Thompson Contender

pepperbelly

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Aug 7, 2006
871
0
Fort Worth, Texas
I have a Contender, and for now just have 22lr and 22WMR barrels. I have been thinking about other calibers, but would like to know from someone with experience with this weapon if some calibers just don't work. The longest barrel I would probably use is the Super 14" series.
I have been thinking about a .223, which should work fairly well. I was also thinking about the .204. Does it do well out of a relatively short barrel?

What calibers tend to work well in it, and what should I scratch off my list?
 

40xs

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Dec 19, 2012
477
1
76
central NC
I too have contenders and have used them extensively back in the day, before I got into f/class. I do not, however, have a .204. I have three .223's. one in 14", one in 16" & one in 21". I have a hornet in 10" and with the 35 gr. horn. I all but took the whole neck off of a red fox with it at 15 yds. I have taken prairie dogs out to 250 yds. with the 14" .223. I have taken caribou with a .357 maximum and 185gr. An antelope with a .358 JDJ (A LITTLE OVERKILL). a Mulie with my .309JDJ (this is a real barn burner), in the same category as a 14" .308. To put it mildly, I love my Contenders. Most will shoot as well as rifles as far as accuracy goes.
 

pepperbelly

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Aug 7, 2006
871
0
Fort Worth, Texas
' I figured about any caliber will be accurate in it. It's designed that way. What I am curious about is which caliber is most efficient and accurate in the short barrels the Contender comes in. Since an AR15 M4 uses a 14.5" barrel the .223 seems to be a good choice as far as velocity goes.
I am wondering if other calibers like the .204 would do as well or if it really needs a longer tube. I am thinking hard about the Super 14" barrel length- any longer and I may as well use a rifle.
Something else I am thinking about is practical distance. Since it would be hard to hold steady enough to shoot much over 250 yards- probably- I want a caliber that has a flat trajectory up to 300 yards and enough velocity from a 14" barrel for the bullet to do what it is supposed to. If it's too slow the bullet may just punch a small hole through the target and not expand. The hunting I will be doing will be on varmints and maybe feral hogs- nothing larger.

As appealing as the .204 sounds I keep coming back to the .223, plus components are easier to find to handload.
I will do a lot of reading
 

40xs

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Dec 19, 2012
477
1
76
central NC
I don't think you will be dissapointed in the 14" .204. imho 300yds. is doable in the .204. I havn't really checked in a long time whether or not TC chambers the "contender" in .204. That chambering is about the extreme pressure that the contender frame is designed to withstand. For some, this may be hard to fathom, but even the .223 generates as much chamber pressure, due to the small diameter of the bore, as much larger caliber cartridges do.
 

jdonovan

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Sep 10, 2010
175
2
50
Fauquier, VA
What calibers tend to work well in it, and what should I scratch off my list?
The big magnums don't work well, but I don't think you can even get Contender barrels in those chamberings... More of an encore's problem. Also any of the holds a ton of powder rifle cartridges don't work so well as there isn't enough barrel to get the powder burnt, and all you do is make a big flash, and a loud boom.. but sometimes that is part of the charm too :p

What works depends on your goals.

You'll be down substantially on velocity vs a rifle with 10" more barrel. So use projectiles to the light-er end of the range for the caliber you are loading for. These tend to be more lightly constructed and perform better on game at the lower velocity.

Many of the rimmed pistol calibers work very well in 'long' pistol barrels. 357 Max is a perennial favorite. As is 44 mag. In the encore I prefer the .460, but that's not an option on the Contender frame.

In the smaller bores, 30-30, and 7mm-08, are the 'classics', but I like 7mm-TCU better as its a rimmed case.

.223 is a favorite plinker. Soft shooting, and cheap.
 

oldreliable45120

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Jul 3, 2009
186
0
52
Long Island NY
T/C is a great pistol. Have one with a 375 JDJ, 14" barrel, 35 Rem, 14" barrel, and 44 Mag, 12"barrel. My dad has my 45-70 barrel (lives in Idaho). The contender is ment to handle lever action pressures. The 223 is great in the contender. A 14" barrel is a good choice, it is also the length used in the M4.
 

