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Ruger® Mini-14® Cycling Problems
by Roy Seifert and Bob Shrank

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.

A reader of the Kitchen Table Gunsmith, Bob Shrank, recently sent me an email describing a problem he was having with his stainless steel Ruger® Mini-14®:

“Dear Kitchen Table Gunsmith,

I enjoyed your article on using foreign ammo in your .223 Ruger Mini 14.  [Refer to my article Fixing the Ruger® Mini 14/30 Bolt to Shoot Imported Ammunition.]  I have two of them and enjoy shooting them.  After purchasing a new [stainless steel] model last year, and shooting it a bunch of times running several 100 round full [magazines] through it, I decided to give it a thorough cleaning.  Without any written instructions, I ended up taking off the gas port block to remove the forearm.  Even though I marked the barrel with a marker, and carefully repositioned the block.  My almost new [stainless steel] Mini 14 is now a single shot, or worse, it jams all the time.  Is there a simple fix for this?

I have considered taking my other Mini 14 apart to see if I can match the amount of gas hole exposed, but I’d like to prevent another problem.  Can you please help me out?”

It had been awhile since I worked on a Mini-14 or Mini-30 but I remembered there was some type of alignment pin involved with the gas block so I got out my NRA firearms assembly book and looked up the Mini-14.  Part #21 circled in red in the above figure was listed as the gas port bushing. 

Gas Port Bushing
(not actual size)

The gas port bushing has two functions; it properly aligns the gas block with the barrel and piston, and it directs the hot gas to the piston.  Without that bushing there would not be enough gas funneled to the gas piston causing the symptoms Bob described.  I replied to Bob’s email with my suspicion that he probably lost the gas port bushing when disassembling his rifle.  His reply to me was that he did remember hearing something hit his basement floor as he removed the gas block. 

No reflection on Bob here because I give him kudos for working on his own rifle, but before disassembling a firearm beyond what the manufacturer recommends for normal cleaning and maintenance (removing the gas block is not recommended by Ruger for normal cleaning and maintenance) it’s always good to have an exploded diagram on hand.  This has saved my bacon a number of times with my own guns.  I recommend the NRA Firearms Assembly books which I have in my library available direct from the NRA.  You can also find them on ebay of all places.  I also have The Gun Digest Book of Exploded Firearms Drawings, 2nd Edition which has many diagrams of older firearms no longer in production.  This book is out of print, but you can sometimes find copies on ebay.  Numrich, also known as Gun Parts Corp, has many schematics of older, obsolete firearms.

Another gunsmithing trick is to disassemble a firearm over or inside a box to catch small parts or flying springs.  Even placing separate cloths over and under the assembly you are working on will prevent the loss of flying springs or small parts.  There is almost no worse feeling in the world than having a spring fly off into a crowded basement or work room, or having a small part drop out of sight.  I believe these parts go to the same place as odd socks.

I told Bob that he could order the gas block bushing direct from Ruger, from Numrich, or other parts suppliers on the internet such as MidwayUSA or Brownells and his rifle would be back in working order in no time.

(Photo courtesy Bob Shrank)

You can see from Bob’s photo above just how dirty the gas block got.  The arrow points to the gas block bushing which he did not lose after all.  After he cleaned the gas block and associated parts he reassembled the rifle but did not get the gas block screws tight enough so gas was leaking causing the malfunctions.  Perhaps this occurred because the bushing was not properly aligned with the barrel and piston.  Regardless of the reason, gas was leaking preventing the rifle from cycling.  When he disassembled the gas block once again he could see where the gas was leaking which required him to do another thorough cleaning.

(Photo courtesy Bob Shrank)

After all the parts were cleaned he reassembled the rifle making sure the gas block bushing was aligned and in the hole in the gas piston (#33 in the exploded diagram) and all the gas block screws were tight.  A quick trip to the range confirmed that he had his rifle back in working condition.

Sometimes the most difficult part of maintaining a firearm is getting it back together after having taken it apart.  However, Bob should get some satisfaction out of being able to diagnose and fix a problem himself.  That’s what gunsmiths do, both hobby and professional, diagnose and fix problems.  Great job Bob!

   © Copyright 2014 Roy Seifert.