Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle
Pete Moore checks out the latest incarnation of Jeff Cooper’s iconic Scout Rifle concept and comes away more than a little impressed
One of Jeff Cooper’s (or the Colonel as he was known) big contributions to the firearms scene was undoubtedly his radical, Scout Rifle concept. Typical of his US Marine background he envisioned a go-anywhere, do-anything rifle chambered in 308 Win - a fighting/survival gun! This ties in nicely with my views on a single weapon/calibre that can fit most situations.
I found this concept fascinating and owned a Steyr Scout in 243 Win, even had 2x10-round mags, well what if there’s a zombie apocalypse? The original prototype was based on a CZ action, but both Savage and Steyr Mannlicher also offered their own versions. With the hi-tec Steyr being by far the most popular and practical – integral bipod, spare magazine in the butt, adjustable LOP, fold-down iron sights and a tiny, 19” fluted barrel.
Cooper saw iron sights as essential for a gun of this type, but also the need for an optic; in this case a low power, barrel-mounted intermediate eye relief (IER) scope. Leupold obliged with their little 2.5x28 (Scout Scope) a fixed focus design that sits forward of the receiver. Like the rifle itself the IER principle was both loved and hated. On the plus side it’s fast and you can shoot with both eyes open, though it’s rather like looking at a TV down a long corridor. Conversely – a low powered variable will do it all and probably better.
Surprisingly Cooper’s concept was not as widely accepted as we might think. Though well supported, perhaps more thought it a waste of time or ‘the solution to a problem that does not exist’. So what place does the Scout have in the UK, as it has everything yet nothing going for it – short barrel = potentially less speed/energy and increased recoil, iron sights well would you bother, likewise the Scout scope? However, never mind the width, feel the quality, as Ruger have just launched their own version of the Gunsite Scout and even as an ex- Steyr Scout owner it got my attention…
The new Scout is more faithful to the original concept as it uses their M77 Hawkeye action, which is a Mauser 98 derivative. There are two versions; the US Scout shows a 16 ½” barrel with flash hider, which I thought a tad short. We get the European model, which in my opinion is better. It loses the muzzle furniture yet adds two more inches to give an 18 ½” tube, see what I mean?
The M77 action remains unchanged though the rear base has been cut to accept a compact/removable ghost ring adjustable sight, to allow the fitting of a scope over the action. The barrel is an H-Bar type and steps down from the re-enforce to a medium/heavy section in the forend, which reduces again to a medium tube. The whole being short and rigid, with enough meat to resist heat build up to a degree. This is finished off by a fixed/protected, Mini 14 blade. The finish is matt stainless with the irons in black. Dominating this area is the length of Picatinny rail for either an IER scope or red dot.
Pretty or practical?
New is the polymer trigger mech housing/mag well. All very M14 with a push-in release latch at the rear it runs an Accurate-Mag, single column, 10-round box. A 5-shot will soon be available; rumour has it that eventually mags will be polymer as opposed to steel. The trigger and safety are unchanged with the Hawkeye LC6 (Light & Crisp trigger) unit and the 3-position lever, rear right of the action. Most different is the stock. Made of grey laminate it’s of medium build and free-floats the barrel in a rigid forend. Unusually it shows twin cross bolts, obviously for added strength, this feature is more common on big bore like the 375 H&H etc. At the rear are three, ½” plastic spacers to adjust the length of pull (LOP) from 12 ¾ to 14 ¼”, finishing odd in a thick recoil pad. This also allows it to be tailored for winter use when you are wearing more/heavier clothing. At 40” long and 7lbs (un-scoped) the Scout comes up as a handy package.
Given my Practical Rifle (PR) background and love of the old US M14 service rifle I think the new Scout looks cool. However, curb appeal is one thing, but my concerns were accuracy, barrel length, felt recoil and where the design could fit in the UK shooting scene. For testing I decided to check as many boxes as possible and ended up with a Leupold 2.5x28 IER (Scout) scope in Warne, 1” QD rings, plus a conventional Nightforce NXS 2.5-10x32 with ZeroStop. The red dot option was covered by an EOTech Holosight, plus I had the irons.
Good old 308 Win
I assembled an eclectic collection of 308 Win – 150-grain PPU soft tip, Hornady’s 150 Superformance GMX, 155 and 168-grain/A-MAX TAP FPD and Remington 180-grain Express. Plus a couple of 150-grain reloads using Nosler Partition and the old Barnes MRX. Finishing off the package I fitted my trusty Eagle butt bag and bipod.
