Monday, June 17, 2024
HomeSurvival GearEvaluation: Thompson Middle Contender Pistol

Evaluation: Thompson Middle Contender Pistol

It often begins with a type of conversations: If you happen to might solely have one gun …

Personally, I actually don’t need to dwell in a world the place I’d be restricted to at least one firearm. Nevertheless, if you happen to go on an prolonged journey off the grid in a looking or survival scenario, you most likely gained’t have the ability to tote your complete assortment of firearms with you.

You possibly can pick a rifle and handgun on your scenario, however you’ll nonetheless discover gaps between the 2. Your rifle might be able to attain out at lengthy ranges and your pistol could also be sufficient to maintain you secure from two-legged predators, however will both excel at harvesting recreation, holding varmints in examine, or offering protection in opposition to a four-legged predator?

What if you happen to did have one gun that might do all of it, or not less than get you near that aim?

Thompson Middle Contender

.223 Remington, .45-70, .410 Shotgun/.45 Colt (different calibers obtainable)

Barrel Size(s)
14 inches (different lengths obtainable)

17.5 inches (as proven with 14-inch barrels)

Weight (Unloaded)
3.5 kilos (with out optics)


Begins at $729


When it first debuted in 1967, the Thompson Middle Contender was largely a curiosity. The barrels have been all beneath 10 inches in size, have been octagonal, and represented the decrease finish of the facility spectrum (.22 Jet, .22 LR, .38 Particular, and so on.). They have been correct, however not notably helpful past the firing line on the native out of doors vary. By the Seventies, the barrels turned spherical and have been provided in rifle calibers comparable to .223 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, .35 Remington, and .45-70. Magnum. Handgun calibers comparable to .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .357 Most, and .45 Winchester Magnum adopted, and the Contender was reborn as a extremely correct long-distance pistol for metallic silhouette taking pictures and an acceptable looking arm in both rifle or pistol configuration.

Though they have been by no means meant or marketed as a “bug-out” gun, it’s a job at which they will excel.

A part of the fantastic thing about a Contender is that you could change calibers in a matter of minutes. Take away the forend with a screwdriver, come out the hinge pin, take away the barrel, set up the brand new one, substitute the hinge pin and the forend, and also you’re executed.

There’s no want to suit, examine headspace, or set cylinder hole. Moreover, there’s no have to re-sight the Contender, because the sights or optics are mounted on the barrel. Your zero is at all times maintained.

As a result of there’s a 52-year manufacturing interval with small modifications right here and there, some older barrel and body combos could require becoming. This has largely been eradicated with the most recent incarnation of the Contender often called the G2 body, which debuted in 1998. Nevertheless, even essentially the most correct barrels and customized frames can nonetheless be a bit tight-fitting. The most important grievance outdoors of being a single-shot firearm is having to slap the barrel right down to get it to interrupt open at instances with the older fashions. The older fashions do have a greater set off than the G2, nevertheless.

Rifle size barrels and a buttstock will be connected to the Contender to provide the shooter a single shot rifle. We is not going to delve into this right here, because it doesn’t match the character of holding a battery of a number of calibers in a small bundle, however the possibility is there.

The Thompson Middle Contender breaks open like an old-school single-shot shotgun.

My private favourite mixture for the Contender as a bug-out handgun is the next three 14-inch barrels: .45-70 Authorities, .223 Remington, and .410/.45 Colt.

Every one covers a possible want in most survival eventualities, notably if you happen to’re trying to hunt your personal recreation. Most significantly, Thompson Middle Arms nonetheless makes these three barrels for the G2 collection.

.45-70 Authorities

When most individuals consider the .45-70 spherical, both single-shot rolling block or falling block rifles come to thoughts, or presumably a Nineteenth-century lever-action carbine.

The .45-70 barrel represents the higher threshold of energy for the Contender in a presently produced manufacturing unit barrel. It’s able to taking any animal in North America, from feral hogs and whitetail deer to brown bear, elk, moose, or buffalo.

Due to its energy stage, many shooters are delay by this caliber in a 14-inch-barreled pistol. After I purchased my first Contender barrel on this caliber, the salesperson on the counter known as me “a f***ing nut” and stated he noticed somebody fireplace it and break each bone in his hand. Like most gun store sages, I ignored him and located the recoil someplace between a .44 Magnum and .454 Casull.
I gained’t lie; the pistol has fairly a little bit of kick to it. The excessive bore axis and the recoil from the big, heavy gradual bullet push the Contender again sharply into your hand. My barrel has the manufacturing unit muzzle brake put in and is topped with a Leupold prolonged eye aid 2x scope.

As with most Contender barrels of this size, accuracy is excellent.

Above: The versatile Contender from prime to backside — 45-70 with 2x Leupold scope; stainless 410/45 Colt with ventilated rib and brass bead; .223 with threaded barrel and rail; wooden forend and grip on a blued body.

.223 Remington

This has at all times been one of the vital well-liked selections for the Contender pistol. It’s an excellent varmint spherical, and if you happen to persist with the 14-inch-barreled model, your velocity, accuracy, and energy ranges shall be on par with what you’d get from an AR rifle with similar-length barrel.

I’ve had my barrel for a few years and used it on numerous frames with no issues. My barrel is threaded ½x28-inch and serves effectively for silencer testing. If you happen to run suppressors, the Contender makes for one of many quietest hosts on the market, as a result of it’s a very closed motion for all the length of the firing sequence.

Most frequently, I mount a red-dot sight on the rail. My barrel began life in a manufacturing unit blue end that quickly deteriorated in service as a discipline gun for over 20 years. At present, it’s coated in a black Cerakote end by Nevada Cerakote. My subsequent stage on this planet of Contenders is to have all my non-stainless barrels coated the identical manner.

