While at the SHOT show, I blogged about the technological bolt-action marvels from German marques such as Mauser, J.P. Sauer, Merkel, and Blaser. While restrictive European gun laws have pushed the Germans to focus on interchangeable barrels, caliber conversions and platform versatility, high-end American gun makers remain dedicated to old school designs focused on accuracy, workmanship, and value. So if you are looking for something that is truly “new” when it comes to bolt action hunting rifles, you probably aren’t going to find much from the domestic manufacturers. But companies such as Cooper Firearms of Montana, Inc. will provide you with dead-nuts accurate rifles with drop-dead gorgeous looks . . .
Founded in 1990, Cooper Firearms of Montana, Inc is a relatively new player in the domestic rifle market. The company was founded by a small group of employees from Kimber of Oregon, including Dan Cooper, who decided to part ways with their former employer and open their own shop. Together, Cooper’s team of wunderkinds had over 50 years of combined experience, so it didn’t take long for Cooper to establish a reputation for making some of the finest shooting bolt-actions adorned in high-grade wood in the U.S. Despite keeping the namesake, Dan Cooper is no longer involved in the business at all, nor has he been for quite a few years.
One of the things that I really appreciate about Cooper firearms is that their actions feature a bolt handle that raises up only 60 degrees (instead of the typical 90-degree throws on Remington Model 700s, Mauser actions such as the Winchester Model 70, and Savage rifles). Some folks argue that 60-degree throws are harder to use because the rifle must be cocked over a shorter throw distance, but I’ve never found that to be the case on high quality rifles.
Another attribute of a Cooper rifle is extreme accuracy. Each Cooper comes with a 1/2 MOA accuracy guarantee and a test target to prove it. In my experience, Cooper rifles will often far exceed this standard. Admittedly, most of my experience is with the smaller varmint Cooper rifles, such as the Model 21 and the Model 57-M (rimfire), which typically provide “one ragged hole” accuracy. I look forward to one day owning a Cooper Model 56 in one of the larger calibers such as .300 Win Mag. In the meantime, I’ll have to be content to dream about them. Here’s a little Cooper eye candy for the armed intelligentsia (from the 2014 SHOT show):