Thompson/Center Arms Dimension Rifle Review
Part 1 - Introduction, Specifications and Summary
January 7, 2013

Sometimes I'm just amazed at the simple innovations manufacturers come up with to create unique, yet practical, firearms.  In my humble opinion, that is exactly what Thompson/Center did with their new T/C Dimension Rifle.  I'm sure you are thinking that this is not the first switch barrel bolt action rifle to ever hit the market and you're right.  The thing that Thompson/Center has done is to make switching barrels and calibers fast, accurate and affordable.  They have established a rifle platform that can shoot 4 different caliber groups and up to 10 different calibers (at the time of this review).  Also, when you purchase the rifle, it comes with all the tools you need to switch the barrels in the field.

Each person will see their own pros and cons with this type of platform, but immediately I saw a potential opportunity to have the same "feel" when shouldering the rifle, the same cheek weld when looking through the scope, the same trigger pull for each shot and potentially same high quality scope for all my hunting situations.  I want to be clear that when I say all my hunting situations, I'm talking about a range of 10 calibers that currently go from the .204 Ruger to the .300 Winchester Magnum.  If you can't "Get-R-Done" with that range of calibers, you must be hunting some extremely big and dangerous game that are not in North America.

With regard to the scope, one potential beauty of this platform is that you may have the opportunity to invest in a single high quality scope that can be used on all your hunting and target adventures.  Instead of skimping on many different scopes for many different rifles, you can pool all that money together and buy a high end optic, or you can buy a good scope and spend the remaining money on hunting adventures... or your wife... just kidding.  The more I thought about this optics situation, the more I liked the new T/C Dimension Rifle platform and decided I had to try one out for myself.

 

If you have read any of my other reviews, you may already know I'm fairly detailed.  When I first started thinking about this Dimension Rifle review, I recognized I could potentially go "off the deep end" with the details of the four different caliber series (groups), ten different barrels/caliber, and two different methods for mounting a scope.  After pondering the best way to do the review, I decided to focus on some aspects that would be the most important things for me to understand and show about this rifle platform.  Below sets some of my key goals for this review.

  • Review the basic rifle just like always
  • Review what you get when you purchase the capability of another caliber series and barrel (see Part 2)
  • Show that both of my received configurations are one MOA capable (see Part 7)
  • Show any variations you may get in your scope zero when swapping out barrels using their bridge mounted scope (see Part 6)
  • Show any variation you may get in your scope zero when swapping out barrels using a receiver mounted scope (see Part 7)

For this review, I decided to receive the complete rifle in the .308 Winchester caliber and then receive an alternate .223 Remington barrel (magazine & housing) and bolt series.  The table below shows the details of each series and barrel combinations currently available.  I decided to go with the .308 Win and .223 Rem because there is so much affordable match grade ammunition on the market and l also like the idea of having standardized calibers for my own personal inventory.  I will have to admit that I was tempted to select some of the other calibers because T/C has done a good job offering some of the most popular calibers on the market.  In the November 2012 issue of "Shooting Times" magazine, Shooting Times featured an article titled "Cartridges with Staying Power".   The article shows that with the exception of the .204 Ruger, the other 9 calibers listed in the table below make up the top 9 reloaded rifle cartridges according to data from RCBS which is based on reloading die sales.  Also, eight of these ten calibers were in the top 10 in 2011 based on Federal ammunition sales.  Clearly T/C did their homework when deciding on the initial calibers for this rifle. T/C also plans to introduce new calibers in the future.  I'm already hoping to see a threaded barrel 300 Blackout and 6.5 Creedmoor.

Series A B C D
Calibers .204 Ruger
.223 Rem
.22-250 Rem
.243 Win
7mm-08 Rem
.308 Win
.270 Win
.30-06 Sprg
7mm Rem Mag
.300 Win Mag

During my reviews I like to compare my results to the manufacturer's claims where possible so the following text in colored italics was taken directly from the Thompson/Center website on 10/6/12  or the  1/17/12 Press Release and gives an Overview, Key Features, and Specifications for the Dimension Rifle.  The , and are my way to show agreement and keep up with details that I have covered in this review with either photos, commentary or both.  I may also add commentary after these marks as necessary to explain some items if needed.

Overview & Key Features

  • Dimension is a bolt-action platform you build on, season after season.
  • The secret to the unique capability in Dimension is our Locking Optimized Components™ (LOC™) System. It allows you to change Dimension components and calibers quickly and guarantees MOA accuracy - 3 shots into a one-inch group at 100 yards.
  • Change components in less than 3 minutes.
  • No gunsmith required.
  • The barrels are all standard with 5R rifling, which maintains accuracy and helps to reduce copper fouling and cleaning times.
  • Universal aluminum receiver engineered to accept small, medium and long action calibers and provide precise alignment of bolt and barrel.
  • Fitted with an innovative universal stock, featuring a high cheek piece for a distinctive look and a comfortable feel.
  • At the end of the butt stock, two, half-inch removable spacers provide a perfect for for a wide range of shooters.
  • Stock also features ARMORSOFT® coating, which adds durability and noise reduction when hunting in dense vegetation.
  • The forend has been designed to expose a totally free floated barrel with additional space to handle future calibers and barrel profiles.
  • Standard with factory scope mounts installed on the receiver.
  • Optional LOC Bridge mount is available separately as an accessory for each barrel.  Through the use of the LOC Bridge mount, optics can be installed and left in place on each barrel in order to help return sight-in at the time of reinstallation.
  • 3-Lug Fluted Bolt
  • Aluminum Pillar Bedding
  • 60 Degree Bolt Lift
  • Adjustable Trigger
  • LOC hand tools provided with each complete rifle purchase.
  • Start by purchasing one complete Dimension platform rifle in your favorite caliber, then choose a second barrel in the next caliber you want, as well as a bolt that matches the same letter series as the barrel: A, B, C or D. If both barrels are in the same family, you can use the same bolt.

