Thompson/Center Contender

Last updated
Thompson/Center Contender
TC-Contender.JPG
Thompson/Center Contender pistol
Type Break-action
Place of origin United States
Production history
Designed1967
ManufacturerThompson/Center
Specifications
Caliber Various
Action Single-action
Feed systemSingle-shot
SightsVarious

The Thompson/Center Contender is a break-action single-shot pistol or rifle that was introduced in 1967 by Thompson/Center Arms. It can be chambered in cartridges from .22 Long Rifle to .45-70 Government.

Single-shot

Single-shot firearms are firearms that hold only a single round of ammunition, and must be reloaded after each shot. The history of firearms began with single-shot designs, and many centuries passed before multi-shot repeater designs became commonplace. Single-shot designs are less complex than revolvers or magazine-fed firearms, and many single-shot designs are still produced by many manufacturers, in both cartridge- and non-cartridge varieties, from zip guns to the highest-quality shooting-match weapons.

Pistol Type of handgun where the firing chamber is integral to the barrel

A pistol is a type of handgun. The pistol originates in the 16th century, when early handguns were produced in Europe. The English word was introduced in ca. 1570 from the Middle French pistolet. The most common types of pistol today are the single shot and semi-automatic. Automatic pistols are less common due to laws and regulations.

Rifle Common long range firearm

A rifle is a portable, long-barrelled firearm designed for accurate long-range shooting, to be held with both hands and braced against the shoulder for stability during firing, and with a barrel that has a helical pattern of grooves ("rifling") cut into the bore wall. The term was originally rifled gun, with the word "rifle" referring to the machining process of creating groovings with cutting tools, and is now used for any long handheld device designed for well-aimed discharge activated by a trigger, such as the personnel halting and stimulation response rifle. Rifles are used extensively in warfare, law enforcement, hunting and shooting sports.

Contents

History

Warren Center, working in his basement shop in the 1960s, developed a unique, break-action, single-shot pistol. In 1965, Center joined the K.W. Thompson Tool Company and they introduced this design as the Thompson-Center Contender in 1967. Although they cost more than some hunting revolvers, the flexibility of being able to shoot multiple calibers by simply changing the barrel and sights and its higher accuracy made it popular with handgun hunters. [1] As K.W. Thompson Tool began marketing Center's Contender pistol, the company name was changed to Thompson/Center Arms Company. [2]

Originally the chamberings were on the low end of the recoil spectrum such as .22 LR, .22 WMR, .22 Hornet, .38 Special, and .22 Remington Jet, but as Magnum calibers took off in the 1970s, the Contender quickly became very popular with shooting enthusiasts. [2]

.22 Long Rifle ammunition

The .22 Long Rifle or simply .22 LR is a long-established variety of .22 caliber rimfire ammunition, and in terms of units sold is still by far the most common ammunition in the world today. It is used in a wide range of rifles, pistols, revolvers, smoothbore shotguns, and even submachine guns.

.22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire rimfire cartridge

The .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, also called .22 WMR, .22 Magnum, .22 WMRF, .22 MRF, or .22 Mag, is a rimfire cartridge. Originally loaded with a bullet weight of 40 grains (2.6 g) delivering velocities in the 2,000 feet per second (610 m/s) range from a rifle barrel, .22 WMR is now loaded with bullet weights ranging from 50 grains (3.2 g) at 1,530 feet per second (470 m/s) to 30 grains (1.9 g) at 2,200 feet per second (670 m/s). Compared to the faster but lighter .17 HMR, the .22 WMR impacts targets with higher kinetic energy within its effective range, albeit with a less flat-shooting bullet arc.

.22 Hornet centerfire rifle cartridge

The .22 Hornet or 5.6×35mmR is a varmint, small-game, predator, and competition centerfire rifle cartridge commercially introduced in 1930. It is considerably more powerful than the .22 WMR and the .17 HMR, achieving higher velocity with a bullet twice the weight of the .17 HMR bullet. The Hornet also differs very significantly from these in that it is not a rimfire but a centerfire cartridge. This makes it handloadable and reloadable, and thus much more versatile. It was the smallest commercially available .22 caliber centerfire cartridge until the introduction of the FN 5.7×28mm.

