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Tikkas’s T3 Tactical Is Also A Great Varmint Rifle

January 3rd, 2011 3

Engineered for the demanding tasks of law-enforcement professionals, this variation of Tikka’s T3 rifle has everything the varmint hunter needs.


It’s funny how different people see the same things differently. Several other writers and I got our first hands-on look at the new Tikka T3 Tactical rifle at a Primedia editorial roundtable. I am sure the image of a S.W.A.T. team member dressed in black flashed instantly across the minds of the others as we examined the rifle, but that’s not what I saw.

The vividly clear picture depicted by my mind’s eye showed me sitting in the middle of a South Dakota prairie dog town with the T3 Tactical by my side as a conveyor belt running from me to the nearby Black Hills ammunition factory fed a steady stream of .223 cartridges to my position. (In fact, I used it for a lot of my varmint shooting last year, and it worked beautifully.) More about this incredibly accurate rifle later, but first here’s a tidbit of history.

The Tikka bolt-action rifle in its present form was introduced to American hunters in 1988 by Stoeger, which at the time was owned by Sako. (Both companies are now owned by Beretta of Italy, and Sako and Tikka riffles are distributed in the U.S. through Beretta USA, Dept. ST, 17601 Beretta Dr.; Accokeek, MD 20607; 800-636-3420; www.berretausa.com). Before then, about the only Americans who had ever heard of Oy Tikkakoski Ab (Tikka, for short) were the few who had bought that company’s break-action, over-under combination gun with one barrel in 12 gauge and the other in .222 Remington.


SPECS
Tikka T3 Tactical
Distributor: Beretta USA
Model: T3 Tactical
Operation: Bolt-action repeater
Caliber: .223 Remington (.308 Win. also available)
Barrel Length: 20 inches
Overall Length: 40.25 inches
Weight, empty 8.50 pounds
Safety: Two position
Sights: None; receiver has Pictatinny-style rail
Stock: Synthetic
Magazine Capacity: 6 rounds (.223)
Finish: Matte blue steel, black stock
Length of Pull: 13.75 inches
Price: $1440

First imported during the 1960s by Sullivan Arms of Indianapolis, Indiana, it represented a lot of gun for its $234.50 price tag. The Tikka combo gun is no longer available in the U.S., but the company does have all the bolt-action bases covered quite well, and this includes varmint rifles.

Several years ago a moose-hunting friend of mine, who is also an engineer at the Sako factory in Finland (where Tikka rifles are built), asked me to describe the ideal rifle to be used for precision shooting at long range. Now, I am not naive enough to believe he hung on my every word, but I am happy to say that a number of the design details I suggested have since appeared on several Sako and Tikka rifles, including the T3 Tactical.

Has The Right Stuff
One of the items on my priority list was a height-adjustable comb on the stock. Due to the extremely large objective diameters of some of today’s tactical and varmint scopes, the scopes have to be mounted quite high above the receiver.

The Burris 6-24X Black Diamond with its 30mm tube and 50mm objective worn by my T3 Tactical is a good example. It is a wonderful scope, and its optical quality will leave you breathless, but when it is mounted on some rifles, the shooter is forced to lift his cheek off the comb of the stock in order to look into the exit pupil of the scope. Needless to say, this is not conducive to accurate shooting and less than comfortable to boot.


Having the option of raising and lowering the height of the comb allows each shooter to adjust the rifle for his own style of shooting and to the particular scope he will be using. The Tactical version of the Tikka rifle allows the shooter to do just that, and the adjustable comb is reversible for left- or right-handed shooters.


The height-adjustable comb of the Tikka T3 Tactical’s stock can be switched to the other side for a left-handed shooter.

When mounting a scope on a varmint or target rifle, it is nice to have plenty of to-and-fro latitude so the scope can be positioned for optimal eye relief. In this respect, the adjustment range of the common receiver-attached scope mount can be quite limited on some rifle/scope combinations. I consider the Picatinny-style rail to be the proper solution to this problem, and I am happy to say the
Tactical comes from the factory wearing exactly that atop its receiver.

