Recently, I’ve been working on a review of a couple of rifles, including the new .223/5.56 version of the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle. I’ve already seen a lot of griping online about this gun, in particular the fact that a rifle firing such a small cartridge doesn’t meet the definition of a “true” scout rifle.

So I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a step back and look at the scout rifle concept; where it came from, what it’s intended to do, and whether it’s still relevant for today’s shooters.

At its core, the so-called “scout rifle” is simply the name that one man assigned to his personal ideal of the general purpose “do-everything” rifle. It just so happens that man was the late Col. Jeff Cooper, one of the 20th century’s most influential and authoritative voices in the shooting and self-defense world. If that name isn’t familiar to you, go read his Wikipedia page to get an idea of the impact Cooper has had on the way we still think about and train with firearms today.

Cooper’s influence runs deep in the shooting world, so when he started writing about his general purpose dream rifle, shooters took note.

Ruger Gunsite Scout .223/5.56
The new .223/5.56 version of the Ruger Gunsite Scout has raised some eyebrows for bearing the “Scout” name while using a caliber Cooper was critical of.

Cooper’s Scout Rifle Criteria

When Cooper was really promoting the scout rifle idea back in the early 80s, the only way to actually get your hands on one was to make one yourself, or commission an expensive custom job. Eventually, a few gun companies started offering factory rifles branded with the “scout rifle” name, and some meet Cooper’s criteria better than others.

The scouts generally accepted as being closest to the real thing are the Steyr Mannlicher Scout, the Savage Scout (based on their Model 10), and the Ruger Gunsite Scout (based on their Model 77). Cooper collaborated with Steyr on their version of the scout, and while it didn’t quite meet every detail of his original checklist, it seemed to be close enough to get his stamp of approval.

That checklist of scout criteria is something Cooper wrote about many times, and it seemed to change and evolve somewhat over the years. There is no single canonical list of criteria, and too much is probably made of whether any given rifle strictly adheres to them. If we consider the scout description published in Coopers excellent book The Art of the Rifle to be the primary canonical source, we end up with something like this:

  • Action: Any bolt action with smooth operation
    There was no single definitive manufacturer or model that was preferred for custom scout conversions. As long as the bolt action was smooth and reliable, it could be made to work. Semi-auto rifles were not specifically disallowed, but very few, if any, make the weight requirement.
  • Ammunition Feeding
    Most scouts take stripper clips or feed from a detachable box magazine
  • Weight: Roughly 7 lbs or less, including sling and optics
    There was a definite preference for rifles on the lighter end of the spectrum. Cooper intended for the rifle to be carried across long distances.
  • Size: Overall length of 39″, barrel length of 19″
    This shorter barrel length might not sound too unusual today (18″ and 20″ bolt guns are quite common now), but carbines were not generally looked upon favorably just a couple of decades ago. An appreciation for shorter barreled rifles may be one of Cooper’s best contributions to come out of the scout rifle concept.
  • Optics: Low-power forward mounted optic with ghost ring backup sights
    Mounting the optic forward of the action allowed the use of stripper clips and quick single-round loading. It also allows the shooter to keep both eyes open and maintain awareness of the immediate surroundings while firing. In some accounts, Cooper considers conventionally mounted scopes acceptable, as long as they’re low power (no greater than 4x) with fixed magnification. Backup iron sights were recommended, but not an absolute requirement. When present, the large ghost ring aperture was the preferred style.
  • Support: Quick Loop Sling and built-in bi-pod
    Cooper preferred the Ching Sling, but any sling that could be looped up quickly for supported shooting was considered acceptable. The bi-pod was more of a luxury than anything, and very few rifles could pull it off without adding considerable weight and bulk.
  • Caliber: .308 Win
    The scout rifle had to be able to take down any threat up to 1000 lbs with a single shot, using a caliber that was widely available worldwide. Cooper also liked the 7mm-08 cartridge for countries where governments restricted civilian ownership of military calibers. The smaller .243 Win cartridge was considered acceptable for smaller shooters, and larger calibers like the .350 Rem were prescribed for anyone who thought they might encounter dangerous large game.
  • Accuracy: 2 MOA or better
    The standard for measuring accuracy was three-shot groups under 4 inches at 200 yards.

