Ruger's Mini 14, '580' Series Ranch Rifle

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SargeMO

Single-Sixer
Joined
Aug 28, 2003
Messages
162
Location
MO
M580side.jpg


I recently swapped into a like-new 2007-production Mini 14. It's primary purpose was to fill the role of a Patrol Carbine. The Mini's .223 Remington cartridge and 'Ranch Rifle' designation also fit my secondary intentions for it quite well. Now, I don't have any heartburn for the AR15, but I definitely prefer the handling and two-stage trigger of the M14 platform and the Mini follows that basic layout.

My blue '07 Mini is in the 580-38xxx serial range and for those unfamiliar with the '580', it is the end product of a complete re-tooling aimed at enhancing the accuracy of this popular firearm. The last Mini 14 I owned was an old '78 model and while it was no slouch in the accuracy department, it was apparently an exception to the rule. Mini 14's have established a poor reputation for accuracy in the 30 years that have passed, between these rifles.

My current Mini was obtained in 'used- like new' condition and the bluing on the bolt was pristine until the first two magazines went down range. It wears the fiberglass handguard and hardwood stock common to the newer Mini's, and is equipped with a nice rubber pad where the slick, plastic buttplate used to be. This rifle has the 'straight' barrel profile which mics at 0.575 just ahead of the gas block and reduces to 0.565 about 3 5/8 inches ahead of that fixture.

The trigger is typical Mini meaning it is two-stage, like bolt-action military rifles of the 19th and 20th centuries. My RCBS Premium Trigger Pull Scale indicates that three pounds of force is required to overcome the first stage; five and one half pounds gets you through the second stage and fires the rifle. That second stage has some creep. This is due to hammer/sear engagement angles which actually cam the hammer backward a few thousandths, during the final press. If you pull the slack out of a stock Mini's trigger and then release it, the hammer will snap right back into full sear engagement. Of course there's a trade-off for everything and until you master it, the Mini's trigger can make precision shooting a real challenge.

A breezy fall day provided the opportunity to get acquainted with my 580 Mini. One of 'Sarge's Rules' is that the very first thing you do with any rifle, is to precisely zero its iron sights. They are on there for a reason and if all else fails- having a perfectly zeroed firearm can make the difference in who goes home to the Missus, and who goes home to their reward. A measured 210 yards separates my shooting table from the target frame and to my thinking, a 200 yard zero is just about right for most centerfire rifle cartridges.

Adjusting the 580's rear sight for windage involves loosening/tightening the opposing windage screws, and moving the aperture in the direction you want your group to go. Loosening the windage screws also frees the aperture to rotate up or down, to facilitate elevation adjustment. While the lack of click detents is something of a nuisance, it does provide a very fine degree of windage adjustment.

M580rSgt.jpg


6o rounds of Remington/UMC 55 grain FMJ was used for the initial shooting. Starting at 25 yards, I rough-zeroed the sights. I was soon back at 210 yards, firing three-shot groups and adjusting as I went. Four inches at 210 yards seemed to be about the best I could manage with the aperture sights .

Once the irons were 'on' I installed an old Bushnell 4X on the Mini, and repeated the process. It's crosshairs are so coarse that they blank out a 3" orange dot at 200 yards, but once I went to a bullseye target things got better.

I shot a while longer and noticed the groups were starting to scatter. A quick check of the mounts revealed that one of the receiver mount screws had worked itself loose on the rear ring. Since I was about done shooting for the day, I decided to just pull the scope off and reinstall it to determine how much the zero changed. I was happy to discover that the rifle still shot within three inches of its 210-yard zero. There were no malfunctions with the factory magazine and Remington's 55 grain, full metal jacket UMC load.

Next, I set about finding a reload that would shoot to the same 200 yard POA and the Rem/UMC 55 FMJ load; I had some Sierra 55 BTHP's on hand, with the ever present H4895- my standby rifle powder. Since I was using Lake City cases, I backed off the max a tad and started at 25.7 grains. To tell the truth, this batch of cases has been sitting around primed for so long that I can't recall what primer I used in them.

Luckily, the first load out of the chute was good and it shot exactly to the UMC load's point of impact, with either the scope or iron sights. It also grouped just as well and typical three shot, 210 yard groups looked like the pair pictured below. The group highlighted in red has two shots in just under 2 inches, with a third straggler opening it up to 3 ¾ inches. The dropped shot below the bull was simply operator error.

