Test Report: The Businesslike Tikka T3 Hunter

Extremely well made, the Tikka rifles feature the same quality of workmanship as the higher-grade Sakos.

They have always had a reputation for fine accuracy. Today Tikka is part of the Beretta family and they are being made in the same factory alongside Sakos.

The Tikka T3 has combined modern technology with tradition and craftsmanship and some fine production bolt-action hunting rifles are available.

One of the newest and most interesting of these is the Tikka T3 Hunter with walnut stock and blued or stainless fluted barrel. Designed as a mountain rifle, the Tikka T3 action was an excellent choice on which to build a lightweight hunting rifle.

The Tikka T3 Hunter comes in three different internal magazine lengths to accommodate the various families of cartridges from the .204 Ruger up to the Winchester Short Magnums and .338 Win. Mag.

Fluted barrels save weight

Fluted barrels shave weight, are sporty and functional while varmint models are fitted with heavy barrels and synthetic stocks.

A choice of stocks includes walnut, grey matte-lacquered laminated hardwood, and fibreglass reinforced copolymer with Realtree Hardwood Camo finish.

The biggest weight savings, however, comes from the Lite Model’s injection-molded Co-Polymer synthetic stock which the manufacturer claims is almost unbreakable. Like the T3’s stainless steel action, it offers the advantage of being impervious to the worst weather conditions found in any type of hunting.

The Tikka’s stock was designed by the Italian Giugiaro firm. It is American classic style with a high straight, fluted comb, a long grip and rounded forend. A Wundhammer palm swelling on the grip together with checkered panels afford a secure grasp. Sling swivel bases and a solid rubber recoil pad are standard. Most Tikkas have a similar stock with the exception of the Forest model which has a Monte Carlo rollover comb

The Tikka T3 Hunter has all the desirable features one would look for in an all-around rifle. Weighing 3.6 kgs all-up, I found a .260 Remington topped with a Burris E1 Full field 3-9×40 in Tikka alloy rings an easygoing companion on a strenuously steep, rugged goat hunt that was successful when I knocked off five shaggy billies at ranges from 150 to 300 metres with one bullet each. Three shots were taken on the run, proving that form follows function. If a rifle isn’t accurate, well balanced to be quick handling, and dependable ruggedness counts for nothing.

From a practical standpoint, having an accurate rifle doesn’t necessarily mean it can be shot accurately in the field; for most shooters the trigger spells success or the lack of it. Fortunately, the Tikka T3 comes with a crisp single-stage trigger that is easily adjusted down from 2kgs to a rather light 1 kg (4 to 2lbs) after removing the stock. The trigger mechanism of special steel is enclosed in an alloy housing and is fully adjustable. the trigger blade is grooved vertically for a non- slip let-off.

A two-position safety integrated into the trigger housing with a thumb catch located on the side of the bridge allows the bolt to be opened whilst engaged to remove a live round from the chamber. Two red dots, one behind the safety button and another behind the cocking piece indicate when the rifle in ready to fire.

The Tikka T3 has a thick-walled carbon-steel receiver cut to exacting tolerances by the same workers and on the same CNC machines that are used to produce Sako actions. It has an hexagonal cross section with angled flats reminiscent of the Browning A-Bolt with a rounded contour below the stockline, a rounded bottom, and a large flat bedding surface on top. Full length integral scope-mount rails accept 17mm Tikka rings, and provide a sure, solid mounting system, but the rifle is also drilled and tapped for other bases.

The size of the ejection port has been kept to a miniumum in the rigid action

The rigid action measures 225mm long, is 31mm high and wide at the flats. The ejection port on the T3 medium action is 80mm long to accommodate the short 7mm-08 cartridge. Except for the polymer magazine and bolt shroud, and an alloy guard, the T3 action is all steel. At the base of the molded polymer shroud is a cocking piece that is attached to the firing pin and serves as a cocking indicator. A minimal-sized ejection port makes the receiver extremely rigid. The bolt has three symmetrical, identically shaped locking lugs with a counterbored bolt face housing a reliable Sako-style extractor in the 10-o’clock position and a spring-loaded plunger ejector at the 2 o’clock position.

