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Old July 6, 2019, 07:53 PM   #1
AmericaMan
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Thompson Contender questions

Wasn’t really sure where to put this so after debating I decided to just go with general. Sorry if it should go elsewhere. But anyways, so recently I came into possession of a Thompson Contender that my mom’s dad used to own. The gun had been sitting around at a relatives house for a while but they had no use for it so they gave it to me. The small suitcase the gun is in has the the calibers the two barrels it comes with should be in written on the outside, the issue is he was a gunsmith and changed the calibers of his guns often. The barrels are marked 30-30 and .357 Win but the case says .356 and .307, and there are bullets of that caliber inside. He died before I ever knew him and nobody else knows anything about the guns so I’m just a little worried about being certain everything was in the right place. I don’t want to make any mistakes here. The cartridges that were in the case chamber well with what appears to be their respective barrels and the bullet is a tight fit when I try to place the bullet itself in the end of the barrel. If somebody experienced with how cartridges and bullets should fit could give me just a little extra confirmation here that would be fantastic. (Also, what does the switch on the hammer do, as in the “C” and “R”?)
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Old July 6, 2019, 08:04 PM   #2
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Welcome to TFL, AmericaMan. The Thompson/Center Contender is a fairly specialized handgun, but it is a handgun, nonetheless, so I'll move this to the General Handgun forum.

Someone who knows more about the firearm will, no doubt, come along soon. The .356 and .307 things you found seem to be the diameter of the bullets for the two calibers you mentioned, but just a little looser than normal. A 30-30 generally takes a .308" diameter bullet, and a .357 usually takes a .357 or .358 diameter bullet depending on the bullet composition.
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Old July 6, 2019, 08:30 PM   #3
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First, the switch on the hammer. It moves the pin on the hammer that strikes the primer of the cartridge. "C" being for centerfire, "R" for rimfire. There are barrels for the Contender in 22 long rifle, and 22 Magnum rimfire.

The barrel markings, and case. One possibility, but I'm not certain about the feasibility of the 356. There are two proprietary cartridges, among others, that Winchester used to chamber their model 94 AE lever action rifles in. In an attempt to improve performance over the 30-30 Winchester.
307 Winchester, and 356 Winchester.
What does the headstamp on the cartridges say?
To eliminate doubt, take your barrels, and the information you have to a gunsmith, and they can verify exactly what you have.
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Old July 6, 2019, 10:37 PM   #4
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Ok, thank you for the information. I appreciate it.
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Old July 6, 2019, 10:38 PM   #5
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The cartridges that were in the case were .307 and .356. I hadn’t thought about getting a gunsmith to check it though, thanks for the idea. Much appreciated.
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Old July 7, 2019, 12:34 AM   #6
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Welcome to tfl!

I'm no expert but I have a couple of Contenders, and first, I'll say this,

Quote:
The barrels are marked 30-30 and .357 Win but the case says .356 and .307,
Abso-frackin-lutely get a gunsmith to check the chambers (make chamber casts) and see what they are.

First, there is no .357 Win, but there was a .375 Win and a .356 Win so is that a typo or is that what it says? It might be possible to bore out a .357 Contender pistol barrel chamber to take the .356 Win, (ask a gunsmith) and the "Win" after the .357 on the barrel might have been added by the original owner, no way to know, I guess.

Next, the .356 and .307, these are rimmed versions of the .358 Win and .308 Win, made for use in Marlin rifles (hence the rim), and I'm not certain they are lower pressure (for the lever gun) than the rimless rounds but I think so. Will have to do some research to be sure.

Neither the .308 or .358 were ever factory barrels for the Contender, it simply wasn't up to their pressure, and T/C put them in the bigger frame single shot, the Encore.

It is possible the lower pressure of the .307 and .356 might be ok for the Contender, and fur sure, tailored handloads would be.

It wasn't case size that made the difference it was the pressure. The Contender handles .45-70 for size, so a .308 size case body will fit, but it has to stay within the pressure boundaries of the action. The regular .308 Win is simply too hot.

since one barrel says .30-30 on it, and something bigger (.356/.307) fits in it, its clear it is no longer the .30-30 that it began as. SO get a gunsmith to check it, to be certain. If desired (and I would recommend it) a gunsmith can re-stamp the barrels with the correct names of the calibers they are now, once that is known for sure.

