Colt has a long history of providing accurized AR-15-type rifles. The company’s Match Target was the first AR-15 I ever deployed as a designated marksman rifle (DMR). Mated to a Trijicon ACOG, it was as accurate as the platform could be at the time. Designed for the competition market, it had a crisp trigger, repeatable accuracy and complete reliability. Colt’s competition rifles have been used with great effect in CMP and other national matches for years, and the company continues that legacy with a number of match-quality AR-15 rifles in both .223 and .308 calibers.
Rifle competitions continue to grow in popularity each year. One of the fastest-growing segments of the industry, 3-Gun, is exploding. This popularity has sparked increased interest in precision rifle side matches, as well as sniper and precision rifle competitions. Populated primarily with bolt-action rifles, these matches require true precision accuracy, with the .308 Winchester as the primary caliber. Sub-0.5-MOA accuracy is the norm, with many rifles shooting into a quarter-inch. Winning in this arena requires a solid rifle and a committed and well-trained shooter. Most rifles used at this level come from custom gunsmiths or long-time precision rifle builders—until now. Colt has introduced a new bolt-action rifle, the M2012, based on the Cooper Firearms short action.
The M2012 starts with a short action from Cooper Firearms of Montana chambered in .308 Winchester. Cooper is well known for making fine rifles built to custom standards. The three-lug design makes for a short, 60-degree bolt lift and a fast-cycling action.
The M2012 is equipped with a spiral-fluted bolt using a side bolt release, tactical knob and external extractor. A 20-MOA top rail is solidly mounted to the action. The match chamber is designed to accept SAMMI-spec .308 and NATO-stamped 7.62x51mm ammunition. Timney’s Single Stage Adjustable trigger is installed as well as a Remington-style safety.
Mated to this action is a 22-inch, match-grade, fluted, stainless steel barrel. The tapered barrel measures 0.87 inches at the muzzle, making for a heavy target profile. Button-rifled with six grooves and a 1-in-10-inch twist rate, it is topped off with Colt’s custom muzzle brake. This brake is fitted to the barrel using a small shoulder, “timing” it nicely. It is a three-port design, and two small holes on top work to compensate for muzzle rise. Mounted with 5/8-24 threading, the brake can be removed for suppressor use.
A forged aluminum modular chassis holds the action and barrel in place. The stock is fixed and allows for length-of-pull adjustments using a large wheel. The cheek height is adjustable using an Allen wrench, and locks into place solidly. A knurled knob allows the cheekpiece to be removed for cleaning without affecting the adjustment. It can also be easily switched to the opposite side for left-handed shooters. The bottom of the stock features a small rail and quick-detach (QD) sling cups on either side.
A five-round, single-stack Accurate-Mag magazine is provided. (Ten-round magazines are available.) The rifle will also accept AICS-pattern box magazines. There is a large machined-aluminum magazine release at the bottom of the mag well. Magpul’s MOE pistol grip is installed, but any similar AR-15-pattern grip can be substituted. The triggerguard is large and relieved on either side, allowing for solid and precise trigger manipulations. A round, aluminum forend covers the barrel and offers various attachment points for rails or sling studs. A QD sling cup is also placed at the bottom of the chassis at the rear of the forend. Along the top of the forend is a continuous rail that mates nicely to the scope rail.
To complete the rifle for testing, I mounted a Leupold 3-18x44mm Mark 6 scope. Utilizing the Xtended Twilight and DiamondCoat 2 coatings, the scope can be used for longer periods of time with greater light transmission. A one-piece 34mm tube provides solid construction, holds the reticle in the first focal plane and provides 100 MOA of total adjustment. The Horus H-58 reticle provides tactical viability. An M5B2 auto-locking elevation turret allows for precision and simple operation in the field. A single turn gets you 10 mils (34 MOA) of elevation—plenty for all but the longest of ranges. There is a harder stop at each 5-mil increment to keep you on track in the dark. A flat and covered windage turret keeps things simple and out of the way, and it has 5-mil limits in either direction. A large power selector allows for magnification changes using gloves. The quick-adjust focus ring gets the reticle in focus and locks it into place. At a mere 12 inches in length, the Mark 6 fits on most precision rifles. Mounted in a set of U.S. Optics tactical rings, it fit the Colt perfectly. It was close to the bore line and allowed plenty of space for any accessory I may have needed.
I also used Gemtech’s Sandstorm suppressor for all of the accuracy testing. It is the company’s top-flight .30-caliber rifle suppressor. Built from titanium, it is trimmed to the limits of the design. Titanium dissipates heat faster, cuts weight and contributes to ease of operation. Weighing in at a mere 13.3 ounces, the Sandstorm is incredibly light. At 7.8 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter, it is also the shortest suppressor I have seen for this chambering. With 5/8-24 threading, it fits most common .30-caliber weapons. Rated to .300 Winchester Magnum, it will also work on smaller calibers.
