by John C. Krull
Gun Week Production Manager
At first I didn't believe it when I heard that Thompson/Center was introducing a semi-auto .22-caliber rimfire rifle.
I've been shooting T/C firearms for going on 20 years, and never has any one of them been anything other than a single shot firearm. I've got a T/C Hawken, a Patriot blackpowder pistol. I've had a couple of Contender pistols with several barrels of different calibers. I've got their new flintlock Firestorm and an Encore rifle with both a 209X50 blackpowder barrel and a .22-250 rifle barrel.
I like my single shots. I've never needed more than one to kill whatever game or varmint I was hunting. Of course, part of that is true because I only take shots that I am sure of making and don't trust to any "Hail Mary" hits.
So I was really surprised when Rori Chandler told me that Thompson/Center was introducing a .22 semi-automatic rifle. Not only was T/C going to deviate from their tradition of single-shot firearms, but the new rifle was going to be equipped with a Match-grade barrel as well as the usual fine American walnut stock for which T/C is known. I told Chandler to put me on the list for one and that I would do a review of it during the coming summer.
But months came and went with no T/C semi-auto. Finally, on a November afternoon, I got a call from one of my daughters that a box had come from Thompson/Center and that she thought that it was a rifle. I wanted to go home then and not wait another three hours to see what I had received-but I waited till I got home.
It was the new .22 LR Classic. T/C had taken their time and made sure that everything was just right with production before shipping any guns, standing by their tradition of quality.
The wood was nice, the bluing even and shiny. I put it to my shoulder and the sights lined up beautifully. I was going to enjoy shooting this gun.
Test Fire No. 1
The last weekend in November was a tough one as far as getting outdoors-deer hunting and a record lake-effect snowstorm intruded. But, I went to the basement range anyway to start testing the T/C. I'm pretty lucky having the convenience of a 50-foot range right in my basement and not having to leave the house to shoot. While my range will only handle .22 and pistols with wadcutter bullets, it allows me to shoot when I have the time and the desire. On the first test day I wasn't shooting good. After three targets of 10 shots each, with more flyers than groups, I gave up. I knew that it wasn't the gun-it was me.
The first weekend in December once again gave me time to get some shooting done. On that Sunday, everything was just "hunky dory" and I knew that I would be shooting better that day.
Before I mounted a scope on the gun, I wanted to see what it would do with the open sights provided. The groups were acceptable, but not great. From the results with the scope it was a problem with the eyes of the shooter and not the gun. Groups were between 1 and 1° inches. All test shooting was done from 50 feet from a rest. We're testing the gun, not the shooter. The target used for all shooting was Hoppe's Official 50-foot rifle target.
Using an RCBS trigger pull scale I got consistent readings of 3-1/2 pounds of trigger pull.
I mounted a Tasco 8-32x44mm scope on the Classic. This may seem like a lot of scope for the gun, but they performed beautifully together. T/C had sent along a pair of scope rings, but with the 44mm objective lens of the scope I wasn't able to use them.
I stopped at my local Dick's Sporting Goods to pick up a pair of high rings. All they had were Millett and the clerk told me that they didn't have any high rings in stock. Thank goodness I didn't listen to him. I found one pair of Millet's Weaver-style Angle-loc rings. I like the Millett's best for certain applications because you can adjust for windage with the rings themselves. Their Angle-locs did the job.
The first ammo used was CCI's Green Tag competition .22 LR. The groups were great, each shot was touching and from a string of 10 shots you couldn't count 10 holes in the paper. I continued with the Green Tag until I was on the money. If you check the targets photo on the cover, the one with the X-ring blown out is the Green Tag.
Next I loaded up with Federal Gold Medal .22 LR. This is some very expensive and accurate ammo. And the results in the target confirmed the quality of this ammo. In the cover photo, it looks like only three shots were put on the paper, but 10 shots were fired. The group is about 3/8's of an inch to the right and about 5/16 inch high. I was shooting for a group here and didn't want to change the sights so I let it go at that. With the proper sight adjustment, I'm sure I would have blown out the X-ring as I did with the Green Tag.
