The Steyr Scout: Jeff Cooper’s Modern Day Frontier Rifle

Jeff Cooper was an icon of the American firearms community, best known for his work with the Southwest Pistol League and father of modern practical handgun competition. Cooper was a Marine Corps veteran and avid hunter in addition, and in the mid 1980s he began to codify a concept he would call the Scout Rifle.

This was intended to be a rifle weighing 3kg (6.6lb), no more than 1m in length, and capable of ethically taking game up to 200kg out to 400m. The concept called for a rifle that was rugged, versatile, fast, and accurate. In addition to game, it was to be capable of being used in self-defense against multiple humans, as might be required by a military scout operating alone. The sighting system had to be both fast and precise, and rapid reloading was a necessity.

This led to a variety of incarnations, with guns built on lightweight commercial actions as well as military surplus actions. In the early 90s, though, Cooper began working with Steyr Mannlicher to develop the best realization of the concept that could be done from the ground up.

They began with the Steyr SBS action, which allowed an aluminum receiver, and a newly designed polymer stock. The stock included a folding bipod in the handguard and storage for a spare loaded magazine in the back. removable spacers allowed a shooter to adjust the length of pull, and a lightweight barrel kept the weight down to just 3.2kg (7lb). The primary caliber offered was the .308 Winchester, although a version was also made in 7mm-08 for European markets where the .308 was not allowed for civilian ownership, and later versions would also include the .376 Steyr and .243 Winchester.

One of the other iconic characteristics of the Scout Rifle was the use of a long eye relief, low-power optical sight (specifically on the Steyr rifle, a Leupold M8). Coupled with folding backup aperture sights, this type of optic allowed some magnification to extend the range at which a target could be identified but also allowed rapid snap shooting with both eyes open and did not hinder peripheral vision like a traditional scope.

The concept continues to drive some controversy today as might be expected for a rifle deliberately designed to be good at a wide range of tasks while being excellent at none of them. I think discussion largely hindered by the fact that most who make judgement of the Scout, for good or ill, are not in a position to really need the set of capabilities it provides.

55 Comments

  1. I would say that they only missed one thing.

    I didn’t see any stripper clip guide.

    Not a big deal, you will have a least 2 magazines with you, but the clip is such an elegant way to load a bolt rifle.

  2. Having done 18 months in the recon platoon of an arctic light infantry battalion at Fort Wainwright, Alaska ’80-’82 I’ve always respected this concept. Our doctrine was if we were firing our weapons our mission had failed. I spent five and a half years in Alaska after I got out of the army which made me appreciate the scout concept even more, though I never saw one up there. Remington 600s and 660s which were the basis for Cooper’s original concept pieces were highly sought after, particularly in .350 caliber. Steyer also made their guns in .375 Steyer. Where I differ with you is that there is little use for such a tool in the modern world. Given the global and U.S.social, political, cultural and economic climate my opinion is the scout rifle is the ultimate survival tool in anyone’s kit in any milieu from urban to rural as long as they understand the concept.

  3. The scout rifle concept also included a magazine cutoff to allow single round loading, although to my knowledge the Steyr is both the only scout rifle with that feature and the last bolt action rifle designed with a cutoff. Steyr actually finessed the cutoff by providing 2 magazine catch positions, with the low setting keeping the cartridges out of the bolt path.
    I think the bolt action scout rifle is obsolescent since a .308 or 6.8 AR with a modern 1x-4x scope does everything the bolt gun does while being as light or lighter, semi-automatic and with potentially better long range optics, especially with 3 gun style offset iron sights so you can use a higher power scope.
    That said the Steyr is a brilliant design, especially the stock with the bipod and magazine holder built in.

    • “I think the bolt action scout rifle is obsolescent since a .308 or 6.8 AR with a modern 1x-4x scope does everything the bolt gun does while being as light or lighter, semi-automatic and with potentially better long range optics”
      I would say that bolt-action rifles are obsolete for military purposes, beyond niche application, like sniper rifles (including big-caliber one) and silent weapons if as silent as possible weapon is needed (cf. Welrod pistol)

      • The bolt action is still generally more accurate than most if not all self-loaders, so the sniping application is valid. As to that, a properly set-up Scout is no less intrinsically accurate than any other properly set-up bolt gun intended for field sniping, as opposed to a rifle designed for benchrest work.

        NB; The benchrest rifle will generally shoot tighter groups, but it’s less tolerant of being bumped around in trucks, jeeps, choppers, etc., and also generally weighs over 8 kg empty, which isn’t really what you want to hump all day on foot.

        The silent function can be attended to on a self-loader with a bolt lock (or on an M14 DMR, just turning the gas takeoff to “grenade”, or using a grenade-launcher mount to attach the suppressor to an M1 Garand), but again, it may or may not be as mechanically accurate as the bolt gun.

        Of course, “intrinsic” accuracy can be an odd thing. I’ve seen some highly accurate Winchester and Marlin lever-actions in my time. Cooper himself noted that at ranges beyond 100 meters, a typical Winchester M1894 in .30-30 and in good condition consistently shows better accuracy than a similar-condition AK in 7.62 x 39.

        cheers

        eon

        • Where do you think relative accuracy difference comes from? The way bolt is guided in receiver? The overall parts alignment? Lesser operating clearances?

