March 04, 2021
By Brad Fitzpatrick
In 2016, at the height of the budget bolt-action rifle wars, Thompson/Center released its $400 Compass rifle. The original Compass was, for the most part, a good gun that featured a three-lug bolt and a 5R rifled barrel. But it had an Achilles’ heel: the trigger.
The trigger in the first-gen Compass rifle wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good, either. To their credit, the folks at Thompson/Center understood they had a well-built rifle with one major issue. In short order, T/C decided to improve on the original trigger design, and the Compass II was born.
The Generation II T/C trigger is a significant improvement over the previous Compass trigger. The Gen II model features a bladed design and breaks between three and four pounds. The test rifle’s trigger averaged 3.4 pounds for 10 pulls using a Wheeler gauge, and the new trigger is smooth, predictable and manageable.
Much of the architecture from the original model has found its way into the Compass II, which is a good thing. The full-diameter bolt offers smoother cycling than you get with other rifles in this class, and the three-lug design allows for a short bolt lift and rapid cycling. The Compass II uses the same rotary magazine design as the original, and the magazine locks securely into the rifle without a lot of fuss.
As a Winchester Model 70 fan, I was pleased to see the original Compass’s three-position wing-type safety is also on the second-gen gun. The polymer stock has grip panels with large, V-shaped ridges and a dense, thick recoil pad that is better fitted to the stock than competing guns in this price category.
Thompson/Center uses 5R rifling in its barrels. According to 5R proponents, employing five lands and grooves in the barrel—as opposed to the more traditional four or six—and angled rifling cuts reduces bullet deformation and simplifies cleaning. I have no quantifiable evidence to support the claim, but every 5R barrel I’ve shot has been accurate.
Compass II rifles come with either 21.625- or 24-inch free-floated barrels depending upon caliber, with 1/2x28 or 5/8x24 threaded muzzles. The Compass II comes with bases, and it’s also available with a pre-mounted Crimson Trace scope.
The test rifle, which was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, weighed right at seven pounds without an optic. I topped the rifle with a Leupold VX-2 3-9x33mm scope that brought the total gun weight to seven pounds, 12 ounces, which is manageable for most hunting. As an eastern hunter, I appreciate the 21.625-inch barrel and overall length of just 41 inches. Longer rifles can be a real burden in box or ground blinds and in tree stands.
The Compass II’s suggested retail price of $405 is lower than both the Ruger American Rifle ($489) and the Winchester XPR ($549). The Compass II is the heaviest of the three, weighing four ounces more than the Winchester and almost a pound more than the Ruger American, but the Compass II is the only one with 5R rifling.
The test rifle largely delivered on T/C’s one-m.o.a. accuracy promise. All three loads grouped between 0.82 inch and 1.3 inches for three shots at 100 yards, and there’s no doubt this rifle is one of the best-shooting budget guns available today.
The 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t a hard-recoiling round, but the large recoil pad did a good job absorbing kick. The V-shaped traction panels on the grip surfaces are boldly styled, and they work well. I like the straight comb design, but while the barrel channel itself isn’t particularly large, the fore-end is shaped like a ramp and could theoretically funnel debris or snow between the barrel and stock. The honey dipper bolt knob design is functional, but at just 0.6 inch it’s smaller than some shooters might be used to.
I’m a fan of the rotary magazine, although the rifle did fail to pick up a round on a couple occasions. The problem in each instance was that the cartridge was seated with the nose of the bullet pointed slightly up. The magazine seems sturdier than some of the cheap plastic magazines in competing rifles.
In fact, the overall build quality of the Compass is substantially better than some other guns in this price category. There are no ill-fitting parts, nothing that seems destined to break after a season or two. Controls like the wing safety and bolt release work precisely and don’t look or feel cheap. Muzzle threading is even and clean.
With a suggested retail price of just $405, the Compass II is one of the most affordable hunting rifles available today, and kudos to Thompson/Center for making a budget rifle that feels anything but cheap. This is an accurate gun that’s robustly built and undercuts other budget rifles on price by as much as $200 while offering plenty of capability. If you’re looking for a new hunting gun, the Compass II offers excellent bang for your buck.
Thompson/center Compass II Specs
Type: 3-lug bolt-action centerfire
Caliber: .223, .243, 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag.
Capacity: 5+1 (as tested)
Barrel: 21.625 in. (as tested), threaded 5/8x24
Overall Length: 41 in.
Weight: 7 lb.
Stock: black polymer
Trigger: 3.4 lb. pull (measured)
Sights: none; scope bases provided
Importer: Thompson/Center, tc-arms.com