Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Scout Rifles

My earliest, fondest memories of shooting are wandering around beyond the ends of the road where I grew up in the boonies of north Dade county (north of Miami, same county).  I had my Nylon 66, which I still own, and my friends had some other .22s.  We'd set up cans on a piece of rock or something and plink them for hours.  One friend's dad let him wander around with a 20ga. shotgun and we'd shoot that, then set the shells up and shoot them with the .22s.  Today, I'm sure you'd get arrested for it - if you could even find a place to go plink.

Fast forward 40 years to today and I have a few rifles; a couple of AR-15 clones (including my homemade AR), the two Garands I just wrote about getting, and a few others.  I've noticed that while the crowds at gun shows tend to gather at the long rows of pistols, I have a thing for rifles.  A nicely figured walnut stock will always stop me.

So it was with some interest (and drooling) that I first encountered references to the Scout rifle concept from Jeff Cooper.  I saw that Sturm Ruger has introduced one, the commemorative  "Gunsite Scout" (pictured above), Steyr makes one, and Savage offers one in choice of .308 or 7.62x39 (the AK-47 round).  There's a handful of attributes that vary around a bit, but these seem to be the big ones:
  • Carbine length barrel of 16" to 17"
  • Overall length of under 40 inches
  • A weight of 6 1/2 pounds or less
  • Either iron sights, or low-power, forward mounted optics to allow the operator to sight around the optics if needed
  • A potent cartridge that's effective out to 500 yards: .308 Winchester or 7.62x51 NATO.  
In Jeff's words, "The general-purpose rifle will do equally well for all but specialized hunting, as well as for fighting; thus it must be powerful enough to kill any living target of reasonable size. If you insist upon a definition of 'reasonable size,' let us introduce an arbitrary mass figure of about 1000 lb".

Last July, I reported on coming across a nice deal on an older (apparently 1984) Remington 700 in .30-06.  As it turns out, there isn't one thing on that list of scout rifle attributes that my Remmy has.  It's 42 1/2 inches long, the barrel is 23", and it weighs 8 pounds with my scope on it. 
I started thinking I could make it into a scout rifle.  I personally think the .30-06 has essentially the same ballistics as the .308 Win, so the caliber doesn't seem like a big issue.  I've seen a kit to modify the 700 BDL to give it a magazine feed, like the Ruger has.  It could probably use a new stock anyway: the barrel isn't floated, and the wood shows a crack right behind the bolt on top - whether that's just cosmetic, I can't tell. 

The way I see it, my options are pretty much to just replace the stock, or rebuild it.  If I were to put a new barrel on it, to drop it down to 16 1/2", and put a new stock on it, the only thing that remains from the original is the trigger group and bolt.  I suppose it's possible to saw off the end of the barrel, but I don't have a gun smith's lathe to re-crown the barrel.

I know I get some pretty sharp gun guys drop by here, so what do you think?  If it were you, what would you do?  Just put a new stock on it, or rebuild it?  If you put a new barrel on it, would you change over to .308?  If the answer is completely rebuild it, I sure don't want to get close to the $750 or $800 street price for the Ruger Scout.  The Savage shows up on Bud's Gun Shop for $503, which is a low bar to get under. 


  1. Re-stock it with a good synthetic stock if the crack turns out to be more than cosmetic. If it is cosmetic, float the barrel, fiberglas-bed the action and have the trigger worked over by a competent 'smith.

    The downside to "Scoutizing" your rifle will be the cost of doing it - easily half the cost of a decent Scout rifle, maybe a little more - and the action size. .30-06 is a long action, .308 Win will be a short action: shorter bolt throw, slightly lighter rifle, even if by only a few ounces.

    I've got an older Savage 110 Scout and am happy with it, save for the lack of 8-10 round magazines for it. And, if you're patient, used Ruger Scouts will start showing up in a year or so as early adopters who thought they were the cat's meow decide they want something else.

    Something else you might consider is the Browning BLR in .308. I've got one in Take-Down configuration that is pretty handy. FYI, Wild West Guns in Alaska does a great job of mounting a forward Scout scope on them.

