Tikka Whitetail Hunter Rifle

By Jon Y. Wolfe

I believe that the Tikka Whitetail Hunter and the new T3 are fine guns. They are economically priced, have guaranteed out of the box accuracy (sub MOA at 100 Yards), a user adjustable trigger, and a stainless steel bolt. The latter uses two front locking lugs, a plunger type ejector, and is silky smooth in operation. I do not have a bias for any gun manufacturer or brand, but my bias is heavily weighted towards value.

The things I appreciate most in any hunting rifle are accuracy, an excellent adjustable trigger mechanism, and a quiet and easy to use safety. I have several beautiful, high-priced rifles with gloss wood finishes, deeply blued metal, engraving, and other frills. But as a hunter I prefer durability and functionality to beauty, and I typically carry a synthetic rifle in the field.

I believe that a good synthetic stock should be ergonomic, durable, resistant to extreme heat and cold, and have an adjustable length of pull. I do not like all synthetic stocks, and there are many that are just plain awful. Ruger and Remington have the worst of the bunch, with Steyr, Sako, and the Tikka T3, in my view, having the best. Browning also makes a decent synthetic stock, but I've never owned one.

About two months ago, a major sporting goods store in my area was discounting last year's inventory and I ran across a Tikka Whitetail Hunter in a 300 Win. Mag. I don't really have a use for a 300 Win. Mag., but I enjoy shooting different rifles and this was my first Tikka, so I went for it. The price was $429. It was originally $529, and the 25th edition of the Gun Trader's Guide shows a new in box price of $619 plus $40 for magnum calibers.

I chose the Tikka Whitetail Hunter because of its adjustable trigger, guaranteed accuracy, smooth operation, very nice two position safety and value. I was excited about my purchase and within a week I had it scoped and bore sighted.

I attempted to use the Tikka medium rings, but the 44 mm objective on the Simmons Aetec 3.8-12x scope was just a bit too large. I ended up with a Leupold base and medium rings. This was the perfect set-up as the front objective was 2 mm from the barrel.

The weight of this rifle was 7.5 pounds bare and unloaded, and 8.5 pounds with base, rings and scope. I did some recoil calculations, and determined that 29 ft. lbs. was too much, so I added some weight to the rifle by melting lead fishing weights and pouring lead into the front and rear of the stock a little at a time.

The black synthetic stock has several cavities, which makes this easy to do. The front has approximately five cavities much like the hull of a ship. The rear has a removable plate under the pistol grip, which will hold about 1 pound of lead. The heat of the lead softens the stock enough so that the lead is securely bonded to the stock. The final weigh unloaded is 10.3 pounds. This brought the recoil down to a more reasonable level, about 23 ft. lbs.

This gun has 24.4 inch hammer forged blued barrel, which is free floated. The box magazine is removable. The trigger is user adjustable from 2-4 pounds. I'm not a big fan of the Whitetail Hunter's synthetic stock; the new T3 synthetic stock is much better.

At the range I shot 165 grain Hornady Interlock BTSP bullets at a MV of 3100 fps. Recoil was substantial, but tolerable enough to shoot three 5-shot groups at 100 yards. I never achieved a one inch group, but I've not yet adapted to the heavy recoil, and the error is probably mine. The average group was about 2 inches. I had no fliers, and the trigger, set at 2.5 lbs., functioned perfectly.

To me this rifle represents an exceptional value. The Winchester M70 Black Shadow, Ruger M77 Mark II All Weather, Remington 700 ADL Synthetic, Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic, and Savage 114 are all good rifles, but when you compare the accuracy, trigger, bolt design, and stock, I prefer the Tikka Whitetail Hunter. All of these rifles are in the same general price range, based on online prices and the prices at the retail establishments in my area.

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Copyright 2004, 2006 by Jon Y. Wolfe. All rights reserved.