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The Ruger Mini-14’s Biggest Problem — And How To Fix It

The Ruger Mini-14’s Biggest Problem -- And How To Fix It

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It doesn’t get much more American than the old Ruger Ranch Rifle: the Mini-14. This tiny M1-style carbine weapon was designed to be amazingly rugged, especially considering how it was originally crafted for the whacking of sly coyotes on the open range.

In the days before amateur, high-precision shooting from the bench, gun consumers weren’t too concerned about these newfangled “MOA”-grouping things. Overall, folks in those days tended to be rather happy with their rifle, so long as they were able to nail one of mother’s pie plates at 75 yards off. So it was, in 1973, Ruger gave their loyal customers exactly what they wanted: a semi-auto, magazine-fed, piston-powered carbine rifle.

Its design provided the wondrously sturdy benefits of those old Garand actions (like the kind that Grandad carried during the war), yet also toned down the caliber from a 30-06 to take a .223 Rem cartridge. The beauty of this smaller cartridge was the fact that it was far more recoil-manageable and ideal for taking smaller-sized game and predators. And its high velocities provided a lofty helping of…

… accuracy … right.

Which Mini-14 Are We Talking About?

As more and more folks took it to the range, that lofty helping of accuracy seemed to offer far less of a satisfying serving than most had hoped for. When you’re struggling to hit a foot-wide target at 100 yards after being plagued with fliers, you start to wonder why. Since all Ruger Mini-14 owners can’t be horrible shooters, people started to realize it was the rifle.

It’s been quite a long time since Ruger was faced with those first customer complaints. And to the delight of Ruger fans nationwide, the manufacturer decided to listen in 2005 (it only took them 32 years). Bart Skelton’s article in Rifle Shooter told the tale of the Mini-14 reborn:

“Chatter about the accuracy issues of the Mini-14 has never gone unnoticed by the company, and the engineers have worked long and hard to alleviate the issues. It appears they may have reached that happy medium between accuracy, reliability, handiness and cost effectiveness in their new and improved Mini-14. Some are referring to the new rifle as the “580,” referring to the three-digit-series number that appears ahead of the serial number.”

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The 580 became the new standard of Mini-14, meaning that those old models – and their accuracy issues – could be left in the past. From 2006 onward, the new Ruger ranch rifle shall no longer be subject to the annoyance of precision-obsessed shooters, since it’s now amazingly…

…accurate … right.

What gives, Ruger?!

Old Demons Die Hard

George Clooney shot a Mini-14 in "The American."

George Clooney shot a Mini-14 in “The American.”

Well, first thing’s first, let’s have a look at the problems that plagued Ruger’s original 1973 Mini-14. Perhaps the most pronounced issues that the pre-580 series rifle faced actually boiled down to production flaws, where the factory got a little sloppy. There also seems to have been a general misunderstanding of customer expectations. For instance:

  • Gas block defects. This had caused more than a few fliers in its day. Ruger would often produce Mini-14s with gas blocks that had inconsistent contact with the barrel, thereby distorting its harmonics. This is why many gunsmiths would remove the gas block and shave off some metal, so that it would have a better fit against the barrel.
  • Tolerances in general. Overall, Ruger’s production of the old Mini-14 could be unfortunately described as somewhat careless, which was largely the reason for the rifle’s obscenely large tolerances. Even the rifle’s front iron sight was stamped into the barrel itself, which often caused it to bend near the crown, thereby hamstringing its accuracy.
  • Philosophical underpinning. Ruger wasn’t really convinced that the Mini-14 needed to be all that accurate in the first place, because it was meant for light hunting/sporting purposes and combative self-defense. Who needs a super accurate rifle while shooting at a living thing, right? Sheesh.

But then, Ruger listened, (almost) fixing these accuracy problems …but not totally.

Problems That Remained

In the newer 580-series rifles, Ruger actually did a fantastic job at tidying up their design, their production methods and especially the rifle’s tolerances. It simply became a better weapon. But then, there’s this thing called physics:

  • The power of harmonics. When the firing pin slams forward, the action jerks backward and the round slams into the rifling grooves, what do you get? A MASSIVE amount of vibrational play in the barrel itself, causing it to ripple like a wave (especially if the barrel isn’t nearly thick enough to handle the chaos).
  • Trigger creep. In those moments before the round goes off, 580-series Mini-14 Rugers are haunted by a creeping 5.43lb trigger pull. Some might be OK with that, but this has been a point of notable contention in recent years.
  • The fundamental design underpinning. Ultimately, the reason why I believe that the Ruger Mini-14 has been plagued with accuracy issues from its inception (even back into 1973), is due to the fact that the rifle uses an extremely chaotic M1-style action, complete with rotating metal parts that racket and flail back and forth. While this might have been a positively ideal semi-auto loading mechanism for a sturdy .308 or 30-06, physics is going to cause inherent problems for a much lighter carbine-length rifle, much like the notoriously inaccurate pre-mod AK-47. Either you’ve got to overbuild it or dampen the chaos and thicken that barrel.

