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Adventures With Tikka T3
September 2008
Gerhard Schroeder

Her name is Tikka. I’ve had the enjoyment of spending some time with her, work through a few issues. Like me, she isn’t from around here.

Born in Finland, a country with talents who win in Formula 1 races. She also is in cool company with names like Lapua and Vihtavuori.

You might recognize some of her in-laws. There’s big brother Sako, and the old big don of the family, Beretta.

Back to Tikka. Appropriate for her Scandinavian roots she sports a cool frosty appearance on her features that aren’t covered by the black polyester dress. OK, it’s some other non-metallic composite. Whatever it’s made of, I’ve forgiven her. Because that dress is very functional. Talk about perfect proportions, perfect balance. Tikka goes by her nick name, T3.

T3 turned out to be very entertaining. Her dimensions seem just right. Her weight – I’m in no-win territory now – balances well with her black dress, despite, if I’m brave or stupid enough to put this in writing, being heavy (also known as typical varmint configuration). What really impresses most, however, is her smoothness. That’s because she’s both modern, and straight. More on that in a moment.

Tikka T3, you could label her “Stainless Varmint”, wants to have fun. She’d be the wrong type to keep at home, or to treat her like a trophy. Quite frankly, she has a few sisters with looks who would serve such purpose much better. This babe is made for action. Speaking of that … hers is the smoothest I have ever operated. Located underneath that long action you find a single-stack magazine, in this case holding five rounds of .308 Winchester. When pushing the bolt forward it appears impossible to notice that a round actually moved from that clip into the chamber. I’m telling you, smooth!

So much for her features. Now, what about character? Like I indicated, she comes to the shoulder naturally, and hovers there as if she belonged. Her pressure point is adjustable, according to her birth certificate right down to two pounds. I dialed that in immediately. Real behavior usually comes about in larger company. It was time to arrange for a party. Old friends tagged along for the adventure, namely a 4.5-14X40 Leupold VariXIII, and a host of representatives from the .308 Winchester clan. Here’s what happened when T3 talked dirty to them – the party happened at the South Mountain range, on 21 July 2007:

Bullet Powder Group
@100 yds
Weight
(grains)
Type Type Weight
(grains)
inches
100 Lapua HP Win 748 53 0.7 (4)
110 Remington SP RN IMR 4227 28 2.0 (3)
110 Speer SP Spire Point IMR 4895 50 1.2 (4)
110 Speer SP Spire Point RL 7 42 1.5 (4)
110 Sierra HP IMR 4895 50 0.6 (3)
110 Hornady A-Max IMR 4895 50 0.9 (5)
110 Berger HP IMR 4895 50 0.5 (4)
125 Remington SP RL 15 48 1.6 (4)
125 Sierra SP RL 15 48 0.3 (4)
155 Nosler HP (match) RL 15 46 0.6 (4)
180 Remington SP RL 15 44 1.0 (5)

All once-fired Federal Match brass, full-length, primer pockets and flash hole trued, Remington LR primers. Parentheses show the number of shots fired. These ‘one group’ results are not statistically breathtaking but they do hint at satisfying accuracy potential.

The lightweights: 110 gr. V-Max; 110 gr. Sierra
HP; 100 gr. Lapua Hp; 110 gr. Berger HP

Yes, I had concentrated on lighter projectiles, because that’s what I wanted to fire primarily. The 155 Noslers will see ‘ram action’ during silhouette events. For an initial range party the results weren’t at all bad. Including some sighters and offhand testing, my T3 chewed through a total of one hundred rounds.

I found her a little difficult, but only in comparison to that great Remington 700 launch control. The T3 trigger was light, but length of engagement – or creep – a little more than the typical R700. She had no provisions to control overtravel.

One of the characteristics that had driven me to flirt with T3 is the rough ‘spot’ on my R700 actions right before the bolt lifts to full open. Again, T3 is oh-so-smooth! Contrary, I am spoiled by Remington’s finest, the trigger. With T3 I had to learn to concentrate more. As the table shows, good results were possible.

Even so, I just could not leave things alone. Once home, alterations, performed by yours truly and therefore not further detailed here, brought about a slightly better trigger. The length of engagement remained as set by the factory. With that it was time for another party.

There’s something about the 100 grain hollow pointers from Lapua worth mentioning. They call it ‘cutting edge’ because the bullet does indeed have one. They punch perfect crisp circles out of paper, like a full wadcutter.

In a 1,000 pack they also were the cheapest. I committed. Note that at party number two, T3 arrived with her best effort trigger, and the cases holding the Lapua pills were only sized halfway down their necks in an RCBS neck sizing die. This time I didn’t forget the Chrony. Party happened in the desert on 18 Aug 2007.

