Thompson/Center’s new Venture bolt-action is intended to be one thing only a no-frills rifle that delivers essential features at an affordable price.The essential features are, first, accuracy, and second, immunity to weather—in other words, a utility rifle that delivers the goods for not much money.
Certainly, the price is low at a suggested retail of $499, the Venture is firmly ensconced in the low end of high-power bolt-action prices.
Impervious to weather? There is nothing I can see on the Venture that could be affected by rain, sleet, mud or frost. The stock is composite, the metal parts coated, and as many parts as possible are made of either alloy or a non-corroding composite material.
So the final question is, how does it shoot?
According to Thompson/Center, every Venture is guaranteed to deliver minute-of-angle accuracy with three shots. MOA is one inch at 100 yards, and any rifle that will genuinely do that is to be prized, even in this era of extravagant accuracy claims. My own results with a test Venture, with six different types of factory .30-06 ammunition, did not quite achieve that level, but they were not far off and I have no doubt the rifle could be made to shoot one-inch groups with the right handload.
T/C does not send a target with the rifle, nor does it tell you what brand or bullet weight the rifle favored when it shot the requisite one-inch group before being allowed to leave the factory.
To achieve the accuracy it claims for the rifle, T/C fits it with a match-grade barrel done up to the best current accuracy standards, with 5R, non-symmetrical rifling. This rifling, according to T/C, provides a better gas seal for more consistent pressures, better stabilizes the bullet in flight and reduces copper fouling. All of these are to the good from an accuracy standpoint.
The Venture is advertised as having an adjustable trigger and comes with a tiny Allen key for that purpose. The adjustment screw is accessible just ahead of the sear, when the bolt is removed. It is turned counterclockwise to lighten pull, clockwise to make it heavier. The instructions do not say what the range of weights is supposed to be, but I found it to be from 4.4 pounds up to 51/2 pounds. The trigger is crisp, and, as advertised, there was no creep at all.
With a rifle in this price range, one should certainly not be overly critical, but a few style features of the Venture were questionable. The composite stock has molded rubber panels to provide a gripping surface on both the fore-end and pistol grip. However, the material used, in spite of the raised ribs, was very slick, especially in the rain, and not particularly comfortable to hold when it was dry.
The stock design itself, billed as “classic,” presumably because it boasts neither a cheekpiece nor a Monte Carlo, was not very user-friendly. The underside of the fore-end, instead of being either flat or gently rounded, is quite sharply rounded, making it difficult to rest the rifle solidly for precision shooting. The comb was narrow and also sharply rounded, which makes the rifle uncomfortable to shoot.
In terms of functioning, I found only one real flaw with the rifle a chronic (although not invariable) failure to feed a cartridge from the magazine.
The magazine itself is a removable clip, molded from a composite material. The cartridges are held inline, rather than staggered. The bolt has three locking lugs, which allow a very low (60 degree) bolt lift; when the bolt is cycled, one of the lugs picks up the cartridge from the magazine and pushes it forward.
Occasionally, the bolt would push the cartridge forward, but as the nose touched the feed ramp and began to rise, the cartridge would pivot downward at the rear, the rim would slip under the bolt face and the bolt would ride over the cartridge. When this happened, it was necessary to pull the bolt all the way back, then push it forward again, almost like double-clutching a manual-shift transmission.
Because the magazines are self-contained and the feed rails are integral with the magazine itself, it is difficult to see how this problem might be corrected. It happened less often when the bolt was cycled smartly, but one does not always want to do that in a deer stand.
Otherwise, the three-round magazine worked well. It must be removed from the rifle to reload, but in an emergency you can always drop rounds into the action one at a time and use the rifle as a single-shot.
One feature of the Venture I particularly liked was the smoothness of the bolt. To me, the acid test of a bolt-action is how slick and smooth the bolt feels. Some modern production bolt-actions feel as if someone dropped a handful of sand into them. Not the Venture. The bolt is very slick, giving the rifle an expensive feel that belies its low price.
There is no obvious way of dismantling the bolt, and the user’s manual warns against attempting to dismantle the rifle any further than covered in the instructions. Fieldstripping, according to the manual, consists of removing the bolt and the magazine box.
Besides .30-06, the Venture is available in .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum.