Recommendation: Buy It
I have always had that dream of finding that ’64 vette with almost no mileage on it, carefully and meticulously tucked away and kept in a little old lady’s barn. In that dream, she offers to sell me the car for nearly nothing.
Oh the dreams we dream…
That said, the Tikka T3 Lite may be the closest thing to that dream I may get in my lifetime. After two serious hunting trips, with two different calibers, I am going to go out on a limb and say it is the best “stock” rifle on the market. When you factor in the price point, it is that ’64 vette sold cheap.
Before the Montana 2014 excursion, I purchased a Tikka T3 Lite in the 30-06 caliber and took it on that hunt. For Montana 2015, I purchased a Tikka T3 Lite in the 300 Win Mag caliber to have a little more “reach out and touch someone”. In both cases, I had very little “work up” with the rifles. In the case of 2014, I literally zero’ed the weapon (boresighted) at 50 yards on the side of the road. In the case of 2015, I formally sighted-in the scope before leaving, but given my time constraints, there was not a lot of time to fully work up the gun./
Traditionally, I had been a fan of the Remington 700 platform. Remington had been disappointing me lately and I was looking for some alternatives (see Remington Get Your Act Together). That said, several gun guys I knew recommended the Tikka line, and before the 2014 Montana Hunt, when I went to trade in some guns, the guys at the store also brought it up. After manipulating the gun in the store, I was impressed enough to try one. Store “tours” do not tell you how a gun will shoot or how it will perform in the field.
The price was a clincher. I was able to get a stainless steel version for the price of what I would have paid for a mid-range on a good parkerized or blued. In general, I prefer stainless and I think stainless outlasts blued or parkerized over time. That was the deal clincher.
- Calibers – .30-06 & 300 Win Mag
- Capacity – 4 rounds (30-06)/3 rounds (300 Win Mag)
- Overall Length – 42.5″/44.5″
- Barrel Length – 22.5″/24.5″
- Weight – 6.2/6.375 lbs
- Optic – Leupold 4-12×40 Mark AR Scope/Nikon Monarch 6-24x BDC Scope
- Warranty – 2 yr Limited (details here)
- MSRP – $699-$749 (You can do better than these prices)
Tikka T3 is manufactured by Sako of Finland. For those of you who do not know, Sako is normally a very high-end rifle manufacturer. In 2000, Sako became part of Beretta Holdings SpA, making it a member of the Beretta family. Tikka is basically a “production”, high-end rifle that the average man can afford.
The Tikka T3 product line is comprised of some 19 odd variations of the Tikka T3 rifle base. The entire product line includes:
- T3 Compact
- T3 CTR
- T3 Lite Adjustable
- Battue Lite
- Camo Stainless
- Hunter Fluted Barrel
- Hunter Stainless
- Hunter Stainless Fluted Barrel
- Laminated Stainless
- Varmint Stainless
- Super Varmint
(Note the Gun and Gear Guy finds the naming convention of some of these rifles a bit redundant and quite amusing!)
The products tested specifically in this review is the Tikka T3 Lite Stainless, caliber 30-06 and 300 Win Mag.
Assessment and Findings
- great bolt
- adjustable trigger
- well thought out design (albeit no frills)
- low recoil, given the weight
- easy to disassemble and clean
- fails to eject unless vigorous on the bolt
- trigger can be adjusted too low for hunting
- safety awkward and difficult positioned
- short stock
- bolt de-cocks easily during cleaning
The evaluation configurations that were tested consisted of:
Tikka T3 Lite 30-06 Springfield
- Tikka T3 Lite Stainless Caliber 30-06
- Hornady 185 gr and 165 gr SST Ammunition
- Leupold 4-12×40 Mark AR Scope
Tikka T3 Lite 300 Win Mag
- Tikka T3 Lite Stainless Caliber 300 Win Mag
- Hornady 185 gr SST and Hornady 150 Whitetail
- Nikon Monarch 6-24 BDC
The testing and evaluation were done during an actual hunt and field test. No controlled condition testing was conducted (Note: controlled testing may be done in the future and reported on). The testing was done during the Montana 2014 Elk Hunt.