When you put all of that together, what you have is essentially a bolt gun in a powerful caliber that’s lightweight and can be brought into action very quickly. Or in Cooper’s words, “a short, light, handy, versatile utility rifle… the Scout is a full-power rifle intended to do as many jobs as any one weapon can.”

Looking at the list today, there are some attractive features to have in a rifle, but there are some serious drawbacks to the concept as well. The problem with any tool that purports to be “general purpose” is that it’s probably not going to excel in any one area. The scout might be versatile, but it’s also a rifle of compromises.

Scout Rifle Drawbacks

Let’s start with the signature forward-mounted scope. They have some advantages, but are pretty lousy in low light, and can be rendered useless by glare when the sun is low in the sky… which just happens to be prime time for hunting many types of game. They also tend to throw off the balance of a rifle, putting too much weight at the front.

CZ 527 Pseudo-Scout
Rifles that are close to being scouts but miss some key criteria are sometimes called “pseudo-scouts”. My CZ 527 carbine chambered in 7.62×39 is a good example. It’s a quick-handling versatile bolt gun, but lacks a forward mounted scope and doesn’t hit hard enough to be a true scout.

Red dot/reflex sights, which weren’t widely available when Cooper came up with these criteria, are arguably faster than a scout scope, and have better low light performance. And a conventionally mounted low-power scope has most of the same advantages of the scout setup with fewer downsides. Since today’s variable powered scopes are far better than those available in the past, we shouldn’t limit a general purpose rifle to fixed power scopes, either. I think if Cooper could have seen a modern 1-4x scope with illuminated reticle in 1980, he would have appreciated the advantages it offers over what we now call the scout scope.

The 2 MOA accuracy requirement certainly dates Cooper’s writing. Any new off the shelf centerfire bolt gun today that’s not mechanically capable of four inch groups at 200 yards should be sent back to the factory for warranty repair. By today’s standards, there’s nothing inherent in Cooper’s criteria that would make a scout rifle inaccurate, but factory-made scouts aren’t built with accuracy as the main priority, and shooters seeking maximum precision should look elsewhere.

Today, most scout or scout-like rifles available use detachable box magazines, which many people find cumbersome and make the rifle more difficult to carry. Rifles using stripper clips are few and far between, unless you look to pre-1950 retired military rifles.

I personally really appreciate light weight, quick handling rifles, but they usually come with drawbacks, too. The most obvious is an increase in felt recoil, but accuracy can also suffer when using slim-profile lightweight barrels.

And let’s not forget the most limiting drawback of all: in order to meet the weight requirement, most scouts are bolt actions. Bolt guns are good at a lot of things, but leave much to be desired when it comes to personal protection from human threats.

Who’s a Scout?

Before the Cooper fans out there get too worked up, I’m not saying the good Colonel didn’t know what he was talking about when he came up with the scout. But we have to ask whose “general purposes” this rifle is intended to meet, and what options we now have available to meet those purposes.

I think it’s a safe bet that 9 out of 10 of rifles in the U.S. today are purchased for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Personal protection against human attackers
  • Recreational/range use (including plinking, target shooting, and competition)
  • Recreational hunting in the continental US (as opposed to hunting abroad, professional hunting, or survival hunting)

Those purposes aren’t what Cooper had in mind for the scout rifle. Cooper’s image of the user of his scout rifle doesn’t have a lifestyle that looks anything like mine, and probably doesn’t look much like yours, either. Cooper often wrote with romantic flair about the lone rifleman facing the unknown. The scout seems best suited for someone who was living 100 years before Cooper’s time — taming the Western frontier or exploring the unknown corners of the African continent. However, in a modern context, there are few who’s “general purposes” are met by the scout rifle concept except, perhaps, for a serious hunter who takes extended trips into the wilderness where he is unsure of what type of terrain and conditions he may face. But “serious hunters” are in rare supply these days, and most of them are not apt to settle for a general purpose rifle when a more specialized one is available.

