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BRUSH-COUNTRY BUSTER: THE BREAK-ACTION THOMPSON/CENTER ENCORE KATAHDIN PRO HUNTER CARBINE IN .45-70 IS A POTENT, PORTABLE TOOL THAT'S MADE FOR HUNTING DANGEROUS GAME.

THOMPSON/CENTER'S break-action single-shot Encore rifle (introduced in 1993) has the strength to chamber a multitude of powerful, centerfire cartridges, including the .45-70. And the ability to add interchangeable barrels allows the rifle to be transformed into a muzzleloader, a shotgun, or other centerfire cartridge configurations.

The Encore series called the Pro Hunter consists of several iterations of various calibers and barrel lengths. One new version is called the Pro Hunter Katahdin. The Katahdin name is appropriate because it comes from the highest mountain in the state of Maine: a granite mountain that is 5,267 feet high at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Called simply "Katahdin" by the locals, the name means the "Great Mountain" in the language of the Penobscot.

The mountain is home to a wealth of big game, including black bears, whitetails, and moose. T/C says that the Katahdin rifle is designed for "hunting moose in the thick cedar swamps of northern Maine." It is an appropriate pairing.

The Pro Hunter Katahdin is offered in three real thumper cartridges: .460 S&W Magnum, .500 S&W Magnum, and .45-70. This gun is not for sissies.

I received a new Pro Hunter Katahdin in .45-70 for this report. The .45-70 Government cartridge has been with us since 1873, and while dozens of faster, larger, and smaller cartridges have been developed since, the .45-70 still occupies a prominent place in the cartridge picket fence. Big-game hunters and target shooters of all stripes appreciate its fat, slow, heavy bullets that consistently bag game, knock over silhouettes, and punch holes in distant paper.

Features

The frame is the same for all Encores, so any accessory Encore barrel will fit this frame. The Pro Hunter Katahdin is strikingly handsome. The stainless-steel frame and barrel have a lustrous matte finish, and the barrel is fluted. The barrel has a nice red fiber-optic front sight, and an excellent, fully adjustable rear peep sight is mounted close to the breech end. The barrel is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, but that requires removing the rear sight. With a scope mounted, the hammerspur is pretty hard to access due to the scope's eyepiece, and T/C solves this minor problem by making the hammerspur adjustable. It can be moved to the right or to the left for better access and locked in position with a setscrew.

The Pro Hunter Katahdin comes with T/C s FlexTech stock that features soft, molded-in gripping surfaces on the forearm, pistol grip, and cheekpiece. They flex upon firing a round and soften the recoil. The color is what I'd call a dark gray or maybe "off black." In any event, it's attractive and comfortable to hold. In addition, the stock ends with a 1-inch-thick Simms recoil pad that also softens the blow of the powerful loads for which the Katahdin is chambered.

The Encore Pro Hunter Katahdin with open sights weighs 6.0 pounds. For testing, I mounted a Leupold VX-1 3-9X 40mm scope with Duplex reticle, and it brought the rig's weight up to 7.0 pounds.

I must relate a minor problem encountered when mounting the scope. With the scope bore-sighted, the point of impact was about 3 feet below point of aim at 100 yards, much more than the range of adjustment of the scope. This could have been easily remedied by shimming the scope base, but because I was not taking it hunting, I just placed another target below my "aiming" target and tested loads with no problem. But it's something to keep in mind if you're installing a scope on your Encore.

Function

I fired several .45-70 factory loads for accuracy and velocity in the Pro Hunter Katahdin, and most were pretty mild, no doubt due to the fact they have to be safe in weaker vintage rifles originally chambered for the round, including Trapdoor Springfields. Thus, pressures are held to about 28,000 psi. Nevertheless, these loads aren't wimps and delivered 1,650 to 2,000 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.

Accuracy with almost all loads was excellent, ranging from 1.3 to 1.7 inches at 100 yards. The average group size of all factory loads was 1.68 inches. That's more than adequate for about any game hunted with a rifle chambered in .45-70. The smallest group with factory fodder was also the most powerful: the Hornady LEVERevolution 325-grain FTX.

Groups averaged 0.84 inch. Velocity was 1,923 fps, and muzzle energy was 2,669 ft-lbs.

The Fort Scott Munitions 300-grain Solid Copper Spun bullet also produced good accuracy; it averaged 1.02 inches. Federal's 300-grain JHP averaged 1.36 inches, which also is not too shabby. The only laggard in the accuracy department was the Winchester 300-grain JHP, which strung shots in vertical lines and averaged 3.44 inches, top to bottom. It also produced an extremely high velocity extreme spread of 156 fps, which resulted in a standard deviation of 64 fps.

In addition to the factory ammo, I developed several handloads, all of which produced a significant increase in horsepower. I used proven load data that had been pressure tested and kept pressure to about 38,000 psi. The muzzle energies of these handloads were as high as 3,200 ft-lbs.

