Tikka T3 review

Tikka T3 (T3x) Review

Tikka has been producing firearm components since 1918.  In 1981 they partnered with SAKO to work on a complete firearm.  Since that time, SAKO has been using Tikka as it’s economy line.  Note, SAKO is owned by Beretta, an Italian company (for those of you keeping score both Italy and Finland allied themselves with the Axis powers during WWII).  The heart of their line is the T3 (or T3X the recent upgrade with minor changes) bolt action rifle.

Known for offering accuracy at a reasonable price, the T3 and T3X have developed a strong following among US shooters.  In this post, we are going to look at the T3 and T3X.

One of the difficulties in reviewing rifles that have been on the market for a number of years is that shooters have some sort of an idea of how they perform and what to expect.  Look at the T3.  Most love it, some hate it.  Rather than rehash some very good work, let’s take a minute to look at two of my favorite T3 reviews one from Kinetic Research Group (KRG) and the other from Chuck Hawks.  For an example of love, take a look at KRG’s white paper, “The case for and against the Tikka TS”, here.   Contrast that to this one from Chuck Hawks, “Modern hunting rifles and the outdoor media”, here.  Note both of these readings make solid points about the rifle, and in Chuck Hawks’ case, the state of the “outdoor media” is absolutely spot on (trust me, believe every word of it).For purposes of this post, I’ll be working with a Tikka T3 Lite chambered in 22-250 Remington.  Besides the obvious differences in stocks and barrels, my comments should be applicable across the entire T3 product line to include the T3X.  During the course of this post, I’ll explain the differences between them.  My test rifle is the cheapest T3 I could find.  I purchased it as a retail consumer.

Tikka T3 in hand I couldn’t wait to start my review.  The T3 Lite is geared towards the hunting market and is equipped as such.  The thin 22.4″ spotter contour, cold hammer-forged barrel is housed in a black plastic stock with a plastic trigger guard and bottom metal.   Steel parts are finished in matte blue with the bolt polished to a shine.

The Tikka handles extremely well.  Fast pointing and easy to the shoulder, it seems like it would be at home on any hunt.  The use of plastic keeps the price down, and to a generation of shooters who grew up on Glocks, has the advantage of never rusting.   While I can deal with the plastic trigger guard and floor plate (the Steyr SBS and Scout rifles went there decades ago) the plastic bolt shroud seems lazy and uninspired.  Tikka did respond to consumers and change this part to metal in the T3X line.  Does the plastic look a little pedestrian at times- yes- but for what I paid, I’ll deal with it.  At full boat MSRP pricing, they can do better; and with the T3X, they did (more on that in a bit).

The T3 feeds from a polymer single stack magazine (above).

The trigger on the Tikka is outstanding.  Breaking at a crisp 3 pounds 7.8 ounces it is the best factory trigger I’ve experienced on a entry level bolt action rifle to date.  Kudos to Tikka for this one.  It should serve as an example to Remington as to what can be accomplished if you try.

Tikka’s T3 bolt is interesting.  The T3 uses a SAKO extractor and a constant tension ejector.  It has a 75 degree bolt lift which  is a nice change from the 90 degree usually encountered on two-lug bolt action rifles.   The bolt operation is smooth; most likely due to the polished finish on the bolt.

The action includes an integral rail for use with direct mount scope rings (which are provided- nice!).   It is also drilled and tapped for an aftermarket rail (the T3x has additional threaded holes).  The Tikka uses a floating recoil lug that slips into the stock and engages a slot in the bottom of the receiver (just like a Savage Axis).   The T3 uses an aluminum  lug which can be deformed, the T3X improves this design by using steel instead of an aluminum lug.

The T3 (reviewed here) is being phased out by the T3X.  These rifles are similar with the T3X upgrades, primarily focused on stocks and parts commonality between the two guns   The T3X includes a modular stock, improved grip, improved recoil pad, quieter stock, redesigned ejection port, additional screw holes on the receiver, metal bolt shroud and steel recoil lug.  Of these improvements, I would opine that the metal bolt shroud and use of a steel (instead of aluminum) recoil lug are the most beneficial.

Since I planned on using this rifle as the basis for a future custom build, caliber selection wasn’t terribly important when I purchased it (neither was the stock, which I why I bought a T3 rather than a more expensive T3x).  The least expensive T3 I could find was a T3 Lite in 22-250 Remington, so that is what I bought.

For glass I selected a TRACT optics TORIC 3-15x50mm scopeTRACT is a newer optics company that sells directly to the consumer without a middle man.   The TORIC is a solid representation of hunting scope that would find its way onto a rifle like this.   I also used Warne rings and bases supplied by TRACT to mount the scope.

I don’t shoot a lot of factory ammo anymore, so I’ll test the rifle with some hand loaded ammo.  Before we get to the good stuff, please take a few minutes to read the following disclaimer.

WARNING: The loads shown are for informational purposes only.  They are only safe in the rifle shown and may not be safe in yours.  Consult appropriate load manuals prior to developing your own handloads.  Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

Lapua brass in hand, I developed a series of different loads for the Sierra 52 grain MatchKing and 55 grain GameKing.   I usually like to shoot 5 round groups for load development in testing.  However, most of those guns have fairly heavy barrels and are designed for match use with long strings of fire.  The thin barrel of this particular rifle seems better suited to 3 shot groups for initial testing and load development.

Narrowing down which powder to use was a challenge as well.  Cartridges like 22-250 have been around for generations of shooters and load data is readily available for every possible combination of powder primer and bullet.  For this post, I selected Reloder (not reloader) 15, IMR 4064 and W760.

All shooting was conducted from a bench with a dog-gone small bench bag and a rear bag.  Velocity data was collected with a MagnetoSpeed barrel mounted ballistic chronograph.   Target was a 1″ dot at 100 yards.

Load information and results are shown in the table and images below.

I have to admit, I was shocked at how well this rifle shot.  Granted these are 3 shot groups, but this is a spotter contour rifle that averaged .640″ over 16 different loads!  Wow!

My thoughts on the T3 (and T3x) line of rifles:

  1. It shoots!  Wow- granted these are 3 shot groups.  But wow, those are some pretty small three shot groups from a light rifle with a thin barrel.
  2. Tikka triggers are terrific- T3 (see what I did there?)  I really like the factory trigger on the T3.  I hope other companies can learn from this (Remington- that is a subtle hint for you).
  3. The bolt is slick.  This is an entry level rifle with a slick operating bolt, SAKO extractor and 75 degree lift, that is great.
  4. Finland isn’t USA.  I try to buy American when I can, but Tikka does offer a nice rifle.
  5. Parts?  There are a fair number of aftermarket arts available for the T3.

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To buy a Tikka T3 or T3X, check out Brownells!