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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all! I've been lurking here for a couple years. This is my first post. I've searched the forums and couldn't find an answer for this question. I apologize if this has been asked and answered before.

I have a 197 series ranch rifle - all stock, blue w/ wood furniture. I currently only have the 5 round mag that came with it, and a lousy gun-show 20 rounder I bought before I knew better. I would like to buy more 20 rounders, but I am very disappointed in the limited selection. The general rule appears to be that factory mags are the only "sure thing" and pretty much all of the aftermarkets are unreliable.

Why is this? I mean specifically - what physical characteristics of the magazines/rifle cause them to malfunction. The AR platform doesn't seem to have this issue. Apparently some magazines function somewhat reliably in some series of minis, but not in others. Why why why? Since factory mags work in all series, I assume the problem lies in the magazines.

With today's technology, i can't figure out why promag (or tapco, ect) can crank out mags that work great in any decent AR from the dozens of manufacturers of receivers, but the mini 14 seems to be not *quite* there.

Thanks!
 

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Usually it has to do with the type of metal in the body and how strong the spring is. I have some metal Promags that work great after I gave the feed lips a little tweak. My 6.8 mini with 20 rd Promags are not quite as reliable as I need them to be because the spring is weaker. It is hit or miss with plastic mags, some work in older minis and some work in newer minis. Factory mags have better steel in the body and stronger springs, the followers may be a little more robust without tilting problems.
 

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As Tri70 said the only difference I could think of would be the spring comparing the factory to a ProMag metal. I bought a 20 and 30 round metal ProMag because they were the only thing available locally. Comparing those with the factory 5 round that came with the gun I can tell no real difference. Eyeballing side by side the metal seems to be the same thickness, the "feed lips" and the cradle under the cartridges look exactly the same. There is a slight difference in the latch but both seem to be equally substantial.

If spring stiffness is greater on the factory mag I don't know why that would make a difference in the way the cartridges are fed. Springs become weaker only if they are stretched beyond their elasticity, a compressed spring should last indefinitely.

I've shot many rounds using both ProMags without one fail to feed or fire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the reply. I've only ever had this mini, and have never compared it side by side with another. Has anyone ever determined what it is that makes a magazine work in an old mini but not a new one, or vice versa?

This is just one of those questions that bugs me, I guess. I get why a weak mag spring or bad follower can screw up a mag. I don't really understand the weak sides. Did something change in the design of the rifle that allows/prevents certain mags to work? If so what? And if so, why do factory mags work so well in everything?

Strictly from a design standpoint- does anyone know why this is? What feature in the mini-14 design makes it so picky? And how is this design feature overcome by using stiffer metal in the magazine case?

We live in a world where anything can be copied. I find it baffling that no one makes a good dependable mag besides ruger.
 

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There have been good reviews on Tapco GenII mags, Thermold, & National. These were reported to be reliable in the pre 580 series rifles.

Personally, I've only used the factory mags as that is what came with the rifle. Also, I found great deals on them & snagged them up quickly!
 

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Thanks for the reply. I've only ever had this mini, and have never compared it side by side with another. Has anyone ever determined what it is that makes a magazine work in an old mini but not a new one, or vice versa?

This is just one of those questions that bugs me, I guess. I get why a weak mag spring or bad follower can screw up a mag. I don't really understand the weak sides. Did something change in the design of the rifle that allows/prevents certain mags to work? If so what? And if so, why do factory mags work so well in everything?

Strictly from a design standpoint- does anyone know why this is? What feature in the mini-14 design makes it so picky? And how is this design feature overcome by using stiffer metal in the magazine case?

We live in a world where anything can be copied. I find it baffling that no one makes a good dependable mag besides ruger.
I'm not sure it's the rifles that are picky -- it's some of the aftermarket mags that aren't up to snuff. Typically, IME, it comes down to either feed lips or the mag catch block on the back of the magazine.

What I have noticed is that some folks can (read: are willing to) make anything work. Tri70 tweaked the feed lips on some aftermarket mags, I have done some "cleaning up" of the lips on my ProMag polymer mags.

Some mags have the mag catch block welded/soldered on too high or low. This affects the angle and height of the top round when it's time for the bolt to strip it and chamber it. A few minutes with a file or a welder can make a "junk" mag a reliable piece.

Many people who buy aftermarket mags load 'em, stick 'em in the rifle, and if they don't work flawlessly from round 1, they call them junk. Minis need to be broken in, and sometimes their mags do too. And sometimes they take some tweaking.

My point? If you want to save some money on aftermarket mags, be prepared to spend a whole 10 minutes making them function like factory mags. ;)
 

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Joe226, thanks for asking this question -- as a new mini 14 owner, I've been meaning to ask it myself: Why can't aftermarket mags fit consistently in mini 14s?

