Long Guns: Tikka T3 Tactical Rifle

Finland is known for producing high-quality rifles. Many consider the Valmet the ultimate AK-type rifle, and the SAKO TRG is renowned as a tactical rifle. Finland produces another outstanding tactical rifle, though, in the Tikka T3. I’ve been aware of Tikka tactical rifles for 20 years or more and have been impressed every time I’ve tried one. The first time I heard about the Tikka as a tactical rifle, I was visiting some SAS friends in Hereford, England. At the time, the SP Unit (an early term for the SAS counterterrorist unit) was using the Tikka as their precision rifle. I was only in town for a curry and a chat, so I didn’t see the rifles, but I did take the opportunity a few months later to shoot a Tikka and was impressed with it.

Recently, I had the chance to do a lot of shooting with the Tikka T3, a tactical rifle designed with law enforcement and military users in mind, and my opinion hasn’t changed: I’m still impressed. The T3 is priced so that a law enforcement agency can afford it, yet it incorporates features that one normally finds only on higher-priced rifles. The T3 has a 20- or a 24-inch cold-hammer forged barrel; a synthetic, glass-fiber reinforced copolymer polypropylene stock; and a stainless steel, Teflon coated, two-lug locking bolt. Note that the bolt is forged, thus eliminating the problem of broken bolts common with one of the most popular U.S. tactical rifles.

Tikka T3 combined with Leupold LR/T 3.5-10x40mm M1 makes an outstanding tactical combo that remains quite easy for marksman to carry into shooting position. Tikka T3 features adjustable cheek piece as well as wide, flat fore-end.

There are actually four models of the T3 available: JRTM112 (.223 Rem. with 20-inch bbl), JRTM212 (.223 Rem. with 24-inch bbl), JRTM116 (.308 Win. with 20-inch bbl), and JRTM216 (.308 Win. with 24-inch bbl). I chose the JRTM116—the 20-inch barreled .308—for testing.

The heavy barrel is free floating, which along with the hammer forging enhances accuracy. The muzzle is threaded, too, so that a muzzle brake or suppressor can be installed if desired. The stock is one of the most comfortable I’ve used. It has an ambidextrous palm swell and an extra wide forend, which allows shooting from an improvised rest easier. The cheekpiece is adjustable for five positions. Length of pull may also be adjusted by removing or adding buttplate spacers. The recoil pad is comfortable as well. I fired 100 rounds during my first shooting session—most off of the bench or prone—and felt little recoil even at the end, when with some rifles my shoulder would have become tender.

The two-lug locking bolt uses a spring-loaded ejector that is easily disassembled for maintenance. The safety is well located for ease of operation without losing the sight picture and is of the two-stage type. It locks the trigger and bolt handle when engaged. The trigger is adjustable for pull weight between two and four pounds.

Overall length with 20-inch barrel is 40.15 inches, and weight is eight pounds. That combo makes this a tactical rifle that can be easily carried into shooting position even if climbing or other exertion is involved. When a tactical marksman is wearing all his other gear, weight is an important consideration, and one that is too often ignored in choosing a tactical rifle. A good tactical rifle, to be versatile, must be designed so that it offers a very steady shooting platform, but must also allow the shooter to easily transport the rifle. I feel the Tikka T3 blends these two requirements very well. Speaking of transporting the T3, it comes with sling swivel studs in place.

There are two other features of the T3 that I consider absolute necessities on a tactical rifle today. The T3 has a detachable five-round magazine—a magazine which, I should note, is very easy to load. In addition to the standard black magazine, color coded magazines are available should a tactical marksman want to have a variety of ammunition ready for use. The magazine release is well positioned for ease of operation. The other feature of the T3 I consider a must is a Picatinny (MIL-STD-1913) rail to allow easy mounting of a variety of optics.

Two shots fired quickly from prone position at 100 yards as fast as bolt could be operated. Two shots are high because Thompson did not change elevation, which was set for 200 yards.

