Let’s play the word association game for a moment. I will say “Thompson Center” and bet that 90 out of 100 of you said “Contender.” The rest likely responded with “Encore” or perhaps “Hawken.” The smart money says no one out there said “precision bolt-action.”
While the Contender and Encore are the most recognized TC guns, both of those will be giving some ground to the new Icon rifle as more and more sportsmen get a close look at it. In case you haven’t been paying attention lately, Thompson Center has evolved far beyond the company you knew 10 or 20 years ago. They’ve recently introduced several new rifles including the Icon precision bolt-action line.
The Icon rifle series was built from the ground up to be a TC exclusive rather than the reworking of an old model. Thompson Center’s engineers put a great amount of time and effort into the development of this rifle.
At the moment there are numerous caliber choices and designs of the Icon in the TC catalog. The buyer can choose from blued or stainless steel, walnut or Hogue over-molded stocks. Caliber choices include big bores such as .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .270 Win., 7 mm Rem. Mag, .300 Win. Mag, and .30 TC. Varmint and predator calibers include .243 Win., .223 Rem., .204 Ruger, and .22-250 Rem.
Internally, the bolt-action is constructed of TC components such as their solid machined Intergra Base with integral Weaver bases. The stainless steel bolt is jeweled and the action is secured to the stock using TC’s Interlock Bedding System.
Catalog specs are nice, but to get a true feel for a gun you’ve got to get out to the field and put some rounds through it. I recently had a chance to truly wring out the Icon rifle during a varmint safari in Wyoming.
The rifle I used was a Precision Hunter model chambered in .22-250 Remington. Barrel length on this rifle was 22 inches—the tube is fluted and has 5R rifling. The action is fed by a 3-round detachable box magazine. A deep blue finish was used and the stock was an attractive hardwood with TC’s Varmint design. Atop the rifle was mounted a Trijicon 5-20×50 Accupoint scope.
The first morning of day one was set aside for zeroing. Using Hornady’s 40-grain V-Max load I was able to dial in the rifle with less than 10 shots. My final 3-shot test group measured right at.73 inches across. I knew the rifle was ready for the field.
For the next two days I would harvest innumerable prairie dogs as well as a few rock chucks, mountain dwelling marmots. The wind in Wyoming is considerable to say the least. If you want to learn how to dope wind, Wyoming is the place to go.
The 40-grain projectile of this round is moving along at a respectable pace, better than 4,000 feet per second out of the muzzle. Zeroed at 100 yards the bullet drop is only one half inch at 200 yards. Out at 300 yards drop is a mere four inches. Regarding wind drift, using a 20 mph wind, the drift is six inches at 200 yards and 13.5 at 300.
Biodegradable Reactive Targets
Shooting prairie dogs (biodegradable reactive targets) has been described as the most fun you can have with you clothes on. I’ll have to say that is really not too far off of the mark. As long as the sun is out the prairie dogs are as well. They are even courteous enough to hang out and look around while you pop their cousins.
Using the TC Icon rifle I found that as long as I called the wind correctly any varmint in my sights was a goner. In the afternoon when the wind died down the carnage truly began. While most shots were in the 100- to 200-yard range, hits beyond 300 yards came with regularity. Keep in mind that the targets were about the size of a 20-ounce Styrofoam coffee cup.
On the afternoon of the second day we drove out to a near perfect set up. I was able to lie down on a slight rise over looking a depression. The wind was to my back and waning. A bright sun brought out the prairie dogs and ground squirrel/gophers.
At first I was topping off the magazine but shot opportunities were coming so fast I decided to single load in an attempt to keep the barrel temperature manageable. Working that set up for about and hour and a half I went through three full boxes of .22-250.
While the flagship of the Thompson Center line continues to be the Encore, I can see the Icon running a close second. For a factory-built rifle, the Icon is filled with custom gun features. The barrel and action are top-shelf quality and the trigger pull is crisp and precise. A good-looking hardwood stock is icing on the cake. If you are in the market for an accurate, attractive, and well-built rifle, the Icon warrants serious consideration.