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As far as the the magazines go, antother thing that makes them different are the feed lips, and the followers.
As for the barrel, there are some exelent shops offering barrel replacements, they are not cheap. For the cost of a new barrel instalation I would imagine you could get your AR-15.
The Mini was not made to be a tack driver, there are many rifles better suited to the task. The Mini was not designed for shoot-a-bility, but for reliability, Drag it through the mud drop it in the water fill it up with dirt pull the trigger and it goes bang.
I think of mine as my disposable rifle and try not to dwell on its shorcomings.

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Johnny, Dont get me wrong I LOVE my Mini, In fact I chose the Mini over the AR because of its reliability and simplicity not to mention the price tag! I used the term "disposable" purely in jest because the Mini is the least expensive rifle in my safe but undoubtedly one of the finest, I would not trade it for anything.
I have been thinking about your AR/Mini magazine idea, one more difference I can see. Mini mags have a hole in the front face made to fit the front pin in the mag well, also they have a detent in the back for the mag release. you could add both of these details to an AR mag
 
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