Best Scout Rifle

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Best Scout Rifle

This is an article about the Best Scout Rifle on the market, and there can be only one best. At its heart, a Scout rifle is Jeff Cooper’s baby. It’s a rifle that mimics ideas from a military scout’s needs and core ballistic and functionality fundamentals to form a rifle that was a true utilitarian unicorn that offered exceptional accuracy and intermediate range and stopping power for anything the modern defensive rifle user, or hunter would need.  

If you don’t know who Jeff Cooper is, and you want to, you can scroll down to the “More Information” section below. 

The modern scout rifle needed to be lightweight, compact, offer exceptional ballistics at intermediate ranges and provide unmatched utility. It was also meant to be shot, steadied by a sling (the “Ching Sling”) and with an interesting open eye relief optic which only served as an aid to the robust and function-first iron sights. 

Before the beloved commentator, writer and defensive guru Jeff Cooper died he finally brought his treasured Scout Rifle concept to fruition – it was made by Steyr – the same Austrian manufacturer that made rifles and cars and other precision metal objects. His Scout Rifle still provides exceptional value to this day, and that very Steyr is on this list, along with some other rifles that espouse the same ideas.

What Characteristics make it a Scout Rifle?

In Jeff Cooper’s mind, there was a rigid set of requirements to be a true “Scout Rifle”. Generally as follows:

  • .308 Winchester or 7mm-08
  • Everything on the Scout rifle has to be under the maximum weight limit (including sights) at 3kg or a bit over 6.5 lbs.
  • A composite stock
  • Overall length to be under 1 meter/39 inches
  • Guaranteed 2MOA accuracy at 200 yards (4” groups at 200 yards)
  • A self-tensioning sling (he favored the original Ching-Sling designed by Eric Ching)
  • A sub 3 lbs. trigger, with a true sear/trigger disconnect instead of a block safety
  • Additionally, generally there are very good iron sights or a place to mount a forward open eye-relief optic

Which market options are our favorite Scout Rifles?

Our Favorite Scout Guns

Steyr Arms Scout Rifle

Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Bolt Action Rifle

Mossberg MVP Scout Rifle

Savage Impulse Hog Hunter

Savage Arms 110 Scout

Less traditional Scout Rifle options:

Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad

Springfield Armory Waypoint

The Scout Rifle is every bit as pertinent today as when Jeff Cooper was envisioning it in his mind

A workhorse and a unicorn at the same time, the Scout Rifle has been copied by major manufacturers because it has desirable characteristics and a timeless feel. It’s been a popular gun since it’s release for myriad reasons – the following of which are important factors:

The Scout rifle is fast to use in a field setting or a self defense setting that requires longer distances and legitimate stopping power. it’s not a burden to carry, and it’s safe in transport. The durability and repeatable accuracy of a bolt gun is impressive, and the simplicity for servicing in the field is generally unmatched. The .308 is an easier to secure cartridge than many, and the platform handles most tasks asked of it from a ballistic and a functional perspective. 

The Scout Rifle is not meant to compete with the AR platform or with the long-range precision builds. It’s meant to tread a very specific area between them, which leaves the user able to use it defensively with prowess and confidence, while still being able to reach out realistically past the general range effectiveness of lighter weight bullets with an expectation of moderate to heavy stopping power.  

Perhaps the biggest argument that this Scout Rifle platform is as pertinent today as ever, is that it’s a perennial best seller. 

 

These 7 “Scout Rifles” are The best options on the market

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Why this is the best scout rifle

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Why only .308 or 7mm-08?

Simply put – the idea that once could travel easily on a plane or in an off-road vehicle around the country or the world didn’t fit well with the very real difficulty of finding military cartridges in many countries or areas. In some places possession of military goods are a violation of law with serious consequences. 

Cooper believed that one could use the substantially similar .308 instead of the 7.62×51, etc. At the time, 7mm-08 was much more widely used, and while still a great cartridge it has fallen out of favor in many circles and become expensive relative to newer more mainstream options.

Why is a Scout Rifle only 6.5 lbs. or 3kg?


