Gun test: Tikka T3x Lite Rough Tech Ember

Rifle tester Broadsword shooting the Tikka T3x Lite Rough Tech Ember

One down and another in the sights, the Ember was a joy to handle in the field with accuracy could be depended on - Credit: Archant

Broadsword is yet to find a Tikka T3X he doesn’t like, and that tradition continues when he reviews the Tikka T3X Lite Rough Tech Ember

The Tikka T3X is probably the industry standard when it comes to deer stalking rifles in this country. With Tikka’s long pedigree, coupled to lasting appeal backed up by fine Finnish quality and longevity, it’s not hard to see why this rifle – and its many derivatives – is seen on more gunsmith’s shelves than any other. Yes, I am biased as I am a long-time Tikka fan, having owned and customised many in my time. Tikka seem to have all the bases covered and continue to produce accurate straight-out-of-the-box rifles that make testing and hunting so much easier.

I am going to concentrate more on the overall performance of this rifle in the field with regard to accuracy and handling, as this is the key to the T3X’s design characteristics.

We tested the T3X Super Varmint last time in 6.5 Creedmoor, which proved to be a real dual-purpose stalking and longer-range gun offering superb accuracy and consistency with the heavier varmint profiled barrel. The model on test is going the other way: it’s svelte, nimble, designed for all-out hunting in tough terrain, and chambered in the venerable .308 Win – my favourite. This model, dubbed the T3X Lite Rough Tech Ember, is a lightweight stalking rifle with a slim, fluted stainless-steel barrel nestled into a tough polymer sporting stock with the fiery Ember pattern finish.

The T3X action with enlarged ejection port for smooth transition of cartridges

The T3X action utilises the newer enlarged ejection port for smooth transition of cartridges out and fingers in to clear any field debris - Credit: Archant

The specs
I love my full-on heavy-barrelled varmint rifles in odd calibres, but when it comes to just plain stalking and getting the job done without fuss or fanfare you can’t beat a lightweight rifle that handles well. This Ember is a very nimble and fast-handling hunting rifle with nothing missing or added that you don’t need. Basically it’s the perfect arm to take on any hunting trip where you are conscious of weight and where adding a scope and sound moderator would otherwise weigh things down.

This compact 6.6lb Ember is 40" long and only 5.25" more with the supplied Stalon mod fitted. Add to this the Burris Four Xe 3-12x56mm scope plus mounts and full complement of .308 Win cartridges, and the overall weight is still very manageable and will not strain you on those long or strenuous days up hill or down dale – or if you are just getting old like me!

Close up of the stock on a Tikka T3x Lite Rough Tech Ember

The Embers stock is pretty neutral with regard suitability for differing sized shooters, being comfortable for all and again that Ember finish is a nice change - Credit: Archant

The stock
The stock has a lot to do with how any rifle shoots, as its ability to bed the action correctly is paramount, as is the basic design, which should enable a comfortable aim and shot in the field.

Tikka use the injection moulded Rough Tech system to form two halves of the dense polymer stock material that makes these synthetically stocked Tikka’s impervious to the British weather and maintain its zero, due to its inability to warp, unlike wood. All in all, it’s a far more practical choice when you are battling through brush, foliage, brambles, crawling on wet grass and sitting out in all manner of weather conditions.

The most striking part is the finish. As the name suggests there is a fire-like swirl on the outer shell over the textured Rough Tech body. I guess the Tikka R&D team were sitting around a campfire after a hunt and saw the burning embers and thought, “Ah-ha!” It has a blackish-brown background colour overall, with a reddish-orange speckled top coat and I like it. It’s something different and natural looking, blends in well and does not reflect light.

You have a slim-profiled sporter design that actually fits right- or left-hand orientations very well. Regardless it’s a more rigid design, helped by the fact that it has a foam filler to add density and stop any annoying hollow sounds when knocked or scraped, thereby alarming potential game. This Tikka is stealthy. There are good bracing ridges to the hollowed out forend to avoid twisting, and it also helps to stiffen things up when a bipod is fitted.

The action sits on very well-machined shelves through which the stock screws traverse, featuring steel cups to stop compaction. The forward recoil lug that takes the brunt of the recoil force and also acts as a consistent bedding appendage is all steel and set into the stock rather than emanating from the rifle’s action. This all allows the Ember’s action to sit square and true without any fear of stock warping.

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The redesigned recoil pad is generous and has a good degree of flex in it to actually grip the shoulder and dissipate recoil. A sling swivel attachment, essential on a stalking rifle, is provided via twin QD studs.

As with all the T3X modular stock designs, you can replace inserts on the pistol grip; they are sold separately to vary the grip angle to suit your own personal shooting style. I have to admit that I have not tried this as I am more than happy with the standard fit and the same is true of the asymmetrical grip pattern, instead of checkering, which does grip very well. I do like the twin palm swells as they make you put your hand back in the same place each time, which helps to achieve a consistent hold.

Close up of the brake on a Tikka T3x Lite Rough Tech Ember

Although I did not use the muzzle brake its nice that it's included with the Ember if you need it - Credit: Archant

Barrel and action
This Ember model is all the better for having a nice weight and length barrel fitted, making it extremely user friendly to carry and shoot from the shoulder when out in the field. The barrel is 20" of stainless steel, which is ideal for a .308 and doesn’t compromise ballistic performance. It tapers gently down to the muzzle, which is threaded at 5/8x24 (UNEF) and finished with a nice 11° crown for perfect bullet exit.

