The Scout Rifle For Survival: Are They Still Relevant? – Firearms News


Ruger’s Scout Rifle, an excellent companion for scrounging or otherwise obtaining survival needs in hard times

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For urbanites not already owning a firearm, I usually suggest a handgun, shotgun, or both. The handgun can be kept close at home or away since Missouri is a constitutional carry state. If they lack experience with handguns I usually recommend a revolver. For home defense, the shotgun combines intimidation with devastating striking power. For handiness, I like Mossberg’s 20-­gauge Shockwave’s lower recoil. However, new shooters may still find the Shockwave hard to control and hit with. Therefore, I have also suggested Remington’s 870 Express in 20-­gauge.

However, many who feel the need for a firearm, or to add to firearms already owned, live in suburbs where vehicle-­borne looters, rioters, marauders, troublemakers, et al. might threaten at a distance. They justly feel the need for a rifle or carbine. As with those experienced with weapons, their go-­to choice is often an AR15. If they’re veterans, they are familiar with the basic M4/M16 system so using an AR15 requires minimal training. And, in many states an AR15 in 5.56x45mm may be used to hunt deer. A weapon that can defend one’s family and feed them is appealing. An inexperienced shooter acquiring an AR15, may seek advice about optical sights and tactical lights. Both are useful, aiding effective engagement at longer range and enhancing lowlight target acquisition. After adding a sling with the optic and illuminator, I would not advise burdening a multi-­purpose preparedness carbine with additional accessories.


Another suggestion is the Scout Rifle, which I often carry in my vehicle instead of an AR15. Let me explain. The Scout Rifle was designed for versatility: capable of taking most big game and usable for self-­defense. Based on firearms theorist Jeff Cooper’s concept, the Scout Rifle was designed to multi-­task. Characteristics of a Scout rifle include: chambering for .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO), overall length under one meter (40 inches), and weight under 3 Kilos (6.6 lbs). Normally, the Scout Rifle is equipped with usable iron sights and forward mounted scope. A synthetic rather than wooden stock is standard. Minimum accuracy for a Scout Rifle is 2 MOA (4 inches) at 200 meters. The Scout Rifle should take detachable box magazines and optimally carry a spare magazine in the butt. Swivels should allow versatility in mounting a sling.


The Scout Rifle will not spray rounds quickly from a high capacity magazine, but is that a plus or minus? Well, depending on circumstances it can be either. If being attacked by marauders at medium to close range, the ability to meet them with lots of rounds quickly and carrying out rapid magazine changes is an advantage. However, as has been found during the COVID-­19 pandemic, ammunition may be in short supply. If there’s enough range and cover to allow more careful engagement, firing well-­aimed 7.62mm projectiles, weighing approximately three times that of 5.56mm projectiles, with one-­shot, one-­kill accuracy may prove a more effective deterrent. The 7.62mm caliber round will also be more effective at disabling vehicles unless facing Road-­Warrior-­style attackers! If preparedness extends to taking larger game, the .308/7.62x51mm Scout offers an advantage over the 5.56mm AR15. The Scout Rifle has another advantage over the AR15 if you live in an unenlightened state which considers the AR15 inherently evil. To the average minion of the government, the Scout Rifle appears to be a “sporting rifle” one might have grabbed just in case his family was facing danger. If official perception is an issue, the Scout Rifle has an advantage. Fortunately, if considering a Scout Rifle there are versions available to fit most budgets:

Steyr Scout Rifle

Of commercial models available today the Steyr Scout Rifle is closest to the original concept.

The Steyr Scout Rifle was the first one offered commercially and has remained true to Jeff Cooper’s specifications. Originally produced in 1997/98, the same basic rifle is still available. Among useful features is the SBS action with bolt head that locks securely into the barrel extension. This eliminates most pressure on the receiver, thus allowing it to be lighter, as do polymer furniture and lightweight fluted barrel. More recent Steyr Scout Rifles have a large “tactical” bolt handle allowing faster operation. A loaded chamber indicator protrudes from the bolt’s rear when a round is chambered. It comes standard with a five-­round magazine and a spare carried in the butt. The magazine’s squeeze release allows easy change with the support hand. A 10-­round magazine conversion unit is available, which I favor for self-­defense. As with some classic military bolt-­action rifles, the magazine is designed with two seated positions. When seated in the lower position, rounds must be fed manually into the chamber while keeping the magazine in reserve. Should more rapid fire be needed, the magazine may be pushed up into the seated position so rounds will feed from the magazine.

Thompson using the sling to aid accurate offhand shooting

Other features enhance the ability to bring the Scout quickly into action. The flat-­bottomed forearm allows use of improvised rests. The rifle’s integral bipod folds flat against the forearm when not in use. The forward scope mount allows the shooter, if a relatively low-­powered scope is used, to scan the area through the scope or with the head pulled slightly away, retaining peripheral vision and allowing situational awareness, yet fast target acquisition. The roller safety atop the receiver allows readying the rifle quickly, without shifting the shooting grip or losing target image. Three QD (Quick Detachable) sling swivels are designed for a sling that allows the shooter to “lock in” for effective offhand shooting. Scout backup sights are rudimentary, that fold out of the way unless needed. Factory trigger pull is around 3.5-­4 pounds (but is adjustable), aiding in precise shooting. Butt spacers allow adjusting length of pull to suit the individual. Steyr rifles are known for accuracy and the Scout is no exception with 100-­yard groups running in the 1 to 2 inch range.