The Contender device, used to take away the forend, hinge pin, and barrel.

.45 Colt/.410 Shotgun

The .45 Colt/.410 barrel for the Contender is a bit controversial, like most firearms that fireside this cartridge mixture. It is because a sub-16-inch barrel wants rifling or else it’s thought-about an NFA merchandise, requiring a $200 tax stamp. That rifling doesn’t assist the .410 shot sample in any respect. Likewise, the 3-inch chamber for the shotgun shell means the .45 Colt bullet has a major soar within the chamber earlier than it makes contact with the lands and grooves within the barrel. In consequence, the accuracy of the .45 Colt will undergo within the Contender. This can be a disgrace, as a result of you’ll be able to actually bump up the facility stage of the .45 Colt on this pistol to outshine the .44 Magnum.

Nonetheless, with the manufacturing unit choke and the correct ammunition, the .410 shotgun spherical in a Contender is greater than satisfactory for rabbit, grouse, quail, pheasant, and dove inside 50 yards. It’s a great possibility if you end up in a scenario the place it’s essential forage for small recreation and uncared for to deliver a full-size shotgun.

This barrel is authorized in each state besides California, the place a sub-18-inch barrel on any firearm able to discharging a shotgun shell makes it a short-barreled shotgun underneath state legislation.

Above: A well-used 44 Magnum barrel, artificial forend, and Pachmayr rubber grip will be sensible equipment to have available.

Different Choices

I’ve different barrels in numerous calibers, as a lifetime of taking pictures and hand-loading has gotten the higher of me. All of the Magnum handgun calibers work extraordinarily effectively in a Contender. One other surprisingly good spherical is the previous .30-30 Winchester. Within the Contender, you’ll be able to actually faucet into the accuracy inherent on this spherical by loading conical, pointed bullets as a substitute of the previous round-nosed ammunition designed to be used in lever-action rifles.

Paradoxically, the .300 Whisper designed by JD Jones was not solely meant to be used within the AR, however within the Contender as effectively. This spherical is understood immediately because the .300 Blackout and a few of us may favor this to the .223 or .30-30 chamberings.

Moreover, you will discover sub-caliber chamber inserts that’ll will let you fireplace .22 LR or .22 Magnum out of your .223 Remington barrels, for instance. These inserts are low-cost, and though they don’t present the accuracy of a devoted barrel in that caliber, they are often enjoyable to mess around with.

The .22 lengthy rifle Contender barrels are among the many most correct you will discover this facet of a European Free-Pistol. I left them out as a part of the bug-out barrel battery as a result of I discover a devoted .22 semiauto or revolver extra helpful for a similar quantity of weight because the Contender barrel.


Whereas the three barrels I specified have been chosen as a result of they fill sure wants, one other issue was that there’s an abundance of off-the-shelf ammunition selections for these barrels. The true magic of the Contender platform is that you could tailor your handloads to your particular person barrel to extend efficiency.

If you happen to’re not already reloading ammunition, the Contender will simply get you into it in addition to flip you into an accuracy nut!

Extra Energy

Thompson Middle Arms provides an alternative choice if you happen to discover these selections missing, though all three can be found on this platform as effectively in 15-inch as a substitute of 14-inch barrels. It’s known as the Encore and was designed to permit the shooter to fireside rounds comparable to .308 Winchester, .30-06, .460 Smith & Wesson, and within the long-gun configuration, shotgun and muzzle-loading choices. Barrels don’t interchange between Contenders and Encores, however a battery of potent looking weapons will be constructed from a single body.

Capturing the Contender

My manner of taking pictures the Contender is with a typical two-hand grip that you simply’d use on any giant revolver. I’ve mounted bipods on them, shot them throughout the hood of my truck, or from a relaxation constructed into an ATV. I’ve even laid on my again within the Creedmoor place with the facet of the forend braced on the highest of my boot for lengthy vary with open sights.

Some folks cradle the forend of their non-shooting hand, and for a flicker in time there have been corporations making extraordinarily tall scope mounts to permit the shooter to fireside from the mid chest space and the power to get nearer eye aid from a extra highly effective scope. These specific mounts are not made for good purpose.

Ignore the forend — it’s there to look good and defend the hinge pin. You don’t and possibly shouldn’t use it for taking pictures except you put in a stud to mount a bipod or are utilizing a remainder of some type.


The Contender was once a extra inexpensive firearm within the $400 value vary, and the common value of a barrel would run from $50 to $199 with used ones on the decrease finish of this spectrum. The present MSRP on a brand new G2 Contender pistol body runs from $523 for walnut furnishings and blue end to $548 for stainless and artificial. New pistol barrels are about $229 every. An entire handgun in a single caliber begins at $729 from the manufacturing unit.

In Abstract

I wouldn’t suggest a Contender as an “solely gun,” though some old-school preppers have used one efficiently as such. I feel they’ve a spot as a looking and varmint gun, particularly when holding your loadout on the lighter facet. The only-barrel lockup and single-action set off make them correct and really dependable. Their dimension and weight make them simply moveable, whether or not you add sling swivels to the grip and forend or preserve them in a holster of some sort on the hip or throughout the chest. Different firearms could come and go from my assortment, however I’ll at all times make room for a Contender (or two).


Learn Extra

Subscribe to Recoil Offgrid’s free publication for updates, provides and extra.

STAY SAFE: Obtain a Free copy of the OFFGRID Outbreak Difficulty

In subject 12, Offgrid Journal took a tough have a look at what you ought to be conscious of within the occasion of a viral outbreak. We’re now providing a free digital copy of the OffGrid Outbreak subject once you subscribe to the OffGrid e-mail publication. Join and get your free digital copy


Most Popular