Carrying a conventional weapon may not be feasible when every ounce counts inside a backpack or the space provided isn’t ideal. Compactness, durability, and lightweight are important elements on a survival rifle. While it must withstand the user’s environment when stowed away or used to procure food, it must also be easy to assemble with little to no tools or parts and the ability to be deployed in a short notice. The concept of a survival rifle resembles these requirements.
Ideally, we should all “be prepared” and there are tools available to ensure our survival. The Springfield M6 Scout happens to be another tool I picked up before the new year. The original rifles were made for the United States Air Force with a barrel length of 14” -a no-no according to NFA laws. Compact, durable, and lightweight, the M6 were issued to airmen in the 1950’s to supplement their survival gear. Models common today were manufactured by CZ and sold under Springfield Armory. These “civilian” models have an 18.5” barrel instead.
A break-action, single-shot combination long-gun, the Springfield M6 Scout, available in a Parkerized or stainless steel finish, is chambered in .22LR/L/S or .22 Hornet accompanied with a smoothbore barrel that can chamber .410 cartridges up to 3”. Primarily a two-piece rifle, it is hinged on a bolt below the action release. The action release is serrated horizontally to assist in ergonomic barrel release. Once the action is opened, the receiver falls on the hand/trigger guard.
The trigger itself is a squeeze lever that can either be used like a traditional trigger or one may use the entire grappling nature of their hand to release the hammer. On the stock is an on board ammunition storage – enough room for 14 rounds of .22LR or 8 rounds of .22 Hornet and 4 rounds of .410. The construction of this cartridge case is of plastic with a rubber-surfaced lid to create a positive adhesion between the stock and the cheek. To release the cartridge lid, there’s a release button on the left hand side. The butt of the stock is checkered without add-ons for comfort.
The M6 has a fixed front sight that also doubles as a barrel band for the .22 caliber and .410 barrels. The rear sight is a fixed dovetail with the option to flip from peep/rifle sights to open/shotgun sights. I originally had thought that neither would make a difference, but I found that the point of impact is at least 16 MOA above the point of aim for the .22LR.
The M6 Up Close:
I personally have a Parkerized version in .22LR/L/S, which was apparently brand new –factory grease and everything. The first thing I did with the rifle was to take it apart to discover how it works. That’s right – I took the damn thing apart before actually shooting it. Upon disassembling the rifle, I’ve found that it’s not meant to be taken apart on a regular basis. The housing that surrounds the trigger mechanism is actually riveted together at several points. The only area where the internal parts may be removed is through the hammer and trigger channel – and that’s after I remove a very stubborn pivot pin that holds one side of the trigger guard. I found it necessary to pry the receiver to release the pin as it wasn’t the type that can be hammered right through. The other side of the trigger guard requires a push and lift, but only after the trigger is removed. To remove the trigger, a center pin with c-rings on each side must also be removed. By doing so, the hammer will separate from the sear and trigger assembly as a result of the force from the hammer spring. The parts inside look like this:
The parts inside are nothing like a precision-tuned 1911. The surface is uneven and the coupling between the parts is very loose. I refuse to attribute these characters as negative. This is a VERY simple mechanism. In fact, the most complicated part of this rifle is the cartridge selector located on the hammer. It consists of an allen screw to keep it together and likely a ball bearing to lock the cylinder in place that can also rotate to lock the hammer surface between the two firing pins (safety). The assembly is so loose and open, a simple dip in water will flush out any dirt from the very large hammer and trigger channels. Very few parts inside are bare metal; a majority of the parts are treated with some sort of coating which will likely impede any rusting.
Surprisingly, the firing pins are actually different. They appear to be the same length, but the pin for the .410 chamber is rounded at the hammer impact location; whereas, the impact location on the firing pin for the .22 chamber is flat. It’s likely that the impact angle is different for the bottom firing pin than the top and modified in such a way to assure positive detonation. The firing pin spring, however, remains the same.
The hammer has a bi-level selector to switch contacts between the .410 and .22 barrel. Pull the switch all the way up – .22 caliber, push the switch down – .410. Between the two selections is where the switch is a safety and locks with a counter-clockwise twist. The hammer can be pulled back, but if it’s released, the hammer surface falls between the two firing pins.
The extractor is spring powered, held in place with a rolling pin. It seems very simple to disassemble, but I dare not to touch it since the spring appeared to hold a LOT of energy.
I find that the trigger guard helps prevent the finger from getting smashed. I originally took it off after reading several reviews complaining that it’s not compact enough. Though this is a personal preference, the trigger guard not only protects my fingers, but it allows the barrel to rest on the trigger guard so that I may insert another cartridge and not concern myself with a dangling front end.
