Accuracy and value impress Bruce Potts when he tries the Tikka T3 Super Varmint, a heavy-barrelled .222
Tikka rifles have always been a popular choice for shooters due to their accuracy. The brand offers a rifle for any eventuality due to the smooth bolt combined with a good choice of calibres.
The Tikka T3 Super Varmint model is a heavy-barrelled version of the T3 with a modified stock design and metalwork made from stainless steel. The name gives a strong clue that this rifle is designed for varmints or vermin/foxes/. However, the Tikka becomes even more versatile with the inclusion of a good choice of deer calibres or even the Winchester short Magnums. (Read a review of the Tikka T3 Win Laminate model here.)
A better stock
The stock starts life as a standard Tikka T3 Lite but with additional features. The fore-end is widened and deepened by a single moulded polymer grip. It is 1.6in wide at the front and 2.3in wide at the rear, with three raised, chequered panels that aid grip and facilitate a better fit for a bipod.
I noticed that the most obvious difference from a standard T3 is the rear additional cheekpiece, which can be raised to accommodate a better shooting position with a scope fitted. Operation is via a single, large turn knob to the right side. Loosen this and there are four distinct levels at which the cheekpiece can be set, allowing a height difference from 0in to 2in off the comb.
You can obtain a good fit by adjusting the butt-plate using plastic inserts, which can be added or removed to lengthen or shorten the length of pull. The floorplate has metal collars seated in the stock screw openings so that when the screws are tightened the stock does not over-compress and cause accuracy issues.
Action and barrel
The solid one-piece machined stainless steel action has Tikka’s characteristic integral 17mm diameter scope rails. However the Tikka T3 Super Varmint model features an additional 6.25in long one-piece Picatinny stainless steel rail. There are 15 slots, so there is plenty of scope for mounting an optical device and achieving the correct eye relief.
The bolt is long and has forward-mounted semi-conical twin locking lugs that ride smoothly in the action rails. This is a quality Tikka has always been renowened for. There is an extractor claw in the bolts right face. A positive and reliable case ejection is provided by the plungertype ejector. The bolt lift, too, is very low and this model has the addition of an enlarged plastic bolt knob standard on this model. This can also be ordered separately for any Tikka model.
Finally, there is a cocking indicator that shows a red protrusion from the plastic bolt shroud covering the rear of the bolt when the rifle is cocked.
The barrel is also stainless steel with a matt, coarse finish beneficial for sporting use as it reduces glare. Profile is typically varmint style. The muzzle diameter is 0.864in and does not come threaded for a moderator. The barrel is free-floating up to the point where the barrel tapers down forward from the receiver and has an additional 2in of support from the stock, a wise design feature on this heavy-barrelled model, especially as the stock itself is relatively light and hollow.
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Magazine, trigger and safety
Tikka uses a uniform magazine size for all T3 calibres, so its construction requires a filler block at the rear. This then allows all cartridge lengths to work. The all-polymer magazine feels a bit light and flimsy but works well feeding cartridges effectively to the action. It is a single-column feed and holds six rounds in this .222 calibre. The Tikka T3 Super Varmint model is supplied with the larger capacity magazine as standard, which protrudes to the level of the triggerguard. The magazine release is sited at the front of the magazine, which is plastic. As it is under tension, the release is sprightly and drops the magazine quickly into your waiting hand.
The T3 has a single-stage trigger unit that breaks at a very definite 4lb of weight. It can be adjusted, but you have to gain access to the adjustment Allen screw by taking the stock off. This works well for normal use, but when you’re waiting still (for example when shooting vermin at a distance) a light trigger weight would be beneficial. What might be a better compromise for this model is ordering a single-set trigger as an option. The triggerblade is slim and grooved. There is enough space between it and the trigger guard for a gloved hand.
The safety catch is in easy reach of being operated by the thumb and is located to the right of the bolt shroud. The catch is usually silent if pressure is kept up in a downward force. In forward position the rifle can be fired and in a rearward position the rifle is made safe, locking both the bolt operation and trigger.
The Tikka T3 Super Varmint in the field
I was expecting some satisfying results with the combination of a suitably heavy barrel, a Burris 3-9×40 scope that came fitted to the test rifle and a solid rest. Good results were what I achieved I’m pleased to report. Most factory ammunition shot very well, as did the reloads. Heavier 60-grain bullets were less accurate, probably not stabilising sufficiently in the one-in-14in rifling twist barrel.
A very versatile rifle