Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30 Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30 family of rifles

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Old 10-19-2008, 20:23   #1
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Ruger's Mini 14 '580 Series' Ranch Rifle




I recently swapped into a like-new 2007-production Mini 14. Its primary role was to serve as a Patrol Carbine, but its.223 Remington cartridge and 'Ranch Rifle' designation also fit my secondary intentions for it quite well . Now, I don't have any heartburn for the AR15, but I definitely prefer the handling and two-stage trigger of the M14 platform and the Mini follows that basic layout.

My blue '07 Mini is in the 580-38xxx serial range and for those unfamiliar with the '580', it is the end product of a complete re-tooling aimed at enhancing the accuracy of this popular firearm. The last Mini 14 I owned was an old '78 model and while it was no slouch in the accuracy department, it was apparently an exception to the rule. Mini 14's have established a poor reputation for accuracy in the 30 years that have passed, between these rifles.

My current Mini was obtained in 'used- like new' condition and the bluing on the bolt was pristine until the first two magazines went down range. It wears the fiberglass handguard and hardwood stock common to the newer Mini's, and is equipped with a nice rubber pad where the slick, plastic buttplate used to be. This rifle has the 'straight' barrel profile which mics at 0.575 just ahead of the gas block and reduces to 0.565 about 3 5/8 inches ahead of that fixture.

The trigger is typical Mini meaning it is two-stage, like bolt-action military rifles of the 19th and 20th centuries. My RCBS Premium Trigger Pull Scale indicates that three pounds of force is required to overcome the first stage; five and one half pounds gets you through the second stage and fires the rifle.

As is common with these rifles, that second stage has some creep. This is due to hammer/sear engagement angles which actually cam the hammer backward a few thousandths, during the final press. If you pull the slack out of a stock Mini's trigger and then release it, the hammer will snap right back into full sear engagement. Leave it to Bill Ruger to design a lawyer-proof trigger. Of course there's a trade-off for everything and until you master it, the Mini's trigger can make precision shooting a real challenge.

A breezy fall day provided the opportunity to get acquainted with my 580 Mini. One of 'Sarge's Rules' is that the very first thing you do with any rifle, is to precisely zero its iron sights. They are on there for a reason and if all else fails- having a perfectly zeroed firearm can make the difference in who goes home to the Missus, and who goes home to their reward. A measured 210 yards separates my shooting table from the target frame and to my thinking, a 200 yard zero is just about right for most centerfire rifle cartridges.

Adjusting the 580's rear sight for windage involves loosening/tightening the opposing windage screws, and moving the aperture in the direction you want your group to go. Loosening the windage screws also frees the aperture to rotate up or down, to facilitate elevation adjustment. While the lack of click detents is something of a nuisance, it does provide a very fine degree of windage adjustment. I was also pleased to find the sight picture in sharp focus, even with with my prescription glasses in place.



6o rounds of Remington/UMC 55 grain FMJ was used for the initial shooting. Starting at 25 yards, I rough-zeroed the sights. I was soon back at 210 yards, firing three-shot groups and adjusting as I went. Usually I would get off 2 good shots of the three, and it soon became apparent that the Mini 14 was keeping its shots within a couple of inches each other- when I held my end up. Four inches at 200 yards seemed to be about the best I could manage with the aperture sights.

Once the irons were 'on' I installed an old Bushnell 4X on the Mini, and repeated the process. It's crosshairs are so coarse that they blank out a 3" orange dot at 200 yards, but once I went to a bullseye target things got better.

I shot a while longer and noticed the groups were starting to scatter. A quick check of the mounts revealed that one of the receiver mount screws had worked itself loose on the rear ring. Since I was about done shooting for the day, I decided to just pull the scope off and reinstall it to determine how much the zero changed. I was happy to discover that the rifle still shot within three inches of its 210-yard zero. There were no malfunctions with the factory magazine and Remington's 55 grain, full metal jacket UMC load.

Next, I set about finding a reload that would shoot to the same 200 yard POA and the Rem/UMC 55 FMJ load; I had some Sierra 55 BTHP's on hand, with the ever present H4895- my standby rifle powder. Since I was using Lake City cases, I backed off the max a tad and started at 25.7 grains. To tell the truth, this batch of cases has been sitting around primed for so long that I can't recall what primer I used in them.