Shooting the M6 Scout:
Shooting out of the .22 barrel is straight forward. Open the chamber, insert round, select hammer surface height, pull back hammer, aim, then pull the trigger. Initially, as everyone else who have written about the M6 Scout, it took awhile to get used to the squeezing mechanism rather than the traditional trigger. Using the peep sight isn’t horrible, but I dislike the fact that I can’t adjust for elevation – though this is, after all, a minimalist’s rifle. The front sight is absolutely fixed, however the good news is that I have yet to adjust windage at all. If I must, the rear right can be moved in a similar fashion to the Novak 1911 rear rights.
Using the cheap brick of .22 LR from Remington, I managed to achieve a 2” group at 25 yards. I also had the chance to use CCI’s .22 short cartridges, which were obviously quiet. Depending one’s dexterity, pulling out the casings can be cumbersome. I can definitely imagine quick follow up shots will be among of the negative attributes of this rifle, thus emphasizing the need to make the first shot count. Then again, one can argue that an underlying necessity of survival is conservation: caloric energy, supplies, ammunition, etc.
Notice how the impact of the .22 LR is about .5″ above the point of aim, whereas the .22 short is level.
The .410 was definitely an interesting experience. For such a small rifle, I was correct in expecting the .410 to kick back a bit more. I took the liberty in testing out four different manufacturers of .410 ammunition: Estate, Remington, Winchester, and Federal. Reading the literature common among shotgun owners, I’ve found it’s important to know the shot pattern at known distances. This might involve using chokes or different varieties of shot shells with a plethora of load possibilities. It simply is understanding the ballistic behavior of one’s chosen ammunition in a specific firearm. Any weapon, for practical use, one will want to know where those bird, buck or slug shots will go.
Below are illustrated representations of shot spread. I used B-27 silhouette targets aimed at center mass. For the purpose of defining the “average” spread of a birdshot, I fired five cartridges, same load and manufacturer, at center mass from a standing position with the rifle resting on a range bag. Distance is 15 yards.
Here’s a list of ammunition I tried out:
By all means, this was not a very scientific way of going about it. It was eye balled to the best of my ability. Green is where most of the pellets passed through. The red/orange represents an average, whereas the yellow dictates the outer most pellets, minus a few outliers.
A) Federal Game-Shok: 3″ 11/16oz. 4 shot
B) Estate Cartidge HV: 3″ 11/16oz. 7 1/2 shot
C) Winchester Super Speed Xtra: 2.5″ 1/2oz. 6 shot
D) Remington Premier Nitro: 2.5″ 1/2oz. 8 shot
E) Winchester SuperX: 2.5″ 000 Buck (3 pellets)
F) Federal Power-Shok Rifled Slug: 2.5″ 1/4oz MAX
I was pleased with the results. I learned a lot by simply finding out how each load spreads out. If I were to choose a load for clay, I might choose the Remington or Winchester shot cartridge. The Federal Game-Shok will likely do better in catching game in a survival situation. It was common for all the loads to penetrate the paper below the 10 ring “X.” The only cartridge that appeared to stay close to center mass was the Federal shot shell. The paracord was useful in keeping my hands from getting burned. The barrel does get hot.
Scoping the M6 Scout:
Springfield actually has a weaver mount available to mount a scope to this rifle. I don’t have immediate plans, but the day will come when I will want to try it out and compare it with my Henry US Survival Rifle. The problem I foresee is the acquisition timing when using the .410 barrel. Having a magnified shotgun doesn’t serve many folks beyond slug shooting in rifled barrels. A red-dot would be more realistic for this application in my opinion.
I would really like to have more ammunition – specifically more .410 shells. Four doesn’t seem enough. Kydex is a very popular DIY material and I may make a saddle to hold at least four additional shells secured by Chicago screws. Because of the break action, it would be mounted parallel to the barrel, instead of perpendicular. I think this may reduce loading times in between shots and more natural. I can see it on a semi-auto, pump, or bolt action, but this particular break action would have the saddle on the non-dominant side. Getting a pouch on the dominant side… I’ll have to get back to you on that.
I am going to have a lot of fun exploring the further projects with this rifle. It’s light weight, unique, and certainly may serve it’s purpose as a survival rifle. Likely to be engineered by a minimalist, it is now going to be tampered by the gun-owner that wants more. Perhaps this endeavor will be just as popular as the Henry US Survival Rifle. I hope the wait was worthwhile =)