          • Mostly it’s a function of bore and chamber tolerances plus bolt closure consistency. Ideally, the bolt should put the cartridge into the chamber exactly the same way every time, and the chamber should present the bullet to the leade’ exactly the same way every time.

            This is why benchrest shooters are so particular about the dimensions of their cartridge cases. Consistency in that helps the consistency of the barrel and action.

            Bedding to the stock is another factor. Again ideally, the barrel should be free-floated, having nothing interfering with its natural vibration when a round is fired. Admittedly, the Scout concept puts the mass of the optical sight and its mount on the barrel, but on the plus side that also means that the optical sight’s relationship to the barrel should never change as long as it isn’t otherwise affected by its environment (which includes somebody fiddling with it).

            Some Unlimited class benchrest rifles barely resemble “rifles” in this respect. One type is basically a length of I-beam with a steel block bolted to it. The block is in upper and lower halves that clamp together around the barrel. The optical sight is on a rail on top of the block, and the action is hanging out in the air in back.

            These “iron monsters” are fired from “return to battery” mounts as opposed to sandbags, and are operated more like an artillery piece than a small arm. Some of them look like something out of a science fiction movie, these days;

            https://discourse-cdn.global.ssl.fastly.net/boingboing/uploads/default/original/3X/a/3/a320129c8afb0fe97cea1d8880b0bb4922c07d10.jpg

            Others still have stocks- sort of;

            http://accurateshooter.net/Blog/deepaug1505.jpg

            But I think you’ll agree that neither one is exactly “tactical”, or even necessarily “portable”.

            “Absolute” accuracy is probably unachievable, short of using a directed-energy weapon. And an “absolutely accurate” conventional rifle isn’t going to be exactly “conventional”.

            The ones we use in the field just have to deliver the best usable accuracy that is possible. Because the environment won’t always be cooperative.

            Or as Col. Cooper said of defensive handgun shooting, you may not always have time to set up the perfect 10-ring shot, and instead you’ll have to settle for a fast 8 or 9.

            If the rifle will do that in the field, it has probably fulfilled its mission in practical terms.

            cheers

            eon

  4. “deliberately designed to be good at a wide range of tasks while being excellent at none of them”
    In development of military weapons there were directions of specialization and universality, which was especially visible in combat aeroplanes development, with various luck – generally specialized ones excel it is role, but struggle if used in other. Take for example Junkers Ju 87 which was specialized dive bomber – could effectively attack ground targets, but will have problem if have to fight with enemy pursuit planes.

    • That’s good example. Il-2 and later Il-10 were better in that regard by not by much. They were relatively easy prey to fighter planes, even with Beresin MG on back.

      • Well, guys, I remember playing as a late production Il-2 type 3M during a match on an online combat simulator. The worst way to attack a Sturmovik is to go for a head-on joust. I was playing in an arcade match(unrealistic casual play mode) and managed to shoot down three fighters who tried to attack me head-on. Granted, I had thrown all 8 anti-tank rockets at their faces along with a 5 second barrage of MG/auto-cannon fire, just before the last opposing fighter rammed me…

        In real life, the most successful Stuka pilot was Hans Ulrich Rudel, who managed to down a few fighters while flying his Ju-87… And he trashed hundreds of Soviet tanks and also sank battleship Mirat by himself, flying smack through intense flak just to deliver the fatal blows at almost last moment.

        Did I mess up?

        • You may remember from his memoirs that Rudel was flying an anti-tank mission in his Stuka and came across an IL-2 at close enough range that he could shoot it down with two rounds from his anti-tank cannon. The German ace Hartmann specialized in destroying IL-2s by shooting out the oil cooler from below and behind — they were massively armored on every other surface.

        • We are here to discuss primarily technicalities, at least that is my perception, but almost any clash is rarely about technicalities. It is about guts and gore. My father used to tell me: I wish you never find what war is about (he was referring to WWII in central Europe). I sincerely hope so.

          I have no problem with games as long as they are understood as that and nothing more. Technological wizardry used in them is breathtaking, for sure.

      • The tragedy of the Il-2 was that it originally lacked any defensive armament. Once the defensive gunner position became standard, the armament of the German fighters had improved as well, and on top of that the gunner’s position was unarmored, making him extremely vulnerable and easy to neutralize.

        The Il-10 was essentially what the Il-2 should have been. Considerably faster as well, although by standards of 1945 the Il-10 was already somewhat underpowered. Unfortunately the Soviet engine industry was not able to provide the kind of 2000+ hp engine it would have needed. I don’t know why a turboprop engine was not considered for the Il-10M in 1951. Perhaps it would have required a too extensive redesign. Defensive armament was adequate, especially after the upgrade to B-20 cannon in 1947.

        • I suppose you meant that the Il-2 pilot was supposed to sit tight as a Bf-109 closed in to shoot him in the head. If you didn’t notice, the early single-seat Il-2’s offensive armament included two ShKAS machineguns and two ShVAK 20mm cannon. The best way to attempt some sort of defense was to fly low and then force a German fighter to overshoot by some means or other, bringing the Sturmovik’s ground attack cannons to bear on the now vulnerable fighter. Once gunners were standard, the Il-2M3’s could defend themselves with a Lufbery circle. Anyone attacking a single Sturmovik would get pounced by the others. Remember, the Il-2 has armor while most attacking fighters of the day had only one armor plate for the pilot… or am I wrong?

