As I write this, the new Compass rifle from Thompson Center / Smith & Wesson will be very close to shipping to retailers across the country. There are infinity-million bolt-action rifles on the market already, so what makes this one special? Three things in my opinion. First, the most nifty thing about this new rifle is that it retails for just $399, so you’ll find it for somewhat less than that. Second, the trigger is fantastic. Third, it ships with a threaded barrel.
This week, we’re out at the absolutely phenomenal Firesteel Creek Lodge in South Dakota to test it out – a lot. I’ll get into more details in future articles, but wanted to share a quick and dirty pictorial and report on two days of exceptionally heavy shooting with the new rifle.
The folks from Thompson Center brought an assortment of Compass rifles in various calibers in including .223, .204 Ruger, and .22-250. Initially, the Compass will be offered in ten different popular calibers, but for this event, we focused on those most appropriate for high-volume prairie dog extermination. You know, high-velocity, low weight, fragmenting stuff.
For dealing with those nasty little plague-carrying, zombie cannibal beasts, I like the .204 Ruger cartridge. Hornady graciously provided a metric ton or so of ammo and I used the .204 Ruger load with a 32-grain V-Max bullet. Leaving the bore at somewhere over 4,000 feet per second, it does quite the job on tunnel dwelling pests. On day two, I switched over to Hornady’s 40-grain V-Max load in both Superformance and standard versions.
I had a Burris Eliminator III laser range finding scope, so I mounted it for the morning session. It’s a handy solution for long distance shots. Just press a button when on target and the internal laser determines distance to target. The computer in the scope adjusts for distance and shot angle and illuminates a hold point for the measured distance. Because we could, we made a number of successful shots around the 600 yard mark. Clearly, the .204 Ruger is not a cartridge optimized for that range, but it worked – just ask the no-longer-alive prairie dogs…
The neat thing about the Compass, besides its affordable price tag, is the one minute of angle guarantee. Yes, this sub $400 rifle will shoot groups smaller than one inch at 100 yards. Before we hit the dog towns, I spent some time at the Firesteel Creek Lodge range. I zeroed at one hundred yards and immediately found the one-inch guarantee to be no joke. More often than not, shots were either touching or very close to it.
One hundred yards is fine for basic accuracy testing, but the real test comes with longer range and high volume. What would the rifle do as it heated up? To answer that question, I shot, well, obscene amounts of ammo through it over two days. On the first day, I shot somewhere over 300 rounds before losing count. All of that was the speed demon Hornady .204 Ruger 32-grain V-Max. On day two, through the same rifle, with no cleaning or lubrication, I shot 430 rounds of Hornady .204 Ruger 40-grain V-Max. Can someone please call Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News and tell him I didn’t get any “temporary PTSD” from all that shooting?
As you might imagine, this type of somewhat abnormal shooting volume heated this rifle to “surface of the sun” type temperatures. Since we were well away from a civilized range, I didn’t shoot groups on paper when it was smoking hot. Instead, I evaluated accuracy using the “minute of prairie dog” method. While I’m sure the hot barrel had to have some effect on accuracy, it was irrelevant, even at our most common shooting distances of 250 to 350 yards. The rifle remained right on target.
The bottom line? After putting 750 rounds through this new rifle with hardly a moments pause except for lunch and refilling my three 5-shot magazines, it ran like a champ. No hiccups or problems and accuracy was stellar, especially considering the price. At first I was a little bummed I didn’t bring a suppressor, but then I realized I probably would have melted it anyway.
Keep an eye out for this one, it’s a winner.