    Also FYI, .308 Winchester and 7.62X51 are not the same cartridge - shoulder angle is different between them, and the 7.62X51 case has a thicker case head (helps prevent ripping the case apart when used in the mini-guns which have pretty violent extraction) which reduces case volume. Lower case volume means higher pressures if you reload using .308 Win load data, so segregate your cases and start from lower down on the charge chart with military cases.

  2. That looks like a BDL? Me, I wouldn't touch a Monte Carlo stock 700. I just think they're too pretty. That's the sentimentalist in me.

  3. Scott - as far as I can tell, it is a BDL, and there is that. It really is a pretty rifle.

    Anon 2003 - thanks for all that input. I think the crack is cosmetic. I can't fit a piece of paper between the nose of the stock and the barrel, and I expect to, so I should probably take the stock off and check things out.

  4. SG,

    If you are sure you want a rifle built on the scout concept, I would then decide whether or not you want to remain with a caliber you already are set up for. The Garands mean you are good with .30-06, so why mess with the .308, unless you are already into .308 with another rifle, then the shorter action and slight weight savings would make sense, and I would pass on converting the Rem.

    If you stick with the 30-06, shortening the barrel and adding the magazine kit (factor in the cost of x-number of mags) might bring it close to the cost of a new Savage (a decent rifle) or a used version by another manufacturer.

    The difference between .308 and 7.62x51 is indeed similar to the difference between the .223 and the 5.56x45. The only significance is if you reload. You can safely fire either cartridge in either "caliber" rifle. Other than the thickness of the base of the case (a difference in _internal_ dimension), they are interchangeable. There is no difference in the angle of the shoulder, although there _may_ be a difference in headspace for certain bullet weights. (Firing either a cartridge marked .762 Nato or .308 Win MIGHT give you a different shoulder on the fired case depending upon how the chamber was cut in your specific rifle, but the angle is the same otherwise. I just got through checking some unfired Hornady soft point hunting loads in .308 against some unfired 7.62 Nato German ammo I am fond of using in my HK :-)

    Frankly, I am not convinced there is the least bit of danger in using load data for either (if you can even find a book with different laod data between .308 and 7.62x51), especially in modern rifles. I wouldn't be afraid to shoot Nato 7.62x51 in a Savage .308 lever gun. I've shot German .308 ammo supposedly manufactured for machine gun use (not just select-fire G3's and such) and nevr had any issues in either my HK91 or my Ruger M77 bolt action.

  5. I should have pointed out that I have a .308 rifle, a DPMS LR-308B, which is more like an AR-10/M1A than my Remmy 700. It weighs almost 12 pounds with my scope on it, and not a single round of .308 in it.

    The idea of a .308 rifle that weighs 6.5 lbs instead of 12 is really appealing.

    In my efforts to learn about reloading, I've come across much that agrees with you, Reg. In my mind, I've made the picture that the main difference between the commercial and NATO ammo is that the NATO ammo is designed for looser tolerances in the chamber to handle dirtier conditions, and with thicker cases around the web to ensure a more rugged case. I have not re-loaded any .308 or .30-06 yet, though.

    From everything I've heard, Savage makes a really nice rifle. Maybe it's time to add one to the stable.

  6. Get the Savage. The bolt lift will be "stiff" compared to your Remmy, but you can fix that with a disassemble and polish job.

  7. Thanks, AM. I'm leaning toward the Savage.

    Stay safe out there.

  8. There is absolutely no reason at all to change a thing on that Remington. It will probably serve better than the so called "Scout Rifle" config. The only reason for moving the scope forward was so you could reload with stripper clips. That is not an option for that model you have.
    The scope works better where it is. The stock will work just fine as it is. What you already have is a deadly weapon of unsurpassed reliability and function. It won't jam. It will always fire. It's accurate.

  9. Kansas Scout - thanks for the input. I've since decided the 700 is going to stay a 700. I've got it apart now, and it appears the crack in the stock is cosmetic. Maybe I'll try to force a little epoxy into it.

    When I first tried to slip some paper between the barrel and stock, I found the stock is contact over a lot of area. The varnish is thick and lumpy under the barrel, so just smoothing out those bits may float the barrel.