View Full Version : Went from thinking about bolt action to...

10-07-2013, 5:18 PM
... returning to my Thompson Contender project. I started that early this year and wasn't too keen on the break-open breach... it was that reason I was looking at bolt action.

However, I decided that I didn't give my rifle conversion enough time and research. So I totally tore down the receiver. This is something I had never done in the 30 years I owned my TC as there was never a reason to do so. I first went to stevespages.com and found his directory of firearms manuals and downloaded the Contender manual.

Next, I began the process of disassembling the entire trigger assembly. This was interesting as it uses a middle lever to trip the hammer - the trigger release a sear that's spring loaded to go up, it hits a lever on a pivot, which in turn, release the hammer on the opposite end of the lever.


Another thing I discovered, and it was not covered in my 'original' owners manual, was the trigger set screw to adjust the sensitivity of the pull. In the exploded view, it's show to be on the trigger itself but my Contender is an "old model", purchase in 1982. I could not find it at all on the trigger. Then I looked down into the trigger frame and saw a set screw right above the trigger!!! The lock-tite was old and brittle so I cleaned it and put some new lock-tite and then set the screw such that nearly all of the original creep I had been feeling for years, went away!

I took some time to polish up all the contact surfaces with some Flitz and reassembled everything using some light oil at pivot points.

I bought a few items over the last few months and finally have it all together:



Now it's time to hit the range but it might rain this weekend... :(

10-07-2013, 5:37 PM
That is sweet. I'm a big T/C fan, I have three, all pistols. We will need to see the full range report.

10-07-2013, 5:46 PM
I just finished handloading 10 rounds:

Casing: various from the range
Primer: CCI#41 (I usually load up for my AR so I have lots of this)
Bullet: Sierra 52g. BTHP Match King
Powder: H322, 22.9 gr. (for a 3,000 fps)

This was from the Hornandy reloading manual which has a test barrel of 26" w/1:12 twist rate so I'm hoping this is a viable starting point.

I have some W748 powder and may do another 10 in this powder as well. I should be getting some Hodgdon 4198 and will load that up as well.

10-07-2013, 6:27 PM
Neat rifle 7TCU would be cool!

10-07-2013, 6:28 PM
Can I suggest something with your loads? The T/C does not have the strongest hammer strike, you'll get more consistent ignition with normal rifle primers, maybe even better to use Federal primers because they are thought to be softer. Also the 223 case is small and you wont want to use mixed brass, pressures can change dramatically from one brand of brass to another. Lastly you want to just size the brass so your gun closes firmly, you'll get a better hammer strike and more consistent results.

10-07-2013, 7:06 PM
Thanks for the tip russ. I'm going to eventually start weighing my brass to get some consistency but I have to fire off a lot more of my AR to get a good volume so I can nit-pick what I want. :D

I'll have to look around for regular SRP; it just so happens I have thousands of CCI#41. Oddly, I still have some BR primers from years ago when I was shooting my 7mm TC/U barrel. I could probably load those as well.

10-07-2013, 7:08 PM
TC Contenders are awesome shooters. I have about six of them.
14" bull barrel in .223 is just a tack driver. Best bullet I found for target shooting is the 52 Gr Nosler ballistic tip. It's good to shoot a 12x12 target at 500 yards. At 100 I get less then 3/8"

10-07-2013, 8:38 PM
Man I always found these so cool. Really makes me want one now.

10-08-2013, 10:59 AM
Finished loading another 15 rounds; this time, I used one type of brass found on Sunday: Lake City

Trimmed length: 1.745 - 1.750
Primer: CCI#41
Powder: Winchester 748, 24.8 grains for 3,000 fps
OAL: 1.815" (base to Ogive/land)

10-08-2013, 11:54 AM
Once you fire the cases in your Contender and you go to reload em , just bump the shoulder when you size them. Will be stiffer on closing but you'll not get the light primer strikes.

Works on all my Contenders (at least 1 of every cal from 17 to 45/70):D
Got both pistol and carbine lengths , and a few customs made over the years.

10-08-2013, 2:56 PM
Actually, I was checking them yesterday and there is virtually NO head space. I took my feeler gauge to the breach to measure the gap between the barrel head and the firing pin bushing and it's at .002". .003 will NOT slide in. It's a tight fit but now I understand why some of the rounds I load normally for my M4, don't always allow me to lock the barrel. Typically, the rim of each cartridge feels flush to the barrel (sort of like when you run your finger along a crimped primer.) For all intents, there is virtually no head space.

