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Ed Harris Friday: My Observations on the Ruger Mini-14

When I was at Ruger I tested hundreds of Mini 14 rifles of all configurations, conducting audit shoots of normal production...

To be COMPLETELY honest I was disappointed with its accuracy when compared to the M16A1 and A2 rifles, with which I am very familiar. The Mini 14 gives reasonable performance for an American-made rifle in its price range, and is safe, serviceable and reliable. It just isn't all that accurate. You can find individual rifles which shoot well, but these are statistical aberrations.

We tried to test a large enough sample of rifles to pick "good" ones, then painstakingly took them apart and gaged every part to see if we could tweak tolerances or make design changes which would significantly improve accuracy without increasing production cost. It couldn't be done. We did learn a few things, however.
This article was obviously written by a former Ruger employee (engineer) who offers his insight into the Mini 14's inaccuracy. It was already apparent here on this forum that there are some aberrations on both sides of the stick, depending upon the owners definition of accurate. I seem to have received one of the better 580 tactical series rifles, and it shoots near as accurate as my new AR. Maybe I was lucky, or maybe my tolerance for accuracy is different that other members here.

Also I find it interesting that Ruger test fires their rifles at 50 yards before sending them back to the owner. I have read various reports here by owners who have sent their rifle in only to have it returned less accurate than before. I am by no means bashing Ruger, and I am a loyal customer. I personally have never had any problems with either of my Ruger rifles. But it is interesting to note that they have semi accepted this wide tolerance of accuracy in the rifle. So it seems that most Mini 14 owners have played the "slide block weld" lottery, and will have to live with their results or fight the uphill battle of making their rifle more accurate. I thought this info would be valuable or interesting to some of you guys...
 

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interesting article, thanks for posting. I can't decide if I want to accurize my 581 mini or just by an AR-15. Problem is I live in Californistan :angry: I like my Mini and it's reliability but it's accuracy is ok.
 

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My AR was about as accurate my Mini. It was a A1 variety.

The AR was finicky (FTE) on new rounds and even more finicky on my reloads.

The Mini ate them all up and spit them out.

Both guns averaged 2"-4" MOA depending on load.

I traded the AR.

Accuracy is kind of relative as to what you need. If I need fine accuracy, I use a bolt gun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
interesting article, thanks for posting. I can't decide if I want to accurize my 581 mini or just by an AR-15. Problem is I live in Californistan :angry: I like my Mini and it's reliability but it's accuracy is ok.
That there is an issue that many people face, and it depends on your needs. I bought my Ruger piston AR to bolster my collection, and not because of any inaccuracy in my Mini 14. As I stated above I am pretty happy with my Mini 14's accuracy out to 250 yards. I wouldn't dare tell anyone else what to do with their stuff, but accurizing the Mini can get expensive for small returns. There are little things that can be done to get better results, and one can always fine tune their own shooting skills as well. A trigger job is a good place to start, and I did my own fairly easily by cutting the sear spring and polishing a few contact points.

My one word of advise is to not try to make the Mini 14 something that it isn't, because even Ruger has acknowledged that the weapon really isn't designed to be a tac driver. I have learned to appreciate the Mini for what it essentially is; a rugged and reliable med range weapon. But of course that is coming from an owner of a pretty accurate Mini 14 to begin with.
 

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The problem with this article is that it was written in 1994, eleven years before the tightening of the tolerances, retooling of the production lines, and thickening of the barrels. It probably had some validity 18 years ago, but I don't think it has any validity when discussing the new Mini's, but it keeps getting re-printed like it was about the current Mini's. Any company that goes to this much trouble to collect statistical data will most likely use it to make improvements and correct the inconsistencies in their production methods and tools. My guess that's what Ruger did and came up with the new 581 model.

My Observations on the Ruger Mini-14

By Ed Harris Rev. 5-25-94

When I was at Ruger I tested hundreds of Mini 14 rifles of all
configurations, conducting audit shoots of normal production, as
well as R&D testing of the full-auto AC556, AC556 and the experi-
mental XGI rifle in .308 Win, and assisting in the development of
the Mini Thirty in 7.62x39.