WWhunter

Private
Belligerents
Minuteman
Mar 6, 2010
6
0
60
Many years ago I hunted exclusively with a T/C and have shot all manner of critters with one. I have never owned a T/C barrel that wasn't accurate! PM imbound
 

redbullitt

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Jan 8, 2010
802
12
34
Morgantown Wv
I am with jdonovan on the cartridges. Go rimmed if you can, or a sharp AI style shoulder to help maximize brass life and minimize issues from the hammer strike.

7-30 waters would be an excellent choice, 223, 357 mag or max (good luck finding max brass right now) work very well. I would probably lean to 357 mag since it will be very cheap and easy to load for. If you get a custom barrel done you can have it throated out to nearly equal the 357 max.

Check out bellmtcs.com. That will be all the info you could possibly want on the encore/contender.
 

propeine

Wannabe Gun Plumber
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 20, 2012
199
3
37
Erie, Pa
Just picked up a 10" 44mag with a scope last week. Traded for a gen 2 glock 22 w/ a LW 357sig barrel. I shot the same model when I was in my teens at the adventure walks but I'm pretty sure they were 44 special rounds. The fella's pistol I used was opened up to 445 supermag and I distinctly remember bleeding after a 300gr load out of that same gun. Looking forward to some warmer weather to bring back some memories.
 

pepperbelly

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Aug 7, 2006
871
0
Fort Worth, Texas
I finally scoped one of my 22LR barrels with an old Redfield Widefield 4x scope I had laying around. That is a hell of a lot harder to hold steady than I thought it would be even with a low power scope at 50 yards. In fact I ended up resting it on my range bag to get anything close to a group.
Is there some special way to hold this thing?
As badly as I shot with the 22 I am going to hold off on anything bigger than the 22 mag barrel I have. It would be a waste to shoot a .223 until I get it figured out.
 

propeine

Wannabe Gun Plumber
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 20, 2012
199
3
37
Erie, Pa
I finally scoped one of my 22LR barrels with an old Redfield Widefield 4x scope I had laying around. That is a hell of a lot harder to hold steady than I thought it would be even with a low power scope at 50 yards. In fact I ended up resting it on my range bag to get anything close to a group.
Is there some special way to hold this thing?
As badly as I shot with the 22 I am going to hold off on anything bigger than the 22 mag barrel I have. It would be a waste to shoot a .223 until I get it figured out.
Lots of variations on grips. Some guys hold the forend, some guys use a sling to add another point of contact, some use a more traditional grip (watch your knucks with heavy calibers though and wrap your off hand pointer and middle finger around the trigger guard instead of your strong hand), some guys use bipods. I've even heard of some guys grasping a scope.

I think most for longish range accuracy rest the forend on something though. Shooting sticks, crook of a tree, bipod, bag, rock, your knee. The combination of a long barrel, and an interesting grip just doesn't seem to work out well offhand for many people on game at least. For targets/plinking, I stand up straighter than I normally do and try to square up the center of gravity a little better rather than have that long barrel dancing around way in front of me.
 

40xs

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Dec 19, 2012
477
1
76
central NC
Very impressive scores were shot in silhouette by utilizing the "creedmore" style of hold. By lying on your back, resting your head on your off arm crooked behind your neck with the fingers on the ground for support and resting the forearm of the contender on your upper calf, just below the knee. Put your knees together to form an "A" frame and rest the forearm on your upper calf at the trigger gauard area and shoot one handed. Very accurate.
 