The Green Tag and Gold Medal are meant for competition and cost more than the average shooter usually wants to spend. So next I loaded up with CCI Blazer ammo. This can be bought at your local sporting goods store for less than $10 a brick. Ten dollars would buy you only about 100 rounds of either of the competition ammos. But, once again, we got a very satisfactory group. It printed °- inch left and about -inch high. The group size increased to 's of an inch but there were no flyers. If we were scoring, I would be hard pressed to say that all the shots were at least 9s if not 10s and Xs.
I was having so much fun and getting such good results that I just kept shooting. In the end I had put over 500 rounds through the T/C semi-auto. I had fired two boxes of Green Tag, two of the Federal Gold Medal, three of the CCI Blazer, two boxes of Remington Thunderbolts, a box of some Russian ammo that I don't even know where I got it, a box or so of PMC Sidewinder 50s, along with a mixture of odds and ends I had laying around and wanted to use up. Note that during this time I never cleaned the gun once (I did before the first shot was fired). I had no malfunctions of any kind. Also the groups continued to be about the size of the whole from a .45. No groups were bigger than 's of an inch. I'm impressed! T/C has put together a competition quality firearm at off-the-shelf prices. This is a rimfire rifle that anyone should be able to shoot well with and enjoy for many years.
This is the way guns used to be built. T/C has created a fine .22 with a full-size, deluxe, satin-finish American walnut stock that has a Monte Carlo cheekpiece. The rifle features a blued, all-steel receiver and Laney chamber. The 22-inch barrel is Match-grade with a target crown. It threads into the receiver for an exact fit. Unlike many .22s with pressed fit and pinned barrels, the Classic's precise barrel lockup results in as consistent an accuracy from shot to shot as I've ever seen.
The rifle is fed from a detachable, 5-shot, solid steel investment cast magazine that can be disassembled for easy cleaning to assure smooth function. The magazine release is located in front of the trigger guard for ease of loading. The manual thumb safety is well located on the right side of the receiver, but is a little stiff. This will probably work out with use or some polishing. A safety lock is supplied with the rifle for additional security when the gun is stored.
The overall length is 39° inches and the Classic weighs 5.5 pounds. The rear sight is fully adjustable and is equipped with a green fiber-optic insert. The front sight blade has an orange fiber-optic insert. They line up naturally when the gun is mounted. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope base. The stock is quipped with quick detachable sling swivel studs for those who take the gun afield and use a sling.
Amazingly the T/C Classic has a suggested retail of only $335. While this is more costly than some semi-autos on the market, those other guns can't produce the groups that the Classic can. You get what you pay for.
In an earlier press release T/C had said that the gun would have an 8-shot magazine but they ended up with a 5-shot instead. I don't like the idea of a 5-shot magazine and would actually have liked to see it hold 10 rounds. There is a benefit from the 5-round magazine. It fits flush into the receiver and doesn't tend to dig into your side or back while at sling-arms.
While talking with Chandler a couple of days ago, she told me that she is pretty sure that they are going to come out with an accessory 10-shot magazine for the gun soon. I hope so.
Test Fire 3
So far I couldn't get the Classic to do anything but perform admirably. But, I thought, I could fool it. I went back to the ammo locker and dug out a box of CCI CBs. For those not familiar with this ammo, it is short-range, low-velocity ammunition. I use it for dispatching critters in traps and other varmints. Lo and behold, the Classic continued to group. I only shot 5 rounds of the CBs because I'm almost out of them but the group was just 1 inches, low and left of the bullseye, with three of the shots in the black.
I have never seen a .22 LR semi-automatic perform this way out of the box. All in all the shooting performance was equal to that of a bolt action target rifle. Maybe I should put some peep sights on it and see what it'll do?
For more information on Tasco scopes contact them at: Tasco Sales Inc., 2889 Commerce Parkway, Dept. GWK, Miramar, FL 33025; 800-368-2726; their website is: www.tascosales.com.
For more information on Millett scope mounts contact them at: Millett Sights, 7275 Murdy Circle, Dept. GWK, Huntington Beach, CA 92647, or call 800-MILLETT. Their website is: www.millettsights.com.
For more information on T/C products, contact Thompson/Center Arms Co., PO Box 5002, Dept. GWK, Rochester, NH 03866 or call 603-332-2333. Their website is: www.tcarms.com.
Remember when contacting any of these manufacturers to tell them that John at Gun Week sent you.
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