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View Full Version : TC Contender status in CA?


Mike A
08-07-2010, 6:00 PM
Please excuse me if this is the wrong forum; I'd be happy to move it to a more appropriate one if needed.

I can't get a clear answer about the status of the Thompson Center Contender in CA (I assume that anything that applies to the Contender also applies to its "big brother" the). I'm NOT interested in a Contender handgun (have had them in different states; not my cuppa). My questions are these:

1) Can I "import" from an out-of-state FFL a Contender frame without a barrel if I comply with the paperwork and waiting period, or does any frame coming in require a (of course legal) rifle barrel to verify caliber?

2) Can I "import" a TC factory or a custom .410 barrel that is otherwise legal (shotgun length) without the frame? With the frame?

I've gotten all kinds of answers to these questions from FFL dealer's employees and gunsmiths. Anybody got any actual experience to share?

Is this something that I should get a written opinion from DOJ on? (I'm retired and have plenty of time to deal with them).

Thanks for any help you can give; I'd like to put together a three-barrel G2 Contender set (.357, .410, and .22) don't want to fly blind. So far I've got gibberish to go on.

dfletcher
08-07-2010, 6:48 PM
Please excuse me if this is the wrong forum; I'd be happy to move it to a more appropriate one if needed.

I can't get a clear answer about the status of the Thompson Center Contender in CA (I assume that anything that applies to the Contender also applies to its "big brother" the). I'm NOT interested in a Contender handgun (have had them in different states; not my cuppa). My questions are these:

1) Can I "import" from an out-of-state FFL a Contender frame without a barrel if I comply with the paperwork and waiting period, or does any frame coming in require a (of course legal) rifle barrel to verify caliber?

2) Can I "import" a TC factory or a custom .410 barrel that is otherwise legal (shotgun length) without the frame? With the frame?

I've gotten all kinds of answers to these questions from FFL dealer's employees and gunsmiths. Anybody got any actual experience to share?

Is this something that I should get a written opinion from DOJ on? (I'm retired and have plenty of time to deal with them).

Thanks for any help you can give; I'd like to put together a three-barrel G2 Contender set (.357, .410, and .22) don't want to fly blind. So far I've got gibberish to go on.

I have 4 frames (Encore & Contender, one each for rifle & one for handgun) and about 30 barrels. A few months ago I bought an Encore handgun frame.

You can buy any handgun or rifle barrel you want except the "short barreled shotgun" 410/45 LC handgun barrel. Midway, Natchez, T/C and my favorite, Match Grade Machine, will mail to CA with no problem.

You can import & buy a T/C (Encore or Contender) rifle frame with no barrel. It comes with a stock and no barrel. You can import a T/C (Encore or Contender) handgun frame with no barrel but you can not not buy a T/C (Encore or Contender) handgun frame without a barrel. There is no requirement that a barrel be attached when the handgun frame is imported, as in when you buy it online & have it sent to the FFL, but there must be a handgun barrel attached when you do the DROS & buy. If a handgun barrel is already in your possession, I know some FFLs will just have you bring in the barrel and use that as "the barrel" rather than making you buy one. This is not an issue in CA with a rifle frame.

Since the T/C handguns were not allowed into CA for a while and an exemption later made - and when the exemption 1st kicked in CA FFLs skipped the "must buy a barrel" for a while when selling a handgun frame, there is some confusion. The rifle approach in CA is pretty straightforward - buy a frame with a stock & you're fine, you don't need a barrel.

ke6guj
08-07-2010, 7:21 PM
Please excuse me if this is the wrong forum; I'd be happy to move it to a more appropriate one if needed.

I can't get a clear answer about the status of the Thompson Center Contender in CA (I assume that anything that applies to the Contender also applies to its "big brother" the). I'm NOT interested in a Contender handgun (have had them in different states; not my cuppa). My questions are these:

1) Can I "import" from an out-of-state FFL a Contender frame without a barrel if I comply with the paperwork and waiting period, or does any frame coming in require a (of course legal) rifle barrel to verify caliber? no, you may not import a bare frame, it must be a complete single-shot pistol with a dimensionally-compliant barrel to fall under the roster exemption. Unless you want it DROSed as a long gun and you should never assemble it as a pistol, lest you potentially pick up an SBR charge.

