Is the Scout Rifle Concept Obsolete?

posted on December 17, 2021
scout rifle on tripod

For the last two decades shooters and self-proclaimed firearms experts have postulated that the Scout Rifle Concept, as originated by Jeff Cooper, is obsolete. Most who share this opinion will argue that the current AR-15/10 platform is better than Cooper’s answer to the one-rifle question. This notion is indeed grounded in common sense.

The AR, in one of its many forms and chambered for one of many of its compatible cartridges, is a very effective one-rifle answer for most Americans. However, this replacement of the Scout Rifle by the AR is not because Cooper’s reasoning was wrong or that his solution has become antiquated. It is because what most people are now asking of a rifle is not the same as what Cooper established his Scout Rifle Concept for.

Before addressing this mismatch of need and solution, to comprehend the question you must first understand what a Scout Rifle is and is not. It is a very specifically configured rifle that is very capable of dealing with most anything most might practically ask a rifle to do. It is not just a rifle with a forward mounted optical sight. This of course has been the problem with the general assumption of what a Scout Rifle is. Most regard it as any rifle with an optical sight mounted forward of the action. While Cooper felt that this was a feature that allowed rapid target acquisition, ease of carry, and easy access to back-up iron sights, it does not define a Scout Rifle.

The Scout Rifle Defined

In summary, Cooper defined a Scout Rifle as weighing 6.6 pounds or less, including sling and optical sight. No more than a meter long, with a 19-inch barrel, and chambered for the .308 Winchester. He also stipulated auxiliary ghost ring sights, a low-power, forward-mounted optical sight, and that the rifle be very friendly, easy to carry, fast to get on target, and well configured to allow for excellent marksmanship from field shooting positions.

Cooper felt that the optimum general-purpose rifle should be the same no matter the geographic location where it might be employed. He thought it should provide an effective hunting arm for most animals on earth. And that it should serve equally well for survival in unique situations where one man may be operating remotely and alone. However, he did not feel it should be a battle rifle for prolonged engagements or target rich environments.

The problem we have today is that no one really wants a rifle that’s good at doing all the things Cooper envisioned a Scout Rifle to do. Most want something more specialized, along the lines of the AR that would be ideal for use during civil unrest where they may have to defend their home from rioting mobs. But they also want the rifle to be suited to survival-like hunting chores in their geographic location so that may feed themselves. For most of America, an AR is ideal rifle for this. It may even the best tool for the job.

For example, where I live in West Virginia, I could get by extremely well if the only rifle I owned was an AR-15 chambered for the .223 Rem./5.56 NATO. It would handle all manners of self-defense, and there’s not a critter in West Virginia it would not effectively dispatch. A good friend lives on Kodiak island. He has an AR-15, but given the possibly of having to deal with really big and really mean bears—he’s already had to shoot one that was charging—it is not the best rifle for the job.

Context matters. And that’s where the notion that the Scout Rifle as defined by Jeff Cooper is no longer relevant stems from. Cooper did not attempt to define a rifle everyone would like, chambered in a cartridge that was everyone’s favorite, or that was specifically configured to address the specialized individual problems or desires everyone might have. What you need may be very different from the needs Cooper was attempting to address with his Scout Rifle Concept. That’s not wrong or misguided, it’s just fact.

Given the framework that drove Cooper’s definition of the Scout Rifle, it remains one of the best options to meet those demands. A rifle with suitability for generalized application all over the world may not fit your fancy, but if it did, the rifle Cooper codified as a “scout” will still work admirably in that capacity.


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