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Tuning up your Mini-14

This is a discussion on Tuning up your Mini-14 within the Ruger Semi-Auto forums, part of the Rifle & Shotgun Forum category; I've been playing with Ruger Mini-14s since I laid my hands on our department's AC556 over 35 years ago, and know all about their generally ...

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Old November 6th, 2012, 09:45 AM   #1
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Tuning up your Mini-14

I've been playing with Ruger Mini-14s since I laid my hands on our department's AC556 over 35 years ago, and know all about their generally accepted level of (in)accuracy. In fact, claims that it could not hit a pie plate at 100 yards were not far from the truth. Many of the problems were correctly attributed to the weakness inherent in the slender barrels of the earlier versions, and to incorrectly torqued gas blocks. Frankly, there are too many issues to make the older models acceptable in terms of accuracy. When you call a shot and then can't even find it within six inches, time after time, and when sighting in means HOA (hour of angle), it's simply not worth the trouble, and not a gun that one can feel in the least confident with. They were good for their purpose, which was a reliable combat and ranch gun, but as one man famously remarked "a man has to know his limitations".

But I have good news, based on my personal experience with two new 581 series Mini-14s that I've had the pleasure of working on over the last 18 months. These newer models can shoot quite nicely, without too much effort. That is not to say that anyone should expect AR-style sub-MOA accuracy as a norm, as there are some issues regarding barrel interference that cannot be addressed. However, I can say with great confidence that the 581 series Ranch Rifle can be made to shoot superbly, 1-1/2 MOA or less, with only two issues rectified. Having been an accuracy bench shooter for 45 years, I've learned to read indicators on a paper beyond simple group sizes. Our starting groups were running 3-1/2 inches with the best loads. Looking at our groups, it was easy to see two culprits. Bullets tended to go toward a group, but were rife with flyers, where none should be expected. Groups were shotgun patterns, quite rounded. We addressed each remedy in order, one at a time, to see what the affects and remedies were.

Here's the 2-step how-to:

1. Fix that terrible trigger.
I did NOT say to buy a new one. There's a culture of slap-on this and that which are entirely the wrong approach with Ruger's Garand style trigger. Every component needed for a match trigger are right there, waiting to be given a 20 minute trigger job. Ruger Mini-14 triggers are a delight, because they will respond beautifully to a match tune up. Any gunsmith who knows how to do a simple 2-stage match grade trigger for a Garand style trigger can easily set you up with a smooth, non-creeping first stage, and a crisp 2-1/2 to 3 pound let-off without changing any parts. Ruger uses wonderful steel and they can be ground and polished without cutting below any surface hardening. The offense comes in each stage. The first stage is raspy. Looking under my 10-X lupe, it looked like a gravel road, which was easily corrected. The second stage is set up with far too much mating surface, that can be correctly timed and pulled back to a safe, strong, but fabulous pull that feels like a Colt Python in single action. Two-stage triggers are not for amateurs to play with, so call around and find an honest 'smith who knows his job. He should charge 1/2 hour of his rate. If he says he needs more than that, or if he needs springs and parts, check elsewhere. Everything is under the hood!

Result after trigger job:
In less than 1/2 hour apiece, I had both my own and my buddy's Mini-14s to trigger perfection. The triggers come back in first stage with a silky smooth travel to a dead stop, and then let off like a glass rod with the application of 2-1/2 pounds of pressure. Our groups dramatically improved. Vertical dispersion went from 3 inches to an inch and as low as 3/4"! Horizontal dispersion was reduced by about an inch overall to 2-3/4 inches. Not bad for just a trigger job! We were delighted by the promise this showed. I was convinced that these guns needed what I suspected all along...

