Article courtesy of NZ Guns & Hunting Magazine. Please click on the hyperlink to view ‘NZ Guns and Hunting Magazine’s’ official webpage.
Ten years ago my wife announced she was pregnant. In the days following the initial hype and all the drama that goes with such an immense occasion, I began wondering, “What sort of rifle do I need for my child?” a completely natural line of thinking, surely.
My research led me to the TC Contender, Generation Two, a single shot rifle system with a huge amount of versatility and a lightweight design that has benefits for younger shooters. Its barrels are interchangeable, so a number of barrels can be purchased, scoped and sighted-in, ready for use on the same action and butt stock, which is exactly what I ended up doing.
Initially I settled on the G2 in stainless synthetic with a .223 barrel, a versatile calibre in its own right. On arrival I got to work, mounting a VX2 Leupold 2-7 compact scope which fitted well and was in keeping with the rifle’s small, lightweight design.
The standard 23 inch barrel I found to be extremely accurate but it was also rather heavy. All of the G2 barrels have the same profile, thereby fitting the same fore-ends etc., which keeps them uniform in appearance, but it does add weight in the lighter calibres. In the larger calibres of course, the bores are wider in diameter, therefore there’s less steel in the barrels.
To reduce weight and balance the little rifle a bit better for the younger shooter I had the barrel shortened by four inches and threaded for a suppressor. I was well aware that adding a suppressor was going to add more forward weight but as my “hunter” to be was too small to shoot standing it wouldn’t matter too much anyway, and reducing both noise and recoil to get him or her started would be of great benefit.
I chose a suppressor from Canterbury Gun Works as I had used Robbie’s gear previously and couldn’t fault it for my intended use. Once suppressed the little Contender continued to perform flawlessly and I began shooting a few deer with it, preferring it over my more traditional hunting rifles.
By this time we had discovered a son was on his way and after he made his appearance life began to settle into more of a routine. I began thinking that a .223 is probably not the ideal calibre to start a child off with so I began looking for a smaller “plinker” to kick off with. In the meantime I headed down to the South Island for a hunt with some mates and after chasing reds and fallow for a few days we spent some time near Waimate flattening wallabies. I managed a few with the bow then spent a morning wandering the hills with a borrowed .17 HMR. To be honest I was amazed with this little calibre, having never used it before. On returning from down South I took the jump and purchased a .17 HMR barrel for the Thompson.
CENTREFIRE TO RIMFIRE
I will explain something about the “Tommy Gun” as it’s called in our house. It is a single-shot break-open hammer gun, not unique in that aspect, but what I do find extremely useful and perhaps unique is the fact that on the hammer there’s a selector switch for the firing pin. Obviously with the .223 barrel on I have it selected to centrefire. When the .17 goes on however, I simply switch to rimfire and away we go. There is also a no firing pin selected slot which makes the rifle extremely safe. I have tested this is, in a safe environment!
As the kids grew the day was drawing closer where I would have to hand over my toy to them to start doing some shooting. The problem being though that the factory buttstock was way too long for the kids. After asking around I managed to track down a cabinet maker who could make a wooden stock for the G2 pretty easily, without me having to re-mortgage. I handed the Tommy Gun over and within a week I had a great little custom stock made from a piece of puriri, a perfect length for my oldest boy. I attached a limbsaver recoil pad and started getting the kids into a bit of target practice and learning the basic principles of gun safety. They have had these drummed into them since they were old enough to swing a water pistol.
FIRST DEER HUNTS
April 2014 rolled around and my oldest son Corbett, 8-years old, started pestering me to take him out for a deer. Probably more excited than him, we headed for a hunt on a property that shares a boundary with a pine forest where a few fallow deer roam. He had done a bit of target practice of late and even shot a couple of smaller goats for the table, choosing them over big horned billies. The smile on his face every time we sat down to dinner and thanked him for providing the meat was priceless.
After setting up camp we headed to the back corner of the property where deer are often seen just prior to dark and settled in to see what showed itself. I had fitted a bipod to the front of the Contender and after an hour or so of patient waiting a fawn materialised without its mother and fed into the paddock alone. We watched the animal for close to an hour by which point it was beginning to get dark and the young deer was still alone. Guessing its mother had been harvested by one of the many hunters that frequent the property I gave Corbett the go ahead to take the shot.
With careful aim Corbett’s first shot was bang on and he had his first deer down within seconds. We were both overwhelmed, I’m not sure who was happier to be honest but we made the most of that moment. After a pretty quick photo session due to fading light I quickly dressed the animal and suggested Corbett finish the job by carrying it back to camp. This turned into another super proud Dad moment as we were well over a kilometre from camp but he carried it all the way back in the dark without so much as a grumble.
The following morning we headed to another spot where a scrubby gully, encroaching into the farmland, tends to hold a few animals after daylight as they linger on their way back to the forest. We spotted a couple of animals within minutes of arrival and belly crawled in to 60 metres before setting Corbett up behind the Contender once again. As a mature hind fed through the manuka I carefully reached across and eased back the hammer when he was in the cross hairs. A few seconds later she crumpled to the ground with a perfect neck shot. More high fives and hugs and we got stuck into the photos again. This time I helped him get the deer onto his back but he couldn’t take a step, weighing less than the deer did!
More recently we had another hunt, this time Kershaw, my youngest son. tagged along and we spent a couple of hours catching an eel each as we waited for the day to wear on a little. After climbing through a ridge and dropping onto a terrace nearby we found four fallow spikers dozing in the sun. On sneaking in to around 110 metres we got Corbett set up in behind the Contender. He lined up on one of the young deer with instructions not to shoot until it got to its feet. The gun stayed motionless as he watched the deer through the scope. Finally the deer began getting restless and one by one they stood – the target animal pausing to chew grass as the crosshairs settled. Shot through the heart it made it less than thirty metres and the boys’ afternoon out got a whole lot better.
I have since purchased a 6.8 Remington barrel for the Tommy Gun, for the bigger deer species as the kids get older. Again I knocked four inches off the barrel and suppressed it for the kids, but I had to try it out myself first for quality control purposes. I’m again very impressed with this little rifle. Corbett’s pretty happy too, three deer with three shots at age eight, I think he might have the bug!