The Ruger Gunsite Scout .308 is an interesting-looking rifle, and one that doesn’t give away its identity too lightly.
The original ‘Scout rifle’ concept was apparently thought up by the American small arms expert Colonel Jeff Cooper some 30 years ago, being no longer than one metre with a forward-mounted scope, no heavier than 3kg and in the .308 calibre. It was designed for both the military and law enforcement, being able to do anything and go anywhere – but at the same time it can cross over to the hunter, who can acquire beasts up to 500lb. So it is short, light and can be used with a variety of aiming systems. Is this really possible?
The Ruger ‘Gunsite’ Scout Rifle is modelled on the robust and reliable Ruger M77 action, with the controlled round feed and integral scope mounts. The name ‘Gunsite’ comes from the name of a shooting school founded by Colonel Cooper; the design and concept was the result of a joint venture between the two parties.
The 16.5in medium contour, matte silver barrel is the most unusual aspect of the rifle, allowing it to be used in tight confines such as law enforcement and working within police vehicles. The muzzle brake and thread have been removed owing to USA export restrictions, which could make an interesting rifle to shoot considering the calibre and shortened barrel design.
An unusual feature of this rifle is its ability to have three different types of aiming system. Firstly, the forward mounted and sturdy Picatinny rail is screwed directly into the barrel. One would think this would interfere with the harmonics, thereby affecting accuracy, but it does allow the mounting of a long eye relief scope or any type of optic to allow shooting with both eyes open for fast target acquisition. Secondly, the regular telescopic sight can be mounted on top of the action using the unique Ruger mounts supplied with the rifle.
Lastly, and first to be tested, were the open sights that consist of a rear-mounted, fully adjustable ‘peep’ or ‘ghost ring’ sight, which can be easily removed if a telescopic sight is required. The foresight is a simple post and sits between two slightly rounded protectors to help the shooter as it lines up easily with the peep-hole sight when aimed.
The stock is made from a durable wood laminate in an attractive grey colour with easy to grip chequering around the pistol grip and forend. The recoil pad is very soft, which is useful for what should be a snappy, lightweight .308. Another useful attribute is the stock length, which can be adjusted 1.5in by fitting 0.5in spacers – very useful when wearing a thick winter jacket requiring a short stock, and conversely in the summer wearing thinner clothes when a longer stock would be needed.
The unit comes with a 10-shot magazine as standard. Release is simple – just push forward the exposed lever positioned to the front of the reinforced nylon trigger guard.
So we have a short-barrelled, compact unit with a total length of 38-39.5in, with a hard-wearing stock, weighing in at 7lb. What exactly is the primary function of the Ruger Gunsite Scout? Is it a stalking gun? Is it best suited to quick target acquisition or running game such as boar? Or is it a big boy’s toy that is thrown in with the specialised target rifles and used as a bit of fun with open sights down the range?
Immediate impressions usually give me a good idea of how I should review a rifle. When I lifted it out of the packing box, its short build, large magazine with a long Picatinny rail bolted to the barrel and open sights told me this review was going to include an element of fun.
The first thing I did was lengthen the stock by an inch to accommodate my long arms. When I and several of my colleagues picked it up, our first comments were the same – we all said it felt pleasant and was obviously very pointable. As it was a new rifle, the bolt cycle was stiff and edgy, which was anticipated, and the trigger was very stiff – not surprising with a 6lb pull. The 10-round magazine rattles and is very loose, which I found annoying; I have no doubt a five-round replacement would be better and more suited to stalking, but it spoils the gun.
For the test I used a range of soft-nose ammunition varying from 145 to 168 grains. The first discipline on test was the open sights out to 100 yards. The rear peep sight easily lines up with the outer, slightly curved pillars of the foresight, leaving the eye to concentrate naturally on the central post.
Shooting with open sights is probably alien to most hunting riflemen as we tend to be accustomed to telescopic sights, but I was surprised how accurate they were once mastered. To start, it was shooting low and 5in to the left, so I loosened off the peep sight adjuster screws, rotated it three times to raise it, and at the same time adjusted it a little to the right.
