August 09, 2021
While hunting moose in Finland in 1987, I learned that Sako had purchased Tikka and production had been relocated to the Sako factory in Riihimaki. Quite a bit of history was also there. Tikka’s first centerfire sporting rifle, the Model 55, was introduced during the 1960s. On a slightly modified Model 98 Mauser action, several variations, including a heavy-barrel varmint rifle and a carbine with full-length, Mannlicher-style stock, were offered.
During the 1970s, the rifle was imported to the United States by Ithaca as the LSA-55. Caliber options ranged from .22-250 to .30-06. Tikka eventually introduced an action of its own design.
Through the years I have used Tikka rifles on a couple of hunts, most recently for moose with a T3 in 9.3x62 Mauser. It averaged 1.25 inches at 100 yards with Lapua ammo loaded with the 250-grain Naturalis bullet. I have not hunted with the T3x version but recently punched paper with one in 6.5 Creedmoor, and it differs from the T3 in a number of details.
Several of the differences are found in the injection-molded stocks. Molded-in asymmetrical surface texturing on the sides of the wrist of the T3x Lite stock is described by Tikka as “the grip that never slips.” While the description is accurate, the grip is quite hard with multiple sharp edges.
Something a bit softer would be more comfortable, especially during long days in prairie dog towns, and the company has addressed that quite well. Turning out a retention bolt allows the entire front section of the grip to be removed, and you can replace it with not only a variety of different colors but also a “soft-touch” version; it’s available at the Tikka website for just under $20. (Ed. note: When you click on “shop accessories” at the Tikka website, you’ll be directed to Beretta USA’s website. Beretta owns Tikka as well as Sako.)
Right-handers as well as those who shoot a rifle from the other side should find fit of the comb and the standard grip to be as good as is possible on a mass-produced rifle. However, if you prefer more of a vertical grip, Tikka also sells a variety of vertical grips for the T3x—again, in different colors and a soft-touch black version. These install in the same manner as the standard grip.
The barrel channel of the fore-end has girder-shaped reinforcement, and it has a unique feature as well. If you are looking for a wider base of support for shooting off a bag or backpack, you can buy a “slip-over” fore-end that fits over the outside of the standard stock and is secured by a bolt in the center as well as the front sling swivel. Tikka calls it the “beavertail synthetic fore-end,” and it’s available from the Tikka website in several colors as well as a soft-touch black model. Cost is $27.
By the way, there are seven common types of plastic in use today, with each identified by a number inside a chasing-arrow triangle. A “5” marking on Tikka stocks indicates polypropylene, a “safe” plastic also used in making numerous other products, including medicine bottles. It is rated quite high in strength and heat resistance.
The recoil pad of the T3x is both thicker and softer than on the T3. As seen on most rifles nowadays, the stock has quick-detach sling swivel posts. The butt is filled with a foam insert to reduce noise.
There was a time when you could get a synthetic stock in any color you wanted as long as the color you wanted was brown or black. Rifle manufacturers now seem to spend about as much time mulling over camo colors and patterns as on designing the rifle. The Veil Wideland pattern on the T3x Lite I shot was computer-generated to disappear in the dark green forests and lichen-covered terrain of northern Finland. Of course, it will hide equally well in forested areas of other countries. (Another new option along the same lines is the Veil Alpine, with a different camo pattern and different Cerakote finish.)
Moving to the receiver, should the magazine run dry and the job at hand is yet to be finished, a wider ejection port makes single-loading the T3x easier than with the T3. Simply toss a cartridge through the port, slam the bolt home, take aim and pull the trigger.
Bolt lift during firing pin compression measures five pounds, and bolt travel is an extremely smooth four inches. Bolt rotation is 70 degrees. The bolt has dual-opposed locking lugs and a plunger-style ejector. Slightly relieving the right-side lug made room for a Sako-style extractor.
An enlarged synthetic knob on the bolt handle makes cycling quick, comfortable and fumble-free. Rather than being brazed to the bolt body as on some rifles, it is dovetailed to the bolt body so the two should never part. However, it is possible to replace the handle if you don’t like this one, and several firms offer options for the T3x.