Luckily, the first load out of the chute was good and it shot exactly to the UMC load's point of impact, with either the scope or iron sights. It also grouped just as well and typical three shot, 210 yard groups looked like the pair pictured below. The group highlighted in red has two shots in just under 2 inches, with a third straggler opening it up to 3 inches. The dropped shot below the bull was simply operator error.



The best 3-shot group of the day was 1 3/4" using the aforementioned UMC load. I think the rifle is actually shooting this well, as long as the barrel stays relatively cool. Once the targeting was done, I splattered several 100 oz. detergent jugs at 125-210 yards from rested field positions, using the irons. The initial shooting session laid any accuracy concerns to rest and convinced me that my rifle possesses satisfactory accuracy for 200 yard varmint shooting- regardless of the number of legs those varmints might have.

With the accuracy & reliability issues resolved, it was time to order some magazines. I contacted Ruger Law Enforcement Sales division and attempted to obtain a half-dozen of the factory 20-round component. I was promptly informed that Ruger does not sell directly to LE Agencies. I would have to go through one of two LE distributors to obtain the mags.

So I called the first (closest) one and learned that they were out of stock, but 'hoped' to have some 20 round Ruger magazines, 'soon'. I also learned that the Dept. price for these was over $41.00 each. Oddly, Ruger has a 'promo' going for new rifle buyers that gets them a free 20 round mag, and two more for $29.95 each. I guess that's my punishment for not paying $600+ for a new Mini 14. I finally just said 'To hell with it' and ordered some 20 round ProMags from Brownells.

When the ProMags arrived I gave them an 'acid test'- 50 rounds of over-length, lousy reloads I've been needing to shoot up for awhile. I knew the powder charge was safe but the primed LC brass was a freebie. I later learned that many had only been neck sized- if they were sized at all. To make it usable I pulled the decapper from a sizing die, and just ran the brass through primed. The end product was still pretty sorry with most over SAAMI overall length for the cartridge. The ProMags never missed a beat even with this junk ammo. I am really happy with these magazines, especially considering their price.

It is my opinion that these new Ranch Rifles are the best Mini's we've ever seen. Their non-slip buttpad and improved sights make them easy to mount quickly and shoot well from field positions. This particular specimen shoots better at over 200 yards, than many earlier Mini's would shoot at half that distance. While testing the ProMags, I managed to warm the barrel up pretty good while emptying of a couple of them. Even with a hot barrel, the last three-shot group of the day was 3 7/8 inches at 210 yards. In my experience, your average AR/M4 will not beat that significantly.

The accuracy improvements in these new Mini's, is a landmark accomplishment.; Ruger seems to have finally resolved the single weakness of the Mini 14. Now all they need to do is make it easier/cheaper to obtain factory, 20 round magazines.

Then- we'd be good to go!
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Old 10-19-2008, 20:59   #2
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My experience was very similar...after a decent zero at 100 yards of 2 1/2 inches, I was hammering the 10 inch steel plates all afternoon. And that wasn't even with the Heavier barrel 580. Nice post....confirms what I knew. Great post and great shooting!
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Old 10-20-2008, 15:32   #3
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Good assesment and AAR Sarg. kwg
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Old 10-20-2008, 19:40   #4
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Sarge, great write-up. It proves once again that most of the so-called problems of accuracy with the Mini is the nut that pulls the trigger - and that's using cheap ammo. Just think what you can get with the expensice stuff.

Keep us posted what different loads you use and how the gun works out.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:02   #5
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Nice write up. You sound like a proffesional gun writter. Keep it up and I won't have to waste my money on gun magazines.
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:11   #6
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SargeMo,

Whats the trick on iron sights and glasses? I just can't get the rear sight hole on focus?? If I tilt my head up to see thru my bi-focals I loose my front lineup and the target. I pulled my rear sight off to mount a rail partly because I just couldn't see it and I wanted to mount a red dot. I did use an M16 for six years open sight (Army days) but I didn't need prescription glasses then (35+ yrs ago). I may re-install a rear iron sight later if I can find something that works for me.

Thanks
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:35   #7
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Thank you all.

