Personal Observations on the Steyr Scout


The Scout rifle is based upon Steyr's new SBS 96 (Safe Bolt System) which completely encloses the bolt head and extractor with a ring to prevent gas blow-by in the event case rupture. The action has been proofed to in excess of 120,000 psi without failure. The hammer forged and fluted barrel is fitted with a barrel extension on the rear of the barrel into which the bolt locks as in the M16 rifle. The barrel assembly is held in the tubular aluminum receiver with an expansion collar which locks the barrel assembly in place.

barrel asembly (10k jpg)
L to R: Barrel extension (bolt locks into this), locking ring, expansion ring, barrel nut, barrel section.

 

The integral bipod is nicely executed and incorporates a enough swiveling capability to handle uneven ground.  The bipod is rugged enough for all but the "gunshop commando" set who probably won't buy this rifle anyway, and folds neatly into the sides of the forearm when closed. Steyr  beefed up the attaching shaft from early prototypes to prevent breakage under extreme stress and has now come up with a retrofitable aluminum pin design which completely eliminates breakage of the shaft. The tips of the legs have a rubber-like replaceable insert.

After handling and shooting it quite a bit my personal feeling about the Scoutis that it is a truly excellent rifle. It's a little unusual looking at first, especially to those use to the "classic" rifle look, but its human engineering and "feel" make it a pleasure to hold and shoot. To paraphrase the ancient masters, the shooter seems to become "one with the rifle" and I think it's too bad that a stock of this design is not available for other rifles. (However, I'm sure some after-market stock maker will eventually come up with a black composite stock of more conventional design eventually but they'll be missing the boat.)

With no stock spacers used--most rifle stocks are much too long--the rifle is incredibly fast to mount and this was demonstrated in trap shooting and aerial balloon events. ( Yes you can hit skeet in the air! Kids don't try this at home! Careful shooters on a closed course. The 90,000 acres of Whittington Center allows for things not possible elsewhere.)

The rifle's accuracy is more than enough for anyone except maybe some of those so called "expert" never miss gun-rag writers. 

The triggers are of the two-stage triggers design they usually break very cleanly. On the few pieces I know of where the trigger was not up to specs, GSI, the original importer, corrected the problem quickly. The trigger can be safely adjusted down to between 1 - 2 pounds by a knowledgeable individual.

In spite of its light barrel it does not seem to suffer much from heat related group shifting. A test of 5 rounds slow fire on a target followed by 10 rounds of very rapid fire just burned down range, followed by 5 more shots slow fire on the same target was conducted. It simply yielded a very credible 10 round group of about 1 MOA. Chronographed velocities at 8 feet from the 19" barrel were 2600 f/s (792m/s) with Federal 168 gr Match, 2760 f/s (841m/s) with the 165 gr Hornady Light Magnum, and 2755 fps (840m/s) with Federal 150 gr American Eagle ball (70 degrees, 40% humidity, and about 4800' altitude). Subsequent testing of the Scout by Hornady with their 150 gr Light Magnum gave 2835 f/s (862m/s) and an average of .82" for 4 3-shot groups groups and they have shipped some of this ammo to the factory for use in factory testing. Until something better is found this may be the factory hunting ammo of choice for Scout owners. The sharp-eyed will notice that these velocities are quite high for a 19" barrel. These figures are correct. The hammer forged Steyr barrels are very "fast."

Limited additional firings of 3 shots each at 100 yards with Winchester, Remington, Lapua, and several other brands yielded an average for all 3-shot groups of slightly over 1.2 MOA. While single 3-shot groups are statistically meaningless the results do help to corroborate that the Scoutis a "1 minute rifle" out of the box using decent factory ammunition. Numerous correspondence with owners of production rifle have indicated the same thing--group sizes running between .75 and about 1.3MOA. The only ammunition that didn't perform well was the surplus CAVIM 7.62mm "GI" ammunition which doesn't shoot well in anything. 

Scopes on the prototypes were available with both thick and thin (Leupold's standard) duplex reticules and shooter preference was initially split about 50-50. The biggest problem with the thick reticle is that it is more difficult to use for precise shooting at paper targets. However, it is very quick and accurate in the field. The production rifles are being furnished with the heavy duplex reticle. However, if you want the standard reticle either Leupold or Premiere Reticles can install it after the fact for about $47. The folding reserve iron sights are nicely executed but a little low for some people unless they scrunch up on the stock. 

Recoil? One gun writer claimed the the Scout is too light and kicks terribly--worse than his 300 magnum.Weights are the factory specifications, plus 1 pound for scope and rings, and 4 ounces for a sling, where the rifles were not factory furnished with them. Bullet velocities are actual chronographed velocities from my archives. No further comments.

