Sunday, July 17, 2016
Ready For the Next Week…More or Less...
We had a great time at GUNSITE last week filming the second Scout Rifle Forum…the first of course was back in the mid-1980s when Col. Cooper hammered out the concept. Everything was organized by Richard Mann, whose Empty Cases blog should be on your regular reading list. Steyr — the makers of Col. Cooper's original vision, Mossberg and Ruger all exhibited, with a bunch of custom stuff as well.
The entire Scout rifle concept is interesting — one rifle to rule them all. Not a specialist, but useful for personal defense, hunting, fill in the blank. Ironically, the concept never took off back in Cooper's day.I remember writing somewhere that the Scout rifle was somewhat like the .44 Special — everybody sang its praises, but when it came time to hit the old credit card, nobody was buying but me, John Taffin and a half-dozen of our friends.
The Scout rifle concept might have become an asterick in firearms history if it hadn't been for law enforcement trainer Dave Spaulding, who really, really liked the Ruger Frontier, a lightweight, shortened version of the venerable Ruger M77 bolt action rifle that was sold in the mid-2000s. Apparently not that many people shared Dave's love…the rifle was dropped form the Ruger catalog around 2009. But not before Dave did articles noting that the Frontier in .308, with its option to mount its scope in the forward as well as the standard, position came amazingly close to Jeff Cooper's definition of a Scout (look them up; they're everywhere).
Those articles led to a meeting at GUNSITE (which I have recently read didn't happen…hmmm…I guess memory is the second thing to go!) to talk about the Frontier and to discuss if there was another step to be taken, and if so, what should that step be? Present at that meeting were Buz Mills,owner of GUNSITE, Ed Head, then GUNSITE's chief operating officer, Ken Jorgensen from Ruger, Dave Spaulding and me.
What came from our scribbled notes and drawings, after being filtered through real engineers and gun designers, was the Ruger GUNSITE Scout in .308. The RSG became something no other of the few Scout rifles had ever even dreamed of, a huge success. In .223 and .308, it remains one of the best-selling bolt action rifles out there.
Both Savage and Mossberg introduced Scout versions of their popular bolt guns, joining Steyr, who has continued carrying the torch since the Cooper days. Predictably, the Scout concept has recently come under fire — here, here, here — and some excellent analysis from Major Pandemic here.
One thing I took from talking to people at the Scout Forum was that liking/not liking the Scout is more a lifestyle/mindset issue than anything to do with the hardware. We are in the Golden Age of Guns…for any increasingly fine-sliced niche, there's a gun designed to very specifically fill that niche. You can have a quiver full of rifles for every possible situation, be it self-defense, hunting, target shooting/competition, etc. So it seems anachronistic to look at one gun that does everything sorta okay rather than several things that do their job superbly.
And as Major Pandemic and others have noted, there have been 3 major changes in Gun World, if you will, since Col. Cooper conceived the concept:
1) The proliferation of the AR platform
2) The perfection, or at least the major debugging of the AR-10 platform
3) Huge advances in optics, especially in the true 1-power with 4x, 6x, 8x or even higher magnification and the rise of illuminated reticles and red dot sights
A lightweight AR with a 1-6X is a pretty darn versatile tool. If we were to play the "run out of the house with just one rifle" game, it would probably be my Daniel Defense DDM4 5.56 3-Gun rifle with the 1.5-6X Burris MTAC that's on it right now. Why? Because I've shot it a lot, I'm comfortable with it at distance (inside 500 yards) and it has been a workhorse. If you were to hold e to a .308, however, I might hesitate…I have a Ruger SR762 set up for long range and an older Colt 901 I've shot in 3-Gun Heavy Metal division. There is no "standard" AR-10 in the sense of an AR-15…each manufacturer uses their own specs, so you're in many cases limited on spare parts, accessories, etc.
The great thing about bolt guns is how boring they are. With even moderate maintenance, they will will last for generations. My 2 favorite bolt guns are the aforementioned GSR and an 1891 Argentine Engineer Carbine in 7.65 Argentine (pretty much matches the British .303 ballistically) that I "sporterized" — read: "butchered" — when I was too young to know better. Surprising how similar in feel and handling the GSR is to the 125 year-old Mauser!
I have more than a thousand rounds through my GSR in classes, target shooting and big game hunting. With the 2.75X Burris I've shot it out to 300 yards on poppers and steel with no problem. Ed Head shoots his out to 600 yards. I've run it fast to heat up the slim barrel, and yes the point of impact did shift, but not enough to effect 300 yard hits on pepper poppers.
If you only have one bolt gun, I'd suggest a GSR or one of the other .308 Scouts. All of them have the ability to use regular scopes — I used an ultralight Swarovski 3-9X in the standard position for red stag in NZ — or the forward mount optic (or dot). I think it's an ideal choice for the prepper, whose first rifle dollars have to go to the AR, but a .308 bolt gun adds a lot of versatility.
The new Scout for Africa next year is, as I've said, is an ANIB Ruger Frontier .338 Federal fitted with a forward-mounted Leupold 1.5-5x FireDot Scout scope.. I'm probably going to refitted bottom metal to allow the Frontier to take standard AI magazines (CDI Precision). John Carter, my producer, is going to be hunting with a Steyr Scout.
Should be really, really cool...