To reduce weight further, the Ember’s barrel has six relatively shallow flutes extending for some 8" from just 2.5" behind the muzzle and finishing at the forend. The barrel is fully free floated with a generous space allowing for barrel heat up without distortion, and there’s no interference to barrel harmonics when a bipod is fitted. Internally you have a 1 in 11" twist rate in .308 Win, which is good for bullet weights up to 200gr. Interestingly Tikka supply this model with a  2.75" muzzle brake, 0.75" wide with 30 6mm holes in rows of five. So if a sound moderator is not your thing, then recoil or muzzle jump can still be addressed.

This model T3X has a spiral fluted bolt, which is a nod to the custom rifle market as they were once seen only on custom guns. It enhances the overall look but also guarantees a bind-free bolt cycle and also makes for easier clearance of debris or gunk when out in the field.

The stainless T3X action has that enlarged ejection port and metal bolt shroud, all adding to better looks and functionality. That super-smooth bolt with oversized handle never gets dull to operate, with its low bolt lift, twin semi-coned in-profile locking lugs for a secure lock-up, and an effective single extractor claw and a plunger type ejector. Loading and unloading even stiff reloads is never a problem.

Scope mounting is via the excellent near full-length twin-dovetail system, which achieves total solidity and alignment to the bore axis. There are 6-48 screw fitments and I took advantage of this by fitting some excellent Zeigler ZP QD mounts for the supplied Burris Four Xe 3-12x56mm scope.

Close up of trigger and bolt on a Tikka T3x Lite Rough Tech Ember

The Ember has the Rough Tech textured stock enhanced with that fiery orange and black “Ember” look - Credit: Archant

Trigger, safety and magazine
The three-shot polymer magazine is designed to resist wear and the elements. It’s all you need, as you can always pop another round up the spout anyway, but larger magazine capacities are available for this generic T3X action.
The trigger needs no real introduction. Tikka have always put decent triggers on their rifles, as this is the primary point of contact for your brain to engage with the rifle on firing. Breaking at a crisp 2.90lb, it’s a single stage and light enough for a delicate touch, but also safe with wet or cold hands. There are no fancy safeties, just a toggle unit that in the forward position is fire and when rearward makes the Ember safe, locking both the bolt operation and the trigger.

Bullet test results from the Tikka T3x Lite Rough Tech Ember

Bullet test results - Credit: Archant

Field test
This is the real test, so some factory rounds and then reloads were used to check the Ember’s mettle, followed by some Chinese water deer hunting to round out the test.

Factory wise, the Sako 123gr Gamehead always shoots nicely and here we had 2,875fps for 2,258ft-lb, along with cracking 0.65" groups. Similarly the Hornady SST Superformance loads are fast even from a 20" barrel and the 150gr bullet sped along at 2,844fps for 2,695ft-lb and 0.85" groups.

Winchester’s new Copper Extreme Point lead-free 150gr load shot a quite sedate 2,681fps, 1,596ft-lb and 1" groups and would be interesting to see how they perform on deer. I also tried some PPU 150gr at 2,719fps/
2,463ft-lb and 1.25" groups, and the heavier 180gr at 2,487fps for 2,473ft-lb – just about Scotland legal. 

You can see from the results that this Ember responded well with the reloads. Best accuracy went to the 125gr Nosler Ballistic Tips, with that load of 42.5gr of RL10X yielding 2,960fps for 2,431ft-lb – and all shots were touching!

I tried a few subsonic loads as they double as quiet close-range fox cartridges from the .308 Win. The XTP 90gr with 10.0gr of SR4759 is quiet and still expands on impact.

This Ember also liked the lead-free loads, and again the lighter the better with the 110gr Barnes TTSX with 43.0gr of RL10X powder behind it producing 0.5" groups for 3,102fps and 2,350ft-lb of energy.

To prove that this Ember shoots as well in the field, I took it CWD stalking where the lighter weight and great handing off sticks or prone made it an asset when a quick shot was needed on a small buck. It was instantly harvested with the factory Winchester Extreme Point lead-free load, to prove how it really performed out in the field.

The T3X Action and magazine

Generic T3X action and magazines mean they can accommodate different length cartridges with the addition of the rear blanking plate - Credit: Archant

Conclusions
The T3X Lite Rough Tech Ember model from Tikka fulfils the brief for an accurate, rugged and lightweight stalking rifle ideally suited to real-world hunting trips. Accurate with factory or reloads, and so natural and intuitive to use in the field, you can see why it’s so popular among professionals and novices alike. 

Tech Specs 
Manufacturer    Sako/Tikka Ltd
Model    T3X Lite Rough Tech Ember
Type    Bolt Action
Overall Length    40”
Barrel length    20”, 5/8 24 pitch ie UNEF, muzzle brake supplied
Length of Pull    13.75”
Weight    6.6lbs
Finish    Brushed stainless steel finish
Stock    Black with red/orange speckles, modular synthetic
Magazine    Detachable, 3 shot, five shot option
Sights    None, integral scope rail
Trigger    Single Stage adjustable
Price    £TBA
Importer    GMK 
Tel    01489 579999

Contacts
GMK Ltd    Tikka, Burris, Stalon moderator, Sako ammo
Norman Clark    Reload supplies        01788 579651
Hannam`s    Reload supplies              01977 681639
Alan Rhone  Zeigler ZP q/d mounts        01978 660001