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Ruger’s Mini Thirty 7.62×39 Deer season is on its way


Just ten more days until the official start of Fall and there are so many projects to wrap up before winter. Frequent, if not heavy rainfall, kept the porch deck wet. So all of the hours spent cleaning, deoxidizing and other prep work for staining and sealing 1,000 square feet of cedar boards will have to be done again in the spring.

Tall, birch and maple saplings closely line the driveway and need to be cut back. If not, the weight of snow and ice from winter storms will cause them to bow over to the blacktop and freeze in the ice, blocking traffic and the snow blower.

Fall insect spray, replace the floodlight on the shop, fall lawn prep, trim paint touch up, fruit tree pruning. Seems projects get worked every day, but the list keeps growing and I keep slowing. Ah yes, the pride of home ownership. Right about the time my wife and I convince ourselves it is worth all of the work, just for the privacy and view, the leaves will turn brown and blanket the lawn and the tax bill will arrive in the mail. But then there is always fall deer season…

This year, I believe I will set aside bolt and lever actions and go with Ruger Mini Thirty. Why not? They are fun to shoot, enough gun for the largest Maine deer and little to carry through dense Maine tree growth and brush.

Expectations for accuracy

The current state of bolt action rifles, synthetic stocks and V block bedding of one type or another, have created a generation of shooters with an expectation of sub MOA accuracy long guns. That is not to say expectations are always met, or that the shooter can deliver, or that this level of accuracy is even useful.

Read through a few threads on gun boards and you’ll find that about everyone shoots the erasers off of pencils at 300 yards and express disappointment to the core if the pencil’s ferrule is disturbed. No, I doubt they are aware that the accuracy they routinely profess exceeds worldwide bench rest records.

My very, very… very old Model 336 Marlin 30-30 WCF shot when new, and still shoots, 4″ 5 shot groups. It has been used routinely to hunt deer and hogs inside 100 yards. As a young hunter… in the days before hunters climbed tree stands, fell and dangled from harnessed like downed WW II paratroopers, preseason rifle checkout was simple; using metallic sights, shoot holes into an NRA SR-1 target placed out at 100 yards. A couple of 5 shot groups in the 6 3/2″ black and the rifle was good to go.

The thing about hunting with an old rifle and favorite ammunition is that you will eventually be able to anticipate where the second shot will hit, relative to the first, and the third relative to the second, etc. Group size does not have to be tiny as long as shots fall predictably and the shooter is familiar with his rifle.

Not an MOA to be found, not even in war…

While the military has always had refined versions of service rifles for use by snipers and for use in marksmanship competition, issue rifles from the 1903 Springfield through to the M1 Garand and M14 have a 5.0″ – 5.5″ 100 yard group standard.

This did not improve much with newer issue rifles. The M16 and M4 have a 4″ group standard. The Ruger Mini Thirty is, for all intent and purposes, a downsized M14, but significantly more accurate.

Which Mini Thirty are they talking about?

Introduced to consumers in 1987, the Ruger Mini Thirty and Mini 14 have evolved over the years. In 2003, the Ruger Mini production process was overhauled and tolerances tightened. The gas system was modified to reduce barrel vibration and metallic sights were upgraded. The result was a significant improvement in accuracy.

2007 brought a thicker barrel taper at the gas block and improved production process again tightened parts fit. Further headway was made in improved accuracy.

While people who never or rarely shot the Mini 14 and Mini Thirty, or are prone to exaggeration, and critically report shotgun like groups in the comments sections of social media, the numerous examples I have worked with over the past four or five years will put up between 1 3/4″ and 2 3/4″ 5 shot groups, with performance very much dependent upon factory ammo selected, time of day, ambient temperature, and winds aloft.

Careful modification to bedding, trigger, gas system, and barrel tensioning can consistently yield a Mini that can deliver sub 1″ groups.

Personally, I am OK with 2 3/4″ groups and a lot less time, effort and extracurricular to firearm purchase funding. See previously mentioned old Marlin.

