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Review: Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter

by J. Scott Rupp   |  June 9th, 2011 10

By J. Scott Rupp

J. Scott Rupp, editor in chief of Handguns magazine and executive producer for Handguns TV, used a Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter on a number of hunts and found it to be an accurate and versatile gun.

On three recent hunts for Handguns TV I’ve been shooting a Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter. It’s a single-shot break-open design that allows you to make the gun into a handgun, rifle, shotgun or even a muzzleloader. In fact, in preparation for the TV hunts, all I had to do was give T/C a call and request a barrel, fore-end and grip for the Pro Hunter I already had-—which I had set up as a rifle in .280 Remington.

How does that work? Simple. All you have to do is remove the two fore-end screws, pop off the fore-end, then drive out the large hinge pin. Off comes the barrel, along with the scope and scope mount. To change the grip, remove the grip cap screws then get in there with an Allen wrench to remove the bolt holding the grip in place. One of the beauties of the system is that whether you’re going from rifle to handgun or from one handgun chambering to another, your sighting setup, whether scope or iron sights, maintains its zero.

Like I said, it’s a break-open design. To open the action you just pull back on the trigger guard lever to break it open. It has an extractor but no ejector, so you have to remove cartridges or spent cases by hand.

The Pro Hunter offers something the regular Encore doesn’t: the Swing Hammer. Simply loosen the screw to position it left, center or right.


One feature that the Pro Hunter has that standard Encores do not is the Swing Hammer. By loosening the hammer’s screw you can change the hammer to a left or right offset for use with a scope or place it in the center for iron sight use.

Removing two screws in the fore-end allows its removal. With the handguard removed, simply drive out the hinge pin to separate barrel from action.

The Pro Hunter has a comfy grip and fore-end, and that does a lot to tame recoil in some of the more powerful chamberings. The trigger breaks at 6-1/2 pounds, which is fairly heavy for a hunting trigger, but there’s almost no creep. With a Burris 1-1/2-4X pistol scope aboard it weighs about 5-1/2 pounds.

There’s a lot of metal surrounding the cartridge, and this strength is what allows the Pro Hunter to chamber bottleneck rifle cartridges in a pistol configuration. The one I’ve been shooting is the relatively new 6.5 Creedmoor. It was developed by Hornady a few years ago as a competition cartridge, but it’s moved into the hunting field and has become one of my favorites.

The Encore is a break-open single shot. A trigger guard lever opens the action.

This barrel came out of T/C’s Custom Shop, and the company is not sure what the future is for this particular chambering, but that didn’t stop me from doing a little begging and pleading to let me borrow it for the hunts.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is based on the .30 TC case, and in the Superformance loads I’ve been using it’ll push a 120-grain GMX or 129-grain SST bullet to about 3,000 feet per second. Now in this 15-inch handgun barrel you’re obviously going to lose some of the velocity you would get in a rifle barrel. I chronographed the GMX load at 2,740 feet per second out of the Encore.

The hefty chamber of the Encore allows it to chamber bottleneck rifle cartridges such as the 6.5 Creedmoor.

That’s a ton more velocity than you’re going to get out of any straight-walled revolver case, and that means a much flatter trajectory. I zeroed the Pro Hunter for 100 yards, which is as far as I’m comfortable shooting on most game animals, but if I wanted to stretch it out, I’d be only about two inches low at 150 yards and only about five inches low at 200. Try that with a .44 Magnum.

The Encore Pro Hunter pistol sells for about $750. That’s a pretty good deal when you consider you can switch back and forth between about a dozen calibers in the pistol configuration and also turn it into a rifle—or a muzzleloader or even a shotgun. It’s the ultimate in versatile hunting guns.

  • Dave

    Unfortunately, I do think what you are suggesting with switching the gun about will run afoul of our lovely federal regulations. I don't agree with them mind you, but they don't have to make sense.

    As I understand it, simply possessing the components for this, even if they are not assembled, constitutes a short barrelled rifle, which is illegal. The handgun length barrel and a stock in possession at the same time which could be assembled is enough to bring the Feds down on you.

    The concept is great, and I would love to have it that way. but, I wouldn't want to be writing about it like this, because you are basically admitting to breaking the law.

    • Carl C.

      I think you should be more specific when you state that this is illegal.

