Gun Review: T/C Venture Predator

For a rifle to make the grade as a “Predator Rifle” it must achieve a number of things. First and foremost, it must be very accurate — and by that I mean it should shoot consistent sub Minute Of Angle (MOA) three-shot, 100-yard groups.

Or even better yet, if it can shoot half-inch, 100-yard groups, the rifle has now entered the realm of what I would consider a “keeper.” The reason being that the kill zone on a coyote, minus all that long hair, is actually quite small — no more than six or seven inches and out at 400 or more yards it makes for one small target. The kill zone on a fox is even smaller. It should also shoot reasonably flat for somewhat the same reason. A flat shooter can often make up for a misread on estimating the range, particularly when the target is this small.

I also like a rifle that fits well so that it moves smoothly with optimum balance on running shots. It also should be of a calibre that can utilize bullets of sufficient grain weight to provide clean kills out to ranges of at least 300 yards and preferably beyond.

But let’s first tackle the accuracy question. Unfortunately, for those of us with limited resources when it comes to the purchase of a rifle with a guarantee of MOA accuracy, it is often also accompanied by a hefty price tag. That was until my most recent trip to the Shot Show in Las Vegas where I unearthed the new for 2010 Thompson/Center Venture Predator that provides just such a guarantee, with a price tag that is most modest indeed. But would it live up to its advertising and guarantee? I just had to find out.  Thankfully, Thompson/ Center was most accommodating, as I was one of the first writers in Canada to get my hands on one.

T/C Venture Predator

I must admit that for quite sometime I have been on the look out for a new predator rifle, which while it would not nudge my bank statement into overdraft, would still shoot well. Not so easy to find. But the Predator, with its MOA guarantee, sure caught my attention. So I began to dig into just how T/C was able to put together a rifle with this type of guarantee for the price tag that it is being offered at. While there are various factors that dictate the performance of a particular rifle, one of the most critical is its barrel.  And here is where T/C has taken a whole new approach to the design of the barrel’s rifling. T/C refers to it as 5 R Rifling. Utilizing fluted match grade barrels they redesigned the rifling, as compared to conventional rifling, by making two elemental changes. First, the lands are gently sloped into the grove rather than having a sharp transition and second, each land is opposite a grove rather than another land. This results in less bullet deformation and less fouling for improved accuracy, shot after shot. There were also a number of other features of this rifle that caught my attention such as the fully adjustable trigger that adjusts from 3.5 to five pounds. As my particular rifle came factory set at three pounds, four ounces, slightly less than the advertised minimum, and as it broke reasonably crisply with only a very small amount of creep, I just left it there. The next feature that caught my attention was that the entire rifle is finished in Realtree Max-1 camouflage with Hogue Rubber Inlays on the forend and pistol grip. The combination of the two just set the rifle off with a field ready appeal that appeared as if it could handle about any condition it encountered. The rifle, despite the shorter 22-inch barrel, balanced well and came on point smoothly. A feature I count on for running or quick follow up shots. I also found the 60-degree bolt lift for easy scope clearance a plus and the action was quite smooth after a bit of a break in. Last, the rifle comes with Weaver Style bases factory installed and is available in four calibres including my choice, the venerable .22-250 Remington. All in all, an attractive package.

Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x40mm Scope

Being that the rifle was priced for any budget, I wanted to match it with a scope that while it offered a similar price point advantage, would still meet optical requirements for a predator rifle. I also wanted it to match as closely as possible the camo pattern of the Predator. I found the right match in the new Bushnell XLT with a DOA (Dead On Accurate) reticle in a 3-9x40mm. I would have preferred a scope with a slightly higher magnification for predator hunting but the XLT 4-12x did not come in camo, so I opted for the 3-9x. While the scope offers a number of quality features such as 91 per cent light transmission for a bright image, 100 per cent waterproof, fogproof and shockproof integrity, and Butler Creek Flip-Open Scope Covers, the two user friendly features that stand out are its DOA Reticle and the elevated (fingertip) windage and elevation adjustments. This reticle, while not an entirely new concept, is designed to provide aim points for most centrefire rifles at every 100-yard increment right out to 600 yards. A real advantage for those long shots across an open hay field. While not advantageous for the predator hunter, the DOA reticle does have one new feature referred to as the Rack Bracket System. It is a way of estimating the width of a deer’s antlers by using the width of and the hash marks on the extended yardage crosshairs. A novel idea for a deer rifle. Then, finally, the raised windage and elevation adjustments are a breeze to adjust, particularly on the range where you don’t even have to move from your shooting position to make an adjustment. Very handy indeed.

