It’s a high-powered incarnation of one of the most popular all-round rifles around. Tim Pilbeam tests the Tikka T3 Hunter in .300 WSM topped with a Leupold XVR scope
Tikka T3 rifles need no introduction as they are some of the most popular rifles on the market, The whole T3 range is renowned for accuracy, reliability and consistent build quality. For this review, I was sent the Hunter model in a feisty .300 WSM. I sincerely hoped it would live up to its high reputation.
The Hunter is the entry-level model of the T3 range, sporting a wooden stock with a blued action and barrel. The oiled walnut stock has two sets of three neat chequering grip panels either side of the pistol grip and forend. The pistol grip is very comfortable and has palm swells on both sides, thus suiting both right- and left-handed shooters. The comb is of a simple straight hunting design, with a sturdy recoil pad at the rear. The length of pull can be adjusted by adding extra spacers. The forend is stiff enough to support a bipod, so it does not affect the accuracy by touching the barrel, and also comes with QD mount studs. Overall, the walnut is of respectable quality and very comfortable to hold.
The well established T3 action has a narrow ejector port, making it much stronger than most, but it does make the top loading of the ammo a little fiddly. The stainless steel bolt is very smooth, with a cocking extension lever to the rear to show when the action is cocked. The two locking lugs are simple and effective, as is the spring-loaded plunger ejector, and all can be easily stripped down for servicing. The two-position safety catch will lock the action when pushed to the rear (safe) and the forward position will allow you to shoot. The action is well proven, simple and smooth, aided by an easy-to-use bolt handle that is a delight to cycle.
The T3 comes with an adjustable trigger (2-4lb). This rifle’s trigger was set at 3¾lb, and was very crisp with no creep at all. The trigger guard and magazine are made of a plastic polymer, with the latter holding three rounds. The near-flush fitting magazine can be easily released and replaced with one hand by pressing the catch located at the front of it.
Being a magnum calibre, the .300 WSM comes with a 24in barrel (1 in 11in twist). It is cold hammer forged and fully free floating with no front or rear sights or thread for a moderator. The barrel is a lightweight tube, ideal for the hunter, with a nicely blued finish that seems to be suitable for the most rugged of conditions.
For the review, GMK kindly sent a newly launched Leupold FireDot VX-R 3-9×50 hunting scope with an illuminated red dot at the centre of the reticle. It also came with Optilock mounts that fitted beautifully to the 11mm integral dovetail located on the top of the receiver. For ammunition, I used 180-grain Sako Super Hammerhead soft points and Federal Power Shok soft points, both pushing out bullets at a punishing 2,950fps.
My first impressions of the Hunter, when lifted to the shoulder, were its superb balance and weight of 7lb. To test the accuracy, I used a 6-12in Harris bipod with no butt support. After setting a zero of 150 yards, both the Sako and Federal ammunition managed a group of 1.5-1.75in, which is impressive considering this is an entry level rifle with a lightweight hunting barrel. After six shots, the groups became larger owing to the barrel heating up, but on all occasions, the first three always retained tight groups. Since this was a 7lb rifle in .300WSM, firing 180-grain bullets at 2,950fps with 3,450ft/lb of energy at the muzzle, shooting prone was not the most popular of positions to shoot in owing to the recoil. Off came the bipod, and throughout the test I used shooting sticks and various forms of support such as trees and shooting bags, as well as kneeling and standing positions.
The Tikka T3 Hunter lived up to my expectations in terms of accuracy, reliability and ease of use. The pistol grip and forend were comfortable with a firm, crisp trigger, and the action was smooth to cycle. Bearing in mind that this rifle retails at an incredibly low £995, what more could a hunter want out of a rifle? I talked to my gunsmith about the price, and he seemed to think that wooden stocks are no longer popular compared to synthetic or laminated alternatives. As for the entry-level sector of the T3 range, prices range from around £750 with a variety of black and stainless steel actions, wooden and synthetic stocks and ‘Lite’ (lighter) to heavier weights. Tikka now guarantees accuracy of 1in at 100 yards, so there is no question over their performance.
Many thanks to GMK for the loan of the rifle, Leupold telescopic sight and the supply of ammunition.