      Thirty years ago, I had a "factory-made" barrel for the Thompson Center Contender pistol that was 14 inches long and fired the 30-30 rifle cartridge. I don't believe that it was illegal. I also had a 14 inch long barrel for the 223 Remington cartridge. They were BOTH very accurate.

      IF you are going to make such "accusations"…you should provide detailed information.

  • Dan O'Connell

    I think it's a stretch to think the Feds have nothing better to do than follow a barrel around to see if you're using it with a shoulder stock. However, a trip to your local gun club with an illegal configuration is just asking for trouble. T/C used to sell a short barrel that was too long to be considered a pistol barrel. It had to be shortened by a gunsmith. Don't forget, we have to be found guilty by a jury of our peers. I'm pretty sure you would get some leniency if you did not assemble a short barrel rifle.

  • Dave

    To Carl:

    I was specific: The handgun length barrel and a stock in possession at the same time… What part of that is hard to understand? And yes, a 14 inch barrel with a stock is illegal. The barrel must be 16 inches to be legal with a stock as a rifle. If you don't possess a stock, then it is legal. And I am not making "accusations." I was simply posting a warning.

    To Dan: Do you really want to bet your freedom and your firearms rights on what you think is "a stretch" and "pretty sure"? Never count on a jury of your "peers" to be rational and agree with you. Yes, it may happen, but do you really want to risk it? And if you do, do you really want to advertise it in writing on the internet? Basically this article is a written confession to an anti-gun DA looking to boost his standing. You don't think it happens? Come on.

    All I was doing was posting a word to the wise. All it takes is an anti-gun cop or game warden seeing this to jam you up and cause you trouble, because yes, you are violating the law, no matter how stupid that law may be. Does it have a stock? Is the barrel length under 16 inches? Yes to both, guilty as charged. It doesn't have to make sense, it's the government. The same government that thinks a rifle is ok as long as it doesn't have a pistol grip and detachable magazine, then it becomes an evil assault rifle. Don't take my word for it, ask a lawyer.

  • Ken

    There are hundreds of configurations for this gun in both pistol and rifle, shotgun and muzzle loader. Custom barrel makers offer every conceiveable caliber you can think of for both the pistol length and rifle length barrels. It is amazing. The hiccup is to not mix them up, that is rifle stock with a pistol barrel or a rifle barrel with a pistol stock. Some states sell the frames as pistol/rifle- now there is a debate that you don't want to get into. The frames are identical and interchangeable (but you are not supposed to??) There is a lot of information on this located at

    Suffice to say, these are amazing guns and the handguns shooting rifle calibers will extend you range dramatically.

  • doug walker

    The rifle that is shorter than16 inches, that has a stock that is shorter than 27 inches as I recall, is a legal firearm. The bottom line is the firearm can be legal, don't take my word for it…check with the lawyer.

    I fired an xp100 in competition and it had a 14 in bbl, and 8 in stock as I recall. It was a legal weapon. Check out the rules for the sport of Silhouette Pistol. I have not looked lately.

  • GonHuntin

    If you don't believe it is illegal to convert the Encore rifle into pistol configuration, you need to argue with the BATFe……..they say it is. TC says it's legal, they are WRONG!!

    Here is a link to an article that spells out the issue, I wrote to the BATF technical branch (they are the ones that answer legal questions) and a scan of the answer I got is in the article and in the links below.


    Letter from BATFe addressing the legal issues with converting a Contender/Encore rifle into pistol configuration.

  • Dave

    I consulted a lawyer a few weeks ago, as I had other reasons to be talking to him – a lawyer specializing in firearms law, both local and federal NFA. Less than a 16 inch barrel with a stock is illegal, it's that simple. He also confirmed that simply possessing a stock and short barrel that fit the same frame is a technical violation of the law. He called it presumption of assembly, which basically means that if you have the materials to create such a weapon, you in effect possess that weapon. It is just like owning an auto sear for your semi-auto rifle. Simply owning the two together, even if they are not assembled, is a violation of the law. Likelyhood of prosecution may not be high, but beware. If they are looking to get you, they will.

    There is no length limitation on a pistol barrel. You can take a rifle and put a pistol grip on it, no violation. You just can't go the other way. Again, it doesn't have to make sense, it's the law.



  • John

    It is legal to change this pistol to a rifle, as log as the serial # was originally registered as a pistol, and when you place the stick on you additionally change the barrel length. This was ruled legal by the Supreme Court of the United States. The ATF lost their case against Thompson Center.

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