The “Do All” Carbine.
What if I told you there is a new rifle perfect for hunting, ranch work or defense. It has a short, 16-1/2″ barrel, iron sights, as well as the means to mount conventional and forward mounted telescopes, uses 5- and 10-round magazines and it’s capable of better than minute-of-angle (MOA) accuracy? Further, what if I told you Sturm, Ruger & Co. and Gunsite Academy have teamed up to create this rifle and it’s available now? — It’s called the Ruger Gunsite Scout.
The Scout Rifle concept has been around for some time. Gunsite founder Jeff Cooper started exploring the idea about 30 years ago and since then a number of custom Scouts, as well as production Scouts from Steyr, Savage and others, have been marketed. So what’s a Scout Rifle? First and foremost, it’s a general-purpose rifle suitable for defense, hunting, or, as Cooper visualized, for use by a lone military scout who might be expected to operate in enemy territory and away from friendly support.
Such a rifle would have to be lightweight, user friendly and capable of striking a decisive blow quickly at distances from just off the muzzle out to 300 yards or more. Over time, Cooper defined a set of goals and then challenged others to create solutions and products to meet these ideals. These criteria included: an overall length of 1 meter; bolt-action; a weight of about 7 pounds; provision for both iron sights, as well as a forward-mounted, low-power telescope; a good trigger and the ability to have about 10 rounds of ammunition “on the gun.” Initially, this project faced some very difficult obstacles. Nobody was making many of the needed components and the costs of producing them were prohibitive. Still, over time, progress was made, some rather expensive custom rifles were built, and finally, in 1998, Cooper was successful in having Steyr of Austria produce the Steyr Scout.
I feel very fortunate to have been involved in this new rifle from the beginning; it’s rare, indeed, to be able to say you helped design a new firearm. We got the ball rolling several years ago while we were doing a writer’s conference for Ruger at Gunsite. I asked Ruger’s Ken Jorgensen if they might be interested in producing an updated version of a scout, perhaps based upon their little Frontier bolt-action rifle? This simple question grew into a meeting to discuss the concept to Ruger’s engineers making it a reality. In December 2010, at a writer’s conference at Gunsite, we introduced the production Ruger Gunsite Scout.
Gunsite has always been known for conducting practical, reality-based training. The folks at Ruger decided this new rifle should be the answer for anyone interested in not only a practical or hunting rifle, but a tactical one as well that might serve as an attractive and less costly alternative to the semi-automatic .308 tactical rifles on the market. As such, the rifle is short, lightweight and handy. The barrel is 16-1/2″ long and has a Mini 14-style flash hider, as well as a Mini-style blade front sight protected by two sight ears. The rear sight is an adjustable aperture, also from the Mini 14. Overall length of the rifle is adjustable from between 38″ and 39-1/2″ by means of three 1/2″ buttstock spacers provided with the rifle. Adding or subtracting these spacers allows for adjusting the length of pull from 12-3/4″ to 14-1/4″.
The stock is what Ruger calls a black laminate. It’s checkered at the forearm and wrist, and not only looks good, but feels good too. Using a laminate, into which the action is tightly locked and the barrel is free floated, adds greatly to the strength and accuracy of the Scout. One thing I wanted was a soft recoil pad and this rifle has one. After shooting hundreds of rounds from the bench, prone and in the field, I have yet to experience any bruising or soreness.
When we were doing the planning, plotting and scheming for this rifle everyone felt it was important it be magazine fed. This created a number of obstacles for Ruger, as they had never made a box magazine-fed, bolt-action rifle before. During one of their many trips to Gunsite during the development process, Ken Jorgensen and Mark Gurney brought out a couple of early prototypes, one using M14 magazines. After shooting these rifles we agreed that 20-round magazines were not necessary for the rifle we were envisioning. There had been some thought that using military magazines would be a good idea since so many are available, but there is also an issue with quality variations and we didn’t want someone criticizing or complaining about this rifle due to using junk surplus magazines. The first run of magazines is quality five and 10 rounders made by Accurate-Mag, the same magazines used by several high-end sniper rifles. By the time this magazine hits the newsstand, Ruger will be providing Ruger-designed polymer 5- and 10-round magazines.
The Gunsite Scout makes use of Ruger’s proven M77 action, meaning you get controlled round feeding and the Mauser-style claw extractor for the most reliable feeding, extracting and ejection in the bolt-action arena. The bolt-handle is smooth, and if I may digress, therein lies a tale: Jeff Cooper had always stipulated that bolt-actions have a round, smooth bolt handle knob and he carried this idea over to the conceptual Scout. When Steyr introduced their Scout at the SHOT Show, I went to their booth to visit Jeff and see the rifle. The first thing I noticed was the Steyr had the European-style “butter knife” bolt handle. Marching over to Jeff, rifle in hand, I asked for an explanation of this discrepancy. I’ll close the curtain on this scene right there. If you knew Cooper you could imagine how he responded! Anyway, I’m pleased to say Ruger got it right and put a smooth knob on the bolt.
Ed domonstrates how easily the GS Scout comes to shoulder with the
forward mounted optic and Galco Ching Sling.
