The official Mike Bellm's

Bellm TCs

TC Contender, G2, Encore/ProHunter Performance Center


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This link takes you to Fred Zeglin's 4-D Reamer Rentals website.

Before getting into the book, I'd like for TC shooters to see Ackley's influence on Contender and Encore barrels.

This is something not even touched on in the book or anywhere else that I am aware of.

My own connection with P.O. Ackley.
Growing up, I absorbed as much technical information about all guns that I could and inhaled every Gunsmith's Column P.O. wrote for Shooting Times magazine, but I had no connection or real knowledge of P.O.'s history until I moved to Salt Lake City in 1976 and later met P.O. at his shop.

I got bits and pieces of his history through many hours of conversations with him, conversations that in hind sight sure deserved taking detailed notes! But I did not, nor did I even get many photos. I was on the bottom end of the machining learning curve, stroking my way up. That was my focus.

On the one hand I have to admit to failing to document P.O.'s life and work as Fred Zeglin has done, and on the other hand I commend Fred Zeglin for his diligent research and documentation of P.O. Ackley for all of us.

Young Dennis M. "Mike" Bellm, with what must have been a pretty serious question for P.O.

The Ackley connection with Thompson Center guns is just one example of how P.O.'s influence spread throughout the firearms industry in one way or another.
The TC connection actually started with Alan Beckstead dba Marsh Al's guns, in Preston, Idaho.

Al was one of the earliest custom TC barrel makers in the early to mid-1970's. I had first met him in Salt Lake City at an NRA convention in 1976 and was immediately intrigued with his Contender carbines he was producing.

P.O.had sold his business to Max Graf, American Fork, Utah
late 1976, the same time I first went to P.O.'s shop to have him rebarrel a Jap Arisaka rifle for me. P.O. informed me he had sold the business to Max, and that Max would be the one rebarreling the rifle for me. After about a year and a half Max had not done the work and had decided to sell the business.

I had more money than good sense at the time, ZERO prior experience doing any machine work, but bought the business from Max.

It so happened that Alan Beckstead had been looking at buying P.O.'s business from Max so Al could make his own barrel blanks for making Contender barrels.

Al's former employee, Bruce Preheim, came to work for me shortly after I bought the business from Max Graff February 2, 1979. Bruce was of course very familiar with making Contender barrels. Between the two of us we rechambered a few Contender barrels during the year or so he worked for me, but it was not until Fred Smith, aka "Woodsmith" at the time, started leaning on me in 1983 to make Contender carbine barrels for him that I got serious about making Contender barrels myself.

Fred spent time in my shop in Salt Lake City a number of times, enough to get the insight into machining that he needed to establish Bullberry Barrel Works and strike out on his own making barrels, after I had invested the time and money into making just 12 barrels for him. One important key to his success making Contender barrels, I believe, was his understanding of the importance of throat diameter and alignment with the bore that he gained from our conversations in the shop concerning chambers and throats in particular.

Much of our understanding of chamber throats came from my study of P.O.'s old throat reamers that I have depended on for accuracy for over 38 years!

.... but I have digressed.
P.O. himself may have rechambered some Contender barrels, but he had no further direct connection with TC guns personally.

The connection hinges on me, Mike Bellm, and has spread throughout the Utah Contender and Encore custom barrel makers from Bullberry on through Virgin Valley Custom Guns, which became today's Match Grade Machine.

Virgin Valley Custom Guns originally made E.A. Brown's "Accuracy Barrels" and then helped E.A. Brown get set up to make barrels themselves.

I think it is very safe to say that Ackley's influence can be seen among ALL of the makers of TC barrels.

From my purchase of his equipment and tooling February 2, 1979 until along in 1983, I continued the type of work that P.O. had always done:
manufacturing button rifled barrel blanks,
cut rifled reboring of barrels,
rebarreling most types of fixed barrel guns,
sporterizing military bolt action rifles,
and a myriad of somewhat exotic conversions of guns.

From 1983 through 1988 I continued to make quite a few Contender barrels, but could not be cost effective enough for it to be a viable business.
I continued to do "fixed barrel" work through 1997 and making a very few Contender barrels on through about 2008, but relied more and more on simply reworking TC factory barrels to meet shooters' needs.

Ackley's main influence.
Having P.O. as my personal mentor for 10 years gave me a thorough understanding of barrels and tooling in general, but more importantly, as noted above, it gave me a foundation for really understanding chamber throats that can readily be seen in Match Grade Machine's chambers today.

Fox Ridge Outfitters, the TC Custom Shop
Thompson Center featured many Ackley Improved chamberings in their chamber list, which was something of a first among major firearms manufacturers at the time.

One of their best selections of Ackley Improved cartridges was the .30/30 Ackley Improved that was quite popular before the TC Custom Shop was closed.

SSK Industries and J.D. Jones' "Hand Cannons" got much of their early "leg up" based on .309 JDJ.
....taken directly from the pages of P.O. Ackley's "Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders" Vol. II but given J.D.'s proprietary name, "his" .309 JDJ and .358 JDJ.
(Quotation marks suggest he had no claim to their origin.)

Along with these rounds came the straight wall case and sharp shoulder designs J.D. incorporated into many of his cartridges that propelled the Contender to among the top of the hunting and target handguns.


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