Mini210tgt.jpg


The best 3-shot group of the day was 1 3/4" at 210 yards, using the aforementioned UMC load. I think the rifle is actually shooting this well, as long as the barrel stays relatively cool. Once the targeting was done, I splattered several 100 oz. detergent jugs at 125-210 yards from rested field positions, using the irons. The initial shooting session laid any accuracy concerns to rest.

With the accuracy & reliability issues resolved, it was time to order some magazines. I contacted Ruger Law Enforcement Sales division and attempted to obtain a half-dozen of the factory 20-round component. I was promptly informed that Ruger does not sell directly to LE Agencies. I would have to go through one of two LE distributors to obtain the mags.

So I called the first (closest) one and learned that they were out of stock, but 'hoped' to have some 20 round Ruger magazines, 'soon'. I also learned that the Dept. price for these was over $41.00 each. Oddly, Ruger has a 'promo' going for new rifle buyers that gets them a free 20 round mag, and two more for $29.95 each. I guess that's my punishment for not paying $600+ for a new Mini 14. I finally just said 'To hell with it' and ordered some 20 round ProMags from Brownells.

When the ProMags arrived I gave them an 'acid test'- 50 rounds of over-length, lousy reloads I've been needing to shoot up for awhile. I knew the powder charge was safe but the primed LC brass was a freebie. I later learned that many had only been neck sized- if they were sized at all. To make it usable I pulled the decapper from a sizing die, and just ran the brass through primed. The end product was still pretty sorry with most over SAAMI overall length for the cartridge. The ProMags never missed a beat even with this junk ammo. I am really happy with these magazines, especially considering their price.

It is my opinion that these new Ranch Rifles are the best Mini's we've ever seen. Their non-slip buttpad and improved sights make them easy to mount quickly and shoot well from field positions. This particular specimen shoots better at over 200 yards, than many earlier Mini's would shoot at half that distance. While testing the ProMags, I managed to warm the barrel up pretty good while emptying of a couple of them. Even with a hot barrel, the last three-shot group of the day was 3 7/8 inches at 210 yards. In my experience, your average AR/M4 will not beat that significantly.

The accuracy improvements in these new Mini's, is a landmark accomplishment; Ruger seems to have finally resolved the single weakness of the Mini 14. Now all they need to do is make it easier/cheaper to obtain factory, 20 round magazines.
 

Psychman35

Bearcat
Joined
Oct 15, 2008
Messages
1
I am not sure where you got the information about Ruger selling 20 round Mini-14 mags for $29.00, but that isnt consistent with my knowledge. I just got off the phone with Ruger and I was told they arent even available yet for sale and when they are, the retail price will be $60.
 

Raoul Duke

Bearcat
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
1
Location
Carson City, NV
Psychman35":27ekyngq said:
I am not sure where you got the information about Ruger selling 20 round Mini-14 mags for $29.00, but that isnt consistent with my knowledge. I just got off the phone with Ruger and I was told they arent even available yet for sale and when they are, the retail price will be $60.

It's a promotion they're offering with the purchase of a new Mini.

http://www.ruger-firearms.com/FreeMag/index.html
 

TwistedHalo

Bearcat
Joined
Aug 1, 2008
Messages
2
Location
Bailey Island,Maine
WOW,that 210 yard group is better then my mini will do at 21 yards!Pisses me off,the only new rifle I ever bought and the most expensive gun I have ever bought turned out to be an in-bread tomato stake!

One of these days I am going to hack and wack on the thing,drill and tap some holes,soilder on some crap and and half fill those tapped holes!If it don't shoot at that point then it will be bump fired untill the barrel drips off!
 

TwistedHalo

Bearcat
Joined
Aug 1, 2008
Messages
2
Location
Bailey Island,Maine
WOW,that 210 yard group is better then my mini will do at 21 yards!Pisses me off,the only new rifle I ever bought and the most expensive gun I have ever bought turned out to be an in-bread tomato stake!

One of these days I am going to hack and wack on the thing,drill and tap some holes,soilder on some crap and and half fill those tapped holes!If it don't shoot at that point then it will be bump fired untill the barrel drips off!
 

wetidlerjr

Single-Sixer
Joined
Dec 17, 2002
Messages
299
Location
TIPTON IN/USA
TwistedHalo":1bqavmzf said:
WOW,that 210 yard group is better then my mini will do at 21 yards!Pisses me off,the only new rifle I ever bought and the most expensive gun I have ever bought turned out to be an in-bread tomato stake!

