Accurizing The Mini 14 Ranch Rifle For Under $35 – What You Need to Know to Hit the “Bulls Eye”…

This is a guest post by Ezekiel M and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

I am currently a licensed and acting Gunsmith and many times over the years I have heard many people tell me that the Ruger Mini 14, either Ranch Rifle or earlier versions are in accurate. So in the Mid 90’s. I decided to buy a used one for myself. It cost me a whopping 200.00 (I wish now that I would have bought everyone I had seen) and at the time it was maybe two years old. I had gotten it at this price because the gentleman I got it off of was having accuracy issues.

At the time I figured for the price why not. If anything I could take the parts and sell them if I couldn’t fix the accuracy issues. The first thing I did was make sure it was safe but I took it to my range and put about 20 rounds down range at 100 yards on 4 different targets. The reason why I do it like this is to pattern it properly. I used at the time 55gr American Eagle FMJBT.

The Pattern that I was getting was less than stellar. I would get 1 close to the Bulls eye and then I would have some up to 3 ½” off the paper. They were very bad groups.

So the first thing I did was simply clean the bore with a very Heavy Duty Copper and Lead Solvent called Sweets 7.62 Solvent. Shooters choice works very well as a replacement. I have unfortunately not been able to find the Sweets solvent for a few years but if you see a bottle around some where I highly recommend it. After that I did the normal routine of cleaning the action the gas piston etc.

After this I did something that most people would not normally due. I work as well for an Industrial firm and I remembered using at the time a type of molly spray. So I purchased a bottle of this as it comes in a spray can and it cost about $12.00. I re-cleaned the bore with alcohol getting rid of all the oil residue and I sprayed a very fine coat of the molly spray down the barrel making sure to rotate the gun as I go so I do not get any build up. I made sure I let the firearm rest for about 1 week to let the molly properly cure before shooting.

When you first go out to the range I found by doing what I did above, the first three rounds will be a little sporadic. And they will be spoilers after this I found the bullets stabilize very well. What this molly coat did was fill in any imperfections in the barrel, severely reduce metal fowling reduces wear due to corrosive ammo and it did help improve the accuracy. At this point it brought three round groups to about a 1 ½”. Which isn’t bad but I wanted better.

So a few years ago I came back to the inaccuracy issue with the Mini 14. I started looking into the design of the Ruger Mini 14 and it had a fatal flaw. The Barrels were too thin. (This was before Ruger came out with the heavy barrels for the Mini 14). What would happen in the most basic sense is after each shot the barrel would vibrate and move. This would cause the next round to exit the barrel at a different angel making the round inaccurate.

So I looked at stabilizing the barrel. I started looking around at a few other designs of firearms that had had similar issues and they always had a second rod or a rib to help strengthen the barrel and stabilize it better. So I tried a few things with limited success and the problem was that I would require machining equipment to make new parts and I wanted to do it at a low cost and in mass.

So I was looking at some other parts as I have been upgrading SKS rifles like mad and custom building them for a few people. Will one of my customers wanted to add an accessory I think it was a flash light. They wanted it to be a picante or weaver mount but they didn’t want the mount to be permanently attached to the stock so I started looking at barrel mount options. So I ordered a mount from Combat Hunting (MNT-BR002LP – Deluxe Tri Rail Barrel Mount 2 Slot) for the barrel. Will the mount was a double clamp design.

There was about $13.00. So I ordered two spares and put them on my Mini 14. I had an old messed up .22 Barrel off of an old Cooey sitting around so I measured up a piece cut it with the Chop saw and installed it with the clamps on the bottom of the Mini 14 Barrel. The front Clamp must fit snug against the front sight and the second as close to the stock as possible. Make sure to butt up the spare metal piece to the lower stock when you do this. It added an extra pound which to me is not a real issue. But is also gave me some spare accessory rails.

