Thompson/Center Arms Co. is often credited with the resurgence of blackpowder hunting in the early 1970s with its reproduction Hawken rifle, and later models such as the White Mountain and Big Boar. After introducing its interchangeable-barrel long guns, such as the Encore, and modern in-lines such as the Omega and Triumph, today T/C continues its innovative tradition with one of its latest releases, the .50-cal. Impact muzzleloader. The Impact, reviewed here, fills a niche for the price-conscious shooter looking for simplicity in a lightweight, accurate muzzleloader.
The polymer fore-end is fastened to the blued steel barrel by two hex screws and corresponding threaded bosses attached to the underside of the barrel. Two additional hex screws hold the molded-composite stock to the proprietary die-cast alloy trigger housing, which is pinned to a lug just forward of the breech. A sliding-hood breech similar to that found on the Kreighoff K80 shotgun locks the break-open action, although in this case the action is unlocked and the barrel is pivoted downward by pulling rearward on two wings integral with the hood.
The action itself is simple, with only three major moving parts: the sliding-hood breech, the trigger, and the rebounding hammer. The latter two are made of a nickel-steel alloy. A detent and detent spring in the stock provide compression for the hood. The Impact has a hammer-block safety, and like all modern T/C muzzleloaders, the hammer must be locked back and the trigger must be pulled for the gun to fire.
The Impact takes No. 209 shotshell primers in its triple-lead-threaded breechplug. The threading requires only three-and-a-half rotations for removal, which is done with an included wrench, providing solid lock-up with minimal effort. Conveniently, the plug has a standard, hexagonal 7/16-inch bolt head, so a socket wrench can be used in lieu of the included tool in a pinch. Also, compared with the flat face on many breechplugs, the cupped face of the Impact breechplug aids ignition when using pellets, exposing more of the pellet base to the primer flame.
As seen in T/C’s Icon and Venture rifles, as well as the U.S. M24 SWS for that matter, the Impact features 5R rifling: five sloped lands opposing the grooves, which typically results in less bullet jacket deformation, a better gas seal, and easier cleaning compared with conventional, even-number-grooved rifling with opposing lands. Also, the barrel is magna-fluxed to ensure integrity. A smooth counterbore at the muzzle, called the Quick Load Accurizor (QLA), allows easy initial bullet insertion and proper bullet alignment during loading.
The Impact comes with three-dot adjustable sights with fiber-optic inserts made by Williams Gun Sights. The rear, red fiber-optic sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, and the front, green dot is fixed. Four hex screws firmly hold the rail to the barrel, and two 1-inch rings with wing nuts are included.
For testing we used 100 grains of either Triple Seven or Blackhorn 209 powder; CCI 209 shotshell primers; and Barnes, Hornady, and T/C saboted bullets weighing from 250 to 300 grains. Accuracy was respectable with a Nikon Omega 3-9X 40 mm Muzzleloading scope with a number of shots stacking on the target. There were no ignition failures or hangfires during testing.
The ambidextrous hood release is one of the easiest muzzleloading actions to manipulate, and the high, Monte Carlo buttstock provides a solid, natural cheek weld. The fiber-optic sights are readily visible and consistently come into alignment; the finger grooves and the flat, horizontally aligned fore-end aid handling; and the gun’s light weight makes it easy to carry and aim. It comes with a 1-inch replaceable buttstock spacer, and the trigger breaks surprisingly well at about 3 pounds, 8 ounces.
The hammer could be longer and more pronounced, with checkering or serrations for better purchase. There are a number of high-end features that could have been incorporated as well, such as tool-free breechplug removal, perhaps, but given the higher machining costs for certain amenities and the low cost of the gun, this lack of features is understandable. In the end, what counts is the gun’s mechanical performance and the shooter’s comfort—and the Impact hit the spot.
With a well-balanced and simple design, a low price point and reliable, accurate shooting, the gun is a fine choice for the practical hunter.
Manufacturer: Thompson/Center Arms; (866) 730-1614; www.tcarms.com Caliber: .50 Action Type: break-action single-shot muzzleloader Receiver: aluminum alloy Barrel: 26", blued steel Rifling: 5R, 1:28", RH twist Sights: three-dot, fiber-optic Williams Gun Sights; pre-installed scope rail Trigger Pull: single-stage; 3 lbs., 8 ozs. Stock: black or Realtree Hardwoods Green synthetic: length of pull, 12½"-13½"; drop at comb, 1¾"; drop at heel, 25⁄8" Overall Length: 41½" Weight: 6 lbs., 8 ozs. Accessories: breechplug wrench; 1" replaceable stock spacer; 1" scope rings; owner’s manual Suggested Retail Price: $247 (black); $274 (camouflage)