The receivers of all other Tikka T3 rifles, except for the new Super Varmint, are grooved for scope mounting, and rings are included in the package. (The Super Varmint features a Picatinny-style rail much like the T3 Tactical.) My T3 Tactical was one of the first built, and because someone at the factory forgot to include rings, I used a pair from Warne for attaching the Burris scope.

Stock length is also important on a long-range rifle, and it is impossible to satisfy everyone with a nonadjustable stock. Some shooters prefer a short length of pull when shooting from the prone position and a longer pull when shooting from a benchrest. The optional spacers available for the T3 Tactical stock is a perfect solution to this age-old problem; you simply add spacers to make the stock longer and remove them to make it shorter.

When working hard to control the prairie dog population, I often shoot a rifle as a single shot, even if it has a magazine. Another brand of rifle I tried during the summer of 2005 would not feed reliably if I placed a cartridge through its ejection port and atop the magazine follower and tried to close the bolt. To avoid a jam, I had to carefully start a cartridge into the chamber. Not so with the T3 Tactical. I can simply throw a cartridge into its ejection port and be concerned about nothing except making sure I have the bullet end of the cartridge pointed forward.


The T3 Tactical has an extra-capacity magazine and comes with a Picatinny-type scope-mounting rail on its receiver.

During my first varmint shoot with the rifle I found myself checking the chamber on several occasions after closing the bolt on a round because I thought maybe it had somehow dropped out of the rifle. That’s how slick the action was when feeding a manually loaded cartridge, and it was just as smooth when cartridges were fed from its detachable magazine. Effortless feeding from the magazine is due to the fact that it is of single-column design. That type of magazine has always had a reputation for giving up cartridges more smoothly than rifles with the Mauser-type, staggered-column magazine, and the Tikka rifle is proof enough of just how true this is.


The optional muzzle brake is not actually needed with the .223, but it is a nice feature on the .308 version.

I also like the stock of a varmint rifle to have a beavertail-style forearm. The extra width along with a flat surface at the bottom stabilizes the rifle by eliminating rocking and canting when shooting over sandbags. The forearm of the fiberglass-reinforced polymer stock of the Tactical is almost 21/4 inches wide at the rear and tapers to two inches at the front. The stock has quick-detach sling swivel posts.

The T3 Tactical rifle has a 20-inch-long heavy barrel. And the barreled action of the Tactical is blued. The Tactical I have been shooting has the optional muzzle brake, and while it is not actually needed on a rifle in .223 Remington, it is not a bad idea on a .308. Beyond that, its appearance most certainly gets plenty of attention at the gun club. A threaded cap included with the rifle screws on the muzzle of the barrel to protect its threads if the brake is not used.

On all Tikka rifles, a two-position safety tab on the right-hand side of the receiver tang locks the bolt from rotation when engaged. When the firing pin is cocked, an indicator replete with red dot is in view behind the bolt shroud. The bolt release is located on the left-hand side of the receiver.

I have worked with several T3s during the past few years, and each had a very good trigger. Trigger pull weight of the Tactical I have been shooting is three pounds with an incredibly low pull-to-pull variation of only one ounce. It has no detectable creep, and the bit of overtravel it has goes virtually unnoticed due to the smoothness of the trigger. Its quality also makes the trigger feel much lighter than it actually is.


The T3 rifle has a cocked firing pin indicator, and its two-position safety blocks bolt rotation when engaged.

Other Tikka varmint rifles are also available. The T3 Varmint and T3 Varmint Stainless are the same except for their metal types. Their synthetic stocks are quite similar in shape to that worn by the Tactical, but they do not have the height-adjustable comb, nor do they have the Picatinny rail on their receivers.


