The term “scout rifle” has taken hold in the firearms market to describe a style of long gun. A scout rifle is basically a general purpose carbine with certain specific characteristics, which makes it well suited for hunters and other outdoorsmen—and particularly Scouts. The idea was first popularized by Jeff Cooper (an influential figure in modern firearms culture) in the 1950s . Officially he called them “walking fire rifles,” but they are known today as Scout Rifles…because that’s just catchier. And that’s not too bad of a description either since these guns are meant to be versatile tools for many tasks.
Typically, scout rifles have less than full capacity magazines, short overall length, reduced weight via extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum, flat tops for easy mounting of optics, set triggers, and a certain style to the styling. The idea behind these features is that they help produce a rifle with greater ease of use at moderate distances than most other types of long guns.
A scout rifle is usually chambered for .308 Winchester (or 7.62mm NATO), which produces significant terminal ballistics: more than enough power to take down big game anywhere in the world…and often does so without producing tremendous recoil or muzzle blast. With this sort of power comes added responsibility, however…in the form of both legal implications if you are forced to defend yourself or others with your weapon…and moral obligations as well. Make sure before taking things into your own hands that you have first done all you can to avoid a conflict.
Scouts are not just a handgun replacement…they are a multi-purpose weapon for both defense and hunting. If you need help deciding which scout is right for you, see here. And if the search gets too daunting, check out my Top Five Scout Rifle List!
Who uses scout rifles?
Most people would expect these guns to be used primarily by military personnel but that’s far from the case. These firearms were designed with hunters in mind, who (by very definition) go into the great outdoors to explore and pursue game…and must do so without drawing too much attention to themselves or their activities. The modern scout rifle stays true to this purpose and is built to minimize its visibility and sound. Weighing in at about six pounds or less, these guns are easier to carry than a standard hunting rifle…plus they pack plenty of punch for bringing down big game with a single shot even from difficult angles and at great distances. But don’t just take my word for it: check out what the experts say .
Why do I need one?
The scout rifle’s purpose is not limited only to hunters—though there is no doubt they will appreciate this gun’s light weight, ease of handling, minimal recoil, accurate aim…and devastating firepower. With the best possible equipment you can be ready for anything life throws your way…whether it’s scaling mountains or climbing crags; bounding through brush or squeezing through tight spaces; taking well-aimed shots or defending yourself with brute strength against an angry animal…or even man.
If you are just looking for a rifle to use in the great outdoors, however, scout rifles probably aren’t your best choice. If you want to be able to defend yourself or hunt larger game at greater distances then you should buy something else that is built around these purposes. Scout rifles are meant only as all-purpose firearms to help you get where you’re going without being weighed down by excess equipment—and they do so very well.
How much does it cost?
Price can vary wildly depending on the manufacturer, but expect scout rifles in .308 Winchester caliber to set you back between $2000 and $3000. You can find them cheaper but you will want to make sure that the rifle is in great condition and has a reliable track record. If you’re willing to spend more money for an even better scout, you can expect prices in excess of $4000…but it really depends on what your budget allows and how much priority is placed upon high quality parts and workmanship.
What are its limitations?
Even with their carbine length barrels (which help produce manageable recoil), scout rifles still pack quite a punch—so they require strong skill to wield properly. You won’t be able to take down large game without expending more than one round…although most shooters don’t find this fact limiting anyways, due to the decrease in weight and simplicity offered by this firearm.
What is the best model?
My personal favorite scout rifle comes from Howa of Japan. The Weatherby Vanguard has a 20″ barrel and weighs just over six pounds—making it ideal for all-day treks through fields, hills, or mountains. It’s bolt action with a three round detachable magazine…and I find that particularly convenient when hunting because it prevents me from wasting time reloading while tracking my quarry! And you can’t beat the price: $950 will get you your very own Weatherby Vanguard S2 before taxes are factored in. If that doesn’t suit your taste then check out our Top Five Scout Rifles here to see what else might be worth your while.