Review: Cooper Montana Varminter in .223 AI


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esheato
March 8, 2005, 07:39 AM
My long awaited Cooper rifle has arrived and I have been busy putting it through the wringer. Nearly 700 rounds later and I'm finally ready to write the review. :p

I had ordered the gun on April 2, 2004 and it was delivered on February 11, 2005. The original estimate was a December delivery, but a mistake in the production added a few months.

http://pic10.picturetrail.com/VOL348/919855/3159588/88302447.jpg

I ordered a Montana Varminter (http://www.cooperfirearms.com/mt_varminter.html) in .223 Ackley Improved. I requested upgraded wood, skeleton buttplate, and a checkered bolt handle on a left-handed M21 action. I really went all out on this one as I only intended it to be a bench/varmint gun.

I decided to put a Leupold 6.5-20x40mm Long Range scope with the varmint hunter reticle on top of it. Very, very, crisp picture and unbelieveable light gathering capabilities due to the 30mm maintube. The large scope looked a little odd when I first put it on, but I hardly notice anymore. A 50 grain BlitzKing at 3400 fps matches the reticle and makes hits out to 300 yards mundane. Things finally get interesting at 400-500 yards. Having never shot that far before, I was extremely impressed when I hit a soda can at 560 yards with my first shot.

http://pic10.picturetrail.com/VOL348/919855/3159588/88302444.jpg

Ballistics wise, I am running a 50 grain bullet at 3400 fps in the midrange loadings. Going to a lighter 40 grain bullet would allow 3800 fps although you would be hotrodding a little bit. Concern over barrel life is currently limiting me to 50 grain bullets. My current varminting load permits a point-blank range of 235 yards. At 350 yards I'm down 12 inches. A gain of approximately 7% case capacity is observed when utilizing the Ackley Improved version of the .223 Remington. Not to bad for a mild recoiling .22-caliber gun.

http://pic10.picturetrail.com/VOL348/919855/3159588/88308041.jpg

The gun is guaranteed to shoot 1/2" 3-shot groups at 100 yards. I regularly shoot 5-shot 1/2" or less using Sierra 50 grain BlitzKings and Hodgdon propellants. My best group so far is a .238". The trigger is a very crisp 2 lb. 14 oz. Next week, I am dropping it off with a smith to have him lighten it up. Hopefully he can bring it down to 1-1 1/2 lbs.

http://pic10.picturetrail.com/VOL348/919855/3159588/88302442.jpg

The true test of a varmint gun is to shoot some varmints. My brother has some access to a squirrel field and I drove to his house as soon as I had some time off work. From the back of the truck we engaged squirrels until we ran out of daylight. Distances ranged from 15 to 230 yards. One shot that I'm quite proud of is a head shot at 130 yards while standing. My brother on the other hand had to one-up me and get a head shot at 230 yards. Quite impressive! The damage to the squirrels was the highlight of the afternoon though. BlitzKings at high velocity do interesting things to small bodied critters.

http://pic10.picturetrail.com/VOL348/919855/3159588/88305682.jpg

http://pic10.picturetrail.com/VOL348/919855/3159588/88305685.jpg
Our head shot squirrels. :D

Overall, I'm very pleased with fit, finish and overall quality of the rifle. The worst part is waiting for the gun to be made. If given the choice, I would definitely order the rifle again.

Ed

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Soap
March 8, 2005, 08:37 AM
Coopers are beautiful and functional. I don't think you could ask for more out of a rifle. Great review!

atek3
March 8, 2005, 10:28 AM
Those squirrel pics are classic, fortunatly this isn't a PETA forum.
atek3

Cindog
March 8, 2005, 11:20 AM
That's certainly a beautiful rifle and looks to be well worth the wait. Excellent review also.

13.45
March 8, 2005, 11:29 AM
good review and shooting :)

lunde
March 8, 2005, 05:14 PM
Wow! Gorgeous rifle. Excellent writeup. I am glad that you enjoy the rifle. I certainly enjoy my Cooper Arms rifles, and plan to work up loads for my latest, an M21 MTV in .204 Ruger, this Spring. I have the same scope on two of my Coopers (M21 MTV .204 Ruger and M22 MTV .22-250), and agree that it performs well.

I suggest that you give the lighter bullets, such as the 40gr ones, a try. I find that Cooper Arms rifle tend to prefer lighter bullets. I doubt that barrel life will be shortened by doing so.

BTW, I replied to your email, but the "esheato@yahoo.com" address was rejected for some reason.

Smoke
March 8, 2005, 08:41 PM
I was extremely impressed when I hit a soda can at 560 yards with my first shot.

[Jealousy mode] I really don't like you [/Jealousy mode]

Nice gun. I've been wanting a Cooper for some time, you didn't help the itch any.

Smoke

esheato
March 8, 2005, 09:51 PM
Thanks for all the great comments. I almost feel bad shooting it all the time.

Ken, I'm sooo glad you twisted my arm and made me buy this gun. ;) I will pick up some 40 grain bullets to test. Out of curiousity, what OAL gets you the best accuracy? I get .500" touching the lands but groups tighten up towards .025" off the lands. By the way, my email is up and working, not sure why it didn't go through.

Smoke, life is way to short not to buy one. I'll pass you the name and number of the guy that brokered the deal for me if you want. Just like Ken did for me, I'll make this real easy for ya. :evil:
Ed

lunde
March 8, 2005, 11:55 PM
I am not sure about OAL, but the length from the rear of the case to the ogive of the bullet is 2.894 inches. I am getting consistent quarter-inch groups in my Cooper M21 MTV in .223 using Hornady 40gr V-Max bullets:

http://www.praxagora.com/lunde/photos/m21-223-group-10172003.jpg

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