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My New TC Contender .30-30

My new .30-30 is a handgun and a darn accurate one at that. For a long time I have been collecting Thompson Center handguns. Some I have shot, some I have had great success hunting with, and some are exactly as they showed up – un-fired.

My newest one is used, but in really nice shape. It came with Pachmayr hard rubber grips and forearm, which were quickly removed. I am just not a fan of the hard rubber grips. Almost all guns I have acquired that had them were soon had the Pachmayr replaced with either pretty wood or Hogue soft rubber grips.

The pretty wood grips were put on calibers that did not have a big recoil – like .44 Magnums or .45 Colts – but on my larger calibers I really like the recoil-absorbing soft rubber Hogue grips.

I had just put the Hogue grips on this one when one night I was looking on eBay for some other grips for this fine handgun. Lo and behold, I found a set for this gun that were the neatest I had ever seen, and the price was plenty reasonable.

So, out came the Visa card, and I was soon in possession of some custom, one-of-a-kind grips for my new Contender.

While I was waiting on the grips to show up, I decided to check my .30-30 ammo inventory and load a few different flavors for a day at the range. I guess I was lucky, as I had several different types of factory ammo to choose from.

So, to the handload bench I went. The first thing I did before starting to load for this pistol was to use the Hornady Lock-N-Load Modified case and OAL tool. This is a case that is caliber specific, allowing you to determine the maximum OAL (where the bullet first touches the inside of the barrel) of a cartridge that a particular firearm will accept. This is important to me, as it allows me to start my loading at that point or maybe a couple of thousandths of an inch from this maximum length.

When I load for a firearm that has a magazine, I am limited to the OAL by what length will fit in the magazine, but with a single-shot break open, I am not restricted by magazine length.

Using the Hornady OAL tool, the bullet I was loading (Hornady 150-grain SST) measured 2.852” OAL. This told me I could load these bullets 0.302” longer than the hand-loading manuals stated. Keep in mind the hand-loading books give you an OAL for use in magazine guns – whether the magazine is box or tube.

Therefore must hand loads started at 2.852” OAL. As I loaded the bullets, I reduced my OAL by a few thousandths until I got to the hand load book specs.

There are a lot of powders that can be used loading the .30-30, but I have a bunch of TAC powder, and have found it to be an accurate powder in some other loads. So, I used TAC in all of my hand loads for this gun.

I started with 32.00 grains and worked up to 33.00 grains in increments of 0.2 grains. My primers were CCI 200, and brass was Hornady.

My factory loads on hand were: Hornady, Remington, Winchester, Wolf Gold and Federal, ranging from 150- to 170-grain bullets.

I started at the 25-yard range to sight in the scope (a BSA Edge handgun scope), and after I had the pistol “on paper,” I moved to the 50-yard spot. I was surprised how little recoil I felt, even with the heavier bullets. I was expecting this to thump pretty good, but it was surprisingly mild for a rifle cartridge.

I started with the Wolf and, as expected, it was the least accurate of any loads I shot that day, with groups of 2 inches.

The most accurate factory load was a Winchester 150-grain Silvertip X30302 with an average of 1/4 inch. The most accurate hand load was 32.00 grains of TAC powder and a Sierra 150-grain Game King (average groups of .25 inch).

If you might think you would like one of these fine handguns, Hornady makes a .30-30 Lite that has about 25 percent less recoil than standard ammo, and they shot right at half-inch groups.

One nice thing about this pistol and the ammo I shot is that all – except the Wolf and Remington 150-grain Core Lokt – shot groups of well under an inch at 50 yards. And, if you were to stretch your shot out to 100 yards, you are talking about groups from .5 to 1 inch. That is pretty darn good for most rifles, so I would say it is very good for a handgun.

I cannot say one bad thing about this gun. It shoots accurately, is not too big or heavy, shoots a mild recoil cartridge, is easy to take apart and clean and has a pile of other caliber barrels that are interchangeable with the frame. These Contenders are made very strong, so if you decided you wanted to shoot a large bullet, you could probably get away with a 220- or 240-grain bullet, if you could find load data for one that big.

And, these T/C Contenders hold their value better than most guns. In my searches on the internet I have found many custom-made grips for Contenders, so you could really dress it up with a fine piece of wood.

I will have to keep this one for a while and, of course, it will see some hunting time come hunting season. Maybe I will take it to Tiger Island Outfitters for some hog action since I have made a really neat-looking custom holster for it. It looks like it needs to shoot a pig!

If all firearms were treated as if they were loaded, there would be no more accidental shootings. Shoot Straight, Shoot Safe!


Jim Hammond has had some sort of gun in his hand since he was 5 years old. He started with a Daisy BB gun as a small boy, and with careful instruction from his very safety-minded father, has become a skilled and knowledgeable shooter now willing to share his knowledge and experience as he has FUN SHOOTING. “Safety first and everything else will follow.”