Bruce Potts tries a competitively priced rifle package and finds the Tikka T3 Lite combo rifle to be reliable and accurate
There is no doubt that the Tikka T3 Lite combo rifle offers the vermin hunter and deerstalker a rifle that is both good value for money and certain to shoot accurately straight from the box. Pound for pound, the T3 is a great rifle.
It’s not without its faults: the plastic parts may be practical, but they are not aesthetically pleasing and synthetic stocks are not to everyone’s taste.
However, I have owned a Tikka LSA 55 in .308 Win since I was 17 years old, so I have a soft spot for this Finnish rifle maker.
The T3 is available as a package complete with Burris Four X 3-12×56 illuminated reticule and Optilock scope mounts, all for a price of £1,200.
This package is only available in .243 or .308 and with the Tikka T3 in a blued synthetic stock version.
Tikka rifles always have smooth actions, which I like. These days, all the different cartridge lengths are accommodated in one length of action, while the magazine feed is altered for each one to allow correct cartridge feeding.
Essentially, Tikkas now have a long action, so smaller calibre cartridges need a longer bolt throw.
However, on the .243 Win model on test, it wasn’t noticeable and, more importantly, it has a solid one-piece machined steel action.
This Tikka T3 Lite combo rifle has a matt-blued finish eminently suited for sporting use.
Tikka’s scope rails of 17mm diameter run the full length, though it is drilled and tapped so that you could also use Weaver, Ziegler or Apel swing-off mounts if you wished.
The T3 action is good and strong, largely due to the smaller ejection port, so there is more metal in the action walls and top.
The bolt design has changed little over the years, with a conventional twin locking lug arrangement, semi-coned in profile, with a single extractor claw and a plunger-type ejector to provide positive, reliable case manipulation.
The low bolt lift allows for a scope with a large eyepiece, but the plastic rear bolt shroud is not as nice as a metal one.
The cocking indicator, which shows a red protrusion when the rifle is cocked, is a good idea.
The the Tikka T3 Lite combo rifle sports a black plastic stock that has an ambidextrous construction.
I am in two minds about Tikka stocks: synthetic stocks are great for stalking, when you can encounter bad weather or scratch the stock, but some are very “plasticky”.
Tikka stocks are of that sort.
Their handling is good, but they feel hollow and, though the Tikka stock is reinforced and bedded in all the right load-bearing areas, I prefer something more solid.
The comb is quite straight and it is sufficiently high for good scope use.
This is just as well, as there is no cheekpiece.
There is the option to increase the length of pull from the standard 13.5in by inserting plastic spacers in front of the black rubber recoil pad.
The fore-end has a semi-fluted top section with three chequered/moulded patterns for grip.
The pistol grip also sports the patterns, which only increases the plastic feel of the rifle.
You could fit a Robinson or McMillan stock, which would greatly enhance the feel of any T3, but that would come at an additional cost.
I would also like to see a rifle with a thumbhole stock for the the Tikka T3 range.
TRIGGER, MAGAZINE AND SAFETY
Tikka triggers are pretty good — certainly better than on many American rifles.
The T3 has a single-stage adjustable unit.
The test model had a 4.35lb pull, but this can be tweaked, though access to the adjustment Allen screw requires you to remove the stock.
The trigger-blade is slim and quite straight, which, though not to everybody’s taste, I don’t mind. Tikka uses the same size magazine for all cartridge sizes.
A filler block in the magazine allows the use of all the calibre lengths.
The system works very well. Polymer is also used in the construction of the magazine, which makes sense, as it is light and waterproof.
It is a single column feed and, in the .243 calibre, holds three rounds, sitting almost flush to the bottom of the action.
A five-shot version is available, but it protrudes to trigger-guard level.
To drop the magazine, press the release at the front of the well and it pops out into your hand nicely.
The safety is the standard Tikka type, which is a toggle unit.
Forward, it is ready to fire, and pushed to the rear the rifle is made safe, locking both the bolt operation and trigger.
ACCURACY AND TARGETS
There were no surprises here: the Tikka was accurate straight from the box. Factory ammunition such as the Winchester 95-gr Silver Ballistic and Norma 58-gr V-Max all grouped three shots at 1in to 1.25in at 100 yards.
The 100-gr bullets were all 1.5in, so the T3 seemed to perform better with the lighter bullet weights.
With this in mind, I loaded some 80-gr Nosler Ballistic Tips with 38 grains of Vit N140 powder, which achieved 3,118fps and a deer legal (just) force of 1,727ft/lb in England and Wales.
Accuracy was good at 0.95in for three shots.
Upping the bullet weight to 85-gr and a change of powder to H4350 and 45.5 grains, the Sierra Soft Point bullet shot an average of 3,055fps and 1,761ft/lb.
Again, accuracy was very good at 1in. The best 100-gr load was Hornady’s SST bullet with 42.25 grains of Reloder RL17 powder for 2,794fps and 1,734ft/lb — not quite deer legal in Scotland.
Another 0.5 grains more powder would improve this, as the case pressure was fine, though accuracy was better with the lighter load.
This illustrates that the 20in barrel length on a .243 Win is as short as you want to go with regard to velocity and energy figures.
BARREL AND SIGHTS
The barrel has a slim Sporter contour of 20in. The cold-hammer-forged construction is fully free-floating.
The finish is as the action, a subdued matt-blue which is perfect for stalking exploits.
Tikka uses the metric thread pitch of 14/1 to fit a sound moderator.
The Burris scope has a four-power zoom range, and its large 56mm objective lens, combined with the Hi Lume lens coatings, is nice and crisp and good value for money.
The Optilock rings and bases are probably the best factory-fit mounts in the business and keep everything solidly secured to the rifle for zero shift.
This package saves £400 (RRP: T3 £885; Burris £580; Optilocks £135).
Tikka rifles are renowned for their longevity, reliability and accuracy.
If you don’t like the plastic stock, you can get a wooden one fitted.
From personal experience, a Tikka always shoots accurately, regardless of the weather.
Combining all the items that you need to complete a stalking rifle purchase, and with the barrel threaded, this firearm is ready to use.
A lot of manufacturers are offering rifle/scope combinations, but this T3/Burris is one of the best of those offers.