Tikka has become a firm favourite in Europe thanks to its high quality and low cost. Tim Pilbeam puts the latest model, the Super Varmint, to the test.
You can’t go far wrong with a Tikka,” my local gun shop tells me when I enquire into mid to low budget rifles. “They do exactly what they say: sub-MOA accuracy backed up with faultless reliability.”
Reputation is king, especially when you are one of the leading brands in Europe, and with such high praise I am sure that the package sent by UK importer GMK will not disappoint. I spend a lot of time shooting out to long ranges with accurised rifles, and I am always eager to put the latest models through their paces. The Tikka Super Varmint is, as its name suggests, a true varminter. It is a versatile creature however, and also perfectly suited to general fox shooting and target work. The accuracy of the heavy-duty barrel is aided by the comfort and rigidity of the improved stock, making it a great all-rounder.
The one-piece polymer stock is similar to that of the T3 Lite, but on closer inspection it is superior in two ways: the adjustable cheek piece and an enhanced fore end. The cheek piece can be adjusted via a knob on the right hand side, loosened to give a total of two inches of travel that will cater for most of the larger scopes out there. The beavertail forend is much wider, making a more secure fit for bipods. Compared to the Lite there is much less flexibility, with pronounced raised areas to grip with the front hand.
The metal work is fashioned from one piece of machined stainless steel. On the Super Varmint it supports a versatile 17mm picatinny rail, perfect for a wide variety of mounts and other optical gismos. I rather like the bead blasted matt finish of the 23.5in heavy duty barrel, available in both 1 in 8in (on test) and 1 in 14in twist rates, catering for all weights of ammunition. It looks and feels robust, available in an optional 18x1mm thread for sound moderators or muzzle breaks. Overall, a true varminting setup with a recessed crown, fully floated forward of the receiver, with plenty of clearance between the barrel and forend of the stock.
The bolt, with its twin locking lugs, is simple and smooth to operate, with a short 70-degree throw. This, combined with a large knob, in 223, makes it a very fast and effortless bolt to cycle. A standard extractor claw and plunger ejector system provides a reliable and proven ejection. To the rear, a cocking indicator is easy to see, and on the right of the tang, an easily locatable two positioned safety catch locks the bolt when applied in the forward position. The push feed system has a plunger ejector and a spring extractor, and being in 223, it removes the spent cases with gusto.
The slim, single stage trigger is set at the factory to a rather heavy 3.5lbs, so I quickly adjusted it, after removing the stock with the help of a small allen key to 2.2lbs. As with most Tikkas, the trigger is crisp with little or no creep whatsoever, perfect for long-range work. If you enjoy very light triggers, a set trigger is available as an optional extra. The trigger guard and magazine are made of high-density plastic that feel a little flimsy, but is perfectly functional. In 223 the single column feed magazine holds six rounds, sits a little lower than the trigger guard, and is released by a lever to the front. It is light but works well, dropping out without any assistance.
Overall, the Super Varmint has the looks of a no-frills rifle, but I have no doubt it will perform as well as many semi-custom models. On test, it was fitted with a 4.5 – 14 x 56 Leupold MK5 LRT using Weaver mounts and Harris bipod. For ammunition, 55g Gamehead Sako was supplied, with a MV of 3150fps, the perfect round for foxing. As for the sound moderator, my favourite one was fitted, namely the indestructible Ase Ultra Jet-Z compact, as it will put up with hundreds of rounds being shot through it in a short time, without any degradation of accuracy or internal baffles. It is literally bullet proof!
At 100 yards 0.9in groupings were achieved ‘out of the box’. This bodes well, so longer distances out to 400 yards were explored with sub-MOA results achieved. I also used a variety of bullet weights, and with the exception of some dreadful military rubbish, 1.2MOA gave the worst performance. Being a short action in 223, the cycling of the rounds was smooth and effortless, despite the plastic magazine, and with the trigger adjusted to just over 2lbs, it was a delight to shoot. Fully laden with scope, bipod, moderator and sling, it weighed in at 12lbs, which was as anticipated for this style of rifle. It goes without saying that this is fine for foxing but I would not be so keen to lug it around the highlands, unless I lose a few pounds off my belly or go to the gym!
The stock does sound a little hollow, maybe giving the impression of a cheaper equivalent, but the fore end is stiff, and has the feel of a durable workhorse. The widened fore end is reasonably grippable, as was the pistol grip with its slight palm swell.
At a RRP of £1,325 the Super Varmint is a worthy all-rounder, used for most shooting sports including deer stalking. It is accurate, and I have no doubt that after making up a few home loads, 1/2MOA accuracy can be achieved. As I have mentioned, you cannot go far wrong with a Tikka.