Thompson/Center Triumph .50 caliber Muzzleloader
One of the few truly new introductions to have appeared this year is T/C’s “Triumph,” which was previewed earlier this year during a shooting session at the 2007 SHOT Show in Orlando. T/C calls the Triumph “The New Magnum Muzzleloader.” As is often the case, the introductory models featured at SHOT are more or less tool-room guns, not regular production models. It is only human nature to want to know what is “new” immediately and after the new is announced, we want to know when our local dealer will have them. No one really knows at the time, as often the production tooling has not even been made and last minute design changes need to be added for production. In any case, the T/C Triumph is here.
The tested Triumph model is item number 8512. This version is supplied with Weathershield barrel finish, an all-purpose camo (composite synthetic) stock and a 28 inch barrel. The Weathershield finish turns the barrel a gray color that more or less matches the finish of the aluminum alloy receiver. The stock's camo pattern is "Realtree AP HD." (See photo above.)
The Triumph is also available with Weathershield and a black composite stock (item number 8511). Save a little change by opting for your new Triumph with a matte blue barrel finish and the item number becomes 8503. Triumph ignition is by #209 shotshell primers and the supplied ramrod is a solid aluminum Rugged Rod.
As is all too customary in muzzleloading, liberties are taken with the stated dimensions for the sake of marketing. A tape measure down the muzzle revealed the length from the muzzle to the breech plug to be right at 26 inches. This is the usable barrel length. T/C retains their enlarged false muzzle billed as the “QLA.” That subtracts another half inch or so of rifled barrel. Never-the-less, the rifle is decidedly muzzle heavy because there is little beef in the composite stock.
The Triumph weighs 7 pounds 1 ounce out of the box without scope or rings, making it rather light for a muzzleloader. This is partly due to its aluminum alloy receiver. It should therefore weigh around 8 pounds with a scope and mount, or up to 9 pounds with a leather sling and an oversize scope in steel rings and bases. There may not be much point to the latter, given the aluminum receiver.
The pistol grip stock has a pronounced Monte Carlo comb with a lot of drop at the heel. This stock is primarily intended for use with a telescopic sight, yet allows use of the supplied iron sights should the buyer choose to do so. The stock is attached to the action in an unusual manner. The neck of the stock is carried forward on each side in points that cover part of the receiver, giving the Triumph a unique appearance. These extensions are secured to the receiver with large (unsightly) screws. The forend is also a bit odd, decreasing in cross-section in three "steps." A nicely fitted Limbsaver pad graces the butt, a thoughtful touch. Detachable sling swivel studs are provided. Though the stock does not have a particularly generous footprint, the gun is pleasant enough to shoot from a bench rest with 250 grain projectiles and a pair of Triple Se7en magnum pellets.
The trigger breaks at 4 pounds 1 ounce according to my calibrated Lyman electronic gauge and incorporates an automatic hammer block safety. I found it to be far better than average, with no sand, grit, creep, or other unpleasantries. Altogether, it is a good hunting trigger.
The Triumph is a substantial departure from T/C’s popular Omega rifle. The Omega has no frame; essentially the “action” is a barrel with a trigger group hanging from it. As the trigger group (billed as a “drop action”) drops through the stock, it is restricted in size. A few folks that have found the Omega’s diminutive trigger assembly to be a real knuckle basher, though I’m not one of them. In any case, those who prefer a larger trigger guard for large or gloved hands will be pleased with the Triumph.
In times past, I have lauded Thompson/Center for their owner’s manuals. Yes, I’m one of the poor saps who actually read the manual. With a non-form 4473 arm, a good owner's manual is vital for many folks; it is all they have to go by. You’ve heard “when all else fails, read the instructions?” Sadly, this T/C owner's manual contains obsolete information. It gives the new owner very little direction as to what a suggested deer hunting load should be, ignoring many of the current propellants on the market (even Triple Se7en) and referencing outdated sabots and other components.
What is particularly disturbing is the glaringly incompetent attempt to discuss smokeless powder and “approved” black powder substitutes. I am quite sure that whoever wrote this section has absolutely no clue how propellants or muzzleloaders work. It is misinformation and I hope that Thompson revises this manual in one big hurry. Consumers deserve honest, accurate, up to date information.
I’m a bit perplexed by the new “Weathershield” exterior finish used on this rifle. It is nicely done, evenly applied and has a silver-plated look to it. It may well be more durable than the standard T/C bluing; I really can’t tell at this juncture. However, it is applied on a carbon steel, rather than stainless steel, barrel. For a muzzleloader designed to shoot corrosive propellants, protecting the inside of the barrel is far more important than protecting the obvious, easy to clean exterior. If it sounds like the lack of a stainless steel barrel puzzles me, it does. The Weathershield itself, though, is an interesting addition. Application of the more modern metal coatings is overdue in muzzleloading and I’m glad that T/C is investigating the newer options.
Though the Triumph is a break-open ("tip-up") action with a hinge pin, its operation is less than intuitive. To “break open” the gun you must push forward on the stem (toggle) protruding from the bottom of the trigger guard. This is the opposite of the way you would open an Encore or a Contender, but the same direction you would open a falling block rifle. The gun cannot be snapped closed like an Encore (or an O/U shotgun). Instead, you must pull back on the same protruding lever to lock it closed, again more like a falling block rifle. This is a subjective area, but I found this to be a clumsy and unnatural procedure.
With only four moving parts, there is no need to remove the trigger group, disassemble or use tools to clean the rifle. There are, however, many obviously cast parts used in this action. The supplied iron sights are also a step backward from the sights T/C has supplied on previous rifles.
My test shooting was done primarily with Hodgdon’s new Triple Seven Magnum pellets. There were no ignition issues. I found the face of the Speed Breech XT™ plug, which is sealed by three gas compression rings (patent pending), to be amazingly clean after firing. There was no primer residue or blow back leaking externally or back into the firing pin area. This was remarkable.
The issue of cleaning regularly comes up with muzzleloaders and the Triumph is very easy to clean. Open the gun, manually remove the interrupted thread Speed Breech plug (no tools required), which takes only moments and a 90 degree turn, give the barrel its normal attention, clean / re lube / reinstall the breech plug and your gun is ready to be put away in just a few minutes.
The accuracy on this individual rifle was better than your average muzzleloader, grouping 1-7/8 in. @ 100 yards with Hornady SST’s and tightening to 1-1/2 in. @ 100 yards with Barnes 245 grain Spitfires using two pellet loads. More than sufficient for most deer hunting, this likely can be tightened up a bit by using Triple Se7en FFg loose powder.
The 2007 MSRP for this model is about $575, with street prices discounted the usual $100 or so. The metal work on the gun was good, as I’ve come to expect from Thompson. The only cosmetic flaws were on the forearm where it joins the barrel. This area was obviously rough, mottled and uneven. This is a “first year” gun, so I would expect incremental improvements as time goes by.
Overall, this rifle is a bit of a mixed bag in my view. I’m not overjoyed with the carbon steel barrel, muzzle heavy balance, cumbersome toggle-lock action, downgraded iron sights and the many cast parts. On the other hand, accuracy is good, the speed breech is easy to remove and very clean, the trigger is well-done, normal cleaning is easy and the Sims pad is appreciated. I’m left with the feeling that this offering could have been a lot more than it is. It is hard not to feel a bit shortchanged with a “28 inch” barrel that isn’t and although the gun is not homely, it is no stunner, either. The Triumph's ergonomics and the way its action operates are enough to insure that I’d personally choose to hunt with another of Thompson's excellent muzzleloaders, perhaps an Encore Pro Hunter.
Copyright 2007 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.