Top performer was the Nosier 300-grain Ballistic Tip Hunting bullet. (Warning: This sharp-pointed bullet is not suitable for lever guns with tubular magazines.) Atop 55.5 grains of H4198 powder, velocity was 2,196 fps, and at 3,213 ft-lbs, muzzle energy was the highest of any handload tested. With a charge of 60.0 grains of IMR 8208XBR, accuracy averaged 0.83 inch, which was the best of the bunch.

Another winner was the Kodiak 350-grain Bonded Bullet over 56.0 grains of Benchmark. Velocity averaged 1,888 fps, and accuracy averaged 0.94 inch. The Hornady 350-grain Flat Point shot into 0.91 inch with a velocity of 1,834 fps. The powder charge was 47.5 grains of H4198. The Speer 400-grain Flat Point also favored Benchmark, and 55.0 grains produced 1,852 fps, a group average of 2.22 inches, and an average muzzle energy of 3,047 ft-lbs, the second highest of any load I fired.

The grand old .45-70 traditionally has been loaded with cast lead bullets, and 500-grain bullets traveling at about 1,200 fps have slain countless thousands of American bison. I used the excellent cast bullets from The Oregon Trail Bullet Co., but similar bullets are available from many other sources. I chose Oregon Trail's 350-grain gascheck and 405- and 500-grain plainbase bullets for my handloads. All performed really well and would make perfectly fine hunting loads for almost any big game. Accuracy averaged from 1.00 to 1.20 inches, with excellent ballistic uniformity.

The Encore Pro Hunter Katahdin is a great rifle, and the .45-70 is a great cartridge. However, there can be too much of a good thing, and here we must take the bitter with the rotten. With the heavier jacketed bullet handloads, not only is the power level up, but so is the recoil--substantially.

Recoil is both subjective and objective. How shooters perceive recoil varies with their individual makeup and experience level. The objective component can be quantified. In addition to the recoil energy (in ft-lbs), the recoil velocity of the gun (in fps) is extremely important in how recoil "feels." Maj. Sir Gerald Burrard, in his scholarly work The Modern Shotgun (1961), detailed many aspects of a gun's recoil. He spent much time observing British soldiers shooting .303 service rifles and concluded that the threshold velocity of the recoiling gun that induced flinching in riflemen was about 16 fps.

For most factory loads fired in the scope-sighted Pro Hunter Katahdin (weighing 7 pounds), the recoil energy was about 16 to 20 ft-lbs, and the recoil velocity was 13.5 fps; both values are in the "tolerable" range. The heavier handloads had more recoil (around 32 ft-lbs) and higher recoil velocity (up to 17 fps). Note that if the gun is fired with open sights (weighing just 6 pounds), the recoil of such loads jumps to 44 ft-lbs, and the recoil velocity goes up to 20 fps.

Shooters can conveniently partition their ammo into two power levels: mild factory loads or equivalent homebrewed ammo and more potent handloads tailored to match whatever the need. In the field, the big-game hunter or backwoods wanderer can take comfort in the fact that such loads would cleanly take just about any game for which the .45-70 is suitable, within its range limit.

My gun's mainspring was very strong and made the hammer difficult for me to cock. I generally used both hands to cock it when firing from the benchrest. Also, my gun's trigger pull was pretty heavy, averaging 6 pounds, 2.5 ounces. And right out of the box, the action was stiff and rather hard to open. By the end of my shooting session, the action was much easier to open and close, but the hammer still required strong effort to cock it. I don't see any of this as major detractions because the Pro Hunter Katahdin is such a well-made, good-shooting carbine, but these are things I think readers should know.

The Pro Hunter Katahdin version of the T/C Encore represents a modern, straightforward approach to the vexing problem of power, portability, economy, and versatility. It's a fast-handling, compact carbine that's ideal for hunting big, dangerous game in brush country, and it makes a fine companion for fishermen in bear country as it can deliver a bone-crushing blow to a recalcitrant bruin or any other critter with fang or claw bent on harm.

Caption: Appropriately named for the highest mountain in Maine, the 20-inch- barreled Encore Pro Hunter Katahdin is built for big, dangerous-game hunting in brush country.

Caption: The stainless-steel Pro Hunter Katahdin has a high-visibility red fiberoptic front sight. The rear sight is a fully adjustable peep type. It must be removed in order to install scope mounts. To make cocking the singleshot Pro Hunter more convenient if a scope is mounted, the hammerspur can be swung to the right or the left and secured in place.
ENCORE PRO HUNTER KATAHDIN

MANUFACTURER         Thompson/Center Arms
                     tcarms.com
TYPE                 Break-open single shot
CALIBER              .45-70
CARTRIDGE CAPACITY   1 round
BARREL               20 in.
OVERALL LENGTH       34.5 in.
WEIGHT, EMPTY        6.0 lbs.
STOCK                Black Flex-Tech forearm and butt-
                     stock with Simms recoil pad
LENGTH OF PULL       14 in.
FINISH               Matte stainless
SIGHTS               Fully adjustable peep rear, red fiber-
                     optic front
TRIGGER              6.16-lb. pull (as tested)
MSRP                 $852

T/C ENCORE PRO HUNTER KATAHDIN ACCURACY & VELOCITY

                                                     POWDER
BULLET                                       (TYPE)      (GRS.)

