Har-Bar Mini-14 Accurizer

An easy to install barrel strut that can tighten groups by a third to a half


By Jesse L. Hardin

November 30th, 2009

Photography by Jesse L. Hardin




I’ve been smitten with the Ruger Mini-14 since its introduction in 1974, when I was but a young pup fresh out of the city.  Like thousands of other folks, I was enamored with its stocky lines and short barrel, reminiscent of the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine of WWII fame that Bill Ruger had loosely modeled it after.  Boasting twice the power of the .30 carbine cartridge, the .223 round raised the new Mini-14 to the level of first class man-stopper and amply adequate medium range deer rifle.  The only faults that I and others seemed to be able to find with it, were an often overly heavy 8 pound trigger, the difficulty of mounting a scope, and what could only be described as the Mini’s mediocre accuracy.  For clumping shots into the vital zone of bad guys at combat ranges – essentially from point blank on out to 70 or 80 yards – or for hours of fun plinking, it was certainly plenty accurate enough.  A cool head, controlled target acquisition and sight picture are far more of a factor than firearm accuracy under such circumstances.  On the other hand, as soon as one started trying to hit small game, or to take shots past the hundred yard mark, the results were likely to prove less than satisfying.  While sales never slowed down, word of 4 to 5” groups at 100 yards with some guns did a lot to dampen buyer expectations.

The release in 1982 of the Mini-14 Ranch rifle was certainly a first step in the direction of a remedy.  Putting glass on the carbine was essential to milking any inherent accuracy potential, and the Ranch gratefully featured a receiver with an integral scope base that made solid scope mounting a certainty.  The triggers, too, seemed more likely to break lighter, sometimes at as little as 5 1/2 pounds. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until the 2008 release of the 580 series Mini-14 that the greatest handicap to Mini accuracy was addressed, with a switch to a heavier profile, tapered barrel instead of what are now referred to as the pre-’08 “pencil barrels.”

Long before Ruger began to address the issue, gunsmiths and home-tinkerers were hard at work trying to figure out the reasons for the larger than desired groups obtained, and the possible remedies.  I’ve read much speculation on the forums that the barrel forging process may itself be a cause of stress, while other commentators dispute this.  Certainly the lightweight tubes have proven susceptible to what’s known as vertical stringing, getting worse as the barrel heats up as a result of rapid fire.  Harmonic vibration also seems to have been a factor, with some shooters reporting decent improvements in accuracy simply by adding a muzzle break, flash hider or some other muzzle weight.  Replacing the standard barrel with a heavier, target quality one seemed the most effective solution, though it necessitated professional installation and the widening of the barrel channel of the factory wood stock.  One of the first companies to specialize in such work was Accuracy Rifle Systems in Texas (not to be confused with Accuracy Systems Inc. in Colorado, who are still in the business of custom Minis).  ARS was a small but highly regarded operation that appears to have stopped taking orders since the founder’s health problems, and you’ll find photos here of their standard package with a crowned bull barrel – in this case a full 24” long – glass bedded and featuring a trigger job.  Much as I loved this particular arm, I’ve since traded it to a buddy in Arizona, having found an inexpensive way to get an accurate Mini without the daunting weight.  Worth a pretty penny, the ARS served as the benchmark against which any others would be measured.  My replacement is the test rifle for this article, a 580 series tactical model flaunting a hugely improved trigger, my preferred 16” length barrel in the improved tapered style, and most importantly a “Har-Bar” accurizer barrel strut fitted underneath.

I’d heard a lot about the Har-Bar by Rogco, reputed to drastically improve groups.  Attaching firmly to both the barrel and the fore-end gas block, the high grade bar was designed to eliminate the problematic barrel “bend” or “whip” as well as to act as a heat synch.   An email went off, and within a week I had a Har-Bar and accessories ready to try.  Installation was a breeze, and within ten minutes I was finished and admiring the tactical Mini’s new long-toothed appearance.  I set out to see if a lighter weight Mini with the shorty barrel could hold its own against the custom bull barreled ARS gun, as well as how much improvement we could get over the newer as well as older unaltered Rugers.  In this experiment, I was amply satisfied.

We began with a 2009, new out of the box tactical Mini-14, factory original except for the wood stock to which hobbyist John Kennedy had added a tasteful wolf motif carving (my wife thinks that the prettier a gun looks, the better it’s likely to shoot).  Before doing anything else, I sent off the easily removed trigger assembly to master gunsmith John Baker of Great Western Gunsmithing for his famous $85 GunDoc trigger job.  What started out a gritty 6 pound trigger with substantial creep, came back to me at about 3.5 pounds, nearly as heavenly smooth as a match unit, with little creep and a clean break.  I have what is surely an unreasonable fondness for a good trigger feel, and now we could eliminate the trigger as a source of inaccuracy before doing any comparative tests.  Thank you, Gun Doc!

The 'barrel to Bar" clamps allow maximum barrel contact for cooling as well as secure grip and resultant harmonic dampening, made of high strength 6061 aluminum because of its superior heat sink capability over steel clamps.  The stiffening bar itself is made heavy wall stainless steel tubing, with the entire package adding a mere 7 ounces to the overall weight of the firearm.  Less than half a pound, compared to the several extra pounds the ARS bull barreled rifle carried.  Price-wise, adding a custom bull barrel to a Mini adds from $600 to $1200 to the cost, whereas the Har-Bar runs only only $159 complete.  The proof, of course – as my late Mama used to say – is in the puddin’.  And with the Har-Bar, you won’t come away dissatisfied.

