How to make an old Ruger Mini 14 more accurate.

How to make an old Ruger Mini 14 more accurate.

There have been a lot of articles written, comments posted and videos produced lamenting the inaccuracy and supposed inadequacy of the Ruger Mini 14. However, the problem is not nearly as big as many Mini 14 detractors wish to make it.

It’s true that the old Ruger Mini 14s tend to be less accurate than the newer ones in their stock configuration.  Once Ruger retooled and reworked the design, a new Mini 14 could be expected to hold groups of roughly 2 inches or less at 100 yards out of the box (depending upon the ammunition used and the shooter’s ability to shoot).   An older Mini 14, like the Ranch Rifle I purchased around 1990, would often produce discouraging 100 yard groups of between 6 and 9 inches out of the box.  Basically, if you were shooting at a basketball sized target with an older Mini 14, you could reliably  hit it at 100 yards.  Shooting at anything smaller than that could be a bit frustrating.

At this point you might be saying to yourself, “This GunGuy is an idiot.  If the old Mini 14 is that bad, why does he still have it?”  The answer is that the rifle isn’t that bad and it wasn’t particularly difficult or expensive to solve the accuracy problem.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.  The Ruger Mini 14, for all the accuracy issues it had at the beginning, is a rugged, ridiculously reliable, handy little rifle.  It’s quick to the shoulder, easy and fun to shoot, has very little recoil and is chambered for a fairly powerful and versatile cartridge.  When you get right down to it, there are only two complaints that I regularly hear about Mini 14s.  The first is all about accuracy, which has been solved in the newer models. The second is an age old argument that I have always considered absurd. Namely, that the Mini 14 is worthless because it has somehow failed to be an AR-15.  Without starting World War III, let me quickly clear both of those complaints so that we might move on.   First, the new Mini 14s no longer have the inherent accuracy issues, so that complaint can be put to bed.  Second, the Mini 14 vs AR-15 debate is, at least in my humble opinion, ridiculous and pointless because the two rifles are completely different.  Each has it’s strong points and weak points.  Select the one you like the best and stop denigrating the other guy for picking the rifle you didn’t.  Now that I’ve cleared the air on that, I’ll spend my time in this article addressing simple cures for the accuracy issues with the older model Minis.

Like many rifles I’ve owned, the older Mini 14 did not live up to it’s accuracy potential in it’s stock configuration.  For example, I’ve had many a hunting rifle that needed to have its stock bedded.   Bedding a rifle stock is a simple and inexpensive do-it-yourself project that dramatically increased the accuracy of every one of my hunting rifles.  So, one of the first things I did with my Mini 14 was bed the stock.

The action-to-stock fit of an older Mini 14 is relatively loose.  That allows the action of the rifle to move around with every shot.  Obviously, that is not conducive to accuracy and needs to be addressed.  The simplest, easiest and least expensive way to solve this problem is to bed the stock.  Taking that simple step reduced the rifle’s 100 yard groups from an average of 8 1/2 inches to 6 1/4 inches.  Not bad for a procedure that cost me about twelve bucks and took me about an hour and half’s work to complete.

The sights on an older Mini 14 Ranch Rifle are not all that great.  The rear flip-up sight is flimsy and the aperture is very large.  I suppose the rear sight aperture has to be large to accommodate the VERY course front sight.  Still, the combination of a large aperture rear sight and a very large front sight makes aiming at smaller targets at any distance very challenging.  In fact, the front sight is so big that it would sometimes completely blot out the target I was trying to hit.  To address this little problem, I picked up a nice Weaver 4 power scope on sale and mounted it to the rifle.  What a difference!  The scope immediately improved the sighting of the rifle by a gigantic margin and allowed me to see and aim at smaller targets at greater distances.

Now that I had the stocked bedded and a good sighting system, I had to address THE major contributor to the inaccuracy of old Mini 14s; the barrel design.  The barrel is both tapered and much to thin.  As a result, the harmonics brought about by the bullet passing through the barrel causes the barrel to whip and move with every shot.  The truth is that every rifle barrel experiences harmonic vibrations and moves. The problem is that the old Mini 14 barrels move a lot!  Additionally, the thin barrel is prone to overheating.  When the barrel get’s hot, it’s movement is further pronounced, causing additional accuracy problems.   One obvious cure for this problem is to spend a ton of money having a gunsmith replace the barrel.  A quicker, less expensive and easier solution is to attach a strut to the barrel and the gas block.  The strut I purchased is called an Accu-Strut.  I purchased the stainless steel version, since my Mini 14 Ranch Rifle is stainless steel. The Accu-Strut cost me less than $100 dollars and took me about 15 minutes to install.  The strut gave the barrel needed rigidity to prevent the exaggerated whipping caused by the barrel’s harmonics when the gun is fired.  It also acted as a heat sink drawing heat away from the barrel and preventing the barrel from overheating.   The results were impressive.  The addition of the Accu-Strut decreased the average size of my 100 yard groups from 6 1/4 inches to 3 1/4 inches.  Now I could keep every round in an area the size of a dessert plate at 100 yards.

The last step I took with my rifle was the simplest of all.  It was also the most fun.  I purchased a variety of premium hunting and self-defense ammunition and tested it in my rifle.  Once I had found the ammunition that my rifle likes best, I bought more of it.  By using that specific ammunition in my rifle, I further reduced the average size of my 100 yard groups to 2 1/2 inches.

With very little work and an expenditure of less than $300, not including the cost of ammunition, I was able to improve my rifle’s accuracy from average 100 yard groups of 8 1/2 inches to average groups of 2 1/2 inches.   Now I have a supremely reliable fighting rifle with which I can easily clobber a bad guy out to 300 yards.  I live in the  city.  That’s more than I’ll ever need.

I’ve since added an Amega Ranges Mini Scout Rail to my rifle along with an inexpensive red dot sight.  The Amega Ranges rail system attaches directly to the barrel.  I’m not sure, but I’ll bet the added rigidity provided by attaching the rail system to the barrel might further improve the rifle’s accuracy.  I haven’t had occasion to test that theory, but I plan to do so in a future video.  In the meantime, if you have an older Mini 14, don’t despair.  With a very small expenditure of cash and a little effort you can turn that rifle into a combat accurate defense rifle that will serve your family well for generations.