My initial thoughts were to recoil as I have found 308 to be a barky calibre even in a mid-weight rifle. Then ballistics, which goes hand in hand with accuracy due to the shortish barrel. So it was off to the benchrest with the Nightforce fitted and I was pleasantly surprised…
In terms of preference the Scout shot the lot, but did best from 168-grains downwards, the 180 Remington went into 1 ½”, which was acceptable. The TAP FPD as expected in both weights proved excellent easily doing ½”, with the Superformance at ½-3/4”. The PPU impressed too with a consistent inch. The reloads; well the MRX did ¾”, but the Partitions shotgunned groups, which can sometimes happen with this projectile! I found you can shoot around 20-rounds in reasonably quick time with little group dispersion, so making the Scout a good PR option. All you would need here is a spare mag or two, with reloads being fast and easy… One aspect of the mag design that seems at odds with the concept is that you cannot top-load it through the receiver, which would seem more sensible!
Felt recoil even with the heavier bullets was most acceptable with none of that 308 kick and jump I have come to expect. Ruger have got the stock geometry right and that big butt pad contributes too. Plus bombed up with full mag, scope, mounts and bipod probably adds 2lbs+ to the package. In terms of general handling the LC6 trigger came up a tad firm though with a crisp break, feed was a bit stiff too, certainly from a full mag, but both these areas improved after a bit of use.
With accuracy and handling well within limits my major concern was ballistics, as short barrels tend to haemorrhage velocity and therefore energy. Below are four sets of figures, which are pretty good. The Barnes MRX load was using a maximum charge of 44-grains of Vihtavuouri N140
For general hunting and range use I’d go with the 168-grain TAP FPD, though the non-lead Superformance and Barnes MRX would certainly make effective boar loads due to their greater strength, energy and mass retention. But the PPU will also kill any deer with ease!
IER or in your face?
The Scout scope was interesting. Looking down the rifle all you see is a slim black circle with the fine, Dual-X cross hair inside. Though only a 28mm objective you can see all around the eyepiece as well as through it, with either both eyes open or one shut. The low x2.5 magnification does not give a lot of detail on target, but a huge field of view. I found zeroing best accomplished with a 4” black circle on a white background as you can quarter it and get a consistent aim point. In this configuration the Scout shot into an inch, so providing you can see the target and place the reticule correctly you can hit it! It’s just a question of how far the magnification can take you out, which is down to you. I’d say a ball park of 150-200-yards is possible. The real beauty of this system is quick and easy alignment and target acquisition, plus it’s light.
However, something like a conventional x1.5-6 etc. will do the same plus offer more top end magnification for longer shots or better target ID, making it the more practical choice. The only consideration here is objective diameter, as the Picatinny rail dictates this size. For example the NXS 2.5-10x32 just fitted with lens caps, but I doubt a 40 or 42mm would. The rail is easily removable, as is the rear sight, but why buy these features if you are never going to use them? Likewise if you want a moderator the front blade will have to be removed to thread the muzzle.
This is the dichotomy of the Scout and something you have to accept before committing. I like the package for what it is! I doubt if I will ever use the irons sights, but they are there JIC. I don’t see the need for a moderator or muzzle brake either as that will require some major re-plumbing! The 10-round mag would be good for PR/range use, for hunting the 5-shot is ideal. However, the ten would be my choice for driven boar, as it’s better to have it and never use it than need it and not have it… I even like the Scout scope as it seems to suit the nature of the rifle, even though there are better specification optics for the job.
Carbine-type dimensions and looks aside what gets my vote are accuracy potential, good recoil characteristics, sweet handling and versatility of sighting options. Though I doubt if Ruger would make one - a .223 Rem Scout running on Mini 14 mags with a 1-9” twist barrel would be an awesome little gun too!
My thanks to Pat Munday (Leupold Optics), Jason Hornady (Hornady ammunition) and Christina Harbour (Sturm Ruger) for their help and cooperation.
I will be doing a video of the Scout in September, so keep an eye out for it and other new guns on our website http://www.gunmart.net
•Accurate, practical and recoil-friendly package
•Will you use the irons sights and Scout scope?
•A highly versatile range and hunting rifle
|Model||Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle|
|Calibre||308 Winchester only|
|Capacity||5 and 10 (DM)|
|Barrel||H-bar-type 18 ½”|
|Contacts||Viking Arms Ltd, 01423 780810
Leupold 2.5 x 28 Scout Scope
GMK Ltd, 01????????????????????????
Nightforce NXS 2.5-10x32 Zero Stop
RUAG Ammotec UK Ltd, 01?????????????????????
Sportsman Gun Centre, 01??????????????????????
Remington and Hornady ammunition
Edgar Brothers Ltd, 01625 613177
Henry Krank & Co Ltd, 0113 256 9163
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates