I've never really been a disciple of Col. Cooper's scout rifle concept: a short, handy bolt-action with a forward-mounted optic, chambered in an authoritative cartridge, fed from a detachable magazine. For a fighting gun like the Ruger Gunsite Scout, I like short and quick but prefer the wide field of view of an optic mounted close to my eye.
Plus, while I understand that the forward-mounted scout scope offers better access to the top of the receiver, who really uses stripper clips with a bolt action these days?
But the Ruger Gunsite Scout, chambered in 5.56 NATO, may make me a convert. The design engineers at Ruger and their partners at Gunsite thought out every element of the Ruger Gunsite Scout to perfection.
For starters, the sights are really nice. The front is a stout winged post on a base that sleeves the barrel—it's all one piece—and the blade is just slender enough for fine shooting. The rear is a sturdy aperture, adjustable for windage and elevation and also winged for protection.
Crushing my argument against the limitations of a forward-mounted scope is that the rear sight is easily removed, and Ruger's well-known scope ring base cuts are machined into the action—enabling users to mount a scope either forward or rearward, whatever they prefer.
The forward optic base is a solid 6.1-inch section of 1913 Picatinny rail secured to the barrel by two burly screws front and back. It's ideally located for use with an extended eye relief scope or a non-magnified reflex-type optic.
Interestingly, the bottom "metal" is glass-reinforced nylon. It houses a steel 10-round magazine made by Accurate-Mag. From what I can tell, the new 5.56 version uses the same magazine as the .308 version but is fit with an internal polymer that sleeves it down to .223 size. Scuttlebutt on the Internet is that Ruger should have found a way to use AR-15 magazines, and I must admit I agree. They would be cheaper, lighter and much smaller than the adapted magazine
But it's not nearly that simple, as Ruger's Mark Gurney points out. "The entire action would have to be completely replaced with an all-new design. The Mauser-style controlled-round feed and big claw extractor would almost certainly be gone," he told RifleShooter.
As it is, the steel Accurate-Mag is surely more durable and precisely made than an AR-15 mag. It's released via a Mini-14 type catch just forward of the trigger guard.
The trigger is nice and crisp but a bit heavy. The one on my Ruger Gunsite Scout measured four pounds, 10 ounces on a Lyman trigger gauge. On a carbine meant for defense, a trigger on the heavy side is considered appropriate by many, although I like my triggers lighter. The safety is a three-position wing type, and it locks the bolt in place in the rear-most position. When engaged, it also blocks the firing pin from falling, which I prefer to safeties that block only the trigger.
A Mauser-type latch allows the bolt to be withdrawn to the rear for cleaning. The bolt is a one-piece design sporting a strong, 0.4-inch-wide, non-rotating claw extractor. It's a proper controlled-round mechanism, appropriate on a carbine where reliability is paramount.
The 16.1-inch barrel has a 1:8 twist, which offers stability and forgiving accuracy over a broad range of projectile weights. As you'll see on the accompanying chart, the Ruger Gunsite Scout performed well with bullets weighing from 40 to 75 grains.
Ruger's flash suppressor is a simple, effective muzzle device. Two flat surfaces allow easy removal for replacement or a suppressor, and the stainless version of the carbine comes with a muzzle thread protector.
The gray laminate stock is tough and impervious to the elements. And because gun fit is critical to the scout rifle concept, the included spacers allow you to change the length of pull. Sling swivel studs come included fore and aft, and very nice checkering at the wrist and fore-end provides grip.
After mounting a light, compact 1.5-4.5x20 Nikon Monarch, I took the Ruger Gunsite Scout to the range with six different loads. My test protocol was to fire three three-shot groups in rapid succession, which tested the carbine's ability to hold point of impact and maintain tight groups as the barrel heated.
The Ruger Gunsite Scout put half the loads in sub-m.o.a. groups, and two of the other three into sub-1.5 m.o.a. groups. The second and third groups—fired briskly as the barrel heated—showed no discernible point of impact change or loosening of group size.
I also ran some informal drills with the Ruger Gunsite Scout and found it balances nicely and points well. Reliability was stellar. The controlled-feed action fed smoothly, extracted cleanly and generally showed its thoroughbred ancestry. The late Col. Cooper may have just earned another disciple to his scout rifle concept.