December 23, 2013
You have to have both a long memory and have been at this for some time to remember the last time Colt offered a rifle that wasn't an AR-15. That was the Colt Sauer, a bolt-action hunting rifle, made for the company in Germany. A fine piece of engineering it was. The new Colt rifle is also a bolt action, but one that's entirely different from its Teutonic predecessor.
The new bolt gun is built on a Cooper Firearms receiver, and it does not lack for, well, anything. The receiver has a match stainless barrel screwed into it; it's custom fluted, with all the associated parts blueprinted. The barrel has a muzzle brake on the end of its 22 inches of stainless goodness, and the bolt is a three-lug design for short bolt lift, with a spring-loaded plunger ejector and Sako-style extractor.
The action is bolted into a solid aluminum chassis, which is machined from a forging, and fed through the bottom by means of a detachable box magazine. Given the precision of modern manufacturing methods and the hefty bolts holding the action into the receiver, you would be fooling yourself if you thought there was anything to be gained by fussing over the bedding. Leave it alone.
The receiver has a pistol grip socket that will accept an AR-15 pistol grip, and the rifle comes with a Magpul grip installed. The stock is another aluminum piece, a veritable I-beam for aiming, and there is an adjustable cheekpiece built into it.
At first I thought the stock design was too edgy for my taste, but after trying it on the bench and doing some dry-firing, I see the point of the various angles. They let you set up a rear bag, or grab the stock with your off hand, and do all the usual long-range aiming adjustments that precision shooting calls for. The stock also has a hefty buttplate that's adjustable for length of pull, and it will soak up any recoil the muzzle brake can't tame.
Interestingly, if you find the full-up package is just too long to fit into your case or you want to transport it in something that doesn't look like a surfboard carrier, the stock is bolted to the chassis, and with the right tools you could dismount the stock, assemble it once you reach your range and not lose your zero. Not that I'm recommending it, but you could.
The fore-end is an aluminum tube. Which is kind of like saying that a Porsche 911 is a rear-engined car. The fore-end is slotted for cooling and features a row of threaded holes along each side, places you can bolt on sections of rail. You can mount lights, lasers — pretty much anything that will fit on a Picatinny rail — once you have the rail where you want it. The nice thing about this design is that if you don't want or need rail sections, you have a sleek fore-end — and a lighter rifle overall.
On top, there is what appears to be a full-length rail as well. The rail is actually in two pieces: one section on the receiver, one section on the fore-end. But they are aligned, and each is solidly attached. With that much rail, you can mount the scope of your heart's desire and still have room left over for extra optics, such as an NVG or thermal viewer. Plus, the rail has 20 m.o.a. built in, so you can shoot to the distance you are capable of (and more) without running out of scope adjustments.
The Accurate-Mag magazine is held in place by a latch on the rear of the magazine well — a big, paddle-shaped latch, one you will not miss under stress. The magazines are single-point feed and hold five rounds, with 10-round magazines as an option.
To launch projectiles, the M2012 has a Timney trigger inside; it's single stage and adjustable.
I was able to get some trigger time with an early Colt test rifle at Gunsite about a year ago. Once I had the range and wind dope, I was able to ring the gong out to 800 yards with almost boring regularity. It was almost like plinking.
The receiver is from Cooper Firearms. It's bolted into a machined aluminum chassis that houses an excellent Timney single-stage trigger.
The stock has all the features a long-range rifle shooter needs — adjustable cheekpiece, adjustable buttplate — and also sports a Magpul AR pistol grip.
The M2012 feeds from a five-round Accurate-Mag magazine. Ten-rounders are available as an option. The rifle is currently chambered in either 6.5 Creedmoor or .308.
The fore-end shrouds a stainless, fluted barrel, and it has threaded attachment points for those who want to add accessory rail sections. A top rail provides lots of real estate for optics mounting.
The author's test rifle was chambered to 6.5 Creedmoor, a light-recoiling round that outperforms the .308 Win. once you get past 300 yards. And with this kind of accuracy, what more could you want?
That rifle was done in basic black, but the test rifle I received for this article differed from the norm in a few aspects. First, stock and fore-end were done in flat dark earth, with the receiver, rail, buttstock, pistol grip and some attachment hardware still in black. Attractive in a low-key, meant-for-business way.
And then there's the caliber. The rifle I shot at Gunsite, and the ones that have been at trade shows so far, have been chambered in .308 Win. Nice, accurate, but a bit on the boring side. I mean, I have a rack full of accurate .308 rifles, rifles I don't shoot much any more. So I was pleased to learn that the test rifle would be a 6.5 Creedmoor.
Developed by Hornady, the 6.5 Creedmoor is designed to fit into a .308-size action and provide brilliant downrange accuracy as well as retained energy. Based on the .30 TC case, the Creedmoor was originally developed as a competition round, but it wasn't long before tactical shooters and hunters recognized just what this new 6.5 caliber round has to offer.
