receiver pre-milled to accept scope rings, and with a very primitive flip up sight, instead of the more robust aperture sights seen here. It came standard with a 5 round magazine, but we also had four 30 round magazines, because we like shooting lots of bullets.

It was a nice rifle, quite handy and comfortable, and back then (1987) very reasonably priced. It wasn’t quite as accurate as our M16, but it was, in general, more accurate than we were.

The comments at Forgotten Weapons have an interesting discussion on how the Mini-14 used to be a weapon of choice for many police agencies, and how and why that seems to have changed.

Colt is taking over the world.

Visit virtually any gun blog, and one of the most contentious issues is the 5.56mm Colt M4 carbine. Thousands of people will argue against it and push for the adoption of another weapon, and often another caliber.

Oddly, however, surveys of active soldiers are almost universally supportive of the M4. Of course, most soldiers, even Infantrymen, have little experience with military small arms outside of their own issue weapons. Still, the level of satisfaction suggests that while the M4 may not be perfect, it isn’t so egregiously flawed as to require immediate replacement.

And another little secret is that while other nations developed their own 5.56mm weapons about the time the US lead NATO to shift from 7.62mm to 5.56mm as the standard rifle round, many have quietly adopted the M16/M4 platform, at least for certain applications.

Israel equipped its soldiers with the indigenous Galil rifle, but has since seen most of its troops shifted to the M4.

In the mid-1990s, Canada, then equipped with a variant of the FN FAL rifle in 7.62mm, worked with Colt and the US Marine Corps to develop their own version of our 5.56mm M16A2. Introduced into service as the C7 rifle, it and the carbine C8 series (very similar to our own M4) have been the standard service rifle of the Canadians, and have been adopted by several other NATO members, such as Norway, Denmark, and even Iceland.

When the US lead the shift to 5.56mm, Britain developed their own rifle, the fairly exotic looking SA80.

It has not been particularly successful competing in the small arms export market. 

Britain steadfastly claims the SA80 (L85A1 in UK service) is superior to the M16/M4 family.

But the truth is, special operations forces of Great Britain don’t like it, and never have. And they’ve been buying C8 carbines from Canada.

One of the great strengths of the Colt rifle is that it can be customized in an almost unlimited number of ways.

Our friends across the pond at Think Defence have two posts on the Colt in British service (where it’s known as the L119A1).

A Mid Life Colt Canada C8 Upgrade


The upgraded, customized version will be known as the L119A2.

L119A2 – Colt Canada C8 Upgrade

L119A2 C8 SFW 640x304 L119A2   Colt Canada C8 Upgrade

I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Great Britain quietly, slowly makes the Colt the de facto standard weapon over the next few years.

The Army’s New(ish) Carbine

Nothing generates passion like discussing the Army’s primary weapon, the M4/M16 family of 5.56mm carbines and rifles. Virtually every gun related blog has long, long threads with suggestions for better weapons and demands for a different caliber.

But the Army has polled its troops repeatedly, and to some surprise, the troops are generally very happy with the M4. The have a great deal of confidence in the weapon, and they like it.

And let’s face it, absent some miraculous change in small arms technology, any change to a new weapons would be an incremental improvement at best.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for modest improvement in the M4. The M4 carbine, a shortened, lightened version of the long-serving M16, was originally fielded two decades ago. It was never actually intended to be the primary weapon of the Infantry.* Instead, it was intended to equip soldiers that needed something more than a pistol, but for whom the length of an M16 would be awkward. Tankers, other armored vehicle crewmen and such.

But the handy little carbine was soon adopted by airborne and air assault infantry, for whom the weight savings were important. And the small size of the carbine made it popular with mechanized infantry as well, for the close confines of the troop compartment of their vehicles. And in Iraq, with close quarters combat inside the maze of buildings soldiers faced every day, the compact carbine was far easier to use than a full sized rifle. Eventually, the M4 ended up as the primary weapon for just about all ground combat troops.

One of the biggest complaints from the field was that the M4 used the same trigger group as the M16A2. It could fire semiautomatic, or it could fire a three round burst. But the burst feature was unpopular. Initially designed to save ammunition, it has some mechanical features that are annoying. If, when firing a first burst, you only hold the trigger long enough to fire one or two rounds, the next burst will not be a three round burst, but rather the two or one rounds not fired before. And the trigger pull required increases. Finally, while most of the time, suppressive fire should be in nice controlled bursts, there are times when longer bursts are needed.

And so, back in 2010 The Maneuver Center of Excellence (formerly the Infantry Center and School) requested that the Army switch to a fully automatic version of the M4. 

As it turns out, there is, and has for 20 years, been a fully automatic version of the M4. When the M4 was first designed, Special Forces and other special  operations entities liked the carbine very much, but insisted on a fully automatic version right from the start.

The M4A1, the fully automatic version, has a different trigger group, similar to the old M16A1 rifle that allows semiautomatic or fully automatic fire. Because of its potentially higher rate of fire, the M4A1 also has a somewhat heavier barrel, to better withstand the heat of firing.

While the Army is buying some newly built M4A1s, the majority of M4 carbines in Brigade Combat Teams will be modified to the M4A1 standard. Contact teams with conversion kits are travelling from the Army’s main small arms depot at Anniston, AL to various posts and modifying weapons one BCT at a time. Within a couple years, the process should be complete.





*Most Marine riflemen still carry long M16s.