Cooper’s Scout Rifle – A (Literally) Fantastic Gun

    At the end of September, the Guns & Ammo website posted a magazine article by Jeff Cooper from their 1966 issue, covering carbines. In it, Cooper evaluates – and praises highly – the then-new Remington 600 rifle, as being handy, powerful, and well-made. Two days later, the article was reposted to TFB, and one day after that another of Cooper’s articles, this time covering his “Scout Rifle” concept (which grew from his evaluation of the Remington 600 – indeed the first Scout was built on that rifle) was posted to the American Rifleman website. A week later, this morning, Chris of LuckyGunner posted some of his thoughts on Cooper’s “Scout Rifle” concept:

    Who’s a Scout?

    Before the Cooper followers out there get too worked up, I’m not saying the man didn’t know what he was talking about when he came up with the scout. But we have to ask whose “general purposes” this rifle is intended to meet, and what options we now have available to meet those purposes.

    I think it’s a safe bet that 9 out of 10 of rifles in the U.S. today are purchased for one or more of the following reasons:

    • Personal protection against human attackers
    • Recreational/range use (including plinking, target shooting, and competition)
    • Recreational hunting (as opposed to professional hunting or survival hunting)

    Those purposes aren’t what Cooper had in mind for the scout rifle. Cooper’s grand image of the user of his scout rifle doesn’t have a lifestyle that looks anything like mine, and probably doesn’t look much like yours, either. In fact, I don’t even think many people of Cooper’s generation were living that lifestyle.

    Cooper was a Marine and an avid big game hunter, but most importantly, he was a romantic with lofty ideas about the lone rifleman facing the unknown. The scout seems best suited for someone who was living 100 years before Coopers time — taming the Wild West or exploring the mysteries of the African continent. It’s a rifle for someone who’s travelling long distances through uncharted territory, not knowing what dangers he will face. For Cooper, the “general purpose” rifle has to do the following:

    • Quickly kill any animal, big or small, for food or self-defense
    • Light enough to carry while navigating the wilderness for indefinite periods
    • Serve as adequate defense against human attackers in a pinch

    For these purposes, considering the hardware available in the 80s, the Cooper’s scout would be a fantastic tool. But this idea of hiking through the great unknown, rifle in hand to tame the wilderness and fight off the heathens — for the vast majority of us, it’s merely a fantasy.

    (emphasis mine)

    Before today, I had idly considered covering Cooper’s ideal rifle, but had no real immediate intention of doing so. Reading this paragraph of Chris’s felt like having thoughts forcibly thrust from my brain onto the page, as if I was reading and writing them simultaneously. I’m sure given enough time, I might have written something very similar, but Chris did it yesterday, and probably better than I could have.

    After reading this, I had a conversation in which I joked that the ideal real-world general purpose rifle was a Glock 19 – that is, after all, all the modern man is ever likely to need to survive in the concrete jungles of the American coastal megalopoleis, and heartland waystation-towns alike. The irony of the Scout Rifle is that it’s a late 20th century weapon designed for the 19th; a sort of modernist homage to the romance the post-war generations have had with Brand’s Old West, Kipling’s India, and Conrad’s Africa.

    A Scout Rifle could be used for many things; that’s not in doubt. How useful is it? For most of us, I think not very.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]