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Thread: A Mini-14 Discussion

  1. #1
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    A Mini-14 Discussion

    I didn't want to get Mr. Taylor's thread about his Mini-14 problems off track, and in posting my answer I got to thinking about Minis.

    I do have 3 of them. Two are the original 180- series, and one is a 181- series. I was in the military when the M14 rifle made its appearance, and it was love at first sight. When I was discharged, 1964, the civilian version (M1A) wasn't yet available, and the M14 was illegal to own as they had a full auto capability, and none had been released by the military.

    So, when I read in the gun rags about Ruger being in the process of developing a similar rifle, but civilian legal, to be known as the X-GI I was standing in line to be among the first to get one. But, sadly, if I've got the story right, Bill Ruger himself cancelled the project, stating that the rifle just could not be made to shoot accurately enough for his standards. BIG disappointment! It was to have been a 7.62mm/.308 Win.--- a great loss.

    But, it wasn't too long, about 1977, when the Mini-14 was introduced. I immediately ordered one through my LGS and got the 2nd sold in the county, a S.O. Deputy getting the first. The Deputy was a close friend of mine, and he was one of those guys who trades guns he likes every couple of weeks, and guns he really likes every couple of months. I should have just waited, because about two months after he acquired it he had it up for sale back at the LGS on consignment. I got the rifle, 5 boxes of ammo, an extra magazine, and a nice hard case for $500.

    The reason he offered for selling it was that it just wasn't accurate enough. He bought an early civilian-legal AR-15 which he praised highly. Right about that same time, during the two month period he had retained possession, I had an interesting conversation at the LGS with a San Quentin Prison Guard. He said that the Mini-14s were inferior to the AR-15s. He explained that every morning the Mini-14s they were equipped with as tower guns were test fired, and that they had experienced parts breakage and unreliability with the Minis, but had changed to the AR-15 and the problems disappeared. He also claimed that they lacked sufficient accuracy for their purposes.

    Anyway, shortly thereafter I found myself in possession of two series 180- minis, and I noted that the Deputy's ex-rifle had a cracked bolt roller. He claimed to have fired approximately 250 rounds through the rifle, so that seemed premature, as the M14s I had fired extensively in the service sometimes lost their bolt roller after a couple of thousand rounds. It was an Ordnance-level repair, so when it happed you were issued a different rifle. I've fired another 500 rounds through the Mini with the cracked roller, and it shows no signs of giving up. Would you believe that, due to working nights and sleeping days, I had not as yet fired the one I purchased.....and it remains unfired, NIB to this day, now more of an investment.

    Accuracy on the previously owned 180- series Mini is about 4" at 100 yards. As time went by, eventually I had 5 minis, but decided to cut the herd and ended up with my 3rd being a 181- series. It proved very inaccurate. I tried several different scopes and mounting combinations without success until the UltiMak mount came out. I mounted one on the barrel and now it shoots to about the same level as the 180- series rifle, but is nothing to brag about.

    Then, just a few years ago, Ruger did a redesign on the Mini. I have never fired one of the new models. They look about the same, except for that kind of peculiar front sight, not nearly as nice looking as the original. However, the gun rags gave good reports on improved accuracy. I'm thinking about looking for a Mini-30 in stainless, because I've never warmed to the AR-15.
    I've been trained on them, qualified with them, sold some through my past business, but never found them to have the charisma of wood and steel. I guess I'm a victim of arrested development. I've always liked the M1 Carbine and the SKS rifle, while never developing an enthusiasm for the 5.56mm/.223 Rem. round. Also very fond of the M1 Rifle and M14/M1A, but at age 78 they're getting heavy. Seems as though a stainless Mini-30 would scratch all of those itches, plus improved corrosion resistance. Also, the window for obtaining multiple high capacity magazines is still open. But, they're expensive, if available.

    So, I'd be very interested to hear what forum members have to say about Mini-14s. I'd like to hear about your old and new experiences with them, war stories, problems, praises. All Mini-14s, and especially about the newer stainless Mini-30s.

  2. #2
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    my old 184 series is one gun I can let anyone use and not have to worry about it. everyone has fun shooting it and just about whatever they do to it it still shoots.
    it won't quite work as far as accuracy for shooting dinkle berry birds robbing the blueberry bushes but I've never had it fail to fire or feed. I've thought about selling it but then keep thinking about the past assault weapons ban that Clinton imposed upon us and semi auto 223's might not be available in the future. so I just hang on to it and take it out to put it thought its paces every now and then.

  3. #3
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    I've had two; a 181 (IIRC) series in the late eighties, and a ranch rifle for a short time in the late nineties.