pepperbelly

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Aug 7, 2006
871
0
Fort Worth, Texas
The scope I am using is a rifle scope, with rifle scope eye relief.
I have seen the silhouette shooters at my club and the hunter pistol shooters use a grip with their scope or aperture sights near their face. That is how I had to try, and I had my left hand on top of the scope tube. I was shaky as hell.
I compete in master class with a pistol, and can use an isosceles or modified Weaver stance equally well. As long as the pistol is extended in front of me I can hit the steel swingers at 50 yards easily enough that it gets boring.
This Contender with a scope is a whole 'nuther animal. I will put more time in and either figure it out or find someone to show me. I was hoping there was something I hadn't thought of.
I really want to be able to stretch out to 100 yards with the 22 LR and a little further with the 22 mag, but I really need more consistency at 50 yards before I even try. I had wanted a .223 barrel to use on varmints but my trouble so far has that on hold- at least until I figure it out.
 

40xs

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Dec 19, 2012
477
1
76
central NC
Unfortunatley, by nature of the design, the contender is a bitch to shoot offhand with anything longer than 10 inches. Like you, shooting .22 with rifle scopes and held by the off hand with fingers wrapped around the scope and close to the eye was a good way to go. Of course, anything that kicks is going to give you a serious headache holding in this manner. I always find a rest of some kind when shooting my contenders. Pistol scopes are the way to go with contenders.
 

wakajawaka

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Jun 2, 2011
375
1
65
Pensacola, FL
I started with just a few. Now they seem to multiply.

Out of shorter barrels I like .221 Fireball, .30 Harrett, .300Blk/Whisper, 6.5TCU, 6.5 JDJ, 6.5Bullberry Imp. .44Mag, .357Max, .35Rem...

 
  • Love
Reactions: sandwarrior

propeine

Wannabe Gun Plumber
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 20, 2012
199
3
37
Erie, Pa
The scope I am using is a rifle scope, with rifle scope eye relief.
I have seen the silhouette shooters at my club and the hunter pistol shooters use a grip with their scope or aperture sights near their face. That is how I had to try, and I had my left hand on top of the scope tube. I was shaky as hell.
I compete in master class with a pistol, and can use an isosceles or modified Weaver stance equally well. As long as the pistol is extended in front of me I can hit the steel swingers at 50 yards easily enough that it gets boring.
This Contender with a scope is a whole 'nuther animal. I will put more time in and either figure it out or find someone to show me. I was hoping there was something I hadn't thought of.
I really want to be able to stretch out to 100 yards with the 22 LR and a little further with the 22 mag, but I really need more consistency at 50 yards before I even try. I had wanted a .223 barrel to use on varmints but my trouble so far has that on hold- at least until I figure it out.
44mag would bust my face up trying to shoot with a rifle scope on it I think. I'd recommend finding a pistol scope and try it with a more traditional stance. I have a 4x and it works reasonably well. Much more than that and I think without a rest I would get irritated with it. Even if you get handy with 22lr or mag like that, if you decide to get a larger caliber you won't be any further ahead.
 

pepperbelly

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Aug 7, 2006
871
0
Fort Worth, Texas
I have a Ruger Super Blackhawk, the old model, in 44 mag with a 7.5" barrel. Dad bought it new in '71 or '72. It is much more accurate than I would have thought. I know 3 shot groups are frowned upon, but with some BlackHills ammo with a 300gr bullet I cloverleafed 3 rounds dead center in the bullseye at 50 yards. I stopped at those 3 rounds because I really didn't want to screw up a group like that.
With that revolver I won't be getting a 44 mag barrel for the Contender. If I can settle down and figure out what I need to do I may be interested in a .223 with a Super 14 barrel. My 22 and 22 mag barrels are both 10".
If I can't get a solid shooting position with that scope I may try a reddot instead of a pistol scope. At 22 LR and 22 mag distances I really don't need magnification- although it does make it easier on my 55 year old eyes.
 

wakajawaka

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Jun 2, 2011
375
1
65
Pensacola, FL
I don't do to well with a red dot past 35 yds or so.

A 10" with a pistol scope is about the limit for a hand hold and then only at short range.

