The ultra-smooth bolt action and accuracy of the Tikka M65A belies its potential as a sniper rifle
I have covered the Tikka M65 before, but the Tikka M65A is a completely different beast, despite only a single letter addition to its name. Introduced by the Tikkakoski arms manufacturer of Finland in 1988, the Tikka M65A model was a radical departure from the firm’s usual sporting and biathlon-styled rifles. Yes, it was originally designed as a potential sniper rifle for the police and military, but it has been used for long-range varminting and even stalking.
The Tikka M65A was only produced in 7.62 NATO cartridge, so .308 Win shoots fine. Every rifle was made using specially selected parts for the best potential accuracy, and the M65A had some interesting design features, particularly on the bolt and action. It looks ungainly, but it is incredibly comfortable to shoot and superbly accurate. It is difficult to find now, because it had a short production run, due to high costs.
The barrel and action are one reason the Tikka M65A shoots so well. The barrels are 24in long with a heavy varmint profile for rigidity. The rifling pitch is 1-in-12 twist rate for the NATO rounds and are selected for internal uniformity. The barrel is also free-floated.
The action is all steel, with a flat bottom. Instead of directly sitting into the stock, as on conventional rifles, the Tikka M65A uses a separate aluminium chassis system, which the action sits in. This provides a large, flat surface area for the stock to attach to and also allows the entire barrel to float free — this all adds up to better accuracy in any climatic conditions. The action is also impressive.
This model Tikka uses the patented synthetic bush made of polyarylamid that the rear of the bolt rides in. This sits in the action. As the bolt is operated, it glides with silky smoothness. This is also aided by Tikka’s larger than normal bolt knob of plastic, which gives a good hold. It doesn’t stop here, as the trigger is a two-stage marvel. The first stage is smooth and the second stage is adjustable, from 800g to 3kg, and breaks like glass. The trigger blade, too, can be repositioned for a perfect feel by a small adjusting Allen screw.
Like all Tikkas, the magazine is quickly detachable. In this case it is released smoothly by twin sprung buttons either side of the magazine and recessed into the stock. It’s a five-shot single-stack mag as used on the M55 Biathlon model but not the M65 Biathlon.
The stock is the most radical design and it’s really eye-catching. It’s made in three parts, using traditional walnut with aluminium inserts. The fore-end section is all walnut — and a nice grade, too — which is hollowed out to reduce weight. It has a bedded supporting screw section and accessory rail underneath for a bipod attachment. The second section is the pistol grip, which is walnut with a stippled finish and an embedded aluminium tube that forms the support for the butt section. This final part clamps to this tube so you can adjust length of pull. The walnut cheek-piece is separate and can also be adjusted for height, using three screws.
What to look for
I have used several Tikka M65A models over the years and all have been superbly accurate, but you do need to check a few points. Due to their modular system of manufacture, not all sections might have been the original ones and can be swapped. It’s not really a problem, but the walnut sections might not match, which is a giveaway.
Also, due to the separate cheek-piece section, it is quite thin as it sits over a metal slider, so check there are no splits due to dropping or over-tightening the securing bolts. Finally, the pistol grip can also crack if the rifle has been dropped. But apart from these points, the Tikka M65A is a true classic.
What you need to know
Barrel: Worth more if unthreaded for a sound moderator. Check the muzzle crown is undamaged
Action: Check the polyarylamid bush on the bolt is not damaged, because repair or replacement can be difficult
Features: Adjustable stock and ultra-smooth bolt action
Importer: Only available second-hand
Price: £800 or more for a complete model