When I heard Legacy Sports was introducing a new Mini rifle action, I couldn’t help but think back to Interarms and the Mauser Mini Mark X it imported several years ago. Sometimes called the “Mini ’98 Mauser,” the Mini Mark X was a petite version of the commercial Mauser. At the same time Interarms was importing the Mauser Mini Mark X from Yugoslavia, it was also importing Howa rifles from Japan.
Skip forward to today and Interarms and Yugoslavia are no more. You can find Mauser Mini Mark X rifles on only the used market, and Legacy Sports International, spawned out of the same building as the previous Interarms operation in 2000 and now relocated to Reno, NV, imports Howa. Gene Lumsden, formerly VP of Sales and Marketing with Interarms, is now CEO of Legacy and clearly the Mauser Mini Mark X made an impression because the Mini is back, only this time in a Howa action and chambered for several additional cartridges.
When it comes to bolt actions, there are several sizes. The Howa Mini action, which is built specifically for cartridges such as the .223 Rem., has a bolt that’s only six inches long. Naturally, the shorter the bolt the shorter its travel and the faster it is to cycle the action.
Since the Mini is smaller and optimized for shorter cartridges, it’s lightweight and nimble, and lightning fast on follow-up shots as far as bolt-action rifles are concerned. While the Mauser came in only two chamberings, Howa is bolder and offers the Mini in .204 Ruger, .222 Rem., .223 Rem., 6.5 Grendel or 7.62x39mm.
SCI recently had the opportunity to try those first four chamberings on a Wyoming prairie dog shoot, and later received a 7.62x39mm rifle to see how it performs on the range. What we experienced from each rifle is what we have come to expect from Howa—solid, well-built and accurate rifles at fairly modest sticker prices.
Features are simply practical and well executed such as the no-nonsense two-lug bolt. It’s push-feed, which was something we liked on prairie dogs because there were so many shot opportunities that at times it was easier to just keep dropping individual cartridges into the action instead of stopping to load the detachable synthetic magazines. At the same time, it’s nice to have the Mini’s detachable magazine for when you’re getting into a vehicle, climbing into a treestand or otherwise want to quickly remove the source of ammunition from the gun.
Some of the Minis we used in Wyoming had bull barrels while others had pencil thin ones that heated up quickly. Regardless of barrel diameter, the Minis were still making solid hits at several hundred yards as they heated up.
Helping us make accurate long shots were the adjustable two-stage Howa Actuator Controlled Triggers (HACT) that all ran about 2 1/2 pounds pull across the nearly dozen guns we had in Wyoming. Two-stage triggers are perhaps more familiar to SCI’s international members than Americans, but they’re coming into favor everywhere and, to many of us, using a two-stage trigger is like shooting with an old friend.
Other great features on the Howa Mini include pillar bedding and a fully free-floated barrel—both of which worked together to help the Minis maintain their zeros as they heated up and when an unexpected thunderstorm dumped a bit of rain on the prairie dog pastures. There’s a three-position safety so you can lock the bolt down with the rifle on “safe,” or you can use it as a traditional two-position safety and cycle the bolt for unloading with the gun on “safe.”
The sample rifle came with fitted a 30mm Nikko Sterling Diamond 3-12x42mm scope. Despite the rifle being a mini and the optic being more of a maxi, the combination seemed well balanced. At the time of this writing, the Mini is available from Legacy as a package gun complete with rings and bases, but the packaged scope is a 1-inch Nikko Sterling Panamax 3-9x40mm. Given the effective terminal range limitations of the 7.62x39mm cartridge, this optic is a logical match-up, though you might want to go with a higher top-end magnification scope if shooting the smaller caliber Mini on varmints or predators.
We fired the Howa Mini for accuracy at 100 yards with Hornady’s 123-grain SST load. Muzzle velocity is 2,350 fps for 1,508 ft.-lbs. of energy, which puts it nearly on par at the muzzle with 150-grain flat-point bullets from the .30-30 Winchester. Because the 7.62x36mm bullet is pointed, it retains its velocity much better and at 300 yards has 1,502 fps velocity and 616 ft.-lbs. of energy, surpassing the .30-30.
Accuracy was very good, especially for such a light rifle, averaging 1.38 inches for five, three-shot groups. Recoil was especially mild, not only because the 7.62x39mm is inherently a light kicker, but also because the Mini is fitted with a generous rubber recoil pad.
This is a very nimble and shootable rifle that comes quickly to the shoulder and on target, making it practical if not ideal for deer-size game at moderate distances in either 6.5 Grendel or 7.62x39mm chamberings. Both of those are potent whitetail cartridges with very mild recoil, making the Mini a logical choice for youth or other small-statured hunters or those who may be sensitive to recoil. Chambered in the .20- or .22-cal. centerfires, the Mini lends itself to being a lightweight “walking” predator or varmint rifle that, as our experience in Wyoming showed, has the accuracy to deliver even at several hundred yards.–Scott Mayer
- Manufacturer: Howa
- Model: Mini
- Calibers: .204 Ruger, .222 Rem., .223 Rem., 6.5 Grendel, 7.62x39mm (tested)
- Magazine Capacity: 10 +1
- Barrel: 20 inches
- Trigger: Adjustable, two-stage HACT, 3.5 pounds pull
- Sights: None. Drilled and tapped for Remington scope bases.
- Stock: Synthetic black, OD Green, Kryptek Highlander, MultiCam
- Overall Length: 39 1/2 inches
- Weight: 6.6 pounds
- MSRP: From $608