More on the Scout Rifle, Pt. 1

Although the late (and much missed) Jeff Cooper was primarily a handgunner, he devoted a good deal of thought, experimentation, and writing to the development of an all-around rifle which he called the Scout. Not because it was trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, but because it was highly portable, handy to use under all conditions, accurate to 300 yards and a bit, powerful enough for anything short of dangerous game, and light kicking. He envisioned it as something that a highly mobile Marine or soldier would carry if he had to move a lot, and quickly.

The first company to produce a Scout was Steyr. Their rifle debuted in 1998 and was an odd-looking duck with a synthetic stock and a hefty price tag. I got to shoot one. It was very, very accurate, and more or less everything Lt. Colonel Cooper claimed it was.

By the time he went to that great range where the wind never blows and there is no mirage, the Scout concept was well established. But it was Ruger that really picked up the Scout and ran with it. In 2011 they introduced a version that was developed in conjunction with Gunsite Academy, which Cooper founded.

That Scout took off. It’s essentially a .308 carbine, but with bells and whistles, mostly of a tactical nature. There are now ten variations on it, including left-hand, .223 (which would have given Jeff Cooper a seizure), stainless, synthetic-stocked, flash hider or recoil suppressor, two barrel lengths, and steel or synthetic magazines of 3-, 5-, or 10-round capacity.

What follows are some random observations on the rifle, based on mine, which is one of the early versions, a blue-steel, .308, southpaw gun. Ruger is now advertising the Scout as the one rifle that will do it all, and they are pretty much correct. The .308 is one of the most highly developed and popular cartridges around. There’s a literally endless variety of ammo available for it, and components if you’re a handloader. So:

While the Scout’s short barrels (16.10 and 18.70 inches) are a big convenience in many ways, they cause you to lose velocity. In my rifle, which has the 16.10, I see speeds in the 2,450 fps range with 150- and 165-grain bullets. The real-world velocity of a 150-grain .308 slug in a 24-inch barrel is 2,700 fps, and if you chop 8 inches off the barrel you’ll lose about 25 fps, per inch, or 200 fps.

If this concerns you greatly, you can get a Scout with an 18.7 inch barrel, which will put some speed back, or you can handload. I’m able to get 2,700 fps out of 150-grain Barnes X-Bullets via handloading, and there are no pressure signs at all.

The Scout is a very mild kicker, and I don’t see why people would want a recoil reducer. Maybe it has something to do with the Millennial Generation, which also feels the need for Safe Space, whatever that is. In any event, I much prefer the flash suppressor. In case you feel the urge to remove it and replace it with a cap, don’t. Because of the short barrels, you are bound to get considerable muzzle flash, and even if you’re not using the rifle tactically, that doesn’t help your shooting. Ruger’s flash suppressor works; leave it alone.

Sights: Here, you have an embarrassment of riches. Jeff Cooper’s original concept called for an IER (Intermediate Eye Relief) scope mounted midway down the barrel. Cooper’s rationale was that it made target acquisition much faster, that you could no longer get whacked in the eyebrow, and that it speeded up reloading. I think the real reason was because Cooper shot handguns so much that he was used to seeing his sight picture at arms’ length.

I can’t follow any of this. IER scopes have a much smaller field of view than standard scopes, so I doubt you pick up your target any quicker. You are not about to get banged in the head by a .308 or a .223 unless you do something very, very dumb, in which case you deserve it. And because the Scout feeds via detachable magazines, there’s no need to load it from the top.

I’ve found the best all-around sight is a low-power variable scope, something in the range of 1X-4X, with an illuminated reticle, mounted conventionally over the action. If you don’t need magnification, then a red dot out on the Scout’s Picatinny rail is the best option. And if your eyes are really good, the issue sights—a ghost ring rear and a front blade—will do very well.

Read part two here.