Col. Jeff Cooper began to experiment with the concept that would come to be called the Scout Rifle in the 1960’s. Essentially, he wanted a light, powerful rifle that would be equally qualified to handle most hunting chores and also serve as a personal defense weapon. He did not conceive it as a weapon with which to engage in pitched battles but rather as a defensive tool for the individual who needed to keep his attackers at a distance and have time to get away from the confrontation.
Throughout his own research and development, Cooper designed, and had built, several custom rifles that illustrated the evolutionary process of his design. Ultimately, he set the loose parameters as being a .308 bolt-action carbine one meter (just less than 40 inches) in length and weighing about 6.6 pounds when tricked out with sling and optics. It should also have ghost-ring iron sights.
The most notable characteristic of his concept was the fact that the rifle would be fitted with a forward-mounted scope. This allowed for ease of carrying the rifle, easier access to the action for loading and other functions, and improvement of the shooter’s peripheral vision.
Prior to his death, in 2006, Cooper could only get one gun company interested in the Scout Rifle concept and that was Steyr. The rest just weren’t having any of it. The colonel used his Steyr Scout on several successful trips to Africa and on a number of head of North American game animals.
What is interesting is that, all these years after Cooper’s death, gun companies are now realizing that their customers are quite interested in the Scout concept. Currently, in addition to the Steyr, we have Scout Rifles available from Mossberg, Ruger, and Savage. And who knows who else we’ll hear from between now and the 2016 SHOT Show.
I believe that the reason for this interest is the fact that, to begin with, Cooper’s Scout concept is a sound one. Today’s shooters see a value in having a general utility rifle that takes care of both hunting and defensive needs. And, while the AR is currently the American Sweetheart not everyone needs or wants a semi-auto carbine.
To date, I have had the opportunity to spend time afield with the Mossberg, Ruger, and Steyr, Scouts. I suspect that I will soon be able to add the Savage to that list as well. I like the concept of a short, light bolt-action carbine. And the .308 Winchester (7.62 NATO) cartridge is one of the most useful rounds that has ever been conceived.
Personally, however, I have tried the forward-mounted scope and don’t really care for the concept. It inhibits the scopes natural light-gathering qualities and is difficult to use in certain lighting situations. I also will freely admit that I am more used to having the scope mounted in the conventional position as it is on my other rifles. I prefer to use 1-4X scopes that, on the lowest settings, allow me to shoot with both eyes open, thus improving my peripheral vision.
But all of that is okay because the Scout Rifle concept is not written in stone. Col. Cooper’s guidelines are a good place to start in working up your own light utility rifle but you should trick it out to suit your own personal needs. Heck, if you even choose to acquire an AR in .308 and you shoot it well, more power to you. At the end of the day, it is not what you have, but it is all about what you can do with it.
Like the 1911 fighting pistol, the Scout Rifle is part of the legacy that Jeff Cooper bequeathed us.