Recoil Comparison of Scoutand Common Rifles
Rifle Caliber Weight (with
scope and sling)
(lb)
Bullet
Weight (gr)
Bullet
Velocity
(f/s)
Recoil
Velocity
(f/s)
Recoil
Energy
(ft lb)
Steyr Scout .308 7.0 150 2835 12.4 16.6
Winchester M70
Sporter
.300 Win Mag 8.8 150 3190 12.6 21.9
Winchester M70
Featherweight
.30-'06 8.3 150 2995 11.6 17.2
M1 Garand .30-'06 9.5* 150 2815 9.3 12.8
Winchester 1300 12 ga 3-1 #6 7.3** 547 1210 12.5 17.8
* no scope ** no scope or sling

Shortcomings

Shortcomings? Well, nothing is perfect. The "Steyr" bolt handle takes a little getting use to (all of about 5 strokes for most folks) for those of us raised on the typical "American" bolt. It's not the old butter knife handle, being more rounded but it still is "different." An "American" round bolt knob would have been preferable for rapid actuation but things are not unworkable with the current bolt handle. An improved "oversized" round knobbed bolt handle has been furnished on the "Tactical" version of the Scout starting around October, 1999 and it may eventually (keep breathing) become standard on the regular version too. Unfortunately, it will not be available as a retrofit to existing rifles. Having a custom bolt knob made is the only current solution unless you happen to be in Europe where apparently they will do a bolt handle exchange for somewhere between $150 - $200 (US).

While the action is smooth, the bolt lift is a little heavier than it should be until it wears in, especially if one sets the firing pin tension adjustment to maximum. Judicious use of a quality lubricant and a touch-up deburring of the caming surfaces helps here too. .

The ejection port opening could be a little larger than it is which would make single loading easier.

Some folks have complained that the reserve iron sights are too low for easy use but this seems to be more of a personal physiological issue.  If they were about .1" higher they would be much better. The aperture is also little small for something considered to be a ghost ring.

There have been a few reports of the reserve magazines (mainly 10 round ones) dropping out under recoil with with 180 gr loads being fired, but this seems to have been limited to early production rifles.  This can be caused by two things.  A weak magazine catch spring or a beveled surface where the catch engages in the magazine well.  RWS has a magazine catch spring replacement that will help correct the retention problem.  The stock surfaces where the magazine catch sits can also be checked and trimmed square.

There have also been reports of light primer hits, mainly with some military surplus ammunition, but this seems to be correctable by using the next higher firing pin spring setting. 

Some of the folks at the press event and the subsequent Scout Conference wanted quick-detachable levers on the factory scope mounts but were not overly vocal about it since the mounting system will take standard Weaver-type rings which are available with all kinds of attachment systems. (Besides you can keep a dime under the turret cap as the production mounts have slotted screws.) Most of the people did want the bolt body to be matte black instead of the standard satin nickel color but production Scout rifles have had the satin nickel bolt finish. A new slicker black finish may eventually be introduced across the line shortly as it is now appearing on the Tactical models.

So far no major defects have appeared on the .308 Scout and the few teething problems that have shown up seem to have been quickly addressed and are pretty much easily correctable. The long term durability seems to be very good, with bipod pivot breakage the major problem. There have been two or three reports of a faulty bolt handle casting breaking but these were repaired quickly by GSI, the original importer.  I have not heard any reports of major malfunctions other than some light primer hits (for which the fix is known and easy to apply), nor am I aware of any breakage with Scouts that have been through the Gunsite Rifle Courses which goes through about 500 rounds in 6 days.

The only reported problems so far with the .376 Scout are a flattening of the bullet tips in the magazine from recoil and the occasional ejection of a fully loaded reserve magazine under recoil which seems to be correctable as mentioned above.  

A left handed version of the Scout is not available at this time and seems to be a dead issue for now in spite of loud cries for a LH version. 

Some individuals have commented on the seemingly high retail price of the Steyr Scout. However, consider this. A custom built scout rifle from one of the big name 'smiths will set you back anywhere from $2300 to $3000 or more and usually entails a wait of one to two years before it is in your hands. I have personally handled some "custom" scout rifles that set their owners back lots of money and which did not display the fit, finish, and accuracy one would expect at that price. The Scouton the other hand has the fit, finish, and performance worthy of the Mannlicher reputation. Once the price of the Scoutis seen in this light it doesn't seem all that out of line, especially since it is available ready to go "over the counter." Yes, it is not cheap, but true excellence is seldom inexpensive these days. (Besides, if we talk about real money it's only eight or nine $10 gold pieces, and if you shop around you may be able to "deal.")