Thompson Center Arms

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Thompson Center Arms Inc
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryFirearms
Founded1965
Founder(s)K. W. Thompson Tool & Warren Center
HeadquartersRochester, New Hampshire, U.S
Key peopleGregg Ritz CEO
Productsrifles, pistols
ParentSmith & Wesson
Websitehttp://www.tcarms.com/
 
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Thompson Center Arms Inc
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryFirearms
Founded1965
Founder(s)K. W. Thompson Tool & Warren Center
HeadquartersRochester, New Hampshire, U.S
Key peopleGregg Ritz CEO
Productsrifles, pistols
ParentSmith & Wesson
Websitehttp://www.tcarms.com/

Thompson/Center Arms Company is an American firearms company based in Rochester, New Hampshire. The company is best known for its line of interchangeable barrel single-shot pistols and rifles. Thompson Center manufactures muzzleloading rifles and is credited with creating the resurgence of their use in the 1970s.

Contents

History

Thompson/Center Arms was founded in 1965 by Mr. Warren Center and K.W. Thompson Tool Company. Thompson Tool had been searching for a product to market, and Warren Center was looking for someone to manufacture his Contender pistol design. As K.W. Thompson Tool began marketing Center's Contender pistol, the company name changed to Thompson/Center Arms Company. In 1970, Thompson/Center created the modern black powder industry.[1]

On January 4, 2007, Thompson/Center was purchased by Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation.[2]

Break-open pistols

Thompson/Center's success came with the emergence of long range handgun hunting and target shooting.[3] Their break-open, single-shot design brought rifle-like accuracy and power in a handgun, which was a new concept at the time. Originally designed for interchangeable barrels in .38 Special and .22 LR, only, subsequent handgun developments by Thompson/Center led to a wider range of interchangeable barrels for use with many more cartridges.

The Contender

Contender in 45 Colt/.410 with ventilated rib

The Contender pistol is a break-open single-shot pistol with a number of unique features that helped it become and remain a huge success. The first unique feature was the way the barrel was 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 could be installed and pinned in place, the fore-end replaced, and the pistol would be 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 change-out. The Contender frame even 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 Contender also has 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). Unlike the later G2 Contender, the original Contender may be safely dry-fired (provided the hammer is not drawn back) to allow a shooter to become familiar with the trigger pull. G2's with switchable firing pin (centerfire or rimfire) can be safely dry-fired with the hammer in the safety position. It is possible to fit a shoulder stock on the frame, and, when combined with a 16" or longer barrel (see "Thompson Center Arms and the Supreme Court" below), the Contender may be converted from a pistol to a rifle or the reverse. Barrels are available in lengths of 8, 10, 14, 16, and 21 inches (530 mm). Barrels for the original Contender may be used on the later-released G2 Contender; G2 barrels may be used on original Contender frames with a serial number greater than 195000. (Encore barrels are too large.)

Another factor in the Contender's success was that, unlike most other firearm actions, the break-open design did not require the barrels to be specially fitted to the individual action. Any barrel made for the Contender can fit onto any frame, allowing the shooter to purchase additional calibers for a fraction of the cost of a complete firearm. Since the sights are mounted on the barrel, they stay sighted-in and remain zeroed from barrel-change to barrel-change.

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 up to the .30-30 Winchester was acceptable, as long as a peak pressure of 48,000 CUP was 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, was still feasible because of the relatively low cartridge pressures of the original black-powder round relative to the bolt face of the Contender receiver. Custom gunmakers also 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 also 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 also made available for use with shot shell 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, barrel lengths and shotshells.

The Encore

The Encore was released in the late 1990s. The Encore uses a different trigger mechanism, designed to be stronger than the original Contender's and to make the break-open action easier. The Encore uses a considerably larger and stronger frame than the Contender, and accordingly is found in over 86 cartridges - from .22 Hornet to the huge .416 Rigby. The Encore barrel list also includes shotgun barrels in 28, 20 and 12 gauge, and muzzleloading barrels in .45 and .50 caliber and 12 gauge using #209 shotgun primers. New for 2007, Encore rimfire Barrels available in 22 LR and 17 HMR feature a unique monoblock design which requires no alteration to the frame assembly.

