Tikka T3 Lite Rifle

By Jon Y. Wolfe

Tikka T3
Illustration courtesy of SAKO Ltd.

Tikka T3 rifles, manufactured by Sako of Finland and distributed by Beretta USA, are excellent bolt action rifles with many desirable features. I believe they will appeal to the American hunter and will continue to make significant headway in the U.S. market.

One of the most influential features offered by the T3 is an out of the box accuracy guarantee of sub MOA at 100 yards. Combine this with a high quality, smooth, stainless steel bolt, single-column detachable magazine, and an adjustable single-stage trigger (2-4 lbs.), two position safety, cocking indicator, free-floating barrel, and you have yourself a reasonably priced rifle with some appealing features.

There are several versions of the T3. There is the Hunter, Lite, Lite Stainless, Laminated Stainless, Varmint Stainless, and the special order Battue.

The Hunter and Lite models are chambered for most of the popular standard and magnum calibers and also a few European calibers that can be special ordered. The barrels on the Hunter and Lite models are 22.44 inches for standard calibers, and 24.38 inches for magnum calibers. The Hunter weighs 6.63 lbs. in standard calibers, and 6.81 lbs. in magnum calibers. The Lite weighs 6.19 lbs. in standard calibers, while the magnum calibers weigh 6.38 lbs.

I believe the Battue is Tikka's version of a mountain/woods rifle. It has a shortened barrel measuring just 19.25 inches, an adjustable length of pull by use of spacers, a nice oil finished walnut stock, detachable single column magazine, two position safety, a free floating barrel, scope rails, is drilled and tapped for weaver style mounts, and comes with open fiber-optic sights. It weighs 6.81 lbs. and is available in .308, .30-06, 7x64, 9.3x62, .300 Win. Mag. and .300 WSM.

The Varmint Stainless is a heavy barrel version of the T3 with a 23.19 inch barrel, and larger capacity magazine. The standard calibers are .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .270 Win., and .308 Win. It is available in nearly all major calibers by special order.

I can best comment on the T3 Lite, as that is the T3 model that I own. I found mine in a small town gun store that had special ordered the rifle for the shop's owner. He wasn't ready to set it up, so he let me buy it and ordered another for himself. When I first picked it up, cycled the action, and brought it to my shoulder, I knew that this was a special rifle.

The T3 Lite comes with a nicely designed, fiber glass reinforced, copolymer polypropylene stock. Basically that is a fiber glass and plastic composite stock. It is a functional and ergonomic stock that has an adjustable length of pull. It is purported that it was designed by Giugiaro industrial design.

The rifle was nicely packaged and came with Tikka medium rings, swivel studs and swivels. This represents a tangible savings since bases and rings from Leupold, Weaver or Millet will cost as much as $40. The Tikka rings are very easy to set-up, and as long as the scope's objective is less than 42 mm, the medium rings work great. I also own a Tikka Whitetail Hunter, which is essentially similar to the T3, and I had to use Leupold bases and rings because my scope had a 44 mm objective.

The barrel on my gun is blued, while the receiver and scope rails are matte. The forearm is flat and suitable for resting on a branch or shooting rail, while the butt has a symmetrical straight comb design with no raised check piece. The recoil pad is thick and efficiently absorbs recoil.

The features that I really appreciate are the user adjustable trigger (pre-set at the factory at about 2.5 lbs.), the 75 degree bolt lift, smooth two lug bolt with plunger style ejector and recessed bolt face, easy to use two position safety, and the written accuracy guarantee. The T3 Lite has a MSRP of $549, but I am seeing many priced between $449 and $499 online.

At the range the Tikka performed nicely. Itís wears a 3-9 X 40 Burris Fullfield II. I only fired 10 shots at the range, 4 to sight in the zero, and then two groups of three as I had several rifles to fire that day. The first group was 1.7 inches center to center, and the second group was 1.28 inches. I allowed the barrel to cool 3 minutes after each shot. The trigger mechanism functions perfectly. I was using Nosler Partition ballistic tip bullets weighing 150 grains with a muzzle velocity of 2820 fps.

This gun will shot as accurately as I can hold the rifle with this combination, and I am confident that this rifle will see many days in the field in the coming year. The T3 has the cleanest and crispest trigger Iíve ever used. There is absolutely no creep, and the sub 3 pound break helps in the accuracy department.

During my research for this article I discovered that the T3 has a very close competitor in the Weatherby Vanguard. I found a table that provided a factual comparison of the major Synthetic rifles. I was so impressed with Weatherby comparison that I went to two gun stores in my area and gave the Vanguard a good look. I am now considering a purchase because the Vanguard has many features that I value and the 2004 MSRP is $476; one gun shop had it marked down to $350, and another for $388. I paid slightly more than that for my T3 at $469, so I think that for my next article I'll be comparing the Tikka T3 and the Weatherby Vanguard; two reasonably priced, quality rifles.

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