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Old 06-20-2019, 02:36 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Default A Tale of Two Coopers: Dilemma with a Capital D

So, all I really wanted was a small-action M-38 in either .22 or .17 Hornet. And by small action, I mean one of the early, cute-as-a-bug’s-ear M-38s with the smaller (shorter) bolt and receiver. I already have, or have had, a number of the petite Sako L-46s, Kimber 84s, ULAs, and even a mystery rifle from Germany with a similarly sized action, but never the true, Hornet-sized M-38. When I contacted Cooper in January of this year, fully prepared to possibly pay full retail, I was told the company had just discontinued the M-38, serving to intensify the Jonesing.

As some may recall, I subsequently purchased a like-new M-38 in .22 CCM: tiny action, beautiful all-steel bottom metal, high-grade wood, fine checkering…who could ask for more, right? In the end, though, there seems to be good reason many of these earliest of the M-38s are still in “like new” condition. When I shared my acquisition experience here, I ended by posing the question: “So, is this, Dan Cooper's first centerfire creation, the rifle that all the I-want-to-reload-my-.22 crowd has dreamed of, or is it an un-debugged concept rifle that fails to live up to its potential? The answer for me was, unfortunately, the latter. Problems included iffy feeding from the magazine, inconsistent chamber specs, and the resulting non-matching specs of the dies and brass…but that’s another story. The .22 CCM went down the road, while the Jonesing for that petite little action remained.

This time, though, I wanted no part of the repeaters and sought a much more common single-shot M-38. By sheer good fortune, an inquiry here led me to a gentleman who possessed a surplus of new-in-box M-38 Coopers. Long story short, we went back and forth for several months, but I ended up purchasing two, planning to keep only one: An unfired (since leaving Cooper) Varmint Extreme and a similarly unfired Custom Classic, both chambered for the .17 Ackley Hornet. Though each has very desirable features, maddeningly, neither has all the features I consider ideal.

The Varmint Extreme has a near exhibition-grade (if there can be such an absolute standard in something as subjective as beauty) claro walnut stock, the smaller, early action, fine, wrap-around checkering on the wrist, inletted sling eyes, checkered bolt knob, Niedner-style skeleton grip cap, timed screws (including the sling eye and grip cap screws), steel trigger guard, matte blued finish barrel, and color cased receiver, cocking piece, trigger guard, and 30mm Talley rings, all later confirmed to be done by Turnbull…but it is a Varmint model with a heavy barrel, a wide, fluted fore stock, and a rubber butt pad.

I very strongly prefer sleek sporters, and all the “heavier” rifles I’ve ever acquired, irrespective of how nice, have never stayed in the herd for very long. Having said that, this gorgeous Cooper VE is surprisingly light, weighing only 7 lbs 9 oz without a scope, so lighter than many so-called sporters. Still, it handles like a boat anchor. I am also usually indifferent about cased colors on a bolt action receiver and initially dismissed it, but the colors just pop in the right light and exude class, so I now consider it a real plus.

On the other hand…

The Custom Classic is a sure-enough sleek sporter with near-exhibition grade English walnut stock, featuring honey-colored wood with profuse India ink black mineral streaking, wrap-around, fine ribbon and fleur de lis checkering, ebony fore-end tip, inletted sling eyes, timed screws all around, Niedner-style butt plate, Niedner-style skeleton grip cap, shadow-line cheek piece, steel trigger guard, fluted barrel, and high gloss polish…but, ARRRG!!...it has the more recent, slightly longer action. The premise and genesis of this whole mission was the earlier, smaller action!! It weighs only one pound less but handles like a wispy wand.

I will concede that the bolt operation of the Custom Classic feels markedly smoother than the Varmint Extreme, especially the cocking stroke, and the blade ejector is probably better than the earlier wire one. I’m guessing Cooper improved these and other aspects of the M-38 action over time; the classic learning curve. It also lacks the bolt knob checkering, and you would think who ever ordered it would have also requested a skeleton butt plate to match the grip cap. In a perfect world, I would also swap the barrel fluting for a checkered bolt knob, but it is what it is.

As indicated, neither has been fired since leaving the Cooper factory, in 2004 and 2010, respectively, both have original paperwork, one has its box, and both would be considered dream rifles by most shooters. I paid essentially the same for each, but, given the options, I’m guessing the Varmint Extreme, with its Turnbull color-cased treatment, would have retailed for more than the Custom Classic…in 2004. Conversely, the English walnut upgrade, Niedner butt plate, ebony tip, and the more elaborate full-coverage checkering of the Custom Classic could offset much of that difference. I dunno.

I purchased both because the prices were quite attractive, and I simply could not decide at the time. My wife is down with keeping both (so she says), but I just cannot justify owning both, as gorgeous as they may be, with all the other exceedingly fine rifles and, especially all the project rifles, lying around the house. Meaning, one will go down the road in its unfired condition, so no, “keep the one that shoots best,” option.

So, the question is: Which would you keep…and, more important, why? Part of the equation for me would be which would be easiest to sell and for more money; they are definitely two different birds that will appeal to different potential buyers. If the Varmint Extreme were a sporter with the same options, I would keep it without hesitation; in person, it is the more stunning of the two. If the Custom Classic used the shorter action, I would keep it. It has the classic custom features, including its English walnut stock; more of an acquired taste. I realize this is an embarrassment of riches, and most would envy my position, but it presents a bona fide dilemma for me, nonetheless.

What say ye?





More pics to follow
TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 06-24-2019 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 06-20-2019, 02:40 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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More pics:



Trying to capture the size difference:



More to follow
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Old 06-20-2019, 02:44 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Just a few more to follow
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Old 06-20-2019, 02:49 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Last Pics





Looking forward to your responses.

TBR

Last edited by Teddy Bear Rat; 06-20-2019 at 03:43 PM.
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Old 06-20-2019, 03:11 PM
Gary in Illinois Gary in Illinois is offline
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Default Cooper delima

No contest. I would keep the Custom Classic. But then, I am a sucker for a nice piece of English walnut. (You can always have the bolt knob checkered, you know.)

Agonizing, I know.
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Old 06-20-2019, 03:17 PM
Teddy Bear Rat Teddy Bear Rat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in Illinois View Post
No contest. I would keep the Custom Classic. But then, I am a sucker for a nice piece of English walnut. (You can always have the bolt knob checkered, you know.)

Agonizing, I know.
I believe this is exactly what most custom rifle enthusiasts would say, but when I handle these two rifles, up close, and personal, the Varmint Extreme is just stunning.

Thanks for responding.

TBR
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Old 06-20-2019, 04:52 PM
ray h ray h is offline
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I really like the case colored rec'r, very classic.
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Old 06-20-2019, 05:19 PM
Hog Patrol Hog Patrol is offline
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Beautiful wood on both. It's a tough call but I like the case hardened model.
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Old 06-20-2019, 06:43 PM
DittoHead DittoHead is offline
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I could not force myself to sell either one.
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Old 06-21-2019, 12:20 PM
craig55 craig55 is offline
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I know this doesn’t answer your question, but if you ended up with both rifles because you couldn’t decide on one. I think you will forever wonder if you sold the right one. Neither one is going to depreciate, unbelievable wood on a discontinued model. Pick the light weight one to shoot and stick the other one in the safe and forget about it. Maybe pull it out once in a while just to admire.
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