Budget Precision .223: Results and Conclusion

When I started the “Budget Precision .223” project- I had high hopes. Hopes that I’d like a bolt action rifle in .223, hopes that I’d find a great load, hopes that everything would work together (including the LEE Deluxe Challenger Press Kit), and most of all that I’d have fun. Well, all of those things came to reality, and I even had some unexpected discoveries along the way! In this post, I’ll officially wrap up the series, and share some of the results and things I’ve learned in the process.

Quick Links: Budget Precision .223

For reference: here are all of the installments in this series: (see these posts for product page links)

  1. Budget Precision .223: Project Kick-Off and TC Compass Setup
  2. Budget Precision .223: LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit Unboxing and Setup
  3. Budget Precision .223: Case Prep and Sizing
  4. Buget Precision .223: Priming, Charging, Seating
  5. Budget Precision .223: Results and Conclusion (you are here)

As noted in the video, I may share additional supplements based on future experiences with this setup, but formally I’ll consider this series “done”.

The Budget

The goal with this project was to come in under $600. for the rifle + optic + core reloading gear setup. So how did we do? Here’s an updated list of gear with prices:

TC Compass Rifle (.223)  $208.00 *With rebate (10/2017), reported via YouTube by bongojim420
CenterPoint 4-16 Scope  $69.99 *Amazon prime, free shipping
LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit  $189.95 *On sale at Midsouth Shooters Supply 08/2017
LEE Ultimate Rifle Die Set  $42.51 *On sale at Midsouth Shooters Supply 08/2017
Total:  $537.45 

That leaves almost $75.00 worth of additional “room” for other accessories or components (rifle sling, bipod, …). I say “mission accomplished”!

Accuracy/Precision Results

The TC Compass is listed as a “sub-MOA” rifle, and when I started this project I wanted to see “just how small” I could get my groups. With factory ammunition (PMC Gold 55 grain FMJ) I was seeing right around 1″ groups at 100 yards (about 1 MOA). I had a feeling this rifle could do better! And with my first loads using starline brass (loaded progressively) I saw a less-than-5/8″ group:


“Wow” I thought- that’s already way better than the 1 MOA guarantee, and during fire-forming no less! I proceeded to work through various loads with H-335, Varget, and Benchmark, and found that my original load performed the best, especially when loaded with the Breechlock Deluxe Challenger Press Kit:

That’s right! 5 shots into 1/3″. As you can see in the photo above, for this load my scope was not perfectly zeroed, but of course that has no bearing on rifle precision testing and results. I am confident that with further load development and testing that this rifle could produce groups in the 1/4″ range. However, I don’t feel the need to improve on this group- it’s under the 1/2 MOA goal I had set for myself, and I’m really happy with this accomplishment, especially with the budget constraints.

Here’s the load data for the “winning formula” (actually H-335 did better contrary to Varget being mentioned in video):

Use load data at your own risk. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors in load data on this website. Always cross-reference load data with manufacturer’s published data.

LEE Deluxe Challenger Press Kit

This kit is awesome! For under $200. street price (when you find a good deal), I don’t think you can beat this kit for an entry-level precision reloading setup. All you need to add is components and dies and you’re ready to roll. The press features the LEE Breech Lock quick-change die setup, and also enables priming on the press when you need to do so. Priming off the press is simple and straightforward with the included LEE Auto Bench Prime (special shellholders included), trimming is simple with the LEE quick trim (trim die for your cartridge not included), the LEE Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure is great, and the “Modern Reloading” manual is a must-have in my book.

This kit includes all of the fundamentals you’ll need to load precision rifle, and there are several pieces of gear (safety scale for example) that are great to have on-hand even if you upgrade (to an electronic scale for example). This setup includes everything you need to get started, and nothing you don’t need!

TC Compass

After spending more time with the TC Compass (see my story on the .308 version as a complement to this .223 series) I’m really liking this rifle. For the price (as little as the low-$200.’s) it’s hard to beat. With its 5-R rifling precision barrel (including threaded muzzle), pillar bedded synthetic stock, adjustable trigger, and 1 MOA guarantee, the TC Compass over-delivers at its price-point!

The CenterPoint 4-16 power scope delivers a solid value! At $69. delivered with rings it’s hard to believe how good the sight picture on this scope looks. One complaint for this rifle is how high the rings are- it would benefit from “low” rings for this particular rifle application. That being said, the package held zero well, and I was able to deal with the somewhat-difficult ergonomics.