To be COMPLETELY honest I was disappointed with its accuracy when
compared to the M16A1 and A2 rifles, with which I am very familiar.
The Mini 14 gives reasonable performance for an American-made rifle
in its price range, and is safe, serviceable and realiable. It just
isn't all that accurate. You can find individual rifles which shoot
well, but these are statistical aberrations. We tried to test a large
enough sample of rifles to pick "good" ones, then painstakingly took
them apart and gaged every part to see if we could tweak tolerances or
make design changes which would significantly improve accuracy without
increasing production cost. It couldn't be done. We did learn a few
things, however.............
 

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The problem with this article is that it was written in 1994, eleven years before the tightening of the tolerances, retooling of the production lines, and thickening of the barrels. It probably had some validity 18 years ago, but I don't think it has any validity when discussing the new Mini's, but it keeps getting re-printed like it was about the current Mini's. Any company that goes to this much trouble to collect statistical data will most likely use it to make improvements and correct the inconsistencies in their production methods and tools. My guess that's what Ruger did and came up with the new 581 model.
wxl nailed it. He is talking about the older series of Minis (and he was right), not the newer 581 series (with much improved barrels and accuracy). This article is irrelevant. Nothing to see here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My intention wasn't to get anyone to grind down their slide, or make any modifications for that matter. I posted it to offer an insight into how Ruger tests and modifies their firearms. Like I said earlier I am a Ruger fan, and I am not trying to bash them in any way. I respect their engineering and own a few of their weapons. The newer models still seem to suffer from inconsistent accuracy (according to people's experiences posted here), although my Mini has performed admirably to date.
 

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My intention wasn't to get anyone to grind down their slide, or make any modifications for that matter. I posted it to offer an insight into how Ruger tests and modifies their firearms. Like I said earlier I am a Ruger fan, and I am not trying to bash them in any way. I respect their engineering and own a few of their weapons. The newer models still seem to suffer from inconsistent accuracy (according to people's experiences posted here), although my Mini has performed admirably to date.
My comments were mostly directed at the magazine that reprinted the 1994 article with a 2012 date, making it seem like it was a current article about the current production. I've seen this article quoted multiple times by Mini bashers claiming that Ruger's own engineers hate the Mini. I know that's not your view, but I just wanted to bring some insight on this particular article that gets repeated over and over on the internet and a lot of people shy away from buying the Mini due to misinformation like this old article by a former, possibly disgruntled employee.
 

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My comments were mostly directed at the magazine that reprinted the 1994 article with a 2012 date, making it seem like it was a current article about the current production. I've seen this article quoted multiple times by Mini bashers claiming that Ruger's own engineers hate the Mini. I know that's not your view, but I just wanted to bring some insight on this particular article that gets repeated over and over on the internet and a lot of people shy away from buying the Mini due to misinformation like this old article by a former, possibly disgruntled employee.
Notice the comments at the end of the article... Seems folks tend to believe this IS a current article and IS relevant to the new 580-up Minis.

Do you happen to have a link to the original article/letter from 1994? Thinking about sending it to the good folks at GrantCunningham.com so hopefully they will add a little blurb about this possibly being out-of-date information.

EDIT: Never mind, I found the original, and I've read it before... http://www.bajaarizona.org/mini14/mini14.htm
 

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Mini accuracy

Personal experience...Adding a cheap muzzle brake/front sight unit to my 1999 vintage Ranch .223 cut 100 yd. groups from 4 inches to 2 inches. This is with ball ammo, Wolf 62 grain, or my bolt gun target loads. I'll take it, since the rifle has never malfunctioned. The reason I put that unit on the rifle was to get a better sight picture. The accuracy bonus was nice, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Notice the comments at the end of the article... Seems folks tend to believe this IS a current article and IS relevant to the new 580-up Minis.

Do you happen to have a link to the original article/letter from 1994? Thinking about sending it to the good folks at GrantCunningham.com so hopefully they will add a little blurb about this possibly being out-of-date information.

