It would not surprise anyone if I said that I prefer to buy American made products. As a proud American, I enjoy supporting American industries (even the ones that source labor and resources from overseas) and I feel that American products are of equal quality or better than their foreign counterparts. A quick peek in my safe would show a collection of Remington, Ruger, Savage, Smith and Wesson, Vortex, Leupold, Bushnell and Winchester rifles and optics. One exception to this is the Tikka T3 series rifles. These rifles offer a tremendous value in terms of performance and cost. The rifles also provide the perfect platform for a gun that one may want to customize to suit their shooting needs.
Tikka rifles are owned and manufactured by Sako, which in turn is owned and distributed in the United States by the Beretta Holding Group. The rifles feature a precision hammer forged Sako stainless steel or chromium – molybdenum alloy free-floated barrel. The barrel features a muzzle crown and the barrel and receiver sit in either a beautiful walnut, laminated or a fiber reinforced co-polymer stock. Tikka guarantees the rifle will shoot sub minute of angle. Tikka currently offers 16 models and achieves cost savings by the liberal use of polymers, and standard ”universal” parts such as the action, trigger group, stock and the magazine. The only parts that differ from each gun is the size of bolt face and the barrel chambering/barrel length.
I have had the pleasure of customizing two Tikka T3 rifles. The first rifle belongs to my brother and started life as a stock Tikka T3 Lite. The second rifle is a Tikka T3 Hunter that I gave to my gorgeous girlfriend who also happens to be my fearless hunting companion. To ease logistics concerning ballistic data and loading, both rifles are chambered in .308 Winchester/7.62×51. Both rifles, when shot in the prone tended to recoil pretty hard, even with an aggressive bipod load. Adding a Limbsaver precision fit recoil pad (part number #10011) and a Vais Micro- Brake (.308 .750 Outer Diameter Vais #: 278829) to both rifles tamed recoil considerably. Both rifles can now be shot in the prone with no discomfort or distraction to the shooter. The T3 Lite now sports a Bell and Carlson Medalist stock. It has an Evolution Gun Works 20 MOA scope base. The trigger has been adjusted down to 2 lbs and is hands down one of the nicest factory triggers I have ever shot… it completely crushes the X-Mark trigger on my beloved Remington 700. A Vortex PST 5-15 second focal plane mil dot scope sits atop the rifle. The T3 lite in its current configuration is perfect for long range varmint hunting, medium range big game hunting and would be perfect for a 600 yard match. The gun could also serve as a lightweight tactical rifle. Aside from a light weight Vortex Crossfire scope, minor adjustments to the factory trigger and the Vais muzzle brake, the T3 Hunter is completely stock. The Hunter is still very lightweight, produces sub MOA groups and is the perfect back country deer, elk or coyote rifle.
From the pictures you will see that the T3 Lite has a slightly shorter barrel compared to the T3 Hunter The total barrel length of the T3 Lite is 22 inches including the muzzle brake while the T3 Hunters total barrel length including brake is 23.25 inches. The T3 Lite’s barrel was machined down to keep the total barrel length at 22 inches. The barrel on the T3 Hunter was simply threaded and the brake screwed on increasing overall length. Is there a difference in velocities between the rifles? While researching this article I was able to sneak away and run both rifles through a chronograph. I fired several cold bore shots through each and took an average. Both rifles were allowed to cool about 20 minutes between each shot. The air temperature outside according to my Kestral was around 20 degrees so the rifles were COLD. The barrels both had about 100 rounds fired through them over the course of about 6 months. No copper has ever been removed during cleaning…just carbon. Ammunition used was 150 grain Federal Premium. After 3 cold bore shots the T3 Hunter produced an average velocity of 2809 feet per second while the T3 Lite produced an average velocity of 2786 feet per second. A 23 feet per second difference. A quick check on my Knights Armament Ballistic Flight application shows the respective holds for each rifle for a 600 yard shot. (Shots are simulated at 5000 feet of elevation. (I also shot the same ammunition through a 20 inch Remington 700 SPS Tactical to get data on a 20 inch barrel. Three cold bore shots yielded an average of 2763 feet per second). Below you can see that there was not a great loss in performance due to one barrel being slightly shorter than the other.
– Tikka T3 Lite 21 inch barrel. (22 inches overall length) = 4.2 mil hold to accommodate 90.7 inches of drop at 600 yards (2786 fps)
– Tikka T3 Hunter 22 inch barrel (23.5 inches overall length) = 4.1 mil hold to accommodate 88.9 inches of drop at 600 yards (2809 fps)
– Remington 700 sps Tactical 20 inch barrel = 4.3 mil hold to accommodate 92.6 inches of drop at 600 yards (2763 fps)
The Tikka T3 series rifles offer an incredible value in regards to performance and price. These rifles can be found in the 5-600$ range. The accuracy is what I would expect from what is essentially a Sako barrel and action. The T3 Hunter has exceeded my expectations in regards to being an all around mountain rifle. I highly recommend these rifles. These rifles in stock configuration are a joy to use. Slightly customized these guns will be your go to rifle and will perform every time. I purchased a private elk hunt this coming October in Northern New Mexico. I plan on building a custom .300 win mag for the hunt. I will be using a Tikka T3 Lite barrel and action as the backbone for my build. I plan on loading some Berger 210 or 230 grain bullets to maximize performance when it comes to distance, accuracy and terminal ballistics. While I am loading some 230’s in a belted case i think it would also be fun to load some .308 rounds with Berger 230’s and see how far one can accurately shoot a light rifle….
Are you a Tikka/Sako fan? Tips, upgrades, gripes are welcome in the comments below!
Load that bipod! Stay safe!
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