Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mini-14 Fix?

For years people have known of the Ruger Mini-14's main problem- a barrel that is too thin, one that overheats when more than a few shots are put through it thus ruining the weapon's accuracy. It's a shame because the Mini-14 has the potential to be one of the finest firearms around. Based on a scaled down version of the Garand's action it is tough and reliable.

Despite this, Ruger seems to have no interest in fixing the problem. If they had, then I suspect that an awful lot of people would be interested in the Mini-14. As this month's Guns and Ammo says, "If you want a gun that will never quit on you, go with the Ruger." And speaking of G&A this month they review Ruger's "fix" to this problem; rather than release a Mini-14 with a better barrel they've decided to add an Allen-screw adjustable barrel weight. It seems to me to be a stop gap measure, a glossing over of the problem rather than a real solution. The barrel weight comes with the latest incarnation of the Mini, a thumbhole stock "Target" model. Frankly I think the new stock design is repugnant. You can read G&A's review here. As the author says on more than one occasion, he had very little time with the rifle. It kind of dents my confidence when a reviewer says that- perhaps if he'd had another few days with it, he might have developed a different impression of the weapon.

Anyway, your choices with the Mini-14 seem to be this- take the weapon as is and hope that you never have to put one or two shots down the barrel at a time; buy a custom barrel that's probably worth more than the gun itself; go for the all-new revolting Ruger "cheapest way around the problem we can think of" gun; or you can buy or build an "Accu-strut".

The idea behind this latter solution is simple- the strut adds stiffness to the barrel and the clamps can help draw heat away from it. The advantage of this over the Ruger "solution" is that the latter seems to need to be adjusted depending on the ammo used in the rifle- it can be slid up and down the barrel to maximise accuracy of whichever load is used. The G&A article reveals that one of the screws was already stripped when he got the gun for testing- so I'm not particularly impressed by the design. If a bunch of gun testers can do that to it in presumably a short space of time, how is it going to last on a gun you buy?

Anyway, the Accu-strut concept fits in place under the barrel (and gives it something of a M14 look to boot) and that's it. I even heard of a guy on a gun forum who swapped out the strut itself for a flashlight.

What annoys me about this is that the Mini-14 could be a truly
great gun. The action is one of the best around and with a little work it could be world-class; much tougher and more reliable than the AR, and with that work, it could rival or even best it for accuracy. It deserves more than the work Ruger is doing to it. Perhaps Springfield Armoury need to scale down their superlative M1 rifles to 5.56mm size and get into the market. Imagine a slender M14-style weapon (with all of the reliability and accuracy that entails) in a 5.56mm package? Personally, I like to pretend that they could go another step and offer it in 6.5mm Grendel. Mmmm, good. And if you like to attach gizmos and gadgets to it, I'm sure Troy Industries or the like could offer a stock option.

We can dream I suppose.

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