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
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?

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