Cooper Firearms was founded in 1990 by Dan Cooper and two other, former employees of Kimber of Oregon. Cooper left the company in 1995 and from then until 1998 the history of firearms produced under the trade name of “Cooper Arms” is vague. In 1998, Cooper and many of the original crew began production of the original designs under a new company called “Cooper Firearms of Montana, Inc.” All former “Cooper Arms” products bare the barrel stamp of “Cooper Firearms Inc.” Post 1998 firearms are marked “Cooper Firearms of Montana, Inc.” Regardless, all Cooper rifles are 100 percent made in the United States.
With Cooper back in charge, Cooper Firearms of Montana offers a variety of actions sized to a specific family of cartridges. My single-shot model .22 is engineered for cartridges with case heads measuring .473 inches like the .257 Roberts.
Cooper centerfire actions have a bolt with three front locking lugs somewhat similar to that used by Sako. The Cooper extractor resembles a Sako extractor and is machined from solid bar stock but unlike the Sako action, Cooper utilizes a plunger ejector on the Model 22, similar to what you will find on a Remington model 700. The safety is unique in design, positively silent and positioned behind the bolt handle, just to the right of the action.
The entire trigger assembly is a proprietary Cooper design and according to my Timney trigger pull scale broke consistently at 1.75 pounds out of the box. The action cocks on opening. When cocked there is a small indicator marked with a red dot that protrudes slightly from under the end of the bolt shroud. The bolt release is located on the left side of the action and is about an inch in length and easily operated.
If you order a Cooper you will wait between four and six months to get your rifle. They come stocked in varying levels of claro walnut or exhibition grade French walnut as desired by the customer. Stocks on all Cooper rifles are cut, shaped, sanded, filled, checkered and oiled by hand. The checkering on my Model 22 and on every Cooper I have inspected is as exquisite as you would expect from a shop offering other options like a skeleton or Niedner butt plates, inlayed sling swivels and even skeleton grip caps.
My Model 22 is the Classic model which comes standard with AA claro walnut. The stock is a traditional design without a cheek piece, and though Cooper advertises the weight at 6 ½ pounds, mine weighs in at an even 7 pounds. The rifle balances at one and one half inches in front of the front action screw. This bit of barrel-heaviness allows the rifle to seemingly hang on target when shooting off-hand.
The action is glass-bedded to the stock from just in front of the trigger, forward into the barrel channel about one inch. Wood to metal fit on the entire rifle is very good with no discernable gap between the machined aluminum trigger guard or the machined steel grip cap and the stock. A standard feature on all Coopers, the 24 inch barrel is free-floated and every Cooper is test fired for accuracy before it leaves Stevensville, Montana. All Cooper centerfire rifles are guaranteed to shoot ½-inch, three-shot groups with handloads.
This rifle has been used on red stag, antelope and a passel of varmints in North America and in New Zealand. Yes, it’s a single shot but shoots so well I never really worried too much about a fast second shot as long as I did my part. If you’re interested in an exquisite looking, completely reliable rifle that offers precision accuracy, give Copper a look.
For years Cooper has only offered centerfire rifles in the single-shot configuration but the new Model 52 offers the same level of precision craftsmanship and quality parts and engineering in a repeating, bolt action rifle.
The .257 Roberts
Many hunters are quick to give the .257 Roberts respect but few lay down the cash to purchase one. This of course is evident in the fact that for many years only one major manufacturer, Ruger, chambered the .257 Roberts in a factory rifle. Still, the .257 hangs on because of the balance of power and performance it offers. This is exactly why Kimber is finally offering the .257 Roberts in their Classic and Montana line for 2008.
Big game loads for the Roberts are readily available from Federal, Hornady, Remington, and Winchester and now from the Nosler Custom Shop. However, if you are looking for a dedicated varmint load, you will have to cook it up on your own. Sierra’s 90 gr. BTHP or Nosler’s 85 gr. Ballistic Tip are both excellent varmint bullets. Handloading the .257 Roberts is a straight forward affair. I generally prefer ball powders because they meter so well and Ramshot’s Big Game seems suited to the cartridge. That said, IMR 4350 has always given good results but some maximum loads may require compression.
Accuracy Results: Cooper Model 22, .257 Roberts
Bullet Weight Velocity Accuracy
Nosler Ballistic Tip 85 grains 3200 fps .65 inches
Sierra BTHP 90 grain 3213 fps .58 inches
Barnes Triple Shock 100 grain 3181 fps .85 inches
Nosler AccuBond 110 grains 2988 fps .98 inches
Berger VLD 115 grains 2860 fps .51 inches
Hornady SST 117 grains 2920 fps .78 inches
Accuracy results depict the average of three, three shot groups fired from a Caldwell Rock front rest and rear bag. Velocity was measured 20 feet from the muzzle with a Shooting Chrony and is the average of three shots. All accuracy testing completed with a 6X Leupold scope with a heavy duplex reticle. Temperature during testing varied from 58 to 80 degrees F.
Cooper Firearms of Montana; 406-777-0673; www.cooperfirearms.com