Sights And Sighting
This little rifle, perhaps more properly referred to as a carbine, allows for great variety as far as sighting systems are concerned. The rifle comes with iron sights and the included Ruger receiver rings can be used to mount conventional riflescopes. If necessary, the forward-mounted Picatinny rail can be removed to provide clearance for large objective lenses. The rail is forward of the receiver, so that long eye relief (LER) Scout scopes of low magnification can be forward mounted. Also, intermediate eye relief (IER) scopes, like the new Leupold 1.5X4 variable I have on my Scout, can be mounted. The Scout rail also easily accommodates any of the red-dot or military sights you might wish to mount, such as those by Trijicon, Aimpoint, Leupold, EOTech and others.
This idea of forward-mounted optics requires a little explanation. Whether a Scout scope or a red dot, forward mounting the optic allows you to keep both eyes open. This provides a number of advantages, such as maintaining peripheral vision and tracking moving or multiple targets, but the greatest advantage is speed. When someone or something is trying to kill you, speed is of the essence and nothing is faster for a snap shot than a forward-mounted optic. The good news is there is no downside. The forward mounted scopes work just as well as conventional scopes for longer range shooting. Other advantages are the optic isn’t covering the action, making loading, unloading and clearing malfunctions easier, and it prevents malfunctions sometimes created when ejected brass hits the scope and falls back into the action.
Iron sights or optic of your choosing, they all work on the GS Scout.
The stocks on most rifles are too long for most people, with a length of pull (LOP) averaging around 14″ or 15″. LOP is measured from the face of the trigger to the middle of the butt and when it’s too long, it forces the shooter into a bladed stance with the stock on the ball of the shoulder. Shooting this way hurts — the recoil is directed right into a joint — and it results in excessive muzzle climb, and often, shots impacting off to the side of the point of aim. Not good. Much better is the ability to fit the stock to the shooter with an adjustable buttpad, just as we have on the Ruger Scout. It took me a long time to learn this, I’m hard headed and Cooper had to beat on me until I understood, but most shooters are better off with a short(er) stock. This allows us to shoot more accurately without discomfort, manipulate the rifle bolt, control recoil, get back on target more quickly and shoot from a squared-up stance.
Try this: Standup straight with hips squared to an imaginary target. Bend the knees slightly, lean forward and get your chest ahead of your belt buckle. Place your strong-side foot back 6″ or so from your support-side toe, but keep both feet pointing at the target about shoulder width apart. Now, bring your hands up into a boxing stance then imagine holding your rifle with your hands in this position. You’re now in a balanced shooting/fighting stance, and adjusting the number of spacers in the Scout stock allows you to shoot this way.
Ruger and Buz Mills’ crew at Gunsite teamed up to make an outstanding rifle
At the start I mentioned MOA accuracy, meaning, more or less, the rifle will shoot into an inch at 100 yards. At 200 yards that would translate into 2″ and at 300 it would be 3″. With both Remington and Federal Match ammunition, shooting prone from a bipod, I managed to get 1″ 3-shot groups at 100 yards, 1-1/2″ groups at 200 yards and 2-1/4″ groups at 300 yards. Doing accuracy testing from a bench with six different brands of ammunition, I found the hunting loads average between 1-1/2″ and 2″ at 100 yards. The overall average for more than 150 rounds used in the accuracy testing at 100 yards was 1.54″. Federal Gold Match averaged .994″ for five consecutive 5-shot groups.
For years, I have heard the argument Scout rifles don’t work any better than Pappy’s hunting rifle that has been harvesting deer for the past 50 years. True enough. If all you ever do is fire a couple of shots from the bench to confirm zero, then fire one or two rounds a year harvesting your deer, you probably don’t need a Scout. But for those who work or live with a rifle every day and use it for a variety of field-shooting opportunities, to know the Scout is to love the Scout. If I had to walk out the door with only one rifle it would be a Scout, and in particular, the Ruger Gunsite Scout. Why? Because I can hunt, fight or defend with this rifle; this one rifle does all those jobs well. Is it perfect for each of these roles? Not at all, but it is very good at all of them and that is enough. There is nothing more simple or foolproof than a Mauser-type bolt-action. It will last for many lifetimes with minimal maintenance. Chambered in .308 Winchester, the Scout is powerful enough to handle any reasonable task and the ammunition is universally available.
This rifle can serve well as a ranch or truck gun, a hunting rifle or for defending home and hearth. As a law enforcement rifle it might serve as anything from a patrol rifle to a sniper rifle, when equipped with the right optics. I don’t see the military dropping automatic rifles in favor of a bolt-action infantry carbine, but I also don’t see the armed citizen as needing a .308 semi-auto battle rifle (Don’t send hate mail, I said needing, not wanting. It is also great for those who don’t live in “Free America,” like poor editor Sammy stuck in Kalifornia.) Absent the exceedingly unlikely event of, as my friend Michael Bane puts it, the zombie apocalypse, there is nothing you can do with a semi-auto .308 you can’t do with a bolt-action Scout. You’ll save money buying a Scout and can invest the savings in a plentiful supply of ammunition. Try it, I bet you’ll like it.
By Ed Head
From The GUNS Magazine 2012 Special Edition
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