September 23, 2010
Accuracy guarantees generally put me into a cold sweat, so when Mark Laney, Thompson/Center's R&D director, told me the new Venture rifle came with a one m.o.a. guarantee, I smiled weakly. "You're putting lots of faith in the shooter," I said.
He acknowledged that not everyone can shoot that well. "But we've had such extraordinary results in the lab, we felt compelled to share our confidence," said Laney, who was also responsible for developing the higher-end Icon rifle.
"The Venture is a modestly priced rifle with some of the Icon's attributes but a lighter, round receiver and an injection-molded stock," Mark explained. "It has our barrel with the same 5R rifling--five grooves with angled groove-land junctures. We've shown this rifling to produce tighter groups. It also resists fouling and makes cleaning easier."
The Venture lacks the Icon's bolt lock, so with the two-position thumb safety on there's no way to secure the bolt. In my view, this isn't a liability. The only problem might occur in thickets where brush can work its way under the bolt handle of a rifle hung on the shoulder, and pry it open. The safety works smoothly forward and back with muted clicks.
The Venture employs a synthetic, straight-stack three-round magazine that fed rounds smoothly into the chamber.
The adjustable trigger on the Venture sent me for testing, a .270, is factory set at 3.25 pounds. It gives consistent pulls with very little creep. The three-lug bolt runs smoothly in its race, thanks in part to a groove cut in the full-diameter body. The bolt release engages the cut and serves as might a guide rail during operation.
The bolt-face extractor and plunger ejector work fine, even with ambitious handloads. Feeding from the three-round magazine--a detachable polymer box with straight-up stack--is silky, which isn't a big surprise since the .270 hull was designed to feed smoothly. The box latch up front is unobtrusive but easy to operate; the magazine drops right into your hand.
An injection-molded polymer stock with separate grip panels is attached to the receiver with traditional front and rear guard screws. A washer-type lug handles the recoil. There's no "bottom metal"; the guard is part of the stock.
While it won't compete with top walnut or the best hand-laid Kevlar stocks for beauty, the Venture is thoughtfully shaped. The fore-end is the right length to complement the floating 24-inch barrel and slim enough for quick pointing. Properly slender, the grip has a subtle but useful flair. The thick black recoil pad has some curvature and fits the shoulder nicely.
The comb is a bit low for the medium rings I used to clamp a new Weaver SuperSlam 3-15x42 scope (low rings would be ideal). Weaver bases are furnished with each rifle.
The Venture's profile and balance, and its textured grip panels, make it an easy rifle to carry and to fire quickly from hunting positions--even with wet or cold hands.
|Accuracy Results | T/C Venture |
|.270 Winchester||Bullet Weight (gr.)|| Muzzle Velocity (fps)||Standard Deviation || Group Size (in.)|
|Hornady || 100 ||3,465 || 17 || 0.4 |
|Remington Core-Lokt || 100 ||3,432 || 23 || 1.0 |
| Speer || 130 ||3,202 || 18 || 0.6 |
| Speer* || 130 ||3,158 || 12 || 0.6 |
|Hornady* || 130 ||3,252 || 16 || 0.8 |
|Federal Barnes Triple Shock || 130 ||3,156 || 1 || 0.6 |
| RWS H-Mantle || 130 ||3,002 || 15 || 1.1 |
| Wichester Power Point|| 130 ||3,004 || 20 || 1.0 |
| Hornady InterLock|| 140 || 3,005 || 27 || 0.7 |
| Norma Oryx || 150 || 2,895 || 30 || 1.4 |
| * handload |
| Accuracy results are averages of three three-shot groups at 100 yards fired from a Caldwell rest. Velocities are averages of three shots recorded on a PACT Professional chronograph placed 12 feet from the muzzle. |
The Venture, which boasts a one mo.a. accuracy guarantee, proved accurate with a wide variety of both handloads and factory loads.
If the author could change one thing on the Venture it would be the bolt handle, which he found too short for from-the-shoulder cycling.
I applaud the 24-inch barrel. While the 22-inch tubes common on lightweight and economy-class sporters are adequate for many cartridges, the .270 and even the .30-06 can bump up a notch in performance with a couple extra inches of burn time. Also, I like barrels that keep blast well out front and that give the rifle a slight tilt forward in the hand.
"We're working on a short-action version of the Venture now," Mark pointed out. "We're planning a 24-inch barrel, though that could change." Chamberings are slated to include .223, .204 Ruger, .22-250, .243, 7mm-08, .308 and .30 TC.
My pal Rich McClure did most of the accuracy testing and turned in some good groups. I had the same experience when I got the opportunity to test it. The rifle proved not to be fussy at all. Between the two of us, Rich and I tried 15 loads--handloads and factory--and all shot well.
While I typically let barrels cool between strings, the Venture kept shooting tight knots even as the steel became too hot to touch. So I kept firing at a measured pace. No significant point of impact shift, no change in rifle function or accuracy.
The only thing I found disconcerting during trials was the bolt lift. It's hard. Primary extraction with a three-lug bolt is more difficult than with the traditional Mauser dual-lug design because it must occur in a shorter 60-degree rotation. T/C could assist by giving the Venture a longer bolt handle.
If T/C swept the shank back at a straight angle or gave it near-vertical drop, like the Winchester Model 70 or commercial Mauser respectively, the bolt handle would be more appealing to those of us with traditional tastes in cosmetics.
"It's a bit embarrassing to have to report on this rifle," I confided to Mark after the range sessions. "How can anyone justify paying a premium for sub-minute groups when he can get a half-minute T/C Venture for $500?"
"Whoa," he said. "We aren't going anywhere near half-minute guarantees. Such hyperbole frightensme."
The three-lug bolt has a bolt-face extractor, plunger ejector and a full-diameter body.