Just about every thread about mags mentions aftermarket pieces praised by some and derided by others. From what I understand, Tapco is working on a Gen III mini 14 mag because of problems some were having with the previously improved Gen II (!).

I think when one talks about mags, it would help to mention exactly what type and/or series of mini one has, so an "apples-to-apples" comparison can be made. Some aftermarkets seem to fit better in Tapco stocks, while others fit better in ATI stocks, and other fit better in Ruger composite stocks -- depending on the series :wacko:.

However, the one piece of advice that seems consistent in every thread on mags, is Ruger-factory mags always work -- and those are what I stick with.
 

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The magazine is the heart of a repeating firearm. The guns are literally designed around the magazine. Without a properly-designed and constructed magazine, a repeater becomes a single-shot. Take the most stone-reliable repeating firearm design you can think of (a '98 Mauser), screw around with the magazine (width, taper, feed rails, follower, etc.), and now you have an unreliable gun. The difficulty is magnified exponentially when you demand the magazine be removable.

That said, most people buy mags with price as their first (and often only) priority.

The only way for an aftermarket company to beat the factory price significantly is to use cheaper materials and/or cheaper labor. That explains the frequent issues with thinner, lower quality steel, weak springs and misaligned mag catch lugs, etc.

But first they need to make a stamping die, and Ruger isn't the U.S. government, whose designs are readily-available. A private company like Ruger isn't about to let anyone borrow the plans for the mag-stamping dies. So the aftermarket mag companies must reverse-engineer stamping dies for the mag body, follower, etc. This is not a simple process, and requires an astounding amount of skilled (expensive) time and tweaking to make a die that stamps out reliable mags.

When you want to bring a product to market quickly and meet your price point, you have to pare away non-essentials. For some companies, the expense of designing, machining and tweaking proper stamping dies is one of those non-essentials: their customers want cheap mags, not necessarily reliable ones.

Look at the trouble DSA had / is having with making new mags for the FAL. DSA isn't a tiny fly-by-night organization with minimal capital, and they really want to have a reliable FAL mag. The FAL mag design is decades old, it isn't particularly complex, and yet DSA is having a helluva time making a reliable mag.

My first priority when choosing a repeating firearm is magazines. Detachable mags can be reused, but ultimately wear out: if I can't readily find reliable, reasonably-priced magazines for it, I won't buy the gun.
 

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All vald points PigBat. It just seems odd how some aftermarkets work fine for some people and not others. It gives the impression (false no doubt) that it's the design of the rifle that's at fault.

I also own a Glock, and the fit of aftermarket mags for it are hit-and-miss too. So like my mini, I just spend a bit more for factory mags.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I guess my next question would be, aside from factory mags, are there any aftermarket mags that I can purchase right now that I could have a reasonable expectation of working in my 197 ranch rifle?

I'm thinking about starting a second thread - a survey of sorts - just list what rifle you have, what stock it's in, what mags you've tried, and if they did or did not work, worked after modification, etc. If enough people respond to it, I could try to put the results into a spreadsheet for easy reference later. If it turns out good enough, maybe it could be stickied. Big dreams for a guy with only three posts, so if I'm way out of place or if this has already been done, simply smack me upside the head and tell me to sit down.

This thread has already been pretty educational for me. Thanks to everyone that has responded so far!
 

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Feel free to start another thread with new subject, opens the thought process up and gets people looking for better and cheaper ways to shoot.
 

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The magazine is the heart of a repeating firearm. The guns are literally designed around the magazine. Without a properly-designed and constructed magazine, a repeater becomes a single-shot. Take the most stone-reliable repeating firearm design you can think of (a '98 Mauser), screw around with the magazine (width, taper, feed rails, follower, etc.), and now you have an unreliable gun. The difficulty is magnified exponentially when you demand the magazine be removable.

That said, most people buy mags with price as their first (and often only) priority.

The only way for an aftermarket company to beat the factory price significantly is to use cheaper materials and/or cheaper labor. That explains the frequent issues with thinner, lower quality steel, weak springs and misaligned mag catch lugs, etc.

But first they need to make a stamping die, and Ruger isn't the U.S. government, whose designs are readily-available. A private company like Ruger isn't about to let anyone borrow the plans for the mag-stamping dies. So the aftermarket mag companies must reverse-engineer stamping dies for the mag body, follower, etc. This is not a simple process, and requires an astounding amount of skilled (expensive) time and tweaking to make a die that stamps out reliable mags.

When you want to bring a product to market quickly and meet your price point, you have to pare away non-essentials. For some companies, the expense of designing, machining and tweaking proper stamping dies is one of those non-essentials: their customers want cheap mags, not necessarily reliable ones.

