Scout Rifle Buyer’s Guide [2021]

Cover photo courtesy of Surv1v4l1st

If you’re looking for a versatile firearm to use for either sport shooting or hunting, then a scout rifle may be the ideal choice. In the following article, we’ll review and compare several of the best products on the market to determine the best scout rifle that will fit your needs. 

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Why Choose a Scout Rifle?

The concept of a ‘scout rifle’ was born in the mind of firearms expert Col. John Dean ‘Jeff’ Cooper in the 1970’s. He wanted a general use rifle that could be used in various situations, from game hunting to personal defense.

Scout rifles are perfect for both newbie gun owners and enthusiasts who want a weapon to fulfill diverse roles. If you’re in the market for an easily transportable, general-purpose firearm, then the scout rifle is right up your alley.

Important Buying Tips

If you’ve decided to find the best scout rifle that would be worth your money, then it’s essential to know what to look for. Although Col. Cooper’s exact definition changes slightly from year to year, there are a few main points that are constant. Here are some characteristics of the scout rifle that you should take note of before purchasing one of your own:

A Smooth Bolt-Action Operation

Scout rifles were initially meant to be manual bolt-action rifles. Although semi-auto scout rifles do exist, they aren’t technically scout rifles if you’re going by Col. Cooper’s definition. Scout rifles are meant to be taken into the field, so manual operation reduced the rifle’s complexity and required maintenance. Getting a rifle that can be smoothly loaded and operated is always an advantage.

Lightweight and Easily Transportable

The ideal weight of a good scout rifle would be about seven pounds or less. These firearms are meant to be lugged around for long distances without overly burdening the user.

A Quick Loop Sling and a Built-In Bipod

Loop slings aren’t only meant for ease of transport for a scout rifle; they’re also intended to be used as a means of support. A loop sling and the optional bipod are meant to give the user stability while aiming and shooting the rifle.

Forward-Mounted, Low-Power Scope

Scout rifles are meant to have a scope that’s no greater than 4x magnification, mounted in the front of the rifle’s action. Col. Cooper believed that this would give the user a faster target acquisition without sacrificing one’s peripheral vision. The ability to quickly take aim, shoot, and withdraw was integral to the scout rifle’s design.

Here are several reviews of the best scout rifles available on the market today. Browse the list and see if one of these products fit your sporting or hunting needs:

Best Scout Rifles

Steyr Arms Scout .308 Win / 7.62 Bolt-Action Rifle

You can’t have a discussion about the best scout rifles without mentioning the Steyr Arms Scout. Developed with Col. Jeff Cooper himself, the Steyr was created with all his requirements in mind.

STEYR ARM SCOUT .308 WIN 7.62 BOLT ACTION RIFLE, BLACK - 263463B

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The Steyr Arms Scout has a three-lock safety switch located just behind the action, allowing quick transition between safe, active, and locked. Its easily accessible position gives users the ability to swap safety modes with the use of a thumb.

The Steyr Arms Scout also comes with an extra five-round magazine located right in the rifle’s buttstock. This gives the owner the option to have a full clip of bullets always ready to go without having to fiddle through bags or pouches. The barrel has a thread protector that can be easily taken off and replaced with suppressors or compensators, depending on the user’s requirements.

However, there are a few negatives, as the barrel was designed to be relatively thin to cut down on the weight. Spare parts can also be hard to get, as the Steyr is an Austrian manufacturer, which means part imports take a while. 

Overall, the Steyr Arms Scout is arguably one of the best 308 scout rifles you can get on the market. This is a purchase that is definitely well worth your money.

Pros

  • Three-lock safety configuration
  • Extra five-round magazine container in the rifle stock
  • Suppressor-ready barrel
  • Backup sights available
  • Built-in bipod stand

Cons

  • Barrel is thinner than usual
  • Spare parts can be hard to find

Springfield Armory M1a Tanker

A bit different from your traditional scout rifle, the Springfield Armory M1a Tanker may be in a class all of its own. This semi-auto scout rifle might not meet all the technical requirements set by Col. Cooper, but it does fulfill at least one crucial obligation. The M1a Tanker is a general-purpose rifle that can be easily brought out in the field.

Springfield Armory M1A Tanker 7.62mm NATO 16.25in Black Parkerized Semi Automatic Rifle - 10+1 Rounds

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Unlike other scout rifles in its category, the M1a Tanker features semi-automatic firing, meaning that it also has a larger magazine than standard models. Its ten plus one bullet capacity gives users more chances to take down their target easily and quickly.

Owners may want to install a rubber padding, though, as the rifle itself doesn’t come with one out of the box. This may be a matter of taste, but fire enough .308 rounds, and you’ll have a sore shoulder without proper padding. 

The proprietary Springfield Armory muzzle break does cut out some of the recoil. As long as you don’t overdo it, you’ll probably be fine.

The XS post front sight offers the user easy aiming options, even in low light conditions, but it does come with a downside of not having a ready sight mount. 