And it’s by dampening the chaos that we give the Mini-14 its new lease on life. Balance and harmony are wonderful things. And it’s always good to be non-creepy, especially when we’re talking triggers.

Let’s Give the Mini-14 Some Accuracy Love

The Ruger Mini-14’s Biggest Problem -- And How To Fix It

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I will say that the 580-series Mini-14s have already come a VERY long way from the accuracy problems that once hogtied the rifle’s reputation. At this point, all we really need to do is address the remaining factors. Let’s start with the most obvious one: the barrel.

1. The accu-strut dampener. So what can bad harmonics actually do to a barrel, at least enough for a shot at Mr. Coyote to actually miss him entirely? Well, here’s a description from Brownells on what truly is going on: “These vibrations result in the barrel moving in an uncontrollable arc. If these barrel vibrations were consistent from shot to shot, only human error would stop your shots from becoming one-hole groups. Unfortunately, these vibrations vary in magnitude and duration from shot to shot and result in inconsistent accuracy.”

So, not only does this make for inaccurate shots, but this inaccuracy is even unpredictable.

How can this be fixed? Simple: Stabilize it. Perhaps the one product, which saved the legacy of a 50-year-old rifle (in terms of accuracy anyway), is the Accu-Strut. This $100 product clamps onto the barrel and fits up under the gas block, thereby dampening that nasty uncontrollable arc.

2. No Easy Solution For a Trigger Issue – Unfortunately, fixing this trigger issue is going to require gunsmith-level skills. More often than not, customers ship the rifle back to Ruger for the fix. But this tends to result in a hassle and an overly long wait. However, for anywhere from $70 to $150, a gunsmith should be able to take your Mini-14 and do away with the creeping, heavy trigger pull.

There just isn’t an easier way to deal with this problem, unless you have the practical knowledge and skillset of a gunsmith. Other than that, you’re probably going to have to get used to the creep. At least the Accu-Strut has resolved the Mini-14’s issues with physics.

Come on Back to the Basics

Let’s come back to the philosophy behind the Ruger Ranch Rifle’s production in the first place. Granted, Ruger has produced a Mini-14 “target” model. But honestly it would still not be my choice TAC driver for a competition … with or without that Class III NFA-looking harmonic dampener on the end.

She’s a ranch rifle, built tough. Of course, we don’t want some uncontrollable arc movement in our barrel to blow a shot at the canine devil that’s been after our hens. But sometimes hitting one of mother’s pie plates at 75 yards off might not necessarily be a bad test of accuracy. Some rifles are at home on the bench.

What do you think? Does the Mini-14 have a problem that needs to be fixed? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. I bought my Mini 14 around 1978 at Walmart for $180.00. It has never failed to feed or jammed with any ammo I’ve fed it .223 or 5.56 mm and is designed to safely chamber both!( except for the target version .223 only) Some claim that to be the supposed accuracy problem. It is the old supposedly inaccurate slender barrel (prefix 181 vintage) with the old style wood hand guard, it needs no forward assist and is light handy and accurate. It punches 2.5″ groups at 100 yards from a rest, not MOA accuracy but better than I can shoot it and that’s with iron sights! It was not meant to be a target rifle.
    I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones that got a good one but it is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made and would not give it up easily and after forty years of trouble free service why would I? All I have ever had to do to it is clean it and enjoy it.
    I have no other Mini 14 to compare it to so I feel sorry for those who claim to have gotten a bad one but in all my dealings with Ruger they have never failed to make things right.
    congratulations to Bill Ruger and his legacy for one of the best firearms in my opinion ever produced and still in production! Don’t forget What General George Patton said about the M1 Garand, just scale it down and some.

  2. In addition to the Accustrut, there are other stabilizers, including the HA-BAR and Mo-Rod. All of them work reasonably well.

