November 04, 2011
One of the most appealing new Tikkas, a T3 Lite, weights in at just 6 ¼ pounds — as lightweight as seems useful to me. Less heft and the rifle bounces like a clothesline in the wind. When you're puffing after a climb or must curb the effects of pulse to shoot far, rifle mass is your friend. It helps mitigate recoil, too. A sling and scope quickly bring six-pound rifles to seven. A full magazine adds ounces. Occasionally I've wished for more. But after long hours on the trail, I'll take 7.5.
Then T3 has a two-lug bolt with a 70-degree lift and disassembles quickly by hand into four major components. Its recessed face has a plunger ejector and a Sako extractor.
The T3's receiver is slim but stiff due to a small ejection port. Rails machined into the receiver's roof accept 17mm clamp rings, but the rifle is also drilled and tapped. The recoil lug is a steel insert in the stock that engages a slot in the action.
While early Tikka bolt rifles came in two action lengths, the T3 is built on one, with two bolt stops for different cartridge lengths. Single-stack three-shot magazines are of lightweight polymer. They can be loaded only when out of the rifle. You can buy deep boxes that hold more cartridges. A flush magazine latch is out of the way in front of the well.
The stock (walnut or synthetic) has a long grip and a comfortable pitch. It comes with spacers to lengthen the butt. Shadow ridges on the fore-end, with raised rubber-like panels there and on the grip, help you grasp the rifle with wet or cold hands. Deep fluting at the comb nose welcomes the heel of your hand. The stock doesn't contact the hammer-forged barrel. A steel stock insert engaging a slot in the receiver serves as recoil lug.
Trigger pull on Tikka's T3 adjusts from two to four pounds. The test rifle's came in at 3.5. The trigger guard is the only alloy component on a T3 action; all others are of steel, save the polymer magazine and bolt shroud. A red cocking indicator protrudes from the striker race. A two-position safety locks bolt and trigger. The bolt shank is the right length for me, just long enough for easy cycling from the shoulder. The hollow, pear-shaped knob is gracefully curved and easy to grasp.
I've several Tikka's, and all but a .270 WSM printed groups inside a minute of angle. The T3 Lite I tested for this article shot 140-grain Winchester AccuBonds into a 0.4-inch group, and with four of five additional loads I got 0.7-inch groups — and all loads shot well inside the 11/2-inch standard I impose on bolt-action hunting rifles. Indeed, the average best-group measure for this T3 was just half that.
Overall, the T3 Lite is technically excellent, it has a gunny feel that can't be described but as certainly cannot be faked. The bolt glides. The trigger breaks consistently, although at 3.5 pounds it tested my control. Cartridges cycle without bumps. Shut your eyes, cheek a T3 Lite, and when you look through the scope, I suspect you'll find the crosswire on target. Still, the Lite puts spring in your step after long days afield.
No, it's not perfect. The safety is hard to feel with a mittened thumb. And I'd like an adjustment for sear engagement. But those changes would add expense to an affordable rifle that's already accurate, nimble in the hand and easy to shoot well from hunting positions.
Want a lively, lightweight rifle with killer looks and Crisco-smooth cycling? One with dime-tight accuracy and a trigger that brings out the best in you? It's here, from Finland.
- Type: bolt action centerfire; 2 locking lugs, Sako-style extractor, plunger ejector.
- Caliber: 7mm Rem. Mag. (tested), .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag.
- Feed System: 3-round single-column detachable polymer box magazine
- Barrel: 24 in. sporter-weight, hammer-forged; 1:9½ twist.
- Weight: 6 lbs. 6 oz.
- Stock: black fiberglass-reinforced polymer with rubber buttpad.
- Metal: brushed stainless (tested), blue chrome-moly
- Fire control: adjustable steel trigger (3.5 pounds as tested); two-position safety locks bolt
- Sights: none; receiver grooved and drilled
- Price: $659
- Distributor: Beretta USA
- Smallest group: 140 gr. Winchester AccuBond — 0.4 in.
- Largest group: (tie) 140 gr. Remington CoreLokt Ultra, 165 gr. Federal Sierra GameKing — 1.1 in.
- Due to challenging range conditions, author submitted only the best of three-shot groups at 100 yards.
Caption 1: The Tikka T3 Lite is a svelte, accurate rifle perfect for those who cover a lot of ground when they hunt.
Caption 2: The Tikka T3 feeds from a single-column polymer magazine and operated without a hitch.
Caption 3: The two-lug bolt offers a 70-degree lift and features a Sako-style extractor.
Caption 4: Like most Tikkas, the T3 Lite demonstrated excellent accuracy.