Pointing The Way To Sub-MOA
By Holt Bodinson
T/C’s Compass in 6.5 Creedmoor is a mild recoiling combo, ideal for light big game —
and varminting. Note Holt’s Romulan cloaking device.
With their acquisition of Thompson/Center Arms, Smith & Wesson is back in the bolt-action sporting rifle business following their brief flirtations with HVA Husqvarna, Howa and I-Bolt models in the 1970s and ’80s. It’s been a long time coming, but the wait was ever so worth it.
With a lifetime of shooting under my belt, I am still amazed you can go down to your local sporting goods store, buy an off-the-rack rifle for $360 and shoot minute-of-angle groups right out of the box with factory ammunition. That’s exactly been my experience with two of T/C’s “Compass” brand rifles, and I still shake my head in disbelief that highly affordable rifles and factory ammo have progressed this far in such a short time.
My first opportunity to work with the Compass occurred last summer at an industry shoot in Utah. T/C Brand Manager, Danielle Sanville, was there, joined by Trijicon’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Chuck Wahr. Together they fielded Compass rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor outfitted with a variety of Trijicon optics. The course of fire was Action Target torso silhouettes placed at various distances out to 440 yards. Our “issue load” was Hornady 140-gr. A-Max.
Those hours out on the range were eye-opening. Not only were the torso silhouettes easy to hit with the T/C/Trijicon rigs, but the elevation and windage hold-offs with the 6.5 Creedmoor were minimal, confirming the general feeling the round is a remarkedly efficient match load. Anyway, I came away from the brief introduction wanting to do some further work with the same rifle/optic/caliber combination.
Retailing in my area for $360 in 11 different calibers ranging from .204 Ruger through .300 Winchester Magnum, the Compass proved to be a well-designed and intriguing rifle.
The tubular receiver is massive with a wall thickness of approximately 1/4″ and a fairly small ejection port. The result is maximum rigidity and action rigidity enhances accuracy. I remember how astonished shooters were when they learned the low-cost, plain-Jane looking, Remington 788 rifle was inherently accurate and quite capable of outshooting their sporters costing 4–5 times as much. Again, it was a very rigid design with a receiver wall thickness measuring almost 5/16″.
Dimensionally, we’re talking about a 22″ barrel (threaded 5/8-24), a 41″ overall length and a weight of about 7 lbs. (depending on caliber). The stock is black synthetic and it comes with scope mounts.
The Compass is exceedingly affordable and carries a factory MOA guarantee.
Developed as a target round, the 6.5 Creedmoor is equally at home in the field.
Bolt, Trigger, Bedding
Riding inside the Compass receiver is a massive bolt with a body diameter of approximately 0.825″ (by comparison, the diameter of a Remington M700 bolt is 0.697″). Fitted to the bolt face is a plunger-type ejector, while a blade extractor rides in the face of one lug.
Here’s what I really like about the bolt: (1) It’s a 3-lug rather than a 2-lug. The design is ideal, providing a tripod-like support to the bolt and eliminating non-uniform strains during firing. (2) A 3-lug bolt provides a shorter angle of bolt lift (60-degrees), providing more hand room between the bolt handle and scope body. (3) The bolt head carrying the lugs is pinned to the bolt body. You can just wiggle it a little bit with your fingers and the small degree of flex helps center the bolt face to the base of the cartridge. This enhances consistency which — in turn — enhances accuracy.
Another intriguing aspect of the Compass is the trigger. It looks and functions like the old Model 70 Winchester or early L-46 Sako trigger. It’s simple, clean, foolproof and fully adjustable, set-up at the factory to approximately 3.5 lbs. The safety is a handy, 3-position type fitted to the bolt shroud.
The receiver is bedded to the synthetic stock using a very contemporary system. A recoil lug is permanently mounted in the stock while the front receiver ring is milled out to mate with the lug. It’s an accurate system, and it’s seen more and more on sporting rifles.
Using premium ammo, the Compass easily exceeded T/C’s MOA accuracy guarantee.
Another contemporary touch is the use of Obermeyer’s 5R rifling form in the Compass barrels in which five grooves and lands are offset from one another to minimize bullet deformation and fouling.
Feeding the Compass is a very slick, low profile, detachable rotary magazine holding 5 rounds of standard cases and 4 rounds of magnum.
S&W and T/C are so confident about the Compass line they guarantee 3-shot, MOA-size groups at 100 yards using premium ammunition. That’s really saying something for a rifle retailing on the street for $360!
So, can it be true?
Selling points: A low-profiled detachable mag (below) and a foolproof,
fully adjustable trigger (below).
Trijicon’s AccuPoint scopes are known for optical quality. The illuminated dot
in the reticle gathers in ambient light through a specialized turret.
Proof On Paper
To find out I mounted one of Trijicon’s unique AccuPoint scopes, their 2.5-12×42 model with its 30mm tube, side-mounted parallax adjustment and battery-free illuminated reticle. Trijicon is famous in the world’s military circles for its Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, the utterly rugged and reliable “ACOG.” In 2017, Trijicon celebrated the production of its one-millionth ACOG, and I might add an ACOG has been riding the rails of my Colt Lightweight Sporter AR for years. It’s my go-to rig for coyote calling.
With a constant eye-relief of four inches and precise, repeatable 1/4 MOA adjustments, the AccuPoint incorporates a unique, pin-point, green dot in the middle of the reticle which derives its battery-free illumination from the distinctive, light-gathering turret on top of the scope, supplemented by Tritium radiation when ambient light levels are too low. It’s a superior reticle image, particularly when shooting at a black bull’s-eye that tends to blur out the center of a black reticle.
It was range time to see what T/C’s $360 rifle could do when topped with a $1,299 scope.
Designed originally as a target round, the 6.5 Creedmoor thrives on 140-gr. bullets and that’s exactly what I ran in the Compass. The results were remarkable. With match loads by American Eagle, Hornady, HSM and Nosler, the Compass kept every 3-shot group at 100 yards in less than an inch as follows: American Eagle (2,619 fps/0.98), Hornady (2,723 fps/0.39), HSM (2,676 fps/0.74), Nosler (2,579 fps/0.87).
So when I use the term “remarkable,” I mean it. Here’s an out-of-the-box rifle, retailing for $360 with no break-in period, delivering sub-MOA accuracy with four different brands of ammo. T/C’s factory MOA guarantee isn’t an advertising gimmick. They mean it.
T/C’s Compass is much more than a “price rifle.” It’s exceedingly affordable across a spectrum of calibers and mind-blowingly accurate.
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