View Full Version : Mini-14 horror stories

January 21, 2013, 08:22 PM
Over the years ive heard many bad stories about the Ruger Mini series rifles. such as horrible reliability, Minute of Mount Rushmore accuracy, and burnt out barrels in 2K rounds. ive also heard that the early production rifles were great, then they began to go down hill in quality rapidly. I love the idea of the Garand style action in a small handy package, but Ive held off adding one to the collection due to the fact of all the bad stuff ive heard. Is there any truth to these rumors? If so; what should I look for to find the ones of higher quality?

January 21, 2013, 08:42 PM
I think the newer versions are much better than the older ones. But I'm also looking for one of the newer ones since AR's are stupid expensive right now. Can someone shed some more light on what to look for? And I mean people that actually has/had one. Not the black rifle only crowd that bashes everything that isn't AR Stoner design.

January 21, 2013, 08:42 PM
I'm not an expert, but I've read that Ruger addressed the accuracy issues, and if you get one with a serial number > 500000 you shouldn't have a problem. I have a 581-series GB model and I like it.

The reliability problems are probably just bad magazines.

January 21, 2013, 09:01 PM
what kind of accuracy are you getting?

January 21, 2013, 09:10 PM
I couldn't really say; I'm a good shot with a revolver and a lousy shot with a pistol or rifle.

I can hit a "dessert" sized paper plate every time at 25 yards shooting offhand, standing, with open sights -- but it looks more like a shotgun pattern than a grouping. I need to try dinner-sized plate at 100 yards.

Alabama Shooter
January 21, 2013, 09:26 PM
I would say that reliability was their strong suit accuracy was their weakness.

In a happy story I recently traded mine in for twice what I paid for it. :)

January 21, 2013, 10:00 PM
Any Mini-14 built after 2004 should be fine. Starting with the 580 series of rifles they are all built on retooled equipment. Starting with the 581 series they all have the heavier profile barrel (later 580s had this barrel too, earlier ones did not) which helped to get rid of the barrel whip the earlier rifles were known for. Most that have owned early rifles will tell you that accuracy was acceptable for hunting (first 3 shots from a cold barrel would go right where they were supposed to) but as the barrels heated up they would start vertical stringing. My 581 series rifle will put factory ammo into a 2" 5 shot group @ 100yds, it'll ground handloads into 1 1/2" (although I still need to tweak that load to see if I can shrink that). This is perfectly acceptable accuracy for it's intended purpose as an all around ranch rifle. All Minis except the target version are 5.56 chambers even though they say .223 Rem, target versions are .223 Rem only. If you like the Garand style action you will love the Minis, I wouldn't trade mine for anything.


January 21, 2013, 10:05 PM
My Mini was purchased in the early 1970's with a serial number starting with 181. At 100 yards it is acccurate within 3" which is fine by me.

January 21, 2013, 10:23 PM
how about the Mini-30? my dad had one for a long time and my brother actually took his first deer with it. Im still angry he sold it! can anyone vouch for the 30?

Art Eatman
January 21, 2013, 10:28 PM
I had four early models, trading in and out through the years. On each, I put a Weaver K4.

Reliability was 100%.

Three-shot groups of about 1.5 inches at 100 yards was common. The best part for me, as a hunter, was that the first shot was always right where I wanted it.

Since I used mine pretty much mostly as hunting rifles, bench rest groups beyond three shots weren't part of my deal.

the rifleer
January 21, 2013, 10:40 PM
I heeerd that them chevys rust faster than them fords, which you have to fix or repair daily...

I have a mini 14. Its a 580 model and it is a hoot to shoot. I was at a range and shot at 18'' steel plates from the standing position. I hit the plate 10 out of 10 times at 200 yards. I literally, and yes I do mean literally, had 3 complete strangers with custom ar15's walk over and ask me "what ammo are you using?", "is that a target barrel?" "What modifications have you made to it?".

Its a completely stock Ruger ranch rifle that was shooting bulk american eagle ammo. Sure, its not a target rifle and it will not win a precision rifle competition, but neither will most other stock rifles. Its a great gun and I really like it. If you don't, that's fine. Its one more Ruger for someone who will appreciate it. Its well made and is very reliable. If you miss a soda can at 100 yards, its your fault, not the rifle's.

