Let's Talk Tikka: T3 and Whitetail Hunter Rifles

By Jon Y. Wolfe

Tikka T3
Illustration courtesy of SAKO Ltd.

Tikka rifles are manufactured by Sako of Finland and distributed by Beretta, USA. One of the most influential features offered by both the T3 and Whitetail Hunter bolt action rifles is an out of the box accuracy guarantee of MOA groups at 100 yards. Combine this with a 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.

Tikka T3

There are several versions of the T3. There is the Hunter, Lite, Lite Stainless, Laminated Stainless, Varmint Stainless, and the special order Battue. All use a push feed action with a closed-top receiver machined from bar stock. The T3 bolt has a recessed face, two front locking lugs, plunger type ejector, and a shorter than normal 75 degree lift.

The T3 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.

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, 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. 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 came with Tikka medium rings, swivel studs and swivels. The Tikka rings are very easy to set-up, and as long as the scope's objective is less than 42 mm the supplied 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 T3 features that I really appreciate most are the user adjustable trigger (pre-set at the factory at about 2.5 lbs.), 75 degree bolt lift, easy to use two position safety, and the written accuracy guarantee.

Tikka Whitetial Hunter

A major sporting goods store in my area was discounting old inventory and I ran across a blued/synthetic Tikka Whitetail Hunter in .300 Win. Mag. I enjoy shooting different rifles, so I went for it.

I bought 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 supplied 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.

I'm not a big fan of the Whitetail Hunter's synthetic stock; the new T3 synthetic stock is much better. 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.

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 (set at 2.5 pounds at the factory). The weight of this rifle was 7.5 pounds bare and unloaded, and 8.5 pounds with base, rings and scope. So far the Whitetail Hunter has yet to meet its MOA accuracy guarantee, but the .300 Mag. kicks hard and the error is probably mine.

To me this rifle represents an exceptional value. The Ruger M77 Mark II All Weather, Remington 700 Synthetic, Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic, and Savage 114 are all good rifles, but 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.

Summary

I believe that the Tikka Whitetail Hunter and the new T3 are fine guns, and they are economically priced. I do not have a bias for any gun manufacturer or brand, but my bias is heavily weighted towards value.

Note: Complete individual reviews of the Tikka T3 Lite and the Tikka Whitetail Hunter rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.




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



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