Many will lament this as another sign of our culture’s ever-diminishing connection with the outdoors and the values and skills that define the traditional outdoorsman. That may be so, but the fact remains that among today’s growing ranks of gun owners, I meet very few who have Cooper’s purposes in mind when they start shopping for a rifle. For Cooper, it seems the general-purpose rifle is expected to do the following:

  • Quickly kill any animal, big or small, for food or self-defense
  • Light enough to carry while navigating the wilderness for indefinite periods
  • Serve as adequate defense against human attackers in a pinch

For these purposes, considering the hardware available in the 80s, Cooper’s scout would be a fantastic tool. But it’s common to find attempts to shoe-horn the scout, as defined by Cooper, into roles that it was never intended to fill.

Today’s General Purpose Rifle

If we take a cold, hard look at the place of the scout rifle in the modern world, it’s essentially a decent hunting rifle with some features that make it better suited for dangerous game, prolonged trips in the field, and about as good for protection from two-legged predators as a bolt gun can be.

According to NSSF research, the overlap between avid shooters and avid hunters is declining. Some shooters hunt and some hunters shoot, but most people pick one or the other. When the guy or girl we would consider a shooting enthusiast goes looking for a “general purpose” rifle, hunting is going to be a secondary consideration at best. They want a rifle they can use to protect their home and family, and hone their skills on the range. Sure, you could use a scout rifle for any of those things, but if you’re not planning to sleep under the stars on your way to hunt mountain goats tomorrow, there are other guns that are better suited for those tasks.

If you’re looking for that one “general purpose” rifle that can do all of the above, we can borrow a lot from Cooper’s ideas, but shouldn’t limit ourselves to the specifics of his scout concept. For instance, contemporary shooters seem to have adopted the AR-15 as their default go-to rifle. Cooper would scoff at the idea of using an AR for self-defense and hunting, and is known to have called the M16 a “poodle-shooter”. However, today’s bullet choices make the .223 more versatile than ever, and it’s proven to be pretty effective on small and medium game, including The Most Dangerous Game of All. For a little more punch, we now have other excellent options in the AR platform like the 300 BLK and 6.8 SPC. An AR in .308 Win or similar battle rifle will put you over the scout weight requirement, but not necessarily by much.

I think the scout rifle is a pretty cool concept. I want to like it, and practical considerations aside, I find the idea of a well-designed scout rifle to be far more interesting than any space age black rifle. If our political situation goes down the toilet and I’m one day forced to choose a manually operated action as the only rifle I can legally own, toward the top of my list would probably be something that looks very much like a scout. But fortunately, I’m not faced with that decision. When I start thinking through what I’d actually use a scout rifle for today, there always seem to be better options that come to mind for any one of those tasks.

Did you enjoy this article?

Share this article with your friends!

Leave a Comment Below

  • Sean Yunt

    One of the best articles I’ve read on here. Well done.

    Let’s hope a bunch of Cooper fan boys don’t get butt hurt…

  • Mark Crist

    Howdy Chris,

    I don’t think you’ll find too many lovers of the Scout rifle concept to feel hurt. These discussions go on in the scout rifle forum online. The forum is at I did want to mention the Cooper didn’t insist that the rifle be a bolt action. He wasn’t averse to a scout being a semi-auto, though the major problem is making scout weight which is a big challenge even with modern technology.
    I have a Ruger GSR and have enjoyed every minute. The Steyr Scout is a very nice piece, bit it runs about $2,100 out of the box. There have been numerous people who build there own using current rifles. My project rifle is a Ruger American Compact in .308. Mine weighs about what a Steyr does but has cost under a grand.
    I did greatly enjoy your article and will be subscribing to see some more of your stuff. Thanks again.

    • LG Chris

      Thanks, Mark. I’m familiar with the scout rifle forum and read through several threads while preparing this article. Lots of good discussions and reference material posted there, and surprisingly light on the Cooper fanboyism. Regarding semi-autos, do you know if Cooper ever specified any that might make the cut for a scout? I find Springfield’s M1A Scout to be a bit of a stretch at 8.8 lbs before optics. I have a “tanker” M1 Garand that weighs in at 7.7 lbs that could possibly be made into a scout-type rifle if it would group better than 4 MOA.

      I think the Ruger American is a great starting point for your project rifle. By all indications, they perform well above what their price point would suggest. Send us pics when you finish it!

