The “Pseudo Scout”: An updated take on the Scout Rifle

by Matt Olivier

photography by Matt Olivier

June 24th, 2021

Click pictures for a larger version.



Matt's Ruger American Scout Rifle in 450 Bushmaster.



Matt's Ruger American Scout rifles in 450 Bushmaster (top) and 5.56/223 (bottom).



Matt's 7.62x39 "Rooskout".



Matt puts the Rooskout through its paces.

Back in the mid-80s, Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of the American Pistol Institute (API), later renamed Gunsite, conceptualized a light, compact, bolt action rifle, chambered in .308 Win.  The specifications ultimately were finalized on an overall package of less than 40” in total length and that weighed less than 7 pounds, with both iron and optical sights attached.  Col. Cooper did a good bit of writing on this subject, and worked with the Gunsmithy, the local on-site gunsmith at Gunsite, to develop some prototypes. In the late 1980s, Steyr commercialized a great Scout rifle with a few innovative features which included a spare magazine storage in the stock and a folding bipod in the forearm just to name a few.  In 2011, working with Ed Head, long time Gunsite Rangemaster and pupil of Col. Cooper, Ruger introduced a Gunsite Scout Rifle, based on their Model 77 action.  This rifle was available in both right-handed and left-handed models and in various calibers.  Still other calibers have since been introduced recently as well (i.e. 350 Legend, 450 Bushmaster).

It is interesting that 35 or so years later, the Scout rifle still has a place in the gun rack, truck, safe, and out in the field, for many shooters.  It is testimony to the wisdom of Col. Cooper and his understanding of the practicality of a light, compact and powerful rifle.  Equally interesting to the author is that there appears to be two similar, but yet different schools of the thought on the Scout rifle.  One, the purist, adheres to the exact specifications laid out by Col. Cooper in his writings, such as action, caliber, dimensions, etc. The other, what I call the modernist, believes that the concept of a Scout rifle is just that, a concept, and that what matters is the spirit of what Col. Jeff Cooper proposed: a light, handy, compact, powerful rifle.  This modernist school of thought allows for the evolution of different options, calibers, sights, and actions, that aren’t typically considered by the purist.  In discussing this with my good friend Ed Head, who knew Col. Cooper fairly well, having taken his classes, taught for (and with) him, and working for him as Operations Manager at Gunsite for many years, I have come to the personal belief that what Col. Cooper was trying to instill was the concept of the Scout Rifle, not the hard and fast definition.  There is a lot to be said for a light, compact, handy rifle in a caliber that is powerful enough to take down large game.  This opens up the type of action (bolt, lever, semi-auto), caliber, and optics to a plethora of options available in today’s market, which may or may not have been available to Col. Cooper early on.

This brings me to the topic of this article.  The ideals of a modern take on the Scout Rifle concept…the “Pseudo Scout”.   The use of the word pseudo is intentional, and, in a some ways, in deference to the purists, and their belief that a Scout Rifle can only be one true to the Col. Cooper's specified configuration. 

Around the same time that Ruger introduced its Gunsite Scout Rifle, it also introduced a budget level hunting rifle, named the American.  This rifle was designed in-house, on a new action, with a lightweight free floated stock.  It was presented in typical Ruger fashion, with various calibers and configuration permutations.  As this rifle started to gain acceptance, data began to show that, no matter what caliber the rifles were chambered in, they were very, very accurate.  They were certainly more accurate than a budget-level rifle typically is expected to be.  With the Marksman Trigger allowing for the user to adjust the trigger pull between 3 and 5 pounds, the rifle allowed for some personalization.

Following an article by Ed Head a year or so ago, I decided to pursue the Pseudo Scout concept and form my own opinions.  I started with stock, out of the box, Ruger American rifles chambered in different calibers.  Already owning a Gunsite Scout Rifle in 308 Win and in 5.56 NATO, I decided to try this concept out in calibers different than the ones I am already familiar with.  The first rifle I decided to build was one that I had owned for a few years and had picked up at a fund raising event for the Ruger Owners & Collectors Society (ROCS), chambered in 450 Bushmaster.  

