Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
The late Jeff Cooper was a gentleman of the old school and one of the most influential gun writers of the 20th Century. He was best known as a handgun authority, but also thought and wrote about long guns. When Remington introduced their now iconic Model 600 bolt action carbines with 18.5" barrels, ventilated ribs and adjustable iron sights, Jeff Cooper was among their few champions in the outdoor press. The Model 600 was introduced in 1964 in calibers .222 Remington, .243 Winchester, .308 Winchester and .35 Remington. Of these, .308 was the most popular and Guns and Shooting Online Technical Advisor Jack Seeling purchased a .308 M-600. In 1965, Remington introduced the first true short Magnum cartridges, the .350 Remington Magnum and 6.5mm Remington Magnum, in the Model 600M Magnum. This was a laminated stock version of the M-600. Guns and Shooting Online Owner/Managing Editor Chuck Hawks was selling guns in a retail store at that time and, alerted to the pending introduction of the new .350 Magnum, ordered what he believes was the first Model 600M sold in California.
The Model 600's were justifiably criticized for their short barrels and were only produced until 1968, when they were replaced by the Model 660, with a 20" barrel sans ventilated rib. In the event, the Model 660 fared no better in the marketplace than the previous Model 600; it was discontinued in 1971. With that, Remington quit experimenting with short action carbines until the introduction of the Model Seven over a decade later. However, Jeff Cooper had become enamored with the .308 Model 600 and .350 Magnum Model 600M and extolled their benefits years after they had been discontinued.
A parallel development in the early 1960's was the introduction by Bushnell and Leupold of long eye relief scopes that could be mounted centrally forward of the receiver on top ejecting Winchester Model 94 lever actions. This seemed like a better option than the offset side mount scope to our Chuck Hawks, who installed an original model Leupold 2x IER scope on his Centennial '66 Model 94. Thus, Chuck and Jack, who were hunting partners and college students during the early 1960's, were familiar with the very elements (M-600 bolt action carbine and IER scope) that Jeff Cooper later merged to refine his scout rifle concept. Jack currently owns a .350 Mag. Model 673, the 2003 successor to the Model 600M, and Chuck's dedicated "scout rifle" is a pre-'64 Model 94 with a Leupold FX-II 2.5x28mm2x IER Scout scope mounted forward of the receiver. Chuck insists that the Winchester 94 carbine, particularly with tailored handloads or Hornady LeverEvolution ammunition, is every bit as useful a scout rifle as any bolt action .308 carbine. He has a point, but we digress.
It was in 1968 that Jeff Cooper fitted a Model 600 with a receiver sight and (apparently) coined the term "scout rifle." He credited the Winchester Model 94 carbine and Mannlicher-Schoenauer carbine as the direct ancestors of his scout rifle. He also began refining the concept, eventually adding an IER scope mounted forward of the receiver. A series of Jeff Cooper's personal scout rifles followed, based on various short bolt actions. It is worth noting that the Cooper Scout Rifles were designed to serve as hunting and defensive weapons for guides, scouts, explorers and solo hunters in rough and/or remote country. They were not military rifles. He settled on the .308 Winchester as the ideal scout rifle cartridge, but remained interested in the .350 Rem. Mag. (and later the .376 Steyr) for a more specialized scout rifle intended for hunting, or as protection from, dangerous game. He called this his "Lion Scout." Jeff Cooper proved his scout rifles on big game hunts around the world, about which he wrote a number of articles.
In the early 1980's, Cooper wrote an article extolling the benefits of his (by then developed and refined) scout rifle concept and it caught the attention of the survivalist crowd. In 1997, Steyr Mannlicher, with Jeff Cooper's assistance, introduced the .308 Steyr Scout. Savage, Springfield Armory and possibly others subsequently produced versions of the scout rifle concept, but none of them has exactly set the firearms world on fire. So far, the scout rifle has remained a niche product.
Sturm, Ruger hopes to change that with the introduction of their Gunsite Scout, blessed by the famous Gunsite firearms training center founded by Jeff Cooper. Ruger, using their considerable marketing power, has extensively advertised this new introduction as, "The one rifle to have if you could have only one," an ad campaign that has generated plenty of interest and may, finally, turn the scout rifle into a mainstream firearm. Having played around with scout rifle concepts and components, albeit without coining the clever name, since the early 1960's, we were naturally interested in reviewing Ruger's modern version.
The Ruger Gunsite Scout is based on the short Model 77 bolt action in .308 Winchester. This is a cock on opening, controlled feed design on the Mauser 98 pattern. The Scout's action has been modified to accept a 10 round, detachable box magazine and fitted with other enhancements. These include a flash suppressor, protected front and rear aperture sight, Picatinny rail forward of the receiver (for convenient IER scope mounting), recoil pad and three ½" spacers to adjust the length of pull. The M-77 receiver has the usual integral mounting cuts for Ruger scope rings, which are supplied with the rifle. The laminated stock is stained gray/black with a black recoil pad and it complements the carbine's matte black metal finish. The three panel, laser-cut checkering wraps around the forend and there are generous checkered areas on each side of the pistol grip.