The next time I went to the range and I couldn’t believe the accuracy change. I was getting ½” Groups at 100 yards using some Winchester (Israeli) Mil Surp 55 grain ammo. So I tried some American Eagle 55 grain and I was getting comparable groups. The next I tried were some custom loads with some 52 Grain James Calhoun tips. I was getting better groups then the Mil Surp. So I would highly recommend this fix to anybody

If you don’t have an extra barrel kicking around just use a piece of SCH 40 ½” pipe, or even an old messed up tire iron will work. Really any piece of rigid metal without flex seems to work. This will cost you a grand total of about $35.00. Which is awesome?

As well I have been adding the moly coat product Moly Mist to my 300 Win. Mag, .270, 6.5 X 55, .308 exedra. I found that it helps to reduce fowling a lot and it improves accuracy. I can normally do about 200 Barrels with one can which is great. I have had very few issues and I highly recommend this product well.

This is an entry in our nonfiction writing contest – This contest will end on June 29 2013  – prizes include:

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Comments

  1. It’s good to see the problems with the Mini’s being addressed here. I know that a large number of them were shipped to Central America during the Regan years to The Contras, but due to their poor barrels and general construction they were soon replaced with AKM’s .
    The funny thing was that the Communist’s were using M-16’s we left behind in Vietnam, so we had Commie guns and they had Yankee guns.

  2. axelsteve says:

    My best friend had a mini 14 back in 77 or so.I thought the barrel was pretty thin and I did not understand why they used such a thin barrel The thinner the barrel the hotter it gets for shots being fired. a relative has a marlin xl7 in 30-06 and it has a pretty thin barrel. It is a hunting rifle not a shoot m up semi auto.

  3. JP in MT says:

    Ezekiel M:

    Thank you for the right up. I will be forwarding this to a couple of friends who have Mini 14’s.

  4. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Very interesting article – Thank you for posting it. Many Savage 24 combination rifle / shotgun owners noted that the stacked barrels, (especially the older soldered barrel models) seemed to demonstrate better accuracy. It was thought that having that extra steel was the reason for this.

    My own experience with the Mini-14 – stock rifle ran pretty much pie plate accuracy (6″ – 8″) groups near 80 yds away. The light barrel and heavy blade do not contribute to accuracy. I haven’t done anything about the barrel, but switched to a steel muzzle device with ringed ‘HK’ like front sight blade. Heavier weight + thinner profile blade helped tighten the groups, and the rifle steadyed much quicker when shooting offhand. Then again, the lighter blade profile was difficult to sight through in dark conditions – nothing is free, I guess.

    I’m curious to see what a stabilizer like this could do, but I really like the light carry rifle configuration of what it is now so this will be debated a bit. Thanks again for writing it.

    • Zeker98 says:

      Hey JR,

      I was thinking about the weight issue I haven’t tried this but you might be able to use Billet ALuminum as well instead of a steel bar. This will definetlr reduce the weight but I am not sure how much flex you might get from the Aluminum

      • livinglife says:

        I bought a scout rail from Natchez that essentially clamps the barrel and added a combo front sight flash suppressor. The other improvement was an adjustable gas block. Once tuned to simply eject rounds the FPS went up as did results. Improved grouping on my 1976 mini to around 1.25 groups at 100 yards using hand loads. upgrade cost was around $225, still cheaper than a base AR at the time.

  5. There’s a product called accustrut which is a commercially made device for what you have described. They claim moderate accuracy improvment in the new mini’s, and drastic improvement in the old minis.

    Might be good for people who aren’t especially strong in their fabrication skills.

    I find my new mini pretty good.

  6. Zeker98 says:

    Hey Mike I tried to send you a copy of this but I couldn’t get it work.

    • maybe the email addy wasn’t working? Try my personal one mmandell19 (at) hotmail.com

      I’d really be interested in seeing pictures of this, if you could, to kind of wrap my mind around how you did it better?

  7. Rider of Rohan says:

    I sure do wish you had been around a few years ago before I got so frustrated and sold my Mini-14s. I could never get them to have the accuracy I needed. I did keep an old one just for the sake of it, but the thin barrel overheats quickly and accuracy is poor. And boy does it have a signature when fired at night.

    Enjoyed the article.

  8. I have a mini 30 , love it , had no problems with accuracy . People need to understand that its a carbine with a very short barrel , that means your not going to shoot a mile with it . I dont shoot at anything over 150 yards anyway , and even then , thats farther than I would want to shoot .

