By Andy Lightbody
Grand Junction, Co. –-(Ammoland.com)- There’s no doubt in any gun aficionado’s mind, that Lt. Colonel Jeff Cooper was an innovator in the modern firearms and shooting industry.
He was not only a WWII/Korea combat veteran, but a noted big game hunter, dedicated author/speaker/professor and advocate of solid firearm designs.
In addition, he had a passion for practical marksmanship training for everyone from law enforcement, and military, as well as for every free citizen of the U.S. Today, his legacy lives on at the firearms training facility known as Gunsite (gunsite.com) that he founded in Arizona, back in 1976.
Having had the opportunity to know Cooper through my affiliation back in the late 70s/early 80s in working at Petersen’s Hunting Magazine and the Guns & Ammo Book Division, it was obvious he was an eccentric genius in the gun world.
He was also an advocate for what he termed “the perfect general-purpose rifle.” In an article for Gun Digest (1984), Cooper laid out a full set of ideas and specifications for a single firearm that could be used for everything from hunting to self defense. Cooper termed this rifle the “Scout,” as it would be around 39 inches in length; be built around a reliable bolt-action; have a large ammo/magazine capacity; feature iron sights with the capability of accepting a scope; weigh in at around 6.6 pounds; and be in a caliber capable of striking a single decisive blow on a live target up to 440 pounds in weight at any distance at which the shooter could shoot with precision.
Nearly 30 years after coming up with the idea, the folks at Gunsite, teamed up with Ruger Firearms and the Gunsite Scout Rifle (GSR) became a reality. Based on the reliable M77 family of rifles, the bolt-action .308 caliber, comes with a choice of either a 5 or 10-shot detachable magazine.
Colonel Cooper extolled the virtues that this rifle should be able to accept a low-magnification scope for quick target acquisition and aiming. To this end, the GSR features a six-inch barrel-mounted Picatinny rail system that allows the shooter to select/mount everything from long-eye-relief fixed or variable power scopes, to electronic and reflex sights.
Out of the box, the GSR (left or right handed) looks like it means business, and sports a black/gray laminated wood stock that is equipped with QD sling studs (front and rear). The stock is also adjustable to an individual shooter’s length of pull. With a hard 1-inch thick polymer buttplate, the rifle comes complete with three ½-inch spacers for adjusting it to the shooter’s correct length.
Out to the range, and because first and foremost we wanted to use the GSR for both antelope and elk hunting, we equipped it with a Hawke Sport Optics (www.hawkeoptics.com) Panorama 3-9x 40mm Scope with a feature that they call Extreme View (EV).
With the EV feature, the shooter is afforded a full 20% increased Field of View (FOV). While a 20 % increase may not sound like much, challenge yourself to try a straight 3-9x scope against the Panorama EV, and you are going to be shocked at the difference it really makes both on the range and in the field!
Depending upon your shooting needs, the Panorama EV line of scopes range from 3-9 variable power, up to a more powerful 4-12x variable, with a choice of three reticles—Mil Dot 10X; MAP 6 A; or the L4 Dot. (Read More: Hawke Sport Optics Panorama 3-9x 40mm Scope Reticle Run Down)
All reticles are glass etched and come with both a blue (day) and red (night/low light) illumination feature that is fully adjustable. The illumination feature adds a level of confidence when shooting at some of the longer distances. Even if the batteries fail in the field, with the glass-etched reticles, the Panorama remains a solid performer.
Armed with a couple of boxes of Winchester XP3 .308 Ammo with a polymer tipped 150 grain bullet, we sighted the GSR in on paper at 3-inches high at 100 yards. Referencing the Ballistic Reticle Calculator (BRC) which is available for anyone’s use from the Hawke Optics website (home or mobile app), we were quickly able to have the rifle and scope printing out a 4-inch group accurately out to the 400 yard mark from the Lead Sled benchrest.
Even with the bullet drop from the 100 to the 400 yard range, with the Panorama Mil Dot reticle, it was easy to simply drop down a couple of dots as the range increased. Regardless of what caliber, bullet weight or range you plan on shooting or hunting with, this free software is something that should be loaded into everyone’s home computer, or on your smart phone. Its free, it’s easy to use, and it works great from the bench or out in the field.
Simply go to www.hawkeoptics.com/brc and start using it!
Performance on the range, firing from a solid Lead-Sled rest as well as over sandbags, and finally simulating field conditions with a knee rest and a Harris bipod, the performance of the GSR and the Hawke Panorama scope were flawless. Trigger pull is crisp with no slop or creep, and even with a relatively short 16 ½-inch barrel, the rifle’s design is solid and recoil is neither excessive or unpleasant.