January 21, 2013, 10:42 PM
Any reliability issues you may of heard about with the Mini-14 is bunk. As stated, that's it strong point.

As for accuracy issue with the older ones.......... IMO that's bunk too. No they aren't target guns, no thye aren't as accurate as the average AR. But does that mean they're trash? Not by a long shot. They have advantages over AR series guns.

Buy old or new with confidence but don't expect it to be something it was never intended to be.

January 21, 2013, 10:48 PM
Never had any reliability issues. Accuracy on the ones I had was nothing to write home about, but not as bad as they sometimes get credit for. There were a few small foreign militaries that tried them as well as a few US police agencies as a cheaper alternative to an AR back in the 70's and 80's. The word is that for a lot of sustained fire they don't hold up well. But that is not what they were designed for, and not what most use them for.

They were designed as an inexpensive farm or ranch rifle that could be exposed to a lot of dirt and dust while carried on a tractor or behind the seat of a pick-up and for the occasional shot at a coyote or fox. They serve that role well enough. I'd trust one just fine for SD purposes as long as I could get Ruger factory magazines. I'd bet any horror stories on reliabilty were with cheap aftermarket magazines.

I actually like the rifles and owned several when they sold for $300 and an AR was selling for $1,000. They made a lot of sense then, but when Mini's started selling for $700 and an AR was $700 it was a no brainer. I changed over to AR's. For the same money my AR's do everything better.

It will be interesting to see how things work out over the next few weeks and months. The Mini may start looking a lot better again.

January 21, 2013, 11:02 PM
i already have an Bushmaster 20'' AR, and i have a Rock River Coyote Carbine upper ordered that i want to build a lower for...when i get it is a different story. the Mini-14 idea was more of a "those are kinda cool i should get one" type of idea. the more i think about it i wonder: "im going to have 2 AR's why the heck should i buy a Mini-14, it will just turn into another safe queen" so the Mini-30 is what im leaning toward now. i would like something in the common, (pre-histaria) cheep and good for just about anything i wanna shoot at 7.62X39. the SKS's and AK's are cool, but big and heavy to tote around as a "utility rifle". ARRRGGG!!! when the gun bug bites, it sure does bite hard!

January 21, 2013, 11:13 PM
oh BTW, i wont be buying anything anytime soon...just looked at gunbroker.com......i didnt see anything going for less than 900$ :O

January 22, 2013, 12:16 AM
Yeah, my local store has one for $1600. And, it's got a factory folder so it's probably so old Ruger can't fix it if there's problems.

Mr. Whimsy
January 22, 2013, 01:02 AM
I wouldn't buy any Mini right now unless you want to pay stupid money for it.

That being said, I just sold a Tactical that I considered accurate. Something like 2.25" 3-shot groups at 100, sometimes a hair bigger. I would buy again.

I've had a buch of earlier Minis over the years (pre-580 series) that I couldn't hit the side of a barn with. I would love to have them back again to re-test with a top of the line scope, though.

The Mini has a super power - it can jack-hammer the innards of any cheap scope so badly that the optic itself becomes unreliable. I believe that is the main reason people can't hit anything with them. In my rashness, I just didn't realize my scopes were no longer holding zero, and that is how I explain my 8-inch groups. Instead of buying a good scope like I should, I sold the guns.

If you have quality glass, I wouldn't hesitate to buy any new Mini based on the last model I owned.

January 22, 2013, 03:20 AM
Mini-14 prices have gone as high as ARs now. At least in the classifieds and at dealers and funshows.

But then, I been trying for a FTF trade of a minty SAIGA for an older Mini-14 - no takers. The used $400.00 Minis I used to walk past at the funshows are now worth their weight in gold.

January 22, 2013, 08:21 AM
I have an AC556 (full-auto mini-14) built sometime prior to '86. I've fired it many times in semi and full-auto. It's very reliable, durable and accurate enough for a 13"-barrel carbine. I've never had anything break on it and have not had to replace the barrel.

