A never-ending discussion among firearm owners is about the “best” survival gun. Heck, I’ve chimed in on that a couple of times already here, and am about to offer another choice, because in many ways it is the ultimate survival firearm, capable of shooting almost everything, from .22 to .45-70 and can be configured as a rifle or handgun at your pleasure.
I’m talking about the Thompson Contender series pistols. First introduced in 1967, this venerable single shot pistol was redesigned in 1998 as the G2 Contender and has the ability to change barrels.
In the 50 years the Contender has been in production, barrels from tiny rimfire calibers to .45-70 have been made in it, along with specialized rounds adapted for the Contender platform like the 7-30 Waters (a necked down .30-30). Arguably one of the most popular single-shot hunting handguns out there, with a careful barrel selection, the Contender can allow you to carry an entire armory in your survival kit.
While there are literally hundreds of barrel combinations for the Contender series in dozens of calibers and lengths, with careful shopping, a few will stand out for the devoted off-gridder or survivalist. The .22 LR seems like an obvious choice, but this is one I wouldn’t go out of my way to get. If you already have an accurate .22 handgun that you can harvest game with, lugging around a Contender barrel won’t give you any edge, although it is hard to argue against the potential increased accuracy the Contender offers. Put this one low on your priority list, along with many of the highly effective but essentially unique to the Contender rounds like the aforementioned 7-30 Waters, or any of the other specialty rounds popular for the Contender. Remember: The name of the game here is survival gun, which means common calibers, unless you are well-equipped already to provide the ammo for an oddball round.
In no particular order, I would choose either .357 or .44 magnum due to the commercial success of those rounds. I’d follow it up with a .30-30 barrel, maybe a .223 and a .45-70 for taking big game. If you can find one, and it is legal in your state (sorry, California) a .45 Colt/.410 barrel with a special choke can be had (although sometimes at great expense), expanding your cartridge choices.
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Now, obviously, we are looking at getting a few barrels for very common, commercially successful calibers and for obvious reasons; if things ever go truly south, you will have an easier time finding such common rounds over hard-to-find rounds. However, there is a place for less common rounds for the well-prepared homesteader. One of my favorite revolver rounds is the .41 magnum, and this is by no means a common round to find. Guess what the first barrel I bought for my Contender was? In fact, I sold the .44 mag barrel that came with mine to get the .41. Chances are if you are invested in an oddball or uncommon caliber, you’ve got dies, brass, bullets, maybe molds to keep it going. And if you are a reloader and have a proper stash of powder and primers, then you are golden. If you plan to include an uncommon caliber in your Contender arsenal, then just make sure you have the ability to keep that round going for a few hundred rounds. Otherwise, your barrel is little more than scrap steel.
As a hunting pistol, you won’t be shooting thousands or even hundreds of rounds out of your Contender a year. This isn’t a combat weapon, and in a grid failure scenario, even a few dozen rounds can keep you in meat for a long time. That does not mean you should neglect a proper ammo supply, though, of at least a couple hundred rounds for each barrel you have.
With the right combination of barrels, the Contender can give you the luxury of multiple firearms in a single package. Barrels are inexpensive, and several can be easily carried at once, along with a small supply of ammo for each. As a compact and hard-hitting hunting handgun, the Contender can keep you in meat year-round and can increase the versatility of your bug-out kit. With a great many common calibers available to choose from, you can readily make the right barrel set for your needs and inventory, and be assured of being able to hunt, even in socially and economic uncertain times.
Have your ever shot or do you own the Contender? Share your thoughts about it in the section below:
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