Let me start by saying that when I test a new rifle, my thoughts are always slanted towards the practical aspect rather than the high-tech approach adopted by many. I have always believed that a substantial number of shooters and prospective rifle buyers want information that is applicable to the gun’s use in the field, rather than technical descriptions. Another point I have heard made is that reviews never run down anything that is being tested. You may be assured that if I test a product – whatever it may be – and I really don’t like it or something about it, I will say so. In the past I have bought items that have certainly not had their faults revealed by the reviewer, and I would not wish that experience on anybody else.
I bore that in mind when GMK sent me a Tikka T3 Varmint Blue in .223 Rem for testing. I personally own a Sako 85 and have been a fan of Finnish gunmaking for a long time. Read any of the shooting websites and you will see a steady stream of praise for the T3. Getting the rifle out of the box, it was easy to see why this rifle has become so popular.
The overall length was 40in with barrel length of 20in; with these dimensions it felt compact. The heavy barrel pushed the weight up to 7½lb without a scope or moderator, but owing to the overall dimensions the weight did not present a problem.
Being of the old school, I have to say I am not a great fan of synthetic stocks, but I can see the advantages to using modern materials. In our climate, possibly the two greatest benefits of the synthetic stock are its resistance to weather and the fact that it does not tend to warp. The stock on the T3 does feel a bit flimsy but – made from glass-reinforced polymer – it is undoubtedly stronger than it appears. The cheekpiece is nicely shaped and the pistol grip is slim, unlike many synthetic stocks. There does not appear to be a palm swell but the grip was comfortable, the wide forend is sturdy and the moulded chequering, like that on the neck of the stock, settles well into your hold. It takes a bipod with no distortion at all. Normally I don’t use a bipod, relying on my Bushwear tripod, but I have to say the T3 lent itself very well to being used with one.
The heavy barrel, with its one in 12 twist (ideal for the lighter foxing rounds), is nicely finished, and the overall appearance is pleasing while at the same time being highly functional.
The magazine has come in for some criticism, as it’s all-polymer in its construction. There have also been negative responses to the way the magazine protrudes below the rifle body. Well, yes it does, but it is merely an aesthetic issue – in use it presents no problem – and if its critics really hated the look of it they probably wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.
The concept of the T3 is that one size caters for all calibres. The long action, which is machined from a solid piece of steel, is the same for all calibres, and changes to the calibre are catered for by altering the magazine internals. The integral scope rails are best suited to Sako/Tikka optilock bases, which, with their polymer inserts, are by far the best to use with these two makes of rifle. They are not the cheapest but they are certainly the choice of many discerning shooters.
The trigger is a single-stage unit and is adjustable. Unlike some American rifles, these Finnish items have useable triggers straight out of the box. The test rifle tripped the tester at a shade over three pounds – not too far adrift – and showed no discernible creep. The magazine, which is released by pressure on a small catch situated at the forward end, allows the magazine to drop easily into your hand. The capacity is five in the single stack magazine with one in the chamber.
Sling/bipod swivels come as standard, as does the factory screw cutting for the moderator. The safety catch is the standard build: Forward to fire, rearward for safe. The usual red dot is displayed when ready to fire, as is the red indicator at the rear of the bolt showing that the rifle is cocked.
As I said earlier I am not a great lover of synthetic rifles, but in truth the more I handled the Tikka the more I got to like it. I suppose the word that sums it up is: ‘Functional’.
Having done the descriptive piece, I was ready to try it out in the field. The first outing was to zero the rifle; the scope GMK had sent me was a Burris 3-9×50 Fullfield with the Ballistic Plex reticle. I had never used a Burris before but found that this one did the job well. It comes with a range finding facility as well as information relating to specific loads. At under £250 it’s exceptionally good value.
Boresighting the T3 got it pretty well on target. It is always a bit tedious when you follow the ‘shoot one and clean’ method, which is essential on a new weapon to ensure a long and accurate life. Once I was on the A4 size target, another half a dozen shots started to show results. Groups of one inch or a fraction over were duly punched in the paper. For a brand new weapon, this is more than good enough to take it into the field. I am quite sure that when ‘shot in’ the T3 would perform to a standard that would prove more than adequate for foxing. Home loaders (whose numbers are ever increasing) would, I am sure, be able to squeeze the groups even tighter.
A day or so after sighting the rifle in, I took it out on a beautiful evening to wait for one of the local foxes that had been giving a friend some grief. After a pleasant wait in the sun, Charlie appeared and most accommodatingly curled up and went to sleep 140 yards away. The first shot this Tikka fired in anger went straight through the fox’s mouth, and its evening siesta became permanent.
There really couldn’t have been a better test for this very practical rifle. The more I used it, the more its appearance and general feel appealed to me. Comfortable to carry and use, and easy to maintain, I really started to enjoy the T3 even though it’s not dressed in wood! Although it is not one of the most expensive rifles out there, the phrase that probably sums it up is, in fact: ‘More than fit for purpose’. MP
Models tested: Varmint Blue in .223; Sporter in .223
Price range: Models from £935
Contact: GMK 01489 587500