Design

The most unusual feature of the Contender is how the barrel is attached to the frame. By removing the fore-end, a large hinge pin is exposed; by pushing this hinge pin out, the barrel can be removed. Since the sights and extractor remain attached to the barrel in the Contender design, the frame itself contains no cartridge-specific features. A barrel of another caliber or length can be installed and pinned in place, the fore-end replaced, and the pistol is ready to shoot with a different barrel and pre-aligned sights. This allowed easy changes of calibers, sights, and barrel lengths, with only a flat screwdriver being required for this change. [2]

The Contender frame has two firing pins, and a selector on the exposed hammer, to allow the shooter to choose between rimfire or centerfire firing pins, or to select a safety position from which neither firing pin can strike a primer. The initial baseline design of the Contender had no central safe position on the hammer, having only centerfire and rimfire firing pin positions, each being selectable through using a screwdriver.

Rimfire ammunition type of firearm cartridge where the firing pin crushes the rim of the cartridge to fire it

Rimfire ammunition refers to a type of metallic firearm cartridges. It is called rimfire because the firing pin of a gun strikes and crushes the base's rim to ignite the primer. Invented in 1845, by Louis-Nicolas Flobert, the first rimfire metallic cartridge was the .22 BB Cap cartridge, which consisted of a percussion cap with a bullet attached to the top. While many other different cartridge priming methods have been tried since the 19th century, only rimfire technology and centerfire technology survive today. The rimfire .22 Long Rifle cartridge, introduced in 1887, is by far the most common ammunition in the world today in terms of units sold.

Three variants of the original Contender design were later developed, distinguished easily by the hammer design. The first variant has a push button selector on the hammer for choosing rimfire vs. centerfire, the second variant has a left-center-right toggle switch for selecting center fire-safe-rimfire firing pins, and the third variant has a horizontal bolt selection for choosing center fire-safe-rimfire firing pin positions. All three of these Contender variants have a cougar etched on the sides of the receiver, thereby easily distinguishing them from the later G2 Contender which has a smooth-sided receiver without an etched cougar. Some of the very earliest Contenders, those requiring a screwdriver to switch the firing pin between rimfire and centerfire, had smooth sides, without the cougar etched on the sides. [3]

The original Contender designs have an adjustable trigger, allowing the shooter to change both take-up and overtravel, permitting user selection of a range of trigger pulls ranging from a fairly heavy trigger pull suitable for carrying the pistol while hunting to a "hair trigger" suitable for long range target shooting (see accurize). [4]

Unlike the later G2 Contender, the original Contender may be safely dry-fired (provided the hammer is not drawn back from the second notch) to allow a shooter to become familiar with the trigger pull. The break-action only has to be cycled, while leaving the hammer in the second notch position, to practice dry-firing. G2's with switchable firing pins (centerfire or rimfire) can be safely dry-fired with the hammer only in the safety (center) position. [5]

Barrels

Barrels have been made in lengths of 6, 8 3/4, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 21 inches (530 mm). Heavier recoiling cartridge barrels have been made with integral muzzle brakes. Barrels for the original Contender may be used on the later-released G2 Contender and G2 barrels may be used on original Contender frames with a serial number greater than 195000. [5]

The earliest barrels, from early 1967 to late 1967, were all octagonal with a flat bottom lug, and were available in only 10 and 8 3/4 inch lengths. The next group of barrels, from late 1967 to 1972, were available in 6, 8 3/4, and 10 inch lengths. Later, round barrels were added in a wider variety of lengths, including 10", 12", and 14". Likewise, round barrels in heavier (bull) barrel configurations, known as Super 14 pistol and Super 16 pistol barrels, respectively, were added. Carbine barrels in 16 and 21 inches were added for the Contenders. [6]

Sights on all the pistol barrels have varied, ranging from low sights, only, in the earlier years to a choice of either low or high sights, as well as no sights, for those pistol barrels intended for use with a scope. Various barrels have sometimes included ejectors as well as extractors, or extractors, only, as well as containing either a flat bottom lug, a stepped bottom lug, or split bottom lugs. Barrels have been made available in either blued or stainless configurations, to match the finish available on Contender receivers. [7]

Unlike most other firearm actions, the break-action design does not require the barrels to be specially fitted to an individual action. Any barrel, with the exception of a Herrett barrel, that is made for a Contender will fit onto any frame, allowing the shooter to purchase additional barrels in different calibers for a fraction of the cost of a complete firearm. Since the sights are mounted on the barrel, they remain sighted-in and zeroed between barrel changes. [8]

Stocks

Pistol grips, butt stocks and fore-ends have been made available in stained walnut, or in recoil reducing composite materials. Different pistol fore-ends are required for the octagonal versus the round versus the bull barrels. The fore-ends have had an assortment of either one or two screw attachment points, used for attaching the fore-ends to the barrel with its matching one or two attachment points. Universally, the fore-ends, in addition to attaching to the barrel, cover the single hinge pin that connects the barrel to the receiver.

