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The Versatile Survival Pistol That Lets You Shoot ANY Caliber

The Versatile Survival Pistol That Lets You Shoot ANY Caliber

Image source: Smith & Wesson Forums

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.

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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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  1. An extremely versatile handgun that allows many different rounds from the same frame. It is truly a ‘make it my way’ handgun.

    Some of my favorite Contender barrels are the .22 rimfire (small vermin eradicator), .32 H&R Magnum (extremely efficient long term centerfire hunting), .357 Magnum octagonal (lightweight short range hunting), .44 Magnum Bull (large game). The older octagonals are lighter in weight but also add to effect of recoil. The .410 in handgun is an effective close range running / flying game, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to kill a flying bird with it yet, more practice is needed. If I wanted to bug out with one, two rounds for me stand out – the .22lr / .357 Magnum.

    And if you like, rifle barrels for these are available if you want a short carbine. Factory rear stock is not really designed for a scoped cheek weld, much more of a jaw line weld and takes some getting used to.

  2. I bought my Contender to shoot Handgun Silhouette almost 40 years ago with the barrel chambered for 7mm TCU – a .223 Rem case necked up to 7mm. Very accurate for handgun silhouette in the production class. I added a 22 Hornet bbl cause I liked the little round for varmints and I had a rifle chambered for it as well. The 7mm TCU worked well with a gas checked 150 grain cast bullet giving good accuracy and adequate energy on rams at 200. Now the eyes are gone and open sights are as fuzzy as a wooly worm so there’s a 1.5 power scope on the Hornet. I haven’t glassed the TCU yet. I will give a hearty endorsement to Thompson Contender for customer service. I broke a firing pin a while back and a call to the factory was all it took to get a new one at no cost as fast as the USPS could carry the envelope.

  3. Over and over I keep seeing the same phrase and logic being forwarded that we need to have a gun that can fire the most popular rounds for prep and survival. I have also held that belief and limited my firearms to just a few calibers……BUT………

    During this last ammo shortage and for the many several going back to the mid 1980’s it was the “go to must have most common” rounds that disappear and can no longer be bought. And yet the “screwball, rare , uncommon, very little used calibers are in stock at many stores..243 and .270 Even to the point that they are the only ones left on the shelf. With nary a buyer in sight.

    So maybe we should look into buying a not so popular calibers gun…not as your only…go to gun but as your 3rd or 12th just in the distant case that an oddball round is all that can be found after the dust clears from the stampede for all the common ones.

  4. They are very expensive these days. I remember when they were $350, now you’re lucky if you can find a decent barrel at that price.

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