Van Dorsten pitches unique firearm products

October 14, 2023

SHERIDAN — If you don’t know what a Scout rifle is, you’re in good company. Just 13 years ago, professional gunsmith Scott Van Dorsten didn’t either.

“I learned about Scout rifles by being asked to build one,” Van Dorsten said. “It was one of my first gunsmithing jobs. I pulled a build sheet and it said, ‘build a left-handed Scout rifle’ and in 2010, there were no left-handed Scout rifles at all. I didn’t even know what a Scout rifle was, so I talked to the owner and he explained it to me, and over the years, as I’ve built more and more of them, I’ve become something of a Scout rifle enthusiast.”

The Scout rifle is a conceptual class of general-purpose rifles defined and promoted by Jeff Cooper beginning in the early 1980s. One of the most distinctive features of the Scout is its scope — a forward-mounted telescopic sight of low magnification that preserves the shooter’s peripheral vision while eliminating the chance of the scope striking one’s brow during recoil. 

While the Scout rifle remains lesser known, it is deeply beloved by those who use it, said Van Dorsten, the owner of Van Dorsten Custom Firearms.

“It’s kind of like a movie that bombed when it first released but has developed a cult following,” Van Dorsten said. “That’s what the Scout is in the firearm community. It has a cult-like following.”

Despite this, there are only three companies that make a factory-produced Scout rifle, Van Dorsten said. 

“There are a lot of brand loyalists out there who would love a Scout rifle, but their favorite brand doesn’t make them,” Van Dorsten said. “It’s like if your favorite brand of pizza didn’t have the right toppings. You want to support them, but you also want the right toppings. That’s where I come in — I’m the toppings guy.”

Over the last couple years, Van Dorsten has made between 150 and 175 custom Scout rifles, and a key piece of his Scout rifle construction — a mount that can be used to attach a Scout rifle scope to any gun — is one of the innovations he’ll be showcasing in the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night this year.

“There are two other people in the country that do Scout rifle conversions, and only one does a mount,” Van Dorsten said. “And that person only does it for two types of guns. So I’m definitely proposing it on a scale that hasn’t been done before.”

The scope mount isn’t the only innovation Van Dorsten will be pitching to the judges. The other is a detachable spare magazine that can be stored in the butt stock of any rifle.

“For this product, we are the first one on the market,” Van Dorsten said. “No one else is doing this. It will be incredibly useful for hunting rifles, Scout rifles and even sniper rifles, and it could certainly have applications for law enforcement and the military as well.”

Van Dorsten has been working as a gunsmith for 17 years, the last five of which were spent at Weatherby. He opened his own shop earlier this year with a simple goal: “going after the smaller niche markets the larger companies are ignoring” like the Scout rifle community.

Scot Rendall, Sheridan director of IMPACT 307, said he’s been impressed by Van Dorsten’s unique ideas and innovative drive.

“We talked early in this process about how he needs to be more than a garage-shop gunsmith, and Scott has really taken that to heart,” Rendall said. “He’s motivated to make it a full-fledged company, and he continues to throw ideas out there. I’m really excited to see his final pitch.”

Van Dorsten will be one of five finalists presenting at the Sheridan Start-Up Challenge Pitch Night, which is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. Each finalist will have an opportunity to win business funding from the $100,000 seed fund established for the event.

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