Firearm History

Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Rifle

Handling the Ruger M77 scout rifle

Scout rifles have evolved over the years. When scouts in the Old West were sent out, they most often carried Winchester lever-action rifles. A high level of firepower was needed, as they often worked alone or in pairs. The odds were never in their favor.

Today, the theory is that everyone else has an AR-10 or AR-15, but the bolt-action .308 is the Scout rifle. There are different ideas as to what makes up a scout rifle. There are darned few true scouts in the world today. The Canada Rangers are among a very few lone men operating far from resupply. Interestingly enough, they deploy the Sako bolt-action .308 with 10-round magazines.

Ruger M77 Scout Rifle right profile
As issued, the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle features aperture sights, a rail for a forward optic, a five-round magazine and synthetic stock.

Norway’s artic ski patrol deploys with bolt-action rifles. When failure isn’t an option, the bolt-action rifle is a go-to long gun. Quite a few shooters own the Scout-type rifle and rely upon it as an emergency rifle. It is certainly a good ‘scout’ and a great emergency rifle for most situations.

However, the Scout rifle has drawbacks for day-to-day use in hunting and personal defense as well. Be certain you understand the pros and cons. There are better deer rifles and there are better combat guns.

The Scout Rifle

The modern Scout is the result of writings by Colonel Jeff Cooper. Cooper was quite a rifleman and hunter but always had a look toward personal defense and emergency use. The scout rifle is intended to be good at a wide range of chores. It may not be a close-in firefight champ or the top choice for long-range hunting, but it isn’t a dog at any reasonable task.

Cooper’s definition of a scout rifle is a good one. Cooper’s definition may not fit your personal needs, but it is certainly a good base plate. The rifle was intended for defense and food gathering in lone excursions. Harvesting game or taking out armed assailants at long range were a few of the rifle’s attributes. The rifle should do a lot of things reasonably well.

Cooper set forth a number of criteria. The rifle should be a bolt-action. That said, a claw-type extractor and Mauser-type controlled feed are essential for reliability. Cooper’s Scout should weigh less than eight pounds unloaded with the scope mounted.

Close up of the extractor on a Ruger M77 bolt action
A heavy extractor and controlled feed make the Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Rifle among the most reliable bolt-action rifles every manufactured.

A three-position Mauser-type safety is specified. The caliber was agreed upon as .308 Winchester. Considering ammunition availability and performance, this was the wisest choice. Other calibers are capable. The .308 simply seems best in a short-action bolt-action rifle intended for most defense and hunting use. The optics specified by Cooper are interesting and brought us into a new era of high-relief glass.

The most easily recognized feature of the scout rifle is a long eye relief scope mounted far ahead of the action. In the lowest setting, the scope may be used with both eyes open. This gives the shooter real speed and allows keeping one’s eyes on the view of a dangerous environment.

This forward scope has advantages once learned. A forward mount allows the shooter to quickly load cartridges from the top of the action or directly into the chamber. The stock was a high-impact synthetic. This eliminates warpage due to weather and allows a good bedding to the action.

detachable box magazine next to a rifle
A detachable box magazine is an advantage in many situations.

The stock should feature an efficient recoil pad. With the modern Ruger M77 rifle, we easily have the best balance of function and affordability. The rifle compares favorably against any other scout and meets Cooper’s criteria square on.

Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout

The Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout is based on the proven M77 action. This action is a modified Mauser bolt-action. Strong locking lugs and controlled feed action are the primary advantages of the Ruger action. The rifle controls the feeding of the cartridge every step of the way — in contrast to modern push-feed action rifles that do not control the cartridge as thoroughly as the original design. Push feed rifles are fine for hunting. No emergency rifle should use a push-feed action — when you have the choice of a controlled-feed action.

Bob Campbell operating the bolt of the Ruger M77 Scout Rifle
Ruger’s smooth Model 77 action is among the strongest, if not the strongest, modern bolt-actions.

The extractor is strong and robust. The bolt is well machined. Ruger’s M77 uses a modification of the Mauser three-position safety. The Ruger’s bolt handle is large and machined in one piece for easy manipulation. While you may wish to add a scout scope, the rifle also may fit with a standard-position rifle scope.

The M77 action is modified to accept both 5 and 10-round detachable magazines. This allows rapid replenishment of the magazine supply. The magazines may not be loaded from the top with the action open. The barrel is 16 inches long, topped off with a flash hider. The rifle is supplied with ghost ring sights. The iron sights are an excellent design.

The Gunsite Scout came out of the box with a clean 3.8-pound trigger. No need for adjustment. For offhand fire and firing quickly, this is an ideal trigger. I am not always sitting at the bench and relaxed when firing. I may have sprinted a few dozen yards.

The trigger poundage is controllable. The action is smooth and positive. The three-position safety is a proven design that is ideal for bolt-action rifles.

In the safe position, the bolt is locked. In the middle position, the bolt may be manipulated, and the rifle loaded, but only in the fire position will the rifle fire. The magazines are easily loaded, snap into place smartly, and the magazine release is easily operated. The rifle feels good on the shoulder with good balance.

The rifle needed an optic and here is where things became more interesting. Among the best offerings in a scout scope with a balance of affordability and good performance is the Burris 2–7x32mm Scout Scope. With this rifle scope, true speed shooting is easily accomplished by those who practice.

Holding the Ruger M77 rifle waist high with one hand
The Scout Rifle balances well.

With magnification cranked up to 7X, it is no mean feat to take on deer-sized game to 200 yards — given a proper, braced firing position. Sight the scope in to fire a couple of inches high at 100 yards and practice firing at different ranges. You will be in good stead in an emergency.