    • Mark Crist

      Hi Chris, I have written of my project on the forum and have posted some photos there as well. About all that’s remaining is to get some back up iron sights for it. That is currently on hold because deer season is approaching and I’m now debating whether I’ll take the GSR, or the RAC Scout. Here is a link for my project.
      I don’t recall his ever mentioning any specific semi auto that would make weight. Keep in mind that the Gunsite Scout would be considered too heavy, and the Steyr Scout is a bit over weight too, and they did go to some effort considering he had a hand in the design.
      I’ve had a chance to fondle the M1A Squad Scout and while its a handy piece, I’d likely go for the full size version. They both seem to cost the same at the local gun store.
      Have you read any of “Cooper’s Commentaries” ? He used to write for guns and ammo every month and they are archived online here and there.

    • Doc Kent

      $2,100 my ass. More like $3,000. I have ambivalent feelings about the LER optics and think the Elite version with a typical scope might be better in many ways. One can never have enough rifles. I’d want them both and a semi-auto for defending.

    • Josva R

      I have no idea where you and Kent are getting these numbers. You can buy a Scout direct from Steyr for $1700. I seem to recall their website still advertising them at $1500, so you could probably call and ask to buy one at that price, rather than dealing with the automation of their website. And you can find them from online retailers like Buds for about $1400.

  • Michael Pressley

    Good stuff. Read a lot of the Colonel’s writings, especially enjoyed his columns in G&A. I think that he would embrace the evolution of his concepts,as long as the basic idea remained.

  • Mike Strojny

    bless Cooper, he hoped for the rifle, they built it. No one looses.

  • Clayburn Jones

    Love my Ruger Gunsite Scout , 308 with a Nikon 3-9×40 scope , I can hold a 1” group at 200 yds . and at 300 yds. 1, 1/2 ” 400 yds 1,3/4 ” groups , 500yds 2,3/4 ” group on a good day with no wind ,it likes hornady 168 gr. sombie max ., Like your article .

  • Jonathan Scott

    In countries where having an AR is harder to obtain then the scout males sense. If you’re goimg to make it 5.56 then make it AR Magazine compatible. In NZ we can freely have ssuppressors on our rifles so a scout in 308 without a flash hider but having a over barrel suppressor would be great for bush hunting.

  • Shawn Lucas

    Good article and I would have to agree with most of your points. I was a kid when Cooper was in his prime and I have to admit, I hadn’t even heard of him until after I bought my GSR in .308. I was in the market for a bolt gun but wanted something a little non-traditional from your average hunting rifle. I’m a big fan of my .308 version of the rifle but I saw the 5.56 version as something of a failure on Rugers part. It’s too heavy to be of use as a quick grab and go rifle (which is what you would be looking for in a smaller caliber bolt gun) and the magazine compatibility and price issue for a 5.56/.223 is inexcusable. Even if they had not wanted to have it compatible with the M4 (which O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. had already proven possible), they could have at least make it compatible with their own already established and popular rifle magazine, the for the mini-14. Had it been so, it seems to reason that current mini 14 owners would have flocked to the rifle as a back-up or companion piece to their mini.

  • Devin Robinson

    I can think of dozens of uses for this rifle, but all of them involves some kind of romantic situation that the average shooter would have no near equivalences. For protection against foreign invaders, some kind of societal collapse, or simply for survivalist style canoeing/ hiking trips. But these are far from things that the average firearm enthusiast would be considering when buying this rifle, though I can certainly see the appeal to the prepper demographic.

    • Teddy McCracken

      Bolt action for a prepper? Hardly, my idea of a scout rifle. He was way off the mark with that antiquated notion.

  • Allen Moore

    I like Rugers Scout I also like the Mossberg Scout. Both will accept AR style magazines. In a SHTF situation this woudl be a serious consideration.

  • Greg Loftus

    very informative read thanks I was looking at one of these and am still considering it

  • Luke Scholar

    If semi-auto is acceptable, I think a SOCOM 16 with an ACOG or red dot would fit the bill nicely.