Sighted in and ready for the upcoming goat season, we headed out to the eastern plains of Colorado, where I drew a doe tag, and my better half, Kathy pulled the lucky buck license. Three days of hard hunting and stalking had netted both of us little more than a view of antelope and departing dust clouds at upwards of 800-1000 plus yards. Experts say that antelope have eyesight equal to about 8x binoculars, but I swear… the experts have severely underestimated that!
As the old saying goes on any hunt, “do you want to be lucky or do you want to be good?” I’ll take lucky any day of the week. Up everyday before dawn, driving, spotting, glassing, seeing and stalking, had resulted in no shots fired and no antelope tagged. Both of us were becoming concerned that in spite of success in this area in years past, this time we were going to be headed home, empty ice chests and all.
Lots of hunting pressure, and a 2012 drought throughout much of Colorado had dried up most all of the reliable watering holes, and the plain’s grasses looked more like scorched earth—brown, wind blown and all dried out.
As we entered the last day of the 5-day season, even the few groups of antelope we had been seeing and occasionally trying to stalk, had simply disappeared. It wasn’t until we parked on a ridge to have lunch and again reference the local maps, that the winds of fortune suddenly changed.
Chewing on a chicken drumstick and bemoaning the idea that all our Colorado antelope must have moved on and were applying for residency in Kansas, I spotted a nice buck come out of nowhere and start sneaking through a barbwire fence at around 250 yards in front of us! Unfortunately, he spotted us at the same time we spotted him, and he was off to the races. Capable of speeds up to 45mph or more, the buck was gone, nearly as fast as he appeared.
Grabbing our gear and the GSR, we decided to see if the buck would make a run down the draw which would cut back to the left in about a quarter of mile from the vehicle. The stalk was on, and the wind was blowing in our direction. All we could hope for was that maybe he would run, slow and stop. After all, maybe he was as tired of being chased by hunters, as we were of trying to chase them.
Thirty minutes later, we crested the ridgeline to the ravine where we hoped the buck would be catching his breath and chilling. Kathy was ready, and if the buck was in the draw it would be a shot of less than 225 yards. Unfortunately, this pronghorn had not read the script on how this hunt was to take place. Up and down the draw we looked, glassed and mumbled some unprintable words.
Then Kathy started looking above the ravine, and with one scrubby bush on the hillside, the buck stepped out from behind, froze in his tracks and started looking around. Glasses up and I confirmed that was Mr. Speedy. Handing Kat the GSR, I could hear the legs of the bipod being extended as she scrambled into a kneeling position. Up came my Leica rangefinder, and I grimaced as the reading was an honest 435 yards, with about a 15mph wind in our face.
Since Kat had also shot the Scout rifle at the range, and had consistently been hitting the 2-inch metal gong at 200 yards, I quickly thought back to the calculations needed to hit at 400 yards. With nervous non-military precision, I told her to crank up the scope from 3x to 9x and using the graduated Mil Dots, drop down to the fourth dot and put it on the top of his spine.
With the rifle sighted in to be 3-inches high at 100 yards, I knew that a 435 yard shot was going to be a nearly 35-inch bullet drop that the scope could compensate for. Kat’s longest kill shot was several years ago, when she took an elk at 403 yards. All I could do was hope my calculations were on, and she’d repeat the long range trajectory.
I wasn’t disappointed. The Scout Rifle barked once, and it was– one shot, one kill. The buck went down like a sack of rocks. It was time to celebrate Kat’s first ever buck pronghorn that measured 13 1/4-inches.
Two weeks later, a good friend borrowed the Scout for his bull elk hunt. We discussed trajectories and shooting ranges, and he headed off to the range to check/confirm the ballistics and sighting in. On the evening of the first day of the season, I got the magic phone call…. His nice 5×5 bull was down on the ground with a 280 yard shot.
When Colonel Cooper first put forth the idea of a single rifle for virtually all types of North American hunting, as well as personal defense, the gun industry was slow in looking forward to his vision. Now however, Ruger reports that the Gunsite Scout Rifle (GSR) is a great seller and continues to be embraced by hunters and shooters. Topped off with the Hawke Panorama 3-9x Scope, its an ideal choice for use on the lower magnification settings for close-in tactical, and great for reaching out to the further ranges at the higher magnification settings when its time to “reach out and touch,” and put game on the table.
Andy Lightbody is a TV/Video producer and host, as well as an outdoor writer/photographer. Lightbody is the former Managing Editor for Western Outdoors Magazine; Senior Editor at Petersen’s Hunting Magazine and Editor of the Guns & Ammo Book Division. He remains an avid shooter, hunter and angler, as well as a regular contributor to the Sportsman’s Warehouse publication—Sportsman’s News Magazine. Visit Rocky Mountain Television/Productions : www.rmtv.net