Stuart Wilson gets to grips with this week’s Gun of the Week, the Tikka T1X, and discovers rimfire excellence concealed in a centrefire disguise.
Rimfires, particularly the .22LR variety are probably my most-used and most-loved guns. A mooch around your ground with a decent .22LR slung over your shoulder is a great way to spend any spare time you have, and to steal a phrase from an old work colleague, let the ‘armed ramble’ commence!
Most vermin and game can be taken with the .22LR – leaving longer range foxes and deer out of the equation obviously – the .22LR is a truly useful tool.
The criteria it has to fulfill to satisfy my needs are: quiet; cheap to run; and hopefully light and deadly accurate. If the package is short and compact that’s even better, that’s my personal take on things, but I think this brief is not uncommon among vermin hunters across the country.
Trying to get review rifles during these different times has presented some challenges, and some necessary family commitments had me in a bit of a corner, until a good friend said I could try his Tikka T1X –so I graciously accepted the offer of a fully assembled and zeroed package that was already shooting extremely well, accounting for good bags of bunnies in the field.
Tikka have been making rifle components from as early as 1918, with the modern collaboration between Tikka and Sako starting with the first run of prototype Tikka rifles in 1981. The rest is history, with both brands offering some of the finest rifles to the firearms market for many years.
The actions are proven, and the current T3X still strongly resembles my first memories of the Tikka M55 – many of which will still be going strong, even if they have been rebarreled – truly bomb proof.
Before you glaze over and fall to sleep, the Tikka T1X slips out of its cover to reveal what first looks like a short barrelled Tikka T3 Varmint, short, compact and when first shouldered reveals how pointable this model is, I often wonder how the word ‘pointable’ translates to people who are new to shooting, or even readers who don’t shoot; I’d say it’s like picking up a pen when faced with several thousand words to write, the ergonomic fit derived from shape and balance, not forgetting the various textures involved, just work, giving you that favourite pen feel.
Picking up the T1X quickly builds a desire to get into the field, it’s that simple. Lacking patience, I jumped straight in the truck and within 10 minutes had a magazine full down range onto a target board, the pleasure of a couple of tight groups, with absolutely no bitter aftertaste of any glaring design flaws.
I was curious to get home now and have a good look at the rifle in a bit more detail, with more time, over a brew at my desk. A strong Douwe Egberts (yes, I will accept product for placement/endorsement #instawhore), gently frothed over, pulled me from my day dream, as I snapped the measuring tape home against my fingers; overall length 33.5 inch/855mm, length of pull currently 13.5 inch/343mm, and the barrel 16 inch with the little moderator slipped off. Scoped and moderator back on, the T1X tipped the scales at a squeak under eight pounds. It feels less, so perhaps the balance has done its job here.
At this point it’s fair to say if you are thinking about buying one, just go and order one, then come back and read on.
One size fits all
The T1X design allows the Tikka shooter to jump from rifle to rifle now with tolerances so close it may even require a second glance to make sure that you have the correct rifle, with the T1X and the T3X near identical in the footprint, both with the internal inlet, but the exterior shooter/rifle interface is designed to be very familiar, with many stocks and accessories being interchangeable through the range.
The T3 Centrefire has been very popular, and this will surely continue with some enhancement. Now there is a rimfire offering in the stable, and this will find existing loyal followers and new followers alike.
The polymer synthetic stock has good proportions from the box, and has the added advantage of being customisable with various add-ons, from different pistol grip profiles, forend beaver tails, and a selection of butt pads to get the desired length for a personal feel.
Looking at the prices they aren’t expensive compared to a full re-stock. It would also seem that any swap outs or alterations are all very easily performed with basic tools, simple and accessible to all shooters, which is a nice touch.
My test rifle had a length of pull at 13.5 inch, perhaps a touch short, but it was only after shooting and the subsequent measuring that the shorter length was revealed, it certainly didn’t feel too short just as it came.
The butt of the stock slips into the shoulder nicely without dragging or catching, and the lack of recoil, to my mind, doesn’t warrant a grippy softer pad, the cheek weld is pretty good, with the majority of the shots I took being from the bonnet or from sticks, pretty standard hunting positions.
The pistol grip has a textured panel, almost resembling a carbon fibre look, but the moulded plastic grips are one of the items that can be swapped out, and I would certainly look to try the more vertical pistol grip insert, even though I did not notice any issue whilst shooting the T1X; the trigger finger finds its spot, and the repeat fire and bolt cycle are very natural, featuring good design and proven dimensions.