    Another ‘trick’ is get a spark-plug gapper gauge and balance the four corners of the gas block, to even out the pressure on the barrel. NOTE: this requires care, as it is possible to shear off the screw heads if done aggressively.

  3. Love these rifles I have 2 of them never any issues

  4. My mini 14 had a warped receiver. (Purchased in 1996)To compensate for this they bent the barrel ever so slightly back in the other direction. Yes , I said Bent !! I noticed the poblem when my bullets where key holeing through paper targets. I sent the rifle back too Ruger and asked them too please sendme another in its place. They sent me back the original rifle and politely told me tough luck. I will never ever buy another Ruger product again and I come across anybody who is contemplating on buying anny Ruger product , I share my experiences with Ruger.

  5. I have a good one. I bought my mini 14 around 1990 new. I recently had the barrel threaded and the gunsmith said the barrel was bent. I mailed it to ruger and they said the barrel wasnt bent. Well I just tried to put a scope on it and ran out of adjustment to the right and could never line it up. appears the barrel seats in the receiver at an angle. Thinks ruger its true you are machinists not gunsmiths your own man inspecting my rifle couldnt tell what was wrong.

  6. I’ve got a better idea: Cryogenically freeze the barrel. It should solve the accuracy problem, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Problem solved.

  7. my Mini-24 is from 70’s I think. Belonged to Dad. Fired some old Squires Bringham .223 rounds and only got off two rounds before running into problems. Several did not fire when pin hit, but not sure if it is old rounds or firing pin not operating consistently. Also, feed from magazine seemed bound. Any advice? Should I scrap the 200 rounds of old Phillipine imports and try some new ammo first or get a good gunsmith to take a look?

    • Sorry, that was Mini-14 not 24 and ammo from Squires Bingham (Philippine derived) not Bringham.

      • Duh?! Is this an intelligence test? Go get some white box Winchester for $8 and see what happens, BEFORE you waste any time and money at your gunsmith. I would bet that it’s the crappy old ammo you’re using, but get a standard test round and try it before you judge the gun.

    • The mini 14 and 30 have a shallow firing pin. A berdan hard primer set deep in the case will not allow the shallow pin to strike primer with enough depth to fire the occasional round.

      I discovered this by placing a fired TULAMMO case and a PPU fired case side by side, took a flash photo with my phone, the flash accentuated the difference in primer depth.

      The issue was obvious at that point.

      Wolf main and hammer springs installed

      I use PPU ammo as thier primers are flush with the case . Never have a problem.

      The tulammo still has occasional misfire even after the spring upgrade.

  8. Hi, I bought a Mini 14 Target about 7 years ago. No problem at all so far. It,s a .223 Remington and shoots 1 inoch MOA Always,right out of the Box, and I have not adjusted the harmonic damper yet ( No need to) I have used the rifle for hunting and target shoot with cheap and expensive ammo, works fine with all kind of ammo. Best value for money Gun I have ever café Aroumd. ITs Even more accurat and reliable than by Sauer 303 9,3×62 than cost about four timme as much. Tumba up Ruger! Sorry for the bad spelling, I,M a Swede and My damn IPad keep change all words to Swedish instead of English. Have a god day all of you.

    • Just bought a .223 ruger $1144.00 first time I went to range to shoot it jammed right off the first shot the folks at ruger told me to send it to them and they paid the shipping both ways and they would take care of it. As fat as I could tell it would not load the bullet correctly at first I was told I must be shooting cheap ammo but I was shooting hornady.223 55gr I hope they get it right

      • I just read a bunch of stuff on the ruger blog about the target mini 14 jamming I have sent mine back to ruger for them to fix it it really sucks that I paid $1144.00 for it and it didn’t perform like thought it would every weapon I own is a ruger this is the first time I’ve encountered an issue with a ruger product I hope they will make it right the fellow said they would.

        • I bought the target model 16 moths ago. I’ve only been to the range twice, but, 1 in 4 spent shells do not fully eject. I used UMC, then PMC ammo.
          As for the ejection failures, what is the most common cause and the most common fix?
          The first time at the range, I was having a biggest problem keeping the scope on the rifle. After 20 rounds I noticed the scope was very loose and had to tighten the mounting screws with every magazine change. I fixed that by drilling holes through mounting screws and safety wiring them. Some skills really do last a lifetime.

    • I used to think “Sent from my iPhone” at the bottom of received emails was a sign of the snootiness and snottiness of the sender, and thought to delete it from any emails I might send, but after experiencing Apple’s voice dictating function and how it garbles and mangles words, I now leave it alone, to let folks know I am not a moron, it’s my iPhone.

