Colt M2012 Bolt Rifle – Cooper Arms of Montana

by Paul Helinski



The Colt M2012 rifle has been around a long time and is made by Cooper Firearms of Montana. This year Colt updated the line with several models that more resemble the M24 and M40 US service sniper rifles.

Colt Firearms
http://www.colt.com

Colt’s Manufacturing has a long history of working with other gun companies for Colt-branded bolt action rifles. The Colt Sauer rifle was produced by J.P. Sauer & Son in Germany from 1973 to 1984, and the 27,189 rifles that came out of it are still highly sought after by collectors. These days, Colt has updated its game with an American company called Cooper Firearms of Montana. Cooper was started in 1990 by ex-Kimber employees and has beena staple in the custom rifle market for more than two decades. The first Colt/Cooper came out a couple years back, called the M2012. They still make it today, and as you can see from the picture here, it looks like what it is, a high-end tactical rifle meant to look tactical. Since the introduction of the M2012, a lot of high-end shooters, especially ex-military snipers, have said that they would love a Cooper rifle that says Colt on the side (who wouldn’t?), but that what they would have in mind was something more along the lines of a US Army issue M24 or USMC M40. Colt, and Cooper, have listened, and the result is a whole new version of the M2012 that more resembles those rifles, while sacrificing nothing in performance. These rifles aren’t cheap. Our test gun as you see it here retails for $3,195. But as you will see, it is well within the world class division when it comes to bolt guns. If you are a Colt fan who just loves to see that name on the side of your gun, like back in the old Sauer days, or you are just in the market for an extremely thoughtful and well-made long range rifle, look no further than the new Colt Model 2012.



The Colt/Cooper M2012 comes with a test target shot by one of the in-house expert marksmen using custom-tuned handloads. This rifle shipped with this target of a group only slightly over bore diameter.

Colt sent us the M2012MT308T, which if you decode it, means Model 2012, from Montana, in .308, with a T stock, whatever T means. The stock is made by Manners from aircraft-grade carbon fiber and fiberglass, making the stock much lighter than your standard solid polymer of the same look and feel. Our test rifle weighs barely over 10 lbs. without the scope. This tan-stocked model only comes in .308 Winchester, but the laminate-stock hunting rifle (the G model) also comes in .260 Remington, a favorite among long range varmint hunters right up to whitetails. The laminate-stock models are also a pound and a half lighter at 8.5 lbs. due to a slightly less heavy barrel, built for carrying in the field. All of the guns come with a single stage Timney adjustable trigger set at about 3 lbs., and all have 22” button-rifled barrels. The .308 guns have a 1/10 twist and the .260 is a 1/8. Our gun (and yes it is ours because we are buying it) has a stainless fluted barrel, as does the original M2012, and the laminate guns have a blued chome-moly steel fluted barrel. A five-round box magazine is included, and 10-rounders are available. The length of pull on our test rifle is 13 3/4” from the front of the trigger to the absolute back of the recoil pad. An optics rail comes mounted on the top of the receiver.



Our best ammo with the gun was Hornady Superformance 150gr. GMX. It isn’t as good as the test target, but with a casual shooter and factory ammo, not so bad.

Accuracy, or more of a correct term is precision, is of course what these guns are about. Our gun came with a hand-signed and laminated test target showing a three-shot group of .319 center to center. The bullet itself is .308. That should give you an idea of how precise your shooting can be with the right load and the right shooter. The test group was shot with a custom handload using a Sierra MatchKing 168 grain bullet and IMR 4064 powder, and it reflects the fact that few true long range accuracy shooters are using factory ammo. I don’t know if you call Cooper that they will tell you exactly how many grains of 4064 they use and the seating depth, but they might! The point is that you will eventually work up your own loads to shoot in the gun, and that these results are possible based purely on the precision manufacturing of the Colt/Cooper.

We tested the rifle with Hornady American Whitetail 150gr. lead-tipped deer hunting ammo and Hornady Superformance in the same weight, but with the 150 Hornady GMX bullet. My groups came in at .654” and .543” respectively. It would have been a shock if these groups were anywhere near as good as those shot by Cooper’s professional shooter using tuned handloads, and he used a 36x Leupold as compared to our 24x NightForce. Nonetheless, not bad! This rifle is a keeper and we’re keeping it.



The only problem that I had with the gun was this spear that sticks out the end of the bolt. If you hold your thumb there, it’ll ouch it!

As you can see from the pictures, the fit and finish on this rifle are flawless. The three lug bolt is as smooth as butter (without actually having to lube it with butter, or anything else), and the compensator on the front can be taken off to put on a suppressor. I personally am not a big fan of the fluted barrel look, but when in Rome… Fluted barrels are very popular in the high-end rifle community. I also would have preferred that the barrel be blued instead of the silver stainless color. It would make the rifle more homogenous and at unity with itself. (That last comment was for our new ex-hippy gun owners who have finally seen the light). The Timney trigger is crisp and light with zero creep, and there is really little else to say about the Colt M2012 except go buy one while the serial numbers are still low. It is a superb firearm, and while there is more to red-blooded American liberty loving life than an AR-15, it is always awesome when the side of the gun says Colt.