EDIT: Never mind, I found the original, and I've read it before... Observations on the Ruger Mini-14
I saw a link to the 2012 article I posted above in the Ruger Forum a few days ago. I never questioned it's age, although maybe I should have. Because the author never mentioned the barrel I assumed it was aimed at the newer models. Although it is dated, and Ruger may be doing things differently now, I still found it interesting info on how Ruger tests their rifles.
 

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I saw a link to the 2012 article I posted above in the Ruger Forum a few days ago. I never questioned it's age, although maybe I should have. Because the author never mentioned the barrel I assumed it was aimed at the newer models. Although it is dated, and Ruger may be doing things differently now, I still found it interesting info on how Ruger tests their rifles.
It's interesting, no doubt about that. :)

I just have a hard time swallowing the fact that this was re-posted on that website as if it were actually representative of the current-production models. I actually did send an email to Grant Cunningham expressing my concern that, without a notation of the date, that post could make folks shy away from the Mini. An outdated opinion isn't relevant in that instance.

Not a swipe at you by any means, BBP. It is interesting to hear the "inside story." But it's frustrating when those who publish this stuff on their websites mislead their readers. They posted it as if it's original content (notice the Editor's Note: "Today Ed candidly talks about...") and as though it was actually recent and relevant to the new rifles Ruger is putting out.
 

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anyone dissatisfied ....

With their Mini-14 of ANY vintage please let me make arrangements to give them a new home.
Owned an oldie (181 series) and have a spanking new Mini-14 tactical (581).
In NO case would the bullet land in a larger than man sized or deer sized area.

Richard
 

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Accuracy only really needs to be outstanding if you're hunting long range. Other than that, my 581 Series Mini does the job. I've been within 2" with factory loads at 100 with optics. Not sure if I got a In terms of reliability, you'd have to pay far more for a comparable AR. And if you can get a group within 6 inches at 100+, that's more than enough. Not bashing you AR guys, but the newer Mini's are just as good, if not better in my opinion. Not starting a flame war, just stating my opinion. :D
 

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I can see where omission of the date on that article is not a good thing.

But seeing it as a result of this thread is the first time that -I've- seen it. And being the owner of a 186 series mini, it is very relevant to me.

I've been a lurker here a long, long time, but don't ever recall seeing any threads about tests or mods on op-rod contact. Does anyone have any links or other info so I don't stray too far off-topic?

Thanks!
 

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heck i watched a show the other day.Guy was able to get moa or better with his AR only with certain ammo. He showed three different 3 shot groups and all were different. Other then the moa or better shot the others were no different then what i have seen out of a mini. With the correct ammo it is possible to shoot better.with that said we are not match shooting and on par with what others have said it does not matter as long as you hit your target.

i think Ruger could save enough in time and money not to mention retooling ,buy using a straight non contoured barrel.the only major change would be the gas block.Just seems a waist of time and energy to put all of those steps in a barrel that are really not needed.
 

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Smart. They gave the AR a piston system to fix it too.

I did not see the time he was at Rurger but the groups 4.5 MOA makes me think he just worked on the old thin barrle minis a long time ago.

Did not want to increase production cost... Well that is what they did when they retooled 4 years ago...


This is date intel.
 

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Somebody finally said it "with certain ammo". I have a 581 Tactical Mini that I shot a 100 shot 4 inch group @ 100 yards, with 6-8 differant bullet weights and 6-8 differant brands. It will digest any ammo flawlessly and is surprisingly accurate with some.
 

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It's not at all hard to make an AR into a tack driver, or you can just buy or build it that way from the start. Several smiths guarantee 1/2 MOA of their uppers, on ANY lower receiver, and some guarantee 6" at 600 yds with their upper on any lower, too. :) Even in CA, I'd still have the AR. In fact, I'd have 2. One with the fixed magazine, and one (buried) that nobody knows about. There's 200,000 guys in CA that are committing felonies right now, by not registering their autorifles with the local sherriff. I'd be just one more.
 
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