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Thompson Contender - The Pocket Sniper.

Custom Digicon Target Contender.

Thompson Contender The Pocket Sniper

Last September I decided it was time to look for a new piece of kit. I wanted something different and something challenging. Scanning the various Hong Kong retailers I found what I was looking for. The Digicon Thompson Contender.

For those who haven't encountered this piece of kit before the Thompson Contender or ''Moose Gun'' as it's sometimes known is a single shot gas powered airsoft gun. It has a break barrel system allowing a single shell to be placed in the breech. The barrel is then snapped shut and the pistol cocked. When the trigger is pulled the hammer falls onto a valve pin which in turn releases gas from the Contenders gas cylinder which is located in the hand grip. What could be more challenging than facing off against AEG's with a breech loader?

When the package arrived I was as usual very excited. I tore open the wrapping and opened the box. My first impression was 'not bad' but 'not great'. The external body, pistol grip and fore grip were all plastic with only the hammer, trigger, trigger guard and sights made of metal. For me though being a techie the real proof is how good a piece is, in its operation. I quickly opened an upstairs window loaded the Contender with American Eagle and a 0.2gm BB and fired. The result was, well very disappointing actually. The BB travelled about 100 foot and dropped like a stone. I had expected this as the Contender is not equipped with a hop-up but the reality was quite sobering. Not to be discouraged I reloaded. This time I tempered my enthusiasm and took the time to dig out a can of HFC22 and some 0.43g BB's. I loaded all six of the supplied shells and then calmly began to test the gun. Obviously the 22 helped the range which increased by about 30% and the heavier BB's fired true every time. I was quite capable of hitting a fence post 6/6 times at 100 foot. Very accurate. By this point I had also noticed that the muzzle report was quite subdued. I then put the contender down fairly satisfied with it's performance and got down to the guts of it by reading the manual. Half an hour later I had stripped and rebuilt the gun and to my pleasure had discovered no visible flaws in its design.

My next opportunity for use was during the next day's play. I loaded each shell charged the gas tank and took a handful of extra BB's into the field. Now my colleagues will attest to the fact that I love it when my kit works, especially for the first time. Now I won't say that I cheered with joy when I noticed Dave scrambling up a slope to the side of the Fire base but I will admit to cry of excitement as I pulled the trigger the hammer fell and the 0.43gm BB ripped through the air at my unsuspecting target. This took place during a fierce base assault with guns firing all over the place and grenades going off left right and centre. So poor old Dave didn't even hear the shot, the first he knew was the sudden sting of pain to his chest and me going postal. I continued to play for an hour or so before returning to my Stoner. Overall the Contender was a reasonable purchase at $150 plus postage. I wanted to improve it however and so as parts became available I began to upgrade. The first step was a scope.

The gun came with an integeral dovetail mount just like you find on an air rifle. This was unfortunate as all of my optics were geared for weaver style mounts to fit my Stoner. I purchased a fairly cheap air pistol scope and fitted it. This was an unmitigated disaster and I couldn't hit a barn door at 10 feet. To be fair it was only a cheap scope but it didn't suit me so off it came. The second and third steps I modified at the same time. I fitted a hop-up barrel which seriously increased the range and a silencer thread. Now I normally refer to silencers as sound suppressers as they never really do more that dull the report of an airsoft gun. In this case though I'll make an exception. With a KM Seals Silencer fitted the Contender makes nothing more that a quiet 'phut' when fired. It is possible to eliminate a target and the player won't even hear it coming. The fourth step was the furniture. Several companies began to market better fore grips and stocks. Perfect for turning the Contender into a carbine but not quite what I was looking for.

Then DomT noticed that Arnie was selling some Nakaya furniture on his site. I swooped like the proverbial hawk and purchased (thanks Arnie). The pistol grips that I received were a tidy little package. Both lighter than the original plastic and with a better ergonomic design, they were finished with a redwood stain. Apart from the colour they were excellent. I quickly got to work with the sand paper and re-stained the grips in teak. I also used the sandpaper to very slightly adjust the contours on the hand grip and also ensured that the finish on the grip was a little rougher to ensure a firm hand hold.

I have to say that the wood furniture does make the piece. The original design was good but this far exceeds it.

My only remaining issues were performance related. The range even with the hop was still not quite as good as I would have liked and one niggle that had come to irritate me was the hammer fall which could only be described as a little spongy. To remedy I purchased a better hammer spring and an upgrade valve. This improved power to about 450fps with a 0.2gm BB. I did chrono this on a less than salubrious day however and I would expect at least 475fps in hot weather.

In order to increase range I also changed my load to the lighter 0.36gm BB. Of the two available types I use the metal rolled grey BB's as opposed to the white plastic version. The reasoning here is simple a white BB is easy to spot in flight, not so a dark grey one. In the unlikely event that my quarry hears/sees me fire at them, their chances of spotting the BB to avoid it are slim. Adjusting the hop-up to suit is very easy as I have modified the top of the barrel at the rear to expose the grub screw which alters the hop. I can therefore change BB weight in action. My final purchase was of course extra shells. I acquired several more standard shells and also a set of six KM shells which give the interesting option of loading with one or six BB's by removing an internal cylinder. Whilst the shot shell detracts from the target/sniper image it is rather amusing to watch an opponents face as they see a small cloud of rounds heading their way.

Now the project is nearing completion and I own a very nice pocket hand cannon. I have considered further alterations but have rejected the idea of further optics as I'm better with open sights, rejected the idea of a stock as I wanted a Sniper pistol not a carbine and finally rejected the back loading shell available from Angs. This would detract from the purity of loading each individual shell.

I do require one more item however, a reliable holster. I am currently negotiating with sources and quite fancy the idea of a cavalry style with a cover flap in order to keep my baby nice and safe.