The stubby 7.62×39 for the stubby Ruger Mini Thirty

Mini Thirty


Ruger – USA
Model # 5804
Barreled Action
Stainless Steel
Stock Hardwood
Action Type Fixed Piston / Moving Cylinder – Gas
Caliber 7.62 x 39
Magazine Capacity  2 x 5 Rounds As Supplied
Barrel Length 18.50″
Twist Rate 1:10″
Sights Adjustable Peep Aft – Blade Front
Scope Mounting Ruger Rings & Rail Included
Overall Length 37.50″
Length of Pull 13.0″
Weight 7 lbs
Trigger Pull 5 lbs 11 oz
MSRP $1279

The current Mini Thirty 7.62×39 is supplied with 2 5 round magazines, proprietary Ruger rings that clamp to scalloped cut into the sides of the rifle’s the receiver and lock into keyways in the top of the receiver.A Picatinny standard rail is included for folks who opt non-Ruger system scope mounting or red dot and similar sight systems. Both 10 and 20 round magazines are available as after sale accessories at ShopRuger.Com.

Above, a little more detail image illustrating scope/sight mounting systems.

Controls are in easy reach and about where your hands would expect to find them. The bolt locks open on empty to facilitate reloading.

The 7.62×39 imported and domestic versions

The 7.62x39mm was adopted by the Russian military in 1943, predominately finding its way into the Russian semi automatic SKS, selective fire AK47 rifles and the RPD light machine gun. Eventually, inexpensive semi automatic versions of military surplus firearms were imported into the United States along with huge quantities of inexpensive military surplus ammunition.

The cartridge and rifles became very popular. So much so that Ruger introduced the Mini Thirty, chambered in 7.62×39 in 1987 for both domestic and export markets. Ruger reinforced their commitment to the cartridge in 1991 when that chamber was also made available in the Ruger M77 Mark II. Ruger currently offers six variations of Mini Thirty and one bolt action American Ranch rifle in 7.62×39.

There are at least two consumer versions of the 7.62×39. The Russian submitted version of the 7.62×39 exists as a CIP cartridge with a 7.92mm (0.311″) diameter projectile and 3550 BAR (51,476 PSI) Pmax pressure rating. The 7.62×39 SAAMI version  has a 0.311″ +0.000″/-0.002″ bullet diameter spec and 45,000 PSI MAP. The Ruger Mini-Thirty’s nominal groove diameter is 0.3105″ and bore diameter is 0.3080″, The Mini Thirty is designed for use with SAAMI complaint ammunition.

Topping off an 812 Superfast gas tank with kerosene

OK, an 812 Superfast may be overselling the point, but maybe… a Ford F-150 4×4 with a 5.0 L cammer. For some reason, some folks insist on shooting really terrible ammunition with their Ruger Min Thirty firearms.

One of the quickest ways to get improved accuracy from a Mini Thirty is to use proper ammunition… which is defined in at least three sections of the owner’s manual as U.S. or foreign SAAMI complaint production. Proper ammunition, not expensive ammunition.

Brass casings, boxer primers, a bullet diameter of 0.311 +0.000″/-0.002″ and 45kpsi MAP. Not the same a CIP standard 3550 BAR (51,476 psi) Pmax ammunition are not the same as steel cased, Berdan primed, poly coated Russian and similar bulk ammo. Not only does the use of non-spec ammo result in inaccuracy, but hard Berdan primers result in misfires.

L – R: Herter’s steel cased, Berdan primed 122 grain (2 3/4″ groups), Federal American Eagle, brass case, Boxer primed 124 grain (2 1/2″ groups), PPU brass case, Boxer primed, 123 grain (5/8″). I attribute the accuracy of the PPU ammo to its 100+ fps high velocity and short bullet as better stabilized with the rifle’s 1:10″ twist.

Handloading and right size bullets

I have, and do, occasionally reload 7.62×39 ammo with 0.308″ diameter bullets. When I do, the best accuracy comes from short, flat base, round nose bullets produced for the 30-30 WCF cartridge. They seem to stabilize the best and ballistic coefficient within a hundred yards can be barn door like without adverse effect. As the 7.62×39 delivers 30-30 WCF like performance, these bullets penetrate and expand well on medium size game.

Still, I have had good luck cherry picking 0.310″ – 0.311″ bullets, some intended for the 7.62×39, some for the 303 British, some for others. Most reloading manuals list both 0.308″, 0.310″ and 0.311″ bullets within the load data they provide for the 7.62×39. Most reloading die sets come with an expander ball in 0.308″ and 0.311″.

Most manufacturers, firearms and reloading component recommend cannelured bullets and crimping. I do follow that recommendation and use a Lee Factory Crimp die when no cannelure is present. I do not crimp ammunition when assembled for a bolt action application and I tend to work at higher chamber and bore pressure levels.