          • “two ShVAK 20mm cannon”
            It was only stop-gap solution, until VYa-23 autocannons become available in enough quantity.

        • “standards of 1945 the Il-10 was already somewhat underpowered. Unfortunately the Soviet engine industry was not able to provide the kind of 2000+ hp engine”
          There existed upgrade of Il-10 with more powerful engine – it was called Il-16, used 2000 hp (nominal power, for comparison Il-10 has 1750 hp), but did not enter production due to unavailability of said engine (АМ-43НВ)

          • I am aware of the AM-43 powered variant. Since it was late war and then post-war, the main reason for “unavailability” was that they could not make it reliable enough to be worth mass production.

            In general Soviet engine industry was not able to produce reliable 2000+ hp piston engines suitable for single engine aircraft even after the war had ended. Case in point: the La-11 introduced in 1947 as one of the last piston engined fighters in the world still had the Ash-82FN engine with only 1,850 hp, the same engine as the La-5FN in 1943.

          • “I don’t know why a turboprop engine was not considered for the Il-10M in 1951.”
            I think that mass-production of turboprop engine might be problematic for Soviet industry too. Notice that Soviet aviation used Mikoyan-Gurevich I-250 which use motorjet (that mean it is piston-powered and jet-powered at one time), which is less effective that turbojet, but does not contain turbine.

          • The Kuznetsov TV-2 5000 ehp turboprop was ready for flight testing in 1951, thanks to the hard work of captured German engineers, although as I suspected it was a good deal bigger than the AM-42 and would have required a complete redesign of the aircraft. At that stage it was already fairly reliable. A paired version of the engine was used to power the Tu-95. Article: http://www.airpages.ru/eng/ru/troph3.shtml

        • “not able to provide the kind of 2000+ hp engine”
          There was assault aeroplane designed by Sukhoi bureau, which has to use M-71F engine, but problems with this engine locked any production of that aeroplane, called Su-6: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-6
          It was circa 100 km/h faster than Il-2 and with radial engine it should be more durable against AA fire.

        • “The Il-10 was essentially what the Il-2 should have been. Considerably faster as well,”
          VVS RKKA also used twin-engine Pe-2 Pawn diving bombers, though not as heavily armed with machine-guns/autocannons as Il-2, it could carry more bombs and was faster.

    • The Ju 87A and B were underpowered, which was noted already during prototype phase, and although B had a more powerful engine, it was still too weak. Gun armament was insufficient, in particular the single MG15 defensive gun, but also the fixed forward firing armament of two MG17 machine guns. Four such guns was originally planned, but two were deleted due to the underpowered engine.

      Despite coming after most traditional Western sources consider the design obsolescent, the Ju 87D was probably the best model of the aircraft. It was noticeably faster than B on equal load and could carry a much heavier bomb load, or the same load as B much farther. Defensive firepower was tripled with the MG 81Z, and the D-5 switched the MG 17s to MG 151/20 cannons, which instantly made a head-on approach for fighters much more dangerous. Admittedly, even the D model was still slow because the shortcomings of the old mid-1930s aerodynamics could not be fully fixed, despite having many improvements over model B. Nevertheless it fared well in 1942 and was able to soldier on in 1943, albeit increasingly as a night bomber.

      People also often do not realize that fighter-bombers like the P-47 and Typhoon also had to drop their bomb loads if they were intercepted by enemy fighters. So, ideally fighter-bombers needed escorts as well in order to carry out their attack mission.

      • History of aircraft used to be my hobby, many years ago. I can appreciate complete knowledge of the subject.

        Regardless, we can still talk about their guns, right? I find it more exciting then hand held firearms.

        • “History of aircraft used to be my hobby, many years ago. I can appreciate complete knowledge of the subject.”
          Independently of Stuka limitation it give good effect in psychological warfare era. Hear for example Stuka-Lied here (video with English subtitles): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI5Xt5YBOMQ
          Wir sind die schwarzen Husaren der Luft

        • “about their guns”
          Interestingly USAAF, apparently never used autocannons of ~37 mm caliber for their A for Attack aeroplanes. Other nations did: earlier mentioned Stuka carried BK 3,7 cm cannons, RAF has 40 mm Vickers Class “S”, VVS RKKA has NS-37 (Nudelman-Suranov 37 mm caliber).
          USAAF apparently for some reason used unguided rocket or multiple .50″ machine guns for engaging ground targets – for example A-26 Invader
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A-26_Invader#Specifications_.28A-26B-15-DL_Invader.29
          could carry over 20 forward-firing .50″ machine guns (8 in nose, 8 in under-wing pods, 3 in each outer-wing panel)

          • It should be noted that both the NS-37 and the Vickers “S” were considered to be failures in the ground attack role. The BK 3,7 only worked because the pilots flying the Ju 87G were carefully selected elite and the cannon itself fired efficient but expensive tungsten core APCR ammunition. The more average pilots flying the NS-37 armed Il-2s and Vickers “S” armed Hurricane Mk IID’s could not hit the vulnerable parts of German medium tanks (turret top end engine cowling) often enough. The Hurricane IV retained the Vickers guns as a theoretical option, but in practice 20mm cannons and rockets were used instead.

