The new design addresses previous shortcomings and offers shooters accuracy and ease of handling that exceed expectations, enthuses Bruce Potts
What can be said that has not been said a thousand times before with the Tikka T3? This Scandinavian sporting rifle has proved a firm favourite in Britain and is the go-to rifle for stalking due to its reasonable price and good build quality. I have owned Tikkas for more than 35 years and the Tikka T3x has many new tweaks and is available in myriad options to suit stalker, foxer, target or tactical shooter.
Barrel and action
The Tikka T3x is stainless steel and a practical alternative to the blued steel variants. Its subdued finish is a good choice for a rifle that’s going to live in the field.
The barrel is 20in long with a 1-in-10 twist, six-groove rifling and finished with a 14/1 metric muzzle thread for a sound moderator, Stalon supplied. The barrel is free-floated up the writing on the barrel’s left side. The action has been improved and a redesigned ejection port to the action has been lengthened and chamfered to allow an easier access for loading one round at a time. There are also extra screw attachments to the flat receiver top so if you don’t want to fit Opti Lok scope mounts to the dovetails, a separate rail can be fitted securely instead. This is handy for one-piece generic picatinny rails and use with larger scopes that cause a lot of torque.
Shooters always moaned about the synthetic bolt shroud, so much so that aftermarket engineers made metal shrouds to meet the demand. The Tikka T3x has a new metal shroud, which keeps any ignition gases from a pierced primer safely contained away from the face.
The bolt itself has a low bolt-lift to avoid knocking your scope and twin locking lugs opposite each other. It is semi-coned in profile with a single extractor claw and a plunger-type ejector that provides the silky-smooth Tikka action.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The Tikka T3x has a single stage adjustable unit, though a set trigger unit can be ordered. However, you can adjust the pull weight from 2lb to 4lb, which on a sporting rifle is perfect though you have to use an Allen screw. The one-size-fits-all magazine handles .204-size to magnum cartridges with a varying size filler block at the rear to accommodate and feed correctly.
The magazine is a hard impact polymer, making it light and waterproof, with a single-column feed and holds three rounds in .243 calibre. If you want more capacity, a five-shot version is available. To drop the mag, you simply press the mag release at the front of the magazine and it pops out to be removed. The safety is the standard Tikka/Sako type, being a toggle unit that in the forward position is for fire and rearward for safe, which locks both the bolt operation and trigger.
On the .243, there is little recoil but on heavy recoiling calibres such as magnum cartridges, the separate steel recoil lug that is set into the stock for correct bedding of the action really helps keep the rifle together and shooting accurately. Another criticism of the old stock was the hollow sounding and feeling nature of the stock design. The rear butt section in particular resonated on firing, and if you knocked it out in the woods it echoed. No more — Tikka has filled the rear section with a foam insert, which has worked a treat and is far better. This is only available for the Sporter models, not those with the adjustable cheekpiece.
Tikka has not stopped there, the recoil pad has been redesigned and cushions the recoil but still provides a good grip in the shoulder. The grip areas have a new asymmetrical pattern, which is not just for show but is designed to make them grip better. Finally the new modular design allows the pistol grip to be replaced with separate inserts, sold separately to vary the grip angle to suit your personal shooting style and preferred grip. A single screw in the cap allows a swift removal and the separate grips are colour-coded for different sizes. The synthetic stocks also have an extra single attachment point to the fore-end so you can change the width of it, too.
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Tikka T3x on test
I am always nervous with short 20in .243 Win barrels because velocities/energies hover around the legal deer limit, but this T3x shot very nice velocities. It shows that you need to shoot it to prove it. Barrels vary internally and that can make a big difference to the velocities achieved, as can new and worn barrels.
The Tikka T3x came with a new Steiner Ranger scope of 4-16 x 56mm, which was rather good with very clear optics, illuminated reticule and parallax adjustment.
Other than the light 55-gr Ballistic Silver Tip factory ammunition, which is fine for foxes, all the other factory loads achieved very respectable velocities. The Tikka states minute of angle (MOA) groups, so is capable of grouping at 1in at 100 yards with proper loads. The best here on test were the Hornady 75-gr SST loads, 0.95in and a really good velocity at 3,303fps for 1817ft/lb. Heavier bullets like the 105-gr Geco hovered over the 1.0 mark, and probably need a slightly tighter rifling twist rate.
The T3x responded well to reloads. Tikkas are unfussy when it comes to diet, but this one liked the 90-gr to 95-gr bullets. The Nosler 90-gr B Tip with a load of 43.5 grains Vit N160 powder gave 3,041fps for 1,849ft/lb energy and 0.75in groups for three shots at 100 yards.
The 95-gr Hornady SST bullets also grouped at the 0.75in mark at 2,936fps velocity for 1,819ft/lb with a load of H100V hybrid powder.
Tikka has upped its game — the improvements are worth having and have addressed several points shooters have been commenting on over the years.