Once tightened, it shot a 4in group when resting the forend in a tree stump. Not bad considering how hard it is to accurately aim any gun with open hunting sights. At 150 yards, while it was tricky to see the specific aiming point on a frontal fox, I managed four out of five hits on this 8in x 6in steel target.
Once I became accustomed to the open sights, I tested it in all shooting positions: standing, kneeling, resting against tree trunks and branches, even walking up to within 50 yards of targets. I suppose this is classed as playing, shooting many rounds on multiple targets at different ranges, but it was great practice for running boar. The recoil was not too harsh for a .308, bearing in mind there was no moderator or muzzle brake.
To fit a telescopic sight, first remove the forward Picatinny rail and rear sight, then fit the Ruger scope mounts that come as standard with the rifle. For this test I was supplied a Minox ZA 3 3-9×40 Plex – just right for short- to medium-range stalking. Once zeroed at 100 yards, I managed a group of 1.75in using 150-grain soft nosed ammunition with the rifle attached to a bipod, which I think is respectable.
Out to 175 yards, a 3in group resulted, with a reasonably warm barrel and bearing in mind the rifle twist rate of 1 in 10in. Heavier bullets could well tighten the group. Shooting prone with a bipod and a light gun in this calibre soon becomes uncomfortable, but in all other positions the recoil was entirely manageable.
Finally, the telescopic sight was removed and the front Picatinny rail refitted. Onto it I fitted an Eotech Holographic sight. It was originally designed for the USA military, but it has apparently been found to be one of the best optics for quarry such as driven boar as it has the fastest target recognition of any sight and is designed to be used with both eyes open. This is a completely new concept to me, but the idea is fascinating.
Once turned on, a circle and dot appear through the glass lens with adjustable brightness settings to allow for night and day shooting. Bore sighting and zeroing are very similar to a normal telescopic sight and once set at 100 yards, it was time to see how well this really works.
With the rifle at the shoulder, the red aiming system is easy to see with both eyes open. It is initially quite spooky, but once used like aiming a shotgun, the 1x power optics allowed very quick acquisition of any targets at ranges out to 100-150 yards. I tried it on my simulated running boar with brilliant results from this very clever piece of equipment. It retails at £667, so is much cheaper than most traditional European scopes and definitely worth looking into.
Two out of the three tests required the quick cycling of rounds to aid target acquisition. The M77 action often snagged, making it tricky to reload rounds. It was not the smoothest of actions despite attempts to clean and lightly lubricate it. I am sure this can be tweaked by polishing the friction surfaces where the action and bolt meet. Maybe this was a one-off, but it impeded the performance and aggravated the shooter.
From previous experiences of the Ruger action, they normally ease after several shots, but this was not the case with the Gunsite Scout, despite shooting over 200 rounds. And with 10 rounds in the magazine, the pressure from this didn’t help. Another niggle was that the trigger at 6lb was tough to pull. I understand it cannot be adjusted. Perhaps, at further expense, it would be possible to have a superior aftermarket model fitted. I understand that in the USA most triggers have to be set to more than 3lb, but this trigger encouraged me to ‘snap pull’ (like a shotgun) when shooting free hand or from the kneeling position, affecting accuracy considerably.
After extensively testing the Ruger Gunsite Scout, I can conclude that it is a multi-discipline rifle that may be slightly biased towards the target market. Many would question the sense of using a 16.5in barrel, giving a small drop in velocity, but with most deer stalking undertaken within 150 yards, manoeuvrability and ease of carrying far outweigh an extra inch of bullet drop.
I am still tempted to add the Scout to my ever-increasing collection of guns, specifically to use it for furthering my skills of open sight shooting and woodland stalking. The superior stock does give it a nice feel, aided by the short barrel. The Minox ZA3 performed well for a £400 budget scope bearing in mind we only used it for short-distance testing. However, it is a shame that a sound moderator or muzzle brake cannot be fitted easily owing to the foresight arrangement.
As an all-rounder, the Scout is exactly that: a reasonable and capable versatile rifle. Is it value for money? The response will be seriously divided but one thing is for sure: You can practise many different disciplines of shooting with one gun, and that surely is a bonus. TP
Model tested: Ruger Gunsite Scout .308
Price range: £1,142
Contact: Viking Arms 01423 780810 www.vikingarms.com