A Brief History Of The Steyr Scout

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The Steyr Scout is the result of the collaboration of many individuals.  The scout rifle concept was the brainchild of Jeff Cooper, noted author and shottist who in the early 1980 conceived of the concept of a light, handy, general purpose field rifle (as opposed to a "paper puncher") capable of handling targets up to about 800 - 1000 pounds in weight.  In conjunction with several other shooters the concept was codified during several “scout rifle conferences” beginning in December of 1983. The basic requirements are as follows.

Weight-sighted and slung: 3 kilograms (6.6 lb). This has been set as the ideal weight but the maximum has been stated as being 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds).
Length: 1 meter (39 inches)
Nominal barrel length: 48 cm (19 inches)
Sighting system: Forward and low mounted (ahead of the action opening) long eye relief telescope of between 2x and 3x. Reserve iron sights desirable but not necessary.  Iron sights of the ghost ring type, without a scope, also qualify.
Action: Magazine fed bolt action. Detachable box magazine and/or stripper clip charging is desirable but not necessary.
Sling: Fast loop-up type, i.e. Ching or CW style.
Caliber: Nominally .308 Winchester (7.62 x 51 mm). Calibers such as 7 mm - 08 Remington (7 x 51 mm) or  .243 Winchester (6 x 51 mm) may be considered for frail individuals or where "military" calibers are proscribed.
Built-in bipod: Desirable but not mandatory.
Accuracy: Should be capable of shooting into 2 minutes of angle (4") or less  at 200 yards/meters (3 shot groups).

General interest in the concept grew as custom made rifles in the scout configuration were produced by several gunsmiths and used in the field and in practical rifle classes, but there was no commercial production as such.

Sometime between 1989 and 1990, Jean-Pierre Denis, who was then the  president of the International Practical Shooting Federation (IPSC), talked with Steyr Mannlicher’s export sales manager, Wolfgang Stadler, about Jeff Cooper’s Scout Rifle concept.  As a result, Steyr invited Jeff to visit the factory in Austria.  On 21 September, 1990, Jeff Cooper and Mr.Denis met with Heinz Hambrusch, then-president of Steyr Mannlicher, Wolfgang Stadler, and Ulrich Zedrosser at the factory.

At that meeting Jeff provided a detailed description of his scout rifle concept, and Mr. Denis shared his thoughts about the potential of the Scout Rifle for practical rifle competition.  Jeff suggested that a 308 Winchester scout rifle could be easily built on the Model L Steyr action. with only a few modifications and a different stock design, and sold at an attractive price.

While Steyr was interested in his proposal, they had just begun the design and development of a completely new bolt action mechanism (the SBS or “Safe Bolt Action”).  They didn’t expect to have it completed until 1993, and until it was they couldn’t consider starting work on another project.  While Jeff was disappointed in the delay, he never the less invited Ulrich Zedrosser to visit him at Gunsite Ranch and take a rifle class with one of his personal scout rifles so that he would better understand the scout rifle concept.

Ulrich Zedrosser went to Gunsite in December of 1990 and spent a week being coached by Jeff.  He was greatly impressed with how well the scout rifle concept worked, and on his way back to Austria he began sketching out some ideas for a Steyr Scout Rifle based upon the new SBS action design

Original Concept Sketch by Ulrich Zedrosser

The first conceptual layout came to life early in 1991.  It was designed with a light weight tubular aluminum receiver with a tubular extension that covered the rear of the barrel with a separate full length rail mount for Steyr bases. and incorporated an integral Weavers-style rail along its entire length.  This design allowed the user to mount an intermediate eye relief optic over the barrel or a conventional scope over the receiver.

Over the next couple of years several prototypes were tested for accuracy, durability, and the effects of temperature on its zero and functioning.  When the conceptual design was proven, Steyr Engineer Elmar Bilgeri took over the project in the summer of 1993.

concept A (10k jpg) Concept B (10k jpg)
Concept A Concept B
Concept C Concept D
Concept C Concept D

Because of the effort being expended to introduce the new SBS line during the period from 1991 to 1993, the Scout project was placed on hold which greatly frustrated those involved in the concept, especially Jeff Cooper.