          • The US did have a 37mm cannon in the Bell P39 Airacobra, and the later P63 King Cobra but apparently preferred other weapons. The Russians actually used a lot of P39s for ground attack, more than the US, where the 37mm cannon often ended up on PT boats instead of aircraft. The US did occasionally go big, with a 75mm cannon on some B25 bombers for anti-shipping strike and post war AC 130 COIN aircraft with 40mm cannon and a 105mm howitzer on board.

  5. I had the opportunity to shoot the .308 version with 180 grain handloads a number of years ago.
    Recoil was brisk, the bipod looked flimsy but wasn’t, it handled VERY nicely and it was surprisingly accurate.
    I liked the rifle a lot.

  6. Might you not take a $400 SKS, stick it in a polymer stock, have a gunsmith tune the trigger and align some suitable optics, jury-rig some ammo pouches on the stock a la the M1 Carbine sleeve, and spend the rest of your money on high-quality accurate ammo? Carries your cleaning rod, as well. Might make an interesting project for someone: the Economy Scout Rifle. Legal in Canada, too, where it would be useful over great swathes of the Northwest. Not a Yugoslav SKS, one with a chromed bore for long periods outdoors or corrosive ammunition. Unless you are a wealthy man hunting poachers on your own wilderness estate, or a rich hobbyist living off the land for fun, I think low initial cost should be an objective too.

    • Speaking of which, how about an M1 Carbine? It’s lighter, you can carry many more rounds, the muzzle report/flash is much less, you can greatly accurize one with relatively little work, fitting a suppressor is eminately possible, it’s already semi-automatic,…I could go on…How about an 1894 Winchester in .357 mag to go with your model 66 Smith? You can shoot .357, .38 Special, and even…oops, I’m not supposed to tell about that one…
      Just be thinking…practicality counts unless you’re that rich guy hunting poachers. (;););)

      • “M1 Carbine? It’s lighter, you can carry many more rounds, the muzzle report/flash is much less,”
        Indeed M1 Carbine was created from requirements for “Light Rifle” but does .30 Carbine M1 cartridge full-fill condition:
        “ethically taking game up to 200kg out to 400m”
        ?
        (ignore this pistol if you wrote about M1 Carbine in other caliber)

        • D.,
          The problem remains, to generate a realistic scenario where a single “Scout” is going to find a way to deal with a 200KG carcass in a productive way, not to mention keeping things low-profile.
          Really, a “Scout” is pretty much defined as someone hiding , perhaps for good reason, perhaps embarrassingly not. Leaving a trail of gigantiic carcasses, enormous muzzle-flashes and thunderous muzzle-blasts are unlikely to work-out well for anyone.
          And such is the now pretty much gone “Scout Rifle.”

          • “generate a realistic scenario where a single “Scout” is going to find a way to deal with a 200KG carcass in a productive way, not to mention keeping things low-profile.”
            I only pointed that requirement, I am not able to explain to why it was made, maybe someone better knowing Cooper works, will explain.

            ” “Scout” is pretty much defined as someone hiding , perhaps for good reason, perhaps embarrassingly not.”
            I wouldn’t treat name such directly – for me it seems that objective was to get weapon, which would be effective against heavy (dangerous) animals, if they would present danger and still light and thus suitable if you move by foot-slogging – possibly coureur de bois rifle would be better but longer.

          • ““Scout Rifle.””
            In Deutsch there exist Waldläuferdrilling which means literally forest runner drilling, and is specific form of Drilling: it has two shot barrels (as side-by-side shotgun) and one rifled barrel over or under shot barrels, see photo of example here:
            http://www.fanzoj.com/de/gunroom/custom_built_weapons/three_barrelled/rib_drilling.html
            this particular weapon might have shot barrels either for 12 gauge or 20 gauge or 20 gauge Magnum and rifled barrel for .22 Hornet.

    • I’ve seen some “homebrewed” Scouts made from Mauser actions. One typical one used to be the surplus Spanish Army short-barreled M98s rebarreled to 7.62 x 51 (.308) with the flash suppressor and bayonet lug of the CETME (G3) self-loading rifle, that were used for training and issue to reserve formations. You used to be able to pick them up for under $100 because nobody was really interested in them.

      Take the action out of the stock, get rid of the flash suppressor and other extraneous bits (make sure the barrel is still over 16″ long!), remove the 98K rear sight and put a scope mount in its place for a Bushnell or Leupold LER scope, and drop it into a Choate or other aftermarket synthetic scout rifle stock. Instant Scout Rifle, so to speak.

      The whole point of the original Scout concept was a general-purpose rifle for field use that you could build up without breaking the bank. Somehow that part of the concept has been lost over the years.

      I’d suspect that a properly set up “home-made” Scout would shoot as well as the Steyr version, assuming that the guy who made it and the guy who used it both knew their business.

      By the same token, the most accurate rifle ever made is going to be of little use to someone who doesn’t know how to use it correctly.

      cheers

      eon

      • “By the same token, the most accurate rifle ever made is going to be of little use to someone who doesn’t know how to use it correctly.”
        Handbook How To Shoot The U.S. Army Rifle (1943) states that:
        (…)Your rifle should give you an advantage over the enemy. But actually, your rifle is no better than the man who shoots it. If you can’t shoot your rifle accurately, you might as well meet the Axis with your bare fists.
        It also cite Pershing:
        Send me men who can shoot. . . . .

