Friday, 22 April 2011

Close Inspection of Coopers Scout Rifle Definition


Posted this on thought I might post here for your consideration.

The dogma and misinterpretation surrounding the definition of the Scout rifle has bothered me for quite some time. So, I felt I needed to give my thoughts and observations regarding the scout concept and how I interpret Coopers beloved rifle. But first, let me toss a few comments out on the "guru" himself.
Jeff Cooper spent his life developing shooters into marksmen. Whether it was a pistol or rifle, Mr. Cooper was dedicated to improving the craft and those who practice it. The "general purpose" or "practical rifle" was but one aspect and he defined it as this:
"A general purpose rifle is a conveniently portable, individually operated firearm, capable of striking a single decisive blow, on a live target of up to 200 kilos in weight, at any distance at which the operator can shoot with the precision necessary to place a shot in a vital area of the target." Col. Jeff Cooper " To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth"
Mr. Cooper was not interested in developing your skills for any narrow purpose such as long range, target, tactical, varmint, etc. His efforts were concentrated on developing shooters who could cleanly handle themselves in "all" situations. This definition was the start of a quest to develop the ultimate practical rifle, and the "scout rifle" was in his mind and others, the perfection of the concept.
I never knew or met Mr. Cooper, so I can only summize his intentions when it appeared his dogma regarding the "scout definition" would violate the principle(s) of his "general purpose rifle" concept. I believe the key lies with Coopers very definition of the scout rifle. Cooper, as we all know was a wordsmith of which few were equal; his definition contains both broad and specifics, which would allow the originator to narrowly define and the practitioner to build a rifle suitable for his/her needs. He was brilliant. In practice, he was generally forgiving and gave legitimacy to various forms of the scout rifle. In word, he kept to his dogma, I suppose out of fear the concept would loose relevance; or out of a need to keep the concept as pure as possible. Either way, it has allowed the scout concept to be discovered and applied by future generations of "riflemen". Again, not sure, and just an observation on my part.
Now, lets move on to the "Scout Rifle" definition and my observations.
Weight-sighted and slung: 3 kilograms (6.6 lb). This has been set as the ideal weight but the maximum has been stated as being 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lb).
Surprisingly there is considerable wiggle room in the weight of the rifle. Here the words "set" "ideal" and "stated" are used. The word "set" denotes finality and "ideal" relates to perfection or "to attain". It means the rifle "can" weigh less or it can weigh more. But, the "ideal weight" will always be 6.6 lb; it is set. In order to keep the weight from getting to far from the ideal he "states" a maximum weight of 7.7 lb. A statement has no finality. It is merely what a person "says". A statement can be changed for further clarification; and Cooper did just that concerning the Steyr Scout. *Essentially we really do not have a maximum weight by Coopers own definition. I believe this was Coopers way of keeping some level of control so weight would not stray to far from "ideal". Brilliant.
So, what we have is a "ideal weight range" of between 6.6 lb - 7.7 lb that allows the rifle to weigh a little more or less outside the "ideal range".
Length: one meter (39 inches)
This is the only specification of the Scout concept or definition that is set. Not much to discuss here. I find it odd that the length is the spec few give much regard to. Most agree it shouldn't be longer, but if it is a little shorter I see no purists shouting "it ain't a scout". I figure it's because it's harder to make "length" rhyme with "fate".
Nominal barrel length: 0.48 meter (19 inches)
Cooper uses "nominal" twice in his definition. Nominal is quite possibly the most ambiguous word in the english language. It can be minimal, small, figurative, less than, meaningless, inconsequential, etc. Examples in use would include "The club has a nominal fee for entry"; "The candidate for office is a nominal choice"; "The queen of England is the nominal head of state". * You notice Cooper did not use the word "ideal" here. That is because barrel length actually effects performance. I am sure barrel length was a hotly debated topic and I assume that most in the conference followed the 1980's conventional wisdom that barrels should be no less than 20" in length. Cooper was less dogmatic about barrel length; but was more concerned with practical results. I personally believe 19" was a compromise and his choice of "nominal" allows the barrel to be *a little shorter or longer than 19" and most cases to err towards longer. Currently we know that shorter barrels do not effect practical results in a defensive rifle. So Cooper was yet brilliant again. 19" is "nominal"
Sighting system: Typically a forward and low mounted (ahead of the action opening) long eye relief telescope of between 2x and 3x. Reserve iron sights desirable but not necessary. Iron sights of the ghost ring type, without a scope also qualify, as does a low powered conventional position scope.