2) Can I "import" a TC factory or a custom .410 barrel that is otherwise legal (shotgun length) without the frame? With the frame?
As long as the barrel is >18", you can import it with or without the frame.





You can import & buy a T/C (Encore or Contender) rifle frame with no barrel. It comes with a stock and no barrel. You can import a T/C (Encore or Contender) handgun frame with no barrel but you can not not buy a T/C (Encore or Contender) handgun frame without a barrel. There is no requirement that a barrel be attached when the handgun frame is imported, as in when you buy it online & have it sent to the FFL, but there must be a handgun barrel attached when you do the DROS & buy. If a handgun barrel is already in your possession, I know some FFLs will just have you bring in the barrel and use that as "the barrel" rather than making you buy one. This is not an issue in CA with a rifle frame.


The issue with this is that if your local FFL receives a barrellless frame and installs a barrel before it is DROSed to you, ATF considers that to be a manufacturing act, and the FFL must be a licensed manufacturer. A couple of CA FFLs have run afoul of ATF over that issue in the past. In order to stay clear of ATF and comply with CA's roster regulations, it should come into the state as a complete single-shot pistol.

Mike A
08-07-2010, 7:52 PM
THANKS VERY MUCH, GUYS! That makes it very clear. The reason that I want to import a rifle frame is that they are much cheaper, even including shipping and recieving fees, out of state. And I will look for at least one, probably two of the barrels to be used, and probably from out of state. (You can find usually find a better deal when you have the whole country to search and no sales tax to pay).

I very much appreciate the timely advice.

Mike Armstrong

dfletcher
08-07-2010, 7:57 PM
no, you may not import a bare frame, it must be a complete single-shot pistol with a dimensionally-compliant barrel to fall under the roster exemption. Unless you want it DROSed as a long gun and you should never assemble it as a pistol, lest you potentially pick up an SBR charge.




Just to clarify, when you say the frame alone can not be imported & bought you are speaking of handgun only - T/C does sell frames with a shoulder stock attached, those would be 4473'd as "other" & DROS'd as a long gun, correct?

I realize in other states those new "rifle" frames with shoulder stock attached can be configured as a handgun if the firearm has never been configured as a long gun but in CA, the frame with shoulder stock would be treated the same as a shoulder stocked AR receiver.

dfletcher
08-07-2010, 8:13 PM
THANKS VERY MUCH, GUYS! That makes it very clear. The reason that I want to import a rifle frame is that they are much cheaper, even including shipping and recieving fees, out of state. And I will look for at least one, probably two of the barrels to be used, and probably from out of state. (You can find usually find a better deal when you have the whole country to search and no sales tax to pay).

I very much appreciate the timely advice.

Mike Armstrong

Just a "non-legal" question - is there a specific reason for getting the Contender instead of the Encore?

ke6guj
08-07-2010, 8:23 PM
Just to clarify, when you say the frame alone can not be imported & bought you are speaking of handgun only - T/C does sell frames with a shoulder stock attached, those would be 4473'd as "other" & DROS'd as a long gun, correct?

I realize in other states those new "rifle" frames with shoulder stock attached can be configured as a handgun if the firearm has never been configured as a long gun but in CA, the frame with shoulder stock would be treated the same as a shoulder stocked AR receiver.

correct, either a virgin "pistol" frame from T/C or a stocked frame. Either version would be 4473'd as an "other" and would need to be DROSed as a long gun.

russ69
08-07-2010, 8:34 PM
Just a "non-legal" question - is there a specific reason for getting the Contender instead of the Encore?

Yes. Most people prefer the Contender for use as a pistol because it's lighter. The barrel diameter is smaller. Also most prefer the previous version over the G2. The G2 has a new firing mechanism and a different trigger. I have both and like the older version much more.
The Encore was designed to handle larger cartridges than the Contender was/is able to handle. It's a much stouter frame and a bigger diameter barrel.