        • There used to be saying in old country: “shooting like Russian”. I do not know where this saying originated, maybe just the fact soviet soldiers were so tough and motivated. People who remembered war told me all kinds of stories.

          We were in retrospect largely militarized society and that makes in view of international politics sense. We had air-rifle at basic schools and small bore rifle shooting and hand-grenade throw to target as part of fitness curriculum in all schools starting and middle level. Maybe that was the reason I scored later reasonably, even with less then perfect sight.

  7. I think the weight was a key element, thinking of an individual carrying this rifle all day on foot or horseback. You want it light enough that it is always handy. I imagine that if you are going around on a large Western ranch or wilderness area, you want something that can handle an unexpected confrontation with a coyote or 2-legged predator. I’d really like to one one of these rifles. I have trouble sighting with my regular scoped rifle due to having eyeglasses, so I wonder if a long eye relief scope would be easier for me to use. Great video review, and I will enjoy the Ching Sling video, as I have heard about this but never seen one.

  8. I have the Ruger GSS interpretation of the concept – it has fewer bells and whistles (no magazine cutoff, no bipod, no extra mag holder, only two sling swivels, it does have a flash suppressor and threaded barrel) stock is (nice) laminated wood, has a decent set of iron sights. It’s a nice rifle, very handy, etc. It’s a nice, lightweight, handy, accurate, bolt-action rifle in a serious cartridge (.308 Win.)

  9. Ian The Rifle has always been available in 7-08 , here and in Europe. In Europe it’s available in Steyer’s own cartridges. In Spain and In Germany .308 is lawful to own.

    • In Spain .308 calibre is legal now, but not in the year of introduction of the rifle. Nowadays, .308 it’s still forbidden in semi-autos, and in greater capacity tan 5 for manual repeaters.
      The price tag and “hunter fads” didn’t make the Steyr popular, either. (I have seen a grand total of two Steyr Scout in 20 years, and one of them has been in a gun-store for years).

      Probably due to availability and price, old mauser carbines (usually Oviedo’s) and FR8s have been converted to this style, but rarely (if ever) used in the intended way of col. Cooper’s original concept.

  10. Scout rifles work great in heavy brush aka the entire southeast. 308 and 7mm08 kill deer and pig just fine. Don’t know what he is talking about relative to not being able To hunt with it? Area defence on a sailboat bolt guns don’t get the questions ARs do with custom officIals (Bahamas) slight people find them easier to shoulder. Bolt action is simple so it has a low failure rate unlike ARs. Manual of arms is simple. Field strip and clean likewise simple. It’s not to impress it’s To work even stored for long periods of time because cleaning,operatoon and maintenance are Spartan.

  11. Seem to recall Cooper writing that the bipod was not so much for shooting as to store the gun in camp, and also to make cleaning easier in the field. Besides African hunts, just before WWII Cooper had an extended hunt in Alaska and took all game with one rifle. It is a little awkward to clean a bolt gun without a means to support it.

    For what it is worth, I believe 10 round magazines were made for the rifle.

    Cooper wrote that he was open to semi-auto actions, but could not find one that would fit within weight and length limits. And indeed an AR10 does weigh a couple more pounds than this rifle.

    American hunters these days tend to sit in a deer stand and shoot a deer 100 yards, or less, away with a 3X9 scope cranked up to 9. Shooting at a stationary deer that is in view for dozens of seconds. Weight and length, who cares? Only walking is from the ATV to the tree stand.

    This gun was more for instant shooting–the long eye relief scope with both eyes open means no “getting lost on the scope.” And, as Ian pointed out, it was meant to be handy to carry. In my opinion that was one of Cooper’s main points–make guns that were handy. Better to be handy than to lose a little bench rest accuracy. I remember the gun press in the 1980’s–all reviews of guns were reduced to tables of velocity, bench rest accuracy, and capacity. An overly-long, horrible trigger, akward safety, and slow to get in action rifle was just great to long as the velocity and bench accuracy were good (with the factory hand-picked rifle anyway). Part of the Scout Rifle concept was to make a handy rifle, a painfully obvious but almost universally missed point back then. That is a good concept even if this particular manifestation of the concept is not what one needs.

    • As a final point (or two) to have a truly intelligent (my spell-check automatically offers “interesting “…ok, works both ways…) discussion the “Scout Rifle” concept desperately needs start with a practical definition of “mission intent and goals.” Like, “What are we running around here in the woods with, at best, an obsolescent late 19th century rifled-musket barely capable of repeating fire?”
      Coopers list of requirements specify the ability to deal with a 200Kg animal, which realistically means…your neighbors cow. At least in this in time and place.
      This, as they say, is a behavior that will make your neighbors very unhappy and you most unpopular.
      The point of all this and the explanation for the abysmally poor sales for scout rifles is nobody wanted a tool that had no reasonable use that anyone could reasonably define.
      Sounds like a fast-trac to a short unhappy life like the occasional loon you see on the news furnishing fun and adventure to the local sheriffs department…and their dogs and helicopters.
      Oh, well, I’ll just get back to my Ruger International in .308. It’s a compact, lightweight, 6-shooter with scope and backup iron sights. The added butt storage for several extra rounds works it pretty good and the recessed strap attachment allows a number of commercial bipods to hook up without forcing you to carry a mandatory built-in if you don’t want to. Anybody with real life experience knows strippers are near worthless and manipulating a bolt action to singleloading is about as difficult as peeling a bubble-gum wrapper…in other words, not very hard.
      And it’s so very handy, indeed. (Despite a fireball muzzle-flash bigger than your ex’s bottom and a report that’ll make peeling paint drop off the barn door.)
      And a used Ruger International, from 20 years ago when I bought it was a Whoop’in lot cheaper than any extant-at-the-time “Scout Blaster.”
      Still is.
      Prettier, too.

