I came to this forum after doing a search for a reliable rifle. I have been doing a lot of hard looking at Jeff Cooper’s concept of the scout rifle purely from a ‘single rifle’ or ‘general purpose rifle’ and survivalist situation. Not necessarily the best for any one thing (distance or sniping or hunting or home defense) but a dependable piece that can do all these things well, if not the best. Ruger just came out with a scout rifle and I had been looking really hard at bolt actions. The problem is, even at Gunsite on their 270 rifle course of around a thousand rounds, nothing is getting through without malfunctions. I still like Cooper’s ideas but research is just not proving out what would seem to be obvious intuitively, a bolt action being the utmost in reliability.
I own two AR-15 rifles. The first is an Olympic Arms kit that I have had for 25 years with around 3 cases of ammo through it without a single issue. I just bought a new Law Enforcement Colt model about 3 years ago when they let us purchase our own rifles for patrol (in addition to the issued Rem 870 pump 12 ga but it had to be a Colt or RockRiver only, my Olympic was out) and the first day on the range I had the rifle completely lock up on me and was out of commission. It was the cheap butt crud ammunition reloads that our Sheriff’s Office purchased from some backwater Miami dealer and blew a primer back through the bolt and seized it up good. I was using a continuously larger and heavier hammer on a brass (squib) rod on the back inside of the bolt and hammered the crud out of it and finally had it free about an hour later. Lots of little pieces of brass from the primer falling out that had wedged the bolt. I have only used ‘quality’ ammo ever since and have never had another problem with it. I even have a 10’ barrel NFA stamp on a Rock River Arms upper for the rifle and about a thousand rounds through both uppers now with no problems after that first batch of crappy ammo. I have never had an actual parts breakage on either AR15 platform and they are easily converted to full auto if necessary in a SHTF scenario (homemade Lightning Link). Keep the weapon ‘reasonably’ clean and maintained, use ‘quality’ ammo and magazines, and I have no problem depending on the ‘black rifle’.
I have a Springfield M6 survival rifle in stainless over/under 22lr and .410 that I have in my survival pack that I keep in the airplane when flying cross country trips. From a reliability standpoint, I don’t see how anything could break on that single action breach gun. It is single shot so you won’t ‘waste’ a lot of ammo in a survival scenario so it is great to carry for hunting and survival as you can carry literally thousands of rounds of 22lr ammunition and it would be my choice to keep folded on the outside of my pack as the primary food or small game weapon. But it is not so good for a survival situation for self-defense against the 2-legged beasts, .410 shotgun aside as it is still only one shot. This would negate Cooper’s single rifle or scout rifle concept. A .22lr is just such to good an idea for taking small game for the survivalist to leave behind or pass up.
For last ditch, close-in, self defense you are ALWAYS going to have that Colt 1911 .45 on your hip to transition to anyway, so is a perfect lack of malfunction record really such an all eliminating consideration? I think still yes if we can find one in Mr. Cooper’s general purpose rifle.
I want a minimum parts counts Cooper Scout Rifle that is basically so rugged that it is impossible to malfunction. If a bad round is encountered, it can clear it easily and quickly (unlike my blown primer in the bolt scenario). So far that sounds like a single loader breach action but this is not acceptable for defense as it needs to be able to fire multiple rounds quickly. Now we might be talking bolt action but Ruger uses ‘investment casting’ poured metal instead of a solid forged piece of steel (Savage scout is out as a two piece bolt with a history of broken bolt pins) and even Cooper’s ‘blessed’ Styer Scout has had a lot of ‘NO BANG’ (light firing pin hits) history when the trigger is pulled and other issues. I also want the .308 as Cooper indicated for its stopping power for larger animals and the ability for consistent MOA shots out to 300 yards.
So until someone can point out to me that ultimate scout rifle I will still carry my Springfield M6 folded over and strapped to my pack, the Colt 1911 .45 on my hip, and the Colt AR-15 in my hand/slung combo. Find me that perfect, zero malfunction scout rifle and I will replace the AR in that list. Is there a 22lr over .308 rifle combo over .12 gauge that is 99.9999% reliable made of solid one piece forged parts and still fits the Cooper Scout rifle criteria? Make one dang it! The only thing I feel that I may need to ‘justify’ to this group is the AR choice. It is mine for many of the same reasons as the military. You can carry a lot more rounds than heavier cartridges and still take down a man/large game. You can convert to full auto easily in an emergency SHTF meltdown. Plenty of parts available, even though in 25 years of shooting them I have had nothing break to need replacing yet. It is short, easy to carry, Colt has worked out all the bugs over the last several decades now, and I already have 2 of them. (Besides carrying a lot of ammo I did not pick the AK because of accuracy at the scout rifle 300+ yard needs. I would rather take out whatever I need to at a looooong distance if I can).
Just a couple of other things I noted from reading this whole posting. One is that I actually have had rounds ‘delay fire’. I had some Glaser Safety Slugs in .380 (at over $2.50 a bullet) that had stored in my gun cabinet for about 3 years and went out to the range and pulled the trigger and a light ‘pop’ was heard (the primer), followed by a sizzling sound for about 1 second, followed by the round being finally fired. I shot up the rest of them (only had a dozen) and all but 2 did the same thing! So it is possible. I have also fired some old WWII era .45 ammo that you could actually watch the actually bullet as it flew through the air and fall to the dirt 20 feet away.
We had Uzi’s on our SWAT team when I first started on the teams 23 years ago these things seemed fairly indestructible. We never had one malfunction and you could even put the barrel in upside down and it would still shoot (albeit low) as well as fill the thing up with sand and still goes bang! Nice heavy bolt blowback design (no gas to rely on). But it is not good for that 300 yard distance MOA that I am looking for (and the open bolt design is counter intuitive for reliability but was done for cooling as I recall).
The HK/91 or G3 mentioned is too punishing to shoot a lot with. After firing all day on a rifle course I was taking for SWAT with our HK and firing over half a case I showed up for day 2 with a noticeable swollen cheek and a painful flinch on every shoot. Cool looking weapon but I had to finish the course with my AR-15 to pass.
Great thread and a really big thanks to everyone that contributed!
30 year career Law Enforcement/SWAT/Firearms Instructor/Camper/Survival enthusiast
My Colt AR (am probably going to lighten this by going to less/lighter railsand the 37mm is only on there when I am 'playing' The other side has a SureFire Scout light).