I haven't tried a rifle scope with taco hold. Probably should some time.
 

diggler1833

World's Okayest Rancher and Hog Hunter
Belligerents
Minuteman
Jul 22, 2007
1,304
1,556
41
Oklahoma
Dad has a Contender with .45/.410, .223, .30-30, .22LR, and one or two other barrels. All of them are 10". I've put many a round through that pistol. FYI, the hammer spring is not strong enough to reliably strike military primers. We bought a case of norinco 5.56 ammo for it years ago and have a FTF about every 5th shot, which requires you to pull the hammer back again and let it fly.

The muzzle flash of a 5.56 and 10" barrel is pretty amazing.

.30-30 pretty much sucks to shoot.
 

dagwood

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Mar 20, 2008
334
0
Myrtle Beach,SC
Has anyone been shooting a .308 out past 200 yards? I'm going to try shooting longer range with a Thompson.
As soon as I get back to work, I'm going to replace my Rem 700 that I just sold with an Thompson Encore with a 14" barrel.
I will probably get it threaded and get muzzle brake for it.
 
Last edited:

pepperbelly

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Aug 7, 2006
871
0
Fort Worth, Texas
I don't do to well with a red dot past 35 yds or so.

A 10" with a pistol scope is about the limit for a hand hold and then only at short range.

I haven't tried a rifle scope with taco hold. Probably should some time.

I shot my steel plate match yesterday. Just for the fun of it I went to the 50 yard line and shot at the swingers there. There are about 4" diameter and meant for rimfire rifles. Using my Ruger MkII with the UltraDot MatchDot that I use for plates I was hitting the swingers easily. Maybe it's just because I am so used to shooting like that, but it is much easier for me to hold steady that way than I did with the Contender.
 

wakajawaka

Sergeant
Belligerents
Minuteman
Jun 2, 2011
375
1
65
Pensacola, FL
I shot my steel plate match yesterday. Just for the fun of it I went to the 50 yard line and shot at the swingers there. There are about 4" diameter and meant for rimfire rifles. Using my Ruger MkII with the UltraDot MatchDot that I use for plates I was hitting the swingers easily. Maybe it's just because I am so used to shooting like that, but it is much easier for me to hold steady that way than I did with the Contender.
I do fine with a red dot on a Buckmark where most of the weight is centered over and just forward of the grip.

With the TC, all the weight is forward of the grip.
 

lash

Swamp Rat
Belligerents
Minuteman
Online Training Access
Sep 28, 2012
6,581
7,114
61
Central Florida
Holy necro-post, Batman!

But I do like the Thompson Contender, so thanks for that.

.223
.357 Max
45/410
 

myronman3

deez nuts
Belligerents
Minuteman
Mar 24, 2017
2,251
4,237
Ft. Benning School for Wayward Boys
a contender owner should have at least 4 barrels (caliber followed by barrel length.....22lr/10”. 223/14”. either a 7-30 waters/30-30 win/ or 6.5 jdj in 14”. either a 41, 44, or 45 colt in 10”.

the 30-30 is an entirely different animal in the contender....load it with spitzer bullets and everything changes. i had one in a 14” and it was VERY accurate and potent. only reason i dont have it anymore is someone traded me a python for it.

with that line up, you are set to do anything and everything. contender’s handle rimfire....and lower pressure rounds.

the encore..that opens up another level or power.

like so much of the shooting world......this is yet another rabbit hole that you can easily get lost in.
 

sandwarrior

Sergeant
Hessian
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 21, 2007
6,194
1,490
in yooperland
I have a Contender, and for now just have 22lr and 22WMR barrels. I have been thinking about other calibers, but would like to know from someone with experience with this weapon if some calibers just don't work. The longest barrel I would probably use is the Super 14" series.
I have been thinking about a .223, which should work fairly well. I was also thinking about the .204. Does it do well out of a relatively short barrel?

What calibers tend to work well in it, and what should I scratch off my list?
The Contender will work for anything up around the 30-30 case size. That's about as much power as the Contender will hold. If you want more power, you will need an Encore.