For inexpensive high end ammo, Hornady American Whitetail has performed stellarly in every rifle that we try it in. The grip on this version of the M2012 is meant for prone shooting. There are also two sling studs on the front, one for a Harris/Caldwell-style bipod and one for a sling.




The Colt and Cooper names are both on the rifle. The bolt is three lug and very smooth.




The M2012 guns all come with a five-round industry standard and Mil-Spec Accurate Arms magazine. The Colt/Cooper compensator is removable for attachment of a suppressor.




The fluted barrels are free-floated from the front of the action. The recoil pad is thick and squishy and eliminates nearly all recoil for good shot-to-shot recovery.




This is the original Model 2012. The new models are a welcome departure from the super tactical look. It will be emotionally difficult to remove this NightForce 4-24x to use on another review gun. If you had one gun… I’m not saying only buy one gun of course. That would be loony right?
{ 43 comments… add one }
  • Jack January 5, 2015, 8:15 pm

    Sweet this Old Former Jarhead 0311 has 2 have 1…as for why a .308 this round has sent more Commies 2 Hell than most others as a Long distance Bang Bang rnd. Go Easy Guys Jack G

  • George March 28, 2014, 11:58 pm

    I purchased this Colt/Cooper rifle for a little less than $3000.00 and have been impressed. Some have posted that the price for this rifle is to much. I think if any knowledgeable person takes an objective look, they would have to agree that the price is fair. Compare this rifle to a similar McMillan and you will find that Colt/Cooper is giving you an extremely accurate rifle for around $3000.00 less. Check any of the top names in this type of gun and prices start at over $5000.00 and up. This rifle is easily capable of .5 inch groups at 100 yards with tuned ammo. Regardless to what other posters have stated, the average Remington, Winchester or whatever will not routinely give this kind of accuracy without some very expensive gunsmithing. Occasionally you will get a box, stock production gun that shoots very well but not like can be expected from Cooper built guns. Cooper guarantees their rifles to shoot in .5 inch at 100 yards. Colt’s guarantee for the M2012 is 1 inch at 100 yards but the rifle is still built by Cooper. The truth is that Cooper accuracy tests their guns on an indoor range that is approximately 50 yards. The reason they do this is because Montana weather conditions are extreme. Below zero temps in the winter and high winds during warmer weather make accuracy testing almost impossible outside. The groups you see on Cooper’s laminated cards that come with the guns can be misleading because most believe they are 100 yard targets. You can call Cooper and they will tell you about their procedure for accuracy testing. Their engineers know that if a 50 yard 3 shoot group target comes in at less than three tenths of an inch, a hundred yard target will be around a half inch. The target supplied with my gun is right at .230. A purchaser of a Colt/Cooper is basically getting a custom rifle, which includes a Manners stock, Timney trigger, Wilson air gauged and lapped match barrel and the Cooper action that is known for accuracy. This rifle cannot in any way be compared to the average production rifle from any manufactuer. Remington, Winchester, Ruger and Savage do not give any accuracy guarantees and there is a reason that they do not. Do not confuse a Cooper built gun with a standard factory production rifle.

  • OFBG March 12, 2014, 9:40 pm

    RE: the “spear that sticks out the end of the bolt”. It sure looks like that “If you hold your thumb there, it’ll ouch it”, but why would you have your thumb ther in the first place?

  • Bill March 11, 2014, 9:03 pm

    Ralph, I agree. Spent money does not guarantee rifle accuracy. Total system and shooter dictates. Maybe I got the “one in 10K” off the manufacturing line with my Sav 110, 30-06 I bought in 1982. Yep, I went on the cheap, including slapping a Leapers Accushot 4×16 on it. I am still amazed the rifle will consistently hold the first 3 rounds out, from cold bore @100 meters with a .347 grouping, employing Winchester X 125 grain, bagged. At 600 meters it consistently strikes within a 9″ paper plate, off a Blackhawk bipod, with 180 grain Winchester X. No fancy loads, bbl bedding, trigger work or custom stock. I dope the scope and thats it. All told, I have what, $550 tied up in a weapon system? It more than gets the job done effectively.

  • George March 11, 2014, 3:45 pm

    They may not be quite as sexy n the eye candy department, but you can get the same out-of-the-box accuracy with an FN SPR (Special Police Rifle) for about a grand less – money you can put toward a quality scope.

