January 31st, 2012

New Dimension Switch-Barrel Rifle from Thompson/Center

Thompson Center T/C Dimension rifle
At Media Day right before SHOT Show, Thompson/Center Arms unveiled an innovative hunting rifle that features interchangeable barrels and multiple bolts. This allows a single gun to shoot a wide range of chamberings — from .204 Ruger all the way up to the large, belted magnums. The gun employs some unusual engineering, with an AR-type barrel nut on a barrel extension which contains the bolt-lug recesses. There is no conventional recoil lug. Instead a slot on the underside of the barrel extension mates to a metal bar molded into the stock. With the supplied tools, the entire gun can be assembled or disassembled in under one minute (in the Video, a T/C rep assembles the gun in 55 seconds.)

T/C’s Dimension rifle is definitely innovative; there is nothing like it on the market anywhere near its price range (MSRP is $648.00 with tools). For a walking-around deer hunter who is satisfied with factory barrels, and who doesn’t shoot with a rear bag, the gun will probably have appeal. On the other hand, varminters won’t be impressed — the stock won’t work well with a bipod or rear bag, and T/C will be the only source for barrels. The nature of the design, for practical purposes, precludes the use of affordable 3rd-party barrels. You won’t be able to buy a Shilen or PacNor prefit barrel, as you can for a Savage.

Thompson Center T/C Dimension rifle

Factory Promo Video (Loud Soundtrack — turn down speakers before playback!)

Action Features
Pro: One size fits all — single hard-anodized aluminum action can be used to shoot multiple chamberings from .204 Ruger to .300 Win Mag with bolt, barrel, and magazine swap. For all chamberings, T/C guarantees 3-shot accuracy of one MOA with premium ammo.
Con: You have to replace complete bolt assembly to go from one family of cartridges to another (e.g. from .308 Win to Magnum). This is much more expensive than swapping a bolt head on a Savage.

Barrel Fitting
Pro: Barrels can be quickly exchanged using provided tools.
Con: Bolt recesses are machined into barrel extension section, so barrels must be supplied by T/C. We were told that both bolts and barrels “absolutely have to come from Thompson/Center”.

Stock Features
Pro: Stock is lightweight with rubberized surface texture — good for wet climates.
Con: Stock is ugly. Forearm too flexy to use with bipod. Concave arc on underside of buttstock is terrible for use with rear bag. Stock finish tends to retain dust and grit.

Scope Mounting
Pro: T/C offers a bridge scope base that mounts to the barrel (like on Blasers). This allows an optic to stay with a barrel — so you could have a low-power close-range scope mounted and zeroed on one barrel, with a higher-power variable scope on another barrel.
Con: If you keep optics on the barrels, you need to buy a separate bridge for each barrel. That’s an added expense, plus many hunters can’t afford multiple scopes anyway. Thankfully, conventional Weaver bases can be fitted on top of the action.

Commentary: On viewing and handling the rifle, and watching the assembly process, it was obvious that some intelligent, clever engineering went into the gun. The AR-style barrel engagement system functions very well — the whole gun can be disassembled in under one minute. T/C provides some fairly sophisticated assembly tools with the gun, including wrenches that automatically set correct torque values. That’s cool. The gun is relatively light and balances well. On the other hand, the stock design fails in many ways. The fore-arm is short and too flexy for serious use with bipod. The curving underside of the buttstock is a odd-looking, but what is worse, the curve is just about the worst possible profile for use with a rear sandbag. Most observers thought the gun was ugly.

T/C Dimension Caliber Groups
The T/C Dimension LOC™ System has 7 parts — a universal stock and receiver that accept multiple barrels, magazine groups (magazine and housing), bolts and bridge scope mounts. Dimension hand tools work with all Dimension rifles. Interchangeable parts are stamped with letters: A, B, C or D. Match the letter on the barrel with the one on the bolt and magazine group.

A Family: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem
B Family: 22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, .308 Win
C Family: .270 Win, .30-06 Sprg
D Family: 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag

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January 31st, 2012

The Freedom Group Acquires Pistol-Maker Para-USA

Freedom Group acquires Para USAFreedom Group Inc., owned by private holding company Cerberus Capital Management, has swallowed up another medium-sized gun manufacturer. This time the target (or victim, depending on your perspective), was Para USA, Inc., (Para). This is Freedom Group’s first acquisition of a pistol-only manufacturer.

Para is best known for a high-capacity pistol based generally on the 1911 design but with options such as a Light Double Action (LDA) Trigger and double-stack mags (though it makes traditional single action, single-stack 1911s also). Freedom Group acquired control of Para through an asset purchase agreement. For the time being, Para will continue day-to-day operations at its Pineville, NC-based factory, but we would not be surprised if the Para plant is eventually shuttered and Para production is moved to other Freedom Group facilities.

Freedom Group acquires Para USA

Founded in 1985, Para has a solid but not stellar reputation for handgun performance and design innovation. There are numerous fans of Para pistols, with many shooters attracted to a 1911-style design with a higher capacity (up to 14+1 in .45 ACP and 18+1 in 9mm). In recent years, Para’s designs have moved out of the the spotlight, as other manufacturers have produced 1911-style pistols in large numbers. Major 1911 builders now include: Kimber, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson. Remington Arms, another Freedom Arms company, successful launched its own 1911 last year.

What Are Freedom Group’s Real Intentions?
“We welcome Para into the Freedom Group Family of Companies,” stated E. Scott Blackwell, Freedom Group’s Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. “Para USA… is a perfect complement to our industry-leading family of brands[.] We look forward to deploying both human and financial resources to continue to develop and supply current and future handguns for consumers and our channel partners.”

Freedom Group acquires Para USA

Will Para-USA Production Be Moved?
“Deploying both human and financial resources” — well, that phrase could be read two ways. It may mean that the Freedom Group will pump resources into Para-USA. On the other hand, the Freedom Group may be contemplating moving jobs, machinery, and production assets. Mr. Blackwell concluded by saying: “We also wish to thank all [Para’s] employees for their continued dedication….” Notably, he did not say those employees will retain their jobs. Time will tell. It will be interesting to see if Para USA remains a viable brand in five years time, or whether it simply becomes the Remington pistol division. Think of the evolution of Bushmaster. After being acquired by the Freedom Group, all Bushmaster’s production was moved to Remington’s Ilion, NY factory.

Download 2012 Para-USA Catalog.

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