New Habit and New Toys – Thompson Center Encore

thompson center encore with composite and flex tech stock

Thompson Center Encore with composite and new Flex Tech Pro Hunter stock

I have heard it said, that the only way to change a habit (good or bad) is to replace it with a new habit.

Since the early 1980’s, I have had a habit of sitting on mountain ridge tops or coastal dunes for most of the months of September and October . Some of my friends called it a sickness, especially since I didn’t hunt with them anymore. I prefer to call it a passion and there are a handful of others that share and understand this passion completely.

Almost a soon as one season ended, we could hardly wait for the start of the next season. There were always new places to scout and gear that needed to be fixed or replaced and new methods that had to be tried for next season. Half the fun was planning and getting ready. Sound familiar?

immature northern goshawk

Immature Northern Goshawk

“They” say, that all good things must come to an end. Well, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but after 20+ years, I let it end and found myself looking for something else to do in the Fall. I needed something to look forward too, something to get excited about. Since I live in the Inter-mountain West, it is not hard to find something fun to do in the Fall. Many people pay big money to come play in my back yard, and it ain’t just to go skiing.

It was time to start hunting again. I live in a state that is mostly public land (9 million acres of National Forests, 23 Million acres of BLM and about 4 million acres of state land). I could be hunting mule deer, elk and moose in about 15 minutes as I head out of town. In ninety minutes from my house, I can add antelope, big horn sheep, mountain goat and bison to the list. Obviously, it is not as simple as that to draw the proper tags, and some of these species are once-in-a-life-time tags and very difficult to get, but I can count on hunting elk every year with over the counter tags.

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with 7 mm and 209 X .50 cal Muzzleloader Barrel

I had several shotguns, a .22 rifle and several handguns, but didn’t have a big game rifle, so I started searching for a new rifle that would be suitable to use for hunting all the big game species (ungulates) in the area, but one that would primarily be for elk. I know one gun does not fit all situations, but was looking for one that had sufficient energy for the larger animals and a flat trajectory for distances up to 400 yards. I know there are guys that are good enough to regularly take shots twice that distance, and there are guys that will take long shots just because, but that’s not for me. I also know how I would feel if I blew the jaw off an animal and couldn’t get a second shot to put it out of it’s misery.

For me, hunting is all about a great outdoor experience, a clean kill and good meat for the freezer, in that order. Did I forget mention antlers, horns or racks? No, not  really. I won’t pass up shots on nice bucks or bulls when I have the tag and I don’t throw antlers away when I get them, but for me, the size of an animals antlers has little to do with my outdoor experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love to find and watch those monsters as much as the next guy, but when it’s all said and done, I prefer to pack out a cow or a spike elk to put in the freezer. I apply for the limited entry tags, but have not been lucky enough (yet) to draw one. When I do, I won’t waste that tag on a spike, I will be hunting for a nice trophy.

But, I digress… The search for a new rifle began with talking to friends and the guys at the range and by reading dozens of articles, forum posts and examining data from ballistic programs. I spent days comparing bullet velocities, energy, bullet drop and wind drift at various distances, and finally decided on either the 7 mm Remington magnum or the .300 Winchester Magnum for larger game (elk & moose) and a .270 Winchester for smaller game (mule deer & antelope). I use these free ballistics programs from Winchester and Point Blank.

I started looking at new rifles at all the usual places, but also started look in the classifieds. I found an ad for a 7 mm Remington magnum for sale only a few miles from my house. The seller and I bounced emails and phone calls back and forth and he sent more information on the gun and we set up a time for me to go check it out.

Thompson Center EncoreThe gun actually turned out to be two guns in one; The Thompson Center Encore (also now available as the TC Encore, the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter and the Pro Hunter FX) with both a 7 mm (Rem Mag) and a 209 X .50 cal muzzleloader barrel and forearms. Before I met with the owner I searched for everything I could read about the TC Encore system, and it seems that anyone familiar with firearms knows that Thompson Center Arms is well known for making high quality, rugged and accurate guns, but they are a little pricey.

Here was my chance to score two very excellent guns for a very good price. No, they weren’t new and they didn’t have all the new options such as the Flex Tech stock, the speed breech plug, E-Z (moveable) primer extractor, adjustable hammer, power rod or the fluted barrel.

The biggest issues for me at the time was not having the Flex Teck Stock or the speed breech plug. But I already knew I could get a Flex Tech stock if I wanted and after reading Randy Wakeman’s TC Encore Pro Hunter muzzleloader review, I decided the universal breech plug was better after all, since it allows for more use-able barrel length. Looking back now, the only time that removing the breech is a problem is when I am at the range and want to clean after each shot. But I just take the appropriate socket and ratchet. No big deal.

To make the long story short about haggling, offers and counter offers and who finally broke-it-off in who, we made a deal and I got a great price on a used Thompson Center Encore system. I still don’t know for sure why that young fellow gave up those guns he obviously enjoyed, but I think it had to do with taking care of his young family. I respect him for it and wish him all the luck in the world and I hope he can get back into shooting and hunting again soon.

I really hadn’t given much thought to buying a single shot rifle and had not considered a muzzleloader at all. That’s why the salesman just smiles when you say “I’m just looking.”  But now I have both, plus a whole bunch of paraphernalia associated with loading, firing and cleaning the muzzleloader. There was so much stuff, he even gave me a tackle box so I could keep track of all the little parts. When the seller asked did I have anymore questions, I just stood there, too excited about my new toys and to ignorant to know what questions to ask. Later I had a hundred questions and wished I had been wise enough to ask at least a few of them when I had the chance… At the time, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know about shooting a muzzleloader and now it’s my favorite hunting rifle.

modern muzzleloader guide

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