Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

Thompson/Center Icon Precision Hunter Review
After the first group the rifle was allowed to cool. This didn’t take long, partly because of the Precision Hunter’s “convection enhancement system,” a series of seven 5/16" holes drilled in the bottom of the fore-end. Warm air rising from the free-floated barrel pulls cooler air through these holes. Another reason the barrel cooled quickly was the 30-degree air temperature, which qualifies as a decent mid-November morning in my part of Montana.

Thompson/Center Icon Precision Hunter Review
The safety features two levers. The small one in front of the large-tabbed safety lever locks the bolt. The bolt handle itself can be switched among several styles.

The next five-shot group measured 0.97 inch, but was shot after a scope adjustment and the series of bullet holes kept moving to the left with each shot. Sometimes scopes are a little reluctant to move in 30-degree weather, so I let the barrel cool again and then shot my real test group, a 10-rounder. In recent years I’ve become fond of shooting old-fashioned 10-round groups with varmint rifles, having found that any rifle that puts 10 into an inch is plenty good for shooting small rodents. In this instance the 10-round group measured 1.16", just a little over MOA (which, as serious shooters know, is actually about 1.05" at 100 yards).

So the Precision Hunter is a real shooter. It probably would shoot even better on a nicer day, with more rounds down the barrel and a little handload tweaking. Plus, this rifle was indeed “right out of the box,” without any changes, not even adjusting the trigger. And yes, the Precision Hunter has an adjustable trigger.

In fact, it can be adjusted for weight of pull without taking the barreled action out of the stock. Or at least most Icons can. There’s a tiny hex-head screw in the bottom of the bolt-channel of the action, and an equally tiny hex-wrench with a small plastic handle comes with the rifle. In this particular rifle I could never get the tip of the wrench inserted into the trigger-adjustment screw, despite trying for about 10 minutes, and I am a pretty competent mechanic. Maybe there’s a tiny burr on the inside of this particular screw, but it really didn’t matter. The trigger broke cleanly at just over three pounds, and was eminently shootable right out of the box.

The safety sits on the side of the tang just behind the bolt handle, a typical two-position lever (back is safe, forward is shoot) that doesn’t lock the bolt down. But there’s another, smaller two-position lever just in front of the safety lever. When pulled back this locks the bolt, a feature many hunters prefer. When the safety is pushed forward, it also pushes this bolt-locking lever forward, in one motion. Very clever!

Thompson/Center Icon Precision Hunter Review
The bolt lugs are machined from the bolt body, allowing a very slick-working, yet stiff action. The extractor and ejector are spring-plunger models, typical of modern push-feed rifles.

The bolt itself has three locking lugs, resulting in a low 60-degree bolt lift, making it possible to mount even scopes with large eyepieces quite low. Some people also claim that a three-lug bolt makes it easier to mass-produce an accurate rifle, because three lugs distribute the stress of firing more evenly. This might be true, though an awful lot of very accurate rifles use the classic two-lug system, but with the Icon there’s another advantage: The lugs are machined by removing metal from the bolt body itself, so are the same diameter as the bolt. This makes for a very slick-working bolt — and a very stiff receiver, without the lug raceways necessary in a two-lug action.

The extractor is a spring-loaded tab along the edge of the bolt-face, and the ejector a spring-loaded piston in the bolt face. Both probably still offend purists who think Peter Paul Mauser got everything exactly right in the 1890s, but the fact is that Herr Mauser also designed rifles with extractor/ejector systems much like the Icon’s, and other bolt actions with similar systems have served shooters well for decades.

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