Each time I am convinced that Thompson/Center has used up all the really good ideas in muzzleloading rifles, the company comes up with something new to prove me wrong. It first happened more than three decades ago, and it’s happened again this year.
It started back in the 1970s when Santa–who looked a lot like my lovely wife Phyllis–placed a .50-caliber T/C Hawken with my name on it under the Christmas tree. The Hawken wasn’t the only rifle of its type available at the time, but it was the best of the lot–and, on top of that, it was made in the United States.
For several hunting seasons I was quite content to own no other muzzleloader, and I was lucky enough to bag a deer or two and several wild hogs with it. Then T/C introduced two scaled-down versions of the Hawken: Seneca and Cherokee–the former in .36 and .45 calibers, the latter in .32 and .45 calibers.
At 5.5 pounds, the Cherokee weighed 2.5 pounds less than my Hawken, and as I saw it, that made the little rifle just about perfect for the mountain hunting I often did in those days. But the Seneca weighed only a half-pound more than the Cherokee, and its stock was all fancied up with brass hardware to boot. I solved my dilemma by buying one of each in .45 caliber and went on to discover that a 240-grain Maxi-Ball moving along at .45-70 velocity was big enough medicine for deer at iron-sight distances.
And then T/C did it again. Just as I had spent enough time in the field with my Encore 209×50 to become thoroughly convinced that it was the in-line rifle for me, those crafty guys up in Rochester, New Hampshire, tempted me with other options–the Omega, the Pro Hunter version of the Encore 209×50, and .50-caliber G2 Contender, which is to modern in-line rifles what my old favorite Cherokee was to traditional rifles. Short and lightweight (a mere 6.5 pounds), it is the Winchester 94 of in-line muzzleloaders.
Now, for the third time, T/C has done it to me again and added more temptation in the form of a new rifle called the Triumph. The hammer and trigger of the Triumph remind me of those of the Omega, but those are the only similarities between the two rifles. Like the Encore 209×50, the barrel of the Triumph tips downward to expose the breech area for the insertion of a 209 shotshell primer, but their lockups differ.
Pulling on the trigger guard spur of the Encore allows the barrel to hinge down, and then the barrel automatically locks up when it is closed. On the Triumph, the trigger guard is pushed forward to unlock the barrel and must be manually pulled to the rear to lock up the barrel as it is closed. The Encore gets a slightly higher mark here for its convenience, but the Triumph is fast enough once you become accustomed to using it.
The receiver is aluminum for weight reduction, but internal wear is not an issue since all metal-against-metal moving parts–such as the firing pin and its bushing in the standing breech along with barrel hinge pin–are made of steel.
Incorporated into the design of the Triumph is a variation of the Speed Breech, which first appeared on the Pro Hunter version of the Encore 209×50. The breechplug used in the Encore requires the use of a tool for removal and installation. With the Triumph, a tool is supplied, but its use is required only if the threads of the breechplug become heavily fouled during firing. When it is clean, it can be removed and installed by fingers alone.
To remove the breechplug, twist it counterclockwise 90 degrees until its index mark is aligned with the mark on the barrel and then pull it from the barrel. Interrupted threads cut into the shank of the breechplug allow this to be done, and alignment of the index marks indicates when the two rows of threads are aligned for removal or installation.
When the breechplug is being installed, it must be rotated clockwise far enough for a flat on its surface to align with a flat in the bottom of the receiver, otherwise the barrel will not close. This is done to prevent the rifle from being fired should the breechplug not be fully rotated all the way home to its proper position.
A replaceable rubber O-ring and three steel gas-compression rings located on the breechplug are there to reduce the amount of propellant fouling that can reach the threads. In the event that fouling does blow by in sufficient quantity to prevent the breechplug from being rotated and pulled from the barrel with the fingers, use the tool to rotate it while making sure the two witness marks are perfectly aligned and then push the plug out by running a cleaning rod down the barrel.
Preventing the barrel from closing unless the breechplug is installed properly is not the only safety feature designed into the rifle. Another is a disconnector that allows the hammer to be cocked only when the barrel is fully closed and the trigger guard is in its locked position. Since the hammer is of the rebounding type, it does not contact the firing pin when resting in its forward position.
In addition, an internal block is designed to prevent the hammer from reaching the firing pin in the unlikely event that it travels forward from its cocked position withou
t the trigger being squeezed. Plenty of room between the spur of the hammer and the bottom of a scope makes it easy to cock, even when wearing gloves.
