Consumer Information

If I Could Only Have One: Rifle Edition

Savage Scout Rifle with Magazine

There are many types of rifles. Some are so specialized they are not useful for anything outside their specific design intent.

Some, like the AR-15, offer good protection, are useful for some types of hunting, and are great for recreation.

This series of reports, “If I Could Only Have One,” is challenging. As for myself, I made my mind up long ago as to the one rifle in a SHTF situation.

Reliability comes first, followed by a mix of accuracy and reliability in taking game of 200 pounds at 200 yards, and providing good protection at close-quarters range.

An interesting part of my research was learning that many nations that have far-flung ski patrols use rifles similar to my own.

As one example, only recently have the Canada Rangers traded in their .303 rifles for a modern 10-shot .308.

The Sako rifle replacing the Enfield is a fine choice.

When you hit something with the .303, it stayed hit and while either is marginal for the truly big bears, they are a reasonable choice when packing out in the wild.

Penetration and wound potential are good and there are many loadings available —125 to 220-grain handloads are among these.

Savage Model 11 Scout One Rifle
The Savage Scout Rifle is easily among the most useful rifles the author owns.

My One Rifle

The Savage Model 11 Scout was chosen due to a long familiarity with the Savage 110 rifle and its variants.

The one gun, go-anywhere do-anything rifle, in my mind, should be a Savage. Let’s look at some of the details of the rifle.

The rifle features a cocking indicator. I like this for safety and knowing the rifle is loaded — or at least it is cocked.

I also like a three-position safety. When it is forward toward the muzzle, you expose a red “fire” indicator and the rifle is ready to fire.

In the middle position, the bolt may be operated but the rifle will not fire. All the way to the rear and the bolt is locked in place.

Since the rifle may serve as a truck gun and may be used in close quarters, the Savage Scout features an 18-inch carbine barrel.

The barrel is fitted with a four-port muzzle brake. This brake has a great deal to do with the rifles easy shooting characteristics.

It doesn’t kick as much as a light rifle should. A rail is fitted for mounting forward long eye relief scopes or red-dot sights.

So far I have experimented with various TRUGLO red dots and an Eminus scope. At present, I am relying on the excellent factory aperture sights.

When I have time to properly sight the rifle and practice, one of the TRUGLO sights will be added.

Savage Scout Muzzle Break
The rifle’s well-designed muzzle brake makes for lessened recoil.

Features and Specs

When you are looking for the one rifle to do everything you need, you cannot short-change yourself on features.

The Savage rifle features the famous adjustable Accu trigger, the one everyone else has copied.

I found the trigger set below three pounds from the factory and simply left it in this setting. Adjustment may be set down to 2.5 pounds.

The trigger guard and magazine well are well-designed for overall good handling. The detachable magazine has a 10-round capacity.

This is more than enough reserve for most uses. There have been no feed issues with any load or bullet style.

The rifle also features a modern Accu Stock. I own several rifles with the Accu Stock and it is good kit.

It is supplied with spacers to allow changing the length of pull. There is also a cheek riser.

After some thought, I removed the cheek riser, as it isn’t needed with my preferred reliance on aperture sights.

Savage Peep Sight
Peep sights make for real speed and accuracy.

Savage Model 11 Scout Specifications:

Finish:Matte Black Carbon Steel
Barrel:18 Inches
Trigger:Adjustable Accu Trigger
Sights:Williams Adjustable Peep Sight
Overall Length:40.5 Inches
Weight:7.8 Pounds
Capacity:10 Rounds

How It Fires

After years of experience with bolt-action .308 rifles, I was prepared for a jolt when firing the rifle.

The .308 isn’t a hard kicker, but common sense told me the Savage Scout would kick more than the M1A or Springfield Saint .308 rifles.

I was wrong. The stock is designed to re-direct recoil, but the muzzle brake must be very efficient. A well-designed recoil pad helps.

The rifle is comfortable to use and fire. Due to the rifle’s light weight and short barrel, it swings quickly and gets on target easily.

I ran a good bit of American Eagle through the rifle on the first outing.

Picking up 60 spent shell casings, I realized that my shoulder was not at all sore — the rifle is fun to fire and use.

Accuracy in speed shooting is excellent. The rifle is well-balanced and gets on target quickly. I like the fast-handling aperture sights.

Savage Scout Stock with Recoil Pad
A well-designed recoil pad makes for pleasant shooting.

