Click here to purchase your own Ruger Gunsite Scout.
If you were to select a “one rifle”, what would it be? Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of the Gunsite firearms training academy, spent a good part of his later years pursuing essentially the same question. His conclusion was what he called the “Scout Rifle”. Following Cooper’s guidelines, Ruger now has a rifle worthy of consideration for the one rifle role: The Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle.
The idea of the Scout Rifle was born when Jeff Cooper acquired an old Remington Model 600 and had new sights installed. The sights he chose had a wide rear aperture and a front blade, an arrangement he later termed the “ghost ring”. When Cooper then took this M600 hunting he found that the combination of a compact and handy rifle with a fast sighting system seemed to him to to produce a system that was greater than just the sum of its parts. Over the next few decades, Cooper refined this concept into the Scout Rifle and had a few more modern examples built. Eventually, he even had Steyr produce a factory model Scout. Unfortunately, the Steyr was priced too high for most shooters, so that model and the scout concept never became quite as popular as was hoped.
Enter Ruger. The staff at Gunsite has worked with Ruger over the last couple of years to iron out exactly what a modern production Gunsite Scout Rifle should look like. The goal was to meet the criteria of a scout rifle, while keeping the price low enough to be available to a broader market than the Steyr version. Additionally, the rifle needed to be rugged enough to hold up under hard use, something not every bolt-action does well.
So lets look at what makes a scout rifle and how the Ruger GSR compares. Col. Cooper defined the scout rifle as a general purpose rifle suitable for taking targets of up to 400 kg at ranges to the limit of the shooters visibility. It should have:
Maximum weight with sights and sling: 7.7 pounds
Maximum Length: 39 inches
Sighting system of either:
-A forward mounted long eye relief “scout” scope of between 2x and 3x,
-Iron sights of the ghost ring type, without a scope, or
-A low powered conventional position scope.
Sling: should be usable as a fast shooting aid.
Caliber: .308 Winchester (7.62 x 51mm NATO) – strong enough for most game on earth, and available the world over.
Accuracy: capable of 2 MOA or better
How the Ruger Compares
The Ruger GSR weighs 7.45 lbs with our speedy two-point sling, so it makes weight. The rifle feels very light in the hands and points quickly and naturally for me, even with all of the stock spacers removed. This is a rifle that would feel right at home when hunting in mountainous or otherwise demanding terrain.
The overall length is 38” with the stock spacers removed, so it makes length. As it came from the factory, one stock spacer was installed and two others were included. Each spacer adds just a half-inch, so I didn’t notice much difference when I tried it with them all removed. In it’s shortest configuration, it didn’t feel cramped to me and I was able to operate the bolt comfortably from all positions. The barrel length of the GSR is 16.5”. If that sounds like it’s too short for a hunting rifle, that’s because almost nobody else makes a barrel this short. But the fact is that a 16.5” barrel gives up only about 100 feet per second when compared to the more common 20 or 22 inch barrels. I will gladly give up 100 fps to save half a pound (from the muzzle, no less) and get a handier rifle overall.
The iron sights are of the protected ghost ring type, so it qualifies there. When the rifle is brought to the shoulder with both eyes open, and one eye focused through the ring and on the front sight, the unfocused rear sight blurs to the point that it is practically transparent. The benefits here are speed and field of view, as would be needed with close game. For those that prefer an extended eye relief scope, there is a 6” long section of picatinny rail mounted just forward of the receiver. If the rear iron sight is removed, then a scope can also be mounted in the conventional position with standard ruger rings.
The ruger has two sling studs as it ships from the factory. I think Ruger missed an easy chance to include a third sling stud for those of us that would like to use a ching sling or similar fast loop-up shooting slings. However, a modern adjustable 2-point sling will also work as a shooting aid, so the GSR should qualify on this point as well. If you want to use a sling that attaches to the rifle at three points, it is relatively easy to add a third stud in front of the magazine well.
The Ruger GSR is chambered in .308 Win, so it is the ideal scout rifle caliber. The .308 will do most things that mankind needs a rifle to do, making it just about as general purpose as it gets. More specialized roles often require specialized ammo and a specialized rifle. With good ammo and a good shooter, the Ruger Scout has shown to be capable of 1 MOA, so it passes the accuracy test with ease. Not many people will be able to outshoot the Ruger Scout in the field.
Aside from the mandatory “scout specs”, the Ruger GSR has several additional features that I think dovetail nicely with its general-purpose role. The compact barrel is fitted with a flash hider in the style of the mini-30. The flash hider can be removed to reveal threads in the standard .30-caliber 5/8×24 pitch so a wide variety of brakes, compensators, and suppressors/mounts will fit right on.
The action is a variation of Ruger’s standard M77 Hawkeye. It has a well earned reputation for being robust, reliable, and accurate. The action is of the controlled-round-feed variety with the classic Mauser style extractor. As soon as a cartridge is stripped from the magazine, the rim is captured by the extractor. From that point on, the extractor and bolt head directly control the position of the cartridge (forward or back, at any point during the cycle) until the ejector kicks it out. This type of action eliminates the possibility of a cartridge coming out of the gun early, staying in the gun too long, or of the case head getting into the wrong position to feed reliably. Even if it’s being operated in the most awkward positions imaginable, malfunctions won’t be a problem. The bolt knob is also well positioned and is the right size to be easy to work. With just a little practice I was able to snap the bolt back and forth in just an instant between shots. Ruger’s safety lever is also excellent. When the lever is forward the safety is off. The center position blocks trigger movement, but allows the bolt to be cycled for loading, unloading, or disassembly. In the rear position, the lever not only prevents the trigger from moving, but actually blocks any movement of the bolt or cocking piece/firing pin as well. This acts as a physical block against mechanical failure as well as serving to keep the bolt closed even during rough handling.
Ruger chose a detachable box magazine to feed the action of the GSR. But they didn’t choose just any magazine. They went with the Accuracy International pattern which is quickly becoming the standard on hard-use bolt guns. There is an extra benefit here: these magazines are available from a variety of sources, so you’re not limited to looking for Ruger-branded mags. This magazine staggers the rounds slightly to reduce length, but for reliability’s sake it presents only a single centered cartridge to feed the action. This type of magazine feeds smoothly and quickly and is unfailingly reliable. Insertion is simple: I tend to angle the mag slightly and put the front corner in first. Rocking it back will depress the magazine release until it snaps into place. Once it clicks in, it’s not coming back out by itself. Releasing the mag is just as easy, too. Press forward on the release paddle and pull straight out.
I really like the GSR’s trigger. In fact, it’s better than I expected for a factory rifle and the break surprised me at first. It’s crisp and comes set at a useful weight of 4 pounds, 2 ounces.
The laminated stock has grown on me. At first I thought it was an odd choice, but upon handling the rifle it was apparent that the stock is neat and well constructed and it just feels good in the hand. It is sized appropriately for a rifle intended to be carried, so it’s neither too thin or too wide. It’s also lighter than it looks, and very rigid. Ruger could have gone with some sort of polymer stock, but apparently the price would have been a bit higher. Plus, if you compare weights from their other models they probably would have saved only about 4 ounces.
Ruger seems to have done it. The rifle fits all of Jeff Cooper’s threshold specifications for what may or may not properly be called a scout rifle. But to Ruger’s credit, they’ve gone above and beyond and they did so at a price point of less than half of that of the Steyr version. Ruger has truly brought the ideal general-purpose rifle, the “one rifle”, to the general public.