By early 1995 Elmar had worked out all the final design details and completed all of the engineering drawings for the first production prototype and the proprietary mounting rail was changed to a Weaver/STANAG type mounting system integral with the receiver at the suggestion of Giles Stock.  At the same time Steyr’s industrial engineer, F. Spekner, was creating the ergonomics and styling of the Steyr Scout, which gives it its distinctive look and feel.

At that point the Bilgeri action prototype and the Spekner stock prototype were brought together to create the first mock up, and Jeff Cooper was invited back to the factory in June of 1995 to test drive the shooting prototype and the design mock-up.

1st production scout (25k jpg)
First Scout Second Scout

Jeff was extremely pleased with the new design and offered several suggestions.  After he returned home he sent Steyr  a letter in October 1995 with a final suggestion about incorporating a double detent magazine latch that would provide the ability to single load the rifle while maintaining the full magazine in reserve.  Steyr agreed with this and it was integrated into the design.  The project engineer, Elmar Bilgeri continued to work out the thousands of details involved in bringing a new rifle into production, and in June of 1996 pre-production prototypes were brought to Jeff Cooper at Gunsite for an evaluation session and final comments  Present at that meeting were Jeff Cooper, Elmar Bilgeri, Einar Hoff, Giles Stock, and John Schaefer,  and with rave reviews Steyr was finally ready to ramp up for actual production at the end of 1996.

The initial production Scouts were tested at Gunsite in June of 1997 with Jeff Cooper, Einar Hoff, Giles Stock, and Elmar Bilgeri.

Final Scout (13k jpg)

Final Scout

It was formally announced to the world at a press event held at the NRA Whittington Center, Raton, NM, on September 24-25, 1997 and at the subsequent fourth Scout Rifle Conference.  As an interesting side note, up to this point all of the stocks had been machined and it wasn't until just three weeks before the press event that the molds for the stocks were completed and molded stocks were produced--which caused the engineers at Steyr some sleepless nights.  The Scout was also extensively handled and shot at the Gunsite Reunion/Theodore Roosevelt Memorial held October 16 - 19, 1997 also at the NRA Whittington Center, again with overwhelmingly favorable comments.

It was first shown to the general public in the US at the 1998 SHOT Show which was held January 27-30, in Las Vegas, NV. Jeff Cooper was presented with a specially finished rifle at the SHOT Show.  Production rifles began shipping to customers about May 6, 1998.

The Steyr Scout was initially offered only in .308 Winchester in a Jeff Cooper package put together by GSI which included the rifle with a gray stock with a “JC” logo, a Turner Saddlery "Ching Sling," and Millett swivels, a Leupold M8 2.5X IER scope in Steyr mounts, a test target, a hard carrying case, and a letter of authenticity.

Since the initial offering the Scout has been made available with either a black or gray stock, as an all black “tactical’ model with an enlarged bolt knob, and as a rifle only (no accessories) package.  It has been offered in .308 Winchester, .243 Winchester, 7 mm –08 Remington, .223 Remington, a very limited run of 7.5 x 55 mm Swiss, and as a beefier model chambered in .376 Steyr.   For a listing of slipstreamed design changes click here.

The original importer/distributor was GSI in Alabama.  In 2002 Dynamit Nobel-RWS, in New Jersey  became the importer with parts and service being handled by Diamond Trail Shooter’s Supply in Iowa. However, effective February 2004 Steyr became its own importer and now handles all parts and service Steyr Arms in Bessemer, AL.

Thanks to Steyr Mannlicher and Eric Ching who helped to put this history together.
Photographs and drawing © copyright 1990 - 2004 Steyr Mannlicher

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Neither Fr. Frog, the hosting service for these pages, nor this page is officially associated with Steyr Mannlicher or SteyrUSA, . This page provided by Fr. Frog as a service to the friends of Jeff Cooper, the folks Steyr, and the shooting community. Fr. Frog is not responsible for any errors, omissions, nor your inability to hit what you aim at when using this rifle.  As far as I know all the information presented is correct and I have attempted to ensure that it is. However, I am not responsible for any errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use or misuse of this information, nor for you doing something stupid with it. (Don't you hate these disclaimers? So do I, but there are people out there who refuse to be responsible for their own actions and who will sue anybody to make a buck.)

Updated 2016-10-04