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GUNS Magazine March 2010 - Page 24
RIFLEMAN • DAVE ANDERSON • TwO SUPER VARMINTERS It’s time to think about pest season. f winter comes, can prairie dog season be far behind? It’s not I too early to start getting ready. New rifles and scopes need to be prepared, old favorites checked over, ammunition loaded. If there are better out-of-the-box varmint rifles than those from Cooper Firearms I haven’t seen them. It may seem silly to call a rifle priced well into four figures a “best buy,” but for the quality delivered, Cooper varminters are indeed an exceptional value. Cooper Arms, located in Stevensville, Montana, was founded in 1990 by Dan Cooper, who had previously worked with Kimber for a time. Controversy arose around the 2008 presidential election when Cooper (the man) donated to the Obama campaign. Considering the candidate’s history of opposing gun rights, shooter reaction was swift and strong. Shortly thereafter Dan Cooper resigned as president/ CEO, subsequently sold all his financial interests in the company, and no longer has any relationship with Cooper Firearms. Happily, we can once again focus on the considerable merits of the rifles. Cooper rifles use a 3-lug bolt action made in different lengths to fit different cartridge classes. The M21 shown here fits the .223 Rem. and similar size cartridges. The M22 is for slightly longer cartridges, from .22-250 Rem through .308 Win. The M38 is for the .221 Fireball and similar cartridges. These are all single-shot actions. Since there is no magazine cut, the action is more rigid. With no magazine constraints on cartridge overall length, handloaders can easily adjust seating depth to provide the best accuracy. Cooper Firearms also has two repeating actions. The 57M is for rimfire cartridges (e.g. .22 LR, .22 WMRF, .17 HMR). The newest action is the M52, for .30-06 length cartridges. The M52 rifles are magazine-fed and are very classy-looking hunting rifles indeed. The rifle shown here is called the “Phoenix.” It is built on the M21 action. The stainless-steel barrel is chambered TheRemington700SPSmodelhasthetimeprovenRemington700actionandbarrel, mattefinished,inasyntheticstock.This short-actionmodelisin.223Rem.Withits moderateweight(7-1/4poundsforbasic rifle)itmakesafineall-aroundrifleforhunts requiringalotofwalking,orforshooting fromabench.Thescopeisthenew3-9X RedfieldnowmanufacturedbyLeupold. TheCooperPhoenixmodel(above)featuresaKevlar-reinforcedsyntheticstock.Slotsinforearm helpcoolthe24"stainlesssteelbarrel,featuringamediumcontour.Qualityofmaterialsand workmanshipontheseriflesisoutstanding.Customloadsbynoslerwiththe40-grainBallisticTip bulletgaveconsistentgroupsinthe1/2MOarange.ThescopeisaLeupoldVX-34.5-14x40Long Rangemodelwith30mmtubeandfocusingknobonleftside. in .204 Ruger with a 1:12" twist. Stock is a Kevlar-reinforced synthetic and incorporates an aluminum-bedding block. The basic rifle (without scope, bases, and rings) weighs 7-1/2 pounds. It is portable enough to carry on walking hunts, such as winter hikes when calling coyotes. Actually I prefer a repeating rifle for coyotes as quite often more than one will respond to a call. I used this rifle on a prairie dog shoot in northeast Wyoming. Trophy Ridge Outfitters provides prairie dog shooting, plus antelope and mule deer hunts in fall. I’ve been there for a couple of prairie dog shoots as well as a pronghorn hunt, always with excellent success. The ranch is located in beautiful country, just a few miles from the Devil’s Tower monument (used as a location in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind). I’ve also shot several other Cooper varmint rifles in .223 Rem., both wood and synthetic stocked models. Invariably quality of workmanship and materials has been outstanding, and accuracy spectacular. Cooper guarantees 1/2-MOA accuracy at 100 yards, and every rifle I’ve shot has met their standard. 24 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • MARCH 2010