  12. This is going to be a very long post which will not be well received by those who have pastures stocked with sacred Scout Rifle and Jeff Cooper cows. Bottom line up front: the Scout Rifle abjectly fails its primary mission as defined and created by Jeff Cooper both in concept and reality.

    Before I go further I am a big fan of Coopers “Modern Technique” and every tactical and “Tacti-cool” shooting school in the country owes Jeff Cooper a debt of gratitude for founding Gunsite. The shooting curriculum under Coopers supervision at Gunsite taught me a great of useful and practical shooting techniques. Following his departure from API/Gunsite the curriculum and classes began a slow steady decline. I don’t have a “Love me” or “see how great I am” wall in my home, however the API 250 certificate he signed in 1988 does hang from one. Having said this Cooper was not perfect, and he wasn’t always right. Even brilliant men can push ridiculous ideas when propelled by their egos as historically demonstrated by Edison’ misguided belief that direct current was superior to Tesla’s alternating current. The Scout Rifle is the firearm world equivalent of direct current power and people keep extolling the virtues of the Scout Rifle irrespective of the truth.

    I’m very familiar with the Scout Rifle concept beginning in 1988 when I took API 250 from Jeff Cooper. Following the shoot off and the awarding of class certificates we were all invited to the Sconce, Coopers home for home baked cookies and orange juice. Inside Coopers walk in gun vault located in his basement he described and talked at length about the Scout Rifle ( as well as numerous other subjects). From his lips he described the primary purpose of the Scout Rifle (SR) was a rifle utilized by a lone military scout performing reconnaissance in front of friendly lines. The scouts primary purpose was not to engage in combat but to gather information. If he should have to fire his first shot must be, quick, accurate, and decisive. The secondary role for the SR was as an all-purpose rifle. In both cases the only rifle Cooper considered as fit for this mission was a bolt action. Period. This is the first fact about the SR you need to understand.

    Now, at the time I was just a Special Forces qualified captain on a battalion staff in a special forces group and the most significant thing I had done in the Army (other than graduating from the Q Course) was to break my leg on my thirteenth parachute jump. I hadn’t done nor experienced much. At the time Coopers concept of the SR didn’t strike me as sound nor practical however I couldn’t articulate why.

    Time passed and several years later I took an API 260 shotgun course at Gunsite and following the end of class we were again invited to the Sconce and again Cooper discussed the SR. The raison d etre’ for the SR remained unchanged: it was a bolt action rifle which was the primary arm for a lone military scout and secondarily a jack of all trades outdoors gun.

    In September 1993 I took a Gunsite 270 rifle class. Cooper sold Gunsite to Rich Jee the year before and part of the sales agreement stipulated Cooper would maintain a presence in the classes i.e. a lecture or range time to ease in the transition. Cooper may not have always been right but he always was Cooper. To that end there are numerous stories and rumors of what happened next but Jee and Cooper had a massive and epic falling out which resulted in Cooper being banned from Gunsite (save for his house). All of this happened a short time before I arrived for 270. Too bad, I would have loved to see Cooper’s reaction to my weapon during the rifle class.

    To wit, I took a bone stock 50.00 FN FAL for the rifle class and every other student brought a bolt action; most being custom made Scout Rifles. Some of the more notable students in the class were Bill Jeans, Peter Kokalis, and Gabe Suarez. I use this analogy with regard to how my FAL performed in the class: the cheapest production Stihl chainsaw will cut more wood than the most lovingly hand crafted expensive ax. On the last day my FAL easily out shot every other rifle and I quickly won the shoot off. Impressed, Gabe Suarez told me, “If I ever take 270 again I’m bringing my M1A.” At least two (and probably more) of my classmates were far better shots than I (neither of which were Peter Kokalis) however they were handicapped by their obsolete equipment, which brings up the second fact about an SR: a semi-auto rifle can always fire as slow as a Scout Rifle, but a Scout Rifle can never fire as fast as a semi-auto rifle.

    I do not take personal credit for my performance in 270. If I had been armed like the rest of the class with an obsolete, glitzy, LER, bolt action, custom Scout Rifle, which I must add was the politically correct rifle to use at Gunsite, I would have been just another mediocre shot in the crowd. The FAL did it-not me.

    People miss. In the real world most of your shots will be misses not matter how much you wish otherwise. Why do you think when you go to a public shooting range that has range benches almost everybody shoots their rifles from the bench? Because most rifle owners suck at firing from the standing, kneeling, sitting, or prone positions. People want gratification and shooting from a bench makes them believe they are good shots.

    After the shoot-off we were told on the down low that Cooper had invited us to the Sconce as was the custom. Shortly after we assembled in his vault Cooper asked, “So who won the shoot off”. I was standing in the back and said nothing. A pregnant pause hung in the air and when it was obvious I wasn’t going to speak somebody said, “Tyler did.”

