Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thompson/Center Dimension Hands-On Rifle Review

It's not often that I have the chance to shoot an unreleased, unannounced gun weeks before the general public knows about it, but that's exactly what happened to me in early December of 2011.

While on a deer hunt in Southwest Texas, I was given the opportunity to handle, fire, and hunt with the new Thompson/Center Dimension bolt action rifle in .308 caliber, introduced today at the 2012 SHOT Show in Las Vegas.  Sadly, I wasn't allowed to take any photos on my hunt, but my experience with this gun is recounted below.

Looks aren't everything, but this rifle will definitely attract attention.  There's really no other centerfire bolt action like it.  At a glance, the overall silhouette approximates T/C's venerable Encore, with a pronounced pistol grip and a rounded, almost arched, stock.  It has various shims and inserts that help you customize the Dimension's, well, dimensions -- affording the shooter an optimum length of pull.  And a good-fitting gun is usually an accurate shooting one.

Speaking of accuracy, the barrel is completely free-floated, and in fact, can be swapped out with different caliber barrels (depending on length of action) in a matter of minutes, using a special tool that's included with the gun.  Hell, you can even make it a right handed or left handed bolt.  It's this sort of interchangeability (see: Encore) that is a hallmark of Thompson/Center, and it's nice to see they're bringing the modular gun concept well into the 21st Century.

My gun came pre-sighted with Nikon glass, and before taking the Dimension hunting, I fed it a few rounds of 150 grain Hornady Superformance at the 100-yard range.  Ergonomically, the gun fit well and I was easily throwing inch-and-a-half groupings downrange.  I was told the trigger is user-adjustable, and the pull felt crisp and light (but not too light).  The action was smooth -- similar to the T/C Venture that rests in my gun case.

Back to the hunt.  The rut was just coming in, and I was wanting to take a buck using rattling horns -- something that's common in Texas, but somewhat a mystery to this Midwestern boy.  We walked many miles over my three day hunt, and I carried the Dimension all day long, and never once did it become heavy.  The detachable box magazine was a nice touch, too.

Thanks to the popularity of the AR-15 platform, the shooting public no longer considers a black, "plastic" gun as inherently inferior to a traditional walnut-stocked bolt action.  And in this sluggish economy, one gun with multiple barrel options is going to make a lot of sense to a lot of people.  Priced at about $650 (with extra barrels at $250), it's also a gun that's within reach of most any hunter or shooter.

I never did find the buck I was looking for, but it sure was fun rattling in smaller bucks and hunting with a top-secret rifle.  I give Thompson/Center a lot of credit for taking some chances and designing a rifle that is truly different than anything else on the market.  I hope to put a new Dimension in my gun safe soon.

note: I was not paid or otherwise compensated by Thompson/Center for this review.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Goose, and a Tease

Jack and I tried our hand at shooting some Canadas yesterday.  Thanks to the ridiculously warm weather we've been having (it's topped 60 the past two days), the geese weren't moving much.  We were able to scratch a couple down nonetheless, and had a ton of fun in the process.

I'm on my way to Vegas for the SHOT Show for a week of fun (I say that in half jest).  Anyhow, I might have some actual newsworthy, cutting edge product review in conjunction with the show -- just the type of thing you loyal viewers have come to expect from the Scampwalker newsroom (I say that in full jest).

Bon voyage!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Glass Pointer

As I wind down the 2011-2012 upland season, one sad fact is becoming more and more apparent, each and every time I hunt.

LuLu is injury prone.

First was her mishap with barbed wire up in Montana, on her first run since getting her from Nolan Huffman, my trainer.  That accident came perilously close to severing her Achilles tendon, and sidelined her for part of the trip.

Second was the opening weekend of pheasant and quail season here in Kansas.  She ran headlong over a cattle guard and fell in up to her chest at full speed.  Although she narrowly escaped breaking bone or ligament, she received a deep tissue bruise and subsequent cellulitis, which necessitated an extended rest on the sidelines.

Over the past month or so, she's developed a nagging tail injury, and it's usually minutes into a hunt before her haunches are spattered in blood.

And yesterday -- on what is likely my last upland hunt of the season -- she decided to tangle with a porcupine after pointing the damned thing.  All of my dogs have been stuck by these critters, but none as severely as LuLu.  Some of the barbs (typically an inch-and-a-half long) are buried more than an inch in her nose.  I was able to pull many of them, but the rest she's not letting me go near.  Presently, she's at the vet getting them extracted (along with my hard-earned cash).

Amazingly, none of these injuries slowed her down.  She's a gladiator-tough dog (even by bird dog standards) and I am happy and proud to hunt with her.  But dang.

Not quite two years old, I'm hoping that I can chalk this up to a young dog learning the ropes.  I can't afford a decade of this!

Update: Mrs. Scampwalker picked up Lu from the vet, and she is resting comfortably, sans 18 porcupine quills.  Apparently there were several inside her gum and palate.  I'd have never gotten them all on my own!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tons of Water... Ducks Not So Much.

Ed note: I've been a bit absent from the blog lately... thankfully, much of that time has been spent hunting and enjoying family.  As a result, I've got a lot to talk about.  Here goes the first post of 2012!  Thanks to all of you for stopping by and paying attention to my little slice of the internet.

In mid-December, Jack and I met up with my dad for a duck hunting trips near Waldenburg, Arkansas.  As luck would have it, most of Arkansas was pummeled by eight inches of rain in the previous week.  That made for some tough hunting -- the birds were around, but standing water everywhere made for some tough hunting (not to mention that many of the best blinds were submerged.  So from that perspective, the trip wasn't much of a success.

Thankfully, hunting success in the 21st century hunting is seldom measured by the quantity of critters shot. As I mentioned previously, this was a trip about bringing together family and creating memories.  And on that accord, the trip did not disappoint.

We still managed to shoot a few birds.  We jumped about 8,000 snow geese on a reservoir -- a spectacle that is completely indescribable.  I'm not sure who's the proudest in this photo... Jack, his grandpa, or the guy taking the picture.

Aside from teaching Jack the finer points on waterfowl hunting, Gramps also exposed Jack to "Austrian cuisine," a staple of blind and boat back when I was a kid.  Vienna sausages.  The look on Jack's face pretty much tells you what he thought of this delicacy.

The guy who really organized this whole outing was Dan, a close hunting buddy that I met when I lived in Texas.  We literally met in the middle of nowhere on a quail lease some 15 years ago -- and we've been tight ever since.  He brought his dad and son as well.

Dan also brought his two labs, and we were thankful to have them. Primarily upland dogs, water work was foreign to them at the beginning of the trip, but by the end of it they were regularly making some outstanding retrieves for us.

It was the first three generation trip, but I suspect it won't be the last.