The trigger of our test rifle released cleanly with zero take-up at 4.75 pounds, according to our RCBS Trigger Pull Scale. This is a big improvement over the first Ruger M-77 Hawkeye rifle we reviewed. If Ruger would reduce the trigger pull to about three pounds, they would really have something.
The safety is the by now familiar M-77 three position type that allows unloading the chamber with the safety switch in the middle position. Forward is "fire," fully rearward is "safe" and locks the bolt closed. The bolt release is located at the left rear of the receiver. It is notable for the sharp edge on its raised thumb tab. The magazine release is a lever protruding down from the front of the cast aluminum trigger guard. The Ruger Gunsite Scout is available with a right or left hand action.
Specifications as tested
You could not call the Ruger Gunsite Scout a pretty rifle, but it is business-like with the exception of a couple of unnecessary features. The 10 round magazine projects so far below the bottom of the rifle that it is clumsy and gets in the way in the field. We think the Scout should be shipped with two magazines, the second being a more practical five round magazine. Alternatively, ship the Scout with a standard five round magazine and make the 10 round magazine an accessory available for those who want it.
The second unnecessary feature is the flash suppressor. We would gladly exchange the dubious cosmetic benefit of the flash suppressor for an additional two inches of barrel length, which the .308 Winchester cartridge desperately needs for enhanced ballistic efficiency. A 165 grain bullet that leaves a 24" barrel at 2700 fps is likely to leave a 16.5" barrel at only 2550 fps (Remington estimates). Deleting the flash suppressor and adding two inches to the barrel would not increase the overall length of the rifle and would increase muzzle velocity while reducing muzzle blast to the shooter. A flash suppressor is pointless for a single hunter, guide, or explorer in remote country, the applications for which the scout rifle was created.
We did our test shooting for this review at the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Bob Fleck were on hand. Our standard rifle testing distance is 100 yards, but in deference to the Scout's iron sights and our aging eyes, we shot our groups for record from 50 yards. All of our shooting was done from a bench rest using a Caldwell Lead Sled. The early summer weather was overcast with an occasional smattering of rain and a high temperature of 69-degrees F.
We fired three shot groups for record with four types of .308 ammunition. These included Remington Managed Recoil with a 125 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet, Winchester Supreme Elite with a 150 grain XP3 bullet, Stars & Stripes with a 165 grain Hornady Spire Point bullet and a medium velocity reload using the 165 grain Hornady BTSP bullet in front of 44.0 grains of IMR 4064 powder.
As you can see from the results above, the Scout delivered consistent, but not tiny, groups. We have ordered a Leupold FX-II 2.5x28mm IER Scout scope to mount on the Picatinny rail forward of the receiver, which should substantially improve the practical accuracy of the little carbine. However, our impression is that, if you are looking for gilt-edged accuracy, you should look elsewhere.
Chuck discovered that the Scout's stock, designed primarily for use with a telescopic sight, had a comb too high to allow him to comfortably use the iron sights. He therefore left the shooting chores to the other guys. Jim was occupied shooting handguns for other reviews, so Rocky and Bob shot the Scout for record. Rocky did the best work with the Scout and shot the smallest groups.
Bob discovered that, as long as the bolt was operated swiftly, cartridges appeared to feed correctly from the magazine. However, if the bolt were operated slowly the cartridge would pop out of the magazine in front of the bolt's full length extractor. The cartridge could still be chambered, as the M-77 extractor is beveled to allow it to ride over the case rim as the bolt is closed, but the advantage of controlled feeding is lost. We also noticed that the long magazine had a lot of play after locking in place in the receiver, which is never good.
We found that the "10 round" magazine will actually accept 11 cartridges and feed them correctly. Unfortunately, it is difficult to load more than one cartridge into this magazine. The best procedure is to set the magazine upright on a table and use two hands to load the cartridges. This is necessary, because if you load normally with one hand holding the magazine and the other pressing in the cartridges, the base of the top cartridge in a partially loaded magazine will pop-up above the rear edge of the magazine and slip backward as the next cartridge is pressed into the magazine. This ties-up the magazine. The solution is to hold the base of the top cartridge down with one hand as the other hand is used to slip the next cartridge into the magazine. Reloading in the field, with no convenient bench rest on which to set the magazine, is going to be a hassle. No one liked the design of the 10 round magazine and we all agreed that a standard five round magazine would be a great improvement.
We hope that Ruger plans to follow their Gunsite Scout with a "Bear Scout" for the North American market, chambered in the .350 Remington Magnum caliber favored by both Jeff Cooper and the Guns and Shooting Online staff. This version should have a stainless steel barreled action with an 18.5" magnum weight barrel (no flash suppressor), come with a five shot magazine and weigh about 7-3/4 pounds without scope. If offered, it would make an excellent Alaskan "guide rifle" and serve admirably for protection against large predators anywhere in the world.
Our suspicion is that the Ruger Gunsite Scout is going to sell well, probably primarily to urban wanna-be commandoes who have no intention of venturing alone into remote territory. The day of the explorer, scout and mountain man is largely past, but we think Jim Bridger and Kit Carson would have loved this little Ruger carbine.
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