  • Al Ferri

    Good read and interesting discussion. I have a Ruger Gunsite Scout. For now I am using a Bushnell red dot. I have been considering a Burris 2×7 Scout scope or a Leatherwood 2×7 Scout scope which is cheaper. both get good reviews but I believe that you get what you pay for so… Now, scout on a budget. Cheap, light weight, heavy hard hitting bullet, stripper clip loaded option. I have an old 8mm x 56R Hungarian Mannlicher Steyr Model 95/34. Its a straight pull bolt action, one the Russians flooded the market with in the 90s. (Spoils of war taken from the Germans who must have taken from the Austrians prior.) I bought it and 300rds for $120 in the 90s. It shoots decently accurate for me within 100M-200M. I haven’t tried longer but I suspect that 300M is as good as it gets for flat-ish shooting with a 208 Gr. bullet. Hornady makes a hotter load with a 205 Gr. Soft point. The trigger doesn’t compare to my Ruger GSR or my Remington 700 but its a budget truck rifle. There are some conversion kits that will allow for a scout scope mount where the leaf sight sits. and I would either use a red dot or a reflex sight. Personally I am happy with the iron sights. It has a steel butt plate, that heavy round and the rifle is silly light…a recipe that kicks hard. you may want a slip over butt shoulder pad or shoot only a few rds at a time. Okay, it has shortcomings and Ammo selection is limited. (PRVI is cheap/effective) but if you are okay with that and your terrain usually calls for shooting medium range or less and want a hard hitter on a budget. an 8mm 205-208 gr bullet will take down a big animal…or an engine block. Oh, I am a fan of the scout concept, however, I’m not at all butt hurt over the criticism. Much of it is valid and to each his own. I find it to be a handy little rifle built on a .308 platform. I’ll keepp my AR-15 for the .223.

    • Al Madrid

      Al…I ditched my Burris 2-7 which I had problems with picking up the reticle in low light. I went with the Leupold Scout 1.5-5 with Firedot. Incredibly happy with new scope. Its bigger (30mm tube) but my speed is much better with it and firedot is nice to have.

  • Atour Zervanda

    for .308 caliber i think Barrel Length is short , 24 to 26 inches be better ! , 16 & 18 inches length it is good for automatic rifle .
    if i use bolt action it is for long rang so i need longer gun , if i want to use some thing short like that i use 30/30 lever action .
    but i like that ruger heavy duty barrel ! thanks

  • Vince Oller

    I currently have only one scout rifle, a lever gun in .45-70, but will have another in .308 as soon as possible. I feel they are great for hunting.

  • Steven Pixley

    For shits a giggles I had my gunsmith turn my Mosin Nagant into a scout rifle for me, cut barrel back to 20in, timminey trigger, a really nice forward scope mount, archangel stock, now i just need a good long eye relief scope.

    • Al Madrid

      I sold the Burris variable Scout and LOVE the Leupold Scout 1.5-5 with Fire Dot.

    • Dan Neves

      I love my MK5 Lee Enfield Jungle Carbine and it meets the criteria and the .303 is a hard hitting round..

  • Don Dial

    I have about four .308 rifles but none are a Scout. My DPMS is a short rifle , large mag, with about 1 MOA or less. Being AR variant I added 2 lb custom trigger and adj grip. The rest are from 1 MOA down. TRG pretty much same hole. Most Factory rifles with tuning and hand loads are MOA or better.

  • Tufail Abbas Harb

    i hve got licence to perchase this rifle but i dont know how to buy this……plz sent me the details

  • phil

    Good article, and for the most part I agree. The exception for me is rapid target acquisition on moving targets.

    I started deer hunting in ’91 and since then I’ve only had one deer mull around in front of me begging to be shot. All others have been either bounding or flat out hauling butt. I’ve found conventionally mounted optics quite useless, and mostly a hindrance for whitetail. Probably around 90% I’ve taken with std open sights. This year I finished one off with the scope on my Psl 54, but only after getting him to stop with a round using irons. We can’t bait in my area and the land I have a stand on is a nocturnal pathway, everywhere else is drive hunting only. If I see a deer it’s because either I jumped it or someone else chased it to me.

