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Testing the Tikka T3

by Roy Smith
Australian Shooter April 2003

Testing the Tikka T3 on the rangeTikka rifles have long enjoyed a reputation of quality and accuracy, so I was somewhat surprised to hear that Sako was completely re-engineering the Tikka. According to Sako’s marketing people, Sako rifles offer the hunter “uncompromising accuracy and reliability with all the bells and whistles”. The new Tikka, on the other hand, has been designed to deliver uncompromising accuracy and reliability without the bells and whistles.

Most people don’t realise (and until recently neither did I) that Tikka has been owned by Sako since the 1980s, with Sako itself being owned by Beretta since 2000. During the years, Sako has had various owners, including Nokia, most famous for their mobile phones, and at one time the Finnish Red Cross. It is said that the Red Cross took control of Sako at the end of WWII in order to prevent the Russians from taking over ownership as war reparations.

Sako now manufactures Tikka rifles at their plant in Riihimaki, Finland. They are manufactured by the same technicians using the same state-of-the-art machinery and the same quality of materials that are used for Sako firearms. So how good is the new T3 range of Tikka rifles?

There are three basic models in the T3 range: the T3 Hunter, the T3 Lite and the T3 Lite Stainless. The T3 Hunter features a classic walnut stock with well executed chequering. The T3 Lite features a copolymer stock and the T3 Lite Stainless features a stainless steel barrelled action on a copolymer stock.

The Hunter model weighs in at 3.1kg and the Lite versions at 2.8kg. Magnum calibres have longer barrels and weigh 100g more. Both walnut and copolymer versions are well balanced. When brought to the shoulder, I found the height of the cheek-piece perfect for me, with my eye perfectly aligned with the open sights on the test rifles. The T3 is supplied without open sites, which are optional features.

Comparing range resultsThe T3 Hunter’s walnut stock features well executed chequering and an oil finish. Some people prefer a highly polished lacquer finish, which is fine if you’re going to put it on display in a gun cabinet, but hunting rifles are apt to suffer the odd knock or scratch and an oil finish is much easier to touch up. The T3 Lite’s copolymer stock is 200g lighter than its walnut counterpart and will provide a popular alternative for hunters who do a lot of walking or hunt in extreme conditions. Both stocks are fitted with detachable sling swivels and rubber butt plates.

The heart of any rifle is of course the barrelled action. The new T3 action features a flat bottom with lots of surface area to enhance bedding. The recoil lug is held captive in the stock and engages a lateral groove in the action.

The T3’s ejection port is considerably smaller than most other centrefire rifles, which should enhance action rigidity and hence accuracy. This feature did however make loading directly via the port more difficult. In fact, I found single round loading through the loading port very awkward. Scope mounting is made easy by virtue of integral scope rails designed for Sako’s Optilock scope rings or pre-drilled and tapped holes for Weaver-style bases.

The standard magazine holds three rounds and finishes almost flush with the bottom of the stock. Five- to six-shot magazines are available as accessories but not for WSM calibres. The magazine, like the stock, is made of a glass fibre reinforced composite and, while I am of the old school and prefer steel for such components, I have to admit that these magazines performed flawlessly during testing.

Tikka T3 rifleThe T3 is available with either a single stage trigger, adjustable from two to four pounds, or a single set trigger. While I found the single stage triggers on the test rifles a little heavier than I like, they were very crisp and consistent. The thumb-operated safety is located on the right-hand side of the tang, locks the bolt when operated, has clear red dot indicators and is positive in operation and easy to use. The bolt has two locking lugs and a 70-degree lift. There is only one action length available; however, bolt throw is matched to case length by use of different bolt release/stop components.

Tikka rifles use the same cold-hammer forged barrels that have helped make Sako firearms so popular. These barrels are free floated to ensure accuracy. The T3 is available in most popular calibres, from .222 Rem to .338 Win Mag, as well as the new .270 WSM and .300 WSM. The models provided for review were the T3 Hunter in .22-250 and .270 Win and the T3 Lite in .30-06.

The test rifles were shipped to me at St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre, where I sought the opinion of the new Tikka T3 by range staff and visitors. Everyone who handled the rifles remarked on their good balance and smooth functioning. The rifles were then fitted with scopes and arrangements made to test them at the Silverdale Range.

Tikka T3 rifleWhen it comes to testing new rifles, two heads are better than one and, knowing how he loves to get out for a shot, I asked SSAA President Bill Shelton to join me for a pleasant day at the range. Unfortunately, the day was a real stinker and the mirage made group shooting a real challenge. Nevertheless, the two of us put all three test rifles through their paces. Winchester factory loads were used: 55gn psp for the .22-250, 130gn psp and 150gn psp for the .270 Win and 150gn psp and 180gn psp for the .30-06.

Each of the test rifles performed without any malfunction and at 100 yards groups were consistent at between 25mm and 30mm. This, however, was no real surprise, as Sako guarantees that every Tikka rifle will produce 30mm at 100m “out of the box”. To make sure they do, Sako test fires every rifle on their 100m indoor range before it leaves the factory.

Sako has re-engineered the Tikka T3 so as to produce a high quality firearm at an affordable price. There’s no fancy engraving or delicate polished wood, just Sako quality and accuracy. At about $1600, the new Tikka T3 is very good value for money.