Mini-14's were built to be able to withstand full-auto fire. I am very skeptical about stories of Mini-14's wearing out barrels and breaking parts. Accuracy out of the box is a different story. If you demand AR-or-better accuracy from a Mini-14, that usually means replacing the stock barrel with a heavier aftermarket one.

January 22, 2013, 08:36 AM
I have a late 90 s mini 30 that I can rapid fire into a paper plate at 100 yards all day long with any ammo. Absolutely reliable. Occasional dud primer but never ever had a jam.

January 22, 2013, 09:16 AM
This story is about the older Mini 14s (mid to late '80s), I have no knowledge about the newer ones.

Back in the '80s the Anchorage Police Dept started their SWAT team, (called them CRT). I was chosen to provide the initial rifle training for the program.

They bought Mini 14s. (I thought this was silly since they could have gottne M16a1s from the Army FREE). Anyway we had difficulities qualifying with those rifles. Some malfunctions but mostly these guns were not near accurate enough to be use as a police rifle.

It wasn't the shooters, I got some NG M16s for them to try and they had no difficulity qualifying with the '16s, it was the gun.

I'm not talking about target quality rifle. I use the KD range to 400 yards, and the Army's "pop up" 300 meter targets. We could get better groups at 400 yards with the M16s then we could with the Minis at 200. We were using hte same ammo in both guns.

They just couldn't meet my standards or what I thought a Police Rifle was capable of shooting.

The Department did eventually go to M16s, not sure what they use now, I retired 19 years ago.

Again, this was the older rifles, the newer Mini's may be different, I haven't shot them much.

Corrections Cop
January 22, 2013, 10:42 AM
We shoot Mini 14's for work (Michigan Department of Corrections). They have synthic stocks, 20 round mags. They are Government Models, if that makes a diffrence. We have to quailify once a yr from up 100 yards. I can hit a silloette target at 100 yards for score with open sights every time. Its not a sniper or compatition rifle, so it should'nt be compaired to them. It does what we need it to do. Yeah it would be great to get AR-15's but I dont see that happening, because we just got brand new TASERs.

January 22, 2013, 11:13 AM
Most of the horror stories on the Mini-14 are from the haters. Haters are going to hate regardless. I have 3 mini's, A 181 series I bought back in 1979, a 183 series GB folder and a recent production Mini-30 tactical. Never had any issues with any of them. They are essentially very reliable and rugged, an American AK-47 if you will. Ruger has some of the best customer support in the industry.

If you are looking for a Mini-14, just avoid the 180 series because Ruger no longer has any parts for them and any aftermarket accessories support only the 181 series and later models.

The thinner barreled older models did have some issues with accuracy due to barrel whip. There are products on the market that will stiffen the barrel and improve accuracy like the Accu-Strut. www.accu-strut.com. Also there has been noted improvement using the Ultimak as well www.ultimak.com .

Right now as most are aware, pricing on Mini's have skyrocketed due to the scares of mag bans and banning of assault weapons. There are still some good deals out there, you just need to look for them.

January 22, 2013, 11:57 AM
Ruger has some of the best customer support in the industry.

I disagree with this. Ruger stopped supporting the AC556. Not only is it difficult to get parts, because Ruger never makes parts available to the public, no one has a chance to stock up on parts before they decide not to support one of their products. To be fair, I think Ruger will still try to fix a broken AC556 if they have parts. But, the lack of support for AC556's is disappointing.

January 22, 2013, 12:01 PM
I had an older Mini. I loved the light weight and reliability but it was a bit lacking in the accuracy department.

January 22, 2013, 12:41 PM
Ruger has some of the best customer support in the industry.
I disagree with this. Ruger stopped supporting the AC556. Not only is it difficult to get parts, because Ruger never makes parts available to the public, no one has a chance to stock up on parts before they decide not to support one of their products. To be fair, I think Ruger will still try to fix a broken AC556 if they have parts. But, the lack of support for AC556's is disappointing.

Not all of us are so lucky to be able to have an AC556. In this day and age it seems that everything is about cost cutting or companies covering themselves. Not sure if the not supporting the AC556 is similar to the 180 series Mini's due to no parts, or that they aren't as popular, or there are not many out there, or some bean counter or lawyer said it wasn't in the company's best interests. I can understand why they may not support the AC556 which is unfortunate.

