TIPS AND FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
This page will continually be expanded. If you have a question you've been needing to ask and do not find the answer here please don't hesitate to ask us . . . it may be the next topic we need to add to this page, or it may be found with the Bullberry Insider blog page.
How do I break in my new Bullberry barrel?
Don't stress about a long and drawn out break-in process. The premium match-grade barrel blanks we choose are finished to such high standards before we ever even start work on them, that you don't need to worry about a lapping process or break-in.
The all-purpose cleaning (bore protecting, rust preventative) product we choose to use on all our own firearms and after barrel production is Eezox™ Premium Gun Care. All new barrels are shipped with a sample of the liquid synthetic. While we are happy with you going right out to the range and shooting for accuracy out of the box, we recommend you push a couple patches before firing; it's simply a good habit to make sure the barrel has no debris in it before any shooting session.
Black Powder Cleaning Instructions
Black Powder is so caustic and damaging to your barrel and frame that you need to take special care in the overall cleaning process. It may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t wait to get home after your hunt or shooting session to at least lightly clean your barrel. For starters, we always push patches wetted with Eezox™ Gun Care between each BP firings. A simple step would be to carry a small plastic zip-bag of cotton patches that have been pre-wetted (but not dripping) with Eezox or any similar cleaning product that does NOT contain ammonia. This step will save you time and energy down the road, not to mention keep your barrel in its best condition over the long haul.
Once back at home or camp a deeper clean is recommended. Still rather simple, this hot water technique will work best for removing any remaining powder residue and insure that your barrel doesn’t fall victim to non-repairable fouling.
Recommended steps for deep cleaning:
Boil a pot (an old coffee can works well too) of water with soap (dish detergent does the trick) to have mildly soapy hot water.
Wrap your barrel in a towel or old t-shirt, or wear gloves, as the barrel will get hot!
With the breech plug removed, dip the chamber of the barrel in the hot soapy water. Using a ramrod with a jag and clean dry patch will act as a plunger and can be run up and down in a piston fashion to “scrub” free any of the residual powder/build-up. Having the chamber dipped in the water will make certain that the threads and area with the most residue gets cleaned thoroughly.
New patches may be needed once or twice, but if you’ve taken precautions early on, this “heavy” cleaning will require much less work.
When the water is very hot the barrel will dry itself pretty quickly, but we always recommend you shake it hard a few times and finish this process with a heavily Eezox’d patch and some Eezox on and around the locking bolts and extractor (if you did not remove them earlier).
** NOTE: While we recommend cleaning these barrels from muzzle to chamber we realize some shooters use a scope that cannot be easily removed. If you find yourself in this situation it is certainly possible to clean your barrel with the muzzle dipped into the water, though you need to make an extra effort to clean the threaded section.
Extra tips for deeper cleaning:
Your removed breech plug can be roughly wiped down and set in the bottom of the pot of water to boil throughout the barrel cleaning process. This can make a huge difference in future performance and ease of assembly. You should always reapply anti-seize grease on the threads when installing. This assists in reducing powder blowback, but is also extremely helpful in easy removal after your next shooting session.
With a patch or two that are still hot and soapy from the barrel cleaning, you can also wipe down the interior of your frame to remove a lot of loose black powder build-up. The 209 primers will powder-cut your frame’s firing pin bushing over extended use if not properly cleaned. This is easily avoided if you use the wet & soapy patches followed by another patch wetted with Eezox.
General Note on Bullberry Black Powder barrels:
Our Black Powder barrels, no matter .45 or .50 caliber, are made to use Black Powder or approved Black Powder substitutes ONLY. Standard BP and substitutes like Hornady's Pyrodex products are the only propellant powders found safe in our barrels. The use of any smokeless powder could result in a detonation or explosion that could cause injury and/or death to the shooter or bystanders and damage to property. The use of smokeless powder will damage your barrel's bore and void our accuracy guarantee.
Please let us know if you have any questions, and enjoy your black powder firearm!
Can I get a WSM in an Encore?
Please let me inform all potential and returning customers that the following calibers are not on our list of chamberings, so there is no sense asking "please". No WSMs, nor WSSMs, nor Ultras, nor STWs, nor the new Noslers, nor Weatherbys (outside the smaller 240 Wby) will be made for Thompson/Center break-actions.
And further, it is my opinion that they are also too much for at least 95% of the shooters in America. Please understand that the gun writers, God bless 'em, are all victims of the printed glossy magazines, and must continually come up with stories and praise about something new and wonderful, while in reality, these "Horsepower" calibers are probably the worst choice for our numbers.