Thanx, Russ

Munk
08-07-2010, 9:02 PM
Just remember to explain to your FFL how the frame you are purchasing is a long gun, and will be configured as along gun, and will never be a pistol (in california). I've run into a surprising number of FFLs who absolutely INSIST that the Thompson contender/encore/g2 are completely illegal in CA.

dfletcher
08-07-2010, 9:20 PM
Yes. Most people prefer the Contender for use as a pistol because it's lighter. The barrel diameter is smaller. Also most prefer the previous version over the G2. The G2 has a new firing mechanism and a different trigger. I have both and like the older version much more.
The Encore was designed to handle larger cartridges than the Contender was/is able to handle. It's a much stouter frame and a bigger diameter barrel.

Thanx, Russ

I use mostly Super 14 barrels and they are .810 diameter, about the same as the Encore 15" barrels. I do have some heavier diameter barrels in some Encore handgun barrels - 375 H & H and a 405 Winchester. I recall the old octagon and 10" barrels for the Contender, haven't had any in a while but yes, they were much smaller diameter.

Actually, I'm guessing the OP wants the Contender because he's using a rimfire, the Encore doesn't typically do rimfire.

I did like the old frame's trigger pull much better than the G2 but the hard opening and having to unlock the frame to recock was kind of a pain. Predictably, Smith & Wesson has decided the guns don't "need" an overtravel screw behind the trigger & eliminated it - not a good move, I think.

EOD Guy
08-08-2010, 7:18 AM
no, you may not import a bare frame, it must be a complete single-shot pistol with a dimensionally-compliant barrel to fall under the roster exemption. Unless you want it DROSed as a long gun and you should never assemble it as a pistol, lest you potentially pick up an SBR charge.



Not true. There is no requirement to have a barrel assembled to a Contender or Encore frame in order to DROS is. I purchased an Encore handgun frame in April of 2006. It was DROSed as a handgun and the caliber was listed as 0000 with the barrel length block left blank. The frame only block was marked "yes".

russ69
08-08-2010, 9:19 AM
Not true. There is no requirement to have a barrel assembled to a Contender or Encore frame in order to DROS is. I purchased an Encore handgun frame in April of 2006. It was DROSed as a handgun and the caliber was listed as 0000 with the barrel length block left blank. The frame only block was marked "yes".

The problem is that the firearms dealers were threatened that if anybody made a short barrel firearm from a bare frame that the dealer would somehow be responsible. So lots of dealers just won't sell them and some dealers won't sell one unless it has a barrel to go with it. I had to go to 4 dealers before I found one that would sell me my last one.

ke6guj
08-08-2010, 6:38 PM
Not true. There is no requirement to have a barrel assembled to a Contender or Encore frame in order to DROS is. I purchased an Encore handgun frame in April of 2006. It was DROSed as a handgun and the caliber was listed as 0000 with the barrel length block left blank. The frame only block was marked "yes".

I'm not sure about the time line on when the single-shot exemption was enacted. Not saying that it didn't happen like you said, but AFAIK, it shouldn't be done like that today. If it was legal to do that, why wouldn't we just handgun DROS 1911 and AR-pistol receivers the same way?

dfletcher
08-08-2010, 7:31 PM
^^^

I bought an Encore handgun frame only at Reed's about 2 weeks after the exemption kicked in - I'm going to guess it was 2006, not sure. But there was much discussion between the saleman & Mgr as to whether a barrel was required, result was they said it was not needed. They did it as frame only - I know nothing of the nuts & bolts of using DROS though. When I bought another frame a year or so later, the "you must have a barrel attached" came up and Reed's said DOJ had "clarified" that a barrel is required.

The confusion arises from the way the law is written. The law allows an exemption for single shot pistols if the OAL is 10.5" "with a 6" barrel attached". Now, the way I read that is whenever a 6" barrel is attached the OAL must reach 10.5". Picture a 6" barrel on something the size of a Cobra (I know, 2 shots - just using for size) derringer for example. But put a 6" barrel on a T/C or the Freedom Arms single shot and the gun will make 10.5" OAL. That the gun makes 10.5" OAL whenever a 6" barrel is attached is the determining factor.

I'm in the minority though, every CA FFL I've dealt with thus far has taken the "must buy barrel" approach when getting a handgun frame.