Back in the late 1990′s I bought a Ruger 195-series Mini-14 Ranch Rifle. It was a gun I had been wanting for quite some time, and when I had the money I went ahead and grabbed one. The Ranch Rifle has been around in various iterations since 1982, and although I think it’s a great gun and a fun shooter, I was never happy with the sights on mine. Unlike the original Mini-14′s and the newer model Ranch Rifles, at the time I bought mine they were equipped with a blade front sight and a rather flimsy flip-up aperture rear sight. The justification I’ve always heard for the cheap rear sight was that the rifle was intended to be fitted with a scope, and that the iron sights were included primarily as a backup for the optic. Indeed, one of the accessories included with the gun when I bought it was a set of scope rings. And while I definitely would have preferred a more solid rear sight, that didn’t stop me from shooting the gun quite satisfactorily with the open sights for many years.
For those not familiar with the Ranch Rifle, it has no provision for mounting a scope other than the included set of rings, which have a proprietary mounting mechanism. The base of each ring has a set of “ears” designed to engage indentations on one of two mounting points above the rifle’s receiver, and the receiver is otherwise open at the top. Not a bad arrangement if your scope tube fits the included rings, but probably not ideal otherwise. In my case, I wanted to mount a red-dot optic on the rifle to assist my aging eyes, and in order to do that I needed an appropriate mounting base. Enter the GG&G 1913 rail.
Unlike most scope bases, which require drilling and tapping of some part of the receiver, the GG&G rail is designed to utilize the existing indentations on the factory scope mount points. To do this, it makes use of two offset screws at each mounting point. The screws are inserted into the rail at such an angle that when tightened, the screw heads engage the indentations on the receiver and secure the rail in place.
The GG&G rail is 5 3/4 inches long, and extends approximately 1 1/2 inches past the front of the receiver. This gives ample room to mount just about any type of optic you might desire. Because of its position above the receiver, this rail works equally well with red dot sights and with traditional rifle scopes.
When I purchased my rail, I found it to be of good quality and finish, and easy to install. A set of instructions and a torx wrench came included with it; the instruction sheet even specified the appropriate torque for the installation screws. Installation is accomplished by loosening the screws on only one side of the rail until it can be set in place on top of the receiver, then tightening the screws (again on that side only) to the recommended torque. If you don’t plan on taking the scope rail off once you have it attached, I recommend using some blue Loc-Tite on the screw threads to keep them from backing out.
Once I had the rail securely in place, I found that although the hand guard could not be removed without first removing the rail and optic from the gun, I could still disassemble the rifle for cleaning without taking the rail off by simply turning the hand guard to the side sufficiently to remove the bolt handle.
While I had no complaints about the quality of the GG&G rail, my friend Geoff, who also bought one, was not so pleased. He told me that one of the screws included with his rail broke while he was tightening it. We both agreed this was not a case of overtightening, since he was using a FAT Wrench properly set to the torque recommended in the GG&G factory instructions. Geoff also found that he was not able to disassemble his later-version “new” Ranch Rifle without first removing the rail from the receiver, which of course adversely affected scope zero once it was reinstalled. Take his experience for what you think it’s worth, especially if you’re planning on mounting one of these on a 2003 or later rifle.
The GG&G Picatinny rail is available from The Gun Source and Brownell’s, among others. Again, while based on my experience I would recommend this product as a good buy, Geoff’s experience with it wasn’t so positive.