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Rugged versus Refined:
The Weatherby Vanguard and Tikka T3

By Jon Y. Wolfe


Tikka T3
Illustration courtesy of SAKO Ltd.

This article will compare and contrast the Weatherby Vanguard synthetic, and the Tikka T3 Lite synthetic. I chose to compare and contrast these two rifles because both are fine hunting rifles, they have a similar market price, an out of the box accuracy guarantee, similar cartridge options, and are entry level offerings from two respected firearms companies. Howa of Japan manufactures the Weatherby Vanguard action, and Tikka is a subsidiary of Sako of Finland.

I hope the title is not misleading, as I believe both rifles have many desirable qualities that represent both ruggedness and refinement. These terms do, however, express in a general sense my overall impression of these two rifles.

Vanguard Synthetic
Illustration courtesy of Weatherby, Inc.

Bear in mind that the Vanguard was designed to be a standard weight rifle and the T3 was designed to be a lightweight rifle. The following table provides a basis for the overall comparison.

 

Weatherby Vanguard

Tikka T3 Lite

Calibers

.223 Rem, .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, .257 Wby, .270 Win, .308 Win, .30-06, 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag, .300 WSM, .300 Wby, .338 Win Mag

.223 Rem, .22-250, .243 Win, .308 Win, .25-06, .270 Win, .30-06, .270 WSM, .300 WSM, 7mm Rem Mag, .300 Win Mag, .338 Win Mag

Stock

Butler Creek injection molded composite with cheekpiece and raised checkering

Glass fiber reinforced copolymer with no cheek piece and smooth checkering

Recoil Pad

Thick Pachmayr Pad

Soft rubber with molded polymer reinforcement

Magazine

Hinged steel floor plate with 4 round capacity (standard calibers)

Detachable polymer magazine with 4 round capacity (standard calibers)

Enclosed bolt sleeve

Yes

Yes

Cocking indicator

Yes

Yes

One piece forged bolt

Yes

No

Fluted Bolt

Yes

No

Stainless steel bolt

No

Yes

Bolt lift

90 degrees

75 degrees

Receiver

Machined from forged steel w/ integral recoil lug

Machined from bar stock

Barrel

24 inch cold hammer forged

22 7/16 inch cold hammer forged

Trigger

Adjustable 3-6 lbs.

Adjustable 2-4 lbs.

Trigger Guard

Combination steel and lightweight alloy

Polymer

Safety

Two position-locks bolt

Two position-locks bolt

Weight unloaded

7.75 lbs

6.75 lbs

As can be seen from the above chart, these rifles differ in many ways. In addition to the above items, there are a few issues that should be addressed.

Out of the box, the trigger mechanism on the Weatherby Vanguard did not meet my satisfaction, but thanks to Weatherby it was an easy fix. When I received my rifle, the lowest I could adjust it was 4.5 lbs, and when I tried to remove the creep, I was unable to find a satisfactory setting that didn't disable the safety.

I called Weatherby and they instructed me to send it to one of their certified service centers. I chose a local service center and they told me many of the springs in the Vanguard rifles were too heavy, and they had seen a fair share of triggers that would not go below 4 lbs. They claimed this was because the vendor for the springs used on the Vanguard line had supplied Weatherby with a batch of heavy springs, and that Weatherby did not catch the problem before assembling the rifles.

The service was excellent and I had my rifle back in a week. My trigger is now set at a clean crisp 3 1/4 pounds, and creep is nearly absent.

The trigger on the Tikka was crisp and a clean 3 pounds out of the box. It is as easy to adjust as the Vanguard, and the adjustments seem more precise. Please note that Weatherby stands behind all repair work done at their authorized service centers, and I couldn't be more pleased with the privately owned shop that repaired mine. I believe Weatherby has a great concept in letting you choose from a list of authorized service centers. I believe that all warranty work for Tikka goes to Beretta, USA.

The bolt on the Tikka is extremely smooth and the 75 degree lift is easier to cycle than the 90 degree on the Weatherby. However, the Vanguard has a heavy duty one-piece forged bolt, while the Tikka is stainless steel and not one-piece, but it is machined very precisely. The Weatherby is fluted with three gas escape ports and a fully enclosed bolt shroud. In the event of a ruptured case or other emergency, the Vanguard action handles escaping gas extremely well. The added strength and safety features may be more desirable features for those who reload.

The ejection opening is large on the Weatherby, so it is easy to single load cartridges at the range or in the field in an emergency. The ejection port on the Tikka is small and cartridges should be loaded through the magazine, even for single shots, a slower process.

Tikka T3s come with a set of combination scope bases and rings that will accommodate a scope with up to a 42 mm objective bell diameter. The Weatherby is drilled and tapped for conventional scope bases and will accept rings of any height, but they must be purchased separately. No scope base or rings are supplied.

The barrel on the Tikka is free floated, while the Weatherby's barrel is firmly bedded. The latter system allows tighter inletting, but the former is cheaper to produce. Both have a good reputation for accuracy, which is guaranteed. The Weatherby comes with a target demonstrating a 100 yard, three shot group from the rifle, fired from a cold barrel.

The raised checkering on the Weatherby, executed in a typical point pattern, ensures a solid non-slip feel. The Tikka's checkering is slightly smooth and is divided into several small patches, but it's ergonomic.

As one might imagine, both rifles performed well at the range. The Tikka is chambered for .308 Win. and the Weatherby for .270 Win. This particular Tikka seemed to shoot somewhat more consistent groups. That could change with different calibers, brands of ammunition, and bullet weights.

I would say both rifles shoot very well. I've only had one rifle that would place three consecutive bullets on top of one another from three consecutive shots. That rifle was glass bedded and cost 3 times as much.

Overall, the Weatherby is a very rugged design that incorporates many heavy duty features into its bolt, receiver, trigger guard, and the recessed bolt face encloses the case with three rings of steel. The Weatherby feels solid, weighs more, and has a raised cheek piece, fluted one-piece bolt and a good trigger.

The Tikka has an extremely smooth bolt, well designed stock, crisp trigger than will safely go to a pull weight of 2 pounds, and weighs a pound less. The longer barrel on the Weatherby should provide greater velocity using the same calibers, and even though the 22 7/16 barrel on the Tikka is adequate, I'm a fan of 24 inch barrels on standard calibers and 26 for magnums.

Those who load to the maximum pressure should appreciate the additional 1 1/2 inches provided on the Weatherby, as muzzle blast is reduced and velocity increased. The Weatherby kicks less, cartridge and load being the same, as it is heavier. Also, the Weatherby stock design seems to push recoil down and away from the shooter's face, which reduces the subjective effect of recoil.

Both are hunting rifles, and both should satisfy even the most demanding hunters. As is the case in any product selection, you must pick the product that has the function, form, and features that you most desire.

Note: Individual, full length reviews of the Tikka T3 and Weatherby Vanguard rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.




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Copyright 2004, 2012 by Jon Y. Wolfe. All rights reserved.


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