Commanding The Warlord

Commanding The Warlord

Match-grade accuracy in a tactical package is the new name of the game from T/C's Custom Shop.

I'd been hearing rumors about a new sniper rifle based on Thompson/Center's Icon action since I reviewed the first Icon prototype a couple years ago. T/C acknowledged that the new rifle the company christened the Warlord was definitely in the works, but they hadn't finalized the specs.

It took a while, but T/C recently shipped the first Warlord rifles from the firm's Custom Shop, and I had the good fortune to put one through its paces.

The Warlord was designed by Mark Laney, T/C's director of research and development. Laney wanted to build a gun that would showcase the Custom Shop's capabilities and meet the growing demand for super-accurate, precision rifles. The Icon action was a great place to start.

Lock, Stock & Barrel
For those who aren't familiar with it, the Icon's action is machined from solid bar stock in the T/C factory. It is a flat-bottomed action with a detachable magazine, a solid top, and an integral Picatinny-spec rail. Unlike the standard Icon, the Warlord's Picatinny rail has 20 minutes of angle of elevation built in to allow shooters to dial their scopes for long-range work. The Warlord also has more robust bottom metal than the standard Icon, and it accepts five- or 10-round detachable magazines.

The Warlord's solid top makes for a rigid, accurate action. The integral Picatinny rail eliminates scope bases as a variable in the accuracy equation.

The classic Icon action has three integral recoil lugs, but the Warlord has just two, one at the tang and one at the front of the receiver. That third lug, which is located just ahead of the trigger on the standard Icon, is missing on the Warlord, and it appears to have been removed to make room for the new rifle's more robust bottom metal and detachable magazine. The two remaining recoil lugs are substantial and still amount to one more lug than most rifles have.

The Warlord is attractive but all business. In the author's shooting evaluation, the Warlord produced this 0.462-inch, five-shot, 100-yard group with Federal 175-grain .308 Match loads and this 0.548-inch group with Hornady TAP loads.

The lugs lock into the stock's integral aluminum bedding block, or IBS. The flat-bottomed receiver rides perfectly on the CNC-machined aluminum bedding block, and the recoil lugs fit tightly into their recesses in the bedding block. This solid melding of the barreled action to the stock is a key ingredient in the Warlord's promised accuracy.

Like all Icon's, the Warlord's solid bolt is machined from bar stock. The finished product is a three-lug affair that provides a short, 60-degree bolt lift for greater hand clearance between the bolt knob and the scope's ocular lens. A small "T-slot" extractor is milled into one of the lugs, resulting in a solid ring of steel that uniformly supports the case head. Ejection is accomplished by a plunger-style ejector in the boltface.

The body of the Warlord's bolt is fluted and finished with a corrosion-resistant, black nitride coating. The bolt knob is an oversized, tactical piece that has enough mass to aid in bolt manipulation but is not so large as to get in the way or pinch your hand against the scope.

Common Icon features include the slick bolt release on the left side of the receiver and its sleek, angled bolt shroud. However, the shroud is not skeletonized like the standard Icon's shroud. The Warlord also shares the Icon's excellent adjustable trigger.

The Warlord has the Icon's unique, two-position safety and bolt lock. With the safety in the "On" position, the bolt is not locked. However, an independent bolt lock will lock the safety "On" and block the bolt from being raised. It is simple and out of the way, but it's there if you want to use it.

The Warlord's oversized, tactical bolt knob made the bolt work faster and easier but was not over-the-top-big like other designs. The Warlord's nifty bolt release and beefy trigger guard assembly are clearly visible here. The rifle also utilizes an oversized magazine release and detachable, five- or 10-round magazine. The Warlord's adjustable trigger is crisp and light. The rear integral recoil lug, located under the tang, is clearly visible here.
The aluminum Interlock Bedding System is inlaid perfectly into the Manners stock.

Note the Warlord's substantial forward recoil lug.

Most manufacturers would buy match-grade barrels for a custom-shop rig like the Warlord, but T/C already makes match-grade, button-rifled barrels. T/C barrels have 60-degree target crowns for increased accuracy and to protect the crown, and they are rifled with best-grade reamers. Each T/C barrel also has 5R rifling, which has five grooves and lands with angular sides. This reduces jacket deformation and fouling, which is part of the reason why 5R barrels are so accurate.

The Warlord's stainless-steel, 5R barrel is a heavy, straight-taper tube that measures 0.91 inch at the muzzle. It is 22 inches long, and the bore is hand-lapped.

Since the Warlord is a Custom Shop offering, you can order it with your choice of 1:10, 1:11.25, or 1:12 twist rate. The rifle I shot for this report had a 1:12 rate of twist. I would probably opt for the 1:11.25 twist were I to purchase a Warlord, but as you'll see, the 1:12 twist performed phenomenally at my shooting range.

The Warlord's barreled action is bolted into a Tom Manners T2A stock. Like all Manners stocks, it is made of 35 percent carbon fiber and 65 percent fiberglass. That 65/35 construction makes for an almost unbreakable stock that is surprisingly lightweight.

