The one-shot classic from Thompson/Center offers versatility and sedate charm, says Bruce Potts
I have always had a soft spot for the Thompson/Center single-shot firearms because I cut my teeth on long-range handgun shooting with its long-barrelled pistol variant.
The Contender G2 Carbine’s origins lie in a single-shot pistol for silhouette shooting derived from the Mexican Senderos in the 1960s. In 1965, Warren Center, its inventor, teamed up with a toolmaker called K. W. Thompson from the US.
The carbine, introduced in 1985, has an old-fashioned design or break-barrel opening and external hammer, and being only one-shot, it is more suited to the enthusiast than the mainstream shooter. In fact, such features are the reason the Contender endears the gun to owners — because it needs their participation to get the best out of it.
Original Contender carbines are sought-after items and the tradition is being kept alive through a new line of updated G2 Contenders. The G2’s versatility is reflected in its receiver frame to which barrels and stock designs can be freely interchanged, allowing short or long barrels, Sporter or thumbhole stock designs.
It measures 4.25in by 1.25in — trim compared with a more traditional bolt action. This receiver unit can be ordered either in blued or stainless steel and the newer G2 model (right) has an extra thickness of metal on each receiver side for more strength.
Even more strength is assured within the precise lock-up in the form of a large hardened-sprung locating lug. This classic, break-open design allows the G2 barrels to pivot around a single hinge pin traversing the front bottom section of the receiver. Tap the hinge pin out and the barrel can be removed from the receiver recess to exchange for another calibre or for storage. It’s a simple yet effective system that keeps mechanical parts to a minimum and offers reliability.
Opening the action is a knack in itself. You have to tug the curved trigger-guard spur rearward quite forcibly, which disengages the barrel lock and allows the barrel to tilt forward so that a cartridge can be loaded.
There is no ejection system, but a single extractor in the barrel location lug instead, which engages the cartridge’s rim and presents a case ready for removal once the action has been opened. How sedate and refreshing in this high-tech world!
Once loaded, the G2 relies on an external hammer mechanism, which needs to be fully drawn backwards to cock the action. One fine feature of the G2 allows you to shoot both rimfire and centrefire ammunition from one receiver. This is the hammer that has a swivelling switch on top, to which two strikers are positioned, one above the other, at 90°. These hit the vertically placed fi ring pins sited in the rear wall of the receiver.
This small feature gives your Contender G2 a wide-ranging cartridge selection, from .22LR all the way up to the .45-70 and even .410 shotgun. This could explain the popularity of the Contender models — shooters need only buy one rifle and can have a selection of barrels to tackle any game. The triggers are fairly basic, but an improvement in the newer G2 model is that the action can be de-cocked and re-cocked without having to open it fully.
As with the barrels, the stock and fore-end are easily exchangeable, so you can choose from a basic walnut no-frills configuration, or aftermarket exotic woods, laminate, synthetic in various styles and configurations. This rifle has a custom thumbhole Tiger Maple stock chambered in the 300 Whisper cartridge.
What to look for when buying a Contender G2 Carbine
Barrels: G2 barrels are usually very accurate and reliable, so just check for corrosion due to neglect.
Action: Single-shot with a manual-operated external hammer firing pin, which can be set for rimfire or centrefire cartridges.
Weight: G2 Sporter 5lb 8oz
Length: G2 Sprter 36¾in
Features: Single-shot perfection with the most comprehensive barrel and calibre options
Price: From £700, contact Viking Arms, tel 01423 780810.