While I'm not a particular fan of the old 270 Winchester, I do agree with the father of that choice, the great Jack O'Conner, whom I read religiously in my youth back in the 40s and 50s (yeah, I'm old, but not stupid). His philosophy of a gun in a moderate caliber that becomes second nature in handling for an individual, is far more deadly than those massive "horsepower" guns, that are mostly shot with the shooter's eyes closed. It's been my pleasure on several occasions to prove this theory to the macho types. When on the bench, I unsuspectingly slipped someone a gun with an empty chamber. The embarrassment of the anticipation of huge recoil, and almost pushing the gun off the bench is enough to humble those big fellas. My point is; just shoot a gun with which you will be comfortable, and then you'll be making a well placed shot, with hopefully the correct projectile for the job at hand, and make a clean kill. Wounded game at extreme ranges is just another method of giving the "Anti's" a way to get at our sport. The average shooter will do much better with a 260 Rem, 7-08 Rem, .308 Win. Sure we'll make you a 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, 338 Win Mag (among hundreds of other calibers), but please be a bit more conservative in you choice of caliber, and you'll be a happy shooter for a lifetime of enjoyment.
This message was felt necessary as the entire Bullberry team answer at least a dozen questions a week regarding these extreme calibers. So, let's be safe, confident, and have some fun out there!
Larger-than-Encore calibers can often be made safely in a variety of bolt-action firearms. This is due to the larger barrel diameters of these guns, as well as the barrel generally being threaded into the action. All that extra stability lends to accepting the additional chamber pressure the "horsepower" rounds are capable of creating.
Custom woodwork and accessories for kids
The single-shot Contender, G2, Encore and ProHunter are ideal firearms for first time shooters. They can be customized in such a wide range of calibers that many parents and grandparents choose to start children out with a rimfire barrel, only to graduate to a .223 or larger, higher recoil caliber as they grow and become accustomed to the firearm. Better yet is that getting a stock to fit a shorter person is quite easy.
Our first recommendation when looking for a custom youth stock is to start with the black synthetic version. We can shorten the T/C synthetic stocks all the way to an 11-inch length of pull (this length does require a new recoil pad and an extra cost). While very young or short children will have to grow into an 11 or 12-inch pull, it is the best value for a shooter who will grow so quickly.
You are, of course, welcome to order custom stock sets built to your child’s specifications (length is not limited on our custom work). We will do our best to size down the grip and forearm to best suit your young shooter. For this, we recommend tracing your son or daughter’s shooting hand, just as we do on adults’ stocks and grips.
Tip: If you are thinking about a custom stockset for your child, a great way to engage them in the process and make their firearm something to truly appreciate may be to let them choose their favorite colors in a laminate.
Accuracy vs. Velocity
Over years of shooting, Fred in particular, and the entire Bullberry crew in general, have been able to confirm the logic of short rifle barrels. Many people that call the shop and ask for our barrel length preference in any given caliber are regularly surprised by the response they receive. The gist of it is that we are short barrel fanatics as shorter = more accurate. You need to determine if your idea of optimum performance translates to high velocity or superb accuracy.
Barrels made shorter than the standard from production facilities will allow the bullet to exit the muzzle before recoil has a chance to affect its trajectory. This concept alone is the reason to choose a shorter custom barrel. Pistol shooters are proof positive on this short = accurate concept with velocity loss being more minimal than traditionally anticipated.
As an example, if you are looking to order a .308 Winchester (or other .308-based caliber like the .243, 25-08, .260, 7-08, or .338 Federal) we are likely to suggest a barrel as short as 22 or 23 inches. Longer barrels will only experience nominal increases in velocity (maybe 50 fps per additional inch of barrel) and will lessen the barrel’s accuracy potential due to recoil. If you can determine when the powder is done burning, you can determine the best length for accuracy of any caliber. Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy some fancy equipment or come up with a complicated equation; we have enough experience that we can generally give you a suggested length for optimal accuracy.
We will also recommend you choose the heaviest barrel profile you can comfortably manage. This too will contribute to improved accuracy.
We are always happy to you share our suggestions for the ideal length and profile combination of your next barrel. Please call with any questions.
If you already have a barrel (Bullberry, T/C or otherwise) that you want shortened and re-crowned simply call or send it in with a detailed letter.
Visit the Gunsmithing Services page for detailed pricing, and additional options.
How do I ship my barrel or firearm in for work?
General shipping suggestions:
No matter what you are shipping to us, be sure to use a shipping method you trust, and ALWAYS insure the package for the full replacement cost of the goods inside. We receive deliveries from US Mail, FedEx and UPS everyday, and ship out via Mail and FedEx (preferred to physical addresses).