There are at least three, and maybe more "generations" of Contender, the most visible difference is the changes in the "selector switch" on the hammer, that changes the position of the firing pin strike from centerfire to rimfire and back. There are other changes and not all barrels will fit all models.

The last version of the Contender was named the G2 but from your description of its age, it is unlikely to be a G2. The G2 works a bit differently from the earlier Contenders, we can cover that later, if anyone is interested..

I ignored the Contender for decades, (after all, it was only a single shot, right?) until, one day at a shop I tried the trigger on one. The triggers are great, and the guns are generally much more accurate than most repeating pistols. yeah, I got the bug, and wound up with a Contender and barrels for all my other handgun cartridges and some of my rifle ones.

The Contender is all about precisely placing one bullet exactly where you want it to go. If you're at all accurate with a revolver or semi auto, the Contender will show you another level of accuracy, its an eye-opening experience.

The two barrels you have, (in .356 and .307) are deer hunting guns. You didn't mention the sights. Contenders have decent adjustable sights, and are easily scoped.

I've got barrels in .22LR, .22 Hornet, .222 Rem, .30-30Win, 9mm Luger, .357Mag, .44 mag, .45 Colt/.410, .45 Win Mag and .45-70, and have had great results and lots of fun with them over the years.

Hope this helps
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Old July 7, 2019, 08:16 AM   #7
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t/c

Good advice...get to a gunsmith and have him/her check all barrels for proper calibre.

My t/c barrel marked 30-30 is chambered for 7x30 Waters.

A 357 mag marked barrel is chambered for 357 Maximum.
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Old July 7, 2019, 09:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
My t/c barrel marked 30-30 is chambered for 7x30 Waters.
That's quite interesting. The 7-30 Waters being simply the 30-30 necked down to 7MM (28 caliber), then the shoulder moved forward by fire forming. Why bother with the expense, and money to sleeve a 30 caliber barrel down to 28 caliber when there are plenty of factory 7-30 Waters barrels out there?
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Old July 7, 2019, 09:38 AM   #9
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Thanks a ton for the info. I will certainly take what you said in mind and yes I did make a mistake, I don’t know where I got “Win” from the barrel actually says “.357 Herret.”
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Old July 7, 2019, 09:42 AM   #10
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Quote:
Next, the .356 and .307, these are rimmed versions of the .358 Win and .308 Win, made for use in Marlin rifles (hence the rim), and I'm not certain they are lower pressure (for the lever gun) than the rimless rounds but I think so. Will have to do some research to be sure.
Nope, Winchester in their Big Bore AE Model 94.

Quote:
The 307 Winchester cartridge was introduced by Winchester in 1982 to meet the demand of .300 Savage performance in a lever-action rifle equipped with a tubular magazine. It is nearly dimensionally identical to the more common .308 Winchester cartridge, the only differences being a rimmed base and thicker case walls.
The Winchester Big Bore Model 94 Angle Eject rifle was the only rifle produced to fire the cartridge, though competitor Marlin Firearms created some prototype model 336 rifles chambered in .307 Win. It is still commercially loaded today, but many handload to gain better performance and accuracy. Because of safety concerns owing to the rifle's tubular magazine, flat-nosed bullets are normally used.
You may be thinking of the much newer 308, and 338 Marlin Express
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Old July 7, 2019, 11:04 AM   #11
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Quote:
Nope, Winchester in their Big Bore AE Model 94.

Ah, right, of course! (facepalms). Don't know how Marlin got in there, my bad. It was late, I was tired, the dog ate my homework.... Thanks for the correction!

The .357 Herrett was a wildcat developed by Steve Herrett (who was a great grip maker) which was based on the .30-30 case. Herrett loved the Contender and did a few wildcats for it. One of my books says T/C made the .357 Herrett a standard chambering in 1975.

Sounds like what your mother's dad (Grandfather???) did was take a .30-30 and a .357 Herrett barrel and ream out the chambers to take the fatter bodied .307 and .356 Win cases. Have a gunsmith check and see if that was the only changes done to the barrels.

It is not impossible the rechambering was not done to the exact specs of the .307 and .356, which would create a slightly different wildcat. The ammo with the gun could have been loaded to fit the wildcat size chambers using .307 & .356 brass.

