Here’s Best Scout Rifles Adhere Almost Perfectly to Jeff Cooper’s Vision

Best Scout Rifle - Featured Image (1)

Jeff Cooper certainly wrote and spoke like he knew the popularity of his concepts would be permeating shooting culture long after he died. Among his most pervasive concepts is the scout rifle. The best scout rifle adheres almost perfectly to Cooper’s vision which was originally an homage to scouts who had been very successful years earlier in solo or small team missions for the military many decades earlier.

Coljeffcooper
Col. Jeff Cooper

Jeff Cooper certainly wrote and spoke like he knew the popularity of his concepts would be permeating shooting culture long after he died. Among his most pervasive concepts is the scout rifle. The best scout rifle adheres almost perfectly to Cooper’s vision which was originally an homage to scouts who had been very successful years earlier in solo or small team missions for the military many decades earlier.

Mr. Cooper had some very specific thoughts about the Scout Rifle and what it should be, but the only rifle that ever got his involvement directly, to manufacture the concept is the Steyr Scout, which today stands as the figurehead scout rifle whether or not it can actually be considered the best.

We don’t feel that it would be controversial to choose a scout rifle as the best that wasn’t the one that Copper had his hands in the manufacturing of, rather we feel it an appropriate homage to his innovative thinking to select one that most represents the intent of his vision rather than just the letter of his vision. If this were the sole requirement, undoubtedly the Steyr Scout easily takes the top spot if the criteria is judged based on adherence to Copper’s stringent requirements to be called a Scout model. 

Col. Jeff Cooper did not invent the Scout rifle. He did define it in words. He did shape a quintessential vision of it in his mind. And he did inspire Steyr-Mannlicher to produce the vision in polymer and steel. That makes it his. The names Jeff Cooper and Scout Rifle will forever be linked in firearms history. - Robert Boatman

Best Scout Rifle Comparison

Rifle

Best for

Check Price

Steyr Arms Scout Rifle

Purists and those who legitimately need all the attributes a “true to Jeff Cooper’s philosophy” scout rifle can offer.

Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Rifle

The shooter who carries other gear with them that wants to sue the scout rifle to maximum effect but doesn’t need it to be EXACTLY the way Cooper saw it in his dreams.

Springfield Armory M1A-A1 Scout Squad Rifle

Modern shooters who could care less about meeting every one of 15+ requirements to be called a Scout rifle and who want their $1300+ spend on a new rifle to be more advantageous than just a name attached to a rifle.

Mossberg MVP Scout Rifle

The person treading into the scout market rifle to see if it fits for them.

LSI Howa Scout Rifle

The person who sees the merit of the scout rifle concept but doesn’t need to be in strict adherence and still wants a bargain.

What is a Scout Rifle design?

One could describe the Steyr Scout rifle and do the concept of the scout rifle from a holistic perspective good. But there were many things that Cooper espoused that a Scout rifle was; and the Steyr itself, deviated a bit from those design criteria anyways.

The following was what Mr. Copper considered to be a legitimate Scout rifle:

  • The caliber was to be one of two only a 308 (preferred) or a 7mm-08 if the user was excluded from using a military grade cartridge
  • The complete package unloaded with accessories was not to exceed 3 Kg or about 6.6lbs
  • The trigger was supposed to be at 3 lbs. and have a safety that disconnected the trigger/sear instead of simply blocking it
  • The rifle was to be under 1 meter (or about 39 inches)
  • It should be using a forward mounted scope if an optic was used, but it was also to incorporate quick acquisition iron sights with ghost rings and a post front preferred
  • It was supposed to support single cartridge loading with the option for magazine loading, though the shooter was supposed to be able to decide on the fly
  • The stock was to be a composite or synthetic stock
  • It was to incorporate a sling with the Ching sling preferred
  • It was to be capable of shooting 2MOA at 200 meters which is roughly equivalent to 4” 3 shot groups

Today the general parameters as follows usually signify a scout rifle:

  • Generally, a bolt action chambered in .308 Winchester
  • Under 40 inches in length
  • Iron sights and a forward mounted optic mount
  • The same as the above accuracy requirement
  • A magazine fed reloading scheme
  • A composite stock, though many wood-furniture versions can be accepted by most shooters
  • Under 7.7 pounds or 3.5Kg

The widespread use of the “Scout rifle” moniker and the general shooting population’s basic respect of most/all things Jeff Cooper has led to many manufacturers trying to trade on Cooper’s legacy to produce some firearms that loosely resemble the scout rifle concept for some extra revenue.

