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I did it! I bought a Cooper...

I’ve had some really nice guns, some that were not so nice and some that couldn’t have been better-shooting, more accurate guns. But, for the past year, I have been looking at one rifle in particular, a Cooper. I have seen them on different internet sites, in magazines and stores, but never have seen one that I could handle or shoot – until now.

That’s right, I did it! A couple of months ago, I broke down and laid out the money for a Cooper. I had been to their website and drooled over the beautiful wood these guns come with. I visited many forums and read what other shooters said about them, and I couldn’t stand it any longer.

I was browsing the internet searching for a Cooper when one popped up that I just had to have. It was the correct caliber (.25-06) with a piece of wood that was to die for, and you guessed it, I bought it.

The caliber was what I wanted, as I primarily hunt Florida and Georgia, and this caliber would be powerful enough to put down any quarry I would hunt.

Then came the hard part of purchasing a new gun: the wait for it to get here. I knew I had about a week before I could actually have it in my hands, so I went to work on some extras for this fine rifle. My next step was to get a piece of glass for my new toy. I have some BSAs, Barskas, old Redfields and several more, but for this rifle I wanted a top-of-the-line scope that would allow me to see what I had been missing in low light situations. You know what I mean, those few minutes after safe light when it’s still too dark to get a clear picture of your target.

I did a lot of research, and after many hours I decided on a Leupold, VX-3L 4.5-14X56mm Long Range with Illuminated Reticle. I chose this scope because of its enhanced twilight feature. This scope is designed to allow you to see in very low light conditions. Another feature I really like is the side-mounted focus adjustment knob. I have found that, with a little practice, you can use this adjustment to determine the range of your target, thus eliminating any guesswork as to the distance or the need for a range finder.

I feel this scope’s advanced light-gathering properties will give me the edge I was looking for. Even though this scope has a 56 mm reticle, the revolutionary design allows you to mount it to the rifle using low scope rings. The reticle is designed to fit around the barrel, yet give you a full view of your target.

I have always liked Mil-Dot reticle scopes, and this scope does not come with a Mil-Dot, but with Leupold’s Boone and Crockett reticle, I figured it would work just fine. It would allow me to sight the crosshair in at 100 yards then use the first mark below the crosshair at 200 yards and the third mark at 300 yards and the fourth and fifth marks at 400 and 500 yards. This is just what I wanted, and it was on the way!

The scope arrived a few days before the rifle, and the first thing I did was take it outside, along with a couple more high-dollar scopes, just before dark. I wanted to see if this scope was all Leupold said it would be before I attached it to my new rifle. I set up a target as far away as I could at my house and a table and chair. I started out with a scope mounted to another rifle and looked at the target, then the second scope and then the Leupold.

I could not believe the difference! The view of the target was much clearer and brighter than it was with the other two scopes, even in low-light conditions. It works! The Leupold folks have got it together with this one. I am going to be able to see so much more in low-light conditions than I ever thought I could.

I had already been in touch with Cooper to talk about the load for this rifle, even though each Cooper comes with a target with a partial load specified. Each target comes with the bullet and powder identified, but not some of the other factors, like the amount of powder and the bullet’s setback from the lands. The Cooper people were more than happy to help me. I can be a pain the a _ _ to deal with sometimes, but no matter how many times I called or emailed them, I was always welcomed with the same pleasant, helpful response.

With the help of the Cooper folks, I managed to hand load several bullets, using a couple different powders and bullets so I would be ready when my new rifle arrived.

The night it finally did I mounted the Leupold scope and fondled the rifle for a long time. I showed it to my wife when she got home, and even she thought it was beautiful.

The next morning I was up before dawn, getting all of my shooting stuff loaded up and was at the range long before anyone else. I set up my targets and shooting rest to await safe shooting time. I had my hand loads all set out, along with my note pad and a fresh pen.

I shot it a couple of times to fine-tune the sight-in process and then went to the 100-yard target. By then, a few other shooters had shown up, and they were all “oohing” and “aahing” about my new Cooper.

I sent a few rounds downrange, then wrote in my note pad where the bullets hit. Then a few more downrange shots and more notes. Before long, I had shot about 50 rounds, all at different specs, and made careful notes on each set.

Then it was time to walk down and get my target to see just what this Cooper had done.

After retrieving my target, I laid it on the bench. With notes in hand, I wrote on each little target the formula for the bullet that had made the holes.

I spent several days at the range testing several hand loads and factory loads and with each day my admiration for this fine rifle increased several fold.

This rifle not only looks good but is also a shooter. I had a few loads that were not acceptable to use for hunting, but all of the rest were very accurate with several posting ONE HOLE groups.

As I sat over this rifle, sending many bullets downrange, I could see why Cooper has such a great reputation. The rifle performed flawlessly, the bolt was smooth and had a positive lock-up. It was comfortable to shoot and is a fine, quality rifle.

While hand loading bullets for this rifle, I adjusted the powder amounts and the bullet setback in small increments to fine-tweak the loads. Check out the chart (online at www.woodsnwater.net) to see how much a small adjustment in these factors affected the accuracy.

The first two rows on the chart (IMR4350, 44.96 grains of powder) show the first load was seated to 2.484” and the second to 2.477”. The first load shot 0.70” groups and the second 1.22” groups.

The second and third rows on the chart (IMR 4350, 44.96 and 44.60 grains of powder) show both loads were set to the same OAL, but one had groups at 1.22” and the other at 0.16”.

See how just a little adjustment in the amount of powder or bullet seating makes a major difference in group size?

These factors are not unique to this rifle. All of the many rifles that I have worked on all will perform differently with different load specs. When hand loading, you are NOT trying to see how fast you can send a bullet downrange, but trying to find the most stable speed to send the bullet downrange.

Keep in mind it is more important to have a very accurate load than one that is moving so fast that you lose accuracy.

Bottom Line: If all Cooper’s perform as this one did, you cannot go wrong with a Cooper. Most of the rifles I write about are sold after the article is complete. This will be one that I keep.

Shoot straight, shoot safe, and remember: If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings.


Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”


Notes: All groups were the average of three five shot groups fired from 100 yards from a Caldwell Lead Sled. Outside temperature ranged from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Wind was light to 12 mph. Rifle was cleaned after each group and the barrel was allowed to cool. All of the hand loads were run through a Hornady Concentric Gauge. Only a few needed to be adjusted and this was also done using the Hornady Concentric Gauge. Neither, the author or this publication, accept any responsibility for misprints in this load data. All hand loading should be performed by experienced persons and with extreme caution. The loads listed were developed for this rifle and may not perform in any other rifle of this caliber.