For greater stability, I attached a Harris HBRMS bipod. For carry, I used a Vickers sling from Blue Force Gear with QD swivels. Accuracy testing was completed from a prone position using a bag, mostly because that is my comfort zone and where the best accuracy is possible for me.
Given that it’s meant to win matches, I tested the M2012 in a manner most often seen in sniper and precision rifle competitions. This included shooting from prone and unsupported positions, and from the bench. Competitions where this rifle will be used vary considerably. For those looking for a tactical rifle, most of the testing would cross over.
Cooper rifles have a rather specific accuracy guarantee. Beginning in 1998, the company guarantees 0.5 inches at 100 yards. Given that its action is mated to this rather substantial chassis, I expected similar or better accuracy. Colt supplies a test target with every rifle, and the one that came with my sample M2012 showed an impressive 0.23-inch, three-shot group at 100 yards using handloads. The M2012 certainly did not disappoint during my evaluation, delivering a 0.37-inch group using Silver State Armory’s 168-grain SMK ammunition. While Silver State’s ammunition is not listed as “match grade,” it has proven to be some of the most accurate factory ammunition I’ve tested, and this batch was no exception.
Moving out to 300 yards, the Colt M2012 continued to deliver excellent accuracy. This time Federal’s proven 175-grain Gold Medal Match took honors with a solid 0.65-inch group. Granted, it was a perfect day for groups—warm temperatures, zero wind and clear skies—but that is about as good as I can do with factory ammunition. This rifle is just plain accurate from prone, shooting everything at 300 yards into an inch or less, and under a half-inch at 100 yards. The stock is very ergonomic, making a solid fit easy. It’s also built rock solid. Weighing in at 13.1 pounds unloaded without the scope and magazine, the M2012 is no lightweight. Adding the scope, rings, bipod and loaded magazine made it weigh closer to 15 pounds.
While I used the Gemtech Sandstorm suppressor for most of the testing, the Colt muzzle brake worked really well. Sure, it was loud, but it reduced felt recoil and muzzle rise while contributing to the rifle’s accuracy. Removing it for suppressor use was simple, and re-installation was equally as fast. The barrel shoulder was flush, allowing the Gemtech to mate up perfectly. It stayed in place, never coming loose. Given the excellent barrel and solid platform, impact shift was minimal to non-existent. Half an inch or less was observed, but that could just as easily have been me. The Gemtech Sandstorm and Colt muzzle brake were virtually interchangeable as a practical matter, with the only tradeoff being sound.
Given that many competitions require unsupported shooting, I also ran the M2012 from kneeling as well as around obstacles and barricades. All that weight is a bit more noticeable from kneeling. The large aluminum block that attaches the forend and action provided a usable shelf for better balance. Removing the suppressor made the M2012 a bit more usable from these positions. The rifle’s accuracy was still excellent—I just had to make sure I was in a solid, supported kneeling position. The forend is smooth and allowed for use on top of barricades and other obstacles. There is a solid ledge where the forend mounts to the chassis, allowing for a solid push against hard barriers without interfering with the magazine. After trying a few shots from double kneeling, I would probably use this position were such a stage to present itself.
Carrying the rifle slung was not its sweet spot. While the rear QD swivel on the bottom works, the M2012 remains a bit close. Using the sling stud supplied on the side of the rail worked, but given a choice, I would add a rail so I could mount a sling point more forward. But, as always, slinging a 15-pound precision rifle is never really comfortable, and the M2012 was no exception. If you’re in a competition that requires you to carry everything with you, use a bag or an Eberlestock pack.
Bolt operation was smooth, with what I would term a “normal” bolt lift. All of the factory ammunition loaded easily, and I didn’t have to truly “grab” the bolt knob. The straight bolt handle and its 60-degree throw made for fast manipulations. Short of a straight-back bolt throw, this is about as fast as it gets. Over the course of the day, the action smoothed out nicely and worked perfectly. There were no failures to extract or eject, and spent brass nestled nicely in a pile just outside my control hand. Single-round feeding was also no issue. Feeding from the top was not possible given the center-feed design of the AICS-pattern magazine. Given the action’s similarities to those from Accuracy International, I tried a 10-round, double-stack AW magazine, but it did not lock into place. The 10-round Accurate-Mag versions themselves are pretty long. Unless a competition stage requires more ammo, the five-round magazine would remain my preference in this platform.
Ready To Run!
Colt’s M2012 is an excellent entry into the precision rifle market. With superb accuracy and solid ergonomics, it will do well in any competition field. Smooth and fast bolt operation, removable magazines and solid operation allow for reliable operation from any position. The heavy-contour barrel, while a bit unwieldy in a kneeling position, will keep the rifle consistent over long strings of fire and at longer ranges. Consistently accurate with factory match ammunition, the M2012 should suit those less inclined to handload.
All in all, the M2012 continues the Colt legacy of accurate competition rifles with flying colors. Retailing at $3,799, it is priced competitively. For those looking for a solid precision rifle, the Colt M2012 should definitely be on the short list.
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