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Gun Review: .223 Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle

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The Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, a concept envisioned by Col. Jeff Cooper, is reintroduced as a do-it-all shooter in another versatile caliber.

The 16.1-inch barrel wears a flash hider that comes off, making room for other barrel attachments. Notice the black blade front sight that is well protected. Author photo
The 16.1-inch barrel wears a flash hider that comes off, making room for other barrel attachments. Notice the black blade front sight that is well protected. Author photo

Consider this: After getting a rough zero through an extended eye relief scope mounted on Ruger’s new version of the Gunsite Scout rifle chambered in .223 Remington, I leveled it at a couple of clay trap targets at 200 yards and what I didn’t hit, the misses were so close as to be negligible had I been shooting at a coyote or anything bigger.

That’s one very good rifle. Originally introduced in .308 Winchester, as the late Col. Jeff Cooper envisioned this concept, the Scout, as Cooper dubbed his rifle, is a short-action model on which a long eye relief scope is mounted just ahead of the action. It was and remains a good idea, but just because the original concept was a .30-caliber model doesn’t mean that is chiseled in stone.

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Let’s be honest. The .223 Rem. isn’t my first choice for a defensive or offensive rifle caliber, but it’s not too shabby for urban challenges or rural survival. It shoots flat and accurately, has very light recoil, ammunition can be found just about anywhere, and somebody who knows what he’s doing can neck-break deer-sized game all day with the right load. Against predators, the .223 is devastating, and I doubt anyone could give a reasonable estimate on the number of prairie dogs, rock chucks and other varmints that have been put away with those little bullets. It has also been proven in combat as a fight stopper.

The Scout Rifle Concept

My test model had a matte black finish on the 16.1-inch medium contour barrel and receiver, a single 10-round magazine that proved itself to be tough as nails, a black laminate stock with QD sling swivel studs and a straight comb and a Mini-14-style protected-post front sight and adjustable ghost ring rear.

That rear sight may be removed to mount a scope in the conventional over-the-action position, and Ruger supplied the rings to accomplish that task. They fit into the integral scope mounts that are machined into the steel receiver. There are a total of four models: black matte and stainless are available for both left- and right-handed shooters.

The one-piece stainless steel bolt contrasts handsomely with the matte black finish, and the bolt head is smooth to allow for fast cycling. Ruger designers also included a three-position safety that works smoothly with a positive click. It also comes with a Picatinny-style rail mounted ahead of the action, holding true to Cooper’s original concept.

The barrel is cut with six lands and grooves on a 1:8 right-hand twist and ends with a flash suppressor. The flash suppressor can be removed, exposing the ½-inch 28 threads so other accessories can be mounted. Overall, the rifle hits the scale at just over 7 pounds. That may seem on the heavy side, especially among folks who like the AR-type platform to launch .223 Rem. bullets, but this is one tough little bolt-action carbine that could survive a catastrophe and still deliver the goods. It bounced around in my pickup for a few days while driving off road and was no worse for wear.

Ruger mounted a nice, thick, soft rubber recoil pad on the butt and supplies three 1/2-inch spacers to adjust the stock to an individual’s length of pull preference, from 123⁄4 inches to 141⁄4 inches. That puts the overall length from 37 to 381⁄2 inches. It’s also got a tough glass-reinforced trigger guard and Mini-14-type paddle magazine release, and the stock is checkered on the curved grip and forend.

Out-of-the Box Accuracy

The black laminate stock is rugged and appears to have something of an urban camo appearance. Ruger fits this rifle with a thick recoil pad. Author photo

During my first range session, I used the metallic sights exclusively. Right out of the box, I put several rounds into the X-ring in tight little groups. That got my attention, so I stuck on a Bushnell long-eye relief scope I’ve had for a couple of years, returned to the range, did a rough adjustment at close range and knowing how flat the .223 shoots, put the crosshairs on a couple of clays that someone had stuck in the sand on the 200-yard berm.

Cracking those clays came as a bit of a surprise, even with a flat-shooting round like the .223. I wish I’d had a more powerful scope on the rifle just to see how precise I could make those 200-yard shots.

On a couple of occasions, when chambering a fresh round, it did feel as though the cartridge hung up a bit, but I’ll chalk that up to the newness of the rifle.

The rest of the time, it ran like a Benz. It has a Mauser-type controlled round feed extractor and fixed blade ejector. Trigger let-off in my test gun was crisp and clean. I could not detect any creep. Off a sandbag rest, the Scout was as steady a platform as any rifle I’ve ever fired, including my personal guns.

What exactly is Ruger’s Gunsite Scout rifle? It’s a serious tool, not some toy for would-be zombie killers. Capable of 200-yard accuracy with the bare minimum of scope fine-tuning, this should be welcomed by anyone who likes the Scout concept but favors the far lighter recoil of the .223 round. In an emergency, one could be in far worse shape than to be equipped with the Ruger Gunsite Scout in .223/5.56mm. This rifle could easily ride around in the back of a pickup or SUV, or in a saddle scabbard, and it would be ready for action at a moment’s notice.

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle
Caliber:    .223 Rem. / 5.56mm
Action:    Bolt action
Receiver:    Alloy steel
BARREL:    16-in. matte black alloy steel
magazine:    10-round detachable
sights:    Adjustable ghost ring rear, post front
stock:    Black laminate
Weight:    7.1 lbs.
overall Length:    37-38.5 in.
SRP:    $1,039

This article appeared in the November 20, 2014 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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