    For me the forward mounted optics/holo are the only that make sense. I’ve been meaning to do this with one of my t53 mosins and a reflex sight. I primarily use AK variants(7.62×39, 7.62x54r, & .308) for their practicallity(reliability, handling, compactness), my hunting buddies are served well by eotech on their ar’s(458socom, 50beuwolf, 308’s, & 40s&w). Sometimes I just like to do something different so I’ll play with bolt and levers for fun and a nostalgic feeling.

    My father had qualified expert in the service with the m1 garand at 500yds, and was very vocally adamant on his disdain for optics on anything out to that range. Quite frankly my experiences with optic failures both internally, and mounts, have shaken my faith in them.

    As for the need of a scout, or who is one… if one day there happens societal collapse the concept may have merit. If a period of anarchy came to pass, homes would be targets of gangs of thieves who weren’t prepared. Without utilities a big fancy house offers little benefit anyway. Going into hiding on foot might be an option, however you couldn’t carry enough ammo for a firefight. So evasion in my opinion would be the best defense. A lightweight just in case rifle, and for food, bows,snares & traps(quiet) make sense. It might not happen, but history shows it has and may again someday.

  • Hsien-Cheng Li

    Being a Long Range Penetration Scout I was (long time ago in military), I am glad the ‘Scout Rifle’ becomes a reality.
    One of the issue for Long Range Scouting is the weight we carry, including food, ammo, firearm, and all kinds equipment for communications, surviving and intelligence gathering. The last thing we want is carrying a M14 rifle with 1,000 rounds 7.62 NATO rounds, living in unknown, hostile territory for quite sometime. M14 is too heavy for that purpose. And we usually don’t carry a lot of ammo for a mission – again, weight issue.
    So a lightweight rifle with strong much power ammo/caliber is what we dream of. The mission of Scouting is not firefighting, but collection intelligence. So the rifle is for self-protection. If we can give one shot and knock out few enemy combatants (mostly rear area personnel) in rapid session to discourage them, we can buy time to get out the firefight or call in fire support. Usually Long Range Scouting won’t and will try to avoid encounter much enemy or dangerous animals – we need stealth, not show off.
    I am not sure the same idea fits in civilian market, but I do like to buy one which I didn’t have at my time in military – if my wife allows …….

  • Jim Haeflinger

    My scout w a leupold on her will shoot 5 on a dime at 100 and a half dollar at 200.Like any shooting or sport you have to put the practice in and understand the basics of shooting. If you go shoot twice a year and cant put the round where you want its your lack of practice not the weapon.well atleast 98%of the time .

  • mike day

    To whom this may concern I bought a scout in 2014 jan 6 out of the box the gun did not cycle the rounds easy, second round fired got stuck in the breach . After firing 30 rounds failure to cycle and bolt was jammed sent gun back they said they cleaned and you could see lite sand marks on bolt . same problems only this time I sent gun back with round stuck in breach and another note to smith about all problems . when I got the gun back I had a dealer tech fire 10 rounds and it had one hard to cycle round i TOOK IT TO RANGE SAME PROBLEMS . I called gunsite and I talked to mike their he told me QUOTE they are aware of all my problems and more , one they have changed is the stock . RUGERS CUSTOMER SERVICE IS VERY POOR , NO FOLLOW UP . I have had many people reply to me about their problems also .

    • zenith191

      I bought a new scout in 2015. I kept getting failure to load and failure to eject with whatever ammo I fed it. I sent it in to Ruger and they replaced the stock and repaired the bolt. I have not had any problems with it since. I thought that their customer service was outstanding.

      • I’ve seen similar issues with other Ruger GSR and other M77 based rifles but as you noted, their customer service is very responsive.

    • Al Madrid

      Sorry to hear. I bought a Ruger GSR in 18″ and it is a tact driver with about 250 rounds thru her with not one issue. Gonna buy another one. This one loves 168gr Federal.

      • mike day

        i have some mags for that scout wana buy them , all brand new 6 + 1 steel

        • Al Madrid

          Sure. How do we coordinate the sale?

          • mike day

            AL do you have a gun shop you like they can be used as a go between

          • Sorry dudes, I can’t let you use our comments section to conduct a transaction. Exchange email addresses and do it somewhere else.

          • Al Madrid

            Sure do….Shore Galleries – 3318 W. Devon Ave Lincolnwood, IL. It’s right on the border of Chicago’s North side. Phone is 877 GUN-AMMO. Brian and Mitch (the old crew) know me. My last name is Rellinger.