Accuracy and Performance

Firing from the benchrest is necessary to sight the rifle in properly and get a gauge on the rifle’s accuracy potential.

I used two loads. First, the Federal American Eagle, an affordable and accurate practice load using a full metal jacketed bullet.

Next, the modern Federal Terminal Ascent. Now, some may ask why I used the Terminal Ascent. Let’s look at some advantages.

This loading features nickel-plated brass, the Gold Medal primer, and a modern slipstream polymer-tip bullet.

This bullet expands WAY past the normal range of expansion. If foresee a shot over 300 yards — or 500 yards — this is loading.

So I used the Premier long-range rifle loading in America to test an open-sighted rifle at 100 yards? Why not?

This load turned in a 0.9-inch 200-yard group in another rifle, but that is a story for a later date.

At 100 yards, the American Eagle load went into 2.13 inches for three shots.

The Terminal Ascent went into 1.8 inches, which is probably the best accuracy this rifle and shooter are capable of.

I feel well-armed with the Savage Scout. The .308 absolutely beats the .223 for tactical penetration and I have confidence in taking game with the .308.

I have plenty of .308 on hand and it would be ridiculous to change at this point.

At present, I have other rifles, but if there could be only one, this is the one.

Federal .308 Ammo
Among the premier loads for precision and wound potential is the Federal Terminal Ascent.

What would be your choice if you could only have one rifle? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (36)

  1. Savage makes pieces of crap. This author has no clue. Or he does and is on the Savage payroll- lol. If you paid me I wouldn’t own a Savage firearm-lol.
    But then again, who said we should expect integrity when it comes to gun writers getting perks?

  2. The .308 (7.62 NATO) was created by the US military because they wanted a shorter cartridge thinking it would handle more reliably in full auto weapons. That’s great. But in a bolt action rifle, the advantage of the nominally shorter case of the .308 as compared to the 30-06 that it was designed to replace just isn’t there. In fact, for the civilian, there is no advantage, as the ‘06 handles great in a semi auto. Not well known, is that with the same bullet in each cartridge, the ‘06 is a better performer. I’ll stick with it. I’m 74 now. I bought my Mod 70 Winchester ‘06 when I was 18.

  3. I have had the Savage Scout for a few years and could see it as a good longterm only one rifle. I put a 1.5-4X Leupold intermediate eye relief scope on the front rail. Works well for me. I had an Enfield Jungle carbine and it really hurt to shoot. This Savage is very soft shooting. Muzzlebreak directs blast to anybody next to you at the range. It is not going to be MOA for me. I get 1.75-2.0′ 5 round groups at 100yd bench. Nothing to brag about, but for the price I paid at the time it has been a good deal. The Ruger probably has a little up on it due to being able to take milspec mags. The stock is very basic on the Savage, though I think the aluminum pillar bedding is good. I have to confess I keep an M 4orgery with Ghost ring on handle and I can take care of a lot with minimal worries with that rifle as well. I know this is a relatively old thread, but one worth keeping alive.

    PS moved from Abilene TX to Dallas Central Uptown, I go back out there to shoot out to 400yds with what I got. Thats the longest practical shot I got out there. I’m nothing special.

  4. I have .308’s and a 6.5 Grendel but I would take my AR-15 platform 7.62X39. It is light weight (7 1/2 Lbs.) with a 16 inch barrel and I generally use 20 round magazines and have 30 rounders. It is topped with a Primary Arms 3X SLX etched illuminated reticle. During the recent ammo shortage 7.62X39 has still been findable and I feel I could get that ammo anywhere if SHTF. Even with my folding backup sights I get under 2 inch groups at 100 yards and the 3X scope takes me to 500 yards. This caliber will take most game in the united states and the recoil is mild. This caliber has been in major conflicts for several decades and used in the Mini 14 ranch rifle and in the AR platform it really shines.

  5. Where’s Lincoln?

    I have an Old Winchester 670a 30-06 Bolt.
    Love the wood stock! Many configurations for rounds.
    3x9x40 Bushnell on top!

    Did I say, love the wood stock.

  6. Well said!

    I settled on a take-down Model 1895 Winchester when going deep into the long trails. In fits into my backpack, is quick to assemble, and is a joy to shoot. It’s chambered in 30-06 and will reliably stop anything I encounter in North America.