Field Test

I should start by indicating that both the rifle and scope certainly performed well. During my tests neither exposed a problem and functioned with nary a glitch. The rifle handled well and cycled rounds smoothly and the scope was quite bright and sharp and adjusted precisely in both windage and elevation. But the real test was to ascertain just how it would shoot.

For this portion of my field test I wished to include both factory ammunition and handloads. While many predator hunters will no doubt use handloads, there are more and more hunters using factory ammunition these days, not only because of the convenience but because, in some cases, factory ammo shoots just as well as handloads. So I included four different types of factory ammo, three from Federal and one from Winchester.

However, when it came to deciding what bullets I wished to use for my handloads, I went with the brand that for me has outperformed all other brands of .22 calibre varmint bullets.  Berger .22 calibre Varmint bullets have never failed to deliver top-notch accuracy in every varmint or predator rifle I have handloaded for. I use them as my standard by which I judge a predator rifle. If it doesn’t shoot Berger bullets it most likely just won’t shoot. Once again, I wasn’t disappointed. All groups were three-shot, 100-yard groups and all velocities were measured with a chronograph.

TEST RESULTS

Factory Ammunition Velocity (feet per second) Group Size (inches)
Federal Premium 50-grain Barnes Triple-Shock 3,634 9/16
Federal Premium 43-grian Speer TNT Green 3,930 3/4
Federal Premium 55-grain Sierra Blitz King 3,555 1
Winchester  45-grain JHP Varmint 3,799 5/8
Handloads (Bullet) Powder Velocity (fps) Group Size (inches)
Berger 50-grain Varmint Hodgdon Benchmark 3,591 1/2
Berger 52-grain Varmint Hodgdon Varget 3,519 5/16
Berger 55-grain Varmint Hodgdon Benchmark 3,458 3/4
Berger 60-grain Varmint Hodgdon Varget 3,270 1
Berger 52-grain Varmint Hodgdon Benchmark 3,514 1/2
Berger 55-grain Varmint Hodgdon H414 3,666 7/8

As these tables clearly demonstrate, this rifle is a keeper! For the dollar it is one excellent buy. Most groups were well under an inch and some were less than a half-inch, readily exceeding the manufacturer’s MOA guarantee. For coyotes I would not hesitate to opt on the factory side for Federal Premium 50-grain Barnes Triple-Shock and on the handload side for the Berger 52-grain Varmint bullets with Hodgdon Varget powder. Both provided excellent accuracy with the Berger handloads just out performing the Federal Premiums by a mere fraction of an inch. Of note, the velocity variance in the Federal Premium group was less than 10 feet per second. Simply outstanding. No wonder they shoot so well. I must admit that I can’t wait to bust some coyotes with this fine addition to Thompson/Center’s lineup — it is unquestionably a winner.

T/C Predator (.22-250 Remington)

  • Overall Length: 39-3/4 inches
  • Length Of Pull: 13-1/2 inches
  • Magazine Capacity: 3 +1
  • Weight: 6-3/4 lbs.
  • Rate Of Twist: 1:12
  • Total Weight (Rifle – Scope – Rings): 8 lbs, 5 oz

Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x40mm

  • Length: 11.9 inches
  • Reticle: DOA 600
  • Weight: 13.8 oz.
  • Eye Relief: 4”
  • Tube: 1”, one-piece

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