Thompson/Center Encore .25-06 Rifle
By Ed Turner
It seems to me that Thompson/Center Arms has been subtlety giving us hunters who enjoy watching hunting videos and TV shows a big dose of their new Encore rifle shooting system. It seems that fully half of the hunting shows I have seen feature it in some form, either as a shotgun, muzzleloader, or rifle. It's apparently working to their benefit, as I finally felt the urge to own one myself, and this after I was known to say that they are butt ugly guns.
Well, I own one now and, wouldn't you know, it seems to have something of a special kind of "character" to it. I am the proud owner of a blued T/C Encore centerfire rifle with a walnut stock in .25-06 caliber. The way I decided among the many available calibers was that I found I had about 5 boxes of .25-06 ammo left over after trading away a Tikka Model 695 rifle about a year ago. So, what the heck, that's as good a reason as any to choose a caliber. I can always get a barrel in one of the other calibers later on.
Here are some facts and dimensions of the T/C Encore as tested:
I do feel the rifle is very comfortable to hold and handle. It balances very nicely and shoulders quickly as well. I'll go so far as to say even more comfortably than my Kimber 84M and about as nicely as my sweet Ruger 77MKll RSI. I have a couple other single shots, a Ruger #1RSI, a Ruger #1A, and a Mossberg SSi, and this one shoulders and aims as naturally as any of them. Actually it may be the most comfortable of the bunch.
It is surely not a classically styled rifle. It has a very high comb and a dramatic, deep cut, full pistol grip. The forend is nicely rounded and hand filling. There is a soft rubber recoil pad on the butt stock. There is no checkering on either the butt stock or forearm, but the walnut does have some decent figure.
I also did some real world comparisons between this rifle and several others in regards to overall length. Even though this rifle carries the shorter barrel, it is still a full 24" long, thus getting full factory ballistics from the speedy .25-06 caliber. The overall length of this rifle is about 1/2" shorter than one of my other favorites, a Browning BLR in .358 Win. with a 20" barrel. It's about 1-1/2" shorter than the Mossberg SSi in 30/06, which also has a 24" barrel. It's about 3-1/2" shorter than a Remington Model 700 long action with a 22" barrel, and a full 5-1/2" shorter than a Model 700 with a 24" barrel. It is longer than my Ruger #1A in 7X57 (22" barrel) by about a quarter of an inch. And about 2" longer than my #1 RSI in .270. Another favorite whitetail rifle, a Model 84M Kimber is about 2" longer.
All of which is just to give you a feel for how compact this rifle with a full 24" barrel is, and how easily it would handle in everyday hunting conditions; i.e. still hunting or in a tree stand or ground blind. I am a firm believer in compact rifles, preferring to have a rifle no longer than 42", and less than 40" is even better.
My next step after assembling and playing a bit with my new toy was to find and mount a scope on it. It was not difficult to locate a Weaver 1-piece mount for it, and along with that I already had handy a very nice Leupold Rifleman 2-7x33mm scope, already mounted in matte finish Weaver rings.
I had also been lucky enough to have been able to do some comparison shopping in my friend Gary's gun shop; being able to mount or simulate mounting several other scopes he had in stock. I had figured to buy a Weaver 3-9x38mm scope, thinking it to be a near perfect match for rifle and caliber. I mounted it and found it to be, to my taste, too big a scope for this compact of a rifle. In my opinion nothing spoils the lines of a nice rifle more quickly than an oversized scope mounted on what normally would be a nice trim hunting rifle. I'll concede the point when it comes to a target rifle, but for me it is simply ungainly with a trim hunting rig. Even with a 38mm objective the scope still looked a bit big on the rifle. When I put the Leupold on there, however, it looked just perfect.
The scope mounted very easily as there are several slots on the one-piece base to facilitate ring placement. Eye relief and scope clearance was fine, although I needed to fold the sight down on the barrel to fit the objective lens over top of it. Bore sighting a single shot rifle that breaks down is a snap, and all that's left now is to get to the range and run some cartridges through it to sight it in, cleaning it once or twice. (I'll simply use a boresnake.)
After buying many new rifles in the last several years, I feel that a new one needs to be shot-in at least a bit. In other words, your first 3 shots will likely not be as good as 3 shots fired 10 or 15 rounds later. I think the barrel loses any uneven edges when doing this, and accuracy always seems to improve after 10 or so shots.
Well, it's about 2 or more weeks later, and I've finally gotten some decent weather to get the T/C Encore to the range. And, luckily, I was just as impressed as I had hoped to be. A total of just under one box of shells was fired, as much for function and familiarity training for old Ed here, as anything else. It functioned flawlessly and I am almost embarrassed to admit that while shooting four other rifles on this same trip to the range, I was surprised once or twice when my trigger squeeze initiated a shot before I had expected it to fire. They say that with proper trigger control one is never sure just what instant the rifle will fire, but I found that I had to make an effort to remember which rifle I was squeezing off, as the T/C had by far the best trigger of the bunch. My estimation is that it breaks at around 3 or 4 pounds, not unlike the excellent trigger in my Kimber 84M.
The rifle does not eject empty cases but it was a simple matter to pull them off the raised extractor for removal. The recoil of the .25-06 was negligible, as expected. An unexpected benefit I found with this caliber was that, because the contour of the barrel is basically the same for all the rifle calibers available, the .25-06 has what might in some circles be considered a heavyweight barrel. There is a lot of barrel steel surrounding the small .25 caliber hole. This seemed to retard barrel heating, and checks in-between groups showed that this barrel dissipated heat rather quickly and evenly.
The weather was not an ally on this day, with chilly temperatures and gusty winds (up to 30 mph) throughout our range session. We confined all our shooting to the 50 yard range, and were chased off at that time by plunging temperatures and heavy clouds streaming in.
I was impressed, though, even at that relatively short range with what the Encore showed me right out of the gate. Several groups measuring less than 1" were fired. The best measured a tad under 1/2", fired with Remington Express 100 grain CoreLokt factory loads. Of course, more shooting will be done between now and next season. I will be trying some more Federal Premium 117 grain loads, as well as a sweet load from Speer with a 120 grain bullet that I had previously used in my Tikka.
Overall, I'll say that I was very pleased with initial accuracy findings, and even more pleased with the Encore overall. The great thing about this particular rifle is that you can change from rifle to shotgun or muzzleloader using the same basic action and adding other barrels and forearms as required. A nice feature is that the mounting of a scope allows it to remain zeroed when changing barrels, as the scope and mount remain with each barrel.
This has been my first experience with a T/C Encore or Contender product, and I have finally seen what I might previously have been missing. Now, if only T/C will come up with a 24" .338 Federal chambered barrel, I'll know for sure I made a fantastic purchase here. (T/C does indeed offer a .338 Federal barrel for 2007. -Ed.)
Copyright 2007 by Ed Turner. All rights reserved.
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