  9. Bam Bam says:

    Ezekiel,

    You can find the Sweets online. Here’s one link: http://www.cabelas.com/product/Sweets-Copper-Remover-Solvent/727671.uts

    You can also get it on Amazon.

  10. Oldokie says:

    Hmm… and I thought it was just poor marksmanship on my part. I love the feel and look of the rifle though.

  11. What is a picante mount? I’d love to add a tacticool salsa holder to my rifle.. Just need to figure out where I’m going to store the tortilla chips.. ;) Seriously though folks, please edit and proofread your articles or send them to a friend and let them proofread your articles before you post them. Pretty sure you meant picatinny and not picante.. ;)

    • Had to laugh at your comment… I have a strong English language background and am constantly amazed at the writing and grammar mistakes people make. We must remember, though – the fault lies not necessarily with the individual but with our educational systems that shuffle people through the grades without demanding higher standards of both the students and the teachers. I myself was lucky to have had a few excellent English teachers. That does not mean, however, that I write perfectly… still learning every day.

      • SandE,

        I bet that you love to read my articles… grammar mistakes a plenty.

      • SandE,
        I’m sometimes known around these parts as the grammar and spelling Nazi, although I do try to bite my tongue and limit my comments as much as possible. My problem of sorts, is that I grew up living next to my maternal grandfather, who taught math and English in the public school system, back in the 50’s and 60’s, when grammar and spelling still counted for something. In my house, “ain’t” was a four letter word, LOL.

  12. Back in the ’80s I bought a very well-used Mini-14 at a pawn shop, It had been used by one of the Basque sheepherders who’d emigrated to Utah, and it had seen a hard life. S/Ns showed it to be only about 6-7 years old, but it looked decades older. Finish shot, rusty, nicks, scratches, dings and dents. The stock was done-long crack from buttplate to grip right at cheek level. The bore looked like it had never been cleaned. I talked him down to $150 (he wanted $300 for it!) and walked away with it. Since the stock was hammered, I took the savings and got a plain-jane synthetic (nothing fancy, literally a plastic clone of the wood stock-can’t remember the mfg.) stock.

    I shot the barrel with Liquid Wrench, let it soak for a day and proceeded to scrub the rust and filth out, using almost a whole bag of patches until they came out clean. Took it out to the range the next day, and at 100 yards, without touching the sights an iota, it was dead on (2-3″ groups w/ mil spec 55gr.). Happy, I went home, took some steel wool and 400 grit paper, scoured up what was left of the finish, and hit it with a couple of coats of charcoal grill paint.

    Yes, the skinny barrel would heat up and the groups’d loosen up, but I only used to hunt coyotes and keep me company out in the desert anyway. Came with the factory 5 rounder, I sprung for a trio of 20 rounders and that was that. It looked so cool, I ended up trading it off a few years later. Always regret doing so.

  13. My first AR-15 was a stainless Mini-14 Ranch Rifle back in the early 1990’s (LOL) and had the accuracy issues you mentioned with the skinny little barrel. I eventually could afford a Colt HBAR, but in the interim, the ranch rifle took out its share of groundhogs at 100+ yards, and did a decent, although not stellar job on paper at 100 yards and under. If it’s all you can afford, for close up defense and hunting in the less than 100 yard arena it’s not a bad rifle, and other than accuracy issues, never gave me problems like jamming, which in a close in use is probably more important than long range accuracy. I think I paid about $300.00 back then, shot it for a few years, and sold it to a friend for that same $300.00, which helped defray the cost of the Colt.

  14. I’ve not heard of moly coating – what exactly is it, what does it do, and where can you get it?

  15. Darn, now I wish that I hadn’t sold my mini a few years back. I sold it for almost 500 dollars more than I paid for it so it was a good sale.

    It was almost new and when shooting the groups were so bad that It was imposible to get my scope sighted. After being really frustrated I decided not to pay for a gunsmith to put on a heavy barrel and just unload it.

    I’ll definitely consider one in the future now!

  16. Please post a picture of this for a reference as I’m more of a visual person. Thanks!