By Dave Anderson
Intriguing Sporting Rifle from Finland
Tikka rifles are rapidly earning a fine reputation for accuracy, quality and value with American hunters. Tikka rifles are manufactured in Finland by Sako. Both Sako and Tikka are owned by Beretta, giving them access to Beretta’s well-established and extensive dealer and distributor network.
Newest members of the Tikka line are the T3 Hunter (wood stock) and T3 Lite (synthetic stock). The test sample on consignment was a T3 Lite Stainless in .270 WSM caliber. I compared it to a Tikka Whitetail Hunter (Stainless Synthetic) from my gun safe.
Compare and Contrast
Action differences are quite minor. The T3 has a smaller ejection port, with the integral grooves for scope rings running the full length of the receiver. Scope rings to fit the integral receiver grooves are included with each T3.
My older Tikka has a larger, squared-off ejection port with ring grooves on the receiver bridge and front receiver ring. The Whitetail Hunter also has a notch in the receiver ring to accept a stud in the scope ring, intended to keep the
ring from moving forward under recoil.
Both use detachable, single-stack box magazines. The magazine locking latch is on the side of the rifle in the Whitetail Hunter, and on the front of the magazine in the T3 series. The T3 bolt knob is hollowed out while that on my Whitetail Hunter is solid.
Otherwise the actions are similar. There’s plenty of steel in the thick, high side rails, making for a very rigid action. Bolts use twin forward locking lugs, a Sako-type hook extractor, and spring-loaded plunger ejector. Even though this is a two-lug action, bolt lift is a relatively short 70 degrees, leaving plenty of clearance between bolt handle and scope.
The T3 uses the same fine single-stage adjustable trigger as the Whitetail Hunter. The two-position safety locks sear and bolt handle. Both are fitted with hammer forged barrels, the same barrels as are used on the much more costly Sako rifles.
Cost savings are achieved with the T3 by offering fewer options. The Whitetail Hunter is offered in both short and long actions, right or left hand versions, wood or laminated stocks. In addition there are Target, Varmint, and Long Range Hunter variations.
All T3s are made on the same long action. T3s for short cartridges are fitted with a longer bolt stop so bolt throw is shorter.
Currently the only options, other than cartridge choice, are wood with blued steel, or synthetic stock with stainless or blued steel. The recoil lug, a flat steel plate, fits snugly in a recess in the stock. When the barreled action is bolted into the stock, the recoil lug engages a slot cut in the bottom of the receiver. Manufacture is no doubt simpler and less costly than receivers with integral recoil lugs, or designs with the recoil lug sandwiched between barrel and receiver. The uncluttered, simple shape of the receiver makes it easy to machine to precise dimensions. It also makes it easy to manufacture the stock to similar dimensions, enhancing stock/receiver fit. The barrel is free-floating.
Better and Better
I was pleasantly surprised by the lightweight synthetic stock. Unlike some lightweight, injection-molded stocks the T3’s stock is extremely rigid. With the barreled action removed, grasping the pistol grip and fore-arm and twisting hard, I could detect no movement at all in the stock.
The stock is made of a very “hard” synthetic. There’s no need for pillars around the stock screws, as the hard stock material has no more give to it than steel. I was concerned it might be brittle, so I took a non-marring nylon mallet and gave the stock a few whacks in various places, with no effect. The stock is strong as well as hard.
Weight of the T3 Lite is just six pounds, three ounces, while wood-stocked T3s weigh six pounds ten ounces, both weights for standard cartridges. Rifles for magnum cartridges are three ounces heavier. Depending on caliber and scope
choice, weight of rifle and scope will run in the range of 6 3⁄4 to 7 1⁄4 pounds. Barrel lengths are 22 7⁄16 inches (57 cm.) in standard cartridges, 24 3⁄8 inches (62 cm.) in magnum cartridges.