As to range, they shoot those all the time out to 500 with 7-30 Waters and 7mm TCU. I have a 7mm TCU, .222 Rem, and .223 Rem.

Any cartridge you chamber in a Contender will work. It's a single shot with an extractor. And, they are very accurate when you learn how to shoot a pistol for distance.

Added: just realized this thread was from 2014
 
  • Like
Reactions: lash

sandwarrior

Sergeant
Hessian
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 21, 2007
6,194
1,490
in yooperland
I love those rifles gemihur! I wonder what was going on with T/C that they needed to put all "big" cartridges in the Encore Frame lawyer restriction? FWIW, I've seen bigger cartridges chambered in the Contenders of old like yours. Not today. I agree with what you said above too, handle each and you will gravitate back to the Contender.

Speaking of which, I was out shooting my 7-TCU out to 300 today. Not all that successful, but 200 was solid for sure. I've decided the 7-TCU is about enough cartridge for me in a T/C Contender. I can still pump 50 rounds down in a day. For bigger ones, I've shot 30-30's, 7-30's , 6BR's, and 300 Savages (that hurt). While they have better ballistics I just find it hard to hang on to them for the number of shots I like to put downrange.

What loads do you run in the .308 Bellm? Sounds like a really nice cartridge for a lightweight rifle like a T/C Contender. I wonder if it ever got necked to 7mm or 6.5mm. 6mm? Contenders are no doubt a wildcatters dream.
 
  • Like
Reactions: lash

sandwarrior

Sergeant
Hessian
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 21, 2007
6,194
1,490
in yooperland
a contender owner should have at least 4 barrels (caliber followed by barrel length.....22lr/10”. 223/14”. either a 7-30 waters/30-30 win/ or 6.5 jdj in 14”. either a 41, 44, or 45 colt in 10”.

the 30-30 is an entirely different animal in the contender....load it with spitzer bullets and everything changes. i had one in a 14” and it was VERY accurate and potent. only reason i dont have it anymore is someone traded me a python for it.

with that line up, you are set to do anything and everything. contender’s handle rimfire....and lower pressure rounds.

the encore..that opens up another level or power.

like so much of the shooting world......this is yet another rabbit hole that you can easily get lost in.
I like the thought of four barrels at least. I don't like the cartridge selection so much. I say .22 LR for sure! .222 Rem or .223 a very good second barrel. Beyond that there are a bunch of options depending on how the shooter feels what their needs are. At least four, yes! But, not limited to! 😜
 
  • Like
Reactions: lash

lash

Swamp Rat
Belligerents
Minuteman
Online Training Access
Sep 28, 2012
6,581
7,114
61
Central Florida
Honestly, the accuracy that I was used to from the Contender was one of the factors that led me down the cherry path of precision rifles.
 

myronman3

deez nuts
Belligerents
Minuteman
Mar 24, 2017
2,251
4,237
Ft. Benning School for Wayward Boys
Honestly, the accuracy that I was used to from the Contender was one of the factors that led me down the cherry path of precision rifles.
then you have guys like mike bellum (SP?) that are selling oversized hinge pins because of the “inherent inaccuarcy” of the contenders....and people buy into that bullshit. talk about snake oil. I bet he could sell snow to the eskimos.
 

lash

Swamp Rat
Belligerents
Minuteman
Online Training Access
Sep 28, 2012
6,581
7,114
61
Central Florida
Lol. What effect exactly would a hinge pin have on accuracy? The sights and/or scope are attached to the barrel, not the action. P. T. Barnum was right.
 