One of these days I am going to hack and wack on the thing,drill and tap some holes,soilder on some crap and and half fill those tapped holes!If it don't shoot at that point then it will be bump fired untill the barrel drips off!

Why don't you go here- Mini-14; learn something and forget the "hack and wack" nonsense ? :mrgreen:
 

Go Navy

Bearcat
Joined
Jan 13, 2008
Messages
48
Location
Northern Taxifornia
SargeMO: great, informative review and you obviously took some time to prepare it and write it up. Thanks very much.

I think the accuracy bugaboo about Mini-14s is slowly being put to rest, at least with the newer versions. You demonstrate that a methodical approach and some shooting skill do the job. With your rifle, I know who's going home to Momma.

I don't understand what's wrong with "minute of grapefruit" at 200+ yards for anything. Too many shooters want benchrest/sniper accuracy out of rifles that are not designed for it.

I'm in the market for a new Mini-14 and your report is extremely encouraging.
 

SargeMO

Single-Sixer
Joined
Aug 28, 2003
Messages
162
Location
MO
I am pleased to see that people are still reading and enjoying this.

I think maybe, just maybe, Halo was pulling our legs a little ;)

I agree that the 'accuracy issue' is less relevant that it used to be. This is still America (thank God) and where there is a market for something, a source soon follows. For older Mini's there are now accuracy struts, etc. and as long as you don't (or didn't) pay too much for the rifle itself, their cost is worthwhile. You can also DIY them to a degree. As mentioned in the article though, some of those old Mini's would shoot pretty well anyhow.

The newer guns are significantly more accurate, which means accurate enough for anything besides small varmints at extended range. As you mentioned Navy, there is nothing wrong with "minute of grapefruit at 200+ yards" for most uses. It is my opinion that most folks who heckle the Mini have never sit down at a bench and really wrung one out at the distances mentioned. If what I saw at public ranges is any indication, a number of those who did either can't shoot and are clueless about zeroing a rifle.

And of course, a really good varmint rifle will spoil you. I do have an old birch-stocked, skinny barrel Savage 110 in 223 that will shoot rings around everything else on the place. My only problem with that gun is that it is often on loan to a son or brother. During those times, the 580 Mini will serve just fine.
 

SargeMO

Single-Sixer
Joined
Aug 28, 2003
Messages
162
Location
MO
Just an update...Nov 27th I used this 580 to take a button buck at about 170 yards, using the irons. When I first saw the little booger he was laid up in tall grass and absent a rest, I shot a tad high when I tried to spine him. He then stood up and ran a little ways before showing his shoulder, where I sent the second shot. That one was good and he stumbled off 15 yards and dropped.

The bullet broke the near shoulder, blew a 2 ½”hole in his heart and exited the off-side ribs. Pic of the heart here- not for the squeamish.

http://i186.photobucket.com/albums/x187 ... heart2.jpg

This little gun continues to impress me.
 

308dave

Bearcat
Joined
Dec 12, 2005
Messages
96
Nice shooting Sarge! MN legalized the .223 for deer last year but I went with the 6.8 Ranch anyway - I like the bigger bullet. I've had no accuracy issues with mine, it gets minute of deer at 100 yds no problem and mine is a 581 prefix.

Nice review and I too like having iron sights on a rifle. I use a scope for hunting but like to have them as a back-up and sight them in.
 

Plinker MKII

Bearcat
Joined
Feb 16, 2008
Messages
49
Location
Nevada Desert
SargeMO":2meoqpuv said:
Pic of the heart here- not for the squeamish.

Eh, I've seen worse at the supermarket! :lol:

I think the .223 with a expanding tip and correct shot placement, it could do a good job with most medium size game as you've already proven.

Nice shooting Sarge!
 

SargeMO

Single-Sixer
Joined
Aug 28, 2003
Messages
162
Location
MO
Don't think I mentioned it in this thread yet, but I had cleaned up the trigger on this Mini using the video tutorial available at Great West Gunsmithing. It finished at just over 5 pounds, is still two stage (which I prefer) and the second stage is now free of the long, miserable creep & creak that inhabited the factory trigger.

It made a whale of a difference in my ability to hit with it offhand and I consider a usable trigger a must on any hunting rifle.
 

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