With input from Col. Jeff Cooper, Steyr’s Scout rifle is ready for any task. Light and reliable, it includes several key components. The Integral bipod made for excellent prone shooting, and its light weight and comfortable stock were perfect for shooting off-hand style.
Although never afforded the honor of meeting Colonel Jeff Cooper, I know his philosophy well. My early career was comprised of training with Clint Smith and Bob Schneider, both longtime associates of Col. Cooper. My current profession has allowed me the opportunity of training several times in the last couple of years at Gunsite, rounding out my familiarity with his doctrine and teaching.
Thanks to spending a lot of time with Ed Stock, Mike Hughes and a number of other Gunsite instructors, it is clear that our philosophies are similar in many ways. As a retired lieutenant with many years on a SWAT team, practicality in the field has always been my primary goal. That was true as it pertained to tactics, training, and most importantly, weapons. Techniques and the manner of application can change and should, but the philosophy remains the same. What you use, how you use it, and how it is applied in the field should be practical. What changes you make through practice and application should always be measured against how they work in real life. This was at the heart of Colonel Cooper’s philosophy, and remains so to this day at the Gunsite Academy.
Colonel Cooper was not only a seasoned combat veteran but an avid hunter. Over the years, he developed training and tools that best suited hunting in general and large game in particular. One of the more popular and certainly practical is his idea of a “scout rifle.” The concept was refined and promoted in earnest by Cooper in the 1980s and remains popular among big game hunters to this day. Although perfectly suited to hunting, the real goal was an all-purpose rifle—one rifle that will work for fighting, hunting, and anything else in between. Given that it will be used against several different threats and targets, there were a few requirements.
The idea was to have a rifle that was less than a meter or so in length chambered in a powerful rifle cartridge. Although other cartridges were made over the years, the standard was either a .308 or 7mm-08.
The rifle needed to be capable of optical sighting yet maintain iron sights. In fact, optical sighting was not mandatory for the Colonel—iron sights were the primary sighting system. He also preferred long eye relief sights for a number of reasons. One reason was that many earlier weapons required feeding from the top, so scopes would have to be mounted forward of the action. Long eye relief sights are also faster to pick up and can be fired with both eyes open. Typically of 4X magnification or less, often 2.5X, they were perfect for fast action in the field.
The Colonel wanted his scout rifle to be light as well, specifying an unloaded weight of no more than 7.7 pounds, and lighter if possible. A sling was a requirement, but it needed to be practical and applicable in the field. A favorite for this rifle is the “Ching Sling.” Designed by Eric Ching, this sling is a three-point sling, allowing for very fast access and rock-solid lockup when firing in field conditions.
As a practical field rifle, Cooper required combat accuracy with a standard of 2 MOA (4 inches) at 200 yards. Greater accuracy was fine, but reliability was the key. The most accurate rifle in the world will get you killed if it is not reliable. This meant shorter, thinner barrels—shooting groups was not the point.
Other features were added as this concept progressed, too, including magazine-fed weapons with a spare mag in the buttstock, polymer or lightweight stocks, and an integral bipod. The overall concept of a scout rifle was really pretty simple. It was a powerful rifle designed to have everything you need on the weapon that could shoot accurately under stress, in real conditions, and with complete reliability.