Purists would say that the only legitimate “Best Scout Rifle” candidate is the Steyr Scout for reasons beyond that Cooper himself developed the gun hand in hand with Steyr in the years leading up to its 1998 release

We beg to differ, though we admit the Steyr is an exceptionally well-built rifle. We think that at least one other manufacturer has gotten it right even if the letter of the Cooper “scout rifle” law wasn’t adhered to, because it so flawlessly executes the intent of that law – more on the firearm later.

Is it really a unicorn design?

It’s not so much that the Scout rifle concept is a unicorn, it’s that it offers such obvious utility that gunmakers never seemed to want to offer before. Sure, one might be able to argue that Cooper had lost it in his later years to push so hard to get such a stringent protocol produced, but that was Jeff Cooper: he was a strict adherer to the experiential lessons he had learned. There was no dissuading him.

It’s a unicorn only in the sense that the item is still a rare seller compared to the market leaders, and that it is such a niche product that many will talk about, but few will ever pony up the cash to put it into use.

That said, for those who like the concept it truly does deliver an experience in shooting that few others can match, and the utility is transferable to the shooter, who begins to see certain shooting tasks in a different light when wielding the scout rifle.

It is this kind of transcendence beyond the ordinary that Cooper wrote so passionately about. It was his goal to get shooters and average citizens to stop thinking like shooters and average citizens and to push themselves to evaluate the way they were doing specific tasks, shooting and tactically related.

In that sense, the scout rifle is unique, because most shooters when they are forced outside of their comfort zone they quickly return to zero. The scout rifle, though, has some inherent ability to make us become more introspective as shooters and demand a certain individuality and adherence to best practices that only come when we holistically audit our shooting and our equipment.

That is the legacy of the Scout rifle, and yes, of Jeff Cooper.

What is the best use case scenario for the Scout Rifle

Hunting and tactical shooting of man sized targets or larger at intermediate or close distances that would allow the shooter to effectively improve the conditions for the task at hand. The arbitrary weight limit on the effectiveness that has been bandied about is not necessarily important (1000 lbs.) because the caliber and the ballistics of such a gun far exceed the 1000lbs. limit in potential.

Ideally however, this is a game changer gun that can be used quickly and be a tool in the hands of a skilled shooter, who would act as the mainframe of the entire interconnected system as Cooper imagined it.

For most this will mean that they are using the gun for intermediate and smaller large game animals in densely forested conditions in some cases, where cover is afforded for both the shooter and the target. This is probably at a maximum distance of about 275 yards generally and will allow the .308 to shine in a ballistic performance perspective.

The additional use case for if SHTF or another such tactical scenario, means that the gun is more than just utilitarian, it is versatile to the highest degree, because it was purpose-built to dispatch targets of which a man-sized target fits well into the line of sight.

The Gun Site academy, where Cooper convened a couple of mid 1980’s conferences to talk about “scout rifles’ even has training for the specific use cases of the rifle from a tactical perspective in operational command of the rifle for those types of conditions.

Steyr Arms Scout Rifle

Steyr Arms Scout Rifle

This is the O.G. Scout Rifle, by some, judged to be the ONLY candidate for the “best scout rifle” title. And it is true, foundationally, this is the finest scout rifle, but we would argue that the landscape of how shooters do what they do from a tactical and a hunting perspective has shifted due to technology innovations; changes in materials and tactics as well as changes to the availability of different technologies which can converge on the battlefield.

It is our argument therefore, not that this rifle isn’t the greatest scout rifle, but that there are two rifles that fundamentally meet that title’s requirements. This is one of them. And in all areas of construction and execution it is a spectacular rifle. Period.

Pros:

  • The only Scout rifle Jeff Copper had a real hand in
  • Significant build quality; fit and finish

Cons:

  • No real CONS

This is best for:

Purists and those who legitimately need all the attributes a “true to Jeff Cooper’s philosophy” scout rifle can offer.

Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Bolt-Action Rifle

Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Bolt-Action Rifle

This is the other “Best Scout Rifle” available. We feel it is on par with the Steyr scout, though they are different animals. This rifle is geared better towards the contemporary shooter, with a timeless set of attributes, where as the Steyr actually feels a bit dated to us because of the things it includes as creature comforts. No disrespect meant to the original Steyr/Cooper scout rifle, but this one just gets it for the modern shooter better.

The laminate stock makes it a bit heavier, but that and the compensation scheme actually dull the recoil a bit and the lack of things like an integral bipod and a spare magazine holder in the buttstock are rarely if ever going to be missed with all the gear we carry now on hunts or to the range.

Pros:

  • Better recoil management
  • All the utilitarian benefits of the scout rifle with none of the frivolous items

Cons:

  • Wasn’t made by Cooper and doesn’t have all the same aspects as he originally intended

This is best for:

The shooter who carries other gear with them that wants to sue the scout rifle to maximum effect but doesn’t need it to be EXACTLY the way Cooper saw it in his dreams.

Springfield Armory M1A-A1 Scout Squad Semiautomatic Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A-A1 Scout Squad Semiautomatic Rifle

For the scout rifle lover that wants to go a bit further with the concept to allow for faster follow up shots and improved capacity if they want it. Sure, it’s more than a pound heavier than the heaviest Scout specific rifles, but it fits a lot of the intent of the concept and we can give it a pass, for those who absolutely must have a semi-auto instead of a bolt action gun. Admittedly is bastardizes several of the key points of the Scout rifle regimen, but we think it’s close enough for government work.

Pros:

  • Good capacity potential
  • Good accuracy
  • Fast follow up shots
  • Good recoil management

Cons:

  • Not really a Scout rifle in the traditionalist’s sense

This is best for:

Modern shooters who could care less about meeting every one of 15+ requirements to be called a Scout rifle and who want their $1300+ spend on a new rifle to be more advantageous than just a name attached to a rifle.

Mossberg MVP Scout Rifle

The “budget” approach to the scout rifle, this is a way to get in on the craze without paying double what a good bolt action rifle costs. Admittedly this is among the better rifles from the Mossberg line, but it is still not on par with the major maker’s flagships from a quality perspective. That said, it is a capable gun and perhaps proves the point of the versatility that Mr. Cooper was so adamant about. If this rifle can be as good as it is given the specific parameters. There is something to be said about the concept more than the rifle.

Mossberg stepped up its game for this rifle, and it is worth a look.

Pros:

  • Simple
  • Good build quality

Cons:

  • Not as nicely appointed or finished as others on this list

This is best for:

The person treading into the scout market rifle to see if it fits for them.

LSI Howa Scout Bolt Action Rifle

LSI Howa Scout Bolt Action Rifle

A well-executed scout rifle in theory but doesn’t quite match the parameters as it’s longer than the original specs by a bit and its about a pound heavier than the max weight limitation; it also has peep sights instead of more traditional quick acquisition sights.

That said, it’s a very good rifle and it meets the intent of the functionality of the original design by Cooper.

Pros:

  • Seems to be made for a bit longer ranges than the 100-200 yard sweet spot for the design
  • Great creature comforts for the money spent

Cons:

  • Falls outside of the scout rifle parameters for the most part

This is best for:

The person who sees the merit of the scout rifle concept but doesn’t need to be in strict adherence and still wants a bargain.

Conclusion

This is the gun that Cooper dreamed of for years. He even spent many years working on the concept with Steyr engineers before they were both ready to launch the gun. He was committed. Like most things he espoused, he was committed to the concept and he was going to follow through on it. The original Steyr gun is the purist’s obvious choice for the best scout rifle, but the other market offerings are direct homages to the sensibility and innovation of simply re-configuring the proven rifles of the past 80 years into something a bit more utilitarian.

The rifles on this list are fantastic short and intermediate range rifles that are as adept at tactical shooting in short and medium distances as they are at taking large game up to about 275-375 yards in the extreme. Certainly, the effectiveness of the bullet can go beyond that threshold, but in the concept that we think was pretty obvious in many of Jeff cooper’s writings: if you aren’t in a better position you’re doing something wrong.

The scout rifles put you into a better position of capability.

5/5 (3 Reviews)

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