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One day last month, I was going through my safe looking for… something. Now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t even remember what I was looking for. While digging, I happened upon a small, zippered case and thought “I remember what’s in here! This is my Springfield Armory M6 Scout rifle!” I picked up the M6 Scout about fifteen years ago, when I was looking for the perfect long gun to take 4 wheeler-riding in the national forest.
This gun was purposefully-built for survival with a family tree to match. Its story begins during WWII. The Army Air Corp. wanted to equip their pilots with rifles that they could use for gathering food if they were forced to, let’s say “become infantry.” The Corp. turned to the Harrington & Richardson Company of Worcester, Massachusetts. Using their bolt-action M265 sporting rifle as the baseline, they made the frame out of sheet metal and swapped the wooden stock with a telescoping wire stock. A fourteen inch detachable barrel chambered for .22 Hornet was added, along with the four-shot detachable box magazine from the M23D. The final package weighed in at four pounds, and could be stored in a fourteen inch overall package.
The M4 served until the 1950’s, when the Air Force updated from the M4 to the M6 Air Crew Survival Weapon, this time choosing the Ithaca Gun Company for production. The M6 was an over-under combination gun, with a rifle barrel in .22 Hornet located above a .410-bore shotgun barrel. The barrels were fourteen inches long, and the gun stored in about sixteen inches due to the break-open design, along with no trigger guard and a squeeze-bar trigger. The butt stock had a nifty storage compartment built-in, which held ammunition of both calibers. Sights were post in the front, with a rear flip-sight that had specific aperture for the choice of round to be fired. The barrel was chosen via a selector/safety on the exposed hammer. To select the rifle barrel, the selector was pulled to the top by means of a knurled knob. Moving the knob to the downward position selected the shotgun barrel. The safe position was achieved by moving the knob to the mid-point between firing positions, and turning it counter-clockwise into a notch. The hammer would drop with the safety engaged, but it would fall between the firing pins. It was a bit of a crude design, but it worked! The gun was fired by squeezing the aforementioned lever on the bottom of the rifle, where you would expect the trigger to be. This unique firing method allowed for two important capabilities: the mechanism itself was simple, and worked in any conditions, and it made firing the M6 into a gross motor skill, which could be carried out with gloved hands or injuries.
Springfield Fills the M6 Scout Gap
The M6 was considered an NFA weapon, due to the fourteen inch barrel, and probably the fact that the Government owned most of them, resulted in very few of these guns ending up (legally) in civilian hands prior to the phase-out of the concept by the Airforce in the early 1970’s.
Springfield Armory, Inc. based in Geneseo, Illinois, began importing their version of the M6, called the M6 Scout, in the late 70’s. They were manufactured by CZ in the Czech Republic. They made a few “legally required” changes to the rifle. The barrel length was increased to 18.25 inches. A trigger guard was added, which prevented the gun from folding cleanly. Thus, a takedown pin was added, allowing the Scout to be stored compactly in two pieces.
The M6 offered 3 caliber choices for the upper rifle barrel: the original .22 Hornet, the .22 long rifle, and the .22 Magnum. The lower barrel offered no alternative to the three inch .410 shotgun chambering. The choices for finish were Parkerized or Stainless Steel. There were accessories available from Springfield, which included emergency flares, a lockable flotation carrying case, a padded ballistic nylon sling, a holster, a Springfield 2.5 X 20 telescope, and electronic red dot sights.
I am not sure when the last guns were imported from the Czech Republic, but I do know that none have been imported in the last 8 years.
Models I have Owned
I have owned 4 of the 6 variants of the M6 Scout. The only one I have not owned is the .22 magnum, which I am told is the rarest configuration. The only M6 scout I have held on to is the Parkerized .22LR version. After spending time shooting the other versions, I found that this variant was best-suited for the role I wanted it to fill. Ammunition was plentiful, and it would work just fine as a game-getter in the woods of Arkansas. The finish was also a real choice: to go with the Parkerized meant a price difference of somewhere around $169 vs $199 (in 1998 retail dollars). The flat black was cheaper than the Stainless Steel, and its lower profile seemed better-suited for hunting. Both finishes would not be affected by weather, so the choice was simple.
Where it “Fit In” for Me
This rifle was a loyal companion throughout years of exploring the Ozark National Forest, and it kept me company in the log cabin I owned on the Kings River after that. It was always at the ready, and I believe it dispatched a snake or two in its time. The only reason the gun went lost for 10 years in that zippered case in my gun safe, was that the cabin and ATV changed as the kids grew up. I am glad to have rediscovered the M6, and I’ll be working it into a more active role than tirelessly protecting my safe from critters.
I took the gun to the range the other day, and was delighted to find that it worked after 10 years in the safe with no attention. It was accurate and easy to shoot. The M6 Scout is simple and functional. The only accessory I have ever kept with it is that zippered carrying case. It stores the rifle in half, and is very discreet- so discreet, in fact, that I forgot it had a gun in it!
The Scout stores 15 rounds of .22 ammo and 4 shotgun shells in its skeletonized stock. I know that you can see how this gun takes to para cord and other gear on the internet, but I prefer it simple and clean. I will be adding a sling for easier carrying, but that is all this gun needs for my purpose.
You’ll notice I’m not talking much about shooting. This gun is far more about potential. Yet it still shoots. At distances out to 50 yards, maybe even more, the .22 LR barrel will do good work on small game. You could even take larger game with a well-placed shot from a close enough range.
The .410 barrel offers more potential, and an ability to make use of so many rounds. As this shoots 3″ shells, it has power. You can see a couple of the targets below. What I find is that I need to work with the gun to dial in abilities. After a 10-15 shots, I get to where I could make consistent shots at known distances out to 50 yards. But in a survival situation, that would waste ammo.
It is unlikely that any more M6 scouts will be imported for several reasons. Yes! I know that you and about 4 friends and your dog want one! But face it- this is a niche product, and importing such products at the right price, and in small lots, is tough when the USA is the only market. Also consider that we now have CZ USA, and they are the exclusive importer. When I give this some thought it makes my head hurt, but one company sort-of owns the gun (Springfield), while another makes them (CZ Czech Republic), and a third company is the exclusive importer (CZ USA).
So if you want one, you’re going to have to suck it up and pay the price. What is the price? The cheapest ones we’ve seen recently are selling in that $600 range, and they can go much higher.