Review: Savage Arms .308 Model 11 Scout Rifle
Article first appeared at Cheaper Than Dirt.
Despite being quite old, the scout rifle concept—originally developed by Jeff Cooper—is still very hot. Ruger’s versions are reportedly still selling well on the retail shelves and now Savage Arms has joined in with its own Model 11 Scout Rifle offering.Like all Savage rifles, the already frequently backordered Model 11 Scout Rifle delivers a lot of value and accuracy for customers—thanks in no small part to it being paired with Savage’s magazine compatibility and a design with proven durability and accuracy. For an $818 MSRP, customers now have available a very affordable, scout-focused rifle which is about $300 less than the competing Ruger model.
By Major Pandemic
The Cooper Scout Rifle Concept
The late great Jeff Cooper was quoted as saying, “The natural habitat of the general-purpose rifle is the field, forest, desert, and mountain—not the shooting shed with its bench rest. To be really useful, a rifle must be as short, light, and quick to use as is technically compatible with adequate power and useful accuracy. What matters is not what the equipment can do, but rather what it will do in the hands of its operator under field, rather than laboratory conditions.”
The Cooper-influenced Steyr Scout Rifle was offered in .223/5.56, .243, 7mm-08, .376 Steyr, and obviously .308/7.62×51 NATO. The rifle weighed in at only 6.6 pounds without an optic and was only 38.6 inches in length. By today’s standards, it was very light and still had a number of forward thinking features such as spare magazine in the buttstock, forward mounted optic, and integrated bipod. Most people have netted down Cooper’s concept to a magazine fed .308 Winchester-based bolt-action rifle with a length around 40-inches and a weight under 8 pounds which allows for a forward mounted optic and can support iron backup sights. That noted, any Scout Rifle student knows that an individual’s “scout rifle” can look much different depending on the shooter’s needs.
Savage’s Take On Scout Rifles
I am going to jump in with both feet and make many comparisons between the Savage and Ruger offerings, because after all, buyers will on the showroom floor. The Savage Arms Model 11 Scout rifle follows closely to the original design intent of a scout rifle as outlined by Cooper, with a few welcome departures. The Savage Scout Rifle shared many great features with the Ruger including an adjustable stock pull length, magazine-fed action, free-floated barrel to maximize accuracy, dual sling studs to support a scout sling, a forward optic mounting rail, and iron sights. When customers are comparing the two competing rifles, that is where the similarities end and value starts to tip toward the Savage.
Out of the box, the Savage Scout rifle arrives with an exceptional peep sight system that is significantly higher quality than the included Ruger iron peep sight system. The same can be said for the Savage trigger system which is arguably as good as most entry level aftermarket match triggers. The Model 11 Scout includes an incredibly effective brake with recoil reduction that takes a huge bite out of the bolt-action .308 recoil—delivering a rifle that is extremely comfortable even during all-day range training. This effective brake is a huge plus on the Savage. The current line of Ruger Scout Rifles can start to pommel the shooter after a day at the range. Savage offered the initial Scout Rifle with a top-tier, billet-aluminum, pillar-bedded Hogue Polymer stock that is completely waterproof and allegedly stiffer than a wood stock.
On the Ruger, even after using the lowest rings possible for mounting an optic, the cheek rest height was still too low for a comfortable cheek weld. I solved the problem on my Ruger with a Hornady cheek rest bag. On the other hand, Savage solved the problem by including an adjustable cheek rest in the design. Notably, with the cheek rest in place, the factory peep sights are too low for regular use. If you plan on using the iron sights, owners will need to remove the cheek rest first.
The stock on the Savage is better equipped than the Ruger for those who want to add an optic. On top of the integrated cheek riser, I found it ergonomically more comfortable, as well with less felt recoil, than the Ruger. Overall, the Savage is one inch longer and about a half-pound heavier than the Ruger, though both felt nearly identical in weight.
Function & Accuracy
Feeding and functioning was perfect from the box-fed Savage magazines. My only real complaint with the proprietary Savage magazines is that they are proprietary versus being AICS magazine compatible like the Ruger Scout Rifle. For someone with a couple other bolt guns with AICS magazines, this may alone be a deal breaker.
The adjustable Savage AccuTrigger on the Model 11 is really very impressive. The trigger weight is adjustable from around 2 to 6 pounds. However, I would leave it set at the factory 2.25-pound weight (as measured by my Timney trigger gauge.) As is, the trigger is amazing when compared to the crunchy Ruger trigger.
Savage made a name for itself in the accuracy department and this scout rifle format delivered good accuracy for the $800 price tag. I think it would be an epic head-to-head battle between the Ruger Scout Rifle and the Savage Model 11 Scout to determine which could deliver better accuracy out of the box. I spent the better part of an afternoon attempting to show a clear winner, but I was unsuccessful. Both of these guns will easily deliver 1.25-inch 100-yard groups. Likewise, I have personally seen both of these guns deliver touching five-shot .5-inch groups. I would really not say that either has the advantage from an accuracy perspective, but I do feel confident the Savage Model 11 will deliver consistent 1 – 1.25-inch 100-yard groups with good ammo.
With a better factory trigger, stock, sights, brake, included adjustable cheek rest, and lower price, the Savage Arms Model 11 Scout Rifle is sure to please Savage loyalist and potentially convert many Ruger customers. Out of the box, it is easier to shoot and better equipped.
Notably, the Savage AccuTrigger is leagues better than the factory Ruger Scout trigger. My only significant complaint with the Savage Model 11 Scout Rifle is the proprietary Savage magazines. As a guy that has a bunch of rifles that accept AICS compatible .308 magazines, it makes my eyes roll that I need to go out and buy more mags for the Savage. Many will note that you can buy a lot of ammo and spare magazines for the $300 price difference between the two rifles.