Since the T3 is a light and compact rifle, I wanted a scope that would allow me to maximize the Tikka, but not overpower it with its size. I feel that Leupold’s Mark 4, 3.5-10x40mm LR/T M1 with Illuminated Reticle is an excellent choice. Since I have been using the system for a long time and am used to it, I chose the Mil Dot reticle. At 13.5 inches overall and 21 ounces in weight, this scope offers a lot of performance while remaining relatively compact for a long range optic. I chose the M1 version, which allows 1/4 MOA adjustments for both elevation and windage, to allow me to maximize the T3’s accuracy. I have also found the dials on Leupold’s LR/T scopes very ergonomic. The windage and elevation dials are easily accessible and move with audible clicks, which one can also feel. The dial for the illuminated reticle is located away from the other dials and is clearly marked for off and for each level of brightness. Since I wear glasses, the location of the focal adjustment dial to the left of the scope is especially useful, since it allows precise focus without having to change the shooting position.

As I wanted to get the Tikka zeroed for one load and then do a lot of shooting at varying ranges, I chose Black Hills 168-grain BTHP Match ammo, since I know from experience that it is capable of very precise shooting if the rifle cooperates.

Once I had the LR/T zeroed to the T3 at 200 yards, I began shooting for groups. At 200 yards, I fired some three-shot groups as tight as 1.5 inches and a five-shot group of about 1.8. A sub MOA, five-shot group is substantially more difficult than a three-shot one, so I was quite impressed. These groups were fired from a rest or prone. I was particularly impressed with the Tikka’s smooth bolt operation and trigger pull. I also found the stock especially comfortable.

At 100 yards, I fired three groups under an inch and one just over an inch. The best was a shade under .75 inch. These were all shot from a standing (actually crouching) rest. I also put up a hostage taker/hostage target at 100 yards. Firing prone, I took a head shot on the bad guy, then followed up with a second shot as fast as I could work the bolt. I expected to be satisfied with the two shots in two inches or less, but I was very pleased to see that the two shots were touching. They were a bit high because I had not adjusted for elevation because I had the scope zeroed at 200 yards. This was not due to forgetfulness; I just wanted to see, if I had to take a quick shot without changing elevation, how much point of impact would vary.

T3 is a very comfortable rifle to shoot offhand or prone.

At 300 yards, I fired two, three-shot groups—one just under three inches and one just over three inches. These groups were fired from a crouching rest as well. I also fired a lot of rounds at hanging plates at 300 yards, hitting on virtually every shot when firing prone. I also did some shooting off hand at plates at 100 yards and found the Tikka/Leupold combo surprisingly light. Since I have a bad knee that makes shooting from the kneeling position difficult, I did not try the Tikka from that position, but a friend who was with me did and was hitting the plates virtually every shot at 300 yards.

I am very impressed with the Tikka T3. This is absolutely a sub-MOA tactical rifle. Every rifle is required to shoot MOA or less or it doesn’t leave the factory in Finland. Certainly, I believe the T3 I have been shooting will shoot well under that. In fact, I intend to keep trying until I get a 1/2 MOA angle group at 100 and 200 yards.

Beretta distributes the Tikka in the USA, and I believe they have a real player in the light tactical rifle market in the Tikka T3. Suggested retail is $1,498.00, and one gets a lot of rifle for that price. Combined with the Leupold 3.5-10x40mm LR/T M1 and Black Hills 168-grain load, the Tikka performs superbly.


Beretta Law Enforcement and Defense Group
Dept. S.W.A.T.
17601 Beretta Drive
Accokeek, MD 20607-9515
(800) 545-9567

Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
Dept. S.W.A.T.
P.O. Box 688
Beaverton, OR 97006-5790
(503) 646-9171

Black Hills Ammunition
Dept. S.W.A.T.
P.O. Box 3090
Rapid City, SD 57709
(605) 348-5150

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