As many of you that shoot long range and especially the long range competitions know, every once in a while you start to get antsy with the rifle and gear that you have. Even if your rifle shot great, you somehow feel you need something more, something different. Well, the Tikka T3 certainly fills that order.
I have gone from a trued Remington 700, to a Stiller and back to another trued Remington 700. This last 700 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor was one of the most accurate rifles I have owned to date, but I was still left wanting. I knew that I envied those that had AI actions, Sako TRG actions and the new Badger 2013 that all had 60 degree bolt throws. Since I’ve been known to run the bolt fairly quickly, I appreciate a good economy of motion with my bolt manipulation. However, I wasn’t about to drop the cash for a new/used TRG/AI and a Badger 2013 action just wasn’t in the cards at the time.
After doing copious amounts of research on the Tikka T3 I decided that was my action. Numerous factors played into my decision on the Tikka that you can see listed below.
Despite it being a European action, the receiver’s threads for the barrel are standard so any gunsmith in the United States would be able to work on it since not as many are set up to do metric threads. (Note: scope base screws and action screws are still metric! Don’t ask me how this makes sense.)
70 degree bolt throw. Not quite 60 but it beats the standard 90 degree throw.
Side bolt release
Smoothest action I have ever felt. Ever. Even compared to customs.
Action dimensions already being very “true”. After reading a variety of well known gunsmith’s opinions and experiences with Tikkas, I decided it wasn’t necessary to have my action trued.
Quality adjustable factory trigger
All of these features for about $550-600 out the door at my local Cabela’s with the Tikka T3 Lite in .308. I had no intention of keeping the sporter barrel but decided that I would put a box of ammo through it to see what it could do. Unfortunately, the local stores were out of FGMM so I had to settle with Nosler 168 Custom Competition loaded ammunition. 5 round groups averaged about .75 to .80 but it kicked like a mule. Good thing I only bought one box of ammo because I was done! There was, however, one useful thing that I pulled from shooting it in it’s factory state which was unless I had my Natural Point of Aim (NPA) down perfectly, it would recoil wildly off target so it forced me to be meticulous in my set up.
I already knew that I wanted it in 6.5 Creedmoor to be a new match gun so it was just a matter of time to get the action and the Benchmark barrel over to Dane and Joe. While I waited, I purchased a 20 MOA Picatinny scope base from tikkaperformance.com. One thing that pleasantly surprised me was that the Tikka has a slot to place a recoil lug in the receiver for your scope base so that the recoil force isn’t riding on the tiny scope base screws. Maybe this isn’t new to some of you, but I hadn’t seen it before.
Tikka uses very malleable plastic plugs for the base screws so unscrewing them didn’t work very well. In my frustration, I simply punched them out from the top like an ape and made sure to clean out the remaining plastic bits that were left in the holes.
Onto the recoil lug. The factory recoil lug that is in the stock is made out of aluminum. So far, I have not had any issues shooting a braked 6.5 Creedmoor with it. What I’ve gathered from reading online, it seems that the aluminum recoil lug doesn’t cut it with the magnum calibers. This is easily remedied by going back to tikkaperformance.com and purchasing a steel recoil lug for about $30. I haven’t done this yet, but may in the future, just to cover any area of potential failure. I’ve also read much speculation about the Tikka’s recoil lug design and how shallow the recess for it in the action is. Admittedly, when examining the action it doesn’t instill much confidence. When I stopped to think about it though, the TRG series of rifles uses a similar style of recoil lug, and they have rifles chambered up to .338 LM. I have yet to hear of any complaints about the TRG’s recoil lug or failures due to it. So if it’s good enough for a .338 LM, then it will more than meet my requirements.
Moving onto the stock. I am currently waiting for a chassis to arrive for it, so I’m shooting the factory plastic stock instead. I wasn’t expecting much, seeing as that it is indeed plastic and therefore automatically sucks. Right? Wrong. This Tikka chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor shoots consistently around .5 MOA, while sitting in it’s plastic factory stock torqued to 35 in/lbs. I was shocked. This goes against everything we’ve ever been told about factory stocks, plastic ones no less! I did have to make one minor….alteration to it though. Since it was originally a hunter profile barrel, the new Rem Varmint contour did not exactly fit. And what do we do when something doesn’t fit? That’s right, we take the dremel to it. As you can tell in the pictures, the dremeling was truly abysmal. I would say that I let my 2 year old son/daughter do it, but seeing as that I have no children, the blame rests solely with me. I’m more of a function over form kind of guy. Anyway, it got the job done and the barrel is free floating. I can’t wait to put it in a “real” stock and see how it does! I actually intend on keeping the factory stock and possibly using it as a hunting stock if I don’t feel like lugging a chassis around.
As great as the stock has treated me, I can’t say the same for the factory magazines. The rifle comes with a 3 round magazine that sits flush with the line of the stock. I’ve discovered that it actually feeds flawlessly in warmer temperatures, but when it gets cold, something changes in the plastic that stops it from feeding smoothly. If it’s cold enough, the bolt occasionally doesn’t pick up the last round in the magazine. I have to slide it up with my finger and then finish the job with the bolt. Needless to say, I’ve been practicing my single feeding. There is an alternative though, since CDI Precision Gunworks makes bottom metal that works with the more common and more reliable AICS magazines. They also don’t leave much room to play with the cartridge’s overall length. My reloads are at 2.82” and they just barely fit.
I personally find that buying an aftermarket trigger is not necessary. I purchased a lighter trigger spring from erniethegunsmith.com for about $10 shipped and can now adjust the trigger down to about 1 lb if I so choose. The factory trigger spring got it down to about 2.5 lbs. Mine is currently set around 1.5-2 lbs, which works for me. So instead of paying $120+ for a quality trigger, I payed about $10 and still have a very crisp trigger.
The Tikka T3 also sports a two-position safety that locks the bolt when the safety is engaged. This is particularly useful when hunting or maneuvering through brush since it keeps the bolt from opening and potentially filling your receiver with unwanted foreign objects. Some people do not like have the bolt lock on safe since it prohibits chamber checking any rounds without being in the “fire” position. In an ideal world, I would like it to have a 3 position safety so that I could have the best of both worlds, but I’m ok with how it is. I was talking to a shooter at the PRS Finale that was using a Tikka T3 and he informed me that he had removed the piece of metal in the trigger assembly that slides up and locks the bolt when in safe. According to him, the safety still works, but simply does not lock the bolt any longer. I don’t trust myself to go rifling through my trigger assembly (you all saw what I did to my stock), so I’m happy to leave it as is.
I was able to use the Tikka in a monthly precision rifle match up in Price, UT and managed to pull a 1st place finish out of around 23 shooters! I say the proof is in the pudding.
In conclusion, the Tikka T3 is a solid action to use for not only for hunting, but also for competition. It has all the “cool guy” features that one normally pays a premium for with a custom action and is already very true out of the box. Aftermarket parts are really not a problem, if you can’t find parts for a Tikka, then you just aren’t looking hard enough. It’s an incredibly cost-effective way of getting into the competitive shooting world with a full build.
For those of you curious about the stock options here are a list of some of the companies that have Tikka inlets.