Look at the trouble DSA had / is having with making new mags for the FAL. DSA isn't a tiny fly-by-night organization with minimal capital, and they really want to have a reliable FAL mag. The FAL mag design is decades old, it isn't particularly complex, and yet DSA is having a helluva time making a reliable mag.

My first priority when choosing a repeating firearm is magazines. Detachable mags can be reused, but ultimately wear out: if I can't readily find reliable, reasonably-priced magazines for it, I won't buy the gun.
This is very well put!

I learned back in '87 when I bought my Mini, it had to be broke in, before aftermarket magazine's would work with it. Took about 500 rds or so with the 5 rd magazine. I also got lucky to and happened across the 30 rd Thermold magazine's of the time. I own 10 of them and have never experienced a problem with them feeding. Factory mags were near imposible to find and when you did, they were super exspensive. The Thermolds filled that void for me.
 

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I guess my next question would be, aside from factory mags, are there any aftermarket mags that I can purchase right now that I could have a reasonable expectation of working in my 197 ranch rifle?

I'm thinking about starting a second thread - a survey of sorts - just list what rifle you have, what stock it's in, what mags you've tried, and if they did or did not work, worked after modification, etc. If enough people respond to it, I could try to put the results into a spreadsheet for easy reference later. If it turns out good enough, maybe it could be stickied. Big dreams for a guy with only three posts, so if I'm way out of place or if this has already been done, simply smack me upside the head and tell me to sit down.

This thread has already been pretty educational for me. Thanks to everyone that has responded so far!
Promag 20 rounders have been good to me. 'Bout the only real adjustments I have had to make are to the followers on a couple - basically, the "arm" on the back wasn't going up high enough to engage the bolt hold open. A little sanding on the surface of the follower so that the follower would move up by a "smidge" (measured against a known good mag) was enough.

Learning to tweak magazines may come in useful again. During the first AWB, I had to tweak M16 boxes with bent lips (*VERY* common malady with those!) since the cost on preban mags was going stratospheric. Main thing is to ALWAYS keep a "known good" magazine handy. Check the angle that the cartridge sits in the feed lips instead of just measuring the feed lips themselves. Sometimes you can see that the angle is just "off" of a misbehaving mag and work from there.

Anyway, I have used the promag 20's in both my modern 581's and a 185 series from the '80's. They do work fine, except for the previously mentioned fixable "glitch". If I can find some more Ruger 20's, I will get them, but if all I can find are the Promag 20's I won't feel bad.

All the best,
Grumpy
 

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Are even Ruger factory mags always good to go?

Joe226,

You said
The general rule appears to be that factory mags are the only "sure thing"
On some older threads, we have been questioning even the Ruger factory mags, at least for the Mini-30.

I personally have had some jamming of the bullet tip within several new Ruger factory mags, which is a type of FTF. There is a lot of "analysis" of this in the threads, but it may have just been a need to "break in" the magazine itself. Other have reported other types of problems (or suspicions of problems) with the factory mags. Nothing too serious, but they are not perfect.

Here are the threads:

Magazine lip - cartridge hangs on front lip, factory Mini-30 mags

How mags affect accuracy
 

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I have at one time or another owned almost every series of the mini 14 and can tell you that the answer to this question is not simple. The weak link of the mini 14 is the magazine well design, and allowable production tolerences. Another issue is the fact that the pre-580 "ranch rifle" redesign of the reciever included a modification to the parts that hold the magazine in place. So in essence the magazines need to work for two different mini-14s. The one constant I have observed is that the factory 5 and 20 rnd mags seem to work in every mini-14. I have had problems with even the factory 30 rnd mags being too loose in the mag well of an unmodified factory mini 14.

Another issue is production tolerences of aftermarket stocks and magazines, My reccomendation on Stocks is to stay with a factory stock to rule out another variable that can effect magazine performance. It only takes a few thousanths of an inch out of spec in the mag well in an aftermarket stock to give you magazine performance hell.

On the magazines themselves, there are definately design and build quality issues with the many manufacturers. I would avoid the following at all costs: 1)National Mag, 2)U.S.A. Mag (O.K. in mini 30's), 3) Nickel and steel pro-mag (10 rnd) . Some of the mags will work with some mini 14s, but in my opinion the failure rate is so high that sticking with a factory 20 rnd mag is cheaper than buying a stack of these aftermarket mags, trial fitting and live fire testing.

I have found that these magazines generally work well in most mini-14s and are worth the gamble of buying several to sort through. 1) PMI 2) Federal Ordnance 3) Eagle (plastic) 4) Ramline (plastic) however last rnd hold open doesn't always work reliably 5) CDNN high quality (green follower) 6) American. The problem with these is limited availability since all but the CDNN are preban/discontinude.

Good luck
 
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