The foward two-thirds of each bolt lug is gently angled and at the front they become the same diameter as the counterbore. The breech is a simple flat-patterned type. Barrels are faced off square at the rear, and the bolt face fit is relatively close with the rear of the cartridge fully enclosed. Cams milled on the locking lugs advance the bolt during closing to bear tightly against the rear face of the barrel.

The receiver ring has a single gas port in the left side which aligns with a hole in the bolt head to vent escaping gas out to the side. The bolt body has no ports to direct escaping gas downward into the magazine well. Gas entering the firing pin hole that reaches the rear of the action is blocked by the solid rear wall of the bolt sleeve.

The dual-lug bolt requires only a 70 degree lift to disengage.

A separate bolt handle with a hollow pear-shaped bolt knob is dovetailed into the body and acts as a retainer for the firing pin and spring – made of stainless steel and Teflon-coated. It’s one of four major bolt components, easy to take apart by hand. A side-mounted bolt release located on the left rear side of the action derives from the 98 Mauser’s but is much trimmer. It also functions as a bolt stop. The recoil lug is a steel stock insert that engages a receiver slot in the underside of the receiver ring.

The Tikka T3 is one of the smoothest actions to cycle on the market. Both the bolt and bearing surfaces inside the receiver are highly polished, allowing the bolt to slide effortlessly. The dual-lug bolt head requires only a short 70 degree lift for disengagement, which when combined with a single column magazine makes for impressively fast follow-up shots.

The detachable box magazine is made of lightweight fibreglass-reinforced composite, more rigid than traditional metal boxes. It holds 3, 5 or 6 rounds depending on model and calibre. The flush-mounted magazine latch located in front of the magazine cannot be unintentionally opened. You can’t load cartridges into the magazine through the receiver, not only because cartridges must be slipped in from the front, but because the ejection port has been made small to stiffen the receiver.

The detachable box magazines hold either 3,5 or 6 rounds.

The T3’s cold-hammer-forged barrel has a medium profile, measures 28.62mm at the receiver ring and starts reducing in diameter over the chamber for approx. 73mm before commencing a straight taper to reach 16mm at the muzzle. The barrel has five flutes starting 117mm ahead of the reeciver ring which stretch to withing 37mm of the dished muzzle. The stock has an embedded aluminium recoil lug, and while it fits tightly to the action, it is generously relieved to free-float the barrel over its entire length.

Tikka imposes an accuracy standard of three shots under one- inch at 100 metres on its T3 hunting rifles, saying they are an industry benchmark for out-of-the-box accuracy. Today, however, several other rifle manufacturers make the same claim.

I hied me off to the range on a bright sunny day, without any hint of the slightest breeze. On the bench, the rifle was just as impressive as it was later in the field. After sighting in to get 100gn bullets landing 64mm high at 100 metres, I checked accuracy with different loads.

The spread of 3-shot groups while not always meeting the one-inch standard ran very close with the majority of loads tested. Most sub- MoA guarantees state “with selected loads” and the Tikka was no exception; there’s always some loads that shoot better than others and to expect any rifle to shoot that well with all loads would be unrealistic.

The .260 Remington is, in my opinion, one of the mildest big-game cartridges for all-around use by youngsters and women shooters and those sensitive to recoil. It performs exceedingly well in the Tikka’s 550mm barrel, and though its report is probably a bit louder than in the traditional 610mm barrel, it’s not earsplittingly so.

Various reasons are given for the .260’s lack of popularity. For one thing the ballistics are ample but not sensational, and the competition with the 6.5×55 and more recently the 6.5 Creedmore and 6.5-284 did it no good. Then again a good many hunters showed a preference for the 7mm-08 which they believe shows a slight edge over the 6.5mm.

The .260 Remington cartridge is nothing more than a stubby 6.5×55 Swede. It has been badly underrated by being compared with larger capacity 6.5s like the 6.5-284 and 6.5 Rem. Mag. but its no slouch for medium game up to the size of red stag when the proper bullets are used.

Although there are two or three very fast 6.5s, obviously the .260 Rem. isn’t a velocity star. It’s best suited with the lighter bullets weighing from 100 to 130gn with 140 hardly needed if the hunter favours 120 and 130 grain Barnes X bullets.