Review Rifle Specification

  • Model: 8404
  • Caliber: .308 Win
  • Finish: Blued
  • Stock: Composite
  • Weight: 7.0 lbs measured 6.84 pounds for this rifle
  • Barrel Length: 22"
  • Magazine Capacity: 3 rounds
  • Length of Pull: 12.5" to 13.5" 12.25" to 13.25"
  • Overall Length: 41.75" 42" for the .308 Win.
  • Twist Rate: 1:12"
  • Trigger Adjustable: 3.5 to 5 lbs Trigger pull on review rifle measured an average of 4.0 lbs
  • MSRP: $679
  • MSRP Accessory Barrels & Magazine Group: $250
  • MSRP Bolt: $162
  • MSRP LOC Bridge Mount: $88

This review is broken down into multiple parts with this page providing links to each part along with an overall summary of the specifications, pros and cons, and my final "bottom line" comments.  Make sure you take time to checkout the other parts of the review because they contain many photos and lots of commentary.  Also, there is an extreme amount of detail in those parts which is not covered on this page.

As you read these Pros and Cons below, keep in mind that it is hard to keep my particular preferences from creeping in the equation.  Therefore, it is important that you take the time to look at the other parts of this review so you can decide yourself on items which may be more of a personal preference.

Pros:

  • One of the first features you notice when you look at the rifle is the generous amount of space between the barrel and forend of the stock.  Clearly T/C was planning on floating larger calibers barrels and heavier barrel profiles with this extra space.  In my opinion, more space is better and there is no doubt the barrel is fully floated in all situations.
  • I feel most people will be pleased with the smoothness of the bolt action when chambering a round and this smoothness along with the slightly oversized bolt handle should make it easy for anyone to chamber another round from the shoulder.
  • Both configurations (.308 Win and .223 Rem) proved to easily be 1 MOA capable as advertised.
  • A very reasonable repeatable accuracy was proven when removing and installing the barrels multiple times.
  • It is possible to use a single scope with multiple calibers as long as you record offsets and make ballistics tables.

Pro/Con/Comment? You Decide:

  • One thing worth pointing out is that the bolt cannot be pulled directly back with the bolt handle in the normally open position.  The bottom of the firing pin assembly will contact (and potentially scratch) the ARMORSOFT® coating on the stock.  To remove the bolt, you will need to press the bolt stop and rotate the bolt down so the handle is nearly touching the stock as you pull the handle rearward.
  • Since I'm a fan of non-traditional looking firearms, I really like the look of the Dimension Rifle.  The combination of the gray accents on the interesting shaped black composite stock, along with a sleek looking barrel/nut/receiver/bolt configuration, seems to make this rifle stand out from the rest.
  • I wasn't able to loosen the trigger pull adjustment screw any further to achieve a 3.5 pound pull as advertised, but I am not disappointed with the 4.0 pound crisp pull that came with the rifle.  Although the trigger did have a little creep, it still had a good feel.
  • I was impressed with how well the scope was able to hold zero using the LOC™ Bridge Scope Mount Base.  There was less than 1 MOA shift in group centers for three of my four groups evaluated.  I did have one group that did not match the other three, but in this case I intentionally decided to see if changing the order of assembly would cause a shift in impact.  It did shift the point of impact, so I feel the key to using this bridge mount successfully will rely on the user always following the same steps during reassembly.  If you plan to use the bridge mount, I suggest you spend some time studying the repeatability of your shots when removing and reinstalling your barrel and scope assembly using the bridge mount.
  • I feel the key to using this platform will be selecting ammunition that shoots best in each caliber then creating an average zero for each caliber from a "group of groups" where you remove and reinstall the barrel between each group.

Cons:

  • Switching the safety from "safe" to "fire" or vise versa on this rifle actually makes a loud click so you will need to do it early if you have game moving in on you fast.
  • One thing that might need a little tweaking is that the bolt stop lever pin and trigger assembly pins will work themselves out of their holes when the receiver is removed from the stock.   This creates a chance you could lose one of the pins when changing barrels.  As long as you are aware of this condition it shouldn't be an issue, but a little thread locking compound on the head of the pins might be a good move towards preventing an issue in the future.

 

Bottom Line:

The Thompson Center Dimension Rifle lives up to T/C's claims.  I was very impressed with the accuracy of each caliber tested and the repeatable accuracy when removing and installing barrels was impressive.  The key to using this rifle with multiple calibers while at the same time having a single receiver mounted scope will be spending some time at the range to ensure you have mapped out the best possible zeros which would include the effects of small deviations in group centers due to removing and installing barrels. 

After shooting a couple of range sessions, the bolt feels smoother and I really like the feel of the rifle.  Only time will tell, but so far I think T/C has produced another winning switch barrel platform.   I hope to see some other caliber and barrel profiles in the future along with stock and magazine capacity offerings.  If you like the thoughts of having a switch barrel rifle, do your research, read other reviews, visit other forums, and take a close look at the Thompson Center Dimension Rifle the next time you are in a gun store.  I think you will be impressed.


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