scout rifle vs ar 15

Scout Rifle Or AR For Tacticool Long Gunning?

If you've decided you want to get into rifle shooting and want a more tactical rifle than the standard bolt gun, you'll likely find yourself mulling between a scout rifle or AR pattern rifle. Both are widely available, and can run the gamut from incredibly expensive ($2,000+) to the downright reasonable ($500 or so) depending on the make and model.

Both rifle designs are practical...ish...and are certainly well-suited for all sorts of safe fun on the range if you want to do some long-range plinking. Which is better? That kind of depends…

AR Pattern Rifles

ar style rifles

AR pattern rifles, including the AR-15 and others, have become the rifle du jour. It isn't hard to see why. They are very easy to shoot, with the semi-automatic firing system. They hold a good number of rounds (typical magazine capacity is 30 of .223/5.56mm NATO) so you can do a whole bunch of shooting at once.

They're in basically every gun store, made by every gun maker from Savage to Remington and so, so many more. They are endlessly customizable in terms of accessories, so you can add all the baubles your little tactical heart might desire.

You aren't limited in terms of caliber, either...or at least you don't have to only choose .223/5.56mm NATO. The interesting thing about the AR pattern rifle is that you can put together (or order) an upper assembly that's chambered for any compatible round.

So long as the round you choose is the right case length, it will use the same size of magazine and thus you don't have to change the lower. Heck, you can even convert one to .22 LR if you wanted.

For instance, you can either build yourself or order an upper receiver (which includes a barrel) in .458 SOCOM - a BIG bullet with similar ballistics to the .45-70 Gov't - and swap your .223 lower to do some brush hunting or, for that matter, hunt in a straight wall cartridge only unit. Or, you can install an upper in 6.5mm Grendel or 6.5mm SPC to reach out and touch something well beyond 300 yards, which is where .223/5.56 starts to diminish in terms of capacity.

There is a lot you can do with an AR.

Scout Rifle

types of scout rifles

The scout rifle, on the other hand, has some of its own benefits that are worth considering. The concept was thought up by Col. Jeff Cooper (he who wrote down the 4 laws of gun safety) who envisioned a light, compact magazine-fed bolt-action rifle. The idea was to hold more rounds and be more easily reloaded than the typical bolt gun to that point. It should be light, and be carried with a sling.

A scout scope - a scope with a long eye relief, mounted further forward than the typical scope - should be included or be easily attached, with iron sights left on the rifle for backup use or for closer-range applications.

The idea was an eminently totable rifle, ideally chambered in .308/7.62mm NATO. That's important, because Cooper wanted a cartridge with sufficient power for self-defense/combat at close and long range, as well as hunting. In essence, a do it all gun.

Is it? Well, it's about as close as it gets.

Scout rifles are light, typically 7 or fewer pounds. The shorter barrel - 16.5 inches to 20 inches, depending - makes it more compact, and therefore more portable for extended periods than traditional bolt-action rifles. The magazine feeding means more rounds on board. Some models use very common magazine designs (AR-10, M1) for greater ease.

Chambering .308 does have advantages, specifically that of greater range compared to a stock AR-15. However, the price you pay is the cost of ammunition, as .308/7.62mm NATO is more expensive than .223. You also pay in terms of recoil, as it is a bigger round.

If, that is, you buy one that's thusly chambered. Scout rifles are available in other calibers including .223/5.56mm, 6.5mm Creedmoor, .338 Federal, .450 Bushmaster and many more, depending of course on who makes it.

AR vs Scout Rifle

Which is better between the AR vs Scout Rifle for the person who wants a tacticool rifle but wants to weigh their options? It depends on what you want to do with it.

If you're looking for a range toy, the AR pattern family is the clear winner. You can load up a whole lot more rounds in a sitting, and .223 is easier and cheaper to shoot than .308 though - again - scout rifles can be had in other chamberings, including .223/5.56mm. You also can add all sorts of accessories, so it's the best platform if you plan on adding bits as you go.

Don't think the rate of fire is that much faster, though. The Scout design calls for short-action rifle rounds, so the bolt throw is quick. Ever hear of the Mad Minute?

However, what the Scout rifle brings to the table is a bit more versatility. You can use it on the range for target shooting. If you elect for a chambering larger than .223, you can also use it for hunting. After all, .308 is a proven slayer of deer, elk, black bear, sheep, pronghorn and more.

Unless you buy an AR-10, of course. Then you can pretty much do it all.

That said, make sure to try one of each before you buy, just like you should with any gun be it a slim CCW pistol or magnum revolver. Getting a feel for each type of rifle will tell you which one will work better for you and therefore which is the better fit.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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