  7. Give me a Ruger Guide Gun. It is a purpose-built gun, engineered to withstand the abuse that months in the field can dish out. There isn’t any pretty wood to get scuffed, no mirror-finish bluing to mar or corrode, and no long barrel to get hung in the trees.

    The Guide Gun looks as though someone locked Jeff Cooper and John Rigby in a design room and told them to build a rifle. It is a tool, and it isn’t a chisel or a scalpel. It’s a hammer, and it is built to hit things. Hard.

  8. I agree with your basic assessment bolt action magazine fed 308.
    I got the Ruger stainless (18.7″ barrel) Scout and I love it.
    Long eye relief Redfield scope with quick scope removal.
    308 very available, easy reload and effective round for anything through medium sized bear.
    Stainless means minimum maintenance and ready to go when you are.
    And bolt means no loading failures.
    The 18.7″ barrel also gives it ballistics and accuracy better than shorter barrels, but the whole thing is still short enough to make for really easy and convenient carry.
    This is very much a Jeff Cooper style rifle and I truly think he had it right.
    As made clear in Vietnam a high rate of fire does not compensate for 1 well placed shot.

  9. While I think the good old 30.06 is the best general caliber of all, the 308 is lighter to carry and more plentiful. SHTF gun owners have to consider ammo availability. Not from stores, but where ever they find them including having to take them from someone else who is hostile. I guess the .223 would be best for that category, or the russian short but I consider the .223 to be a plinker round. I think the authors choice is a good one. How about the AR15 platform in a .308? Good caliber and large capacity.

  10. I see you also took off the cheek piece. I don’t have a particularly fat face, but with it on I ended up looking over the top of the rear sight.

  11. For me, my one rifle is one I’ve been working on for some time now. It’s a Winchester 95 receiver built in 1922. I have not completed it yet, but when I’m finished it will have a 20″ barrel chambered in 338/280Ack Imp. It will have a safari express rear sight as well as a vernier tang sight for more precise shooting. I’ll form the stocks and finish them out myself…I’ve been in love with this idea for some time now and can’t express how enjoyable it’s been working on it.

  12. I am seldom in agreement with the “so-called” experts, but that is where I find myself today. I bought my Savage Scout on a whim, perhaps 3 years ago, but have been glad I did. I’ve not kept records on its accuracy when I’ve fired it, though I’ve always been pleased. And the author is absolutely correct about recoil. The first time I fired my Scout, I took two rifles to the range: a Remington 700 in .270 Win, and the Scout. Admittedly, I’ve always been a bit recoil sensitive with a rifle, so I fired the .270 first (about 20 rnds) to get my head straight on what I thought I should expect from the short-barreled Scout. I was truly, and pleasantly, surprised at what I consider moderate recoil.

  13. My personal preference is the Mauser M98 sporter my father custom built for himself in 30-06 Springfield . Excellent reliability, accuracy and power .

  14. I have a light weight sportized 8mm Mauser that is seen many uses and is very versatile. If you have a moment here is it’s story. As World War II was ended and our troops were coming home from Germany there were a very special group of women heading to Germany. There was a great need for typist for all the military reports etc. so, my mother who was then 22 (now 95) and seeking adventure signed up and headed to Germany on a troop ship. All German civilian movement was restricted and American personal were housed on special bases. My father was an officer in the US Army and discharged in Germany to take a position as a resident officer which was sort of a governor of a designated area under martial law. My mother took her daily position in the long rows of typists housed in a Quonset hut but being fluent in German she was eventually transferred to the military administration building where my father had his office. After they were married, they settled in on a county estate. All firearms in the villages had to be turned in to my father. He picked several rifles for hunting. One in particular was an 8mm Mouser Model 98 that was Nazi snipper rifle which he had a local gunsmith customize by hand for my mother with open sights. Times were very hard for the Germans and food was scarce. There were no guns in the villages and hunting was forbidden. My mother and father would take a jeep out into the countryside with several villagers and hunt deer, elk and wild boar giving the meat to the town’s folk. This is photo of my mother in 1950 with a wild boar she shot. When my father and mother finally returned to the US, he brought the rifles back also. I don’t know what happened to my father’s gun. My mother had no more use for her rifle, so she gave it to my grandfather who hunted with it for many years. He in turn gave it to me in 1977. I was a young man on a budget, headed to the Colorado Rockies to hunt. I have had it ever since and in the late 1990s I had it overhauled, and a scope mounted on it. At that time, we noticed that there was a mark in the side of the metal I had never paid attention to. Upon closer look it was a swastika. The egal had been filed away in the original customizing but the German gunsmith had left the lower part of the insignia, a wreath with a swastika in the center. This rifle has quite a history and has served this family well and will be passed on to my daughter as her hunting rifle.