Most of the 6.5 calibre’s success stems from the fact that 6.5mm hunting bullets of 140 to 160gns are increasingly heavy for for the small calibre. Their high ballistic coefficents allows them to hang onto their velocity in a miserlike fashion, while greater sectional densities give them superb penetrative capabilities. But there’s certainly no flies on the factory loading of the .260 which features a 120gn AccuTip boattail at 2890 fps since it is still travelling at 2000fps way out yonder at 500 yards and delivers an adequate deer killing 1145 ft/lb of energy.

“Big Green” also loads a 140gn Core-Lokt PSP at 2544 fps and 140gn Core-Lokt Ultra-Bonded at 2544 fps. which delivers 1021 and 1063 ft/lbs respectively at 500 yds. The energy figures for the three loads at a more realistic 300yds. run 1560,1448 and 1484 ft/lbs. Not too shabby a performance when you compare the .260’s residual energy figures at 300 and 500 yds with those for the much bigger .264 Win. Mag. shooting the 140gn Core-Lokt bullet – 1682 and 1140 ft/lbs.

The aerodynamics of the .260 with a 140gn 6.5mm spitzer are very good. An effciient cartridge, it carries velocity and energy downrange quite well despite not having a great deal of either velocity or energy to start with. With that much staying power it carries a heavy enough punch just as far as most hunters have any business shooting. It looks good for goats, pigs and small to medium deer, as well as the smaller antelopes. On larger deer like red stag, it should work just fine out to 200 to 250 metres.

It’s an easy cartridge to reload for and I’ve gained the best results with medium burning powders like Re-15, AR2206H and AR2208 with the light 100 and 120 grainers, but with 130 and 140gn bullets W-760 and Re-19 produce the highest velocity – about 2900 and 2830fps. One of my best loads has the 130gn AccuBond leaving the muzzle of a 550mm barrel at 2843 fps ahead of 47gn of Re-19 and it’s still hauling freight to the tune of 2063 fps and hitting with 1229 ft/lb at 400 metres.

Remington is the only source of cases for the .260, but its easy enough to make .260 cases by necking-up .243 cases to seat 6.5 calibre bullets.

The Tikka T3 has enjoyed great success in Australia.

The Tikka T3 bolt-action rifle has enjoyed great success in this country since its introduction at the turn of the century. After the Sako factory started building it, the Tikka has been outselling the more expensive Sako rifles, which was not unexpected.

The Sako 85 series are fine high-quality rifles, but they cost a lot more than the T3s, without offering much more in features or accuracy. The Tikka T3 fulfills the needs of the majority of hunters who are more interested in a rifle that’s easy to carry in the field, functions reliably and shoots straight. The sound design and workmanship of the T3 satisfies their needs as well as any of the more expensive rifles made today in America or Europe.

Overall, the Tikka T3 Hunter is a tough, accurate, go-anywhere hunting rifle that in its T3 Lite guise is light enough to carry into the most rugged hunting country. And it is not only affordable, but pleasant to carry as well as to shoot.

While it may not equal a Sako in quality, it is well-built and equipped with a better trigger than most of the other economy-class rifles in its price range.

Tikka T3 Hunter
Manufacturer: Sako Ltd., Riihimaki, Finland
Calibre: .260 Rem., (tested) 21 others from .204 Ruger through .338 Win. Mag.
Action type: turnbolt-action centrefire rifle
Receiver: chrome-moly or 400 series stainless steel
Barrel: hammer-forged 570mm blued steel fluted
Rifling: six grooves, 1:9” RH twist
Magazine: 5-round detachable polymer box
Sights: none, drilled and tapped; action grooved for scope mount
Trigger: single-stage adjustable 1 to 1.8kg pull
Stock: walnut: length of pull, 349mm; drop at heel, 20mm, drop at comb, 15mm
Overall length: 1078mm
Weight: 2.9kgs
Likely price: $1250
Contact: Beretta Aust.Aust.
Website: www.berettaaustralia.com.au

This article was first published in the Sporting Shooter April 2014 issue.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.


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