    “Where’s Tyler?” asked Cooper.
    I raised my hand, “Over here.”
    “What rifle did you use?”
    I looked him in the eye and proudly stated, “An FAL.”
    Gawd, you shoulda seen Coopers expression, he looked like he was weaned on a sour dill pickle.

    Cooper again waxed eloquent about the SR, same message, same mission, same bolt action however since last I attended a Gunsite class I had the First Gulf War under my belt and subsequent to that commanded a Special Forces “A” Team. With a modicum of experience I now realized his views regarding the Scout Rifle weren’t just wrong, they were stubbornly naive. However through his force of personality, erudite writing style, and legions of acolytes he was able to convince many the emperor actually was wearing clothes provided he was armed with a Scout Rifle.

    To truly understand the Scout Rifle you have to understand the man who conceived it. Jeff Cooper flat out hated semi-automatic rifles. Yes, you can find several quotes from him to the contrary but the overwhelming amount of his words and actions leave no doubt of his disdain for self-loading rifles. He has stated in his “Cooper Commentaries” several times that a man in the standing position who is an experience bolt gun guy can fire the weapon only slightly slower than a self-loader to the point the difference in speed is not a consideration. Apparently Cooper never considered there are other positions than offhand in which one cannot fire a bolt gun rapidly at all. In his book “The Art of the Rifle” he does not even mention semi-auto rifles nor do any of the pictures depict anybody with a semi-auto.

    At Gunsite there were two arroyo’s cutting through it: one called the “Donga” and the other the “Vlei”. Each was a zig zagging jagged cut in the ground with sharp turns and numerous blind corners. The student would enter the downstream end of these arroyo’s and then proceed towards the head of the arroyo engaging hostile Pepper Poppers. Along the way poppers could/would be emplaced above you are at a distance. This course of fire were designed by Cooper.

    The odd thing is that when I went down the Vlei and Donga in 250 and 260 there were many times when I engaged multiple targets. However in the 270 rifle class, there were no multiple targets to shoot in the Vlei and Donga, only single targets. The reason for that was if a bolt gun student was forced to engage multiple targets the shortcomings of weapon would be readily apparent.
    Here’s how much Cooper loathed semi-automatic rifles. At Gunsite the “E ticket”, that is an Expert diploma, was the highest ranking diploma you could receive in a course and much coveted. After that was “Marksman First Class” and then “Marksman”. I don’t recall if there was something below marksman but if so who cares? A good friend of mine who was a Viet Nam vet, former Marine (like Cooper), police SWAT sergeant, AND a longtime Gunsite instructor took an API 270 class as a student with his favorite rifle, a para FN FAL. Not only did he earn the highest score of the class in the marksmanship test, he also won the shoot off. So what diploma did Cooper give him? A marksmanship first class. Two of his fellow student which he bested received expert diplomas. Why? Because they used bolt rifles and he did not.

    After spending a bit of time running the roads in Iraq and on a PSD team I am of the opinion this concept of a lone soldier roaming in front of the FEBA with a SR is utterly moronic. Cooper’s ideas of rifle craft are rooted in mythic nonsense from the 19th century. On the Gunsite List I once challenged anybody if they could name one soldier or marine in the last 30 years who ever willingly went on a solo scouting mission in enemy territory. Nobody could, however I note this was before Bowe Bergdahl’ antics in Afghanistan. If any officer gave an order commanding a soldier to go in front of the wire alone on a scouting mission he would have been told “F**K YOU SIR!” If that same officer ordered a troop to go on a solo mission with nothing but a Scout Rifle he’d face a mutiny.

    When I was in SF I couldn’t tell you how many times after mentioning in passing to another SF guy or SEAL I’d been to Gunsite and the first thing out of their mouth was, “What the hell is Cooper talking about with this Scout Rifle shit?” I was first asked this by my company commander when I was in 5th SFG. Shaking my head I replied, “I dunno Sir, don’t make a lick of sense to me………”

    Now, to really raise peoples ire, in my opinion Cooper did not really understand the concept of the modern rifle and by “modern rifle” I mean starting with the M-1 Garand. For Chrissakes one of his favorite rifles was the 30/40 Krag! The Scout Rifle is useless in trying to gain fire superiority if you are ambushed. Yes, I know in a perfect world of Ninja Scout Rifle shooters you never will be ambushed. If one needs to put a lot of bullets into a vehicle or aircraft to stop it you can’t with a Scout Rifle. Again I know the Ninja’s armed with SR’s will only need ONE perfect bullet. If I need to blast a lot of rounds through a wall to take out an enemy I can’t with a Scout. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know an expert rifleman with a Scout Rifle can just walk through those walls. If one gets wounded in an arm at least with a semi-auto you can keep firing until the magazine is empty. Oh, wait-that’s an invalid point as Scout Rifle guys are bulletproof.

    Yet again I say, “If your damn Scout Rifle was so good my FAL never should have won the shoot off against it at Gunsite!”

    I believe Coopers hatred of semi-auto’s was rooted in the belief he considered himself a patrician and as such certain skills and knowledge must separate elites from the lower classes. Elites such as himself were possessed of remarkable rifle craft skills and abilities best utilized by the precision tool of the bolt action rifle. People in classes and stations on lower rungs in his mind did possess the necessary mental skills and disciplines required to be proper riflemen. Cooper distrusted the masses (which is most of America) and often contemptuously labeled our present time as “The Era of the Common Man”.

