Don't get me wrong- a truly good gun's maker can pay for ad space and it's certainly not in the financial interest of a magazine to poo on a client's product. I've no idea how much premium ad space is in a major magazine but cheap is not something that comes to mind.
Where does that leave the consumer? Well, pretty much at the mercy of friends, their own judgement, or a growing handful of guys who publish reviews of stuff on the growing blogosphere without the goal of financial renumeration. Of particular interest should be the guys who actually use a product in an actual hunting environment over a period of time. A review of a product by an amateur blogger who merely pontificates about a particular piece is no better or more valid than the pontification of a paid professional in my estimation. It takes someone who puts in the hard miles to really ferret out the good and bad. I don't frequently review products because it takes a lot of work to put in the time- a single hard hunt will often reveal gaping flaws but seldom do the real winners emerge until seasons later.
I've been an enthusiast of the Scout Concept since at least the mid nineties and followed it's production in the pages of Cooper's writings and finally culminated that in the actual purchase of a Steyr Scout. Even after my personal Scout was sold to finance my relocation to Alaska, I followed the developments and with some surprise, I was delighted when a major maker like Ruger produced a well done version of the Gunsite Scout after Cooper's passing. I acquired another Steyr from a lifelong friend and spent a lot more time shooting and hunting with it over the last couple of years. It is without hesitation that I report that I've read nearly every word published about the piece and so much of it is just theoretical gibberish we should all just dismiss much of it outright.
So here we go:
Accuracy: the Scout is often termed an inaccurate rifle but nothing could be further form the truth. It is not a bench rest rifle and is not set up to appropriately get tiny groups from a bench. Once someone masters the precise aiming technique of using the corner of the heavy Duplex reticle, groups of about 1 MOA are entirely achievable. A hunter cannot approach or use this level of accuracy in the field so having a "more accurate" rifle is pointless. For field shooting, both of the samples I've fired would easily hit 6" targets to the limits of ethical field shooting. I've recently shot a caribou at 300 yards and hit 3 for 4 on a moving target and have hit groundhogs (a large type of marmot) back East further away than that. That's good enough.
Bipod: the Scout's bipod was often criticized back in the day as being not robust enough. I didn't understand it then and I still don't. I've never had an issue with either that I've owned under some pretty typical conditions for a hunting bipod. Heck, I can concoct a scenario in which I could break an anvil…am I likely to? No. Much of that worry comes from Gunshop Commando HQ. I also heard it criticized as being too tall. If you shoot it from a bench it is too tall. From prone on the ground it is perfectly acceptable and neither myself (5'11"), my wife (5'2") nor my son (4'10") have any issue with it. Aside from some making longish shots with it, it makes a convenient "kickstand" while you're cleaning a rifle or placing one on the ground while you attend to other tasks in the field. I think the integral bipod is one the rifle's very best features.
Weight/Length: the Scout weighs in at about 6.5 lbs and 39" long. By today's ethereal standards it is no longer a "lightweight" rifle, but back in the day it was one of the lightest production pieces available. I currently have two lighter full size rifles chambered in heavier cartridges. The lightweight coupled with short length makes the rifle "handy"- even a light rifle can be a pain when they're too long. Handy. There's no better term for it. Whether being carried in hand, on a sling, on an ATV or in a bush plane- a short rifle is easier to deal with and gets knocked around less, hung up in branches less, and overall just friendlier to deal with. This was really apparent when I tried skiing with a slung rifle. Cross country skiing is a movement heavy activity and a full size rifle was always hitting something when slung across the back. The Scout tucks in nicely behind the back and stays out of the way.
Reserve Magazine: the reserve magazine in the rifle's butt was often the point of conversation among the early survivalist crowd that initially flocked to the rifle (largely through space age aesthetics). Some loved the fact a guy could have 20 rounds on board using 10 rd magazines (no one asked 'why?') and some criticized it's location as being suboptimal for "tactical reloads" (whatever the heck that is). Having a spare 5 round mag in the butt does a few things- it balances the rifle to a more neutral position- neither butt nor muzzle heavy, it keeps an extra payload available when things don't go exactly according to plan-see my previous caribou story, and it allows a convenient place for special purpose rounds- either light loads for small game or ultra heavies for bear protection. Some early reports have the magazine falling out under recoil- a glitch certainly correctable now that I've never experienced personally after much shooting. While it is by no means one of the rifle's better features, it's a touch than I really appreciate.
Intermediate Eye Relief Scope: this is one of the features that causes folks the most heartburn and some people can't get used to it at all. It is also the one feature that people associate most closely with a "Scout Rifle". Properly done you shoot with both eyes open. If you close your non-dominant eye you miss out on the effect in large- that of having an enormous field of view. It has been criticized as not being adequate for field shooting at long range- I've proven that incorrect to myself several times with a lot of range shooting and big game hunting shots at well over 200 yards. Many dismiss the scope as suitable only at close range….that's pure poppycock. Groundhogs are not terribly large creatures and I've splattered several at ranges too embarrassing to publish. High magnification is not required for long distance shooting and I've found the .308's trajectory much more problematic at long range than lack of magnification. At typical woods ranges, I find the IER faster than irons and much more accurate in low light- having shot several whitetails in the big oak woods. For the Eastern US hunter an Aimpoint type scope might be the ultimate for using in the dark woods where ranges seldom exceed 100 yards but not a handicap if one encountered shot down a right of way or open field.
Back Up Iron Sights: originally I was in love with this feature. Thinking being that you ran with the scope and if the scope failed you could easily transition to the back up sights. It's not a feature exclusively featured on Scout Rifles and the virtues of back up sights have been extolled for a century since scopes became a feature on sporting arms. In use however, their utility tapers off. Stocks are generally set for either irons or scopes. Rifles meant for scope use tend to have higher combs and irons tend to have lower ones. A comb height that works well for a scope will be too high for irons and one set for irons will be too low to get a cheek weld with a scope. In fact, the irons on my Steyr are so low that I have trouble getting my head scrunched down on the stock enough to see through them. Great idea but tough to execute on a rifle. Any rifle. It may be a moot point since rifle scopes are so darn good these days that field failures are incredibly rare in the real world. A good quality scope will take an incredible amount of abuse before failing. In fact, the last person to adjust the Leupold scope on my rifle was the Steyr factory…16 years ago.
Mechanical Complexity: if there is one thing I don't like about the Steyr it is the mechanical complexity of the action and trigger. Field stripping the bolt reveals what I've come to expect from Bavarians in general and Austrians in particular…a whole bunch of little bitty parts assembled by gnomes in a factory powered by unicorn flatulence and fairy magic. Incredibly complex assemblies for something so simple in function, it makes one wonder about the robustness of such things in the field. I've used both of mine in some challenging conditions without failure but a failure in the field is probably not repairable there. It may not be repairable on the average gunsmith's bench and very well may need a trip back to the factory or importer. It does yield some interesting features with respect to locking the bolt, an excellent safety and a very weird but excellent trigger pull. But I still wonder about its long term reliability.
Ballistic Potential: the factory Scouts are all limited to the .308 case and the .308 Winchester is the most common chambering. While the .308 is certainly no slouch in the hunting field it is often criticized as being inadequate for the beasts the Scout specifications called for- 400 kilograms (1700 pounds) at 300 yards. This encompasses a lot of critters- some I'd shoot with a .308 and some I wouldn't. The Scout is certainly not a dangerous game rifle (that's why they built the much maligned and poor selling .376 Steyr) but a moose or elk are big animals and 300 yards is a long way. Even on my 500 pound caribou the results were not dramatic enough for my taste. I would likely draw the line at 500 or so pounds at 300 yards and maybe 1000 or so at 150yds. It is interesting to think what might occur if the excellent WSM line of short magnums were used in a Scout although I admit that may be missing the point altogether. The .358 Winchester and the .338 Federal are both short actions but neither have made it into a Scout in factory form. For most folks though, the .308 and 7-08 are completely adequate for any hunting they may do.
So that's a run down of the features of the Scout but I'm really afraid that even a brief description of the features or a longer technical run down (which I've tried to avoid and can be found elsewhere) really do due diligence to the rifle. Hunting with a nice rifle has a feel that is hard to describe- a well balanced piece feels lighter, a well fitting stock puts the reticle immediately in front of the eye, handiness is only appreciated in an alder thicket. And the sum of those things can only be appreciated over time and terrain. At this juncture I am attempting to procure a Ruger Gunsite Scout and hope to do a review of it in a future piece.