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...


Sheepdog1968 said...

Thanks Michael for the update. I'm a big fan of Cooper. I was all set to get a scout rifle and before doing so, I ended up making a 30-30 lever scout. With the 2.5X scope I can hit out to 400 yards (haven't tried further) consistently. Anything within 200 yards is a given. I've even taken it to a metallic shillelaghs shooting competition where we were shooting standing at milk jug size targets and I hit near 50%. The only me from getting a proper scout is how much I love my lever scout. Anyone else at the Gunsite event with a lever scout? I would love to see any photos you have of the custom scouts. Then again, maybe that is what the app based down range tv program will have.

Michael Bane said...

Oddly enough, only me. Andy Langlois is going to feature my Browning BLR Scout .223 in his new online magazine:;wwwRedirect

As you know Browning makes (or made, not sure it's still cataloged) a copy of my rifle.

Jim Brockman was there with some WICKED Marlin guide guns!!! Check out his website:


john said...

Have a Rem. 600 in .308 cal that I took to Gunsite in 1988. It really is not a scout as it uses a conventional scope. However it does perform out to beyond my ability to hit. It would be the last rifle to go , if I had to get rid of rifles(shudder)

Anonymous said...

The list left out an important item--big advances in ammo since the origination of the scout rifle concept. While I have a 30-30 for hunting Bambi and Porky, I would feel completely comfortable punching a tag with an AR and some of the >62 grain loads. That makes even the "poodle shooter" a legitimate--if restricted--game rifle. East of the Mississippi and south of the Hudson, what NEED is there for a scout. Still want one though.

Anonymous said...

And I just thought about all the new cartridges for the AR-15. If an AR-10 is close to a scout except for the weight, an AR-15 in 6.8 or 6.5 is extremely close in power and range. Now we're out to the Rockies and south of the Arctic Circle.

Michael Bane said...

Sorry I forgot the ammo point! Absolutely true.

I have limited use of 6.8 on hogs, and it was extremely effective. In terms of an all-around hunting gun, I sucked it up for a Wilsonn Combat in .338 Federal for the heavier bullets. The AR-10 platform gun cost me about a pound over the DD 6.8 AR-15. I'll let you know if I think it was worth it later this year.

The 6.8 would make a cool lightweight Scout-type gun, wouldn't it?


Michael Bane said...

Meant to add the blue states become increasingly restrictive, a bolt (or lever) gun becomes sometimes the only alternative for hunting.

BTW, finally completely finished my "problem child" .458 SOCOM...short, light, 100% reliable -- FINALLY! -- and hits like Thor's hammer. Got a Leupold VX-Hog 1.5-4x Firedot on it, along with a Wilderness Tactical Rhodesian sling. Am happy...pigs when I can hobble better!


Clyde said...

I had plans to "Scouterize' my BLR when Ruger brought out the GSR. Plans changed quickly....

I think you're correct, in that the advent of more compact, lower-power optics has made a huge difference in riflery. My GSR carries a 2-7 Burris Scout scope, and one of my 3-Gun ARs has a 2-8 Nikon standard eye relief (usually just left at 5X) and a Burris FastFire II. I wonder what 300 BLK would look like ballistically if necked down to 6.5 and barreled with a slightly faster twist; there are some pretty interesting bullet choices in .264.

Clyde said...

Meant to include this, but forgot - RE: the BLR. Someone, somewhere, needs to start making *reliable* 10 round magazines for it. I won't go so far as to say "I'll pay anything" but I would be willing to part with several bucks to increase the versatility of my takedown.

Anonymous said...

It's worth noting that Browning makes a factory forward mount option for the BLR that uses existing holes.

Because of where the lever arcs in relation to the receiver, probably can't do a 10-rd magazine for the BLR, but possibly can do something like 7 or 8. I'll have to make some measurements.

In my Canadian province (Nova Scotia) .223 Rem is not legal for deer hunting, which pushed me towards .308 Win as the chambering I selected for my takedown BLR...


Anonymous said...

I'm sloooooowwwwwly moving toward an AUG with the "3X" option, as my "scout" gun. The gun is short and has the optics to boot. The 5.56 NATO caliber is as the AR guys say, "adequate for most app's".

My current "back-door" gun has been an older Marlin 1894CL in .44 magnum. A receiver sight works well for me. It's accurate at moderate ranges, easy to top-off and light in weight. It also tucks down in my backpack's ski pocket and is easy to reach. A forward "scout" mount is also available for it too. I can also slide my 870 with a 20-incher in the other slot at the same time. Then both hands are free to do other things, but the guns are reachable if necessary, without taking the pack off.

So many choices, so little time.

Keep the good articles AND discussion coming Michael. Thanks.

Life Member

Overload in Colorado said...

I have to ask a question:
Can a rifle be too light?
I've seen under 5lb AR-15s. Does recoil start becoming annoying?
How about a 6lb .300 Win Mag bolt gun?

These days we plan on shooting our guns more, so is having the lightest gun to carry is no longer the #1 priority?

kmitch200 said...

Remember when the short magnums came out?
"Everybody" was all excited when they could get mag performance out of a short action, light rifle.
At least up to the point they started shooting them off a bench to sight them in, then Isaac Newton became a real smart fellow.
A 6# 300 mag? I'm gonna take a pass on that one! :)

Unknown said...

To me the scout rifle is like the old phase 'If I have to explain it you wouldn't understand'. Agree it is definitely a love/hate, you get it or don't kinda of thing. I'm most certainly in the love it/get category having both a Ruger Frontier and a Ruger GSR both in .308

I bought a Ruger Frontier back in '07. It is still one of my favorite riles. Even though I have a Ruger GSR (won it at a Friends of the NRA event) to compliment the Frontier I still find that I take the Frontier out more often.

Looking forward to seeing the video from the Gunsite Scout shoot. Taking the Gunsite rifle course with the either the Frontier or GSR is on my list of classes to take.

Keep up all the great work.


kmitch200 said...

Honest question from someone who hasn't shot a scout rifle.

For those that like the Scout Rifle concept, do you shoot a traditionally mounted scope with both eyes open? (I do. Same with shotgun and pistols)
I don't feel like I would really gain anything since I can see pretty much anything around me since I don't close my 'off' eye.
I spot the target with both eyes open, raise the gun and see both the image of the target through the scope crosshairs (or red dot) on it AND see it with my non-scoped eye.

I just don't understand the huge, world changing advantage.

Sheepdog1968 said...

Thanks Michael. Glad to see you represented with a lever action BLR at the class. By the way, my 30-30 lever scout was done from Jim Brockman. He did a superb job.

Anonymous said...

Sadly enough in the early 80's I had a Remington 600 in .308 and got rid of it because the scope kept hitting me. I knew nothing about the Scout concept. Wish I still had that rifle. I wound up going heaver and 30-06 for hunting. Get ready to get out the torches and pitchforks. These days I think a SBR AR in .300blk with a 1-4x comes the closest to what I would want to a Scout Rifle. Not the best for hunting and not legal in some states but still a good choice overall and definitely could make the weight. Here in the southeast I use a regular AR as my General Purpose Rifle.

Outside the restricted states the AR platform is just too versatile to ignore.

Unknown said...
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