Ease of use, and to make the user less fatigued in the field. It was also meant to be steadied not on a bench rest or a tripod, rather with a sling and while doing physical work on a hunt or in defensive postures.

What's the reason for a composite stock?

Durability mostly, with weatherproofing and ease of maintenance core factors as well. Generally at the time of Cooper’s initial envisioning of the scout concept it was not a huge practical weight savings to use commercially viable composites like fiberglass, which had negligible weight savings over traditional wood stocks. You still see Scout variants today with laminated stocks (e.g. the Ruger Gunsite Scout), and with lightweight polymer or Carbon fiber chassis available. Generally glass reinforced composites are no longer used even if they are durable, because they push the weight factor too high up. 

The rigid requirement of being under 1 meter

Air travel, 4×4 vehicle travel, foot travel. These were primary concerns and a shorter gun makes sense. Cooper also envisioned a balanced piece that could be used not unlike the .30 Carbine in the Vietnam War, as a bush beating rifle that would not get hung up if slung over the shoulder. The barrel length isn’t needed for the .308 or 7mm-08 to get out to 250 yards and really a 4” group at 200 yards is just starting to get into the uncomfortable zone for medium sized targets. Again, the Scout Rifle was intended to do work in 100-150 yards or less, with outlier capabilities past 250.

Is 2MOA Accurate enough for a legitimate rifle?

Given the specific tasks asked of the Scout platform, it certainly is. Most large game animals have more than 8 inches of kill zone in more than one place on the body. For defensive purposes, if you are worried about racing a human target past 250 yards, perhaps you aren’t entirely locked in on the “defense” aspect of the concept. 

Most shooters cannot routinely shoot much better than 2 MOA with iron sights. The rifle was intended to be used with quick open eye relief forward mounted optics, as an aid to the iron sights, not necessarily as a replacement for them. Cooper may or may not have envisioned today’s Reflex style optics, but he relied on tried and true methodologies to get on target. 2MOA is good to go for the average shooter and hunter.

Why was the Scout Rifle intended to have a Ching Sling?

Eric Ching was a friend of Jeff Cooper’s and the sling is a masterpiece for what it is. Sure, there are more tactical slings available now for running and gunning, but this was intended as a field rifle, not a door breaching weapon. It was never going to be suitable for a bipod or tripod and the ability to cinch a sling up with some basic wrapping on the forearm and use leverage and tension to create a rock-solid base meant that you were more likely to get your target.  

Why a 3lbs. trigger and a true disconnecting safety meant something for Jeff Cooper on the Scout Rifle concept

The clean break of 3lbs is noticeable, but it’s also not difficult. It was to ensure that the trigger felt good to keep accuracy intact, but also that it deterred mistakes and helped improve cognition in the process of aiming and striking a target. It also meant that the rifle could be carried “condition one” in a sense – a phrase that Cooper was famous for using, and that you could still sling it up. 

By the way – this author is not suggesting that Cooper said you should carry a rifle this way, or that he did so – simply that the concept of it is enhanced by the trigger design. In many hunting scenarios, it is not safe or recommended to carry a rifle this way. In a defensive scenario, it is likely to be the only way that most users would carry a bolt action rifle.

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Where to buy these SCOUT RIFLEs

Choose from the following online stores to purchase these Scout Rifles now

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More Information about the Best Scout Rifle

About the designer

Who is Jeff Cooper and Why does he Matter? Only one of the most influential and longest lasting icons of the golden era of the American Sportsman.  

Unique history

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Why it’s popular

The Scout Rifle platform has taken on a bit of a life of its own. It’s not nearly as rigid a platform as once envisioned by Cooper, but it is still as practical and approachable. You see some slight variations, to include slightly higher weight limits to accommodate optics or adjustable stocks, or an inch or two more in the barrel. You see some length changes for the OAL (overall length) figures to ensure better 300+ yard ballistics. You see new calibers added to the mix, and muzzle brakes, specialty sights, etc. 