    Cooper believed that cultural, political, technological, economic forces were all being driven in support of and pursuant to the masses i.e. “the common man”. In his mind deference to the mediocrity of the masses instead of excellence (which was the milieu of the patricians and elites), had denigrated the more high-brow pursuits of art, literature, consumerism, film, music, culture, and yes, even rifle craft. Therefore the lower classes were not pursuing excellence of marksmanship with semi-auto firearms but rather firepower. If these lower classes used rifles such as semi-autos which made them more effective the elites were challenged. As an aside Cooper had nothing but contempt for the AK-47 the ultimate weapon of the masses.

    Strangely, as a rabid 1911 advocate, Cooper never saw the inconsistency of his beliefs’. That is the .45 ACP 1911 handgun was to the semi-auto rifle, what the .45 Long Colt Single Action Army was to the bolt action rifle. My point is that applying Coopers same logic regarding rifles to pistols he should have been against carrying a 1911 automatic pistol. If you correctly and accurately place your first bullet you don’t need a second follow up, but if you do need one a single action can be cocked very quickly-even faster than a bolt can be worked.

    What? You say that when an adversary is close even the briefest amounts of delays can cost you your life? Well-if you had been situational aware utilizing the proper Cooper color code this would not be an issue. Also the standard Single Action is more accurate than a 1911 therefore why carry a less accurate pistol? So what if you only have six rounds? Just as there were no multiple targets on the Vlei or Donga to prove the deficiencies in bolt actions, I don’t have to address this issue other than by saying there are enough rounds to enable a skilled Patrician to kill six opponents. Cooper himself didn’t bring a 1911 .45 Automatic with him to the Pacific in WWII………..he brought a .45 Single Action Army. If these arguments appear obtuse and closed minded, well, they are exactly the kinds of rationales I’ve heard Cooper address issues with.

    When the Steyr Scout came out there were some readily apparent problems with the rifle which Cooper brushed aside. For instance as a universal rifle the Steyr didn’t care for military ammunition. Half the time the firing pin wouldn’t strike the hard military primers with enough to detonate them. When the rifle was adjusted to impart more force to the firing pin the trigger pull became much heavier. Coopers remedy was basically don’t use military ammo. When it was pointed out that the 19 inch barrel of a Scout creates a large muzzle flash (read fireball) which would reveal your position to the enemy and that just maybe it should have a flash hider, Cooper dismissed this flaw, “If you hit your target with the first shot you don’t need to worry about revealing your position.” That statement alone should cause people to wonder just how much time Cooper spent in the field and question his tactical prowess.

    All during this time Cooper still clung to the belief the SR was a combat weapon first and foremost. Then came the War in Kosovo during the summer of 1999. When a Kosovo Liberation Army rebel armed with a Scout rifle had his photo taken Cooper was ecstatic. FINALLY some fighting man had validated his Scout Rifle concept! Hallelujah, praise Jesus! However that validation was at best spurious. Just because one or two guys in a combat zone carries a chrome plated Klingon Disrupter, Uday Hussein’s personal gold plated Tabuk assault rifle, or a much vaunted Steyr Scout Rifle doesn’t mean a damn thing. Having spent a good part of time of my life in some dangerous areas of the world I saw irregular forces armed with all manner of goofy shit. I swear during my first year in Iraq it seemed like half the Iraqi Police had removed the stocks from their AK’s and I knew guys who went out in the Red Zone armed with nothing more than a Tariq pistol, Glock 19, Czech Skorpian, or nothing at all.

    Now here’s a little tidbit that has been kept quiet for quite some time. This is for all you Scout Rifle lovers who say the SR was never intended to be a combat rifle.

    In September of 1999 Cooper gave a lecture at the Soldier Of Fortune convention in Las Vegas of which the topic was “The Scout Rifle in Combat”. On a table next to him he had his Scout Rifle. After the lecture was over people were crowding around the table and handling the rifle when “WHAM!” Somehow a .308 round found its way into the chamber of the Scout Rifle and when a bystander pulled the trigger a bullet went into the ceiling. My point here is not to lay fault at Coopers feet for an ND, (he didn’t bust the cap) but rather to emphasize the subject of his lecture.

    In the ensuing years I have watched how the true origins of the Scout Rifle have been obscured, glossed over, and rewritten like Soviet history. Over time people finally acknowledged, tacitly or otherwise, that the SR as a military rifle is a dimwitted concept. As a hunting arm it does what it should. However people who never even met Cooper have told me to my face that the SR was never intended for a military role and that “Scout” was just a name-nothing more which is unmitigated BS.

    The odd thing is at times I wonder if even Cooper didn’t have some doubts and hedge his bets on whether the Scout Rifle was really valid. After I informed Cooper I used a FAL in the 270 class my eyes cast around the interior of his gun vault. On one side was a long work bench and on the wall were mounted a dozen or so long arms, most predictably of the boltish type. There was a wall dividing the room and I peeked my head through the open doorway to see what was inside. I noted this part of the vault was a storage area for boxes, and gun cases, things like that. However in the far corner, partially obscured by junk was a scoped HK-91, lonely and exiled from the “real” guns in the other room. It was the poster child the kind of rifle Cooper hated. So why did he have that HK? Why indeed……………

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