  15. IF I was limited to one rifle, it would have to be my M4. In a one rifle scenario, it’s primary mission would be family defense first, meat second and fun third. My M4 would be the first gun I would grab if I felt threatened by any of a wide range of scenarios such as a riotous mob, a pack of canines or up to a few home invaders. With a 30 round magazine in the well (and another mag in a back pocket), there isn’t much that it can’t handle. The 5.56 round is anemic when compared to say a .308 Win round but it will stop attacks from dogs and humans, maybe even a bear with a topped up mag, and it will easily take pigs and deer with well placed shots, something the M4 is perfectly capable of doing out to 200m with iron sights and a 100m more with an optic. Ammo is light, cheap and widely available. Then there is the fun factor. One can shoot hundreds of rounds in a sitting without getting flinchy and sore. They are easy on the shoulder and the little .22 pills satisfyingly ring steel targets. This is any easy call, even a cliché call, but my M4 checks more boxes than any other rifle I own.

  16. I’ve got the bull barrel (no brake) version of that rifle, in 6.5 Cr, and only one word describes it – SWEET. Great trigger, pillar bedded, reinforced stock – all that for the price (really inexpensive) is truly amazing and unbeatable. Feels like you’re shooting a .22cal – very little recoil. Very accurate.

  17. I have 2. My first choice is my rem 700 in .280. It’s been my primary hunting rifle for 30+ years. Still shoots 1/2 inch groups at 100 yards with factory ammo. Don’t need much else in the woods in VA. My second choice is my M1903 Springfield. Just keeps on ticking…

  18. My preference is the Remington 7400 semi auto synthetic stock/forearm carbine ( either in 308 or 30/06 ). Accurate, ammo available, and light weight with the synthetics and takes abuse.. Put a nice scope on it for long range or use the factory sights for closer shot accuracy. If you like a pump, it came in the 7600 version which is/ was infallible ( much like a Mossberg 590 for a shotgun ). If there can only be one, the 7400 is my “Highlander” choice. Just my 2 cents.

  19. Nobody’s mentioned a lever. Got two, 1895g 45/70 and a rossi 44 mag. 20″. I live in the north and that 44 is the one I’d probably take. Those 223/5.56 probably have better accuracy + range but the kinetic energy of a 250 gr. Rnfp is hard to beat at 100+ yds. Plus the 10 rounds in the tube, low recoil, fast handling and follow up shots. Taking Small game does tend to be a slight problem however.

  20. Sig MCX Patrol – 5.56 (ammo used to be easy to find), piston-action, (cleaner than direct-impingement) and it has a folding stock so ideal for home & car defense!

  21. I have a PSA AR-10 in .308. It would be my SHTF rifle. I had a Ruger Scout Rifle in the same caliber once upon a time. It was a good rifle but nearly as heavy as my AR-10. I’m not great with a rifle but I manage to hit my targets at 200 yards, from a rest, on a regular basis with the AR-10 so it would be my choice.

  22. By only squawk is the short barrel with the muzzle brake.
    A SHTF weapon will likely be used in situations that do not allow “excuse me while I find my hearing protection” time outs.
    Otherwise, excellent!
    Over & out.

  23. Enjoyed the article. The authors choice was a good one but I have a slightly different preference. I would chose (and already own) the Springfield Armory M1A Scout. This rifle has many of the characteristics of the Savage model 11 Scout chosen by the author. The M1A Scout is typically chambered in the same .308 cartridge. It can be used for self defense or hunting with good results. The most significant difference between the two firearms is the fact that the M1A is a semi-automatic rifle vs a the bolt action Savage Model 11. I prefer the semi-automatic as I can keep my gun on target more easily for repeat shots. That said, the Model 11 may be a bit more accurate or a bit more reliable than my M1A. Both good firearms and there are plenty of other good choices out there.

  24. If you could only have one rifle, it would depend on your environment.
    A bolt action would be great for reliability, if you were in the mountains with cold an snow and the only predators you faced were bears. Against a pack of wolves, I’d prefer a lever action or a semi-automatic.
    Since I live in a suburban environment, my predators would more likely be a mob of leftists, so I’ll take my AR-15 with 30 round magazines when joining my neighbors to keep the neighborhood safe.

