by John Zent - Monday, January 4, 2010
From the bench the rifle was accurate to just over 1 moa so long as we fed it the right ammo. Some loads, however, produced groups four or fives times that size. Shooting characteristics were enhanced by a clean-breaking, 2.3-pound trigger, though it must be pointed out that the Scout's two-stage trigger is like those more often found on military and match arms, and therefore may be unfamiliar to shooters accustomed to U.S.-made hunting rifles.
As noted at the outset, the increasing use of AR-type rifles for hunting would seem to place them in direct competition with the Mannlicher Scout. It is unlikely that Col. Cooper could have foreseen the adaptation of larger calibers to ARs (including .308) or the degree to which civilian shooters have adopted them in the wake of the War Against Terror. Without question, Gen-X shooters now prefer high-capacity autoloaders, and AR variants are serving all the purposes Cooper envisioned for the Scout. They have become the go-to guns for exactly those shooters who likely would have the greatest interest in the Scout.
Nonetheless, there remain two applications where I believe the Scout rifle can continue to shine: 1) as a super-durable rifle for wilderness hunters, especially professional guides whose firearms receive tremendous wear and tear; and 2) as part of a two-gun tandem along with a black rifle, a combo that could outfit one to tackle just about any contingency that can be resolved with lightweight arms practical for carrying on one's back.
However, if I might extrapolate on these applications, there are tweaks I believe could make the Scout even better suited to both purposes.
As a wilderness hunting rifle we are talking about the Rocky Mountains, northern Canada and, especially, Alaska. The tough-as-nails, shooter-friendly Scout is nearly perfect for such demanding environs, but hunters pursuing the region's elk, moose, grizzlies, etc., favor bigger calibers than the .308 Win. The manufacturer attempted to address this issue a few years back by adding the .376 Steyr, but that big cartridge, whose ballistic performance approximates the .375 H&H, did not catch on and since has been discontinued in the Scout. Likely the recoil was just too fierce from such a lightweight rifle. Perhaps a better bet would be calibers comparable to favorites like the .300 and .338 Win. Mags. Neither would fit in the short-action Scout, but the similar, recently introduced .300 and .338 Ruger Compact Mags., certainly would, and since Steyr has already begun offering the .338 RCM in its Pro Hunter series, this would seem like a logical fit.
Pairing the Scout with a combat-style autoloader to form a two-gun battery runs counter to Col. Cooper's original tenet of creating a single, do-it-all rifle for the man forced to travel light. I'm going to assume, however, that practically every Scout owner possesses multiple firearms, and so conditions on the ground would have to be dire indeed to convince him to set forth with just one rifle. What would help make the Scout supremely worthy of tandem duty would be for both rifles to share a common chambering and interchangeable magazines. Could this be done with Steyr's AUG/A3 USA? Like the Scout it is available in .223, and if the highly regarded military/LE bullpup could subsequently be up-chambered to .308, so much the better. Beyond that hurdle, it would appear a relatively simple task to fabricate a magazine that would function in both rifles. And if not that, might it be possible for some enterprising aftermarketer to devise a magazine that would fit both the Scout and some AR variant? Shooters who have felt the need to arm themselves with two guns have historically sought to standardize their ammunition, and certainly that possibility would benefit this scenario.
More than a decade after its introduction, the Mannlicher Scout remains an intriguing and relevant concept gun for knowledgeable shooters living an uncertain and increasingly hostile world. How the Scout ultimately earns its keep is yet to be determined, but there's no questioning its readiness.
Calibers: .223 Rem.,.243 Rem., 7 mm-08 Rem., .308 Win.
Barrel length: 19 inches
Magazine: 2 magazines, 5-round capacity (accessory 10-round magazines available)
Trigger: Set trigger or direct trigger
Stock: Synthetic black or grey, also in Realtree camo and wood imitation inserts as an extra; integral folding bipod
Metal finish: matte black anodized or stainless
Sights: Weaver scope mounting rail; integral flip-up rear peep and front blade
Overall length: 38.6 inches
Weight: 6.6 pounds
MSRP: $2,099 (synthetic stock)
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