The Thompson Center Compass
The Thompson Center Compass is a sub-$300 (2016 – present, 2020) cost rifle manufactured by Smith & Wesson, at least by marking variance, in three configurations and eight cartridges. It features a push-feed Mauser-derived action with a three position safety, a free floated 5R barrel, receiver rail sections, and a detachable magazine. Models are now available scoped out of the box for all three new series. All models feature 5R rifling and, save the Compass Utility, muzzle threads suitable for a muffler – features not found outside of significantly more expensive competitors.
- Compass II: 21 5/8″ barrel with 5R rifling in 223 Rem, 243 Win, 270 Win, 308 Win, 30-06, and 6.5 Creedmoor
- Compass II (magnum): 24″ barrel in 300 Winchester Magnum or 7mm Remington Magnum
- Compass Utility: All the same options as the Compass II, but with an unthreaded muzzle.
- Compass II Compact: 16 1/2″ barrel with 5R rifling in 223 Rem, 243 Win, 308 Win, and 6.5 Creedmoor
All options have a sister model with an included scope except, for some reason, 223 Rem.
Perhaps not surprisingly, four years later we’re still missing the US-niche-yet-common-worldwide options like 6.5×55 Swede and 8×57 JS. Oddly, despite T/C making two 16″ barrel versions they have yet to sell one in .300 BLK.
If you want to touch holes at a hundred paces with 165gr Soft Point Tulammo .308 for less than four Hi Points shipped and transferred, look no further. No, really: There is nothing else on the market that will at that price, with or without a threaded barrel.
This rifle has experienced several thousand highway, city, and trail miles in the back of a pickup truck, hiking, and range days, with three different suppressors and several muzzle devices. On more than one occasion it has been toted hundreds of miles with only one round and placed a hole precisely where intended. It has been used with factory ammunition and hand loads from high power to subsonic, suppressed and unsuppressed. You can be confident the rifle (no promise on the shooter) will stay under an arc minute. The newer “Scope Combo” models have not been evaluated, but with a $100 MSRP increase how bad could they be really?
The Compass uses five round rifle and four round magnum rotary magazines. Is that enough whitepaper specification talking point reporting to qualify as normal journalism? Here’s the part we hope you’re really here for:
The follower is returned by a spring wrapped around the axis similar to the ejection port cover of an AR-15. Unfortunately, the magazine is the weak point of the platform. Disassembly is simple: Push the magazine backplate and it slides pops right off, retained by nothing more than the friction of the half dozen sub-1mm protrusions from the mag body. When, not if, the plate deforms or is even partially removed the spring slips off the follower, which leaves the magazine semi-functional – if half capacity counts. Tap the back of the magazine on a surface to evenly seat the rounds and there’s a good chance your place will come off too. I hope you weren’t counting on additional magazines, because the rifle comes with only one and storing a magazine loaded outside of the rifle is a surefire path to rapid unplanned disassembly. Should you find yourself needing to reassemble the magazine it’s a fairly simple process: If the spring is wound one extra time the backplate will spontaneously eject itself, so rewind minus one turn and you’re good. Otherwise, it’s a fairly straightforward and reliable platform.
If you’re willing to permanently adhere the backplate to the mag body it will serve you flawlessly. Forty months and later I have no regrets permanently modifying the magazine.
Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive do-everything rifle to get you a couple seasons or a host worthy of your Schmidt Bender the T/C Compass line (and a tube of two-part epoxy) will serve you for many years.