Anything is possible, but its almost certain that if he rechambered the barrels (to spec or to his own wildcat spec) he was loading the ammo for them. The dies, cases, etc. he had are probably long gone, but check with those relatives anyway. There might still be a box or two of his stuff stashed somewhere, which might have some useful things.

Good Luck!
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Old July 7, 2019, 01:40 PM   #12
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Great shooters

Quote:
since one barrel says .30-30 on it, and something bigger (.356/.307) fits in it, its clear it is no longer the .30-30 that it began as. SO get a gunsmith to check it, to be certain. If desired (and I would recommend it) a gunsmith can re-stamp the barrels with the correct names of the calibers they are now, once that is known for sure.
One would thin that any Smith would revise the marking calibers on the barrels. I started to reply that whatever the barrel is stamped, then that is what it is. You stated a small suit-case and ot sure what you have but TC did case some two-barrel safes. ….

As for the C/R selector, I'm guessing that yours is slotted and not sure if it has a center position. The newer generation of Contenders, has a lever selector. Also, you should have a trigger adjustment screw on the guard/lever. These are great shooters. ….

Be Safe !!!
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Old July 7, 2019, 09:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Anything is possible, but its almost certain that if he rechambered the barrels (to spec or to his own wildcat spec) he was loading the ammo for them. The dies, cases, etc. he had are probably long gone, but check with those relatives anyway. There might still be a box or two of his stuff stashed somewhere, which might have some useful things.
I've been getting a hold of more and more of his old stuff, a lot of it has just been sitting around for years so the dies and stuff may be still there, although I know a lot of his reloading stuff was given to somebody else long before I ever started needing it. Thanks for the wish of luck, I'm gonna need it haha.
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Old July 8, 2019, 08:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
the barrel actually says “.357 Herret
I used to own a TC in 357 Herrett. It uses a 30-30 case trimmed down and necked up to 357. No one makes factory ammo for it. I had to trim and fire form my own brass and used .358 rifle bullets designed for handgun velocities.
It shot sub 1" groups at 100 yards all day long. Ended up selling it off because it was a PITA forming brass all the time. Unless you reload your own ammo you won't be able to shot it.

Jim
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Old July 8, 2019, 11:29 PM   #15
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Having a gunsmith check the barrels to verify chambering is the best way to stay safe. My best guess is that the barrels are chambered for the 30-30 Win and the .357 Herrett, both of which were offered by T/C for many years. I had a Contender for years with 10" barrels in .22 lr and .357 Magnum, as well as a 14" barrel in 30-30 Win. They were used primarily for IHMSA Competition. It is unlikely that the 30-30 barrel has been rechambered to .307 Win., since the .307 Win. is formed from a .308 Win. case with a semi rim added, and is loaded close to .308 Win. pressure levels. The original Contenders were not designed to handle that level of pressure. Maybe your grandfather had a Winchester Model 94 AE in .307 Win. previously that was subsequently sold off by a family member after he passed and they later found a couple cartridges and threw them in with the Contender.
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Old July 9, 2019, 02:14 AM   #16
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Looking back it's possible I misunderstood the OP, so let me ask a couple (more) questions so I know better...

Quote:
The barrels are marked 30-30 and .357 Win but the case says .356 and .307,
The marking on the barrels is ,30-30 and .357 Herrett, the case the barrels and gun are in is labeled .307 & .356, is this correct??

Quote:
cartridges that were in the case chamber well with what appears to be their respective barrels
Ok, what do the cartridges SAY on them? what does the headstamp of the cartridge cases say? The .30-30 will, obviously say .30-30. The .357 Herrett is made from .30-30 brass and so will ALSO say .30-30 on the headstamp but will not look like a .30-30 round, being shorter and .35 cal not .30.

The .307 Win and the .356 Win have case bodies and rims similar to each other but quite different from the .30-30 or .357 Herrett, being fatter body diameters.

So here's the big question, does the ammo say .307/.356 AND fit in the respective barrels, despite those barrels having .30-30 and .357 Herrett marked on them?

Since the old man appears to have been quite the "tinkerer" it is not impossible that he had the old barrels rechambered but not to use .307 or .356 Factory ammo in them. He MIGHT have had them done to use the powder capacity of the bigger cases to get a performance improvement over their original chamberings, with handloads, that stayed within the pressure limits of the Contender action.

When you're building a gun(s) just for yourself, and you're the only one going to use it, you know what you do different /non standard with it. And, since you know you probably don't write it down.

