By John M. Buol Jr.

Continued from Scout Rifles Part 1 and Scout Rifles Part 2 – The Savage Option.

Accessory Light

The last improvement is the addition to an on-board light. If that seems odd, remember that Scout rifles are general purpose, meaning they can serve any function that a rifle can be applied reasonably well. Leopard hunters sometimes require lights, which is why some riflists refer to them as leopard lights. Of course, “serious social activity” can occur at any time, especially the hours of darkness.

Many firearms more commonly employed for fighting purposes have already addressed this issue. For example, there are a multitude of designs for the AR-15 family, replacement forends with built-in lights for various shotguns and a number of service handguns have integral rails on the dust covers.

Not being much of a demand for such an accessory, rifles commonly used by big game hunters typically don’t have this. Time to improvise.

The SureFire family of lights by Laser Products is ideal for this type of work, being compact, durable and super bright. The smallest and most well suited with the Harries pistol/flashlight technique is the 6P model. The thumb activates it with a push button at the bottom of the light. By happy coincidence this light also fits nicely inside a standard 1-inch Weaver scope ring. Mount the light with the ring as close to the lens as possible. At first, I placed the mount in the center of the body, and found the light would work loose in recoil. Get up towards that lens!

Now, connect it to the rifle. After a quick perusal of the scope mounts at a local shooter shack I found Weaver’s number 29, a standard two piece scope base intended for the Browning 1885 Hi Wall rifle. The rear base is compact, flat on the bottom, and just big enough for one standard 1-inch Weaver ring. Get yourself two flat-headed wood screws about 1.5 inches in length. It is important that the screw heads fit inside the recessed holes of the base to provide enough clearance for the Weaver ring.

scout-rifles-3-1

Weaver’s 29 base, intended for the Browning 1885 Hi Wall rifle, mounts easily and is unobtrusive. Two wood screws 1.5 inches in length secure the base to the side of the stock without over penetrating. Be sure the screw heads fit flush.

Attach the ring-mounted flashlight to the base and decide where you want the contraption to go. The light must be close enough so your support hand thumb can engage the push button when your hand is in your normal shooting position, but not so close that the light gets in the way. The button should be positioned so that that light can be turned on or off with a slight motion of the thumb.

Time to summon the guts to drill. Take the light off and place the base in your predetermined location. The screws go through the stock’s synthetic material easily, however, it may be possible to bore out too much material. Go slow, and tighten only until the screws are just snug. Set a drill to the lowest speed possible and hand tighten for that last 1/8 inch or so.

The base stays permanently attached to the rifle, of course, but is unobtrusive. The light attaches the by tightening down one mounting screw on the ring. Hand tight should be secure enough, but you can crank down a little bit harder for added insurance. The light can be taken out of the ring to use with a handgun as intended.

I field-tested this combination at a Night Practical Rifle course at Front Sight Training Institute. After placing the light inside the ring up towards the lens, the unit worked flawlessly. The class required us to engage silhouette targets out to 100 meters in the dark of night, with only the illumination of our rifle’s on-board light to see and hit by. There are brighter lights on the market, but this proved to be more than adequate.

Manual of Arms

The last and most important modification is improving the “nut behind the butt.” That means you! A mediocre rifle in the hands of a good marksman will always beat a good rifle in the hands of a mediocre marksman. Attending organized events on a reoccurring basis, such as shooting classes or formal competition, is the ideal. Nothing will tune those field-shooting skills faster than good instruction followed by a regular, on-going schedule of Sporting Rifle and/or HunterShooter matches.

For those of you not yet involved in such affairs (shame on you!), the following two drills will get you started.

Basic field drill works on the most fundamental skills needed in any field shooting scenario: From the standing position, as if walking the countryside, adopt an appropriate position and hit the intended target with the first shot and the least possible delay.

We don’t have bench rests available in the real world, we don’t get to start aimed in on target, and we don’t know when that target will disappear (or shoot back), so we train ourselves to engage as fast as we can while maintaining sufficient accuracy.

Unlike Conventional (Bullseye) matches, field shooters are never forced to engage from specified, textbook positions. Get ready, get on, and get hits are the only rules.

Shots afield can sometimes afford whole minutes of preparation, and fractions of a second other times. It’s best to practice to hit with the “least possible delay.” This will vary from person to person. It is faster to engage Offhand than Prone, but there is a limit to where hits from Offhand become unreliable. Some people find the Squat position to be faster and steadier than Kneeling, while others can’t use it all, and still others prefer Kneeling anyway. Prone is the steadiest but may be blocked by terrain. You get the point.

Of course, hits must be the first concern. Field shooters rarely need pinpoint sub-MOA performance, but need the ability to consistently hit an appropriate sized target.

To start, use the “Vitals@50/2+2.5” guideline. That is, use a vitals-sized target set at 50 yards. The suggested time limit, starting from a normal carry position (port arms, high ready, etc.) is 2 seconds. Allow an additional 2.5 seconds for every 50 yards out. The progression looks like this:

  • 50 yards 2 seconds
  • 100 yards 4.5 seconds
  • 150 yards 7 seconds
  • 200 yards 9.5 seconds
  • 250 yards 12 seconds
  • 300 yards 14.5 seconds

A self-resetting steel target about 8-10 inches in diameter approximates the size of an appropriate field target. I’ve used, owned, and recommend Metal Spinning Targets units (http://metaltargets.com/spinning-targets/centerfire-rifle.html)

These suggested time frames are recommended par time limits for a fully competent field marksman. Not world-class, but pretty good. If you can’t yet make these times remember they are suggestions. The first concern is always with getting hits, rather than fast misses.

This first exercise tests the core skills of handling and marksmanship used in every field-shooting scenario. However, no matter how skillful the aspiring shottist becomes with it, the skill can’t be applied unless we can keep the rifle fed. “Feeding the rifle” is ammunition management and it includes cycling the action between shots when shooting a manual action repeater, such as the Savage bolt-action, and loading the magazine. The watchwords again are “least possible delay” while remaining reliable and maintaining full control over the equipment.

Ammunition management can be practiced effectively at home. To begin the exercise, set an appropriate offhand dry practice target up against a bulletproof surface, such as a basement wall. Triple check that the rifle is empty and there is no live ammunition anywhere in the room. Load a dummy round in the magazine, chamber an empty cartridge, and place empty cases in your cartridge holder – on the stock, belt, or where ever preferred.

Begin standing in your preferred ready position. Present the rifle to offhand and snap on your dry practice target. At the click, cycle the action, re-aim and click on the target again. The goal is to cycle the action and be aimed back on the target before the empty case hits the ground.

Come back to high ready and load one. Retract the bolt, trapping the dummy round with your support hand. Retrieve an empty case from the ammo carrier; seat the dummy round, then the empty case in the magazine. Close the bolt on the empty, put the safety on, and return to high ready. Practice this until the entire operation can be accomplished with your eyes closed.

The most important element of a general-purpose rifle is the skill of the all-purpose rifleman. However, to the shottist willing to develop and maintain those skills, the a Scout rifle delivers!