If I get any light primer strikes, I'll let you know but I'm not sure what you meant by "bump the shoulder".

Wrangler John
10-09-2013, 4:56 AM
that is a really nice job - I bet it will shoot like a dream. In fact i think I'll copy it! :)

Back in the day I used the Contender for both IHMSA Production and Unlimited categories, firing thousands of various cartridges from the 7 TCU to .30-30 and .357 Herrett. I never had a light hammer strike on a primer, nor a failure to fire. Thompson Center sent me boxes of parts to rebuild the frames several times over as a courtesy (those days are long gone), so I was liberal in keeping things tuned. Here's what I learned:

The 7 TCU shot best with the Remington 6-1/2 Small Rifle primer and Reloader 7, but the primer cups would pinhole at the edge. This would erode a pit in the firing pin bushing, but was acceptable as the bushings are easily replaced. Eventually I went to the Remington 7-1/2 BR primer to avoid the problem after I exhausted my supply of 6-1/2 primers. Accuracy was still exceptional. However Remington primers were entirely different in those days being that they were manufactured by a different company and had two legged anvils, reminiscent of the Berdan system. These were the most accurate primers at the time.

Today, I use Remington 7-1/2BR primers as they were originally designed for the 5.56/.223 Remington pressures, the new Wolf 223 Small Rifle primers, and the CCI BR-4 primer, and the Federal 205M, with a smattering of Winchester Small Rifle Primers, depending on which is most accurate with a given powder and load. All these primers are up to the pressure of a .223 Remington and ignite easily. For my Contender with the 15" .223 Remington barrel I stick with the Remington 7-1/2 BR.

Were I to develop a new load for the Contender barrel I would look at the Federal 205 Match or Wolf 223 primer and Accurate LT-32 powder. I would also try Nosler's 40 grain .224 BT Lead Free bullet, which has proven extremely accurate in my varmint rifles (.206" 10 shots @ 100 yards), or the 35 grain Nosler .224 BT Lead Free if the 1:12" twist doesn't like the 40 grain.

Bottle necked cartridges for the Contender were headspaced for each barrel by necking them up one caliber, then sizing them in the cartridge's full length die. When sizing the F. L. die was adjusted off the shell holder about 1/8" and the case sized and tried in the chamber. If the barrel wouldn't lock down, the die was adjusted down 1/8 turn and the process repeated until the breech just snapped closed. This signaled that the case was set at minimum headspace. Bumping the shoulder is the same process, used when neck sized cases become difficult to chamber, but is seldom necessary in full length sized brass. I also used to uniform the primer pocket depth so primers would set .004" below the case head. A high primer could also prevent the action from closing, and may cause a misfire if the firing pin strike pushed the primer home, which dampened the strike.

10-09-2013, 7:17 AM
Wrangler John: thank you very much for that recipes. I have a few dozen .223's necked for my 7mm and even primed but we're talking like at least 5 years ago if not longer. I've been thinking lately of resurrecting it but starting all over again with new brass - it's all mixed brass... I guess I can just fire off all of the primers in a dry fire and get all the brass de-primed and start looking at culling good brass with weights close to each other.

10-09-2013, 7:55 AM
... returning to my Thompson Contender project. I started that early this year and wasn't too keen on the break-open breach... it was that reason I was looking at bolt action.

http://home.comcast.net/~a5afterb5/images/TC_Target_Rifle_001.jpg :(

With that being your final configuration it's clear that you definitely want a bolt action rifle. The adjustable cheek riser is out of place on that rifle. Breaking the action after each shot disrupts your view of the target. I think your going to wanting another rifle after your first range trip wih that one.

10-09-2013, 8:56 AM
A bolt action is def. on my list for next year. I understand what you're saying and it's the reason I shelved the project initially, but I didn't want to waste the money I already spent on the barrel and syn. stock and forend. It does not bother me a bit as far as the cheek riser. As soon as I lay my cheek on it, I'm lined up immediately to the scope and that's all that mattered to me. :D

The break-open action... that can be overcome with a bit of work. There is some filing that can be performed to make it easier.

I will get a bolt action next year, but it will likely be a .308 Win. just not sure which.

10-09-2013, 8:31 PM
IMO your rifle needs the TC stock with the higher comb.

