Review: Ruger Scout Rifle

The Scout Rifle conjures up visions of a fleckless scout foraging and trekking ahead of the main body of troops. The most famous scouts in America were those in service during the Civil War and on the plains in the many actions in the west. These men not only traveled ahead of the main body and broke a trail, they also hunted and fed the main body by intelligent use of their marksmanship skills. Yes, a time before MRE’s.

They often carried a rifle that was lighter than the foot soldier or cavalryman’s rifle. It was often a high capacity lever action rifle, as the scout would be in great danger is caught alone. I have often kept a light handy rifle of the general type on hand. I think that, the favorite of many westerners, the Winchester .30-30 is a good example. The Canada Rangers used this rifle during World War Two. But then the bolt action rifle came to rival the lever action in portability, and best it in strength, power, and accuracy.  

I owned several Lee Enfield Jungle Carbines in .303 and found these excellent all around emergency rifles. The true Jungle Carbine became a bit expensive for such use and later a better rifle was adopted. Today my Scout rifle is a Ruger M77 .308. This rifle outclasses the earlier rifles I deployed by a wide margin.  

Ruger M77

Colonel Jeff Cooper deserves a great deal of credit for popularizing the Scout Rifle. By pushing shooters to be all they could possibly be, he was the catalyst for considerable improvements in the 1911 handgun. His contribution to riflemen is at least as profound. Cooper’s bolt action rifle with a forward scope and relatively compact action has become a classic. Quite a few of us that need a good rifle have adopted the Scout and many enjoy it for recreation. Others have a Scout Rifle put up for emergency use. While I have the greatest affection for America’s rifle, the AR-15, I think that in many situations the Scout Rifle would be my choice. I own several AR-15 rifles and only one Scout Rifle. The Scout Rifle demands a lot of shooting to master and this rifle suits me well. 

There are quite a few so called ‘Scout Rifles’ that are mediocre at best. I do not want to deploy a push feed action in an emergency. The Ruger M77 claw extractor is the Mauser type. It controls the cartridge during the feed and extraction cycle. No other type of bolt action is suitable for emergency use, in my opinion. I am aware of cheaply made competitors and also .223 caliber Scouts.  If I were to use a .223, it would be a good quality AR.

The .308 Scout Rifle is another matter. The rifle features a ten round detachable magazine. The rifle is available in barrel lengths of 16 or 18 inches. While I strongly prefer the .308 Winchester, the rifle is also available in .350 Legend. I have never seen an example but Ruger lists them. 

A short handy rifle gives up something in velocity to a long barrel sporting rifle. With the efficient .308 cartridge there are plenty of loads that perform well in the Scout’s relatively short barrel. The rifle handles quickly and is easy to store.  The rifle weighs but seven pounds with a scope. The Ruger M77 Scout Rifle features a credible muzzle brake. The Ruger features an excellent aperture sight and bold post front sight out of the box.

The rifle may be fitted with a scope in the conventional mounting position or a long eye relief scout scope on the front mounting rail. For many of us the fully adjustable ghost ring sight may be all that is needed. If your scenario involves action in the urban blight then 50 to 100 yard shots are probably the rule. If you are hunting with the rifle then a quality scope is needed. If that scope is needed at close range, consideration for combat, use then it should be an optic that allows rapid acquisition and a high eye relief.

The action is a short action. This simply means the action is designed for short cartridges in the .223, .243 and .308 class. A .30-06 cartridge demands a longer action. The Ruger action is very smooth and very strong. The magazine is easily released and changed. The magazine release lever is in front of the trigger guard. The magazine locks in solid. Feed reliability is excellent. 

My rifle is the Gunsite Scout with synthetic stock. While the wood stocks are well done and treated to avoid rot in most weather conditions the synthetic stock is the superior choice for hard use. The Ruger is supplied with a comfortable recoil pad. The rifle is short, smooth, handles quickly at a length of just under forty inches, and again only weighs about seven pounds loaded and topped with a scope. The rifle is well suited to thin skinned game to about 150 yards, perhaps 200 in the hands of a good shot who has taken a braced position. The rifle is an accurate combination. With iron sights I was able to make hits on a six inch steel plate well past 100 yards off hand. This requires good concentration and it is tiring. The bolt action is smooth and the safety is a well placed three position type. Handling cannot be faulted. 

I set the rifle up with the Burris 2-7x32mm Scout Scope. The Burris optic allows firing with both eyes open when the scope is set at the lowest magnification. It isn’t difficult to quickly get hits on man sized targets well past 100 yards. The rifle is, quite simply, well balanced and handles well. Setting down to a braced position the rifle is quite accurate in slow fire. With the scope set for maximum magnification the rifle will group three shots into about 1.5 inches on demand at 100 yards. I have selected a number of loads that have performed even better. Connecting at 200 yards isn’t difficult it simply takes more time and concentration.

Ammunition performance and matching to the rifle is critical. I have used the  Black Hills Ammunition, 168 grain load for many years. This load will break about 2450 fps in the Ruger’s 16 inch barrel. That will do the business inside of 100 yards but some of us would like more velocity. Going to the Black Hills Ammunition, 152 grain Dual Performance load gets performance up and accuracy remains excellent. The 150 grain SST as loaded by Black Hills, Fiocchi or Hornady makes a good choice for thin skinned game. Load selection is critical but we have a number of good loads that perform well in the Scout Rifle. The .308 offers excellent performance against cover, including vehicles, and will take heavy game smaller calibers could not. The Scout Rifle is versatile and should be considered for all around use. It requires an investment in time, ammunition, and learning to achieve proficiency. Then you will be well armed indeed. 

Average performance, velocity, 100 yard group, 3 shots, fired from a benchrest 

Black Hills 152 grain Dual Performance: 2590 fps     1.1 in. 

Hornady 168 grain Black: 2499 fps       1.1 in.

Handload 168 grain A Max/ 46 grains Varget: 2600 fps      0.9 in.

Burris scope specs 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

Illuminated Reticle: No
Mounting Rings Included: No