Bullet Grains Type Diameter “ Length “
Hornady Interlock 123 JSP 0.310 0.875
Sierra Pro Hunter 125 JSP 0.311 0.905
Speer Hot-Cor 150 JSP 0.311 1.006
Sierra Pro-Hunter 180 JSP 0.311 1.192

Other than the Hornady 123 grain, which is made specifically for the 7.62×39, all bullets are box labeled for the 303 British. However, all bullet diameters fall within the SAAMI 7.62×39 spec. All are bullets we have used routinely and effectively with the 7.62×39 and are the basis for our published load data.

This time around…

Warning: Bullet selections are specific, and loads are not valid with substitutions of different bullets of the same weight. Variations in bullet length will alter net case capacity,  pressure and velocity. Primer selection is specific and primer types are not interchangeable. These are maximum loads in my firearms and may be excessive in others. All loads should be reduced by 5% as a starting point for development where cartridges have greater than 40 grains in capacity and 10% for cartridges with less than 40 grain capacity following safe handloading practices as represented in established mainstream reloading manuals. Presentation of these loads does not constitute a solicitation for their use, nor a recommendation.

7.62×39 – MAP 45KPSI
Firearm Ruger Mini-Thirty
Barrel Length 18.50″
Max Case Length 1.528″ +0.000″/-0.015″
Min – Max COL 2.150″ – 2.200″
Primer CCI 200(LR)
Bullet Diameter 0.3110″ +0.000″/-0.0020″
Reloading Dies Lee Precision


Bullet Type Bullet

Net H2O
COL” Powder Type Powder



3 Shot
100 Yard
Hornady Interlock 123
AA 1680
Hornady Interlock
123 31.5 2.190 Re 10x 29.0C 2462 1656 1.6
Hornady Interlock
123 31.5 2.190 CFE BLK 29.5 2554 1782 2.2
Hornady Interlock
123 31.5 2.190 H335 32.0 2391 1562 1.5
Sierra Pro-Hunter
Re 7
Sierra Pro-Hunter
125 29.8 2.150 Re 10x 28.0C 2417 1622 2.0
Sierra Pro-Hunter
125 29.8 2.150 CFE BLK 29.0 2379 1571 1.2
Sierra Pro-Hunter
125 29.8 2.150 H335 31.5 2415 1619 1.9
Speer Hot-Cor
AA 2015
Speer Hot-Cor
150 28.7 2.190 Re 10x 26.0 2156 1549 1.5
Speer Hot-Cor
150 28.7 2.190 AR-Comp 28.0C 2170 1569 2.1
Speer Hot-Cor
150 28.7 2.190 H335 29.0 2165 1562 1.8
Sierra Pro-Hunter
AA 2015
Sierra Pro-Hunter
180 25.6 2.200 Re 10x 22.5 1883 1418 2.3
Sierra Pro-Hunter
180 25.6 2.200 AR-Comp 24.5C 1792 1284
Sierra Pro-Hunter
180 25.6 2.200 H335 25.5 1845 1361 2.2

And this works for me…

I always try to post a more complete picture for engineers who have taken up shooting sports and tell me I do not provide enough information. The reloading press was bright green, the little trays that hold components were dark blue and I was listening to easy listening rock while reloading. Resizing effort was 23 fig newtons. For everyone else, the 7.62×39 is easy to reload and requires only following the conventions at the front of every reloading manual that has been printed for the past one hundred years.

Yes, I am getting cranky. It is just about supper time. I had a lot of fun working with the Ruger and now I feel like taking a nap,  but I have to write this all down…

For people who hunt dense woodland, and perhaps those with a need for a rural home defense gun, the Ruger Mini Thirty is a good fit. For folks who like to go to the range, shoot a gun with character and hang out with friends, the Ruger Mini Thirty is again a good answer. For deer, hogs, coyote size varmints, and a gun that can be carried on a sling with a hand left free for selfies, the Mini Thirty would be a good one.

If the objective is to shoot from a bench every day, blow through 500 rounds of ammo and put them all through a single hole in a target, this would not be the gun.

Yes, there is a good deal more in the Ruger Mini Thirty to unlock, and there are specialty shops that will guarantee sub 1″ performance for a not ridiculous price. But for out of the box performance and for brush hunting in Maine… and just about every place else with similar circumstances, the performance is excellent.

