Test: Tikka T3x Arctic in .308 Winchester, a bolt-action rifle for hunting in extreme temperatures 

Above all Inuit and Indigenous peoples – or to put it more old-fashioned, Eskimos and Indians – can be found in their ranks. These men and women belong to the Canadian military reserve force known as Canadian Rangers or Rangers Canadiéns, an association of about 5000 people. This does not mean that this unit was always up to date in terms of weaponry.

The opposite is true: since 1947 they had been carrying .303 British Lee Enfield No. 4 bolt-action rifles – very reliable, no doubt, but elsewhere these repeaters have long since been taken out of service and given a second career among shooters and collectors. Now these old No. 4s from North America will probably provide further supplies for the latter, because les Rangers Canadiéns decided to replace them some years ago with something better: it's called the C19 and it's the father of the rifle in question – the Tikka T3x Arctic.

Before the Tikka T3x Arctic: the old Lee Enfield No. 4

Many Canadian Rangers operate in areas that are as remote as they are inhospitable. Like their equipment, they have to cope with temperature ranges of a good 80 to 90°C. In their areas of operation, temperatures can drop to minus 50°C in winter, but in summer they can reach 40°C. Not to speak of high humidity, with a lot of salt near the coast.

Typical T3x bolt of the Tikka T3x Arctic: the two locking lugs are arranged to allow a short bolt throw of only 70 degrees.

And in view of the 100 km distance to the nearest gunsmith or armorer, the rifles' parts must be robust enough so that rifles don't fall apart and their owners are left defenseless at the moment of danger. Even if the Canadian Rangers, which are divided into 5 so-called Patrol Groups, fulfill the tasks of a militia with observation and vigilance duties and help with rescue operations, they have less to do with terrorists of any political or religious color.

What the gentlemen in the typical red jackets are mainly arming themselves against are, for example, attacks from the family of the Ursus maritimus, i.e. polar bears. And on their extended trips the Rangers also need the rifles to be able to shoot something to throw in the pot and pan in case of need.

Tikka T3x Arctic: in search of a reliable bolt-action rifle

With all this, the Lee Enfield No. 4s worked perfectly – until they were worn out and the arsenals were so short of spare parts that the Rangers obtained some of them via the Internet. So a new model was needed. The Rangers survey, which began in 2010, probably revealed that it should be a bolt-action rifle based on a proven and robust action, just as weatherproof as the old Lee Enfields, designed for a widely used and huntable caliber such as the .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield, and set up for shooting ranges of up to 300 m, which were determined to be common.

According to the corresponding official report, two weak points of the old No.4 had to be corrected in the new rifle: a sturdier magazine and much more rugged open sights, preferably made of iron, were required. Nevertheless, the future Ranger rifle should also be able to fit an easy-to-mount riflescope.

Only the Tikka T3x Arctic has such a short bolt throw. The adjustable aperture rear sight is located behind the Picatinny rail of the rifle.

Tikka T3x Arctic: a gun from similar northern climes

On the Tikka T3x Arctic, the steel front sight is located on the thread of the countersunk muzzle, including the two protective ears.

The choice was made for a rifle from Finland, a country where the conditions in summer and winter are similar to those in Canada's wilderness. To be more precise: a modification of the T3x model series, which the manufacturer Sako, part of the Italian Beretta group, produces under the name Tikka.

The T3xs manufactured in Riihimäki, Finland, are available in civilian (hunting and sports) and LEO-tactical versions. In total, this is a rifle family with 26 variants. The T3x Compact Tactical Rifle served as the starting model for the Ranger rifle. However, the Rangers did not receive products from Europe, but from the New World: under the designation C19, they were produced under license by Colt Canada.

The production started around 2015/16 and ran until the last pieces went to the Rangers at the turn of the year 2019/2020 – a change, by the way, which was accompanied by various reports in the Canadian press. In the meantime, however, those responsible in Finland decided that this T3x variation was too good to be limited to the original, narrowly defined customer base: a few years ago, the civilian version T3x Arctic was created from the C19 concept.

Tikka T3x Arctic: our test gun

To release the stainless steel box magazine on the Tikka T3x Arctic, press the button located at the front of the enlarged trigger guard. The release can be operated from both sides.

Technically, the T3x Arctic is a bolt-action rifle with a 20”/51 cm barrel, removable double-stack box magazine and solid bolt, the latter with a short extractor claw and 2 lugs that lock into the receiver. 

A typical T3x detail is the flat element with a red dotted inlay that peeps out from the back of the bolt shroud, which is black – unlike the otherwise stainless steel metal parts. This is the guide element of the firing pin that, thanks to the color marking, acts as a cocking indicator.

The bolt handle is the T3x pear-shaped design, whereby it's very slim in the middle without appearing fragile. This is what distinguishes the T3x Arctic from the rest of the T3x family.