The wood stocks and forend are made specifically for Thompson Center by a sawmill in Kansas. [2]

Calibers

Calibers available for the Contender were initially limited, stopping just short of the .308 Winchester-class rifle cartridges. However, almost any cartridge from .22 Long Rifle through .30-30 Winchester is acceptable, as long as a peak pressure of 48,000 CUP is not exceeded. This flexibility prompted a boom in the development of wildcat cartridges suitable for the Contender, such as the 7-30 Waters and .357 Herrett and the various TCU cartridges, most of which were commonly based on either the widely available .30-30 Winchester or .223 Remington cases. The largest factory caliber offered for the Contender was the .45-70, which, although a much larger case than the .308, is still feasible because of the relatively low cartridge pressures of the original black-powder round relative to the limits of the bolt face of the Contender receiver. Custom gunmakers have added to the selection, such as the J. D. Jones line of JDJ cartridges based on the .225 Winchester and .444 Marlin. Other barrel makers pushed beyond the limits the factory set, and chambered Contender barrels in lighter .308-class cartridges like the .243 Winchester. The Contender can fire .410 bore shotgun shells, either through the .45 Colt/.410 barrel or through a special 21-inch (530 mm) smoothbore shotgun barrel. A ported, rifled, .44 Magnum barrel was made available for use with shotshell cartridges in a removable-choke .44 Magnum barrel, with the choke being used to unspin the shot from the barrel rifling, or, by removing the choke, for use with standard .44 Magnum cartridges. The degree of flexibility provided by the Contender design is unique for experimenting with new cartridges, handloads, barrel lengths, and shotshells. [2]

G2

The original Contender is now known as the generation one (G1) Contender and was replaced by the G2 Contender in 1998. The new design is dimensionally the same as the original Contender, but uses an Encore-style trigger group. Due to the changes in the trigger mechanism, and to differences in the angle of the grip relative to the boreline of the gun, the buttstocks and pistol grips are different between the G1 and G2 Contenders and will not interchange. The G2 uses essentially the same barrels and fore-ends as the original Contender and barrels will interchange, with the only two exceptions being the G2 muzzleloading barrels, which will only fit the G2 frame, and the Herrett barrels/fore-ends, which are specific for use only on a G1 frame. [9]

Notable appearances in fiction

In both the light novel and the anime, Fate/Zero protagonist Kiritsugu Emiya uses a Contender as his weapon of choice. In the anime, the Contender is chambered in .223 Remington, which can be identified from the rear sights of the gun. In the light novel, it is specifically noted that the Contender is a modified variant with the option for barrel-changing and is chambered in .30-06.

The Thompson Arms Contender is also used in the John Woo movies Hard Boiled and Hard Target, with the characters Mad Dog and Emil Fouchon wielding them respectively.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Derringer Small pistol that is neither a semiautmatic or revolver.

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Colt Single Action Army Revolver

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.22 Short firearm ammunition type

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.410 bore shotgun shell

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Thompson/Center Arms is an American firearms company based in Springfield, Massachusetts. The company is best known for its line of interchangeable-barrel, single-shot pistols and rifles. Thompson/Center also manufactures muzzle-loading rifles and is credited with creating the resurgence of their use in the 1970s.

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Caliber conversion sleeve

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References

  1. Van Zwoll, Wayne (2006). Hunter's Guide to Long-Range Shooting. Stackpole Books. p. 332.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Ayoob, Massad (29 May 2012). "Thompson Center Single Shots". Massad Ayoob's Greatest Handguns of the World. F+W Media. pp. 241–266. ISBN   978-1-4402-2877-3.
  3. Stephens, Charles (1 July 1996). The Thompson/Center Contender Pistol: How to Tune, Time, Load, and Shoot for Accuracy. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press. pp. 14–18. ISBN   978-0-87364-885-1.
  4. Rees, Clair (2003). The Ultimate Guide to Handgun Hunting: Tips and Tactics for Hunting Small and Big Game. Globe Pequot Press. p. 70. ISBN   978-1-58574-820-4.
  5. 1 2 Ramage, Ken; Sigler, Derrek (19 November 2008). Guns Illustrated 2009. Iola, Wisconsin: F+W Media, Inc. pp. 178–179. ISBN   0-89689-673-0.
  6. Taffin, John (13 November 2006). The Gun Digest Book of the .44. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 221. ISBN   0-89689-416-9.
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  8. Sweeney, Patrick (28 February 2011). Gunsmithing: Shotguns: Shotguns. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 463. ISBN   1-4402-2448-X.
  9. Potts, Bruce (1 October 2008). "Thompson Center G2 Contender Rifle Review". Shooting Times. 2008 (10).