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Home » Thompson Center Contender Classifieds » Contender Reference Only » Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 (A (fairly) quick guide to identifying Contender Frames)
Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #45483] Mon, 16 September 2019 10:04 Go to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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Photobucket is giving me a hard time about the number of pictures I've got stored on their site without paying them for the space. So I'm going to take some time and move everything over to this thread so it will be as permanent as this site is and no annoying PB graphics on the page. Where possible I'll post some clearer pics.

If you have anything you'd like more on let me know by PM and I'll see what I can do.


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started
Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #45484 is a reply to message #45483] Mon, 16 September 2019 11:08 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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Way back in the dark ages, like the early 1960s, Warren Center developed a break action single shot pistol. In 1965 he joined the KW Thompson Tool Company and they introduced the world to the Thompson Center Contender in 1967 (picked from the Wikipedia).

Since that first frame was sold the Contender has gone through a variety of changes to make it easier to produce (frame etching), easier to use (easy open), and stronger (G2). During each phase there were different varieties as well. I won't be covering all of them, but you'll get to see more than a few here.

As for barrels? This is the last you'll read of them in this thread. There are more than a few different barrel types, shapes, configurations, sights, etc... and I don't have the expertise or collection to show you all of them. The one thing I can tell you is don't ever look for standardized sights. They came off, got lost, got switched, got mixed, and otherwise may have very little to do with the barrel they're on.


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Wed, 22 July 2020 10:24]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #45485 is a reply to message #45484] Mon, 16 September 2019 11:17 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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G1 - Generation 1
index.php?t=getfile&id=8141&private=0
(Very early Contender Ad)

The above ad shows a very early version of the Contender.

It has:
- A flat or slab side
- A bare, almost skeleton hammer
- The trigger creep screw is accessed from inside the frame.

Pay attention to the grip and forend. The early caliber offereins were fairly low pressure and the stock sets were designed for such. You can see in the ad that there isn't much to the grip and the barrels have a screw with a round top. The forend just snapped on and off.

When magnum calibers became popular in the early 70's TC started to get calls. It seems the recoil exceeded the clamping strength of the forend and Newton's Law of Inertia came into play. You would shoot, bend over, pick up the forend, snap it back on, and repeat. The grip itself didn't do much to manage recoil either.

Flat/Slab sides were also available from the TC Custom Shop (Fox Ridge Outfitters), so just because it is a flat side doesn't mean it's an early Contender.
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It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Thu, 16 July 2020 14:40]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46112 is a reply to message #45485] Thu, 16 July 2020 15:10 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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When T/C first started production they had intended on having nothing on the side of the frame. While making test runs they noticed that a lot of the castings didn't meet the standard and had to go into the rejects bin.

Along with this, bluing a frame is an exacting process and any variation of the steel or the process can result in a color other than the deep blue/black. And, time can also cause a change. The attached picture shows and example of this coloring (Plum). It's a common thing and not a defect. I've seen it most often on the trigger guard (mine was closer to an orange color).

If you're selling a frame that has some plum parts be very upfront about it and include pictures.

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8264&private=0
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It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Tue, 21 July 2020 06:11]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46116 is a reply to message #46112] Mon, 20 July 2020 14:40 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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With too many of the castings not passing muster (small air holes and imperfections) the option TC came up with was to add a design to the frame that would minimize the visual impact of these imperfections. So they came up with some designs and made some up with the two proposals.

The first of these was the Cougar etching you're familiar with, for our purposes I'm going to call this the G1.V1a (Generation 1 Version 1a)


/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8265&private=0

Things to note are:
1) The hammer has no safety or switch, but could be changed between rim fire and center fire by turning a screw in the trigger face.
2) Trigger creep could be taken up by a hex screw that you reached from inside the frame
3) The trigger group hinges at the front of the frame, not the center (see the plum frame above).
4) The extra scrolling in the etching.

(The G1.V1 is how I'm going to differentiate between the frame types).