  25. I agree with this choice, though I would rather go with a Rem 700 with a MagPul stock and AICS pattern magazine well. Some states actually outlawed muzzle devices and 10 plus magazines so for travelling I like the bolt action trunk gun with a low power scope (or red dot) in .308 (of course) with back-up sights and 10 round mags in a dump bag. It should be legal just about everywhere.

  26. I have a Parker Hale Mauser Action 30-06 that I bought in the 60’s. Great looks and shooting too. My old school Marlin 336 30-30 . How can you go wrong?

  27. I prefer my Ruger 308 as opposed to your Savage. Basically the same rife…. It’s what I own

  28. Mine is a .357 Henry lever action. I have a .38 special revolver and a .357 magnum revolver. I only have two types of ammo to carry.

  29. I went with a semi auto A.R. 15 chambered in 6 mm arc and a 16 in barrel. It has a Lupold 4 x 12 scope mounted in conjunction with an offset vortex venom viper red dot. Between the scope and the 6mm ammo it has more than enough energy to take out dear size game at 500+ yards and the ability to defend against human threats at 800+ yards.

    The shorter barrel, light weight, red dot sight and minimal recoil allows it to also function as a self defensive carbine than can be used indoors.

    If you clean it regularly, which includes removing and disassembling the bolt to clean all the carbon out, it can be just as reliable as a bolt action.

  30. I have a lot of rifles, all of them fun to shoot. But if I had to pick one, just one, the choice would be between my Min-14, my Springfield M1A1Scout and my Ruger Gunsite Scout…with my M1A1Scout winning out. The ability to put a bullet on target at 600 yards through the Vortex Scout scope, or with the best stock iron sites ever made simply by moving the cheek rest sideways being able to shoot up close, and put 15-20 rounds down range at speeds in available with a bolt makes the M1A1SCOUT the winner…

  31. And no mention of the older weird pre-lawyer safety and angle eject days of a Winchester 30/30?
    Iron sights, it’s light, fast, accurate, reliable… soft shooting but hard hitting.

  32. Of the rifles that I have, of which there are several, if I were limited to one (especially for a true, full blown SHTF situation and for some reason had to skedaddle) it would have to be either my Russian or Chinese SKS milsurp rifle.
    The SKS is a rugged, dependable, and accurate rifle. It is extremely versatile and can be used for hunting, target shooting, defense, and combat. It balances well and as long as you have it locked tight into your shoulder, the recoil is mild.
    Depending on which list you look at, the 7.62×39 cartridge is in the Top Five or Top Ten most commonly purchased/used rifle cartridge in the US. It is excellent for medium and most large sized game animals.
    I am seriously considering having a side receiver rail installed on one (or both) of my SKSs, and using an off-cant mount with a compact 4×32 scope.

  33. My preference is a magazine-fed bolt action rifle.The .260 Remington is somewhat more potent than the overly bally-hooed 6.5 creedmoor. My ownpreference is the 6,5×55 SE (sic ‘6.5 SWedish Mauser’),as the requirement for a 1/4 inch longer ‘medium length’)action is not an issue.  The extensive list of all sortsof world-wide accuracy records leaves the CM in thedust! The 6.5×55 SE had taken thin-skinned gameof all sizes including polar bear all over the world.  ‘Doc’ D

  34. Be aware that the 181 series have defective lock ups-I had one blow up.Ruger denied responsibility[just like Remington denied responsibility on the the safeties of their 700s]Ruger seems intent on persisting with the stupid smooth curved buttplates too.
    That said a Mini is capable of 2-3″@100 yards with standard ball ammo.As a southpaw,the Mini is doable.
    2020 hindsight,I wish I had gotten the K-Mini 30

  35. .An all around, Only one rifle is tough because of my diversity in targets. I live in a target rich environment. My go to rifle, the one that practically lives on my atv or in the truck is a Mini 14. It has a Bushnell scope and a Houge stock. It’s had a bit of trigger work and the gas bushing has been turned on a bit. It will shoot light and heavy handload with more accuracy than I’m capable of. With a muzzle brake, follow up or multiple shots aren’t an issue. I have several rifles from the .223/5.56 class up to .300 Weatherby magnum. Forme and the conditions I live in, and the iron I have on hand, the Mini 14 wins

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