There were two WWII-era rifles that contributed to the scout concept. The first was the No.5 Enfield, the so-called "Jungle Carbine," essentially a shortened and lightened No.4 Enfield chambered for the 303 British cartridge. The Enfield had excellent battle sights, a ten round magazine, a very quick action, a reputation for rugged reliability, and it weighed several pounds less than the No.4 or the earlier MkIII. Regrettably, it had a reputation for a wandering zero as it heated up during extensive firing, but the Colonel reminded us that most rifle engagements should only require a cartridge or two. It was also thought to be hard kicking and prone to a larger flash signature than the full-size rifle so a recoil pad and flash hider were fitted.
The other WWII rifle introduced the idea of the forward mounted optical sight. The Mauser 98k ZF41 was essentially standard German service rifle except that a long eye relief 2x scope was attached to the rear sight base on the barrel. It was not a sniper rifle per se, but intended for use by regular soldiers acting as designated marksmen. It was not popular with the troops, but it apparently got a few American manufacturers thinking.
In 1964 Remington introduced a new bolt action rifle, the Model 600. It weighed but six pounds and had a slim barrel only 18-1/2 inches in length which wore a plastic ventilated rib (according to some, meant to distract the observer from the skinny barrel). It came in 308 Winchester and a variety of other conventional cartridges. In 1965 Remington brought out the Model 600 Magnum chambered for two new cartridges - a 350 that ran with then wildcat 35 Whelen and a 6.5mm meant to chase the 270 Winchester - in a carbine-sized package. The stock was made of laminated walnut and maple planks for strength. They would shortly introduce the Model 660 and the 600 Mohawk, featuring longer, heavier barrels but no rib.
Jeff started using the Remington 600 in 1967 and was quickly enamored of its attributes. He used a Buehler forward mount to attach a 2x Leupold IER scope to his M600 and "Scout I" was born.
There was another category of scout rifle, the "Super Scout," intended for very large game. The first of these was Colonel Cooper's Fireplug, a Remington 660 Magnum wearing a 2-3/4x Bushnell scope mounted in the conventional position, chambered for the 350 Remington Magnum. Fireplug offered 35 Whelen ballistics - a .358 250 grain bullet @ 2400 fps - from a seven pound rifle less than a meter long.
When Steyr introduced the Scout Rifle they also offered a version chambered for a new cartridge, the 376 Steyr. The 376 produces 35 Whelen or 9.3x62 performance, but as its bullet was .375 diameter it was legal for large or dangerous game in many African countries. Jeff referred to his as "The Dragoon."
Those who had scouts custom built in the pre-Steyr days spent several thousand dollars for the privilege. Many of these scout owners seem even happier with them than the Steyr shooters so there won’t be many custom scouts on the used rack. Jeff's Scout II, "Sweetheart," was a custom built by Robbie Barkmann on a Sako 308-length action.
As mentioned above, his second Super Scout - “Lion Scout” - was as custom a scout as was ever made, especially its extended magazine which Jeff proudly declared made it a “six-shooter.” There are several makers who continue to offer custom scouts. Until recently Grizzly Custom Guns did some beautiful work with some premium actions. They appeared to "get it."
More than a decade later, long after they gave up the chance to totally own the off the shelf scout rifle market, Ruger introduced the M77 MkII Frontier rifle. It was a mixed bag. They made the barrel a needlessly stubby 16 inches and shortened the stock to a youth length of pull, and the factory rings put the scope a quarter inch too high. Still, in stainless with a laminated stock it makes a sturdy little scout. Some folks add backup iron sights and a recoil pad. Alas, the Frontier was discontinued in 2009.
In 2010 Ruger took another, more serious stab at the scout concept by introducing their Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle. It's an interesting mix of features, compromises, and questionable touches. Personally, I have no use for the protruding single stack magazine, the five and ten round versions of which interfere with one of the scout's nicest features, the ability to grasp the rifle around the action. Nonetheless, the RGSR has sold by by the pallet load since its introduction - coming in blue or stainless, with laminated wood or synthetic stocks, on right or left handed actions, wearing short or shorter barrels, and with or without a threading for a factory provided flash hider or muzzle brake. I wonder (a little) what Jeff would have said of it.