  • Ted March 10, 2014, 7:57 pm

    Nice looking rifle, but not that impressed with the accuracy for the price. Have to watch, some of Coopers test targets are from 50 yards People like paying for a name I guess.
    It’s possible to build a similar rifle for less (around $1900.00) that will out shoot it. Krieger barrel and Remington action. Hard to beat combo.
    Still a very nice looking rifle

  • Ralph March 10, 2014, 5:52 pm

    No need to pay that kind of money for a rifle that is a shooter. Really, just get back to basics if you want a rifle that shoots precision accurate shots over and over again. You can make almost and I say almost any quality rifle be a shooter if you understand what makes it a shooter. Just to mention a few, because there are quite a few. Rigidity, and understanding your particular rifles harmonics. I think the 2 most important things in making a shooter. Tune your rifles harmonics by trial and error with hand loads and placing a shim of sorts in your stock’s fore end against your barrel, again trial and error, so your harmonic wave is at its smallest at the end of the barrel. You find the sweet spot and your $400 rifle with out shoot consistently a $5000 rifle all day long.

  • GEOFFREY HASHIMOTO March 10, 2014, 4:23 pm

    You neglected to mention the Colt Light rifle that Mel Forbes of Ultra Light Arms was involved in. They were very inexpensive, around $500. I own two, a 270 and 30-06. Both are exceptionally accurate.

  • Ruffian March 10, 2014, 4:13 pm

    That’s a nice looking weapon why only those calibers should add a few and also what about longer bbls? why not the 6.5X47 Lapua , 338 Lapua Mag, 300 Win Mag. or even the 30-378 Wby Mag besides the 260Rem and the 308 Win rounds. I like the 10 round mag but also need the 5 rounds if using for hunting !!!shooting the LR one needs longer bbl 28-30 ” would be nice Where are the scope bases ?? how much MOA

  • Mike Cornett March 10, 2014, 2:45 pm

    First and foremost, it’s Made in the USA. Problem with the price ? Why does a Porsche 911 cost more than my Ford Focus? Maybe: engineering, design, workmanship, materials…..etc.
    I want one for $600 too. Just like I want a Holland & Holland Double Rifle for $1,000.
    Just having fun guys, but you have to pay for quality.

  • Bill March 10, 2014, 2:03 pm

    I don’t know whats more entertaining, the prose style of the article (which I throughly enjoyed), or the snarky comments left by people getting wrapped around the axel over trivial B.S. having no impact to the weapons performance.

    • tim March 11, 2014, 4:45 am

      +1 Concur.

      Witty repartee wot?

      • J.jones March 11, 2014, 6:50 pm

        Snarky!!! Great word! I could not agree more! I wonder how many of this replyers are just want to be that have not shot much if anything above a Diasy BB gun?? Why you just sit back and learn something?

      • J.jones March 11, 2014, 7:03 pm

        Snarky!!! Great word! I could not agree more! I wonder how many of this replyers are just want to be that have not shot much if anything above a Diasy BB gun?? Why you just sit back and learn something?

    • Matt October 5, 2016, 8:41 pm

      I own a Colt m2012 with a Nightforce competition scope and Barret rings. Wow! What a shooter. It’s that simple – the test target that came with the purchase was one hole that could not have been larger than 1.25 the size of a single shot. Three shots in a single hole, so I paid the price to determine “what am I capable of shooting, what is the gun & ammo capable of shooting and what effect is my scope and otherwise. That, to me, is an important lesson that will come with a price.

      Lesson learned: Baseline of my capabilities is known with match grade factory ammo — I can have the bullets touching each other. That’s comforting to know and helps me to understand other rifles that I am shooting at the same time. If I can touch shots with this rifle and not others, they need better ammo, scope or are not capable. That narrows the equation for me..

      I love this rifle..

  • W.W. March 10, 2014, 1:06 pm

    LOT OF money,, $$ for a 308,, good for intermediate shooting ,,
    but not much for long range….
    darned if i know why “the Sniper Rifle”,, is a 308,,
    someone want to explain that????
    in long range shooting,, there is MUCH BETTER!!!
    WW.

  • Bob Shell March 10, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I too did a T & E on the Colt/Cooper but in 260. Like yours accuracy is super with most loads. MSRP on mine is $2795. and to be honest I would not pay that much for that rifle. It does have some nice features but a couple of things I don’t care for. I too have a targer that isn’t much larger then the bore. Will be published in a coupe of magazines in the furure.

    Bob Shell E-mail rel4350@aol.com
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  • DeadTiredDave March 10, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I have had the pleasure to shoot and examine several Cooper rifles. I don’t understand all the negative niggling commentary here — Cooper makes an excellent product and I’m surprised they put the Colt name on this rifle, even for a slice of the pie. Cooper doesn’t need the Colt name to sell its firearms. I can’t afford a three-grand rifle right now, but suggest those who think this is overpriced — don’t buy it! That’s an easy fix, huh.

