I first fired the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle (GSR) chambered in .308 Winchester at a Ruger’s writer’s seminar at Gunsite shortly before it was officially introduced in 2011. It was love at first, er, shot, and I ended up buying the rifle I tested.
Later that same year my grandson Austin, then 11 years old, took his first elk using it with Black Hills’ 168-gr. Barnes TSX load.
The GSR was not only met with popular approval, but has proven to be one of Ruger’s best-selling rifles.
This was followed by a GSR chambered for the 5.56x45mm cartridge. It will, of course, also accept .223 Remington loads.
In the early 1980s Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper considered the need for a light, handy, general-purpose rifle that could be used equally for hunting and fighting. The idea became known as the Scout Rifle.
The concept imagined a rifle weighing around 3 kilograms (6.6 lbs.), with a maximum of 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds) and a length of 39 inches or less. The rifle would use a cartridge that could put down a large animal at ranges out to around 400 yards. The .308 Winchester was the round of choice.
Ruger’s original Gunsite Scout Rifle in .308 met most of the Colonel’s specifications.
So is the new rifle chambered for 5.56x45mm truly a Scout Rifle?
The answer is yes…and no.
At 400 yards the 5.56/.223 cartridge is at the extreme edge of its performance envelope so it does not measure up to the original specifications in the caliber category.
However, the cartridge is accurate and effective easily out to 200 yards and does meet the other requirements. The 5.56 round may actually be more desirable in a semi-urban/urban area as there is far less chance of over penetration. For most situations it would make a great choice for a general-purpose/patrol rifle.
The GSR does generally meet the overall size and weight requirements.
The GSR has a black laminated stock—though the test sample showed a lot of color—and comes complete with three ½-inch spacers to change the length of pull (LOP) from 12.75-14.25 inches enabling it to be fired comfortably by shooters of all sizes. Both the pistol grip area and forend are checkered for a sure grip. There are sling swivel studs at the rear of the stock and on the forend.
Both right and left-hand versions are available and offered in both matte black alloy steel and matte stainless finishes. My test rifle was a right hand version with the matte black finish.
The 16.1-inch barrel has a 1:8 twist allowing it to fire both light and heavy bullets. The front sight is a ramped post and protected by wings. The rear sight is ghost ring aperture and is fully adjustable. The barrel is crowned with a Mini-14 type flash hider (1/2”x28 threads).
Overall length is 37-38.5 inches and weighs in at a nimble 7.1 pounds.
The safety is a three position-type. The bolt handle is smooth and of ample size to work the action from the shoulder. The bolt uses the time-proven Mauser-type extractor. The magazine release is a push lever on the rear of the magazine such as used on the Mini-14, M14, AK, and many others.
The .223 GSR, like the .308 version, uses a ten-round, steel magazine. The top of the GSR’s magazine is single as opposed to staggered feed, allowing the round to be pushed directly into the chamber.
In the months I had the rifle I read many bloggers opine that Ruger should have used an AR-15 magazine, and they certainly have the right to express their opinions. Apparently, however, they do not take into consideration how the two systems function. AR magazines lock up in a slot on the left side of the mag and, as mentioned above, the GSR locks up at the rear of the mag.
Furthermore, almost all manufacturers use proprietary magazines for their firearms—1911 pistols and AR-type carbines from different manufacturers are the exception, not the rule.
To incorporate a magazine release that would function with AR mags, the rifle would have to undergo a complete—and to my way of thinking unnecessary—costly design change.
A Picatinny rail is mounted on top of the barrel for optics with a long eye relief. For those who prefer the more traditional, rearward mounting above the receiver, the GSR ships with Ruger one-inch rings.
Although Colonel Cooper did not say a scope was mandatory, most versions of the Scout Rifle concept have a low to medium-magnification scope with a long eye relief placed forward of the action. Such a scope allows you to keep both eyes open and allows quick acquisition of a target. Since the Colonel probably forgot more about rifles than I know, I saw no reason to reinvent the wheel when evaluating the new GSR.
For a scope I chose the Burris 2.75X20 Scout Scope. The Scout Scope uses a Heavy Plex™ reticle that has extra thick bolded edges, with a thin crosshair resulting in a clean, simple reticle that is fast into action.
The Burris Scout Scope has a one-inch tube, 7.3-inch eye relief, a field of view of 15 feet 100 yards, .5 MOA click value, is 9.2 inches long, and weighs only seven ounces.
While the Burris Scout Scope tested here is a great little optic, it has one fault and that is in failing light—such as at dusk or dawn. The 20mm objective lens is simply not large enough to transmit much light.
A better choice for a general-purpose/patrol rifle might be a scope with a larger objective lens such as the Burris 2.7X32 Scout Scope or the Leupold FX-II Scout IER 2.5x28mm. When compared to the other Scout Scope the Leupold only adds .5 oz. in weight. The Burris will add a half-pound, but will transmit more light. Your expectations and mission will determine what is best for your needs.
Red dot sights were in their relative infancy when the Scout Concept originated, and battery life and ruggedness was a concern. However, they have made major strides in the interim two and a half decades, having proven their usefulness in two wars.
After the initial evaluation I removed the scope and replaced it with an Aimpoint T-2 red dot sight. The T-2 has a housing that gives protection to the sight’s adjustment turrets and electronic components, and a newly designed front lens with new reflective lens coating technology. The 2 MOA dot made easy work of getting hits from 50 to 300 yards.
AT THE RANGE
As per my usual procedure, evaluated the GSR with a variety of ammunition—specifically 21 different loads from nine manufacturers plus a handload. Bullets ranged in weight from 50-77 grains and included full metal jacket, soft point, Ballistic Tip, and match.
A PACT Professional chronograph was used to establish the average velocity of each load.
The highest velocity was from Black Hills 50-gr. Barnes TSX load streaking along at 3,351.8 feet-per-second (fps). The slowest load was Hornady’s 75-gr. BTHP (.223 load), still reaching a respectable 2,580.3 fps.
A large part of the equation of making an accurate shot is a good trigger, and the GSR’s is very nice. The trigger on the sample rifle exhibited no perceptible take-up and consistently broke cleanly and crisply at four pounds with a barely noticeable amount of over-travel.
I established a rough zero at fifty yards and fine-tuned it at 100. I fired five-round groups from a rest at 100 yards to establish the accuracy potential of each load.
Somewhat to my surprise, the best load in terms of accuracy was the Black Hills 50-gr. Barnes TSX load with a 1.11-inch group. This is the only time I can remember that a load that turned in the highest velocity also came in first place for accuracy.
The least accurate load was my handload—made from fired, swaged.22 LR cases—with a group of just under three inches. Time to back that powder charge down just a tad…
The average of all 22 loads was 2.10 inches. Not bad at all for a general-purpose rifle with a relatively inexpensive scope.
Working some drills at 50 yards with the Aimpoint T-2 I experienced several failure to eject malfunctions. I attributed this to not running the bolt briskly enough to the rear. And, though I’m not an engineer and don’t even play one on TV, I think the 5.56 GSR would benefit from a slightly longer ejector.
The GSR’s adjustable LOP and light recoil is great for young or smaller stature shooters and is chambered in what is arguably the most popular rifle cartridge today. The rifle is light, handy and with the right bullet—and if you do your part—is capable taking deer and other thin-skinned animals out to around 300 yards.
Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.