There has been much debate and much bandwidth spent
on arguing this question, and I am certain that I'll not answer all the questions or solve all the problems in this one article.
What I hope to do is present my personal experiences and thoughts in such a manner that you may compare them to what has been
said by others, and make an educated and informed decision.
Years ago, I had a T/C Contender that I assembled
together with a Harris BR bipod, Herrett style fingergroove grip, Burris 10x pistol scope, factory forend, and a Super 14"
223 barrel. This particular configuration would shoot into 1/8" at 100yards all day long with factory Hornady 40grn
V-Max ammo. I used the Burris 10x target scope held by Leupold cross-slot rings on a Weaver 92a base, and I must say
this configuration worked well with that older vintage Burris 10x target scope I was using, though this is admittedly a finicky
scope when it comes to eye relief.
Others complain heavily about the Burris 10X IER
scopes due to their very finicky eye relief, but I firmly believe that this causes a necessary precision in eye placement
which contributes greatly to shooting well, due to the need for absolute exact head placement for every shot with this scope.
Back to the performance of factory barrels: While
the setup shot the Hornady 40 grn V-Max well, anything 55grains or over shot horribly, and bullets weighing 62 grns and above
would actually keyhole. I now believe this is due to T/C using a 1-12 twist rate, which simply in my experience with the .223
doesn't stabilize the heavier bullets well. Most AR15 makers, such as Bushmaster, have gone to a standard 1-9 twist for the
.223 in their standard guns, and Bushmaster is even putting a 1-7 twist in their DCM match target model.
Also, from what I understand my Super 14" 223 was
an exception to the rule so far as Factory T/C 223's and accuracy are concerned, as many complain of terrible performance
no matter what weight and load used, and I can well believe it after looking at & shooting some other factory barrels
in this caliber: in my experience they are typically poor shooters.
Case in point: Early in 2001 I had a back and forth
volley of barrel returns with T/C over a NEW 10" 44mag barrel that had tooling defects in the muzzle: DEEP swirl marks from
After **4** sent and returned barrels (and *each*
barrel replacement from T/C had more GROSS defects, like front site screw holes *bottomed out & bulged into the bore*
or tool marks in the bore at the muzzle, or a visibly wavy bore that looked like every other inch of barrel was interchangeably
thinner and then thicker etc) and after a very long letter to Mike Wright at T/C explaining how this was unsatisfactory and
how expensive the shipping was getting to be (over $60.00 extra out of my pocket at that point) T/C finally sent me a decent
44mag barrel, and also a check for all the shipping.
I was very unhappy about the 4 months it took to
straighten out, but they did finally take care of me, even covering the shipping (which was due to their mishandling of those
returns) so the end result does speak to their credit as to their taking care of the customer financially, but speaks terribly
of the quality control of their product.
I had a similar experience with a 10" Encore barrel
in 50AE: front site screw holes *bottomed out & bulged into the bore* or tool marks in the bore at the muzzle, or a visibly
wavy bore that looked like every other inch of barrel was interchangeably thinner and then thicker etc. Again, T/C finally
took care of the problem (this time w/o reimbursing the s&h) yet my contension is that these problems, in MY experience,
are the norm rather than the exception, and this simply SHOULD NOT BE!
In my opinion, and basically as Gunsmith and barrel
craftsman Mike Bellm and others have stated in many places, purchasing a factory T/C barrel is like playing a game of "barrel
roulette" as one never knows what they might get when they "cut tape" and open that long white red lettered box &
shine a bore-light (or better yet a borescope) inside!
For what it is worth, out of all the other many
Contender barrels I have personally handled or owned, I have NEVER had a problem with the 22lr or 22lr Match in any length,
or with the 7mmTCU, 30Herrett, or the 45/70.
On the other hand, the 223 Rem, 44mag, 30-30, 357mag,
35Rem, & 45/.410 have been the worst T/C Factory Contender barrels in my experience. Other's testimony may vary somewhat
from mine, and be equally correct for their differing personal experiences, but this is the view from here.
So my recommendation? Based upon the above experiences
and also what I have been able to learn of factory barrel machining and chambering V/S how custom gunsmith's do barrel machining
and chambering, I now either have factory barrels rechambered to a longer case which will "eat up" the length of the original
chamber and throat, and replace such with a chamber and throat that are "on center and axis" with the bore of the barrel,
or I purchase barrels from the various custom shops around the country, and recommend you consider doing the same.
Mike Bellm, Dave Van Horn, E. Arthur Brown Co.,
Gary Reeder, and various others all provide excellent alternatives to the factory barrels.