Unless you hunt big game the 223 is just fine for precision shooting.

For a very accurate high value bolt gun look at the Mossberg Predator.

Wrangler John
10-10-2013, 10:18 AM
Wrangler John: thank you very much for that recipes. I have a few dozen .223's necked for my 7mm and even primed but we're talking like at least 5 years ago if not longer. I've been thinking lately of resurrecting it but starting all over again with new brass - it's all mixed brass... I guess I can just fire off all of the primers in a dry fire and get all the brass de-primed and start looking at culling good brass with weights close to each other.

I read an article in the last couple of years published by one of the slick magazines, where the author did a test of various brands of .223 Remington brass on accuracy. He fired a mix including Lapua, Norma, Lake City, Remington and Winchester. First he fired 5 groups of 5 shots loaded in each brand. Then the editor asked him to fire 5 groups of 5 shots each of a mix of all the brands combined. The groups fired from a mixed lot of brass actually were smaller, .41" or so (IIRC), beating out the single brand groups. He was left scratching his head.

So sometimes what we expect is dashed upon the rocks of reality, or it was just a fluke. :)

If you want good quality brass at a reasonable price, keep your eye on this link, as this brand is a good deal. It should be back in stock soon.


Otherwise I use Winchester brass when available for about everything .223 Remington.

Good luck on your projects, like my wife says; at least tinkering with guns keeps me out of saloons.

10-20-2013, 10:15 PM
In my .223 Contender I never once had ignition troubles, and I used only AR ammo that was full length resized. So apparently they do not all have that problem.

10-29-2013, 12:49 PM
So back from the range over the weekend and a few observations.

1) Cheek riser needed to be lowered a 1/4". I didn't have my allen wrench with me (5mm). Difficult to get a good view through the scope. Had to lower my check weld point and tilt my head.. keep in mind, it's my first time shooting RIGHT HANDED.

2) Without a sandbag at the rear, it seemed very twitchy for me to keep the crosshairs on dead center... well, just steady in general. At 6x minimum magnification, the closest I could put the target was 50 yards to start zeroing the scope. Wondering if I should have started with a regular 3-9x scope or if this is just shooting RH for the first time.

3) Grouping, if you want to call it that, was essentially 4-5" due to how much the crosshairs were jumping. I started out using H322 powder behind a Sierra 52gr. BTHP and from my Colt, I know this powder is only good for plinking. It loves H335 better. By the end of my session, it became more like 3" using Accurate No. 7 behind the same bullet and on a couple of occasions, I got two next to each other.

Funny, with my LE6920, I can maintain a 2"-3" group with just my Aimpoint PRO using H322 behind a 55gr. It actually felt steadier and that was also RH. (it still like H355 better on the same bullet which allows me a 2" at 100 yards.)

When I got home, I adjusted the cheek weld so now it's good but I'm going to try the same loads again, but have them put in the left-hand bench and try with the LH this time around. I just feels more natural on my LH. Still, I'm glad I tried this RH because I now know it doesn't feel weird or awkward.

On that note, I have a Remington 700 VSF in jail. Picking it up this Saturday. :D

11-02-2013, 11:37 PM
the real question is, how much u want for it? jk im still looking for someone looking to get rid of a pistol for a decent price

11-03-2013, 9:40 AM
3) Grouping, if you want to call it that, was essentially 4-5"...

I wont post pictures of my pistol groups because people will call me a liar but you have a long way to go yet. I've never seen a Contender that wouldn't shoot good groups.

11-03-2013, 6:09 PM
Check your throat , Contenders have been known for having a more generous throat than most.

You can seat out a bit farther and you might find better groups.

All my Contenders shoot MOA groups , rifles and pistol lengths.

My 357 Maximum will shoot 1/2 inch groups at 100 yards , if I seat the bullets out a little farther ( longer OAL ) than for the revolvers . This is with peep sights.

Same with the 218 bee , 30/30 , 45/70. A little longer and groups tighten up.

And the extender you mounted on the hammer adds weight , might cause a light strike if hammer spring is on the weak side.

11-05-2013, 2:27 PM
Funny side note, on the last 10 shots out of the Contender w/AA#7, I NEVER missed the gong out at the 100 yard targets. :D Granted, it's a silhouetted piece of steel about 24" wide and 24" tall.

11-05-2013, 2:37 PM
Sandbag next time :)