  • Tim March 10, 2014, 11:22 am

    The “T” is a designation used by Manners Stocks for their tactical stock line (http://mannersstocks.com/tactical/#/). From the way it looks, the stock seems to be either a MCS-T6 or a combination of a T2 and a T6. Manners stocks are top quality and they offer a great line of hunting stocks as well.

  • JP March 10, 2014, 10:53 am

    It does look the part…but I think the real question is how does it stack up against the other, proven $3K guns out there, which there are more than a few? And certainly a ton of ’em for less.

    Just an observation: It looks like Colt is throwing their name on a weapon made by someone else just to become a player. So while Colt gets a cut of the action, it doesn’t gain anything in the way of knowledge about creating these types of weapons’ systems.

  • wfjames22 March 10, 2014, 10:44 am

    I think that you should use some higher rings.

  • Paul March 10, 2014, 10:34 am

    Do you know the distance that Cooper fires their test targets? If you guess 100 yards, I think you are going to be disappointed… very disappointed. Hint: they don’t have an outdoor range. Better give them a call and ask. Maybe you can still get your money back.

    • Jake April 19, 2014, 10:35 pm

      Why not call up and ask the guy that shoots them. He took a basically stock cooper rifle out and took 1st in the 1000 yard distance shoot… The guy is extremely gracious and friendly. Not sure how the Colt performs, but the Cooper rifles are a work of art to behold, and shoot.

  • Mitch Barkett March 10, 2014, 10:22 am

    No wood, no claw extractor, few calibers, no thanks but nice try.

  • Warbucks13477 March 10, 2014, 10:04 am

    Would be interesting to see the test results shot by a long time army sniper that tested the Colt/Cooper gun against an off the shelf Winchester model 70 and a Remington model 700 both with bull barrels in .308 cal and each using the best load for each and the same target grade or sniper scope, in other words using the same shooter,scopes etc. From my experience the difference would be insignificant. Makes me think of the hype when high fidelity first came out. People scampering out to buy very expensive equipment that when tested THEY could not hear the difference. While I appreciate beautifully made guns and have bought them, the gun you tested with a synthetic stock, timken trigger etc seems overpriced. Prove me wrong!

    Tom

  • Tom Hayes March 10, 2014, 9:36 am

    What an awesome rifle. Those test targets area at 50yds?

    • Administrator March 10, 2014, 10:25 am

      No these are 100 yard targets.

      • Kevin Gordon April 17, 2015, 9:06 pm

        Wrong dude , All Cooper rifles are shot at 50 yards in a 3 lane shooting tunnel. Been there and done that.

  • brent dye March 10, 2014, 9:06 am

    I would like to know what model of nightforce has a power range of 4-24?

    • Administrator March 10, 2014, 10:26 am

      Don’t have the gun/scope here. Might not be right on the 1st power. It is 24x max.

      • wfjames22 March 10, 2014, 11:23 am

        Clearly shown in one of your pictures, it’s a 5-25×56 ATACR from Nightforce. It is printed on the side of the parallax adjustment knob, if you know what that is.

        • Administrator March 10, 2014, 11:49 am

          Yay thanks.

  • Mike March 10, 2014, 8:59 am

    Under the magazine photo you state that it is an “Accuracy Arms”‘ box magazine. I believe, from the photo, it is an Accuracy International magazine. Can you confirm this?

    • Administrator March 10, 2014, 10:26 am

      Close enough for government work.

    • Philip March 10, 2014, 11:03 am

      No, it is an Accurate-Mag magazine, which is why Accurate-Mag is stamped into the side of the magazine.

  • Don Ruffin March 10, 2014, 8:44 am

    Administrator-

    Decent review. Thanks for the pictures. Interesting that you did not take the time to find out what the “T” meant, for the model sent, when you decoded the rest. I know…”just call them.”

    • Mike March 10, 2014, 12:59 pm

      T stands for tan……

      • Administrator March 10, 2014, 3:20 pm

        oh sweet thanks

  • Chris March 10, 2014, 7:58 am

    Here ya go Steve….from the first paragraph.

    “These rifles aren’t cheap. Our test gun as you see it here retails for $3,195. “

  • Steve March 10, 2014, 5:48 am

    It would nice to know what the model 2012 cost at the time of the test.

    • CHARLIE March 10, 2014, 7:38 am

      $3,195.00 AS STATED IN THE 1ST PARAGRAPH

  • Chris Channells March 10, 2014, 5:18 am

    Dear Sir
    Could you possibly give me “Cooper Firearms” specification on the M2012 firing pin,
    I am concerned about misfires I am having. Is the face of the firing pin flat in its design?
    Or should the pin be rounded like all other rifles I have seen?
    Regards
    Chris Channells

    • Administrator March 10, 2014, 7:09 am

      Just call them.

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