Until the Ruger 77 Frontier and then the RGSR came along, the only commercially available alternative to the Steyr Scout was the Savage Scout, the 10FCM. The Savage is less expensive than the Ruger Frontier was or the RGSR is. Jeff was not enamored of it, regarding it as the scout concept executed on the cheap. In fact its earliest iterations did come across as a little flimsy - especially the stock. The 10FCM has been improved of late and now leaves the box wearing an AccuTrigger (which really is amazing) and the AccuStock (which appears to correct the shortcomings of the original handle). Until the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle came along it was the only factory-made scout that could be ordered with a left-handed bolt. Versions I and II needed a third swivel stud to use a Ching Sling (our friend Andy Langlois will set you up) but iteration III comes from the factory with the middle swivel.
Until the Savage Scout and the Ruger Frontier came along about the only way to assemble a scout rifle for under $1000 was to do it the “Scout I” way, by refitting a Remington Seven (the successor of the M600). About the nicest example I've seen was made for the late Eric Ching. Eric had his done as a 260 Remington, which "violated" doctrine, but hearkens to the days of the 6.5 Mannlicher, one of the progenitors of the concept. I can assure you it killed whitetails quite neatly. It may be just a little over weight, but Jeff was the only person especially dogmatic about the 3 kg limit (and he only until he revised it to seven pounds when the Steyr came along). Replacing the injection molded factory stock with a hand-laid kevlar job, such as the KS from the Custom Shop, would fix that were it truly important. The Seven shares the design flaws some see in the M600 and M700 family of rifles, but the Colonel never seemed to have broken either of his early scouts.
Eric's scout wears a Burris scout scope in Weaver rings on a Ching Ring mount done by Geoff Beneze. The Ching Ring, as briefly manufactured by Geoff Beneze and Andy Langlois, or the commercially successful XS implementation of the same idea, the XS/Clifton, makes for a very nice aftermarket scout mount, with none of the multi-year waits for an accurate "buggy whip" pedestal mount barrels once part of the pilgrimage. Remove the stock, turn the barrel to a cylindrical section close to the receiver, and glue the mount in place with AcraGlas or some other miracle adhesive, and you have a forward rail. I’ve only seen a couple of Ching Rings in person - on Eric’s Model Seven, a Mauser, and a SMLE - but they seemed very solid and the rear bells are very close to the receiver, as they should be. It works as Eric intended.
Jeff allowed that there might be some scouts that departed from doctrine in order to make use of some special advantage, such as using the 30-06 cartridge or the 1903 Springfield action in particular. Such rifles usually did not meet the scout rifle criteria for length or weight and were dubbed "pseudo-scouts."
These days there's the Browning BLR. The BLR is chambered for the 308 Winchester and other modern, high intensity cartridges using spitzer bullets. This version of their BLR lever gun can be had as a take down rifle with a scout mount for optics. This is their current, somewhat chubby, alloy-framed rifle rather than the svelte steel-frame originals. Their 325 WSM version might even be regarded as a lever action Super Scout. If the Browning take down system is accurate there are some serious advantages to explore here, especially in these days of carefully weighed and measured airline luggage.
More than a few Winchesters and many Marlin lever actions have been fitted with forward optics and dubbed Lever Scouts. The Colonel was not fond of them. He thought anything the sportsman or gunfighter could do with the 30 WCF cartridge could be done with iron sights. There are some cartridges - such as the 307 Winchester and 308 Marlin Express - that run with the 308 Winchester, and some leverguns might "make weight." I tried a scout scope on Mjolnir, my 45-70 Guide Gun, but the sight line was too high for my cheek weld so I went back to irons. Brockman will attach a scout scope to your Marlin if you like. Off the shelf mounting solutions include Wild West Guns (gunsmithing required, but it seems to allow a very low sight line) and XS (only a screwdriver is needed).
There have always been folks attracted to the scout rifle idea but who couldn't afford a doctrinally correct custom job, or a Steyr Scout when they became available. Apparently some would be riflemen cannot even scrape together enough cash for a Ruger or the Savage. Thus, there is no end of ugly old milsurp rifles fitted with forward mounted optical sights.
Some are concerned a short skinny barrel and a little scope can't shoot as well as a "real" rifle. In the days we attended Gunsite on a regular basis we saw some pretty fancy shooting with scout rifles. I witnessed Naish Piazza using his early numbered ZKK scout from sling prone to shoot a five round group at 400 meters that measured three inches. That precise work can be done with 2-3/4 power optic should be no surprise considering how well competitive shooters do with iron sights in many games.