It could be said the Tikka T3x would rate as one of the most popular and best-selling centrefire rifles on the Australian market. Distributed by Beretta Australia, the Finnish-made Tikka T3x includes countless models and variants in a wide array of calibres. You might even think there were no more niches that Sako’s Tikka T3x would need to fill.
Beretta Australia has listened to what Aussie hunters and shooters have been telling them and the demand for a Tikka T3x with varmint barrel and wood (walnut) stock has been constant, so they’ve released such a rifle in the T3x Varmint Hunter. Available in eight calibres and two metal finishes (matte blue and stainless) all with 600mm (23.7”) barrels, this rifle is delivered squarely for varmint or long-range hunters who shoot from stationary positions (vehicle, ground blind or prone) or for the popular Precision Rifle Shooting (PRS) discipline.
Beretta Australia sent Australian Shooter the new T3x Varmint Hunter in .223 Remington together with a Burris Signature HD 3-15×44 riflescope in Tikka ring mounts and ammunition from Sako and Sellier & Bellot. The rifle sports a fast twist one-in-8 barrel, perfect for stabilising the longer and heavier .224 calibre projectiles yet certainly isn’t a stalking firearm, its bare weight of 3.91kg meaning you wouldn’t carry it around hill and dale all day.
This is the standard unit found on all T3x models, 225mm long by 31mm wide and is of a turn-bolt repeating action with 70-degree bolt throw. The receiver body is slab-sided with five flats giving it a rather stout appearance with rounded underside. The ejection port with its widened angular format allows for easier single-cartridge loading when required, while also benefiting ejection of fired and unfired cases. On the opposite side of the T3x action a small gas port is evident to assist with venting hot gases from the chamber and to the rear of this is the well-proportioned bolt release button.
Top of the receiver houses the integral milled dovetail with additional holes drilled and tapped into the flat to allow fitment of other scope-mounting hardware such as a Picatinny rail or two-piece ring bases, a vast improvement on the old T3 format. The barrel is what was makes this rifle a standout and for the .223 Remington calibre it’s profiled as you’d expect – a varmint barrel. It measures 29mm at the knox-form and 22mm at the muzzle with a concave crown ensuring accuracy, the barrel being of a matte blue finish which complements the rifle overall.
This particular barrel is cold hammer forged from highest grade chromium-molybdenum steel, sporting a one-in-8 rate of twist. It’s attached to the action by a sturdy thread and while many manufacturers have opted for other methods of mating barrels to actions to cut costs, Tikka still opts for a threaded barrel and action with no locking nut. The barrelled action is finished in a lovely matte blue with a stainless steel version also available. Both metal finishes are available in all eight calibre options in the T3x Varmint Hunter ‑ .223 Rem. (one-in-12 and one-in-8 twist), .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5 CM, 6.5 PRC, .270 Win, .308 Win and .300 Win Mag, all of them offered with the 605mm (23.8”) varmint profile barrel.
Bolt, safety and trigger
One of the best with the opposed locking lugs, a spring-loaded plunger and claw extractor making for superior lock-up and effortless extraction and ejection of fired or unfired cases. The bolt body is of highly polished steel which gives it that silky-smooth operation, the bolt handle also polished and with a slight swept back design and round knob which feels comfortable in the hand. To the rear of the bolt, a blued alloy bolt shroud replaces the old polymer unit of the T3.
The safety mechanism on the T3x uses the standard two-position sliding lever just behind the bolt notch and on cocking the rifle, the lever can be slid to the rear to block the trigger and lock the bolt handle down, the cocking indicator visible from the rear of the bolt shroud. Pushing the safety lever forward, a small red dot appears at the rear of the lever to indicate the rifle is ready to fire, this two-position safety a simple but ultra-reliable system which works well.
The trigger mechanism is good for a hunting rifle and set at 1.5kg. Some users may prefer a lighter pull and it can be adjusted, though I found the set-up to my liking. The trigger blade itself is metallic with a curved profile and ribbed surface, the triggerguard, magazine housing and magazine all made of high-strength polymer.