The Contender G2

The Contender was replaced by the Contender G2 soon after the Encore came out. The G2 is dimensionally the same as the Contender, but uses an Encore style trigger group. Due to the change in trigger mechanism, the buttstocks and pistol grips are different and will not interchange between the original Contender and the G2. The G2 uses the same barrels and forends as the Contender[4] and so barrels will interchange, with the one exception to this being the G2 muzzleloading barrels, which will only fit the G2 frame.[5]

Muzzleloading rifles and pistols

TC Hawken percussion rifle

Thompson Center manufactures a variety of muzzleloading rifles of both Traditional and Inline designs, and sell a great number of percussion and flintlock rifles in a wide variety of bore diameters. Some of the better-known models are the Renegade, the Hawken, the Big Boar, and the White Mountain.

The Thompson/Center Hawken is largely responsible for the resurgence of black-powder hunting that began in the U.S. in 1970 when Warren Center designed the firm's Hawken rifle. Thompson Center's reintroduced Hawken with solid brass hardware and an American walnut stock, based on "plains rifles" made by Hawken in the 1800s, has become one of the most-copied firearms designs in history.[6]

The Encore 209x.50 Magnum muzzleloader is a modern-design muzzleloader, and can interchange with centerfire barrels. Based on a single-shot break action, the 209x.50 is capable of "minute of angle" accuracy. The 209x.50 can handle charges of up to 150 grains (9.7 g) of black powder or Pyrodex equivalent. Using a 26" barrel and a 250-grain (16 g) bullet with 3 Pyrodex Pellets, it produces a muzzle velocity of 2203 ft./second. The G2 Contender muzzleloader accepts magnum charges for long range shooting. Charges of up to 150 grains (9.7 g) of FFG Black Powder or three (3) 50-grain Pyrodex Pellets produce velocities of approximately 2,400 ft/s (730 m/s) at the muzzle. The Omega can handle 150 grains (9.7 g) of Black Powder or Pyrodex equivalent, or three 50-grain (3.2 g) Pyrodex pellets. With its 28" barrel it burns magnum charges very efficiently. The Triumph muzzleloader comes in .50 cal. with a 28" barrel and composite stock.

From 1972 to 1997, Thompson/Center also offered a very elegantly made single-shot muzzleloading target pistol of traditional design called the Patriot. Highly accurate and featuring adjustable double set triggers, it was available in .36 and .45 though the latter was much more common. Its small lock design also was used in a light, delicate rifle called the Seneca. Unfortunately a major factory fire in 1996 destroyed all tooling and parts for these weapons; they were discontinued, and surviving examples appear for sale only rarely.

Thompson/Center Arms and the Supreme Court

In the case of United States v. Thompson/Center Arms Co. (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the company's favor by deciding that the rifle conversion kit that Thompson sold with their pistols did not constitute a short-barreled rifle under the National Firearms Act of 1934.[7]

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms contended that the mere possession of a pistol having a barrel less than sixteen inches (406 mm) long, a shoulder stock, and a rifle-length (more than sixteen inches) barrel constituted constructive intent to "make" an illegal short-barreled rifle (by combining the pistol's frame, the pistol-length barrel, and the shoulder stock) even if the shoulder stock was intended to be used only with the rifle-length barrel.

This decision clarified the meaning of the term "make" in the National Firearms Act by stating that the pistol had to be assembled with a barrel less than 16 inches (410 mm) long with a stock directly attached to it to constitute a short-barrelled rifle under the National Firearms Act, and that the mere possession of components that theoretically could be assembled in an illegal configuration was not in itself a violation as long as the components could also be assembled into legal configurations.[8]

One argument raised was the example of ammonium-nitrate fertilizer and Diesel oil, which can very often be found together in a farmer's possession (fertilizer for the crops, fuel for the tractor.) Both are lawful, and while they can easily be assembled into the high explosive known as ANFO, possession of both has never been held to imply (without other evidence) that the farmer was "making" explosives.

References

  1. ^ Stephens, Charles (1996). Thompson/Center Contender Pistol: How To Tune, Time, Load, And Shoot For Accuracy. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press. pp. 64. ISBN 978-0-87364-885-1. 
  2. ^ 13009 - Smith&Wesson: Press Releases
  3. ^ Simpson, Layne (02/01/2009). "The Contender's Magnificent 7". Shooting Times 2009 (2). 
  4. ^ http://tcarms.com/TC_IMAGES/TC_Catalog_2006/TC2006_Pg46-47.pdf
  5. ^ Potts, Bruce (10/01/2008). "Thompson Center G2 Contender Rifle Review". Shooting Times 2008 (10). 
  6. ^ Towsley, Bryce (2003). "The Mighty Hawken". Hunting Magazine (Petersen) 15 (6). 
  7. ^ 504 U.S. 505 (1992)
  8. ^ "Case syllabus from Cornell Law School". Cornell University. 1992. http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/91-0164.ZS.html. Retrieved 10/21/2009. 

External links