For instance, a long-range .308, loaded with 175-grain match bullets, starts at 2,550 fps and arrives at the 1,000-yard mark with 1,225 fps and 580 ft.-lbs. of energy. On the other hand, a 6.5 Creedmoor with a 140-grain bullet leaves the muzzle at 2,800 fps and arrives at 1,000 yards with 1,460 fps of velocity and 665 ft.-lbs. of energy. So the 6.5 gives you more whomp on target but less kick at your shoulder. At any distance past 300 yards, the 6.5 delivers more energy than the .308.
And while there are plenty of accurate .308 bullets, there is not exactly a shortage of accurate and low-drag 6.5 bullets, either. My only problem was that my range is only 100 yards. The only long-range ranges within a non-crazy driving distance are not amenable to my setting up and doing accuracy testing at varying distances. Darn.
But a tack-driving rifle is fun to shoot, even "just" at 100 yards. When it came time to load the war wagon and head to the range, I was kind of wishing it had been chambered in .308 since there's not a wealth of 6.5 Creedmoor loads out there yet. Hornady sent me its 140-grain A-Max paper-punching bullet, a load meant for greatest accuracy and low wind-drift and range-drop values.
The second load came from ProGrade, and is loaded with Barnes 100-grain Tac-TX, part of its Tactical Grade line. The Tac-TX is an all-copper bullet with polymer nose cap, and it's meant for law enforcement use.
Because my test sample had previously been at RifleShooter headquarters for photography, the staff had already set it up with a scope and rings. And what a scope — a Leupold VX-6, 3-18x50. The only quibble I could muster, and a minor one at that, is that it came with a duplex reticle instead of a mil-dot one. But with the six-times zoom, side focus and illuminated reticle, it was hard to complain.
The first time I took the M2012 to the range, it was just to generate chronograph data. Well, I meant to do the full work-up, but it turns out I had been heinously abusing my espresso coffee stash, and I couldn't shoot a sub-m.o.a. group to save my life. I knew the effort was going to be a waste when I noticed I could see my heartbeat in the Leupold, even on sandbags, and the movements were not small.
So chrono it was, and that's where I discovered one of the joys of the 6.5 Creedmoor: low recoil. Combine a 140-grainer at 2,750 fps, with a rifle that starts out at 13 pounds bare and tips the scales at just over 15 pounds once you add scope, rings and a magazine full of ammo.
The stock shape acts to place the bore in line with your shoulder and thus decreases muzzle jump. The weight dampens recoil even more.
And then there is the muzzle brake. You can judge a brake by two things: How loud it is, and whether you can always see the target through the scope during recoil. I typically shoot pretty much everything with earplugs, as I find them comfortable and efficient. I fired one shot with the M2012, put it down on the table and went back to my car to dig out the earmuffs. I fired the rest of the time with plugs and muffs on. And even at 18X, I could see the 100-yard target through the scope during recoil.
I did have one interesting moment when starting the chrono work. Each time I lifted the rifle to my shoulder, I had this uneasy feeling that something wasn't right. It took a bit of pondering to realize that I was subconsciously trying to push off the thumb safety. My shooting hand was on an AR pistol grip, and my brain expected the safety to be under that thumb — not up on the receiver, to the right side of the cocking piece. Once I figured that out, everything went swimmingly.
The M2012 is not much of a joy to carry from truck to firing point, but then again, in the modern world of tactical and long-range shooting, a 13-pound rifle is not unusual. The trigger is without fault, as you'd expect from Timney. It was clean, crisp and light, but not so light you have to approach it hesitantly; it makes shooting groups a joy.
The muzzle brake, as I've said, is loud, but it makes for a soft-shooting rifle. If I were going to be using it in battle conditions where dust might be a problem, I would look into taming its lateral-jet effectiveness — in the interest of not shouting "Here I am!" to observers.
The Leupold was bright, clear, sharp and a joy to use.
And the accuracy? Well, after my first go-round and miserable performance, I actually did things right the next range trip. I cut radically my coffee intake, and spent some time relaxing before trying group-shooting. Before, I was struggling to get under an inch at 100 yards, and I knew that with the gun, ammo and optic combination I had it was all on me. With me mellowed out, I had to slap the trigger to shoot a group much bigger than half an inch. Yow.
There are plenty of benchrest shooters who would sneer at half-inch groups, but for me that is stellar shooting. Enough so that I'm actually afraid to ask Colt what the used-rifle price (if it wasn't used when I got it, it certainly is now) might be on this rifle. And if it wasn't a five-hour drive one way to the nearest 1,000-yard range, my checkbook would be shaking in terror.