  • Like
Reactions: sandwarrior

gemihur

Private
Minuteman
308 Bellm load data: https://www.bellmtcs.com/blog/308-bellm-load-data/
Don Shearer and Mike put this together it's good enough for me.
I like the 7-30 Waters but also use 7mm Bellm.
You've just gotta use common sense when loading for the contender.
When you look at it's design, all points of keeping it closed are below line of bore.
Hinge pin being the fulcrum and locking bolt of barrel beneath frame's 'table' being the other point of suspension.
Breech thrust is your limiting factor of consideration.
Recoil is managed by offset by furniture's mass. If I plan a day on the range, I'll mount a lead-filled rynite stock.
I certainly wouldn't elect that for a climb in the mountains but for hunting, I can take a slap to the shoulder occasionally.
Actually mid-range calibers are my favorite, 6.5 Grendel and 250 Savage, but honestly my 375 JDJ is a handy and tolerable setup that I wouldn't hesitate to use if I felt it might be needed. JDJ named Sue.JPG
 
Last edited:

sandwarrior

Sergeant
Hessian
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 21, 2007
6,194
1,490
in yooperland
Shot a Contender pistol in .45-70 with a heavy load and the thing almost flew out of my hands when fired. :eek:
45-70's can actually be loaded pretty hot. The ones you are 'supposed' to use in a Contender are old black powder pressure loads. I've fired those and they aren't too bad. (300 gr. bullet @ 1200 fps) I believe this is where the load limit issue came to a head and why the Encore was created. Much like gemihur's .308 Bellm, it's capable of some pretty stout ballistics. But really needs to be loaded down. The frame won't really take it, much less your hand.

I've never understood why some people gotta act like they're so 'tuff' and recoil isn't an issue. That's why I stick to the 7mm TCU. It has as good ballistics as the 7mm-30 Waters in a 10"-14" barrel. And, doesn't twist the gun out of your hand when you shoot it. Even when you're all set up to take the recoil, you come away with a stinging sore hand after 20 shots. I love the Contender, but not when it's loaded too hot. Even the Encore in a pistol really.
 
  • Like
Reactions: lash

myronman3

deez nuts
Belligerents
Minuteman
Mar 24, 2017
2,251
4,237
Ft. Benning School for Wayward Boys
Pachmayr decellerator grips help a lot with the livelier cartridges. I used to have a 35 remington in the super 14 with the rynite pistol grips...and THAT really sucked to shoot. That was back when i had no pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of. They make wood grips with a rubber recoil strap in the back, and the pachmayr grips. The grips can transform the shooting experience.
 

lash

Swamp Rat
Belligerents
Minuteman
Online Training Access
Sep 28, 2012
6,581
7,114
61
Central Florida
The weight of the bullet is a big factor in felt recoil.
I shoot it in both rifle and pistol with the contender.
As a handgun, your wrist and elbow allow for much of the directional thrust to be averted.
Also 300 gr. bullets and the use of Trail Boss make the experience more tolerable.
View attachment 7323011
You have a gorgeous collection of Contenders and amazing stocks!
 

sandwarrior

Sergeant
Hessian
Belligerents
Minuteman
Apr 21, 2007
6,194
1,490
in yooperland
Pachmayr decellerator grips help a lot with the livelier cartridges. I used to have a 35 remington in the super 14 with the rynite pistol grips...and THAT really sucked to shoot. That was back when i had no pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of. They make wood grips with a rubber recoil strap in the back, and the pachmayr grips. The grips can transform the shooting experience.
That I do. I started with a wood grip, then wanted one of those cushioned backstrap grips. Which they don't make for the G2, BTW. Then got the Packmayr rubber grip. I didn't think it was all that different until I put the wood one back on. The Packmayr went back on. I just really have to focus on grip before I pull the trigger.
 

gemihur

Private
Minuteman
The 45-70 offers a good bit of recoil even with lighter bullets.
recommendation = Pachmayr grip + gloves
If you reload, Trail Boss makes a noticeable reduction in recoil
I believe I used 13 gr. and found it satisfactory.
 
  • Like
Reactions: lash

11bar

Sergeant of the Hide
Belligerents
Minuteman
Mar 7, 2018
126
91
Hooker, Oklahoma
204 would be a fun round to try out great velocity and super low recoil. The 223 could be loaded down to accomplish this also just have to reload
 
  • Like
Reactions: gemihur