  • Critch

    I’ve built a few scout rifles, my favorite was an Ishapore 308 rifle, with an XS Scout Mount, a Choate Stock and a 2X pistol scope. Great little rifle, still have it. I carry it a lot around the farm in the truck. Another scout rifle I built was a Sauer and Sohn Mauser in 257 Roberts with a Choate stock and a Ching ring. It’s great too, but not my favorite.

  • Piranhakeet

    I own a Ruger Gunsite Scout in .308, with a polymer stock. I couldn’t be happier with it. It is light, rugged, and stupidly accurate–smooth running, and just a joy to shoot. The balance is perfect with a Burris Scout scope on the forward rail. To the author’s point, there are a lot of folks (like me at this stage) who shoot nothing but paper and steel, and you can certainly buy rifles that will shoot faster, or shoot smaller groups. But then you could be getting into specialized and/or expensive territory. This is a handy, fun rifle that provides plenty of accuracy to work on precision shots at the range. A lot of us recreational shooters wind up trying hunting, and this will also cover you in that department. And it’s huge fun for plinking at targets out to 100 yards with iron sights. And you can get one for around $700. It’s an obvious win in my humble opinion.

    • Al Madrid

      I got the Ruger GSR 18′ for my son and I agree with you…what a joy to shoot, quick and always sub MOA. I put the new Leupold Scout (1.5-5 with Fire Dot) on it and couldn’t be happier. Getting one for myself this year.

  • Bushbabby

    You’re right, there are various AR platforms which are of greater usefulness than the scout concept. But typically these AR platforms can’t be carried across state lines for hunting which is quite common. And if you happen to be one who appreciates bolt action accuracy, greater bullet selection versus a lever action, the scout rifle is perfect. Consider the scout it a bolt action woods and 100 yard deer, hog and black bear rifle. Which I would think makes-up a large percentage of hunters in general.

  • Andrew Bennett

    A few points to consider from a self admitted fan of the Colonel:

    -A scout rifle is a field rifle. It’s specialization is friendliness in the field. They are a joy to walk around with. Size, weight, and sling criteria make the rifle nice to carry and easy to shoot accurately in the field. It is not a bench rifle, as is evident from the accuracy criteria. Not great for paper, but perfectly adequate in the field.

    -Regarding caliber, I would challenge anyone to pick a better cartridge than .308 for general use in the field. It is just fine for almost all game and is available everywhere. The only advantage of .223 is lots and lots of rounds. Not relevant for a scout rifle.

    -As for “just” bolt action, again, who really finds this lacking? Folks who envision themselves defending themselves from the barbarian hordes? Now who is in a fantasy world? A scout rifle is not an infantry rifle, and was never presented as such.

    If you like taking a rifle out in the field, try a scout rifle, or even anything close. Hit a few of the criteria, and you might find yourself wondering if the other criteria are good ideas too.

  • Duke

    If you ask every single human being you have ever met in your entire life to count up how many times they have actually taken, or needed to take, a rifle shot at another human being, in a non-military situation, then you will quickly realize that the real fantasy is the “most dangerous game” arguement for rifle specs – it is virtually zero. Try it some time. Cooper’s insights into rifle configuration requirements reflect an emphasis on survival skills and are much more realistic. Scout configuration makes for a great farm gun, outback gun, in the trunk for an emergency gun, on the wall in your cabin gun, on the horse as a back-up gun. Etc. my two cents.

    • Duke, I get where you’re coming from and I think you’re right about Cooper’s intention for the scout, though with less than 20% of Americans living in rural areas, I might dispute how relevant these “survival skills” to most gun owners today. Today’s gun owner is more likely expect a “general purpose” rifle to be useful for recreation, target shooting/skill development, *and* home protection. An AR is a great tool for self-defense in the home. A scout rifle is not nearly as useful in that role.

      • Steve

        which companies are still making scout rifles (other than ruger & springfield)??

        • J_in_TX


        • Josva R

          And Steyr.

