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Another Popular Firearm from Ruger
The Ruger Mini-14 was developed and released in the 1970's and they have been around for a long time. Ruger does not disclose exact numbers, but it has been estimated by some that as many as 1,000,000+ Mini's may have been produced over the years. As the name points to, the Mini14 is based on a scaled down M14 rifle design. Production for public sales started in 1974 and these rifles were popular with law enforcement and gun enthusiasts. They are known to be extremely reliable rifles. Unlike the AR style guns that use a direct impingement action which can be more sensitive to fouling and malfunctions, the Ruger rifle uses a gas piston system that is similar in function to legendary rifles like the AK47. Different than the AK, the Mini gas system has a fixed piston and a moving cylinder. The Mini gas piston system is overpowered meaning that more gases are sent to the gas piston system than is needed to reliably cycle the action. As a result, even when the rifle has not been cleaned regularly or is subjected to adverse conditions, the powerful action will be much more likely to be able to reliably feed and extract rounds in the chamber. That's also one reason why the overpowered gas system of the AK47 is known to be so reliable. Some Mini14 owners have stated that they have experienced 100% reliability (or very close to it) with their rifles. This is impressive. The dependability and reliability of this firearm is one of its biggest strengths; however, the Mini14 is not without its issues as well. Early models were not known to be the most accurate rifles around. In fact, some people with earlier production rifles reported dinner plate size groups (8-12") at 100 yards! Obviously, that is not impressive at all, and there are some reasons for this accuracy problem. Just to make it clear up front, the new production rifles are different and they have a good reputation of decent accuracy. We'll look at some of the reasons the newer production rifles are more accurate, and also look at some ways that earlier Mini-14 owners have improved the accuracy of their rifles.
Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle
To show you the similarities between the Mini14 and the M14, compare the pictures and you'll see the strong resemblance. The Mini14 shoots the lightweight, high velocity .223 (5.56 mm) round, while the M14 fires the heavier hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round. The men at Ruger that were responsible for scaling down the M14 and creating the Mini were Bill Ruger and Jim Sullivan.
Big Brother - M14 Rifle
As was already mentioned, the early Mini14s have not earned the best reputation for accuracy. The reason for this can be attributed to a number of factors. First of all, some people have found that the fit between the stock and receiver was not ideal. Some people have glass bedded their stock and found the improved fit to improve accuracy. Another area that some people have tried is to install a buffer pad to absorb some of the impact of the bolt. The gas system of the Mini is overpowered and so the action does operate rather harshly. The buffer is said to reduce the impact and vibrations which is supposed to help provide more accurate follow up shots and reduced group sizes. Regarding the buffer pads, people have found that buffer pads specifically made for the Mini14 will sometimes cause malfunctions because the pad is too thick. It was discovered that a 1911 buffer pad would work better in the Mini, so many people have tried buffers such as the Wilson Combat 1911 buffers. Even with a thinner buffer pad, it is possible for some guns to experience malfunctions, so be sure to test a buffer in your gun thoroughly if you want to use one. The last thing you want to do is install a buffer, put the gun on the rack, and then pull it out when you need to use it and find that it will not operate correctly. Some people have replaced the factory iron sights with a set of better aftermarket sights. Another idea to improve accuracy on early production Minis is to have the trigger worked on to smooth it out. One of the most significant ways to increase the accuracy of an early rifle is to add a barrel brace such as the Accu-Strut. The early Mini barrels were very thin (9/16" diameter) and they were prone to being affected by vibrations and barrel whip. In addition, when the thin barrel gets hot, an older Mini14 can be prone to throwing more fliers. To help reduce these problems, the Accu-Strut is a barrel brace that is clamped onto the barrel and helps stiffen the barrel to reduce movements. Some people have noticed dramatic improvements in accuracy with the addition of the Accu-Strut. The company that manufactures this device claims improvements of up to 70% in terms of accuracy. By the way, there are other companies that have copied the design of the Accu-Strut and offer their own versions. It appears that the genuine Accu-Strut is a better product than the other copies. Below is a picture from the Accu-strut website showing how their strut clamps onto the barrel. Not only have people found the strut to be effective in reducing group size, but it also looks good on the Mini-14. This is probably the single biggest improvement that you can make to an older Mini and if you read online you will find that people who bought it are happy with it.
The Accu-strut will also fit newer Minis, but if you have one with the thicker barrel and the tapered section where the barrel meets the gas block, then you will not see as big of an improvement in accuracy. That brings up the next topic which is improvements that have been made to the Mini-14 rifle. Back in 2004, Ruger shut down the production line to improve the design and also update the manufacturing tooling. Then in 2005, after around 1.5 years of work, the production line was restarted and the updated Mini's were produced again. Some of the improvements included a thicker, stronger, hammer forged barrel. In addition, the fit between the barrel and stock was improved. Manufacturing tolerances were also tightened up in an effort to improve the accuracy of the Mini. In the end, all that effort paid off and the rifles produced from 2005 up to the present time are more accurate than their predecessors. That doesn't mean that an older version is no good. If your older rifle has some accuracy problems, try an Accu-strut and like other people you might be surprised at the improvement.