We receive a surprising number of packages that contain no contact information or note specifying the work to be done. FedEx Offices and UPS Stores rarely reference the customer’s name, address or phone as the label’s origin, so please do not depend on this information to tell us who and where the package came from.
Sending frames for trigger work, testing or fit to barrel(s):
In this instance the frame already belongs to you, so it does not require shipping from an FFL holder. The frame will enter our facility as an item for gunsmithing and can be returned directly to you. Again, be sure to insure the shipment and please specify what work needs to be done.
When we ship a barrel, stock or other firearm accessory to you:
As accessories, barrels, woodwork, synthetic grip and stock sets, scope mounts and small parts fall under direct shipping. These items do not carry serialized information, nor do they require shipping to and from FFL holders. These items are typically shipped directly to the end customer unless otherwise requested.
When you have ordered a new frame or complete new firearm:
Since we sell a lot of T/C frames (otherwise known as receivers) you need to be aware that they require an FFL transfer to be delivered to you as the purchaser and end user. You will be required to send (or have sent on your behalf) a license from an in-state FFL holder. We do not keep a register of possible license holders you can select from, though a good place to start is a local gun store, gunsmith, or even a pawnshop in your town. Many customers find it valuable to shop for an FFL holder as some charge particularly high fees to complete your firearm’s transaction; this also varies by state.
Traditionally, FFL holders will fax or email their license to us. Our license, accompanied by a note detailing our customer’s name, address and phone number, will be shipped with the frame.
If you are purchasing a custom T/C-based firearm that includes a new frame we recommend the entire firearm be sent to your FFL holder, though it is up to your discretion. Additional shipping fees will be assessed if multiple shipments are required.
If you are using a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder to ship a firearm or component to us, we will be happy to send our License to their facility by fax or email, just call.
For a breakdown of our shipping costs please take a look at our Shipping Details map.
New hinge pins, hammer springs and hammer extensions . . . are they more than gimmicks?
We get a lot of questions about the frame accessories on the market from companies making all sorts of claims. Here we aim to shed some light on the most popular after-market accessories we are asked about.
Replacement Hinge Pins:
There are a couple varieties out there and we recommend avoiding them all. Contender/G2 and Encore/ProHunter barrels by us and Thompson/Center have specific dimensions built into the underlugs. The oversized hinge pins require altering this engineered dimension, or worse yet brute force to fit these oversized pins in both the barrels and actions.
Another style pin we get asked about is the adjustable pin. Over repeated use, these adjustable pins will act as an auger in your barrel(s) and frame(s), slowly sheering metal from the surfaces as they rotate. These will often require re-tightening because of this feature.
The last style we hear about is the supposed "locking" hinge pin. Your frame's factory original hinge pin was engineered to move and rotate when necessary. There is next to no part wear from minor pin rotation during the opening and closing of the T/C break-action frames. Locking pins actually create resistance, particularly on the frame. These pins also require alteration to your forearm as there is not enough built-in relief for the extra dimension of the pin's locking surfaces.
Replacement Hammer and Trigger Springs:
At least one after-market company concentrating on T/C products advertises the benefits of replacement frame springs and spring kits. The specific springs they aim to replace are other accessories we will never recommend. The factory springs (particularly when it comes to the hammer) were engineered to specific tension in order to produce specific inertia. We have seen quite a few frames in for “repair” because they were suddenly unsafe or misfiring. The culprit, all to often, has been replacement springs of low quality and/or low tension. High-tension springs can also do damage in the way of damage to your hammer, and by changing your frame’s lock time. The hammer, as mentioned before, needs the factory-specific lock time to properly function.
These may be the most common accessories for the T/C break-action frames, as well as the most common creators of frame misfires. As with the springs, hammer extensions (both one or two sided) change the hammer’s intended function. Their extra weight (I know, it’s only ounces) is actually enough to reduce lock time and slow your hammer to the point where it does not have enough inertia to impact the firing pin hard enough to ignite a primer. The worst of what they do, however, is to crack or break hammers. Clearly, the last thing any hunter wants is to be on that big buck’s tracks only to have the hammer misfire or even worse break as he cocks the hammer. We will always recommend that you install higher rings for more hammer clearance, rather than use these extensions.
If you have been experiencing frame problems give us a call or simply send it in. We have factory replacement parts for most everything that could be causing a problem, and if you are interested we can certainly adjust your trigger while the frame is in-house.