        • Springfield’s “Scout” rifles aren’t really Cooper Scouts… way too heavy. Ruger has the GSR, and there’s the famous Steyr Scout that Cooper himself helped design. Savage has started making their scout again as of last year, and now Mossberg has a Scout version of their MVP rifle available. Those are all the ones I’m aware of, though just about any lightweight .308 bolt gun can be made into a scout with the right mods.

  • callmechaz

    I you are ever in a position that the only rifle you can legally own is a manually operated action…you waited too long to do anything about it.

  • Massive

    I actually think that the AR15 is evidence that the Scout concept is alive and well today. Cooper hated the AR, but he didn’t see what is available today in calibers or quality (as you say). The AR is a light carbine, with often a forward mounted optic, and one step better than the scout, co-witnessed iron sights. On top of that we now have a ton of people trained on the AR so as with every rifle used in a major war period it has come home as the choice of many. The AR is evidence that when a huge pile of development is poured into a rifle concept what you end up with is a scout rifle. Coopers objections to it on accuracy, power, or reliability grounds are not relevant to the modern AR. The only thing an AR isn’t is in the 308 power range, and it never will be at a weight cooper would embrace. But much more goofy exceptions to the scout rifle concept have been made than that.

    That said, the bolt version may still be the better bet for the average shooter. At the moment there is no popular game that a scout could compete in action shooting in any useful way, but that tells us more about action shooting than it does practical average rifle requirements. As Clint Smith says, “it isn’t the gun you run, it is how you run the gun you have”. And if we want the full powered round, but the handy quick hitting capabilities of the scout or AR, the bolt may still be the best bet.

    Cooper may have had a romantic vision of the world, but it is no less realistic than the average american who thinks that he needs dozens of rounds to solve the problems of mass Zombie attacks or home invasions. Cooper was involved in several shootings in wartime and solved them all (to his chagrin as to weapon) with a pistol and accurately placed shots. He has as much right as most to believe that a few well placed shots will solve most problems, and a 308 is not that far wrong for a lot of hunting.

  • Tom Harbold

    “If our political situation goes down the toilet and I’m one day forced to choose a manually operated action as the only rifle I can legally own, toward the top of my list would probably be something that looks very much like a scout.” You hit the nail on the head with this comment. Good article, by the way!

    But with this one comment, you revealed that you do not live in a place like California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or — like me — the People’s Federated Republic of Marylandistan. If you live in one of the places where “evil black rifles” are frowned upon by the elite political establishment (not to mention the judiciary), the scout rifle looks better and better… especially one like the Mossberg MVP, which can use readily available magazines (both AR and M1A) rather than a proprietary model.

    This is a feature which would be particularly useful if the fecal material ever did impact the air-dispersal device! And there are enough plausible ways in which that could happen, that being prepared for that eventuality is probably not an entirely unwise move. Hope for the best while preparing for the worst, no?

    Anyway, if I lived in a place where ARs and similar semi-automatic rifles were readily and legally available, I’d probably get one (actually, I’d probably get a Scout Squad M1A), but as it is, I’m looking long and hard at the Mossberg MVP in either Patrol or Scout configuration.

    • AlDeLarge

      Lever guns tend to be politically “acceptable” too. My 20″ .38/.357 holds 12+1 .38’s or 10+1 .357’s. Target load .38’s are relatively quiet and Buffalo Bore 180 gr .357’s come screaming out at 1900 fps.

      • Tom Harbold

        Good point!

  • Daniel Cruz

    I own a GSR in .308 and really like it. I get about 1.5 MOA. I try not to get annoyed with ppl that are critical of a ‘general purpose’ rifle. If they want a specialty rifle then go get one. My semi auto is a DPMS G2 one caliber two rifles I’m good to go.

  • Rufus T. Firefly

    I made a Scout Rifle out of a Mosin Nagant M-38 with a very slick action. It is portable, acceptably accurate, and fun to shoot. As a bonus, the build is Russian peasant proof. If I knew I was headed into a firefight, there are far better choices with which to arm myself. I think, however, that I could hold off a couple of n’er-do-wells armed with handguns, all day long, while waiting for help. If said NDWs are armed with semi-auto rifles, then nobody lives forever, and I might be able to take one of the bastards with me before I go. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

    I should add that my “Scout” cost less than $200, all inclusive.