Locale: Montana, USA
Temperature Range: 60° – -24° F
Terrain: Mountainous – High Mountain Plateau
Shot Ranges: 500 yd + – Kills at ~700 yards (30-06) and ~850-950 yards (300 Win Mag)
- Best Bolt on the Market – I have an old Mauser, the gold standard of bolts. I have had Remington 700’s, and other good bolt guns. Out-of-the-box the bolt on this gun was on par with any of them. That said, after the trip, I dropped by a few stores that had Tikka’s and checked out a few. Across half a dozen T3s, I noticed some definite differences and discrepancies in the movement and function of the bolts. This may be a quality control issue with Tikka, and the Gun and Gear Guy plans on doing some more research and contact the company on this one. Do not buy a Tikka T3 without functioning the bolt and being satisfied with its function – it should be smooth and free of any catching.
- Smooth, Clean, Adjustable Trigger – The trigger on this gun is amazing. I am not sure that anything could be done to improve it other than to actually tone it down a bit (see the Bad Findings). It is very smooth. it breaks absolutely clean and can be adjusted down to a very low (and in my opinion too dangerous for hunting) 2 lbs. The trigger is a single stage, low slack trigger. The adjustment screw simply requires the magazine to be removed from the magazine to adjust the weight of the trigger. Awesome job on the engineering!
- Well Thought Out – Overall the entire engineering of the gun, in general, is well thought out. Simple, functional and easy to use (except for the few deficiencies noted). The adjustment screw for the trigger weight was easy to find and change. Removing the bolt does not require a manual and it is easy to find. Simply, it is well-engineered.
- Easy to Disassemble & Clean – Grab a Remington off the shelf and try to remove the bolt. You will have to remember the sequence to de-cock, depress the thingy-ma-bobie, rotate the whatcha-ma-call-it and then stand on your left leg. Grab a Savage and do the same, but in a reverse inverse sequence while quoting the third stanza of Shakespeare’s something or other (seriously I always have to go YouTube every time!). Grab a Tikka and there is a big black tab along the side (see pic below) – you depress the slide bolt back and remove bolt! Voila, who would have thought it was so simple! Kudos to a gun company for finally taking the black magic out of it.
- Lite With Low Recoil – The Tikka lives up to its name – it is lite. At 6.2, it was a very easy and lite rifle to carry during the evaluation. That said, I fully expected it to kick like a mule in the ole -06 caliber or 300 Win Mag that I was shooting. Not at all. I found that it was a moderate recoil shooting gun for its weight.
- Trigger Can Be Adjusted Too Low – I believe that the trigger adjustment on this gun allows this gun to be adjusted too low. My gun was pre-owned when I purchased it and the previous owner had, obviously, cranked the trigger down to roughly 2 lbs. I think a 2 lb trigger is questionable for competition shooters, but at least competitions are controlled circumstances, where hunting is not! I believe the lowest trigger weight that should be allowed on a hunting gun is 3.5 lbs. If, for some reason, the gun is shipped at 2 lbs, I highly recommend Tikka discontinue this policy ASAP!
- Stock Too Short – The Compact is designed for a variety of shooters, including youth. Even with the spacers in, I believe this gun is too compact and needs to be designed with either an optional adjustable stock or longer stock. With a good high quality scope, I found it was often hard to get a good sight picture with the compact stock. I am a big guy with long arms and had to adjust my body a lot on the gun. I like the lite weight and I think they could keep the lite/compact factor with a simple, adjustable stock option.
- Safety Difficult to Function – I believe the safety was the worst aspect of this gun. Ergonomically, it was the most disappointing and with the low trigger pull, I was dealing with a slight nightmare on this hunt. Remember, I have big hands and I believe for someone with smaller hands this would be a completely dysfunctional problem. Bottom line, the safety needs to be angled back so that the thumb can flip it up (versus having to flip it forward). As it stands, the safety largely has to be moved horizontally to the bolt, which means the firing hand has to be moved off of the trigger to flip the safety forward.
- Fail To Properly Eject – During prone shooting where vigorously yanking the bolt back is not as common (or easy), I found the spent casing tended to roll back into the receiver and not properly or fully eject. This was found more on the 300 Win Mag version and may be an issue where the ejection port needs to be cut slightly lower.
- Bolt De-cocking Surprise! – The one engineering surprise and weakness is the bolt de-cocking. When I first disassembled the gun, I had the bolt in my hand and with a slight twist I de-cocked the bolt – surprisingly easy. Of course, once de-cocked, the bolt was not going to go back into the gun!! Ouch! Off to Google I went. Unfortunately, with the foreign aspect of TIkka as a product, there was not a lot of information to be found. Fortunately, I found a few references and found the safe way to re-cock the bolt. I was concerned about re-cocking the bolt due to the fact that the end of the bolt has a composite piece that I did not want to force and break. See a future article about “how to”. Suffice it to say, Tikka should provide a simple tool to aid in this!