By Mike Dickerson
Whether you label them “budget-friendly” or “entry-level,” there’s no shortage of affordable hunting rifles lining dealer’s shelves these days priced below $500. That is both a good and bad thing.
It’s good in the sense that gun makers recognize the need to produce affordable rifles for the masses and increase participation in hunting. It’s bad, from the perspective of those of us of a certain age, who remember when the Big Three of American hunting rifles—the Winchester Model 70, the Remington 700 and the Ruger 77—once sold for the price of today’s economy rifles.
That is no longer the case. The latest incarnations of those flagship models have suggested retail prices of around $1,000, which is simply too expensive for many potential buyers. That’s why so many rifle makers now offer economy models such as the Ruger American, Remington 783, Savage Axis, Mossberg Patriot and others.
The newest entry in the race to the bottom, price-wise, is Thompson’s Center’s new Compass bolt-action rifle ($399).
What you get for your money with the Compass—which is available chambered in 204 Ruger, .22-250 Rem., .223 Rem./5.56 NATO, .243 Win., .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., 7mm Rem Mag., .308 Win., .30-06 Springfield and 300 Win. Mag.—is considerably more than you would expect of such an inexpensive rifle. The chrome moly barrel is 5R button-rifled, which has a reputation for delivering good accuracy and being easy to clean. Rate of twist in our .30-06 test rifle, was 1:10”, but twist rates vary by caliber. Barrel length is 22 inches (the two magnums have 24-inch barrels, and all metal is blued, except for the silver safety selector and bolt release.
Atop the barrel you’ll find Weaver-style bases already installed. Each Compass comes with a factory threaded barrel (and thread protector) for use with suppressors and muzzle brakes. The barrel is free-floated, and aluminum pillar bedding mates the action to the stock. Many synthetic stocks can be crushed by excessive action-screw pressure, so pillar-bedding enhances stability, strength and accuracy.
The ergonomics and handling characteristics of the gun are good. It has a slight weight-forward balance in the hands, as you would expect of a rifle with a lightweight synthetic stock, but overall balance is better than with some similarly equipped rifles. Empty weight is 7.25 lbs. for guns in standard calibers and 7.5 lbs. for magnums. Dimensions of the black composite stock’s forearm are just right—not too thick, not too thin—and the stock has textured grip panels, a soft rubber recoil pad and sling-swivel studs mounted fore and aft.
The bolt handle has an elongated-barrel shape with grooves for a solid grip. The bolt is a three-lug design, and its 60-degree lift allows you to mount scopes with ample clearance for the bolt handle. Atop the rear of the bolt is a three-position wing safety, which allows you to cycle rounds through the action in the middle position with the safety engaged.
I liked the rifle’s detachable, 5-round rotary magazine, a flush-fitting polymer design. It snaps into place with authority and drops freely when the release lever is pushed. One thing that’s always driven me mildly crazy are magazine release levers that protrude from the bottom of a stock. The magazine release lever is protected inside a recess on the bottom of the stock and would be difficult to trigger accidentally.
The Compass has a user-adjustable trigger which Thompson Center says can be set to a pull weights of 3.5 to 5.0 lbs. However, the trigger on our test gun broke at 2 lbs., 13 oz., as measured on a Lyman trigger pull gauge, which I would regard as a welcome deviation from the factory-stated minimum weight. The single-stage trigger had zero creep and broke cleanly with minimal over-travel.
For testing, I mounted a Bushnell Elite 3500 4-12X40mm scope, and ran five different factory loads through the gun to see if it lived up to Thompson Center’s accuracy guarantee of 1-inch groups at 100 yards with premium ammunition.
The rifle proved to be a bit finicky its ammo preferences. Only one of the tested loads, Browning’s new BXR 155-gr. Matrix Tip , met the accuracy guarantee with 0.96-inch average groups and a best group of 0.92 inch. To be fair, all testing was done on a day when the wind varied wildly from 8 to 20 mph. Even so, three tested rounds produced average groups of an inch and a half or better, and four out of five delivered best groups under an inch and a half. With wind taken out of the equation, I suspect groups would tighten up substantially. Of course, hunting often requires you to make shots under less-than-ideal conditions, and by that standard of measurement, the Compass will clearly guide you in the right direction. Contact Thompson/Center Arms, Dept. OT; Tel.: (866) 730-1614; Web: www.tcarms.com
Source Article from http://ontargetmagazine.com/2017/06/thompson-center-compass/