By Bruce Potts
Friday, 27 June 2008
Tikka .308 Lite T3 rifle review: This Tikka T3 .308 conforms to the same high standards as its predecessors.
Tikka .308 Lite T3 rifle review.
This T3 comes factory threaded to accept sound moderators a great idea for the British market.
Bolt and action
Tikka T3 rifles now share one common action size. Tikka T3 rifles come as a long-action design, and the different calibres are catered for by changes to the magazine.
This gives a good strong action, but it can add unwanted weight to the rifles shooting smaller calibres. It also results in a longer than usual bolt travel. In reality it is no problem, and you hardly notice the extra travel needed on this .308 Winchester rifle.
The solid one-piece machined steel action has the characteristic Tikka integral scope rails of 17mm diameter running its full length and it is drilled and tapped if you wish to fit other bases.
I used the Opti-lok Sako/Tikka mounts in 30mm, as these have a polymer insert that does not mark your expensive scope's tube, in this case a smart 1.1-4x24 Kahles.
There is a long bridge section to the action top, with only a narrow ejection port to the right side. This gives good strength to the design and keeps out any muck that permeates firearms after stalking in bad weather.
The bolt is long and has forward-mounted semi-coned twin locking lugs that track smoothly in the action rails another - Tikka trait that has not changed.
There is an extractor claw sited in the bolt's right face and a plunger-type ejector to provide positive reliable case ejection. The bolt lift is very shallow, allowing a fast, effortless operation.
The tear-drop bolt handle is nicely shaped and has been hollowed out to save a little more weight. A plastic bolt shroud covers the rear of the bolt, another cost-saving item. It covers a cocking indicator which shows red when the rifle is cocked as a protrusion, it can also be felt with the thumb as another safety measure.
Magazine, trigger and safety
To accommodate all calibre sizes within the magazine and to maintain reliable feeding, Tikka uses the same sized magazine construction with a filler block at the rear, enabling the different cartridge lengths to work.
The magazine, of an all-polymer construction, is strong, light and waterproof, but may not be to everybody's taste. In the .308, there is a single column feed which holds three rounds and almost sits flush with the bottom of the action. A five-shot version is available as an option, but this protrudes to the trigger-guard level.
The magazine release is better sited, being at the front of the magazine well, instead of on the side (which it was on older models). This is also plastic, but it pops out the magazine under tension without dumping it in the mud.
I have found triggers on Tikkas to be good and the T3 has a single-stage adjustable unit. Trigger pull was a no-nonsense adjustable 4lb, though access to the adjustment Allen screw requires taking the stock off.
The trigger-blade is slim, grooved and quite straight, which I like. There is enough space between it and the trigger-guard to allow the wearing of a glove. Sited to the right of the bolt shroud and in easy grasp of the shooting hand is the safety catch. This is a simple toggle unit, grooved for grip which is both positive and almost silent in operation; forward for fire and rearward for safe. When applied, it locks both the bolt operation and trigger.
Barrel and moderators
The finish of the metal parts is a subdued satin stainless steel for the action and barrel with the plastic trigger moulded in black. This is hard-wearing enough for most stalking conditions and non-reflective so as not to cause any unwanted reflections to spook the deer.
The barrel has a slim sporter contour of 20in and in the test rifle of .308 calibre had a rifling twist rate of 1 in 11in, enabling it to stabilise all but the very heaviest bullets.
The cold hammer-forged construction is concentric and the barrel is fully free-floating as far back as the section of the barrel profile that starts to taper. This is good for accuracy, but better still is the threaded barrel. Having a muzzle threaded at the factory for sound moderator use takes away all the hassle of having to get the rifle re-cut in the UK so the stalker can fit a moderator straight out of the box.
Well done, Tikka, for giving shooters what they want. We are used to ½UNF and 5/8 threads in Britain, but Tikka uses the metric thread sizes of 14/1 and 18/1 depending on barrel diameter. This sporter barrel had a 14/1 thread so I fitted a PES 38mm muzzle-can moderator during testing.
Choice of stock
Tikka T3 rifles can be bought with a walnut, laminate or synthetic stock, to cater for all situations. The stainless steel version has a black plastic synthetic stock with ambidextrous layout. This is called a glass-reinforced co-polymer and is indeed better than most synthetic stocks as the model is stiff enough in all the right bedding areas.
There is no cheek-piece, though the straight comb is sufficiently high and there is a good thick black rubber recoil pad that can have spacers inserted to increase the length of pull from 13.5in to suit preferences.
Sling-swivels are fitted as standard. The pistol grip and the fore-end have a grooved upper edge, with three patterned panels moulded to the grip. Though the stock is reasonably stiff, the hollowed-out sections and moulded nature of the stock design still feels a little too synthetic. However, it did not affect accuracy in the field test.
I went to town on the test regime and had the Tikka digest a varied selection of reloads and factory ammunition with bullet weights ranging from 110-grain to 180-grain. If you can use a .308 as a fox gun as well as a deer rifle, then the Hornady 110-grain V-Max bullet is superb.
A load of 43.5 grains RL 10X sped this bullet over the chronograph at 2,940fps, while a reduced load of 23 grains SR4759 powder gave the same V-Max a velocity of 2,120fps.
Deer loads started with 125-grain ballistic tips and 42 grains RL15 powder, but the best accuracy was with the 150-grain bullet weight class.
Using either a Sierra Game King or Nosler Ballistic Tip with 45 grains of VIT N140 yielded 2,676fps and 2,613fps respectively. The accuracy was consistently below the inch mark at 100 yards and this was drastically improved when the PES moderator was fitted, cutting group sizes by a third.
I have seen this before with moderators - they can harmonise or dampen the barrel vibrations, increasing accuracy, which translated well with the factory loads.
The Winchester 150-grain Supremes shot an average of 2,707fps with inch groups, while the RWS 150-grain bullets shot 2,737fps and grouped three shots into 0.75in. The 180-grain bullet weights (again RWS), actually 181-grain H Mantels, shot 2,484fps velocity, close to the Scottish legal velocity limit from this 20in barrel.
For a standard factory gun without any tuning, this is very good performance and is what most Tikka owners expect from their rifles. This is the reason that today the T3 Tikka is one of the best-selling factory rifles and certainly offers great value for money in my eyes.
The bolt is beautifully smooth, the threaded barrel a great asset and has accuracy superior to most comparably priced rifles.
The stock is a little hollow-feeling, but there are aftermarket versions that would cure this. For what you pay, you get a great, versatile no-nonsense stalking rifle.
It is good to see Tikka is still producing quality rifles however, I am still waiting for its first thumbhole stocked version.
Don't miss this week's Shooting Times (on sale Wednesday 5th March)! Mat Manning offers advice on how to keep garden practice sessions safe and satisfying for young airgunners! Lewis Potter tests Boxall & Edmiston's new 20-bore! Buy your copy today!