January 22, 2013, 01:46 PM
No horror story here and I'm not bashing Ruger. They're a good company and getting even better with the kids in charge now. I just didn't like my 1996 Mini-14 stainless ranch rifle. Being accurate for just your 1st 3 shots is BS. There are accurizing tools out there for them, but when you add them to the price and the cost of quality magazines, you were up around the cost of an AR rifle. What finally did it for me was when I bought a 30 year older Yugo SKS that out-shot the Mini-14 from the 1st round to the last, all day long! There was no comparison, not even considering the SKS only cost $125 then. Nowadays (before Sandy Hook), for what they cost, you can easily get an AR for just a little more, and again, with magazines, the same price. The uber reliability of the Mini isn't so much of a concern with a well made AR. I was a little tempted with the newer Minis, but Saigas and now Veprs are easy to come by and offer the same accuracy with an AK action for less cost and I have my choice of caliber as well.

Come and take it.
January 22, 2013, 03:51 PM
no horror stories from my neck of the woods.

Even the skinny barreled models can be accurate if you use heavier bullets. I remember having a stainless 180 +series that I got consistent 1 and a half inch groups when using 69 grain match factory loaded ammunition. 2 and a half inch groups using 62 grain ball.

6 inch groups using 55 grain ball.

That skinny barrel did a poor job of taking out bad harmonics and the twist rate was very high for lighter bullets.

Reliablity wise I think they have all ran like a champ. You can run a mini 14 without maintenance for a very long time.

Only problem was a failure by Ruger at the time to provide high capacity magazines to civilians. So you had to get a Ramline hybrid mag if you wanted solid reliablity.

January 22, 2013, 06:06 PM
I have a 580 series with the thin barrel profile. With an accustrut added and a trigger job done by local gunsmith it made a huge difference in my accuracy. It will shoot between 1.5-2.5'' at 100yrds with no problem. My best group of 1.25'' was with 60gr sierra bullets, W748 powder and wolf magnum primers. Its a very consistent shooting rifle and its never had a malfunction of any kind in over 5yrs of shooting it since it was new. The only horror story I know of is the price some people are trying to sell mini's for right now.

January 23, 2013, 08:28 AM
Price? Yes, that would be a horror story. Old Bill Ruger would be rolling over in his grave if he knew his mini-14's were fetching that kind of price. I remember when Walmart sold Mini-14's for about $250.

January 23, 2013, 10:40 AM
every couple of years I forget how bad they shoot and buy another. only one of the five versions I have owned shoot well. tried the original one when it cost 179. the ranch, both blued and stainless, the min30 once.
.....even when mounting a good scope on one didn't help. it was just easier to see how bad it shot. I am scared to try one of the newer ones with the heavier barrel. bobn

January 23, 2013, 03:19 PM
My series 184 Mini-14 was purchased new in 1985. It has proven to be reliable and durable. Though it's no bench rifle, it'll stay under 3" @ 100 yards, with three shots, using factory ammunition and stock open sights. Groups get around 4" as the barrel heats up but, with the factory peep sight and my 69 year old eyes, I'm ok with that. The gun is what it is: a handy, light-weight, reliable carbine that rides the trail with me, in camp, or in the truck or on a tractor in a very unpretentious, workman-like way. It's a keeper, just the way it is.

January 23, 2013, 10:19 PM
My 183 series will shoot 3" groups @ 100 yards if I do my part. Not too bad for a $250 investment...

January 23, 2013, 10:27 PM
I have an older one built in 1995. Granted it will not shoot MOA, but with most 55grs it will keep about 3" at 100m. I did try a box of the Hornady Zoombie Ammo it did put five shots in less than two inches. Still one of my favorite rifles.

January 23, 2013, 10:29 PM
that's a nice looking classic mini-14 there black sheep.

Nine the Ranger
January 24, 2013, 02:00 AM
Not to hijack the thread, I was just wondering if anyone has a line on a good folding stock, scope, and/or flash hider for a 581 series Mini-14.

How hard would it be to have the barrel threaded?