.45-70, 20-in. Barrel

Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip                  H4198       55.0
Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip               IMR 8208XBR    60.0
Hornady 350-gr. FP                            H4198       47.5
Hornady 350-gr. FP                         IMR 8208XBR    55.0
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                       Benchmark     56.0
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                         H4198       46.0
Oregon Trail 350-gr. Cast GC                  5744        26.0
Speer 400-gr. FP                            Benchmark     55.0
Oregon Trail 405-gr. Cast FP                  5744        28.0
Oregon Trail 500-gr. Cast RN                 Varget       37.0
Hornady LEVERevolution 250-gr. MonoFlex                  Factory Load
CorBon DPX 300-gr. HP                                    Factory Load
Federal 300-gr. Fusion                                   Factory Load
Federal Power-Shok 300-gr. JHP                           Factory Load
Fort Scott 300-gr. SCS                                   Factory Load
Winchester Super-X 300-gr. JHP                           Factory Load
Hornady LEVERevolution 325-gr. FTX                       Factory Load

                                                              VEL.
BULLET                                     CASE     PRIMER    (FPS)

.45-70, 20-in. Barrel

Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip               Horn.   CCI 200    2196
Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip               Horn.   CCI 200    1996
Hornady 350-gr. FP                         Horn.   CCI 200    1834
Hornady 350-gr. FP                         Horn.   CCI 200    1808
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                      Horn.   CCI 200    1888
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                      Horn.   CCI 200    1788
Oregon Trail 350-gr. Cast GC               Win.    Fed. 215   1172
Speer 400-gr. FP                           Horn.   CCI 200    1852
Oregon Trail 405-gr. Cast FP               Win.    Fed. 215   1310
Oregon Trail 500-gr. Cast RN               Win.    Fed. 215   1223
Hornady LEVERevolution 250-gr. MonoFlex                       1940
CorBon DPX 300-gr. HP                                         1946
Federal 300-gr. Fusion                                        1749
Federal Power-Shok 300-gr. JHP                                1707
Fort Scott 300-gr. SCS                                        1622
Winchester Super-X 300-gr. JHP                                1573
Hornady LEVERevolution 325-gr. FTX                            1923

                                           S.D.      M.E.      RECOIL
BULLET                                     (FPS)   (FT-LBS)   (FT-LBS)

.45-70, 20-in. Barrel

Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip                 5       3213       35.3
Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip                32       2655       30.4
Hornady 350-gr. FP                           6       2615       29.4
Hornady 350-gr. FP                           5       2541       30.3
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                       22       2771       33.3
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                       17       2485       27.6
Oregon Trail 350-gr. Cast GC                 9       1068        10
Speer 400-gr. FP                            22       3047       39.3
Oregon Trail 405-gr. Cast FP                12       1544       16.5
Oregon Trail 500-gr. Cast RN                14       1661       22.2
Hornady LEVERevolution 250-gr. MonoFlex     19       2090       19.7
CorBon DPX 300-gr. HP                       16       2523       25.5
Federal 300-gr. Fusion                       7       2038       20.7
Federal Power-Shok 300-gr. JHP              14       1942       19.7
Fort Scott 300-gr. SCS                      19       1753       17.2
Winchester Super-X 300-gr. JHP              64       1649       15.9
Hornady LEVERevolution 325-gr. FTX           8       2669       29.0

                                           100-YD.
                                            ACC.
BULLET                                      (IN.)

.45-70, 20-in. Barrel

Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip                1.20
Nosier 300-gr. Ballistic Tip                0.83
Hornady 350-gr. FP                          0.91
Hornady 350-gr. FP                          1.30
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                       0.94
Kodiak 350-gr. Bonded                       2.32
Oregon Trail 350-gr. Cast GC                1.00
Speer 400-gr. FP                            2.22
Oregon Trail 405-gr. Cast FP                1.20
Oregon Trail 500-gr. Cast RN                1.19
Hornady LEVERevolution 250-gr. MonoFlex     1.85
CorBon DPX 300-gr. HP                       1.14
Federal 300-gr. Fusion                      2.12
Federal Power-Shok 300-gr. JHP              1.36
Fort Scott 300-gr. SCS                      1.02
Winchester Super-X 300-gr. JHP              3.44
Hornady LEVERevolution 325-gr. FTX          0.84

NOTES: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from
a Caldwell Lead Sled. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured
10 feet from the gun's muzzle.

All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced
loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before
proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no
control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings,
neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components
manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

The .45-70 Pro Hunter Katahdin's best 100-yard, five-shot groups
measured  less than an inch. Its overall average accuracy for seven
factory loads and 10 handloads was 1.46 inches.
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Author:Gash, Steve
Publication:Shooting Times
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Mar 1, 2018
Words:2394
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