Single shot, mass-produced target arms were always a small part of total pistol production, and it was a remarkable achievement for Thompson/Center Arms to make an entirely new muzzleloading target pistol when they introduced the Patriot in the early 1970s. With its one piece walnut stock, semi-saw-handle grip, brass furnishings, set triggers and adjustable sights and price of under $200, this gun was an instant success. National Muzzleloading Rifle Association shooters quickly started to register good scores with the Patriot at local and national matches. Here was a factory gun that could shoot 10s at the 25 and 50 yard slow-fire targets out of the box at far less costs than a custom-built gun.
Although well received, the market for such a specialized gun was small, and when T/C had a plant fire in the section that made the Patriot in 1996, there was little incentive to resume production. I was fortunate enough to acquire the pistol as a used gun in the early 1980s, and shot matches with it at my local club and elsewhere in the state. It was not unusual for me to be off to a shoot somewhere nearly every weekend. During this process I built a custom loading stand for it using some nearly 200-year-old heart pine planks salvaged from my house and fashioned a custom tapered ramrod out of resin-impregnated wood and deer antler. This rod was much stronger than the original wooden rod.
The load that I used was a charge of 20 grains of GOEX FFFg, a spit lubricated patch made of washed pillow tiking along with a styrofoam wad cut from egg crate foam with the sharpened end of a .45-70 cartridge case. It had been decades since I had last shot the gun and I had forgotten where I held on the target. As it turned out I held below the black bull of the 25-yard slow-fire pistol target and dead center on the 50 yard target so that I could shoot at both ranges without making sight adjustments. I was frankly rusty, but the old gun proved that it could still perform. Had I done my part, it would have shot a nearly perfect score. You can see a video of me loading, shooting and wiping the gun between shots at:
Using the old single shot reminded me that there is no better way to learn to shoot pistol than with the Patriot or a similar quality muzzleloader. The beginning shooter does not have the temptation to go bang-bang-bang-bang as with a semi-auto as he must pause between shots as he cleans and reloads. Each shot is a distinct event, and he has the chance to concentrate on sight alignment, breath and trigger control. The gun’s excellent set triggers largely eliminates the trigger-control problem, which leaves only the remaining two factors to concentrate on. Precision work can be done with this pistol at much less costs than shooting center-fire cartridge guns. Once basic shooting techniques have been mastered with this pistol, the shooter can move on to more powerful muzzleloading hunting pistols, three-gun NRA matches, Cowboy Action or any of a number of other shooting sports that require multi-shot guns.
Patriot pistols occasionally appear on used gun markets at prices between $300-$400 which is less than the cost of having a custom gun built that will deliver similar performance.