January 24, 2013, 04:13 PM
see now if i could pick up one for 250$ i think i may be able to live with myself :D just to have as a play around rifle. they are just sexy looking

Art Eatman
January 24, 2013, 06:15 PM
Mausermolt, just as an FYI, they are darned good hunting rifles for jackrabbits and coyotes.

There was a huge population explosion of jackrabbits in northern Nevada and southwestern Idaho in 1980 or 1981, I disremember which. Time magazine had an article on it. A buddy and I went out from Winnemucca and set up over a marshy area. Each of us had Minis. We each popped around fifty before getting bored. Came back a week later, couldn't tell that we'd even made a dent. Coyotes were sitting around picking their teeth, waiting for us. Had another hour of shooting.

Ignition Override
January 25, 2013, 12:52 AM
Maybe you've already checked "Armslist" for your state.
There might be a seller who is not trying to make a killing, but just wants to sell.

One hang-up is that when guys were too impulsive investing in accessories and only sell as a package, this keeps prices too high for others who only want the basic rifle.

I might really like a classic Pontiac Firebird from '73, but not with somebody else's junk stuck on it, and maybe not the fluffy, furry stuff on the seats as if driven by a German (or Russian) pimp near the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (train station).

4V50 Gary
January 25, 2013, 01:28 AM
Nine the Ranger - look at Black Sheep's image of the slip on and pinned flash hider. There's your ticket. As for scoping it, I wouldn't scope a Mini. A Ranch yes, but not a Mini. Minis given time will destroy a scope because of upward shell ejection and energy transferred from a vibrating receiver into the scope base. That's why a buffer ring was built and sideway ejection was engineered into the Ranch Rifle.

Art Eatman
January 25, 2013, 09:56 AM
"Minis given time will destroy a scope..."

Glad I didn't know that. I might not have been able to kill all those jackrabbits, without the scope. But, I only put a bit over a couple of thousand rounds through that particular Mini. :D

January 25, 2013, 10:37 AM
Yeah it would be great to get AR-15's but I dont see that happening, because we just got brand new TASERs.
If you are sworn law officers DOD will send you as many "surplus" select fire rifles as full time officers at no charge. You send a letter on official letterhead and they just show up in a week in an unmarked box. Not sure, but I think they also offer semi-auto. This is a big part of why no one uses minis anymore.
I disagree with this. Ruger stopped supporting the AC556
The AC556 hasn't been produced for civilians in almost 30 years. What company continues to officially support a product 30 years after production ends? From what I have heard they do fix them and have parts b/c they do still make the rifle for police/military even if they don't have many contracts.

4V50 Gary
January 25, 2013, 11:56 AM
Art - learned what I did at the factory. They had every cheap scope imaginable to Leupold scoped Minis returned to them on the rifle with complaints that the gun broke it. You're lucky and I am happy for everyone whose scope didn't fail.

Oh, if it's Mini horror stories, I was at a class and two guys brought Mini-14s. There was one M-14 type rifle and the rest of us had ARs (almost all Colts back then). The Minis had malfunctions and the one I recall was the trigger group falling out. User error because of improper reassembly.

January 25, 2013, 12:27 PM
I have a Mini-14 581 GB (heavy barrel 16", w/ flash suppressor) with a wood "ranch rifle" stock. Been thinking of putting a scope on it because it came with a set of Ruger rings -- probably a $200 Leupold 2-7X that I'm not using. Any precautions I need to take, or should this model be OK?

Corrections Cop
January 25, 2013, 04:00 PM
I did not know that about the DOD. But really all our Mini's are used for Tower Rifles, or the ERT Team, but they have the tactical model's with the pistol grip stocks. I cant see the higher up's letting us get AR's, maybe in a few years, thats what our Arsenal Sgt. was telling me.

Come and take it.
January 25, 2013, 06:53 PM
I have been running a cheap bsa shotgun scope on my mini- thirty for several years. Rapid fire or whatever it hasnt failed me.

I lost a bushnell once on a mini 25 years ago, but I also lost a simmons varmint scope just a few years ago from shooting a 17hmr rimfire.

So that certianly isn't enough information to confirm a hypothesis that they are hard on scopes. I suggest a call to ruger to ask them if they are aware of this issue.

The mini has been used successfully in the roles it was designed for.

No one wants to hear that their gun is worse or better. Right now you have a lot of people owning ARs and they surely wouldn't want to be told that their gun is inferior to something that on average is less expensive.

I suggest owning all of them like I have at one time or another or all at once.

One thing is for sure is that it took a lot of time before anything was done about bringing optical sights down to a reasonable elevation for a target shooter to use effectively in an ar15.

This was never a problem with the mini 14 ranch rifle. It was the main reasons why I disliked owning an ar15. If you could not double the gun as a short range plinker or groundhog killer at close distances using a scope than what good was it in my opinion.

Also in combat the mini14 shares the same advantage as the m14 when using open sights. about 1 and a half inches more of your head is hidden behind cover when using a rifle where the open sights are just off the barrel.

So basically it took until this century before the AR could catch up to the versatility and affordablity of the mini14.

The only time the platform (mini14, ac556) was a horror story was when it was in the wrong hands such as during the platt-mattox gunfight. its reliablity made it very horrible than and I am sure a lot of people would have hoped Ruger had not built such an effective gun at the time.

January 25, 2013, 07:37 PM
Old man got me one about 15 years ago as a "good grades"incentive.

Gets hot quickly, its an early model eith a pencil barrel. But as my first center fire rifle that weapon made the cans i was shooting explode more spectacularly than any 22 did before it.

It is not a bench gun, but neither are most ars. Seems to me it is an entry center fire rifle.

Love mine, and so will my son.

January 25, 2013, 10:31 PM
I've got an older Bushnell 1.25-4.5x24 on my 581 Mini and no issues so far. Granted I don't have a ton of rounds through it with that tube on it, less than 1000 rounds. I'm a big fan of low power variables on these rifles.


January 26, 2013, 02:56 PM
No horror stories here, my 580 series Mini-14 will hold 2" groups at 100 yards and I get a few that are 1.5" I'm plenty happy with this.

Its an extremely rugged, fun gun to shoot. I didn't go shopping for a match rifle anyway....I have a .308 for that.:p

I've got a Burris FFII 3-9x40 scope on mine and I've had no issues, probably have 1000 rounds out of it. Not one FTF or FTE, not one!

January 29, 2013, 07:50 AM
I really like the Mini. Wish I had bought one rather than the SIG556 I bought. The SIG is utterly reliable, but I just prefer the ergonomics of the standard rifle stock better than those with pistol grips. In the end, I was concerned of accuracy and reliability, and I chose the SIG. It is both accurate and reliable, but I still just don't like it.

I think I may try to trade mine on a Mini 14 here in the near future.

And other than on the internet, I haven't heard of any Mini horror stories, all I've heard from guys I know who shoot them is they are good, reliable, accurate little rifles.

January 29, 2013, 11:21 AM
Every firearm has it's detracters especially now in the internet age. The best advice I can give you is to ignore them.

Strafer Gott
January 29, 2013, 03:09 PM
I had an early one, and I now have the late model 581. I really like the new version. It has the Hogue overmolded stock, and is just about the handiest quickest little .223 I've handled. I haven't benched it because I don't need to. It is obviously accurate when shooting off hand at clays at 100m. It is still usably accurate even when it's smoking hot(no kidding smoking). I recommend it to any soul lucky enough to lay eyes on an affordable one.

January 30, 2013, 10:00 PM
I have had a 181 series for about 12 years now. When I was younger I put on a pistol grip folding stock and my ex-girlfriend held my factory stock for whatever purposes. I've recently been wanting to play with the Ruger again and am looking at going with a Hogue or Choate stock.

Other than that the rifle is as accurate as I need it to be for burning coyotes. I don't bullseye shoot it, it's a utility gun that's sat unfired for too long.

I wouldn't fear buying one for the right price.

January 31, 2013, 08:07 AM
if you shoot a mini-223 or a mini-7.62x39 be sure you take it apart and clean the under side of the barrel and reciever when shooting corrosive ammo,i got a mini-30 in trade and boy was it rusted and pitted under neath the wood. the gas system allows the gases to go all over the under side of the rifle. ruger would not do a thing with it and i don,t blame them as it was just owner abuse. eastbank.