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The Scout Rifle Study: A Book Review and Critique of the Scout Rifle Concept

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Let me preface this by saying that I remain a big fan of the Scout Rifle concept and the Steyr Scout in particular. When I ordered a copy of Richard Mann’s “The Scout Rifle Study”, I was hoping to find a critical assessment of the concept. I was hoping to see pros and cons of the forward-mounted optic in particular, and the inclusion of an AR-10 on the cover made me think that there might be serious discussion of the modern lightweight self loading rifle in the context of the Scout Rifle concept. Basically, I was hoping for a book that would independently critique Cooper’s concept, and bring fact-based conclusions about where it was suitable or unsuitable.

Instead, the book is much more a compilation of the primary source material of the Scout Rifle, as a one-stop-shop for those who are already happily convinced that it is a universal general-purpose rifle needing no defense. If the Scout Rifle is considered a cult, this book would be its Nicene Creed, not its Ninety-Five Theses. Of course, for the person who is a devotee of the concept, this is a great book, compiling all of Cooper’s original definitions and detailing the history of Gunsite and the various Scout Rifle Conferences.

As one might expect, the various pseudo-Scout rifles made by Ruger, Savage, Mossberg, and others are discussed, but ultimately deemed underserving of the title for various violations of Cooper’s standards (ignoring the fact that the Steyr Scout fails to make the required weight, because Cooped deemed it worthy). The entire realm of self-loading platforms are rejected on the basis that they are too heavily regulated in some places (and more importantly, not legal to use on African safari).

I was particularly curious to see discussion of the forward-mounted optic and its characteristics, as this it really the only thing that distinguishes a true Scout Rifle from a light and handy rifle with iron sights. While Cooper’s original reasons for the choice are well explained (balance, situational awareness, and access to reload from the top), they are not challenged but simply accepted as dogma. To my mind, the proliferation of detachable magazines that load from the bottom (including the anointed Steyr Scout) make the access reason moot. I think the balance of low-light performance and magnification against peripheral situational awareness is a discussion worth having as it applies to traditional scopes versus forward mounted ones, but the book does not include this. Mann does include a series of benchmark tests of various essential Scout Rifle shooting tests, though, and of the rifles that come out in the top three by his scores, two had traditional scopes and one had only iron sights.

That all said, the book remains a useful and valuable reference for the dogma of the Scout Rifle, although at $45 I think it is a bit overpriced for what appears to be a print-on-demand paperback.

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