More on the Scout Rifle

In answer to a request from Maj W DC, aka Phat Joe, here’s more info on the scout rifle, in both concept and execution.


LtCol Jeff Cooper, of Gunsite fame, developed the scout rifle concept in the 90s in an effort to design and produce a rifle that brought out the full capabilities of a trained rifleman, a man operating on his own or in a small team of two or three. He wanted a practical gun, a serious marksman’s weapon, and not a bench-rest tack driver that had no field legs. He wanted the gun– he called it a „scout“ rifle– to be a pleasure to carry and to shoot, and to incorporate some useful features that he believed had been lost in rifle design, but to be more than just a collection of curious features. Thus, he had certain characteristics in mind.

  • He wanted it to be in a solid 30 caliber round, proven, in production and widely available, that could hit out to 300 meters and score effective hits on targets up to about 200 kilos in weight; he settled on the .308 Winchester.
    • While he did acknowledge that the venerable .30-06 was a better all-around cartridge, he took due notice of the fact that the .308 delivered almost all of the -06’s power but in a slightly shorter cartridge, allowing the gun’s action to be slightly shorter (to allow rapid bolt work) and lighter.
    • His mark of 200 kilos or so for the upper limit of the cartridge’s power meant two-legged game was in play, of course (heh heh) but also reasonable four-legged game such as whitetail, pronghorn, the antelopes and gazelles of African plains game, hogs, decent sized black bears and even elk.
  • It needed to be as light and compact– as „handy“– as possible. He settled on one meter in length and about 3 kilos in weight as the target values. (Yes, he was a big fan of the metric system.)
    • Realizing that almost all the rifles in production today were too long, he also wanted the length of pull to be adjustable at the butt by means of removable spacers; he maintained (correctly) that people with long arms could shoot shorter rifles well, but not the other way around.
    • In specifying the weight, he realized that there would need to be a trade-off between carry-ability and shoot-ability. A lighter rifle is easier to carry but can be punishing to shoot round after round. Since he reasoned that this was not a main battle rifle, and aside from training events, the round count would be low, therefore he could keep the weight down. I can tell you from experience that this balance is correct: if you take this gun to a course, say the 270 at Gunsite 🙂 , you will feel it because the round count is relatively high. However, if you shoot it to maintain practice and then in the field, it’s not a problem.
  • He wanted a sling to come with it, and not a parade sling or simple carrying strap but a sling that could serve as a shooting aid and a carrying strap. He settled on the ingenious „Ching Sling,“ invented by a Gunsite alumnus. (Mine was made by another Gunsite alumnus (and a damn good guy), Andy Langlois.) Cooper knew that a shooting sling properly used was one of the best aids to field marksmanship, especially if it could be gotten into and out of quickly and with no fuss. The Ching Sling does that.
  • He wanted practical, rugged and simple sighting systems, insisting on a scope for the primary and built-in irons for back-up. He chose the Leupold 2.5 power intermediate eye relief scope, that is, a scope designed to be mounted farther forward from the shooter’s eye than is normally seen these days:
    • In the first case, this gets the lens away from the shooter’s face, opening up his peripheral vision and enabling rapid target acquisition and snap shots. I myself have done this on a running hog. It also eliminates the chance of getting whacked above the eye on the recoil!
    • In the second case, as it’s mounted forward of the breech, it allows the rifleman to top off the magazine without interference from the scope.
    • In the third case, a fixed-power scope is the very model of simplicity– there are no adjustments needed. The magnification and field of view are right in line with the effective range of the cartridge and the size of the intended targets. See how it meshes together?
    • In the back-up sights he insisted on a simple „ghost ring“ rear aperture sight and a thick square-topped post on the front. Both fold down into the receiver and can be flipped up on demand if the glass goes down. Cooper expected the shooter to zero the irons, then flip them down and leave them alone until needed.
  • In keeping with Cooper’s philosophy of a scout rifle as more than just a short light rifle, but rather something greater than the sum of its parts, it has some other very useful and ingenious features:
    • It has a fold-out bipod built into the fore end. Not a perfect bipod, but it serves the purpose in a snap and also acts as a very useful way to rest the gun without laying it in the dirt or mud, or leaning it up against a tree where it will inevitably fall down. I have used the bipod for taking shots, and it does work!
    • It feeds from 5- or 10-round magazines:
      • The mag catch system is two-staged; insert the magazine into the well until it clicks once and you have it locked into place BUT it won’t feed rounds into the chamber when you work the bolt. The utility is that you can keep that store of ready-use ammo at hand but still feed rounds into the breech one by one. Neat, huh? (Remember that the scope is placed forward of the breech.) Shove it in until it clicks again and you have it seated for feeding.
      • There is a well in the butt for a reserve magazine (the gun comes with two for this reason). This too is pretty neat, and takes the place of a butt-cuff for extra rounds.
    • It has a three-stage safety catch, apparently a Steyr engineering initiative: the „safe“ position blocks the trigger and locks the bolt, the „load“ position blocks the trigger but allows the shooter to run the bolt; the „fire“ position puts it into action. Better still, it’s mounted on the tan to allow the easy use of the primary hand thumb, and the positions are logically arranged with „safe“ all the way to the rear and „fire“ all the way forward.

Incidentally, the entire scout rifle discussion in all its parts, before, during and after the Steyr production gun– and many, many other points of interest– can be found in the Cooper’s Commentary archives available in several locations. Here’s one.

As you can tell, I’m a fan. I’m glad I bought it, very glad I went to Gunsite to learn it from the experts at that incomparable facility, and most glad that I not only became a student of Cooper’s teachings but actually got to meet him twice. It is a pleasure to carry and to shoot. The Steyr Scout is in fact a remarkable instrument, in a class by itself, an advance in weaponry that is far greater than the sum of its several and very interesting parts.



(BTW, if you want one, Steyr will sell a stripped-down version of gun only, but in my opinion you want the „Cooper Package“ with everything on board. You take it out of the box and shoot it. You can find them on GunBroker and other sites; here’s one with what looks to be a Pelican case, and a copy of Cooper’s excellent book. If for some odd reason you need to put the package together, here’s the gun alone, and I embedded the Leupold and Ching Sling links above.)

Über vmijpp

VMIJPP hails from the star city of the south, Roanoke, Virginia. A 1989 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he is a retired artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps, with time in both the active and reserve sides. He served in Iraq in 2004, and in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. He joined the magnificent as a guest blogger from the now defunct but never uninteresting Rule 308, where he denounced gun control and other aspects of tyranny, and proclaimed the greatness of the United States. When the sun set on, he migrated here with Keydet1976 and the others.
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