I am going suggest you read the above carefully. There are a lot of options here. As I understand it, the rifle can have a forward or conventionally mounted scope with or without iron sights. If you choose to have reserve iron sights there is no specification as to what type; you choose. If you do not want a scope on your scout it will qualify for a scout if it uses ghost ring aperture sights. If you use a telescope it should be of low power. Forward mounted scopes typically being 2x to 3x(fixed assumed); traditional mounted scopes of low power(low power is generally considered 1x to 4x fixed) Notice there is no mention of variable in the definition. In the 1980's low powered variables were few and far between and Cooper considered a variable scope, because of it's high end magnification, a liability for dangerous game and self defense. But things have changed. Low powered variables are pouring into the market as well as red dot, illuminated reticle and holographic sights. By Coopers open ended definition and his use of the word "typically" any of these sight options and in various combinations would qualify on a scout as long as the magnification does not exceed the accepted low range of 1x-4x(this is assumed). Cooper again was brilliant in his choice of words because he knew technology would change and was seeing it evolve shortly before his death.
Action: Magazine fed bolt action. Detachable box magazine and or stripper clip charging is desirable but not necessary
Notice, short or long action is not specified; we assume it should be a short action because Cooper preferred them and it was easier to make ideal weight. Detachable box mag's and striper clips are not required, nor is a magazine cut off. We make too many assumptions regarding action. The only requirement is that it be a magazine fed bolt action.
Sling: Fast loop-up type, ie Ching or CW style.
Many assumptions made here. Just because Cooper gave 2 examples does not mean these are the only choices for a quick loop up style sling. It also doesn't mean a scout rifle has to have 3 sling swivels. A Ching requires 3 but a CW uses 2; one at the forend and one just in front of the magazine well. I personally can think of at least 5 to 6 more "quick loop" style slings that I like much better than the the Ching or CW; and they only require 2 sling mounts. My personal favorites are the Allen slide loop nylon sling and the Hunt sling made of leather. In my opinion they are faster; easily adjustable and won't hang up on brush when carrying the rifle off the shoulder. These two slings were not available when Cooper put the conference together; he just preferred the Ching and CW. Only requirement here is a fast loop style sling and enough sling swivels to make it work.
Caliber: Nominally .308 Winchester(7.62x51). Calibers such as 7mm-08 Remington(7x51mm) or .243 Winchester(6x51mm) being considered for frail individuals or where "military" calibers are proscribed
There's that word "nominally" again. Cooper preached the .308 and short action because he felt it was the best overall combination to achieve scout rifle specs and effectiveness. But the definition does not require it. I believe in this case Cooper wanted the smallest most effective family of medium range cartridges available. Nominally here refers to the .308 family. You ask how can you say that? because just after".308 Winchester" he gives two examples in the cartridge family that express "range". He also uses the phrase "such as" which is the equivalent to "for example". This leaves the cartridges below .243x51 out and those cartridges above it as viable alternatives for the scout rifle. This would include long action medium range cartridges as well. Cooper knew the .308; although widely distributed thru out the world is not available every where. Cooper couldn't tell a Swedish or Norwegian citizen that they really can't have a scout rifle because the most plentiful ammo available is either 6.5x55 or 7.62x54. I don't believe we have that right either. So, from Coopers designed choice of ambiguous language, cartridges greater than .243 Win and up are good to go. Even Cooper's own rhetoric did not completely limit the scout to only three cartridges; he preached it in order to keep the purity of the concept; but practically, he changed it when it suited him. I think "Lion Scout" comes to mind.
Built in bipod: desirable but not mandatory
Enough said, I'll move on.
Accuracy: should be capable of shooting into 2 minutes of angle or less(4") at 200 yards/meters (3 shot groups)
Accuracy for the scout is a practical issue and does not require sub moa. Although, most of us desire a rifle more capable of 2 moa just for bragging rights alone. I just want to remind everyone that *tack driving is not required of a scout rifle.
Couple of other features or lack of them that are not required of a scout rifle.
1. Synthetic stock; you mean it's not in there! yup. Cooper preferred them but it's not required.
2. Threaded barrel and flashhider; yes Virginia, there is a santa clause; and there will be a sound suppressor under the tree for your GSR. Cooper had no use for any of them; but by definition they can be included.
3. Magazine cut-off; nope still not there.
4. The list could get long so I'll stop.
I hope you guys see my point. We tend to be far more dogmatic than we should regarding what does or does not make a scout rifle. I find it interesting that Cooper preached a narrow scout definition while alive; but chose to leave the characteristics of the scout as a concept. I say again, the man was brilliant.

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