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Thompson/Center Contender G2 Rimfire Rifles

By Chuck Hawks

T/C Contender G2
Illustration courtesy of Thompson/Center Arms.

Thompson/Center Arms did not invent the modern single-shot hunting pistol back in 1965 when the original Contender was introduced, but they did popularize the type. Later the T/C line expanded to include muzzleloading rifles and accessories, and both rimfire and centerfire rifles. It is the rimfire rifle, the Contender G2 (for second generation), that is the subject of this article.

All T/C Contender firearms are based on a break-open action. This is among the best actions of its type, and Contender rifles and pistols have won many silhouette target competitions.

The Contender G2 is available in .22 Long Rifle Match and .17 HMR rimfire calibers. Either way you will get a rifle with a blued steel barreled action and a two-piece walnut stock.

T/C's precision investment castings come from their own casting facility in Rochester, New Hampshire, Thompson Investment Castings. The action body, hammer, trigger, safety switch, and trigger guard of Contender G2 rifles all appear to be investment castings.

One of the unique features of the Contender guns is their ability to change calibers by changing barrels. The Contender G2 rifles can even change from rimfire to centerfire cartridges. Another notable feature is their Life Time Warranty.

T/C makes this statement about their Contender G2 rifles: "Its versatility, with regards to selecting either rimfire or centerfire barrels makes it a multi-use rifle. It's an ideal plinker, small game and varmint rifle . . .."

Here are the basic specifications of the G2 rimfire rifle taken from the T/C web site (

  • Caliber: .22 Long Rifle and .17 HMR.
  • Action: Single shot break-open design.
  • Barrel: Interchangeable by means of a removable barrel/frame hinge pin. Button rifled. Drilled and tapped for T/C scope mounts.
  • Trigger: Adjustable for over travel.
  • Hammer: Wide grooves in hammer spur for positive grip. Equipped with external manual firing pin selector.
  • Barrel Length: 23."
  • Weight: 5.4 pounds.
  • Length: 36.75" with 23" barrel.
  • Finish: Blued steel.
  • Safety: Patented automatic hammer block with bolt interlock.
  • Sights: None; barrel drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
  • 2005 MSRP: $600.

Our first impression of the sample .17 HMR Contender G2 when it arrived at Guns and Shooting Online was that it had a strange stock. Our second, when we assembled it, was that it is muzzle heavy. That .17 caliber hole leaves a lot of steel in the 23" barrel blank, so the rifle balances about 2.6" in front of the trigger guard.

The buttstock shape is a function of the way the grip is mounted on the Contender pistol, and the G2 rifle is based on the pistol action, so the same system is used for the rifle version. This makes a full, handgun style, pistol grip mandatory. The forend is a plain but reasonably proportioned beavertail type. The rifle would be far more attractive with a straight hand or semi-pistol grip buttstock and a straight comb.

The current stock looks like the makeshift arrangement that it is. I realize that a change would require casting a rifle specific frame, but it would be worth it.

This ugly buttstock is completely devoid of checkering or other adornment. There is a pistol grip cap (necessary to hide the grip tang screw) and the butt terminates in a black, ventilated recoil pad. Detachable sling swivel studs are provided, which is always appreciated.

The current G2 rifle comes with a black walnut buttstock and forend. The finish looks like a dull oil finish, but is probably a synthetic. The pores of the wood are well filled, but if this were my rifle I'd add a few coats of hand rubbed Outer's Stock Oil to give it a gleam.

The wood on the rifle sent for review is straight grained without much figure, sawn to provide stability and strength. It should be a very durable stock.

The ergonomics of the G2 are fine. The rifles shoulders easily and lines up properly. The trigger finger falls naturally on the trigger. The forend is hand filling and comfortably shaped. The G2's light weight and short overall length make it a fast handling package.

Operation of the G2 rifle is pretty simple, and identical to a Contender pistol. Pressing up and rearward on the trigger guard "tail" opens the action. Much less force is required to accomplish this than with my old, first generation, Contender pistol. Once the action is open, a cartridge can be manually inserted into the chamber. Then close the action. It locks-up tight with no play and it has proven to be very strong, far in excess of the strength required for a .17 HMR rifle.

On top of the hammer is a pivoting safety lever that blocks the hammer when it is aligned with the centerline of the rifle. When on "safe" the lever covers a small red dot. To the left of the red dot is a small letter "C" and to the right a small letter "R." Move the lever to cover the "C" and the hammer is set to fire a centerfire cartridge. Move the lever to cover the "R" and the hammer is set to fire a rimfire cartridge.

With the hammer's firing pin selector properly set, all that is required to fire the rifle is to manually cock the hammer and squeeze the trigger. After firing, open the action to extract the fired case, and remove it manually. There is no ejector.

The trigger is a steel, medium width, smooth type. There is an external stop screw adjustment for over travel. A tiny Allen wrench is provided to adjust the trigger stop screw if required.

The test rifle's trigger released at 4 pounds as measured by my Premium RCBS trigger pull gauge, with no perceptible creep. It is a good trigger, one of the best that we have encountered in a .17 HMR rifle. Its clean release will satisfy most users, and this contributes to good practical accuracy.

Since we had no other barrels, we had no reason to remove the barrel from the action once it was assembled. (It was shipped disassembled.) However, one of the unique features of the G2 is interchangeable barrels.

To interchange barrels, close the action and remove the two screws that attach the forend, and remove the forend. Then open the action and push out the fat hinge pin. A punch or screwdriver blade will do the trick, as not much force is required. The barrel will now separate from the receiver. Assemble in reverse order. G2 rifle barrels are available from T/C in calibers .22 LR Match, .17 HMR, .223 Remington, .30-30 Winchester, and .45-70 Government.

The foregoing should give you a pretty fair idea of the aesthetics, operation, and versatility of the T/C G2 rifle. But, of course, the key issue is how it shoots. As we expected from a Thompson/Center product, it shoots quite well.

Before we took our .17 HMR Contender G2 to the range I fitted a Mueller Eraticator 8.5-25x varmint scope in high Weaver rings on a T/C steel base. The T/C base is standard Weaver pattern and mounts to the barrel using four screws (supplied). The scope made it a little awkward to cock the hammer and made us wish that an offset hammer spur had been supplied with the rifle, as Marlin does with their lever action rifles.

The Contender G2 did a good job when we put it through its paces at the range. You can read the complete account in the review "Thompson/Center Contender G2 Rifle," which can be found on the Product Review Page. The G2 is also included in the article ".17 HMR Rifle Accuracy Test Results," which can be found in the Rifle Information section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page. There you can compare the G2's range results with other .17 HMR rifles tested by Guns and Shooting Online.

We judged that the Contender's break-open action and external hammer make it, inherently, one of the safest rifles ever reviewed by Guns and Shooting Online.

Despite my comments about the Contender G2 rifle stock, this is a high quality, well made rifle. It merits consideration by anyone seeking a .17 HMR rifle in its approximate price class.

Note: There is a full length review of the .17 HMR T/C Contender G2 on the Product Reviews page.

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Copyright 2005, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.