In .223, the TC Compass really shines. The Compass’ light-weight construction is well suited for the mild recoil of .223, and I found the rifle to handle well. It’s a bonus that you can shoot 5.56 ammunition in this rifle (with its higher pressure requirements) – so you can pretty much shoot any .223/5.56 ammunition found in stores or loaded on your bench. If you’re looking for a good inexpensive varmint rifle, a plinking rifle, or a youth-friendly rifle package, the TC Compass is worth looking at!


I had a lot of fun with this content series! I’m looking forward to shooting this rifle with my kids, and I’ll continue to spend time behind the trigger for sure. I’m also thinking about future projects as an extension of this one, and have a ton of ideas.

Are you shooting a .223 bolt rifle? Do you have a TC Compass you’ve loaded precision ammunition for? I’d love to hear your experiences, please leave a comment!


9 thoughts on “Budget Precision .223: Results and Conclusion”

  1. How many grains of Varget gave the best group?
    What were the results using Benchmark? How many grains? What was the best group? I have trouble getting Varget and I have a couple pounds of Benchmark to use up that’s why I am curious about your results with it.
    I enjoy all your videos, thanks for your time and effort in putting them together. I learn much from them.
    Thank you,

  2. What is the recipe you used for that 1/3″ group – Grains of Varget? Which bullet? COAL ? – also, do you have a recommendation for the Compass in 308?

  3. Howdy, Gavin.
    As like the previous posts mention, I, too, am curious as to the actual load data you used when working up your 3/8″ group while using Varget.
    You mentioned telling us what the specifics would be in your monolog but it never materialized, so, here is request number four (4) for your data.
    I’ve used BL-C-2 (along with other powders) for YEARS with excellent results in my Savage .223 bolt rifle, but I’m always open to new options, especially if I can improve on what is already a good shooting rifle in my case
    Lastly, Gavin, Thank You for your UR channel and all that you discuss on a variety of topics. I subscribed not long ago and only recently learned of your “project” with the Compass. I wasn’t aware that you were doing a project in a series but fully intend to go back and watch it from start to end.
    Who knows? For the price, I could see buying one of the TV Compass rifles myself just because you can’t go wrong with a gun that shows literally STELLAR performance at such an inexpensive price. Now I am not particularly enamored with the stock on the rifle (don’t care for the forend undercut look at all but, hey, that’s just ME) but the potential is just THERE!!
    Anyway, I’ve been reloading for half a century (GASP! I’m getting OLD!) but admit you’ve learned me a couple of things, Sonny. LOL
    So now get off your hind end and produce that Varget reloading data for your Loyal subscribers, ok?
    Thanks again, Pardner.
    (PS, wanna sell that rifle?!?) Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. 😉

  4. it says you used.. Bullet: Hornady .224 53 grain HPBT Match

    The link posted is to a HP MATCH bullet. No Boat Tail. Flat Base.

    Hornaday does not make a 53 gr HPBT. They do make a 52 gr HP Match bullet that you have linked us to.

    Did you use a 53 gr flat base HP or 52 gr HPBT? I wanted to buy some to test with my compass but I don’t know to get part #2249 – 22 Cal .224 52 gr BTHP or to get part #2250 22 Cal .224 53 gr HP.

    Thanks for the excellent tips and recipe! I have only 2 bullets and powders so far and much better accuracy so far with surplus fmj 55 gr vs nosler 69 gr hpbt custom competition….

  5. Quick question regarding the H335 recipe you posted here:

    you list 21.5g H-335 as your load… while the Hogdon website lists 24g as the starting load for H335 for this bullet weight. (same for Varget for what it’s worth)

    I also checked the Nossler site for their loads for 50-55g projectiles. They also list 24g as their starting load for this weight range.

    Did you actually load under the prescribed starting load?

    As always… Thanks, and you’ll have my support no matter what happens over at “The Tube” …

  6. I’d wager that with a better quality scope and proper height quality rings you could no doubt shave a good amount off that group still!! I say this because it seems TC rifles are absurdly accurate in the small bore cartridge like 204 & 223. I own a Venture in 204 and 3 shot groups under 1/2″ became fi with 39gr SBK & IMR 4895. The best being .12″, that’s 3 shots at 100 yards in under an 1/8″, and others have reported similar results.
    TC will hopefully sell enough of the compass to make other models off of it similar to what Ruger has done with the predator/compact/ranch/stainless version of the American rifle line cause in my opinion the Compass is far above the rest of the entry level rifles by a long shot.

  7. First Off,….. Great review. I really enjoy all of your videos.
    I just purchased a Thompson Center Compass in .223 and I added a cheap muzzle brake and a trigger spring kit from M Carbo. I mounted a Vortex Diamondback Tactical 5-25×50 scope on it as well. I’ve loaded up a few different handloads and I look forward to seeing how it’ll do this weekend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *