CHATPER 6: THE ELEMENTS, in Part (Part 1)

What we must first and foremost understand with regard to the definition of a Scout Rifle is that Cooper was attempting to provide a blueprint for its creation. From 1983 until 1997 Cooper struggled to create a rifle that met his full definition and it could be said that every attempt was a failure. Did he spawn the creation of good rifles? Absolutely. Did they meet every element of his definition? No. The definition set the bar that he was attempting to reach. Ultimately, as you will see in Chapter 7, these attempts at Scout Rifles by Cooper were prototypes, though he did not consider them as such – at least in print – until after 1997, and the reason for that will be explained in Chapter 8.

So, what we are doing here is delving into the recipe Cooper wrote for the creation of a Scout Rifle. We will look at each of the one dozen elements he specified and attempt to explain why he demanded their inclusion. Essentially what Cooper endeavored with his definition/s was to leave no aspect of the Scout Rifle unexplained or left to individual interpretation. This approach in itself might seem a bit odd or contradictory given that the Scout Rifle was intended as a general-purpose rifle and it begs the question: Must a weapon intended to fill such a generalized role be so specialized in its creation and makeup?

Jeff Cooper with the Steyr Scout Rifle at its Whittington Center introduction in 1997. According to Steyr engineer Harald Pichler, up until about 2009 the original Steyr Scout Rifle had a slimmer barrel and weighed 6.369 pounds (2.89 kilos) with the magazines in place but without the scope.

It’s also imperative that you approach an understanding of Cooper’s legacy long gun with an appreciation of his reality. Cooper lived and worked on a shooting range. He enjoyed hunting and while he was not what I would call a trophy hunter in the term of inches, he was a trophy hunter in terms of expression. He ate what he killed but did not necessarily kill to eat. To Cooper, hunting was sport – a blood sport – that he relished as many do. There is nothing wrong with that, to some extent that is the nature of the human race.

But to be clear, understand that Cooper did not trek through the Eastern hardwoods in search of whitetails, he did not sit a shoot house in Texas, and he did not, spend every weekend calling coyotes on the prairie. Cooper was a recreational hunter and a man who did most of his shooting on a rather pristine range. It is this reality, teamed with his military experiences and historical studies, that directed his elemental description of a rifle he felt was ideally suited for doing almost anything. Cooper built a box and he expected anything named “Scout Rifle” to fit into that box. Somewhat arrogantly, Cooper held the final word on if a rifle was deserving of being called a Scout Rifle. With him no longer here to pass judgement, one could argue that there will never be another “true” Scout Rifle.

All of this can be a somewhat of a tedious study as can be the endless worry and arguments of which element is more critical with regard to defining a Scout Rifle. Our approach here will be to take the outline for the definitions detailed in the last chapter and explore each element individually.

So why not we just start with the elephant in the room – weight.

Add approximately 0.28 kilo for a Burris 2.75X Scout Scope and rings.

Part 1: Weight

The most ambiguous element of the scout rifle definition is weight. Though it is undeniable Cooper felt a Scout Rifle should not be heavy, weight specifications seemed to somewhat evolve with the concept. In his 1988 book, To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth, Cooper defined the scout rifle as having a “weight limit” of three kilos (6.61387 pounds.) “This weight is measured with all accessories in place but with the weapon unloaded.”5a

This is in sharp and undeniable contrast to the commonly accepted weight limit of 3.5 kilos. In fact, in one of Cooper’s personal papers dated January 1994, he states, “We held a couple conferences among the enlightened, and derived certain basic characteristics which seemed essential to a pure scout. These included weight and length restriction, with 3.5 kgs [7.71 pounds] and 1 meter maximum.”7a Was Cooper mistaken, remembering incorrectly, or had his opinion changed?