Which works well enough, when you're the only one using it, but after you're gone, it can be quite a mystery for others to try and figure out (if you didn't write it down, or you did, and no one finds your notes).


Get chamber casts made of those two barrels, have them carefully measured and see what cartridges they match. If its not what's marked on the barrels get the barrels remarked.
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Old July 9, 2019, 04:45 PM   #17
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Practical info: hang on to all that stuff. Even some of the little spare parts. They are valuable and you can sell most of it on eBay for far more than you think.

Contenders are very versatile because it’s so easy to swap parts around and have a completely “new” gun without filling up the gun safe.

Barrels generally can be easily sold on eBay for about $200 each. Scopes, mounts, all add a little bit depending on the scope. High end scopes are the best, of course.

Take the collection to a gunsmith and he can probably deduce what you have. Barrels, ammunition, and dies.

If you have an interest in the shooting sports, a Contender is a single shot classic. I would say I regret selling mine, but I got so much more than I paid for it I can’t cry too hard. They earned their fan club.
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Old July 9, 2019, 05:10 PM   #18
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If you (the OP) are not a handloader, but want to keep the "gun" you inherited you could possibly trade, or sell those rechambered barrels that are most likely intended for handloads. Then get barrels that are chambered in more common rounds. However, the Contender in all calibers benefits greatly from handloading custom ammo for it.
A couple words of warning. For the wallet at least.
1. If you are a shooter, and own a Continder you are going to buy more barrels, sights, optics, etc.
2. You are going to get into handloading.
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Old July 11, 2019, 06:36 AM   #19
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If you keep the firearm and start using it, you will be exposed to the incurable affliction known colloquially as B.A.D. (Barrel Aquisition Disease). This is a widespread syndrome amongst Contender owners. You start off with one barrel (in your case, two) and soon you find that there are multiples in your gun case.
I started with a 10” .357 barrel not fully understanding what was going to happen. Then there was a ten inch .22lr barrel and then another .22 in carbine length and an 8 incher from Bulberry. Had to have a .44 and after that a .30-30. Was the disease done with me? No. There followed a .45-70, a very short barrel in .38 Spl. And a carbine length .223. After that SSK raised its seductive head and I found myself with a barrel in 7.62 micro-whisper. I was OK for a while.....then a .30 Herrett barrel showed up for sale.
I won’t start about the Encore.
Beware.
Pete
PS: it just occurred to me....what do you fellows think about a 10” chambered for the 5.7? Hmmm.
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Old July 11, 2019, 12:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
PS: it just occurred to me....what do you fellows think about a 10” chambered for the 5.7? Hmmm.
If it is to have a Contender barrel in a caliber you already have a pistol in, I'd say go for it. If it is to have a Contender barrel to have as a test bed for a cartridge you are interested in, and want to see what it can do, outside of a semi-auto or revolver, I'd say go for it.

If it's for using the 5.7mm for its performance in the field, I'd say there are other, better performing cartridges, and you should choose one of them, instead.
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Old July 13, 2019, 03:07 AM   #21
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And speaking of another 5.7- there was a guy in our club who came up with a contender bbl in 5.7 Johnson/Spitfire to go with a M1 Carbine he had chambered for it. I wish I would've picked his brain about that ctg more before he died.
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Old July 13, 2019, 05:27 PM   #22
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The 5.7mm MMJ /Johnson Spitfire was introduced in 1963 for Johinson Guns modified M1 Carbines. based on the .30 carbine case necked down to .22 cal.

Reported velocity is 3000fps with a 40gr and 2700fps with a 50 gr bullet.
A wildcat round, the rifles were not a long lived commercial success.
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Old July 14, 2019, 04:27 AM   #23
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I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the process of necking down the 30 Carbine case even a little, even annealed.
What was it’s operating pressure?
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Old July 14, 2019, 11:01 AM   #24
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Quote:
What was it’s operating pressure?
The operating pressure of the 5.7 Spitfire was not included in the information I have, but why would it matter??

Made by necking down .30 Carbine brass, and made for use in converted .30 Carbine rifles I would think that if the pressure limits were anything other than the standard for .30 Carbine, that information would be included in any history of the round.
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Old July 15, 2019, 03:37 PM   #25
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By the way guys thanks for all the advice, I have checked and made sure the barrels are what they were supposed to be. Now all I gotta do is dig up ammo for this thing.
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