Thompson Center is a relatively recent competitor in the bolt-action market. In spite of the difficulties facing a recent market entrant, T/C is doing well with the Icon rifle and it possesses some features that cannot be found elsewhere, which isn’t easy either, in a market as crowded as current world of bolt actions.
The Icon action has three forward-mounted locking lugs, a relatively beefy extractor mounted on one of the lugs and an enclosed bolt face. Using three lugs instead of two allows for a shorter bolt throw and, in the opinion of some, a smoother-feeling gun. While a bit of an oddity in the current market, three lug designs have been around for decades and many companies are once again gravitating towards them for their lower production costs. The overall concept of the Icon is not a new one, but T/C does break new ground with the Icon in other areas. For starters, the Icon has a Weaver-style scope base machined into the top of the receiver. This integral base means that you never have to waste a day digging around for lost scope bases and is obviously more solid than any mounted unit could ever be. Scope bases are small matters that have a way of becoming big problems, and with the Icon this is eliminated. Another small, but important, plus is the fact that T/C has included a bolt disassembly tool with the gun. It doesn’t come up much, but chances are that over the course of a hunting career every hunter will have to strip down a bolt once. With some actions, this means using a stump or wood block to apply leverage while wishing you had a third hand growing somewhere. The included Icon tool makes the operation a simple one, requiring far less cussing. T/C’s final innovation is what it has dubbed Ultra-Wood. The Icon is available with a stock that looks like wood but is actually a laminate of carbon fiber and wood. This is supposed to produce a stock as strong and durable as synthetics, but still nice-looking. Time will tell how durable they are, but they are definitely a visual upgrade over standard laminates or synthetics.
The Icon lost one point in the Feeding/Extraction category because the action does not seem to react very well to bullets with flat or long, round noses. Since spire points are the uncontested choice of most these days, this probably isn’t much of an issue. Two points were deducted in the category of Long Term Cost of Ownership because with a T/C product replacement parts will only come from T/C. This is fine in one sense because T/C makes pretty good stuff and knockoff quality is always a bit questionable, but it does mean that T/C sets the price and you have to live with it. Points were also deducted in the categories of Reliability and Durability, mostly because the Icon is still a relative new kid on the block in the bolt-action field and a bit of caution should be exercised waiting to see if the design suffers from the growing pains that many do. The Icon should be a good, long term, piece of equipment but only time will tell. Points were also deducted in the Versatility category due to the fact that the Icon’s unique design does not lend itself to cartridge conversion. This is likely not an issue, as I’m sure that the Icon will appeal to most owners just the way it is.