Smooth With A Capital "S"
I don’t know of a rifle currently being made which has a slicker, smoother working action than the Tikka. The newer short magnum cartridges don’t always feed well from Mauser-type, double-stack magazines. I’ve seen examples in which cartridges would sometimes bind when making the “turn” from beneath the left or right feed rail. The T3’s single stack magazine feeds short magnum cartridges straight into the chamber, smoothly and with complete reliability.
The downside of the single-stack magazine is it takes up more space vertically than a double-stack magazine, projecting from the bottom of the rifle.
I used the supplied rings to fit a Weaver Grand Slam 3-10x40mm scope. These rings clamp to the integral rails in the receiver. There is no notch or slot to prevent ring movement. I was a bit skeptical the rings would hold tightly enough to prevent creeping forward under recoil. So far, though, the rings have not moved during the firing of some 120 rounds of .270 WSM ammunition.
If a shooter doesn’t like the supplied rings for any reason, Tikka solid steel Optilock™ rings and bases with polypropylene ring inserts fit the T3. The T3’s receiver is also drilled and tapped to accept other popular bases and rings.
Especially in magnum cartridges this light rifle recoils briskly. In .270 WSM, depending on the load, recoil energy is approximately 32 ft.-lb., while recoil velocity is 16 feet per second. By comparison a 10-pound .375 H&H magnum has a recoil energy of approximately 35 ft.-lb, and recoil velocity of 15 fps.
On The Range
Winchester Supreme ammunition was used for accuracy testing, in loads with Ballistic Silvertip and Fail Safe bullets. Three-shot groups were fired at 100 yards; best group was .41", worst group 1.78", average of 15 three-shot groups was .92".
Light rifles in relatively powerful cartridges aren't the easiest to shoot from the bench. With the good stock design and recoil pad the rifle isn't unpleasant to shoot, but it does move quite a bit in recoil so seemingly minor pressure differences in hold make quite a difference in point of impact. All of which excuses are meant to explain driver error probably played a part in group sizes.
Subsequent range trips were used to test the qualities of the rifle from hunting positions, on steel targets at various ranges. The T3 balances and handles beautifully; light for fast handling, but with just enough muzzle weight to hold steadily. The crisp trigger, virtually free of creep and over-travel, certainly enhanced practical accuracy. From the box weight of pull was just under four pounds, and it can be easily adjusted to as low as two pounds.
The slick bolt operation, short bolt lift and bolt throw and smooth in-line feeding made for fast follow-up shots. Functioning proved completely reliable.
The only criticisms I can make are purely subjective. I don't care for detachable magazines. They have a way of getting separated from the rifle, especially as I get older and more forgetful. From an appearance aspect I wish the magazine didn't extend below the line of the stock, though I'm willing to pay that price in return for the smooth and reliable straight-line feeding.
The T3 Lite Stainless is a fine example of the modern hunting rifle. For traditionalists who believe rifles should made of blued steel and figured walnut, these modern rifles can be a bit hard to accept. I tend to fall into the traditionalist category myself. But the T3 is so darned practical.
Here we have a rifle that is light, tough, accurate, that handles and operates with speed and precision and is virtually impervious to the elements. At a suggested retail price of $646 it is an outstanding value and an impressive rifle.
OAL: 42 1/2" std cartridge, 44 1/2" magnum
Barrel length: 22 7/16" std cartridges, 24 3/8" magnum
Weight: 6 lbs., 3 oz. std, 6 lbs., 6 oz. magnum
Capacity: 3 1 (4 1in .223 Rem.) Plus 2 magazines available for all but WSM cartridges.
Calibers: .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .308 Win., .25-'06 Rem., .270 Win., .30-'06 Sprg., 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag., .270 WSM, .300 WSM.
Finishes: Synthetic/blued, synthetic/stainless or wood/blued Scope rings included.
MSRP: from $549 to $646
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Beretta USA Corp.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Publishers' Development Corporation COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group
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