May 2011

Is Ruger’s New Gunsite Scout Rifle a Pretender, or Contender?

Jeff Cooper’s scout-rifle concept was intended to be an all-round light bolt-action. Does the Gunsite Scout do the idea justice? We find out by pitting the newbie against an original Steyr Scout.

Some decades back, the late John Dean "Jeff" Cooper came up with a concept for what he ultimately called a "scout rifle." This was intended to be an all-around rifle, capable of being used for hunting, but especially useful for the lone military scout (an ancient term). The precise details of this light bolt-action rifle concept have been listed here and there over the years. Some of the specs included 308 caliber, minimal length and weight, a forward-mounted scope, possible provisions for clip loading, a suitable sling, and numerous other features that had great value to the late Mr. Cooper and his fans. After years of searching for the best solution, and the construction of several custom rifles that came close to Cooper’s ideal, along came Steyr, which incorporated most of Cooper’s rifle ideas into the Steyr Scout, which actually had Jeff Cooper’s personal monogram on it. The Steyr Scout rifle so pleased Mr. Cooper that, so far as we know, he ceased his efforts to find a better version of his concept. But that did nothing to stop other makers from coming up with rifles that vaguely approximated some of the scout-rifle features, and of course these had the "scout" name attached to them.

Ruger has offered several short 308 rifles, including one a few years ago that also had provisions for a forward-mounted scope. The Frontier rifle was heavy and generally had none of the better features of the Steyr. Savage also has a scout rifle, and we have a test scheduled on one of those in the near future. But now Ruger has again come out with a scout rifle that looks a lot more like it. It even bears the name of the rifle range that Jeff Cooper began—Gunsite—in Arizona. The new Ruger is called the Gunsite Scout.

We thought it would be interesting to compare the new Ruger Gunsite Scout (MSRP $995) with the established and still available Steyr Mannlicher Scout rifle (MSRP $2975 in the limited-edition Jeff Cooper Commemorative package). We checked pricing on and found no listings for the new Gunsite rifle. One seller, Northwest Armory in Portland, had two Steyr Scouts in 308 Win. listed with a buy-it-now-price of $1881.

One of our staff loaned us his original Steyr JC Scout for this test. We shot the two rifles with a mixed batch of recovered military ball ammo, with Winchester Match, Hirtenberger 150-grain JSN, and with a handload featuring a 150-grain soft-nose bullet. Here’s what we found.

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