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Mon, 20 July 2020 15:06]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46117 is a reply to message #46116] Mon, 20 July 2020 14:46 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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The alternative design was the Eagle. Since it didn't make it into full production just know it's a G1.V1b.

They are rare, but show up occasionally on the auction sites. There were rumors of a single two sided frame, but I've been assured by the Contender expert himself that it never happened.

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8267&private=0


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Mon, 20 July 2020 15:06]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46118 is a reply to message #46117] Mon, 20 July 2020 14:58 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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So, the decision was made. The design was finalized, and in 1967 the T/C Contender was put on the market.

Below is an add I found in a 1968 firearms magazine. You will want to note the price of the frame and barrel. The presentation boxes are real and I've seen them off and on at gun shows and auction sites.

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8268&private=0

As the above ad shows, there was a kit you could buy to gold wash the etching. I've seen it done better, I've seen it done worse.

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8269&private=0


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started
Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46119 is a reply to message #46118] Mon, 20 July 2020 15:05 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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So you've introduced the first significant change of pistol designs in decades that is capable of shooting most any pistol caliber with just the change of a barrel, so what do you do now?

Well, if you're TC the first thing you so is add more calibers, then change the grip and forends to accommodate the increased recoil, and you find a way to cut production costs and increase safety.

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8270&private=0

We'll call this G1.V1c.

Note the following:
1) The trigger group hinge is still at the front
2) the lack of scrolling behind the Cougar
3) The hammer has a cross-bar safety. When it is engaged a little pin sticks out the front of the hammer and prevents it from contacting the firing pin.



It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Mon, 20 July 2020 15:07]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46120 is a reply to message #46119] Mon, 20 July 2020 15:26 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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You'll find many different variations of the above, including early frames that were converted to easy open (more on that below). None of these frames were ever stainless, all were blued and all were sold as pistols.

If you have one of these you're also probably aware that they can be VERY difficult to open depending on the barrel.

Just so we have a common frame of reference, this is a barrel lug:
/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8271&private=0

What locks up the barrel to the frame are called locking BOLTS. There are two types single and split.

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8272&private=0 /forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8273&private=0

This is the last time in this thread I'll talk about these, but if you're having a problem with opening a barrel/frame go see the thread on "My Contender WON'T Open Easily".
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It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Wed, 22 July 2020 11:08]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46121 is a reply to message #46120] Mon, 20 July 2020 15:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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So now you've done it, and it's a hit - at least with the specialty pistol shooters out there. Some gun writers even claim you aren't a real pistol, you're more like a rifle and they coin the phrase "Pifle".

But that didn't stop the T/C Contender from moving on and gaining even more fans. Longer barrels, more calibers, more shooting sports (can you say silhouette?), and more expertise drove a new set of changes.

Frames were just hard to open and reexamining the engineering brought on a new change, the Easy Open frame (G1.V2a) Something as simple as moving the trigger group hinge to the middle made a world of difference.
(Those of us who've had both types will attest to this!!!)

/forum/index.php?t=getfile&id=8274&private=0

Things to note:
1) The trigger group hinge is in the middle
2) The trigger creep screw is now in the trigger
3) Though not seen, there is an overtravel screw in the guard
4) The hammer has a switch/safety on top.


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Mon, 20 July 2020 15:40]

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Re: Identifying Contender Frames (with pics) V2 [message #46122 is a reply to message #46121] Mon, 20 July 2020 15:39 Go to previous message
Crubear is currently offline  Crubear
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OK, this should be enough to get you started - for now.

I need to start pulling some of the old threads pics so PBucket quits harassing me

Armour Alloy II (G1.V2b)
Angry Cougar (Stainless and blue G1.V3)
and the G2

and other notes will follow (along with grammar and other corrections)

I have been reminded they are called "LOCKING BOLTS". They didn't include the "Dummy" it deserved.


It's a good day if it starts while you're still breathing, it's a great one if the day ends the way it started

[Updated on: Tue, 21 July 2020 06:18]

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