Skinner Sights has developed, and commercialized, a full length Picatinny rail for the Ruger American Rifle.  The rail is fitted with an aperture rear sight and an AR A2-style post front sight.  A few holes need to be drilled and tapped in the rifle by a qualified gunsmith in order to install it properly.  Once installed, it allows for mounting of a scope anywhere on the rifle, including in a forward Scout-like position.  I acquired one of these rails and brought it, along with the rifle, to Robar, in Phoenix, AZ (Robar unfortunately closed down in mid-2019).  I had them install the rail and, while they had the rifle, I asked them to NP3 coat the bolt for an even smoother operation and to perform their texturing feature on the grip and forearm.  Since the rifle was in an FDE color, I had them leave their texturing in black, allowing for a nice contrast in colors that were aesthetically pretty cool.   I was able to acquire one of Leupold’s fine FXII 2-8 Scout scopes and, along with a set of their low mount rings, I installed it in the forward Scout position.  Other than the caliber, this rifle meets all the criteria defined for the Scout rifle.  It is light, handy and certainly quite powerful.

Sometime last year, in 2020, I decided to build another Pseudo Scout, also on based on the Ruger American rifle.  This time, I opted for one that was chambered in 7.62x39, a caliber that has been proven for decades to hit hard yet allow for chambering in a short action.  I used the Ruger American Ranch rifle variation, which uses Ruger Mini-30 magazines.  These are still readily available in 5, 20 and 30-round configurations.  I again reached out to Andy Larsson at Skinner Sights and purchased one of his full-length rails with the front and rear sights.  Since Robar had gone out of business, I sought out Dave Fink, of Finks’ Custom Gunsmithing, and had him install it for me.  I was able to acquire another Leupold Scout scope, in this case a Gunsite custom edition in a fixed 2.5X power that was promptly mounted and bore sighted.  I added a Simply Rugged Alaskan Sling to complete the package, and ended up with yet another very light, handy, compact, and powerful rifle.  I was able to sight it in quite easily as it quickly proved to be a very reliable and accurate rifle with any ammunition I could feed it.  It did not matter if it was steel cased, brass cased, FMJ or JHP, premium or not, it all worked great, fed great, and was incredibly accurate.  I recently had an opportunity to use it on the Military Crest, an outdoor simulator at Gunsite, with steel targets from 200 to 300 yards which proved to be no match for the rifle.  

About a month or two ago, while perusing the Covid pandemic limited inventory of used guns at Murphy’s, a gun shop in Tucson, AZ, I came across a Ruger American Compact chambered in .223.  This rifle was one of the early ones, all black, with the 5-shot rotary magazine.  It had an 18” barrel and a 12.5” LOP.  It just spoke to me and and I knew, deep in my soul, that I had to make it into a Pseudo Scout.  So it, too, underwent the Skinner Sight rail treatment, again installed by David Fink.  However, scout scopes were quite a bit more challenging to find during the pandemic which resulted in tightness in supply of pretty much everything gun related.  I was able to find a lightly used 2-7 Vortex scout scope on one of the popular auction sites.  After mounting, bore sighting and sighting in, the rifle was ready to go. It proved its accuracy and served me well at one of Gunsite’s outdoor simulators, the Vlei, keeping up with the other shooters who were all using modern sporting rifles (MSRs) of various calibers and configurations.

The 7.62x39 rifle, which I have affectionately nicknamed "Rooskout", and the 223 rifle have become my go-to rifles when I am out and about in the Arizona desert.  Both rifles are in very popular calibers which will prove useful when ammunition supplies in the country start to stabilize again and become more readily available.  In the meantime, I have enough on hand of both to get me through the crisis.  Worst case, the barter economy is always a viable option as well, as this is ammo that would be easier to find, and barter for, if it ever comes to that.  Both rifles have proven to be very accurate at short and long distances (out to 300 yards) and, depending on the need, are serving me well in town, out in the country, in the mountains, or in the deserts of Arizona. 

So there you have it, the Pseudo Scout is a valid concept.  It works, and works quite well.  The Ruger American rifle is a great, and affordable, base rifle.  Coupled with Skinner Sights’ full length Picatinny rail and a good quality scout scope, one could do a lot worse for an all-around, lightweight, easy handling, powerful rifle.  And this, right there, in my opinion, meets all of what Col. Jeff Cooper had intended with this concept.

Matt Olivier

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Click pictures for a larger version.



A variety of Scout Rifles at home: Gunsite.



Ed Head's 308 Scout Rifle, built by Robar.



Ed Head shooting his Robar 308 Scout Rifle.



Matt shoots as Valerie Andersen and Rob Leahy observe.