Ruger Scout Rifle

Ruger Scout with 5-­ and 10-­round magazines

At about two-­thirds MSRP of Steyr’s Scout, Ruger’s Scout Rifle offers a more affordable option. As with the Steyr Scout, multiple calibers are available, but I still recommend .308 for ease of ammunition acquisition. The Ruger has a forward Picatinny rail and backup sights. It also incorporates a muzzle brake (5/8×24 threads allowing suppressor mounting). The magazine release is a paddle forward of the trigger guard readily operated with the support hand. A soft rubber butt pad, with spacers to adjust length of pull, helps cushion recoil. Either a laminate wood or synthetic stock is available. A stainless version only adds a couple of ounces in weight so it might be the better choice for a preparedness rifle used in humid conditions. Ruger rifles’ legendary durability is another plus for a multi-­tasking rifle in trying times. A three-­position safety is located right of the bolt sleeve. It is workable with the shooting hand thumb, though is not as ergonomic as the Steyr Scout’s roller safety. Ruger’s Scout has a trigger pull of about 5 pounds, which I found adequate. My 100-­yard groups were normally around 2 inches. When shooting plates I found the Ruger bolt’s smooth operation allowed fast repeat hits.

Savage Scout Rifle

The Savage 110 Scout with 10-­round magazine in place.

Savage offers a reasonably priced Scout Rifle. The 110 Scout incorporates standard Scout features including the forward rail and backup sights. The backup peep sight allows accurate shooting to 100 yards, but sticks up enough that it could be damaged. As does the Ruger, the 110 Scout incorporates a muzzle brake. The adjustable AccuTrigger is crisp allowing good accuracy. Savage’s AccuFit system allows easy adjustment of comb height and length of pull. Proper comb height is important with a forward mounted scope, so this is a plus. Within a few minutes I had the 110 Scout fitted to my taste. Another positive feature is the sliding safety atop the receiver, easily operated by the thumb of the shooting hand.) Other than the fragile peep sight, the only other negative I found with the 110 Scout was weight: over a pound heavier than the Steyr and 1/2 pound heavier than the Ruger. On the positive side, the 110 proved quite accurate. My best group was 1 inch, but groups with other ammo ran 1.5 to 2 inches. The Savage 110 Scout offers a lot of rifle for the price.

Scout Scopes

This Leupold VX-­R Scout scope (bottom right) offers 1.5X for close in work including self-­defense and 5X for longer shots. Its forward mounting allows scanning the area more readily while remaining prepared for a shot.

Without going into great detail I’ll mention forward mounted Scout scopes that have performed well for me. Jeff Cooper’s original concept for the Scout Rifle called for a low-­powered scope of 2-­3x allowing a wider field of vision. The Steyr Scout was originally offered with a 2.5x long eye relief optic. I initially used that scope and found it adequate but not optimum. I have since used other Scout Rifle scopes. I find Leupold’s VX Freedom Scout 1.5-­4x28mm allows use of 1.5x for close range situations, including self-­defense, or 4x setting for longer range, whether hunting or counter-­sniping! I have also used Leupold’s 1.5-­5×33 VX-­R Scout Scope, a variable offering more range and better performance for CQC with its Firedot reticle. At longer ranges, I find the Firedot offers a precise aiming point for faster acquisition. For my Savage Scout I use the Weaver 4x28mm, a fixed power compromise allowing longer-­range use but still effective at closer ranges. Its price tag is also more in line with that of the Savage 110 Scout. There are other long-­eye-­relief Scout scopes available, but those mentioned are the ones I have found especially well-­suited to this type of rifle.

Practicing fast bolt operation with the Steyr Scout

The primary advantage of the Scout Rifle for preparedness is versatility. For the individual who wants one rifle to keep undesirables at a distance, or hunt deer with, yet is light and handy enough to easily carry in a vehicle, or lean in a corner next to the bed, it’s a good choice. For less experienced shooters, the bolt action is a simpler system than semi-­auto AR platforms. With practice operating the bolt and changing magazines, the Scout Rifle may be used for most self-­defense situations, though an AR15 or shotgun is better suited for urban unrest. Still, the 10-­round magazine capacity of the Scout rifle makes a more effective fighter than many “hunting” rifles. Because it is designed to provide well-­placed accurate shots, it can keep a threat at a distance without wasting ammunition, which may be scarce during hard times.

Plus, a Scout Rifle may be purchased in many venues where the AR15 is unavailable or viewed with suspicion. The Scout is a survivalist weapon in the true sense, as it can adapt to an array of perilous situations, and is compact enough to be there when needed. One well-­placed shot from afar can end the fight, and allow escape; that’s a good thing!

This article was originally published in Be Ready! magazine. You can find an original copy at If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at [email protected].

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