  9. I have a an 187 series rifle no modifications, accuracy sucks miss more shots than I care to think about. Is the accu- strut a good move?

    • I have an Accustrut on mine and it improved accuracy quite a bit…when I first bought it last year, I thought I either had the shakes or I was blind, wasn’t sure. I was getting 4 -5 inch groups at 50 yards and a flyer around every 10 rounds. I read about the Accustrut and bolted one on, groups are down to 1 to 2 in groups.

  10. I have a newer 582 mimi 30 and can barely keep the rds on a paper plate @ 100 yds, is this the usual grouping I can expect

    • Mine is/was the same. I called Ruger and they sent me a return label and paid for the shipping to return it (it’s there right now). They told me they are replacing the barrel. I have read that the gas bushing can sometimes be in a bind and mine was. They have been very good about it, to me anyway. I bought it new, but they didn’t ask for a a receipt or anything.

  11. Innacurracy seems to be how they changed the gas activated design. If you dissassemble the mini 30 you can see how the op-rod is incorporated as the gas block a 2 in one. On the m1a the op rod is seperate of the block and is restrained by a seperate guide loop pinned to the barrel. The m14 has a short stroke gas piston which is part of the gas block that inertia drives the op rod to cycle the action. On the mini 30 the op rod is both parts and clearly rubs the barrel with an unguided violent action unlike the parent design. In turn this is the worst cumprit to barrel harmonics thus accuracy.

  12. I have a 180 series Mini 14. This rifle is accurate and still is after all these years it still hits where I aim.

    No its not as accurate as my M1A or ARs, but at 200 meters open sights or 500 with scope it will get hit and go down.

  13. i just purchased a new 580 series mini14 in jan.2017, i took it out to the range @50 yards every shot was high and to the left when aiming at center mass. i dont think adjusting the sights would be enough to compensate for this high level of inaccuracies. i dont recommend this rifle to anyone who expects an accurate gun right out the box. i plan on contacting ruger and hope they can make my brand new mini shoot straighti. i guess they have realy crapy quality control over at the factory in modern days.

  14. The reasons explained may or may not be correct here, one thing is true and that is a good barrel stabilizer is a must for repeated accuracy after the barrel heats up.

    Trueshot Technologies makes one out of aluminum that is extremely rigid, absorbs heat, has 98% contact to the barrel and stabilizer bar and is proven on video to work. This stabilizer Does Not Slip, and does not require drilling dimples into the gas block, or adding Loctite under the clamps as does the product described above and it cost 59.00 at this time, shipped to your door.

    • I added an Accu Strut (different make) for around $100 which works by “strangling” the harmonics of the energy wave being sent down the barrel. To reduce the energy in the first place, first replaced the 0.1″ OEM gas bushing with s smaller 0.045″ bushing which reduces the gas redirected from the barrel and into the gas chamber. Now my brass drops at 9-12 feet instead of over the state line. I also installed 1911 buffers to the back and front of the piston which greatly reduced the metal-on-metal “clanging”. I don’t know if it had any impact but I also glass-bedded my receiver. All of the above cost about $120.

      The Accu-Strut is a must. The rest also makes a big difference but it comes with a trade-off: your favorite round may not cycle as well if it is a lower-energy round. Cutting the buffers in half will help that.

      I can’t be precise how big the improvement was but the improvement was dramatic. Probably 3-4 MOA (prone) and much more consistent. I always chuckle when I read people boasting of sub-MOA accuracy with their Mini-14s and AR15s. Instead of spending big bucks to make these rifles accurate, you could buy a Remington 700 or Savage 10 or 11 for the same price as a Mini-14 and they are tack drivers right out of the box. Love my Mini-14 but I love it for what it is, a first-rate ranch gun.

  15. Have the stainless modell, bought in 2014. Chambered for 5,56 NATO. No problem with accuracy, although its not a precision rifle. Bought it for hunting small/medium game at distances less then 100m and it will work. Running a 25 year old Aimpoint on it, and with 10 shoot groupings less then 4cm at 50m Im ok with it. Shooting GGG 55gr, Hornady Varmint 53gr and Norma Oryx 55gr.

    Yes, a would choose an AR15 for hunting, but over here in Norway its not allowed to hunt with an AR, ARs are for sportshooting only.