Winchester’s Wildcats – Rifle and Ammunition As sung by Gene Autry...


My wife and I celebrated our fifty fourth wedding anniversary and my wife’s birthday this week. Good years, easy years and tough years. Military service and career caused temporary physical separation. Raising a family, relocating around the country… see military service and career, things always seemed in a state of flux, except for closeness of family. A wonderful wife and a greater power seemed always to keep us right side up.

These past eighteen years of living in Maine proved to be the right location decision for us. We got to build our home, spend our time together, working on home and work projects. After fifty four years together, conversation is still easy and interesting. We know one another well and we make one another smile over her interesting and informative banter and my feeble attempts at humor.

I highly recommend being with the right person. There is no substitute, as a life worth living is a life shared. Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I love you to pieces.

In 1959, I purchased a then new model Remington Nylon 66 22 LR in Mohawk Brown. It was my plinker, my varmint rifle and my target rifle long enough to shoot out two barrels. Not a big deal to change, as the barrel is secured to the stock with a bracket and single screw that locks into a groove cut across the barrel shank. I still have the rifle. Even after it was sold and repurchased a couple of times and hocked a couple more. If I ever find a good windage screw for the rear sight I will put it back into service.

The Winchester Wildcat is the first rimfire rifle I have encountered that could replace my old Nylon 66, in all of its applications, and at about one-third the current cost of a vintage Model 66. The version pictured has a threaded barrel that accepts a wide array of 1/2″ x 28 TPI mounted muzzle devices. In this case, a rimfire silencer has been mounted.


Winchester Wildcat

Manufacturer Istanbul Silah – Turkey
Item #
Caliber 22 Long Rifle
Magazine Capacity 10
Barrel Length 16.5″
Twist Rate 1:16″
Barrel Material
Alloy Steel – Black
Receiver Material
Black Composite
Weight 4 lbs 0 oz.
Overall Length 34.75″
Stock Composite
Pull 13.5″
Drop at comb 7/8″
Drop at heel 7/8″
Non-optical sights Ghost – Adjustable
Scope Mount
Picatinny Rail
Trigger Pull 5 lbs. 2 oz.
Safety Cross Bolt
MSRP $299.99

The Winchester Wildcat appears small, almost like a compact rifle for a young shooter. It is very light and it is compact, but the stock geometry with a 13.5″ length of pull and set back pistol grip are comfortable fits for an adult. The comb height and ghost sight height makes for natural line of sight down the barrel. A receiver integrated Picatinny rail makes for easy mounting of red dot sights and optical scopes.

The Wildcat’s lightness comes from a number of contributing areas. The skeletal stock is polymer, the lower receiver assembly is polymer and the receiver that mounts the barrel is polymer. The alloy steel barrel has a sporter contour. The forearm is narrow, but finger grooved for a stable and comfortable grip, and grooved to form a nonslip surface. The buttstock, bucking tradition, has been hollowed in the middle. It is heavily ribbed for solid structure and the underside has been removed because… well, nobody ever uses it except to support shooting bags.

The use of polymer for receiver and the bulk of the rifle is not controversial. Not functionally, but from a use of polymer material standpoint, the Winchester Wildcat is a futuristic version of my 60+ year old Remington Nylon 66 that has seem probably half a million rounds of ammo. For as mid century modern as the Remington is, the Wildcat has a very contemporary, very sleek, very modern look with some very nice engineering.

Above, the composite receiver, slip fit barrel and cross bolt through clamping surfaces. The tab at the front locates the front end of the lower receiver assembly.

By depressing the disassembly button at the rear of the receiver, all of the moving parts of the action and the magazine housing come out as part of the Lower Receiver Assembly. The bolt handle rotates upward to clear the ejection port. The lower receiver housing is a polymer piece. The blowback action is striker fired.

The Winchester Wildcat features a wealth of entertaining innovation. Yes, I did say entertaining, but not at the expense of functional improvement. I think Winchester should label the magazine “No Fumble”. Not only does it insert in a positive fashion, but it ejects into the palm of the hand with a quick tug on the side mag releases.  When belly side up on the bench, a conventional mag front release will also eject the magazine. The hemispheric striker hits a rimfire round where the primer compound resides, rather than having its energy dissipated by a cartridge’s solid brass rim edge. Neat. Yes, those are two hex wrenches tucked away in there. One for sight adjustment, the other for stock fastener removal.