Initial shots were taken offhand with open sights, just to see if there would be a noticeable difference, and indeed there was.  My favorite glass sights on multi-purpose carbines are variables that can be cranked up for long shots, but turned down to minimal magnification for fast moving targets, short range hunting or potential close quarters combat, so we first fired some impressive-enough groups with both a Burris 1.5-4.5x compact and a vintage Leupold 2-7X scope before mounting a 4-12X Bushnell for the real accuracy test.  While I can sometimes be pretty good at snap shots, for really wringing out an arm's long range performance I enlisted the connivance and assistance of my old friend and president of the local gun club, Stanley Radvillas.  We took advantage of the benches and targets at the excellent free gun range that he and his father Marden helped provide.

One thing we found out right away was that the Ruger now grouped nearly as well after firing a quick full clip as it did from a cold barrel, leading one to think that the reputed heat sink feature works.  Further indication followed the firing a quick clip of ammo, with the Har-Bar was actually a substantial amount hotter than the barrel itself.  The biggest surprise was that all types of ammo we had on hand, from spurious handloads to PMC soft points and the much maligned Wolf brand, produced comparable groups now... though the Wolf and PMC clusters fell nearly 4” lower, requiring a different point of aim depending on what one planned to shoot or hunt with.

Results?  Prior to installation of the bar, the 16” Mini averaged around 3” at 100 yards from a (barely workable!) modified rest.  Equipped with the Har-Bar, this same tactical Mini-14 averaged a little under 2”, with the tightest group being just over 1”.  That’s a fair amount of improvement, and twice as good as the earlier models I’ve owned.  And from what I hear, the results are even more dramatic when the Har-Bar is added to the older thin barreled Minis, series 180 and before.

For the sake of comparison, the custom ARS Mini with it’s weighty 24” bull tube shot 1” pretty consistently, with Stan’s tightest being just over 3/4”.  That’s not a lot of difference in capabilities, for the added poundage and nearly twice the cost.

It goes without saying that the same level can be matched by many of the better AR-15s right off the shelf, but for Mini lovers that was never the point.  While I love the menacing post-apocalyptic shadow looks of my “black rifles,” they can’t substitute for the Mini’s nostalgic WW11 combat looks, its durable mechanism and genuine wood furniture.  

With the recent release of Ruger’s Mini-14 Target Model with its adjustable harmonic balancer, there’s now an increased accuracy factory model, albeit as hefty as a 10 pound sack of sugar, and in a configuration more suited to long range target or varmint shooting rather than the handy generalist that the lighter models were designed to be.  By adding a Har-Bar or similar device, even to an older pencil-barreled Mini, one can enjoy tighter desired groups while retaining the carbine’s quick handling characteristics.  And for those who like, their bar can be fitted with a clamp-on bipod, or with accessory clamps for tactical flashlights, lasers and such.

Best deal of all may be Roger’s old fashioned, no questions asked, money back guarantee.  If for any reason one wishes to, they can return their Har-Bar for a full refund.  I, for one, will not be returning mine! 

To read more details or testimonials, or to order, go to: http://www.rogco.biz.

And you can contact Roger by email at rogcous@sbcglobal.net or by phone at: (414) 755-9033.

For outstanding trigger work, bedding and crowning on Mini-14s as well as AR’s, or to read about the GunDoc’s other services, go to: www.greatwestgunsmithing.com.

John can be reached at:

Great West Gunsmithing

1338 Franklin Street NW

Salem, OR 97304



Jesse L. "Wolf" Hardin  

Jess Hardin is an amateur historian and author, living a pioneer lifestyle on an isolated ranch seven river crossings from the nearest road. He’s earned praise for his sporting articles from renowned writers like John Taffin and Dennis Adler, from students and housewives for his self-help pieces, and from literary gadflies for his commentaries on life in the modern West.  Personally signed copies of his full-color book, Old Guns & Whispering Ghosts, are again available from the author, recounting the tale of the historic Western period 1866-1916 through stories of its colorful firearms. He welcomes your suggestions and comments: mail@oldgunsbook.com.


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Click pictures for a larger version.


The ever popular Ruger Mini-14 is even more of a peach with an accuracy enhancing barrel strut like the Har-Bar.



The Har-Bar comes in sizes for every barrel length, and both types of barrel contour.



The Har-Bar takes only a few minutes to install, and then is ready for shooting.



Accessories for the Har-Bar include bipods, laser mounts, and a flashlight mount like the one shown.



This custom Mini has a 24" bull barrel, bedding and match trigger by Accuracy Rifle Systems... our heavy, high-dollar standard to measure all others against.



For testing purposes, we took our Minis to the Catron County Gun Range, dedicated to Marden Radvillas who helped make this excellent rural facility a reality.



My buddy Stan is Marden Radvillas' son, from a family known for sharpshooters.



When it comes time to shoot for groups, I leave it to Stan to see how tight we can get them.



Here we see the Har-Bar equipped Mini-14 next to the historic M1 carbine it was largely modeled after, with this Mini being not only the more powerful but the more accurate of the two.