2. Bed that stock!
The late Warren Page the accuracy sage said, "As in life, most good and bad things happen in bed." Mini-14s are a case in point. When one sees an axial dispersion (x or y) that's disproportionate to the other axis, it's absolutely a bedding situation. You can have both, too. Ruger Minis clamp down with regular pressure that does not vary, especially with their synthetic stocks, so when my buddy and I saw horizontal dispersion, we immediately knew that the action was sliding back and forth with each shot, literally bouncing off each wall of the stock. When I was teaching our officers tactical driving maneuvers, they quickly found that it was impossible to stay in the marked lanes without being strapped in tightly with their seat belts. Same follows with rifles. The fix is extraordinarily simple. Buy a Brownell's Acraglass Gel kit and read the instructions several times before starting, if you've never bed a gun before. Pull out the trigger set and study where the mating surfaces are from inside the magazine well. The only areas that require bedding are those recesses. With a Dremel tool and the small 1/4" sanding drum, CAREFULLY sand the recesses, being careful to not stray above the top edge of the stock. And watch the Dremel chuck. It has a way of doing some nasty work while your eyes are elsewhere. Take no more than a 32nd of an inch off. You only need to make room for the bedding compound, and you don't want to thin the stock down (or come out through!). Here's a trick I'll pass along. As well as applying two thin coats of release agent as directed to the action, also apply two to the gas rod bushing and cross pin, BUT reinsert the bushing ass end forward, with the flush end looking forward. This will prevent glass bedding from getting into the big hole in front of the action. Take two small balls of plumber's putty or modeling clay and carefully mold them into the rear cut-outs that the trigger set clamps to, so that the action doesn't stay permanently in the gun without a trigger set (!). You need only a small amount of glass for this job. A full spoon of each component will be way too much, so I suggest using a level teaspoon of each. If you're doing a black or wood stock, dye accordingly as you stir it according to instructions. The black will require a bit more dye than you think, or you'll have charcoal gray when it dries, and the brown will require less than you think, or you'll have aged redwood. With the tongue depressor they give you, lay on a thin coat inside each recess, and only up to the front of the action. Don't wander into the barrel channel. Also coat all the outside surfaces of the action, staying under the top lip. Carefully mate the action to the stock, and be sure it's parallel along the side rails and fully to the rear. Clamp the action at the rear top scope flat with carpenter's wooden parallel clamps or a padded C-clamp. Now, carefully scoop out any flowing goop you see, but be careful to keep the inner surfaces flush to the action, so you don't remove the vital mating surfaces you're creating. Do NOT place your trigger set in! Do as thorough a clean-up as you can now, as this will ensure the best work after it cures. After an hour or whenever the compound has set to a sticky but stiff consistency, remove the clamp and set the gun upside-down, resting on the action, so that the stock lays there by gravity in a 70-74 room. This will prevent any stresses from being started which can alter accuracy. Do not disturb for 10 hours. Do not try to rush the job with fast heat curing, as this can affect proper bedding, too. I remove the stock this way, which looks scary, but works slick for a Mini-14. Kneel on a carpeted floor with a pillow in front of you. Hold the gun up-side down with the muzzle of the barrel in your right hand, toward you, and your left hand under the action, and the top of the gun stock parallel with the floor. In other words, your gun should be as an axe, with the barrel being the axe handle and the butt being the blade. Just be sure the gun is up-side down, or you'll be applying destructive force instead of removal force. Come down with one swift, smooth ten inch stroke, as if you were chopping the pillow in two with the stock. It should come apart very easily. If you are doing a wood stock, go gently at first, to prevent doing damage. Clean up the parts or stray bedding and release agent and do a bit of trimming with an X-Acto knife and you're done. You will note that your gun fits the stock like never before. That's what accuracy looks like.

Result after bedding job:
All efforts paid off. Horizontal stringing was completely gone, and our groups were rounded, averaging slightly over one inch with our 63 grain Sierra Semi-Points. Before we began, we could say that no coyote was safe. Now we can say that no woodchuck is. The great Townsend Whelen declared that only accurate guns are interesting. That has taken on relative meaning since his day. He was talking about guns in his day that shot 1-1/2 inches when all the planets lined up pulling the bullet to the target, so we will feel far better if we make comparisons to that era, rather than worrying that there's sometimes room to lay quarters inside the holes, instead of covering them with dimes. Something about the gun when I pick it up... I hear snare drums rolling and images from The Longest Day that gives it lots of extra points anyway. It looks, feels and slaps shut like an old Army gun, goes kapuka when you shoot it, and it'll group dead nuts into the military 1.650" 10 ring when I'm shooting, so I'm OK. All the days I had my M-16 with me in Cu Chi still don't give me that feeling when I pick up an AR that this thing does.

In conclusion, I will say with all respect to those who disdain the Mini-14 that it is a very worthy semi-auto rifle, capable of extremely fine accuracy, with just a very small amount of work. For me, the cost of both guns was for the shared expense of the Brownell's Acraglass Gel, as I did all the labor with the triggers and bedding. If the entire job had to be farmed out, including the bedding, perhaps $250.00, but really, anyone with enough savvy to do his own handloading should be able to handle the bedding. I certainly will not ever claim that my Mini will be able to take on most good AR rifles when it comes to tuning in 3/8" groups, as I've personally done with them. But a Mini shines best when at the end of a long day in the field, it still hangs like a feather off your shoulder and points like a fine double shotgun. It's a great rifle that I'll take for a walk any day.

Last edited by GunBlue; November 8th, 2012 at 06:37 PM.
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Old November 7th, 2012, 01:22 PM   #2
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Thanks for the excellent write-up, GunBlue! Definitely good information.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 11:16 AM   #3
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Sounds good, and I've printed it off to save it.