Ammunition Considerations

With a 16.5-inch barrel, ammunition performance must be carefully considered. With a 168-grain loading, 2,400–2,450 fps is average. Possibly, the 155-grain class of load is the best all-around choice. A loading I have enjoyed excellent results with is the Fiocchi 150-grain SST.

There are other choices, I simply began firing this cartridge and have enjoyed good results. As for absolute accuracy, the rifle is capable of 2 MOA or a two-inch, three-shot group at 100 yards with most any ammunition. There have been some loads that would group three shots into a little less on demand. There has been the occasional three-shot group of one inch, but I have to really work for it, and all conditions must be perfect.

One new bullet and two upset bullets from Hornady
Hornady offers first-class bullets in component form. Fiocchi and Hornady use these bullets in factory ammunition.

I achieved those results with handloads. One of these is a combination using the Hornady 168-grain A-Max and Varget powder. This load breaks 2,600 fps — a strong load for the short .308. It may be said the Gunsite Scout is an on-demand rifle for 2 MOA. Better accuracy is a bonus, and this is good accuracy for most uses.

Specifications: Burris

Magnification: 2-7x
Power Variability:  Variable
Objective Diameter: 32 mm
Length/Weight/Tube Diameter: 9.7 in/13 oz/1 in
Field of View: 23-8 feet/100 yards
Eye Relief/Exit Pupil: 9.2-12 in/16-4.6 mm
Reticle: Ballistic Plex
Adjustment Info: 1/4 MOA
Optics Coatings: Multi-coated
Finish: Matte black
Waterproof/Shockproof: Yes/Yes
Parallax Setting: Factory-set 100 yards

Specifications: Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout

Stock: Synthetic
Sights: Aperture rear post front, Forward scope mount, may be fitted with standard scope mount.
Capacity: 5- or 10-round detachable magazine
Caliber: .308 Winchester
Weight: 6.5 pounds, without scope
Barrel length: 16.5 inches
Overall length: 39 inches with butt pad

I like this rifle very much. The premise is a good one, and the rifle is certainly a good choice as an all-around rifle for the person who wants to own a single rifle. Bolt-action, .308, and rugged, the Ruger Gunsite Scout has a lot going for it.

The Ruger M77 Gunsite Scout Rifle exemplifies Jeff Cooper’s definition of a scout rifle. Do you subscribe to Cooper’s definition of a scout rifle? Which gun do you think best serves in the scout rifle role? Best caliber? Share your answers in the comment section.

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 (11)

  1. When the state and federal gun grabbers come for your semi auto rifles that look military you might wish you had one of these.

  2. I think it’s a obsolete idea. A lower power variable on a ar with 77 grain match will do most things that you need to do inside 400 yards. A light weight bolt gun with a conventional scope 1-8 will also serve well. A forward mounted scope really sucks.

  3. I use an M1A “Tanker” as my go-to/ditch/scout gun. However, it is admittedly NOT balanced well, and probably 3 pounds heavier (and $600 more expensive) than the Ruger. I shoot iron / open. I’m probably getting a Ruger Scout Rifle soon (LOVE my Hawkeye), but I’ll choose laminate wood over synthetic.

  4. I have the Ruger Scout rifle set up very similar to the authors. However, I put see through scope rings on it to allow for use of the iron sights. It travels with me to the north woods and is used as a brush gun when I hike.

  5. Dred, I have an almost an identical setup except I removed the bayonet and installed a flush fitting five-round magazine to make it handier to carry. It’s long been a safe queen. Glad you are enjoying yours.

  6. I’ve set up my Norinco SKS Paratrooper (shorter barrel and shorter bayonet than a standard NSKS) as a hybrid scout rifle. Aftermarket gas block assembly with a rail on the housing to mount the forward scope. Rail is channel cut to co-witness the irons. Just under 8 pounts with a 10 shot mag. Gun eats just about any kind of 7.62×39 you feed it. Under 2 inch groups at 100 from the bench. Should the gas system fail, it can still function as a straight-pull action.

    Not a “Cooper-compliant” scout rifle, but capable all the same.

  7. Javier

    Thanks for reading! You are right, if firearms were all serious business every moment- and it is serious most of the time- I would not like it very much. The 9mm carbine is a lot of gun.


  8. There is not a more fun rifle to shoot a ruger pc carbine I mean think about it shooting 9 mm out of a rifle loads of fun

  9. I always enjoyed reading Jeff Cooper’s column, but I never understood his obsession with his scout rifle concept. From a military perspective it was about fifty years behind the times and has remained so because Chairman Jeff violated the most basic precept of innovation and design. Start with objective based criteria that establish the purpose of the concept. Lay down the desired performance goals and then let the designers figure out the rest. Instead, he stated emphatically that only a large caliber bolt action rifle with a claw extractor would do. He then set the requirements for barrel length, weight, iron sights, optics, sling, bipod, etc. He rejected all other possibilities and limited his options to fit his preconceived notions of what a scout rifle is and what it does. He ended up designing a niche firearm that only one company, Steyr, built. It was expensive and had very limited appeal and few sales. Other companies borrowed some of his ideas to build their own scout rifles, but the Chairman scoffed at most of these. As much as I liked Jeff’s writing, I think he had a Hemingway romantic streak which colored his perception of the world as if it were one big African safari, and he, the shikari, had devised the greatest boomstick ever taken into the bush or the veldt. Maybe he did, but Africa is not the world and most of us are not hunting lion or cape buffalo.

  10. I have had one of the Ruger Gun Site Scouts for many years. I recognized when it first came out that it was going to be a great rifle. I grew up with a Winchester 94, great for brush hunting, but I knew I needed something with a more power cartridge. I used the M14 in 7.62×51 in the Army and liked it. When I could I got a Springfield M1A for longer range shooting, but still needed a short rifle and the Ruger to me just filled the bill.

    Great article

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