While Cooper loved his concept, the people love it a bit more loosely, and prefer to customize to their specific needs. The underlying utility still exists and very few consumers are complaining – the rifle is more popular than ever. It is absolutely true that this is not a 600+ yard gun. There are short precision rifles for that purpose. But they are not as robust or likely to get beaten up falling off the horse, or falling into the brush with the hunter as he sees his target suddenly appear in the distance. 

You aren’t looking at $10,000 pieces of polished glass sitting atop a Scout Rifle – you see iron sights and maybe a Reflex or a forward mounted open eye scope. The whole rig is $2k or less, while most short precision shooters are looking at 10-15k all-in for premium options and 4-6k for high class offerings that have been blueprinted.  

People are getting what they want, and it’s not the ubiquitous black rifle with a detachable magazine that is mostly made of aluminum. It’s good old fashioned steel (and a bit of plastic). It’s fresh compared to the mainstream, and it helps bridge the gap between truly defensive rifles, sporting rifles and long-range precision rigs. 

Accessories that make sense

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How to best use the setup or item

As Cooper intended it, with a Ching Sling, iron sights and in the field. It’s best in its native environment.  Simply put, you don’t buy a scout rifle to snipe intruders onto your ranch from the ridgeline. You don’t buy it to clear outbuildings with a group of highly trained friends. You certainly don’t buy one to shoot metal plates at 600 yards in high wind. It’s for hunting, ranch work, basic perimeter protection, Coyotes that you don’t expect, or for long romps up the steep mountainside in search of medium and large game.

If you can shoot 2 MOA at 200 (4 inch groups), then you can count on iron sights. If you can’t shoot that well, a $300 dollar scope is likely enough to do the trick and ensure you get your game meat and fill the tag. It’s also easier to lug around a Scout platform than it is to carry most traditional hunting guns. Once you stack up the weight of the accessories on your AR, it’s pushing 10 lbs, and still isn’t pushing a third of the lead you are likely to want on a big game animal. 

Somehow the Scout Rifle platform is both the utility option, and the niche specialty option. It just does what it does, very well.

Other thoughts on the Scout Rifle platform

There have been attempts at incorporating more contemporaneous cartridges into the Scout rifle platform, but there are some issues with that line of thinking – particularly with the 6.5 Creedmoor or similar that would normally make a good core ammo choice for the range of things a Scout rifle could do. Most importantly, the Scout Rifle concept is a 250 yard gun at its core, and the 6.5 ballistics are better suited for twice that and even 3 times that range depending on the setup and the loads. 

Furthermore, the idea that you’d be able to figure out a way to carry a fixed stock with a 22+ inch barrel in order to get 400+ yards out of the 6.5 is hard to imagine. You really want to be using a 26 inch barrel to extract typical potential out of a 6.5 load, especially when terminal stopping power is a primary concern. 

That isn’t to say you cannot get to 250 yards with a 6.5 in an 18.5 inch barrel, but rather why would you? The concepts are so far apart, that it just doesn’t make sense. The Idea of the scout is closer to a lever action .45-70GOVT than it is a 6.5 or similar. You aren’t trying to bang a gong at 1000 yards with a Scout rifle, you’re trying to perform utilitarian work with high stopping power, in a package that lets you do most tasks in a sub 150 yard range with aplomb.

All that said: the .338WSM or .338RCM would be an ideal choice for such a platform assuming it’s built for the task (Scout Rifles are durable and well-built by their nature). Such a rifle might be a perfect companion in Dangerous Game areas, where instead of moose, you are looking at a staredown with a bear or a large cat instead. 

In all fairness, the 7mm-08 is a cartridge that is harder and harder to find, and the Scout platform is going to adapt to newer, sexier cartridges going forward in all likelihood. At least as it pertains to being used as a marketing tool, which some manufacturers have been doing with the “Scout”.

A .308 is going to be more than enough for defensive uses, and more than enough for hunting most of the domestic Big Game animals within reason, especially with superior loads available now.

Cooper’s initial vision was that military rounds would not be available in many regions or countries and therefore to be a cosmopolitan user of the Scout platform, one must have it chambered in a civilian available cartridge. He also preferred a tight range of uses for the gun.

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