  16. Had a mini-14 (186 series) that I bought awhile back. Horribly inconsistent accuracy, especially after the barrel got hot (10 rounds or so). After searching forums for a cure, I installed an Accu-Strut. It helped some, but when the strut is installed per the manufacturer’s instructions (using LocTite), you cannot break the rifle down and get access to the gas block without removing the strut (and breaking the LocTite). Love the feel and handling of this little rifle, but it simply wouldn’t hit the target reliably and the fix was more of a band-aid. I sold it a couple of years ago and will never buy another.

  17. Got the 580, sometimes I have to fight with the clip to enter for 10 min. Shot three different bullets out of it with it being the same grain and it being 6-7 inches apart from each other. Out of my other rifle only an inch or two difference in the grouping. I was hoping for something different

  18. I have been comtemplating buying a Mini 14. i am reading that rifles manufactrued after 2007 have a tapered barrell.l In your opinion, does this improve its accuracy and has Ruger resolved the problem of trigger creep in this newer design?

  19. I bought mine in Dec 2016. It is a stainless steel in a synthetic stock. I also did what Damon Oswald did, I bought Trueshot Technologies for $59. It works great, it works as stabilizer and as an aluminum heatsink to cool the barrel. A quick and inexpensive solution to improve your rifle.

  20. I bought my Mini used at a gun show. It’s dated 1982 and aside from a small nick in the wood, it’s still in mint condition.
    Anyway, I shot it for a couple years with the scope it came with. I never had any problem with accuracy.
    Then I decided to remove the scope and try my skills with the iron peep sight. Again, quite accurate at 75 and 100 yds. This, all from the bench, of course.But, Pennsylvania just legalized semi auto rifles for hunting, so I’m looking forward to trying it out on foot.

  21. Hi. I have a Bi-Centennial stamped model made in 1976 and acquired it used in about 1978 for $150. I don’t recommend the mini-14 for deer hunting as one writer above intends to do. I used mine a few times and one time a deer being driven by dogs jumped the fence line onto the private dirt road I was standing. The deer whirled as he hit the ground and ran down the sloping road away from me and I got off one round before he turned into the woods. It was a hit but he just pulled in his tail and did not have much effect. This all happened in a second or two at the most. You need more power than a .55 grain bullet can generate for deer especially a tail end shot. As for accuracy I’ve never had a problem with head shots made on rabbit and squirrel.

  22. To who ever wants to reply, I have a mini 14 that was purchased as an addition to a very modest collection. The problem that I am having is that when I operate the action the bolt does not move forward into battery. Upon stripping the action, I have found that the piston has withdrawn from it’s cylinder and has dropped there by blocking the action from moving forward in order to chamber a round. If some one out there can explain the cause and/or fix I would be happy to hear from you, Thank You, P.

  23. I purchased my Mini 14 (580 series) about a month ago and I have finally taken it to the range. My unit is Stainless Steel with the synthetic stock. I wanted this configuration as this will be primarily a truck gun. My initial shots at 50 yards with the rifle were not that great resulting in shooting low and left with 3 shot groups varying by 3 inches, this being done freehand. This was not the Mini’s fault but mine. Getting old and don’t see as well as I used to. I mounted a 4 power Tru Glow optic and can now shoot a 3 shot group which can be entirely covered with a nickle again at the 50 yard range. This was done with the assistance of a bench instead of freehand. After all the criticism I have read regarding the accuracy of this rifle, I am very pleased that my rifle is not plagued with the accuracy issues others seem to have to contend with. Since most of my shooting with this unit is expected to be 100 yards or less, I am of the humble opinion that it is a keeper.

  24. Four of us walked into the Px and bought series 188 mini 14’s. Two of the units shot poorly with “mucho keyholes”. Two rifles shot acceptably well….not target quality….but certainly enough to qualify as a home defense weapon. I still have my rifle because I don’t think I could sell it for enough money to justify a sale.

  25. I just bought one. couldnt get a tight enough group to even try to adjust the sights . took it apart and the buffer bushing was cracked almost in too . I will never buy another Ruger .

  26. We have a 180 series BiCentennial (1976) edition Mini 14 that needs a new extractor. The rounds get jammed quite easily. This has become a recent problem…within the last year. Love the rifle and it has always been accurate. Anyone selling parts let me know please.

  27. Have a 181 series mini 14 bought new, have never had any accuracy issues what so ever. also no jamming or misfire issues either… looking to purchase a second mini 14 for my son…..

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