Very clean ergonomic design. All controls are easy reach and actuated with appropriate resistance.

The Winchester Wildcat magazine holds ten rounds. Its feed lips are metal to take a lot of wear and tear, a follower wheel on the back of the magazine rotates ammunition in while loading and the small tab sticking up in the right of the photo holds the rifle’s bolt open on entry.



A little forend slight of hand. A rail cover conceals an unused rail and sling swivel. While it is easy to pull off, it is not easy to knock off. I apologize for the dust. The shop is heated with propane, fired in a closed system that looks like an antique wood stove. Subsequently, the shop interior’s humidity is about 30%. Good for drying stock blanks, good for preventing rust. Lousy for static sensitive electronics and, obviously, for photography. Especially when I have forgotten to vacuum off a firearm prior to a photo shoot.

For as light as the stock is, it definitely feels stout. Winchester used a combination of ribs, boxing and triangular for to make the stock very rigid. The Wildcat’s barrel floats in its barrel channel, which removes inaccuracy caused by uneven pressure points on a barrel.

Shooting performance

The groups appearing on the table that follows were shot with a 9x scope to register the rifles accuracy rather than that of my eyesight. That said, I like the ghost sight set up. It is fast and accurate. I’ve seen them criticized for having a fuzzy rear sight image… see “ghost” sight, and some folks suggest it is impossible to center a bead in circle… see “precision peep sights”. For folks who can trust their brain to conspire with their eyeball to center concentric circles, a ghost sight is excellent. The rifle was nearly as accurate with the ghost sights.

The sights are polymer, which fits in well with the rest of the rifle. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, and yes the hex wrench to adjust them is stowed in the lower receiver assembly. That one is a little curious, as I don’t see pulling the guts out of a rifle to adjust the sights when I could just add the small hex wrench to my pocket shooting tool kit. Yes, “small” is the correct size wrench.

Ammunition Bullet
24″ BBL
16.5″ BBL
50 Yard
3 Shot
Eley Subsonic
Winchester Wildcat
40 1255 1170 1.3
Winchester Target

The 50 yard groups were shot from a rest. Wait… how do they say it? Oh, yeah. The rifle was steadied on a solid rest. The shooting bench was fashioned from sturdy pine (my big ol’ picnic table with a large cast iron rest). A slight buffeting wind was blowing across the target in a north by north west direction that rustled through the sparse strands of hair on my head. Temperature was 32.06°F, humidity was 99% and the barrel, it was warmed to 42°F. No, you don’t have to recreate those conditions. The rifle shot about the same, cold or warm, and it was not particularly ammunition type sensitive.


Winchester’s Wildcat is a refreshing product at a time when many manufacturers are making rifles that are priced cheap, but they are made cheap. The Wildcat, however, is well made and reliable in our experience with lots of ammo, a number of different shooters, and no failures to fire or feed.

The bolt locking open on empty is appreciated. The positive latching and unlatching of the rotary magazine is appreciated. The easy take down for cleaning is appreciated. The lightweight and good balance are appreciated. Very nice little rifle.


My Old Winchester Model 70 Part I And the 243 Winchester

07/25/2021 – It seems it has been raining here in Maine for weeks. Not really, it just seems that way. But I have had the misfortune of not being able to mow the long, or seal the deck, or weed the garden.  As an upside, the anti squirrel bird feed and custom chipmunk baffle have…

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Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 Sport II OR M-LOK Basic model, not a beginner's model

07/04/2021 We recently published a review of the Smith and Wesson M&P 15T and, now, thought it would be good to briefly cover the lower cost AR 15 in the Smith and Wesson line up. The M&P 15 and M&P 15 II are higher end products, factory supplied with a number of features and accessories…

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Savage’s Impulse in 300 Winchester Magnum Part 2 Pick a bullet, any bullet, but don't tell me what it is...

05/30/2021 In part I, the Savage Impulse was checked out with Winchester Superformance 180 grain ammo, rated at 3,130 fps and clocked 3,162 fps and Remington Express Core-Lokt 150 grain ammo, rated at 3,120 fps that clocked 3,261 fps.  The largest group shot was 0.8″, the smallest was 0.3″. Excellent performance, but not necessarily ammunition…

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