    The first was okay plinking in the desert in SoCal when I was stationed in San Diego, not so much in the humidity of a Missouri summer. It wasn't all that accurate, but it would hit a pop can.

    The reason I got rid of it and don't really care to spend any real money on a new one is that I took it home on leave once. It was a clean rifle and I fired one round at some sort of varmint (hit it) and after unloading it didn't think about it for a few days. Imagine my surprise the next time I went to shoot it and the bolt wouldn't open.

    Turns out the op rod goes over the piston, and they had corroded and stuck together in just a few short days. A suitable whack with a pair of water pump pliers got it open for diagnosis (didn't have a hammer handy).

    The ammo may have been some of the supposedly non-corrosive Chinese stuff, but I don't remember for sure. That rifle promptly got traded in on a Browning B-78 in .243, a much better rifle in my opinion.

    Years later after I got back from Japan, I thought I would try another because they couldn't really be as bad as I remembered, could they? Hence the Ranch Rifle. I traded into it for basically nothing, and I may have overpaid at that.

    I could barely make sharpshooter on one of the reduced course navy targets, and I normally shot in the high expert range with both an M-14 and M-16. It got sent down the road as trade bait for something, not real sure what, but it had to be better.

    I'd kind of like to try another, but I'm not spending the kind of money they want for one now.

    Robert

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I was with Ruger's Engineering Dept. from 1984-87 during the period when they attempted to develop the XGI and I was involved in that project up to my eyeballs. Suffice to say while reliability was OK, accuracy was not and I lobbied hard within the company to kill the XGI project. However, to make my recommendations acceptable, I had to come up with an alternative for the marketing folks to fill the void. Collaborating with Virginia State Team Gunsmith Clinton O. Fowler, who had already done this, a prototype Mini in 7.62x39 was fabricated in the tool room and demonstrated to William B. Ruger. WBR Sr. then turned the project over to former Springfield Armory (the REAL one) engineer Al Cole, and former Winchester designer Jay Jarvis, with Bill Spotts and others whose names I cannot remember after all these years (sorry) assisting. The "Mini Thirty" was fast-tracked.

    By the time the Mini-Thirty went into full production the receiver and bolt had been enlarged slightly to increase strength and to optimize its dimensions for the 7.62x39 cartridge. The barrel was made heavier and a dedicated magazine for the 7.62x39 round designed and fabricated. Most important an ammunition technical data package was created, based on Vietnam-era Lake City specs, and modified to comply with CIP standards used in Europe, which were submitted to SAAMI for adoption.

    I demonstrated the first production Mini-Thirty samples at the Shot Show and Soldier of Fortune convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, IIRC in 1986?. Firing from my best Marine Corps military offhand position I was able to ring an assortment of steel targets from 50 to 300 metres in rapid succession with steel-cased Chicom ball ammo, in "rattle battle" cadence, leaving the steel empties on the ground for everyone to plainly see. Surplus ammo was no issue (because we got the USSR chamber drawings from Horst Zimmerbauer at Lapua in Finland!). Our demo attracted the attention of major distributors and dealers. We let attendees at the show fire the rifles at steel targets and thousands of rounds of steel-cased Combloc ammo were fired with no drips, runs or errors. Many orders were received following those two shows.

    The company would make lots of money selling an alternative to the ill-fated XGI and the Commie AK and SKS with a true AMERICAN rifle!!! The Ruger staff and major distributors toasted at dinner that night, "The XGI is Dead, Long Live the Mini Thirty", a million dollars in orders were cut and the rest is history. The heavier receiver and barrel were carried over to later .223 Ranch Rifle and Mini-14 production and resulted in improved accuracy compared to the earlier Mini-14s.

    It made no sense to make two different receivers and bolts. Current production Rugers are practical and serviceable rifles for those who favor a Garand design platform in an American-made rifle.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 08-20-2020 at 10:02 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Well, Robert, I do know what you're saying about the piston/op rod design. I had a fellow bring one into my shop once back when I was gunsmithing. He had loaned it to one of his "friends" for deer hunting. His amigo had it for 2 seasons and fired corrosive Chinese ammo in it. Never cleaned it. The bolt was rusted shut, and now that I think about it, that was why the friend gave it back to him, complained that he couldn't get the bolt open. Anyway, a sharp smack or two with a rubber mallet got it open. I would have looked through the bore, but couldn't because it was rusted shut. Finally I got it apart and eventually got the bore opened with repeated applications of Hoppe's and a bore brush. It was completely pitted and ruined for everything except use as a tomato stake. I contacted Ruger and asked them to send me a new barrel, but they refused, saying that they didn't sell barrels and it would have to be returned to the factory. On the plus side, they only charged $85 for the barrel and labor and even paid the return shipping. Now as concerns my 180- series with the cracked bolt roller, they will no longer work on that series, and "parts no longer available."