This houses 10 rounds in a single stack configuration and delivers these to the push-feed bolt without issue. To remove the magazine, a small latch in front of the housing is pressed. The standard-length Tikka magazine is built to take all calibres offered in the T3x line-up and in the case of the diminutive .223 Remington, the rear portion of the magazine is blocked out to accommodate the shorter cartridge length. Additionally, the magazine has stainless steel feed ‘lips’ which gives a more reliable operation and control of the 10-stack capacity.
For the purist the only material worthy of consideration here is walnut. This stock is far from exhibition grade but still sports a piece of straight-grained walnut (likely sourced from Europe) and the stock profile has a semi-Monte Carlo pattern, with the comb tapered towards the head rather than being parallel. This, together with the triangular-shaped cheekpiece, helps achieve a superb cheek weld when using a suitable optic but also reduces felt recoil, the pistol grip having an open radius which gives a comfortable hold and reach to the trigger blade.
Both sides of the grip are adorned with an aesthetic laser-cut chequering pattern which is also replicated on either side of the fore-end and it performs as expected, giving positive clasp with either bare hands or gloves. The stock is fitted with blued QD swivel studs, one at the toe of the buttstock and two under the fore-end tip and to manage recoil, a quality Sorbothane-style pad has been fitted.
The stock is oil finished, the only way quality walnut should be treated. Removing the stock from the barrelled action, the only bedding visible is a steel recoil lug which is inletted into the floor, protruding approximately 5mm above the inletting. This allows for the milled recess in the floor of the receiver to mate up with the recoil lug and while the lug is fitted well into the floor of the stock, some sort of reinforcement around it such as glass epoxy would offer additional strength and support to the walnut. No other bedding support is present other than the finished surfaces of the inletted walnut stock which have also been sealed with oil. A couple of aluminium pillars would have offered a better bedding set-up but Sako deem the sealed walnut to offer a stable platform. The barrel is free-floated along its entire length.
At the range
The review rifle was put through its paces at a private club range, conducted at the standard 100m distance. I expected top-flight accuracy from the 600mm varmint profile barrel and wasn’t disappointed, all loads performing well with five 3-shot groups fired with a barrel clean between changes in ammunition.
|Ammunition||Best group (mm)||Worst group (mm)||Average group size (mm)*|
|Sako Powerhead II 55gr Barnes TSX||15||23||18|
|Sellier & Bellot Match 69gr HPBT||18||27||22|
|Winchester Bulk Pack 55gr SP||20||30||25|
|Federal Power-Shok 55gr SP||18||32||24|
* Average group size calculated from five 3-shot groups at 100m
Even though the fast-twist one-in-8 barrel shot well with standard 55-grain soft-point loads from Winchester and Federal, the rifle’s forte is heavier bullets from 60-80 grains as well as monolithic projectiles such as the Barnes TSX. Handloading would certainly produce one-hole groups at 100m in the order of 0.3-0.5 Minute of Angle.
The team at Beretta Australia have delivered a rifle unique to the Australian marketplace, one inspired by consumer demand. It’s sure to sell well in the .22-centrefire calibres (.223 Rem and .22-250 Rem) but the inclusion of calibres from .243 Win up to .300 Win Mag will see it receive additional attention – and deservedly so. The Varmint Hunter model will be in short supply once the word gets out. More at berettaaustralia.com.au.
Manufacturer: Sako, Riihimaki, Finland
Model: Tikka T3x Varmint Hunter
Calibres: .223 Rem (one-in-8 as tested and one-in-12 twist), .22-250 Rem, .243 Win, 6.5CM, 6.5 PRC, .270 Win, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag
Sights: Clean barrel, receiver dovetailed and drilled/tapped for scope mounting hardware
Receiver: Tikka T3x manually operated bolt-action, dual locking lugs, push feed with mechanical ejection, matte blued finish (stainless finish also available)
Barrel: Cold hammer forged barrel, varmint profile, 600mm (23.7”) in length, free-floated, matte blue finish
Stock: Walnut, oil-finished with Sorbothane recoil pad and QD sling swivel studs
Magazine: 10 rounds (in .223 Rem calibre) in a single-stack configuration polymer magazine
Trigger: Single stage, fully adjustable, factory-set at 1.5kg.
Total Length: 1110mm
Weight: 3.91kg (bare rifle)
Distributor: Beretta Australia
RRP: $2189 (blued model), $2529 (stainless model)