The forend sports the same textured moulded grips either side, and whilst not removable for different dimension grips, a separate beaver tail forend is available to slip over the existing forend, effectively giving a broader hand filling swell, with the benefit of a flatter bottom to help stabilise in a level plane when shooting from bags or other forend rests.
What you have is a multi customisable stock, with the ability to adjust for length, finished with industry standard sling studs fore and aft, for sling and or bipod attachment.
The bottom metal, which in this case is a plastic plate incorporating a trigger guard houses the magazine, but interestingly, the magazine and its housing remain on the barrelled action when the stock is removed.
This is a great solution to the issues of swapping a rimfire action into a centrefire stock, it would seem our American shooters are really geared into this trend – with several regulated disciplines for this type of ‘training’ rifle shooting.
All action design
I am fairly familiar with Sako’s excellent and revered Finnfire in its various guises, so it’s no surprise that the Tikka T1X exhibits the same slick cycling action, with faultless magazine feed. It’s very easy and offers nearly nothing to complain about.
A tiny criticism is occasionally heard in reference to the effort of the bolt lift after firing, personally I didn’t notice anything, it’s certainly no more than the same operation in many other rimfires I can think of, and really it’s only marginally apparent when going for tiny groups at extended range when shooting from a bench. In part this is due to the shooting style – trying to keep everything locked in place without moving your cheek or eye out of position.
The bolt is obviously a nice short throw forward and back, slipping effortlessly against beautifully machined surfaces, further aided by the stainless bolt, and the very low angle of lift, allowing easy clearance of the scope ocular bell, particularly important when using some night vision scopes and add-ons.
The top of the action offers very easy mounting with rimfire standard 11mm dovetails, you can purchase weaver/picatinny rails for the top, which use the threaded holes in the top rail to secure in place, this would probably be my own preference.
The hammer forged barrel, measuring 16 inches, threaded with a ½”x20UNF produces some cracking groups, and will no doubt offer many years of accurate service, the finish is a traditional blued, and there are several other options, a 20” for those who prefer a longer rifle, and then the same two 16 and 20 inch barrels with the 1/2x28UNEF thread – more of a standard across the pond.
The twist rate is 1 in 16.5, pretty close to nearly every other 22LR ever made at 1 in 16”, the accuracy was effortless using the owner’s recommendation of Norma Subsonic, a 40gr hollow point lead bullet, tearing neat little ½” groups all day long at 50 yards.
The T1X trigger is a single stage unit, and being decidedly unfussy on trigger weights, it shot without issue, no graunching or slop, just beautiful crisp, clean breaks.
Out of the box the weight is around three pounds, which the ribbed, slightly curved blade’s width, around 7mm, does a fine job of pulling. Any shooter with a more refined trigger finger will also appreciate the trigger is adjustable, and it will adjust safely to a lower pull weight by threading out one screw – my advice would be to just shoot it and leave it alone, failing that get your local gunsmith to adjust and then thoroughly test the function afterwards, better to be safe than sorry.
The safety catch is the favoured forward/fire rearward/safe, which whilst rearward and safe also locks the bolt shut in the action, near identical if not the very same as the T3. It is also grooved on top to offer the hunter a silent controlled push forward just before you deliver the bad news to your chosen target.
The single stack, 10 shot magazine feeds without fault, and ejects with authority, very simple and not much to go wrong, with the bolt face extracting and an ejector slipping into place as the bolt is drawn open, flinging spent cases clear at a good angle – missing the extended windage turret of this package’s scope.
Loading the magazine is easy, and taking two full strips of five from your ammo box is much nicer than the Finnfire’s old nine capacity, which just plain vexes my tiny mind!
Popping the magazine in and out is very easy, even when you’re fumbling in the dark. It is positive and designed in such a way that it just slots in. For hunting I would add one more 10 shot magazine, it’s also worth noting the magazine protrudes no more than 20mm from the bottom of the stock, with no banana curved profile, very neat – this will be appreciated by vehicle-using pest controllers for sure.
I enjoy review rifles, even when I am trying to get it down in print, it’s a privilege to test products. The Tikka T1X with the Hawke scope has certainly opened my eyes, the performance, design, and complimentary functionality you will get from a shooting package like this is massive, and the prices are favourable, you are getting solid bang for your buck: a firm favourite in the rimfire market.
Hunt it down
GMK • 01489 579 999 • gmk.co.uk
Hawke Vantage 30 WA SF IR 4-16×50 Rimfire .22 Subsonic Reticle
Hawke • 0345 345 5555 • uk.hawkeoptics.com