A red dot exposed at the rear of the bolt shroud indicates a cocked firing pin, and the plastic bolt shroud of the T3 has been replaced by aluminum. In the event of a pierced primer or ruptured case during firing, a vent on the left side of the receiver ring positioned adjacent to the face of the bolt would allow some of the gas to escape there. Pressing an unobtrusive tab at the left side of the receiver frees the bolt for removal.
The single-stage trigger has a pull weight adjustment range of 2.5 to 5.5 pounds. The test rifle arrived with a crisp, four-pound pull with no detectable creep or overtravel. That’s plenty light for a big game rifle, so I made no adjustment.
One end of the recoil lug rests in a mortise molded into the stock, while its opposite end engages a transverse slot in the bottom of the receiver. Because the slot is quite shallow, there is not a lot of surface area contact between it and the lug, and the aluminum lug of the T3 can be deformed when hard-kicking cartridges are fired. The issue was eliminated by switching to a steel lug on the T3x. (And if you own a T3, several firms offer steel recoil lugs to replace the aluminum one. Switching is no more difficult than using pliers to extract the old and a small plastic mallet to tap in the new.)
In addition to having grooves for scope attachment, the top of the receiver is drilled and tapped for a rail—with extra screw holes for secure attachment—or a regular mount such as the set of Talleys I used.
The 24.3-inch, hammer-forged, stainless steel barrel is fluted for about half its length, and the muzzle is threaded 5/8x24 for an included 30-port radial brake. A thread protector is also in the box. The brake weighs 2.6 ounces, and it adds 2.5 inches to the overall length of the barrel.
Recoil feels about the same as from my lightweight custom .243 Win. without a brake. The barrel rests in a free-float position and is nicely centered in its channel in the fore-end.
The barrel and action have a Cerakote finish in a bronze coloration. The bottom assembly is black polymer, as is the three-round, single-stack magazine. Loading the magazine proved to be effortless with all departing cartridges gliding from it and into the chamber quite smoothly. The magazine is spring-loaded, and a light tug on the exposed tab of its latch causes it to leap into the hand. The tab appears to be recessed enough to prevent accidental bumping against something in the field.
The T3x Lite weighed an ounce over seven pounds on a digital scale. With a scope aboard, three cartridges in the magazine and my favorite leather sling attached, the rifle was ready and eager to hunt at eight pounds, 12.4 ounces.
With ammunition quite difficult to round up, I did not shoot the rifle as much as I would have liked, but accuracy was certainly promising. One load averaged close enough to an inch at 100 yards to make most hunters happy.
Tikka’s product manager, Phillip Jones, told us the company’s aim was to produce a Tikka that backcountry hunters will really identify with. He pointed in particular to the new barrel design that permitted the common U.S. 5/8x24 threading, as well as the fluted bolt and oversized handle for sure operation in any conditions.
And then there are the aesthetics, i.e., the pairing of the Cerakote finish with the camo pattern.
“We felt like we share the same ideals with the team at Veil Camo in the type of patterns that suit our environments, both in the U.S. and many of the areas that Tikka users find themselves,” Jones said.
You get these features plus the replaceable pistol grip and wider fore-end options for just a bit over the four-figure mark. The gun is available in a wide range of popular calibers, and I think the T3x Lite is a very nice rifle for the money.
Tikka T3x Lite Veil Wideland Rifle Specs
- Type: Two-lug centerfire
- Caliber: .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .270 Win., .270 WSM, 7mm-08, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308, .30-06, .300 Win. Mag.
- Capacity: 3+1 detachable magazine
- Barrel: 24.3 in., hammer-forged stainless steel, 1:8 RH twist
- Overall Length: 46.75 in.
- Weight: 7 lb., 1 oz.
- Stock: injection-molded synthetic, Veil Wideland finish
- Trigger: adjustable; 3 lb., 15 oz. pull (measured, as received)
- Sights: none; drilled and tapped
- Price: $1,200
- Manufacturer: Tikka, tikka.fi/en-us