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmbif View Post
    but then keep thinking about the past assault weapons ban that Clinton imposed upon us and semi auto 223's might not be available in the future. so I just hang on to it and take it out to put it thought its paces every now and then.
    Likely a wise decision, farmbif.

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    Well, Outpost, I wish you would have saved the prototype XGI for me!

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    I recently purchased a NIB 2016 Mini-14 that the original owner had an AccuStrut system added along with a recoil buffer. I was prompted to buy it due to today’s political environment. It has the heavier barrel as noted at the gas port area. I certainly hope it shoots accurate enough to satisfy me. Only thing is I don’t know what that is. Hope to make it to the range next week.

    Shoot Safe,
    Mike

    Retired Telephone Man
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    Marion Road Gun Club
    ( www.marionroad.com )

  9. #9
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    That's a nice looking rifle, Mike. I think it will do you proud. There're lots of good reports about the AccuStrut system.

    DG

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Gebirgsjager View Post
    Well, Outpost, I wish you would have saved the prototype XGI for me!
    Wasn't going to happen. I cut them up my self and had them melted down at Pine Tree and recycled. Only a handful survived. WBR was wedded to using his patent on the gas system. Al Cole built a sample using the White-Patent gas expansion and cut-off system used non the M14, which worked. And Jay Jarvis built one using the Winchester 100 type gas system, based on the M1 Carbine, which also worked. But WBR insisted on his Mini-14 gas system which resulted in manually-fed first-shot fliers which struck 6-8 moa away from the subsequent shots which were gas-fed. No cigar.
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    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    I’ve had two of the older Mini-14s. The first one had a walnut stock that some jack wagon painted Camo. It also was double stamped (Mini-14 over Mini-14) on the receiver- a factory boo-boo. It was about a 5” gun @100yards for me for 3 shots so I let it go. The next one was also a pre ranch style and I only remember it because I took a nice fork horn buck on the run with a double tap of 55gr soft points. It pointed naturally- something the AR doesn’t do for me. I would also like to try the new improved model to see if the accuracy is there. I’d be happy with 3” groups for factory ammo. DG- one of my brothers has a stainless old model Mini30 and it disappoints on paper targets but delivers on game animals!

  12. #12
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    I've always been absolutely fascinated when folks say the early Mini-14's were inaccurate trash.

    I bought mine in March 1976, a 180 Series. bought 3 boxes of Rem .223 55gr SP's to start out with. At 25yrds I had a 3 shot cloverleaf you could cover with a nickel. At 100yrds it was 5 rds into 2 inches and a bit. Good enough to hit a Coyote at full speed, and 4 more rounds to back up, the 1st shot.
    Later at a small Gunshow I found a small hooded Peep Sight made from a tough plastic, 2 for $5. I've never needed the 2nd one.
    Shrunk the groups down to an even 2 inches.
    Loaded Sierra 55gr SPBT's.
    Wish I could still shoot as well as I did at 22yrs old.

    Guess mine is the exception to the "rule".
    I HATE auto-correct


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  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    I have owned a few over the last 30 years. I started with a 181 that did not shoot well at all, traded that for a SS Ranch in the early 90's (I think). As a reloader I always worry about brass loss rate and condition. The Ranch almost ripped and poked a chunk out of each rim, would not go in a shell holder afterwords. Then, I ran into an odd duck... He wanted a Ranch rifle and I did not. He had a new 183 series rifle and wanted to trade. This one was easy on brass, shot really well with 55 and 60 grain bullets. By that time I was shooting benchrest and have likely got less than 500 rounds thru it to this day. The rifle is one of the best looking blued 14's I have run across, deep blue an actually attractive wood and the steel butt plate looks good.

    I would sell it except I suspect that may not get as much bad press in the future from the left and my AR's will.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    I’ve got a 582 series Mini-14, made in 2015. It’s marked 5.56. 16” heavy contour barrel, in a folding ATI black stock. It is a Davidson’s Exclusive, Ruger # 05846.
    Also a 582 series Mini-30, made in 2015. Its bore is .310. Also, 16” heavy contour barrel, in a folding ATI Gray stock. Also a Davidson’s Exclusive, Ruger # 05862.
    ASI gas reduction bushings installed to limit the distance brass is thrown. I have only fired them with my own loads, and have taken coyotes with both. I’ve never shot them on paper for groups.
    I have had many Mini’s over the years, and they have all gone away. I believe this series to be the best yet from Ruger.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Moleman-'s Avatar
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    I got one of the 223 ranch rifles when it first came out. Liked it, and IF you put no uneven pressure on the stock and IF you did not use the sling often you could get 1.5" or so groups with cheap win/rem/pmc m193 type ammo. It was the "IF's" that sent it down the road. I had no other issues with mine and keep looking at them, so perhaps my Mini-14 story is not complete yet.

