Scout Rifles



Everybody likes new things. And the advertising practices of the past 50 years have deepened and solidified our hunger for new things beyond the limits of common sense.

How else to explain the mad dash to ditch a perfectly good smartphone when a new model (that is functionally 97% identical to the old model, and light-years better than the phones of 5 years ago) is released?  IT managers were not hallucinating when they observed an increase in broken phones when a new iPhone was released. You can’t have bread & circuses without the bread.

Guns are not immune to this trend. When something bigger/smaller/faster/shinier comes out, we all salivate a little. Senator Phil Gramm once described the size of his arsenal as “more than I need, but not as many as I want”.  A smart consumer should mitigate his/her urge to acquire new hardware with the knowledge of: budget priorities, how easy it will be to get ammo/parts/accessories, reliability of warranty coverage, and whether or not the gun is chambered for a caliber that he/she already supports.  No one is saying that those are rules to adhere to at all times.  But you need to weigh all the factors against your personal situation before deciding. Bullets without a gun to shoot them are as useless as a gun with no bullets.

Example: Steyr pistols. They are well-reviewed for their accuracy and ergonomics, and appear to be of high quality.  And they are available in commonly-available calibers. I am curious about those fast-action trapezoidal sights.  But, even assuming you find a dealer that stocks them, where would you get magazines for it?  A safer bet would be a more popular design with better availability.  2 is 1 and 1 is none, as the saying goes.

Or a rifle in 6.8mmSPC; what are the chances that you will find ammo at Dick’s, WalMart or your local gun store? Extend that lack of availability to a SHTF situation where UPS is no longer a viable method of procurement, and you might find yourself with an expensive but poorly-designed club.

Suppose that you live in a state that is hostile to gun rights (such as Connecticut), where your options for semi-auto centerfire rifles are limited to hunting guns and certain models in the Ruger Mini-14/-30 series (the ones without the satanic baby-killing flash-hider). And the imbecile in the White House banned Russian imports like the Saiga. Or, maybe you already have some ARs, but have not yet received the registration form back from the Gestapo (and thus cannot safely take your AR to the range for practice).

But you have a pile of .223 ammo best suited for ARs (in terms of bullet weight & design). Do you just sit on it?  When properly stored, ammo will last a long time.  But how many of us take the steps to store ammo properly?

It might make sense to broaden your platforms to something that is less of a lightning rod, while still being able to use your existing ammo supply. Whether or not you use an AR-pattern rifle, those poodles still need to be shot.

For lever actions, Browning has made some BLR’s in .223, and Remington has made some pump-action 760/7600 rifles (which accepted AR mags). But good luck finding one of either gun. And there aren’t any tube-fed .223 rifles because there isn’t any flat-nose .223 ammo to make tube magazines a safe method of feeding.

Single-shot rifles are an option, I suppose, if you restrict yourself to sporting purposes. Ruger’s No. 1 and the T/C Encore would do the job.

Or you go for a bolt-action, a proven design which was plenty effective for all of the armies of WW1 and most of the armies of WW2. And not a long-barreled varmint gun (which probably has a rifling twist best suited to light bullets), but rather something shorter and handier with a faster twist to handle heavier bullets. Maybe it even has iron sights.

A few years back, Jeff Cooper devised the “scout rifle”. A short, handy, magazine-fed .30-caliber bolt-action with a forward scope mount for long eye-relief optics. Unlike many of Cooper’s product concepts (Bren Ten, anyone?), this one actually had some viability.

Sadly, most of the companies who built rifles to the “scout rifle” pattern made them very expensive, to cash in on suckers following the trend blindly. But there are other options which will do the job and which are not so expensive.

Here’s a list of the short bolt-action rifles that are currently available in .223 caliber:

Decisions, Decisions...

Decisions, Decisions…

 You will notice that the prices vary considerably, even within a single brand. I’m not sure how much of a cut that Gunsite is getting for letting Ruger use their name, but it must be hefty. I am having a hard time seeing what justifies the higher cost of the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle.

Do you see $550 difference?

Do you see $550 difference?

* The Gunsite Scout has a forward scope rail.  If you want to use the traditional scope mounting position on top of the receiver, you need to remove the rear iron sight.

Everyone’s buying criteria will be different. What are mine? In no particular order:

  • 5.56NATO compatibility (just to be as versatile as possible, even if I lose a little accuracy potential)
  • 1:8 or 1:7 rifling twist (because I have heavier bullets in my stockpile that my ARs don’t like)
  • Iron sights and out-of-the-box provision for optics (I will be scoping it somehow, but just in case…)
  • Detachable magazine (AR magazine compatibility would a huge plus)

A glance at the list shows that there is no rifle currently available that meets all of my criteria. If not for the rifling twist, the Mossberg would be perfect.

So I have to start deciding what is most important to me.

  • I need the faster rifling and a detachable magazine of some sort.
  • A factory rail is nice, and preferable to a receiver that is simply drilled & tapped.

ScreenHunter_106 Sep. 22 22.14

Ruger American Ranch it is. And it’s the cheapest of the bunch.


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