Bullet Powder Velocity Group
@100 yds
Weight Type Type Weight (fps) inches
100 Lapua HP AA 2460 51 gr. 3440 0.6
100 Lapua HP W 748 53 gr. 3370 0.9
100 Lapua HP IMR 4895 50 gr. 3360 0.6
110 Sierra HP RL 7 40 gr. 3120 0.6
110 Berger IMR 4895 50 gr. 3250 0.5
125 Remington RL 15 48 gr. 3120 2.0

All those were three-shot groups. Also, some loads not listed had given me the flat-primer signal that things were a little too hot. Even though the load data had been published for a 110 grain bullet, the 100 grain Lapuas should have been within that recommended 10%. Obviously, type of bullet can make a big difference. Hmm, haven’t we learned that with those early ‘only copper’ projectiles a couple of years ago?

I decided not to list those loads that resulted in signs of too much pressure. The Chrony displayed speeds in excess of 3650 fps! Even with those, bolt lift was easy – I do like the T3 action! Most importantly, the trigger turned out indeed to my liking.

Not to my liking was my own attitude. That Saturday morning seemed like a typical August day in central Arizona, hot and humid even before the sun came up. This whole test felt more like a chore than pleasure. And the Chrony would not read bullet speeds until the sun had come up a ways. Also, I am not fond of bench shooting. OK, when my bullets make tiny groups … that can be fun.

The 100 gr. Lapua HP cuts
nice clean holes in a target

It just doesn’t have much value for typical field use. I no doubt rushed things a little. And shooting really small groups just isn’t easy for me. Too often did I not hold the gun steady enough, such that I could see the crosshairs shift slightly just prior to T3 recoiling. Each time I called that flyer, and sure enough the bullet hole was out by a half inch or so. I disregarded such shot, fired another until I had three clean ones.

One more comment about three-shot groups. They are usually not the norm. Neither are they, by themselves, statistically as significant as five – or ten-shot groups. But it has been my experience that an accurate barrel will shoot accurately with accurate bullets (Bergers, Noslers and Sierras seem to fall into this category, so I limit my testing to those, usually), no matter what suitable powder provides the thrust. If a load won’t shoot, three careful shots will be enough to show that.

Clearly, I was the biggest variable with regard to accuracy. So, take the reported groups with that grain of salt. The results up to now: 1) T3 shoots 2) better than I can hold. 3) She did not like Remington’s 125 grainers. 4) velocities for the 100 grain pills surprised me. 5) I’m not sure what affect two different shooting tables brought into this test, but I had enough data to select loads for specific applications.

Next, a silhouette adventure. A little more testing needed to occur at the Ben Avery silhouette range. The 155 Noslers will do rams. Party number three at Ben Avery on 25 Aug 2007: It really was merely a brief meeting, only about a dozen rounds fired. The 100 grain Lapuas, fueled by 46 grains of Reloader 10X, did take down chicken (200m), pigs (300m) and turkeys (385m). T3 got the silhouette job. I may have called her a friend by now, but during the actual silhouette match I’m not sure who was on the out with whom. 16 hits out of 40 did not instill a sense of awe. In the spring of 2008 that got a little better, with 19 steel critters down.

Partying was over. Out on the prairie, T3 was put to work on many targets of opportunity. On a very long Saturday this Tikka digested over 120 rounds, all 100 grain Lapua stuff. I have no complaints. Especially “natural” describes her performance on running jacks. T3 swings so willingly. The cross hairs get on target right away, then easily stay with it. And follow-up shots are almost frightening, so quick! She simply is smooth.

By the way, T3 has a single column magazine, meaning each round is stacked straight on top of the next. Yes, that makes it stick out of its bottom. But this arrangement provides unbelievably smooth feeding, and the magazine never got into the way of handling the rifle.

Offhand performance left nothing to nag about. Neither did shooting from supported standing positions. T3 is indeed a joy to work with. And the next day, back in my cave, the barrel cleaned up quickly.

Just last weekend (it’s Aug 2008 now), I decided to take T3 along for one more bench session. The same old fodder of 100 grain Lapua HPs on top of 46 grains of RL10X shot an initial .56” group, and then another even .50”. So, some 300+ shots later my verdict has to be: Keeper!

Of course, there is always the issue of ‘better’. Purely personal now, I can’t deny that mental flirting with two modifications has already occurred. In time, certainly no rush, my T3 may find herself one day with some cosmetic surgery. That would be in the form of a muzzle brake. Call me too sensitive, I do prefer as little recoil as I can get (after meeting the power requirements). And while T3 is in the lab for that nose job, maybe I’ll have the barrel fluted as well. It could happen .

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