The T2A has an adjustable cheekpiece; a wide, flat fore-end; and an almost vertical pistol grip. Subtle texture is molded in to the fore-end and pistol grip. A black, 1-inch, Pachmayr recoil pad is standard. The stock has a p

air of flush cup sling mounts on the left side and a single front swivel stud for bipod mounting.

The stock is finished in an attractive matte black. The barreled action wears T/C's corrosion-resistant Weather Shield finish. The color is closer to gray than black. In fact, it almost looks Parkerized. The dark gray metal over the black stock makes for an attractive, all-business appearance.

Fit, Finish & Function
My initial examination revealed no flaws. The Warlord's fit and finish were flawless, and its controls functioned smoothly and positively. The stock was beautifully inletted, and the bolt cycled effortlessly. The trigger pull broke crisp and clean at an ounce shy of 3 pounds. The rifle felt great in my hands and pointed naturally.

In preparation for range testing, I mounted one of my old 4-16X Nikon Tactical scopes in a pair of LaRue scope rings. The Nikon's glass is bright and clear, and its adjustments always track perfectly, so I use it often to test new rifles.

The Warlord made a great impression right off the bat, firing a five-shot group with Federal 175-grain Match loads that measured 0.462 inch. I wasn't too surprised because the gun has a 1/2-MOA accuracy guarantee, and the factory test target had a 0.3-inch, three-shot group. Still, it was a heck of a way to start.

I fired a few more groups with that Federal load to get a better feel for the rifle. It's hard to quibble with a crisp, 3-pound trigger pull, but I usually shoot better with a new gun after I put a dozen or so rounds downrange. Of course, I knew it would be tough to improve much on that first group, but I did get better as I got used to the trigger and got the stock adjusted to fit my face.

Speaking of which, I particularly liked the adjustable stock. I got a perfect cheekweld with it once I got it dialed in, and it rode the bags beautifully. Recoil was straight back and not the least bit uncomfortable thanks to the rifle's 12.75-pound (unscoped) weight and excellent stock design.

The Warlord's fluted barrel measures a hefty 0.91 inch at the muzzle.

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Warlord Accuracy

Factory LoadVelocity (fps)100 Yard Accuracy (in.)
.308 Winchester
Black Hills 168-gr. Match 25990.52
Federal 168-gr.TAP A-Max26570.64
Federal 175-gr. Match 2534 0.42
Notes: Accuracy is the average of five, five-shot groups fired over a Caldwell front rest and rear bag. Velocity is the average of 25 rounds measured 15 feet from the gun's muzzle with a Shooting Chrony chronograph.

The Warlord's adjustable cheekpiece allows shooters of different shapes and sizes to shoot the rifle accurately. The cutout is necessary if you want to work the bolt with the comb raised.

That 175-grain Federal load came out on top in my 100-yard accuracy testing with a 0.26-inch best group and a five-group average of 0.42 inch. Hornady's 168-grain TAP load also shot very well, turning in a 0.548-inch best group and a 0.64-inch average for five, five-shot groups. Black Hills's 168-grain load turned in a 0.52-inch average and a 0.39-inch best group. All of the three loads were more than accurate enough to perform the role for which a law enforcement officer would use the Warlord, and all are more than accurate enough to take your friends' money on the range.

The Warlord At 300 & 600 Yards
Whenever I get a really accurate, heavy-barreled rig like the Warlord, I always try to spend a little time with it at the 300- and 600-yard lines. Well, I tried to shoot the Warlord at long range for this review but couldn't do it because, even first thing in the morning, it was so hot here the mirage was unbearable. I could see the target, but I couldn't see where I was hitting without waiting for a cease-fire and going all the way downrange. It would have taken me an hour just to make sure my gun was on after firing the first group. And if I did shoot, the mirage was so bad it wouldn't have been fair to the gun.

I was on too tight of a deadline to deal with the mirage, so instead of shooting paper targets, I headed out to a friend's property a few days later and set up my 6-inch steel popper. I used the dope from my GA Precision sniper rifle to get on the target at 300 yards with no trouble. Mirage was still bad, but I hit the 300-yard target from the prone position 20 out of 20 times.

Honestly, hitting a 2-MOA target at 300 yards with a rifle like the Warlord is no big deal. But hitting a 1-MOA target at 600 yards with that mirage is a lot tougher. So I moved the target to 600 yards, dialed in my 600-yard dope, and settled in behind the rifle to watch the mirage boil. It was moving slightly left to right, so I held just off the left edge and

squeezed the trigger. I saw the target fall and, an instant later, heard the happy sound of lead smacking steel.

When I did my part and read the mirage correctly, I hit the 600-yard target every time. When I missed, it was my fault and it wasn't by much. Needless to say, my buddy and I came away from that session very impressed with T/C's new Warlord.

The Warlord has an MSRP of $2,995. That's a significant chunk of change. But if you compare that to what it would cost you to have a top gunsmith build you a similar gun on a Remington action with a Manners stock, Badger bottom metal, and a top-end barrel from Broughton or Bartlein, it's a darn good deal. You could spend more, but there's no guarantee that expensive custom gun would outshoot the Warlord. If there was an accuracy difference, it would be so insignificant that, in my opinion, it would be trumped by the Warlord's value.

The Warlord is a highly accurate precision rifle that would be great for law enforcement work, target shooting, or competition.

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