You’ll have to install a place to mount a forward scope if you wish to use one, and even then, assembly isn’t easy. Overall, this is an excellent rifle for those that want a bit of modernity to their scout rifles.

Pros

  • Bigger magazine
  • Semi-automatic firing
  • Proprietary muzzle break
  • XS post front sight

Cons

  • No back padding
  • Optic mounts not included

Ruger Scout Bolt Action Rifle

This is one of the first forays of an American company into the Scout model of rifle. The Ruger Gunsite Scout Bolt Action Rifle adheres exceptionally well to Col. Cooper’s vision.

Ruger Scout Bolt Action Rifle

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The Ruger Gunsite Scout offers a bigger magazine than other standard scout rifles, but its single-stack design isn’t optimal. A single stack makes the magazines longer and can be somewhat clunky to use. Although it may be up to the user’s taste, a longer magazine makes it feel heavier than it should be.

Recoil isn’t much of a problem with the well-made muzzle break partnered with the comfortable, rubberized recoil pad. Three half-inch butt pad spacers have been included out of the box to allow users to adjust the pad accordingly.

The barrel has a removable thread protector allowing the use of suppressors or compensators if the owner thinks they need one. The only other negative point that you may or may not identify is the safety tab’s awkward placing. 

To switch modes, anyone with smaller hands may need to remove their fingers from the trigger to operate it. This might be a bit of a nitpick, but some may find it rather annoying. If you’re looking for a great introduction to bolt action rifles, then the Ruger Gunsite Scout may be the one for you.

Pros

  • Bigger magazine
  • Comfortable rubber recoil pad
  • Suppressor ready

Cons

  • Awkward safety placing
  • Heavier Single Stack Magazine

Savage Arms 110 Scout 450 Bushmaster

The Savage Arms 110 Scout 450 Bushmaster is another entry into the scout rifle category from an American manufacturer. Built to accommodate new gun owners, its price, along with its performance, is a great way to introduce yourself to bolt-action rifles.

SAVAGE ARMS 110 SCOUT 450 BUSHMASTER 4 ROUND BOLT ACTION CENTERFIRE RIFLE, SPORTER - 57139

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Their trademark Accufit system allows users to adjust the rifle’s comb height and pull length, giving owners a truly personalized aiming fit. Their AccuTrigger system, on the other hand, allows you to adjust the pull of your trigger to match your needs.

The proprietary muzzle brake does a great job cutting down the recoil, but it does tend to make the report louder. Although ear protection is advised when shooting any kind of firearm, you’ll especially want to use it when you’re shooting a Savage Arms 110 Scout 450 Bushmaster.

The rifle is also a bit heavy, at over seven pounds, and is probably the only significant deviation to Col. Cooper’s ideal for the scout rifle. The only other nitpick would be that its magazines have a single stack design, making them longer and feel heavier than they should. Overall, this is a great rifle to have, especially with its relatively lower price when compared to others in its category.

Pros

  • Accufit adjustments
  • Proprietary muzzle break
  • AccuTrigger system
  • Relatively Inexpensive

Cons

  • Can be rather loud
  • Single stack magazines
  • A bit heavy

Mossberg Bolt -Action MVP Scout

Although more widely known for their offerings in the shotgun category, Mossberg has great rifles as well. Their model for the scout rifle, the Mossberg Bolt-Action MVP Scout, is undoubtedly one to take note of.

Mossberg MVP Scout Bolt Action Rifle

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The Mossberg Bolt-Action MVP scout features a relatively long, extended rail mounting. This allows you to set up either a forward-mounted scope or a traditional scope if you want to. This adjustability does allow the Mossberg MVP Scout a bit of flexibility.

The enlarged bolt handle makes it easier to operate its bolt-action mechanism. This is an excellent choice for those that are still new to these types of rifles in general. The barrel is threaded in the front, allowing you to put in either a suppressor or a compensator. The only real thing you may find lacking is that it doesn’t have a three-mode safety lock.

Because you can’t lock the bolt down, users that have the habit of resting their hand just beneath the bolt handle may have the tendency of nudging it. 

Usually, this doesn’t do anything, but on rare occasions, this causes the gun to misfire when you pull the trigger. This can be avoided by just resting your fingers on the top of the bolt handle, but it’s something you can easily get used to. Overall, the Mossberg is still a great addition to the scout rifle category.

Pros

  • Extended rail mounting
  • Enlarged bolt handle
  • Suppressor ready

Cons

  • No three-mode safety lock

The Final Verdict

If you’re genuinely in the market for the best scout rifle around, then there’s no beating the Steyr Scout. The rifle itself was designed with Col. Jeff Cooper, and since its launch, has adhered to the tenets that he established for what a scout rifle should be. It’s light, easily maneuverable, and fulfills the general-purpose requirements that Col. Cooper had in mind.

A cheaper alternative would be the Savage Arms 110 Scout Bushmaster if you’re looking for a great introduction to the bolt action category, but if you can, get the Steyr.

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