Like the Encore, the Triumph has a floating firing pin housed within a bushing in the standing breech of its receiver. Pressing the trigger releases the cocked hammer, allowing it to move forward and drive the firing pin to contact a 209 primer resting in its receptacle.
The Triumph comes with a tool designed for the insertion of a primer during the loading process, but tipping the breech puts it into such easy reach, I find it easier to load a primer with my thumb and finger. The other end of the tool can be used to remove a spent primer, but unless a primer becomes stuck, I find plucking it out with my fingers to be the way to go. Regardless of which method is used, the rifle should be tilted to the side to prevent the primer from dropping into the receiver.
Removing the barrel from the receiver is more complicated than with the Encore, but it should not need to be done very often because the bore is easily cleaned without barrel removal. After the ramrod and forearm are removed, and with the barrel open and the trigger guard in its unlocked position, a 1/16-inch hex wrench is used to remove the retention screw of the trigger-guard pivot pin.
Reaching inside the trigger guard and removing that tiny screw is the tricky part. Then the trigger-guard pivot pin is pushed out to either side. Turn out the barrel’s hinge-pin retaining screw at the left side of the receiver with a flat-blade screwdriver and then push out the hinge pin. The barrel can now be lifted from the receiver.
The Triumph is available only in .50 caliber, and according to the owner’s manual, it is built to handle up to three 50-grain Pyrodex Pellets behind the 250- and 300-grain Shock Wave saboted bullets.
Its fully adjustable sights have fiber-optic inserts, and the barrel is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. Barrel length is 28 inches, and overall rifle length is 44.75 inches. Barrel diameter is .810 inch, compared to respective diameters of .870 and .880 inch for the Encore 209×50 and Omega barrels. My postal scale says the rifle weighs 6.75 pounds, which means around eight pounds with a scope of reasonable size and a carrying sling.
The synthetic buttstock is Monte Carlo style without a cheekrest. The buttstock and the forearm have quick-detachable sling-swivel posts. Three variations are available: black stock and blued barrel, black stock and Weather Shield finish barrel, and Realtree AP/HD camouflage stock and Weather Shield finish barrel.
The aluminum receivers on all models have a natural finish. All models also have the Quick Load Accurizor (QLA) at the muzzle, making them quicker and easier to load under pressure than muzzleloaders that do not have it. The QLA also eliminates the need for a bullet starter.
T/C Triumph In-Line Muzzleloader
|Operation:||Toggle-lock action; tip-up barrel|
|Barrel Length:||28 inches|
|Overall Length:||44.75 inches|
|Weight, empty||6.75 pounds|
|Safety:||Automatic hammer block|
|Sights:||Fully adjustable fiber optic|
|Finish:||Blued or Weather Shield|
Shooting The Triumph
At the range, I tried four different bullets in the Triumph–T/C 200-grain Shock Wave, T/C 240-grain Cheap Shot, T/C 250-grain Shock Wave, and T/C 300-grain Mag Express. The worst averaged 5.00 inches at 100 yards for three shots, but the most accurate one, the 250-grain Shock Wave, averaged 3.00 inches with three 50-grain Triple Seven pellets. When I dropped back to two pellets, that bullet averaged darned close to two inches.
The Triumph shot that way not only because of its accuracy capability, but because the excellent quality of its trigger allowed me to squeeze off shots without disturbing its position atop the sandbags. The trigger broke consistently at 4.5 pounds, and while a bit of overtravel was present, it was completely free of takeup.
The quick-remove Speed Breech did a good job of sealing off propellant gas, but as is typical of any in-line rifle, light fouling did make its w
ay through the flashhole and began to build up on the standing breech of the receiver. During final cleaning, the fouling was easily removed without removing the barrel from the receiver.
I really like the way this new muzzleloader from Thompson/Center handles and feels. I appreciate the fact that even though it is relatively lightweight at eight pounds (with scope), the shape of its buttstock and the extremely efficient Sims recoil pad make it quite comfortable to shoot, even when bullets as heavy as 300 grains are pushed along by 150 grains of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven propellant.
So here I go again. Do I continue hunting with my Encore 209×50, or do I switch to the new Triumph? Well, rather than losing sleep over that question, I’ve decided I’ll do what I did many years ago when trying to decide between the Seneca and the Cherokee. I’ll keep both.