I don't think there's a 'trick' to getting the sights in focus with prescription glasses, other than to threaten, bribe or extort your eye doc into giving you the least correction you can get away with- and still have the target in focus at distance. Mine tried to sell me bifocals 6-8 years ago and I told him that I wasn't about to pay him to ruin my shooting. I'll carry a pair of reading glasses when that becomes necessary.
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Old 10-21-2008, 10:05   #8
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Sarge,

I have a nasty astigmatism condition that requires bi-focals. I never understood why I couldn't see clearly with binoculars and everyone else could!. Anyway, I appreaciate the help. I'll take a look at your link "thesixgunjournal.net" at lunch.

Thanks,

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Old 10-21-2008, 13:19   #9
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SargeMo it sounds like you had a good time with your rifle. I have a new 580 with the skinny barrel and think it shoots just fine. Here is the thread I started after I finally got a chance to shoot my gun.

Shot My New Mini Today

I hope I can go this week and shoot at 100 yards with a scope. We are going to sight in for deer season and I want to shoot my mini a little at the same time. A few shots at 200 yards may get done if I can swing it. Good report by the way.
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Old 10-21-2008, 14:33   #10
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Me Pops always used paper plate targets. Nice.

It would be nice if you could test the heavier barrel mini-14 Sarge to see if you can tell of any difference.

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Old 10-21-2008, 17:36   #11
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I read your review Ratshooter and it looks like you got a shooter, too. That's dandy for a slap-bang action and 10 shot groups with 'ferrin' ammo!

Tweek, I'd like to test one of the tapered-barrel guns but I doubt I'll buy another. If somebody I know scores one, I'll try and borrow it for few days. But the fact is that I ain't done wringing this one out by a long shot. I don't shoot a coarse 4x very well at distance and it'll require a better scope for me to tell what it'll do, along with a better set-up rest. The 'shooting table' mentioned in the article is a rickety old folding table and I was shooting off a range bag with one of those 'deer stand butt-warmer' cushions thrown on top. When I can get better set-up I'll check it again and add the results to this thread.

Rwilliamspop, thesixgunjournal.net has a number of articles archived but most of the newer stuff is at http://sargesrollcall.blogspot.com/ Hope you find something enjoyable at one of them.

I have kinda gotten disgusted with the gun-rags myself, Dichi. I know they have to sell ad space but the word 'tactical' can only be read so many times before your brain melts and starts running out your ear
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Last edited by SargeMO; 10-21-2008 at 19:37.
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Old 10-21-2008, 19:21   #12
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SargeMO, nice write up, very detailed. I'm glad to hear your results with a hot barrel were good. I had my barrel a little too hot (burnt my hand) and was surprised with the results, having had an older 181 series that got very inaccurate (5"-6" groups) after a hot barrel.

RO
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Old 10-21-2008, 20:49   #13
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Good info Sarg! Looks like you have a good one, I plan on taking my 196 series to South Dakota to pop some pdogs next week on a pheasant hunt.
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:07   #14
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Thanks for taking the time to read my post SargeMo. I agree about the gun-rags. I only have subscriptions to Rifle and Handloader now. They are the only ones that write a "sure 'nough" article anymore. Everyone else just has a 500 word review inserted between full page glossy ads.

Two other words I am sick of reading are AR-15 and 1911. They are good guns but so are Marlin 30-30s. I really like my 30-30 but I don't want to buy a magazine and read three seperate articles on it each and every month.

The endless threads on which AR to get at thehighroad is why I come here so often. At least I can read about a gun I like and own.
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Old 10-22-2008, 19:21   #15
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Sarge, I stumbled upon your post quite by accident and decided that a piece of this quality deserves attention. Well done, informative and encouraging as well as comforting. I purchased a new mini 14 today to take advantage of Ruger's Mag Promo. I look forward to reading all the opinions of the Mini-14 folks. Going to PU a 10/22 tomorrow.
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Old 10-23-2008, 07:16   #16
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I'm glad so many of you have enjoyed this article.

I have a friend who is looking at the NRA Carbine and after reading about my 580, he inquired if the accuracy of the NRA version was similar. If any of you own them or know others who do, I'd appreciate it if we can get him an answer. Feel free to post your information in this thread, and I'll send him a link to it.

Thank you in advance for your input.
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Old 10-23-2008, 09:21   #17
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I'm actually picking up an NRA mini next month, I just put half the $ down. My last pre-Obama purchase. I'll get it to the range ASAP and post the results. I think maybe, with the shorter, heavier barrel there may be less whip and hopefully even more accuracy at 100. We'll see.
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