In 1984, Gunsite founder Jeff Cooper began writing about the Scout Rifle extensively. It was his concept, general-purpose rifle; the one rifle that could be used for most any rifleman task. From then until his death in 2006, Cooper would continue to extol the virtues of the Scout Rifle, but the idea never really caught on. Though the Scout Rifle had a cult-like following, Cooper’s disciples were the only ones who really appreciated it.
Cooper’s continued support of the concept prompted Steyr to create the Steyr Scout Rifle, a firearm Cooper considered the best personal rifle in the world. That was in 1997, and the Steyr received a lot of interest. However, the average guy mostly overlooked it because it was too expensive. It wasn’t unit 2012 that the Scout Rifle really established a foothold in the American marketplace; that’s when Ruger introduced the Gunsite Scout Rifle (GSR.) The GSR was/is not a Scout Rifle by Jeff Cooper’s definition. It’s more of a modernized take on the concept.
Since the Ruger GSR was introduced, Mossberg and Savage have presented Scout Rifles, which, like the Ruger GSR, are not true Scout Rifles either. Of course, whether or not the rifles are true Scouts have nothing to do with their suitability as utility-type rifles. I’ve worked with them all, and while I could nitpick minor details, each and every one is a serviceable utilitarian carbine.
The thing is, many who pick up on one these new-age Scout Rifles will appreciate their modernized take on Cooper’s idea, but will still find them a bit cumbersome, and maybe a tad unfriendly. This is of course why Cooper originally stipulated a field-ready weight – with the scope and sling attached – of 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds). Admittedly, the Steyr doesn’t meet this limit either, but ergonomically it is much friendlier than some of the more modern and less-expensive options. And, friendliness is one of the things Cooper considered a hallmark of the Scout Rifle. Though the term is hard to define, when you feel it, you know it.
For those not smitten with the commercial Scout Rifle options available, you can turn to a custom builder. The downside to this path is that it isn’t what most would call affordable. This is even truer if you chase the unicorn-like lightness of a rifle that weighs about 6 pounds with a scope and sling installed. Men such as Jim Brockman of Brockman’s Custom Rifles make a living converting rifles from New Ultra Light Arms and Kimber into Ultralight Scout Rifles.
A more important consideration might be to ask exactly what is the lure of a Scout or Scout-like Rifle. The lure lies in the versatility and utility of the weapon system. Sure, some will argue that it’s hard to find a more versatile rifle than an AR, but keep in mind there are places where you cannot own or hunt with an AR. The idea of the Scout Rifle was one rifle for the world.
I’ve hunted with Scout Rifles across the United States and in Africa. Like Cooper, I’ve found them ideally adapted to the snap shot, while providing enough precision to get lethal hits on big game at any range I’m comfortable shooting. They’re also compact and light enough for comfortable all day carry. With its back-up iron sights, the Scout Rifle will also survive optic failure and afford a sighting alternative in a downpour or snow storm. If I had to rely on one rifle and only one rifle, I’d choose a Scout Rifle.
No, the modern-day Scout Rifle is not exactly what Cooper intended, but even though they share the “Scout” name, they were never intended to be. They are without question, a general-purpose utility rifle and every real man needs a rifle like that.