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Old November 8th, 2012, 08:34 PM   #4
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Thanks. That is excellent info.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 03:47 AM   #5
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Thank you. Great info.
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Old December 11th, 2012, 08:47 PM   #6
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Thanks for the good info. My son gave me the Mini 14 almost 25 yrs. ago.
Nailed a prairie rat (dog) just the other day with it.
I love it!!
Rod van Pelt
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Old December 12th, 2012, 05:13 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rvanpelt View Post
Thanks for the good info. My son gave me the Mini 14 almost 25 yrs. ago.
Nailed a prairie rat (dog) just the other day with it.
I love it!!
Rod van Pelt
Happy shooting!
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Old December 13th, 2012, 05:59 PM   #8
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I gave my 28 year old son a Ruger .223 Mini 14 Ranch Rifle for Christmas 5 years ago.

He took your standard WalMart bought $650 (under $600-then) Ruger .223 Mini14 Ranch Rifle with factory wood stock then did this:

1. bought an ARC-ANGEL tactical conversion stock for arounnd $170
2. bought a HarBar/AcuStrut barrel truss system for his rifle for less than $160
3. bought himself a tactical/scope/laser & nice red/green dot optics setup for $90
4. bought a T Pod bipod/foregrip for less than $150 I think...

NOW he has a Mini 14 Tactical rifle that is rugged / accurate / dependible that will shoot ANY ammo he puts in it and yields him with sub 1" MOA at 100 yards with middle of the road ammo...

SO to sum up he has a very ACCURATE/NASTY/COOL tactical rifle, in my opinion, with laser & optics bipod that ended up around $1200 or so...

Last edited by Sambo77; December 13th, 2012 at 06:03 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old September 4th, 2013, 11:38 PM   #9
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was wondering if you could take some pictures of the bedding stuff you were talking about.

Perhaps add some arrows to show what all you did and where it's located.

It's easy to read, but... pictures are worth quite a bit.

If you could do that that'd be awesome
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Old September 5th, 2013, 06:12 AM   #10
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Very comprehensive; good info...
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Old September 5th, 2013, 05:29 PM   #11
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So much work to make a mini good!

I have just bought my third stock for my tactical mini. The ohters were cheesy or too heavy or too long. I finally got a folder from choate that looks nice and etc only to read here that aftermarket stocks ruin accuracy.


I must have sunk 1500 bucks into this pos and I still have a subpar rifle.

I am selling it and getting an Colt 6920. I won;t have to do a damn thing to make it accurate or the right size or take optics.
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Old September 5th, 2013, 07:45 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by andy355 View Post
I have just bought my third stock for my tactical mini. The ohters were cheesy or too heavy or too long. I finally got a folder from choate that looks nice and etc only to read here that aftermarket stocks ruin accuracy.


I must have sunk 1500 bucks into this pos and I still have a subpar rifle.

I am selling it and getting an Colt 6920. I won;t have to do a damn thing to make it accurate or the right size or take optics.
Funny, my best friend and I just ran several hundred rounds through my Mini 14 Tactical and his Colt Ar15 m4. We both fired each gun. We ran Tula, Federal LEO ammo my 55 gr Hornady loads as well as 75 gr Hornady BTHP, my Mini 14 had the best groups. My Pop, who was a great law enforcement officer and gun nut had a saying, "a poor craftsman always complains of his tools".
One of my best friends is a armorer for a major PD and has several ARs and has set up many at the PD. After operating my Mini he said it runs as well as any box stock AR that has gone through the department.
Buyers remorse maybe?
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Old September 6th, 2013, 10:24 AM   #13
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I have several of both platforms,8 AR's and 3 mini's, and although out the box the AR is more accurate capable, the mini does fine on its own. I took my 1988 mini 14 standard, added a socom accustrut, a GG&G 1913 rail, buffertech recoil buffer, ASI extra power recoil spring, and a vortex strikefire red dot 4moa sight. I took this rifle to the range last week to sight it in with its new strikefire and hit 20 out of 20 on a steel gong at 100 yards. The gong is a 10" diameter, and I was firing a round a second. The ammo I was using was a hand load using varget, and a sierra 52 grain match bthp, at 2.240, between 2800 and 3000 fps. This was also after the barrel had been heated up from sighting doing paper punching, somewhere between 100 and 200 rounds. This rifle I purchased used from a pawn shop in 1999, so I have no idea how many rounds it has through it, but its pencil barrel has enough accuracy for me, I am totally pleased with it.

The OP has a lot of valid points and good idea's that I believe will make a good rifle better, and I agree with all of his mods.

Sometimes I just think that the detractors of the Mini are just AR lovers looking to grind an axe. I love a good, accurate, and reliable firearm regardless of the make.
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Old September 6th, 2013, 10:33 AM   #14
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Very well said, Tacky!
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Old September 6th, 2013, 11:49 AM   #15
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I saw a post a few months back that I thought summed it up pretty well, it went something like this:
Mini's weren't designed to be MOA shooters, they were created to shoot MOV or MOBG (Minute of Varmint & Minute of Bad Guy), which most all of them are very capable of doing right out of the box....

Last edited by SouthSideScubaSteve; September 6th, 2013 at 11:49 AM. Reason: completed my thought
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