Scout Rifles
Looking at the Scout Concept

25 November 1999
By Jim Dodd

Sniper Country visitors will notice that this review is vastly different from our regular reviews. It is about hunting. However, it is not the hunt we are interested in, but the firearm used in the hunt. Since the Steyr Scout has appeared on the market there has been a lot of talk about it, and about possibly using it, or a rifle designed on the scout concept, as the spotter's weapon. This review must be read while keeping that possible application in mind.

I shot this impala in KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) thorn bush country with the Steyr Scout. This occurred at mid day, and the shot was about 100 meters from the left rear quadrant. I took a spine shot because the rest of the animal was obscured by thick brush, and his head was down as he fed along. I used the PH's shooting sticks. Ammo was Winchester 180 grain FailSafe.

I bought a Steyr Scout when they became available in 1998, and I have been hunting with it. So far I have taken the rifle to Saskatchewan for whitetail deer, and to South Africa for two hunts. The most recent Africa hunt was with Danie van Graan at Engonyameni.

Based on my experience hunting with the Steyr Scout and also my Tikka scout I have developed some conclusions. My experience includes the Advanced Rifle course at GTC (Gunsite Training Center) in '93 with my Tikka Scout, two hunts in North America and two in Southern Africa, for about 5.5 weeks total time in the hunting field and 15 animals taken. I have also taken the Steyr Scout to Saskatchewan this fall with a 1.5-5X20 Leupold scope mounted in QDW rings in the conventional position over the action.

I have enjoyed using the scout on the range and mostly in the field. It is light, handy and generally a useful rifle. The .308 Win is a balanced and efficient cartridge with a good killing capability (when used with good bullets and of course proper shot placement).

I find that the scout concept and its current implementation have flaws, and these are especially noticeable for the trophy hunter. Hunting means you are in the field from before sunrise to after sunset. Many game animals are crepuscular, in that they are active in the twilight edges of the day. And of course none of them stand around in the open waiting to be shot - as targets do. The trophy hunter is also looking for a particular class of animal, and definitely is not just shooting the first sample of whatever buck, bull or ram is hunted. The shot may have to be taken very quickly, and there might not be much margin available.

Reviewing the various write-ups and reviews, I observed that the scout concept seems to have had most of its testing on rifle ranges between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. It has had very little testing with low sun angles, especially with the sun in the view of the objective lens or the eye piece. Not surprisingly, the concept and the SS work well in the middle of the day.

Some animals are dark or even black. The scope on the Steyr Scout has cross hairs that can obscure too much of the target, and can get lost on the animal. You have to take this rifle to the field to get the impact, you can work around it on the range. Ranges have a lot of contrast between the targets and the background, while field shooting frequently offers a dark animal in shade and other low contrast shots. This is repairable by changing the reticle. I have been using a Trijicon AccuPoint rifle scope with their illuminated reticle, and problems I noted in the field with the scout scope could be solved with such a reticle. The Trijicon illumination system does not rely on a battery.

I shot this nyala also in KwaZulu Natal. That is me with PH Selwyn Louw of MacLaren safaris, and my Kimber .375 H&H fitted with the Trijicon 3-9X40 scope. I brought the Kimber for a later leopard hunt in Mpumalanga, but ran into problems with the scout scope and light. I tried to line up a 230 meter shot across a canyon on a good nyala bull. He was black and the black crosshairs vanished on him because of strong glare I was getting from the scope eye piece. The sun was low and behind me. I started bringing the Kimber in the hunting car, and I ended up using it to take this nyala bull in some dense fever tree and brush at the bottom of a canyon at sundown. Range was only about 30 meters, I put the tritium aim point on the center of his chest and squeezed. Ammo was Remington Safari with the 300 grain Swift bullet.

The Steyr Scout won't ignite all .308/7.62X51 ammunition. This is repairable by selecting ammo, or by changing the spring setting in the bolt. According to the importer, bolt lift will get harder if you do so. My Tikka does not have this problem, nor have I experienced it with any other 30-06 Gov't or .308 Winchester rifle with military ball.

The scout sighting system concept is subject to low sun angle interference, particularly from the eye piece end. I will be doing some testing to determine the relative degree of difference in vulnerability between the scout scope and the conventional scope from the eye piece end. Currently I have fitted my Steyr Scout with a Leupold 1.5-5X conventional scope in conventional position for some of this testing.

The scout scope concept is also subject to the effects of too small a field of view. I recall that Jeff Cooper wrote about shooting his lion. I think he said something about "shooting into the yellow". I have observed problems with the field of view and animal size with moving targets in the bush at closer ranges. Townsend Whelen observed many years ago that you need at least 30' field of view at 100 yards with the hunting scope. The scout scopes have around 22'. I am going to do some additional testing here as well

I have invested time, money and effort in field use of the scout. I would like to report that it can do everything I have tried to do with it, but it cannot yet do so. I do not expect it to perform in very specialized venues, but I do expect to be able to hunt outside the 8 to 5 part of the day. Now all I have to do is work with experts and address these problems. Or otherwise fix four rifles of considerable combined value. :-) Thus I hope to participate in and contribute to its further development. In that light I would like to hear about field or range use results where the scout scope was a problem (pun intended).

* About the author:

Jim Dodd is a hunting consultant who has hunted extensively all over the world. He previously was in the U.S. Navy, serving in submarines (while an enlisted man), and destroyers (as an officer). His combat experience included two tours in Viet Nam. He has competed in Hi Power while in the Navy, also benchrest and other target sports. He has always been interested in rifles, and combine that interest in his hunting.

In addition to USMC Small Arms and Tactics training, he attended the American Pistol Institute twice under Jeff Cooper (once for basic handgun and then for basic rifle). He also attended the advanced rifle course at Gunsite under John Gannaway, after Jeff Cooper sold the school. At this second rifle course he won the shoot-off with his Tikka Scout.

He has been a strong advocate of the scout rifle and the scout concept, and has invested quite a bit into it via his rifles as seen above, yet he is not blind to the shortcomings.

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