The new T3 Super Varmint has a 23.5-inch barrel, extra-capacity magazine, synthetic stock with height-adjustable comb, Picatinny rail, and stainless-steel barreled action.

They have heavy 23.5-inch barrels and are available in .223 Remington, .22-250, and .308 Winchester. The newest varmint rifle from Tikka is the T3 Super Varmint, which is almost identical to the T3 Tactical (including the Picatinny-style rail and adjustable stock comb) except that its barreled action is stainless steel and its barrel is 23.5 inches long. It is available in .223 Remington, .22-250, and .308 Winchester.

Is Capable Of Sub-MOA Accuracy
Sub-minute-of-angle accuracy was another thing on the list of priorities I sent to my friend at the Tikka factory, and I can say for certain the Tactical most certainly qualifies in that department as well. And it will do it with both factory ammunition and handloads. During my accuracy tests I kept things simple and easy by shooting bullets made by Hornady and ammunition made by Winchester. When handloading the various weights of Hornady V-Max bullets I seated them .010 inch off the lands, which put them at an overall cartridge length of 2.260 inches. This was absolutely the longest cartridge length the magazine of the rifle would accept.


.223 Remington Tikka T3 Tactical Accuracy
Bullet Powder Muzzle Velocity (fps) 100-yard Accuracy (inches)
(Type) (Grs.)
Hornady 40-gr. V-Max Benchmark 27.0 3479 1.18
Hornady 50-gr. SX Benchmark 26.5 3288 0.72
Hornady 50-gr. V-Max Benchmark 26.5 3310 0.45
Hornady 55-gr. SX Benchmark 25.5 3143 0.53
Hornady 55-gr. V-Max Benchmark 25.5 3154 1.07
Winchester 40-gr. Ballistic Silvertip Factory Load 3512 1.27
Winchester 50-gr. Ballistic Silvertip Factory Load 3316 0.61
Winchester 55-gr. Ballistic Silvertip Factory Load 3111 0.52
Winchester 64-gr. Power-Point Factory Load 2960 1.44
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of three five-shot groups fired at 100 yards. Velocity is the average of 15 rounds measured 12 feet from the gun’s muzzle. Winchester cases and Federal GM205M primers were used in all handloads. A Burris 6-24X Black Diamond scope was installed for gathering the accuracy data. These loads were safe in the test rifle, but handloaders should reduce all powder charges by 10 percent for starting loads in other rifles.

First chance you get, try a Tikka T3. You’ll be surprised at how much rifle you can get for your money.

NOTE: All load data should be used with caution. Always start with reduced loads first and make sure they are safe in each of your guns before proceeding to the high test loads listed. Since Shooting Times has no control over your choice of components, guns, or actual loadings, neither Shooting Times nor the various firearms and components manufacturers assume any responsibility for the use of this data.

  • Simon

    Great write up. I am about to get the Super Varmint in 7mm Rem Mag. I don't know what the options are like for US customers but here in aus we have heaps of caliber choices for the Super Varmint. The Tactical only has .223,.308 & .300WM. Also the muzzle brake is upside down in that pic, you would get more muzzle jump like that.

  • Nath

    Great Write Up. I Have the T3 in .223 Varmint Blued 1 in 12 twist rate
    Its a beautiful rifle and i can vouch for everything you have said about the T3's. my mate has the T3 in 22-250 as well.
    I'm in Australia too.
    The bolt and receiver are beautifully machined and i would have to say the bolt slides like silk. Honestly the smoothest bolt i have used. it can chamber a cartridge basically just by tilting the rifle forward.
    Highly recommend this rifle.
    Agree with the muzzle brake is upside down in the pic.
    3 downfalls for this rifle is the Bolt rear plastic shroud and the trigger guard/magazine are plastic. but there is a upgrade available on these parts.
    Happy,Safe shooting

  • Mike

    I hope you know by now that the muzzle brake on this gun was installed upside down, lol!

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