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    Thanks for all of the interesting and informative replies, Gentlemen. Sounds like a couple of you fellows lucked out and got a good one, but overall it would seem that respondents' experiences have been similar to my own in that the Mini doesn't deliver sterling accuracy. I'm noting, however, that most information is about the older models and not the current models.

    I was pricing them on Gunbroker this morning (stainless Mini-30s) and there seems to be very few new ones for sale, and several older models. Prices range from $900 to $ 1,300. I also visited the Ruger Firearms website, and their suggested retail price is just above $1,000. My inclination would be to buy a new one, but not to pay $300 over MSRP. Maybe I'll contact my lady pawnbroker and see if she could order one.

    Thinking about it all, I wish there was a stainless SKS. I like the SKS and have several of various origins, but for me the one thing I've never liked about them is the magazine. Wouldn't it be great if one was made to use a Ruger-type box magazine? I know that there were some made to take AK mags, and I've converted several to take the duckbill mags, but it's a clumsy arrangement.

    I also noticed that the latest Mini Ranch Rifles had that nice fold down peep replaced with some sort of plastic sight, and same for the front sight. I'm pretty sure those could be replaced with something in steel. There used to be some combination flash hiders and front sights for sale that looked to be quality.

    Every thread should have some "eye candy", so here amongst several other rifles I took to the range one day is the UltiMak equipped 181-series Mini-14 that wouldn't print on the target at 100 yds. until I put the mount on the barrel. Now it's a 4 incher at 100 yds., not great, but much better than not at all. I tried several mount and scope combinations mounted on the receiver and none worked. But, logic says that if the scope is on the barrel, then the bullet will have to go where the barrel was pointed when the trigger is pulled.

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    Outpost: I really enjoyed reading about your involvement in the XGI rifle project and work on the Minis. A bit of living history. So, since among other character flaws I'm kind of a student of firearms, I'm sort of reading between the lines that you really don't rate the Mini's gas system too highly? Not trying to put words in your mouth or take you where you don't want to go....just kind of got that impression. I do think that the M1 Carbine-type short piston tappet is hard to beat. Same for the SKS/AK series of rifles, but a little more round about than the carbine. Would you, I wonder (again, commentary is voluntary) say that WBR's insistence on using his gas system contributes to the Mini's accuracy problem, and do you think it has improved in later versions, my interest being in buying a new one? My thoughts would be that the Mini's system is adequate given proper maintenance (cleaning), but as previously observed, corrosive ammo and no cleaning is a recipe for ruination of a good firearm. Guess that applies to all firearms, doesn't it.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    The heavier barrel contour on later Minis somewhat reduces the barrel flexing/vibration issue. Improper fitting of the gas block is also an issue, if the slide block strikes the gas piston, or if the slide block contacts the gas block in the full-forward position it produces barrel vibration. Ideally the slide block should not contact the gas piston at all, and the slide's forward movement should be stopped by the bolt cam pocket, not by contacting the gas piston or slide block.
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  18. #18
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Ruger made the new model in 6.8 SPC for a while and I'd like one of those as my first choice.
    Der Gebergsjager, I'm not being mean- but that Mini14 is the least interesting gun on that table

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

  19. #19
    Boolit Master

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    Not exactly what you asked, but have you handled one of the Ruger PC rifles? I bought the PC9 and it met all my expectations for handling and accuracy. And yes it "feels" like a rifle to me?
    "My main ambition in life is to be on the devil's most wanted list."
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  20. #20
    Boolit Master murf205's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    The heavier barrel contour on later Minis somewhat reduces the barrel flexing/vibration issue. Improper fitting of the gas block is also an issue, if the slide block strikes the gas piston, or if the slide block contacts the gas block in the full-forward position it produces barrel vibration. Ideally the slide block should not contact the gas piston at all, and the slide's forward movement should be stopped by the bolt cam pocket, not by contacting the gas piston or slide block.
    Does adding a buffer on both ends help with that. I have read where the smaller gas port bushings tame the action and help accuracy quite a lot--by the users claim,of course
    IT AINT what ya shoot--its how ya shoot it. NONE of us are as smart as ALL of us!

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check