Also related to accuracy is the choice of ammunition. Depending on the timeframe when a particular Mini was produced, that will influence which type of ammunition would be best suited to that particular gun. The reason for this is the different barrel twist rates. The barrel twist rate tells you how many inches of rifling is in the barrel in order to get one revolution. Depending on the year of manufacture, Ruger produced the Mini-14 in 1:10, 1:7, and 1:9 barrel twist rates. If you don't know which rifling twist you have in your particular rifle, then the tables below will not only help you to determine the twist rate but it will also let you know when your rifle was manufactured. In the tables below, you will notice that there is one listing for the regular Mini-14 rifle, and then there is another table for the Ranch rifles. The Ranch rifle is the same basic gun as the regular Mini-14, except that the Ranch receiver is machined to accept a scope. The regular Mini-14 does not have a provision for a scope on the receiver and was designed to just be used with open sights. Another obvious way to determine if you have a regular or Ranch model is simply to look at the information stamped on the receiver. On the top of the receiver near the back, it should clearly state "Ranch" if that is what it is.
REGULAR MINI-14 RIFLE (NO INTEGRAL SCOPE MOUNT ON RECEIVER)
RANCH MINI-14 RIFLE (INCLUDES INTEGRAL SCOPE MOUNT ON RECEIVER)
Once you have determined the twist rate of your particular rifle, then you can use the following guidelines to help in ammo selection. These are just some general guidelines, and there are other factors besides just bullet weight. For example, the length of the bullet is also a factor when determining the best twist rate to stabilize the bullet. A solid copper bullet such as made by Barnes will be longer than a comparable weight lead bullet. The longer bullet can require a different twist rate to stabilize it. Since copper bullets like the Barnes are not as common and since most ammunition is made with lead, then the following recommendations will be focused on lead based bullets.
1:10 TWIST RATE: 45 - 62 grain bullets
1:9 TWIST RATE: 50 - 70 grain bullets
1:7 TWIST RATE: 62 - 80 grain bullets
These recommended bullet weights are just some guidelines. Your particular gun might shoot outside of that range just fine. The only way to know for sure is to just try some. Just keep in mind you can't go too far outside the recommended ranges and still expect good results. Regarding the 1:7 twist rate, it is theoretically possible to stabilize an even heavier bullet (probably closer to 90gr), but the heavier bullets will be longer and the overall length of the round will be too long to fit in a Mini-14 magazine. Also keep in mind that if you use a very lightweight bullet in a 1:7 twist barrel, then it is possible that the bullet will actually tear itself apart with such a high rate of spin.
This article is primarily focused on the Ruger Mini-14 rifle, but since the Mini-30 is based on the same design and they are very similar, it will be touched upon here as well. The Mini30 comes chambered in the well known 7.62x39 round made famous by the AK47. Below you will find the date of manufacturing based on serial numbers. All the Mini-Thirty rifles came with a 1:10 twist rate.
RANCH MINI-30 RIFLE
As a side note, at one time Ruger did offer the Mini-14 chambered in the less common 6.8 SPC round. In case you're interested, SPC stands for Special Purpose Cartridge. The 6.8 SPC round was developed for the military as a possible substitute to the 5.56 in short barrel military rifles. So far, this cartridge has not been accepted by the US military and so this ammunition is not as economical as the more common .223 round. The Mini-14 6.8 SPC version was produced to an older SAAMI chamber specs, and when the specs changed, the Ruger still had the outdated chamber. This made the Mini 6.8 SPC even less popular with gun buyers. Eventually, Ruger stopped production of the 6.8 version altogether. Ruger also offers some other versions of the Mini which include a Tactical version with a synthetic stock and Target model will a bull barrel. The Target model comes with a precision chamber which is machined for the .223 only. The 5.56 NATO round can not be used in the Target model. In conclusion, the Mini chambered in .223 (5.56) continues to be a popular rifle, and it offers a respectable alternative to the AR platform.
Current Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Specs
CALIBER: .223 (5.56 NATO)
CAPACITY: 5+1 or 20 +1 (5,10, 20, 30 rnd factory mags available)
ACTION: GAS OPERATED SEMI-AUTO
BARREL LENGTH: 18.50 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 38.00 inches
LENGTH OF PULL: 13.50 inches
WEIGHT: 7 lbs
RIFLING: 6 grooves @ 1:9" RH