Trigger adjustments in the break-action T/Cs should be accomplished by a gunsmith with experience on these frames. You can be confident that any trigger adjustment we do will have the firearm breaking safely and without felt creep.
Visit our Gunsmithing Services page for more info.
What T/C frame do I have?
Many Thompson/Center single-shot shooters may be surprised to know this, but we receive customer calls every week asking us for information on what the frame they have is, and what barrels or accessories fit it. This info section is our hope to alleviate some of those question marks in people's minds.
(shown left). Fewer than 100 of these slab-sided frames were said to be made over the years. As such, they are highly sought after.
A later run of Contender frames included their production of Armor Alloy frames. These plated frames were the predecessor to T/C creating a true Stainless Steel model. Their finish, while silver, looks brighter than the later stainless frames and can be denoted easily by serial numbers starting with "A". Stainless Contender frames all feature an "S" at the start of their serial numbers.
maintain the hammer selector for Centerfire/Safety/Rimfire as the Classic Contender (not first run) had offered.
These frames require a gunsmith for any trigger adjustment, unlike the original Contender, but are much smoother functioning, let alone offer more safety given the sear engagement and how the internal parts were re-engineered.
Barrels built for the orginal Contender should always work in a G2 action (forearms are also interchangeable), but not all G2 barrels will fit/work in all Classic Contender frames. Limitations in chamber pressure should always be adhered to when using modern barrels/calibers in the Classic Contender as the frames can and do stretch when overloaded, and different models of locking bolts in barrels of different age may make fit a little tricky (though this is usually fixable).
G2 frames should feature a "G" or "SG" (for Stainless) at the start of the serial number, though later production runs did drop the letter designation.
The Encore frame was introduced in the 90s as a larger, beefier version of the original Contender. It takes barrels larger in diameter (just under 1", rather than the .808" of the Contender) and was built to take the pressures of larger calibers in turn.
The original Encore can be found in blued or stainless (as shown) and models made by T/C Arms before the company was purchased by Smith & Wesson and moved to Massachussets will always feature "Roch-NH" stamped into the drawbolt stem during casting.
These frames are virtually identical to the Encore in terms of fit and function. They accommodate the same caliber range and accessories. Features unique to the ProHunter (as a factory standard) are the engraved reinforced section (left side reads Encore and the T/C logo; right side reads ProHunter and the T/C logo; bottom, ahead of the trigger guard features the T/C logo) and the swing hammer.
Early ProHunter production runs features diamond etch engravings (shown right) while more recent ProHunter frames appear to be chemical etched. These appear dark on stainless frames; similar to our custom laser engraving.
If you have questions about your frame that are not answered here feel free to call or contact us through the website. Any frames you are concerned about regarding fit or condition we welcome for inspection. We process frame function/safety inspections for all of the above frame models at no charge — we want every shooter to be using a safe and effective firearm.
Expect to see a cougar (either full body on a rock or a snarling face). That's the first dead giveaway that what you have is a Classic (aka 1st generation) Contender action. T/C produced a variety of engravings on these frames, however, so realize that almost any relief-engraved frame featuring an animal inside a medallion is a Classic Contender.
Some of the earliest Classic Contenders actually featured no engraving at all. These are considered "Flat-side" or "Slab-side" Contenders and should also be found with a solid hammer that requires cocking and a screwdriver to adjust from rimfire to centerfire
While not T/C's next model in the break action frames, it is the one most easily confused with the Classic Contender due to its direct relationship as the 2nd Generation (hence the "G2" label) of the Contender. Some modifications made from Classic to G2 are pretty obvious; the reinforced section mimics the larger Encore and ProHunter actions (see below), the relief engravings are removed. Others are less so; the angle of the drawbolt stem has changed so stocks and grips must be made for only the G2 and are not compatible with the Classic Contender. That stem will also typically be stamped during casting with the manufacturing location and "G2". The internal mechanics are just a more compact version of the more modern Encore, though they
Early production runs of the Encore feature no letter serials for blued actions and "S" serials for stainless. Later production runs of the Encore dropped letters altogether, then added odd letter markings unaffiliated with metal or model (like "MAA").
Traditionally the Encore is limited to centerfire calibers as the frame is equipped from the factory with only a single firing pin in the pin bushing assembly, though the factory did temporarily offer off-set and pinned rimfire barrels. Bullberry does make a replacement firing pin bushing assembly compatible with in-line rimfire barrels (that still hold our accuracy guarantee). This assembly is easily swapped into the frame to replace the factory original centerfire assembly and they can be interchanged indefinitely. Only the new 17 WSM will not work with our rimfire adapter (see our Gunsmithing Services and Small Parts page for more information).