Made for extreme climate: Tikka T3x Arctic

There are two sling swivel mounts on the Tikka T3x Arctic, the corresponding screw-on sling swivels are included.

No walnut stock like the T3x Hunter, no adjustable synthetic stock like the T3x Compact Tactical and no camo pattern like the T3x Lite Veil Alpine or T3x Lite Veil Wideland – the barrel and action of the Finnish rifle are coupled to a laminated wood stock instead, finished in orange-beige-grey. The only thing missing is the Ranger logo lasered into the left side of the Colt C19. The laminated wood color of the Tikka T3x Arctic has also been slightly changed, as the Ranger rifles are more reddish in color.

The stock with the 2 sling swivels comes with a straight back and has checkerings on the (pleasantly voluminous) pistol grip and forend. A foam rubber recoil pad sits in the back – it's removable. The T3x Arctic comes with 3 light metal spacers to increase length of pull. As a precautionary measure, the Tikka operating manual advises you to apply small amounts of soapy water around the screw holes in the rubber to prevent damage before carrying out any conversion work.

The stock is beautifully crafted, the only point of criticism being the not quite clean transition from the stock end to rubber pad. But I liked the fact that the T3x Arctic offered a lot of air between fore-end and barrel. Four layers of standard laser printer paper could be easily pulled through. A generous amount of clearance, as it has been conceived with the extreme climate fluctuations of Canada's wilderness in mind.

Features of the Tikka T3x Arctic

The Tikka T3x Arctic features a barrel with a nominal length of 20”/508 mm and the usual Varmint rifles thickness, i.e. 0.9”/23 mm at the front directly behind the front sight and almost 1.14”/29 mm in diameter at the barrel root. The test rifle was in .308 Winchester caliber, Tikka also offers the Arctic in 6.5 Creedmoor. Like the receiver and bolt handle, the barrel is made from stainless steel with a matte finish to ensure the required weather resistance and to reduce reflections.

Three light metal spacers ensure that future users can adjust the pull length of their Tikka T3x Arctic to their own requirements.

Inside, the five-groove barrel with the gently countersunk muzzle is mirror-finished, the twist rate is 1:11" (1:8" for the 6.5 version). Behind the barrel, according to the manufacturer the receiver is of the improved type, i.e. with redesigned ejection port and flat topped, in order to be able to mount a Picatinny rail comfortably. This in turn is part of the Tikka T3x Arctic, it's 4.8”/122 mm long and is flush with the receiver front. The already described action works smoothly and cleanly, even if with a slight rubbing noise – in the test, it fed all the cartridges from the 10-round sheet steel magazine with plastic base without complaint.

At the rear right is the two-position safety, which runs back and forth and can be operated quietly after some practice. As with all Tikka rifles of the T3x CTR series, the trigger guard of the T3x Arctic is enlarged at the bottom to allow shooting with gloves. And in front of the rifle's trigger guard there is a two-winged magazine release that can be operated from both sides, designed for both glove operation and without changing the hand grip – extending the firing finger and pressing the release was easy in the test.

The 3 special features of the Tikka T3x Arctic

Around the barrel and receiver, the following three elements were found, which make the T3x Arctic unique:

  1. The receiver of the Tikka T3x Arctic is fitted with an inclined rotary drum rear sight with six rectangular notches of different widths and six peep holes of different sizes and heights for ranges of 100 to 600 m. Behind it, two sturdy protective ears protrude.
  2. Matching this opulent and neatly locking diopter sight of the Tikka T3x Arctic, there is a steel muzzle thread protector at the muzzle, between whose ears a detachable, height-adjustable front sight is inserted.
  3. Of course, under the muzzle protector is the today indispensable suppressor threading, in this case a 5/8 x 24 UNEF thread.
The Tikka T3x Arctic catches the eye by combining stainless steel elements with a color-accented laminate stock.

Tikka T3x Arctic overview: technical specs and price

Tikka T3x Arctic
2835 euro  (RSP in Germany incl. German VAT)
.308 Win. (test rifle); 6.5 Creedmoor
Magazine Capacity:10 + 1 cartridges
Overall Length:40.2”/1.021 mm
Barrel length:20”/510 mm
Twist Rate:1:11“ (1:280 mm)
Trigger Pull Weight:2.3 lb/1400 g
Weight:8-8 lb/3993 g
Left/Right Design:Magazine release can be operated from both sides
Bolt-action rifle, box magazine, adjustable trigger, fully adjustable iron sights, Picatinny rail. Stainless steel barrel and receiver. Laminated wood stock with three spacers and two sling swivels attachments. Accessories include sling swivels and tools.

Our conclusion on the Tikka T3x Arctic

In the shooting test the Nordic bolt-action rifle performed as expected. It delivered decent five-shot groups of about 0.5” to 1” (14 to 25 mm) in diameter from the Varmint barrel, all this with a crisp-breaking trigger. Even though the name "Arctic" suggests a use in snow and ice, you don't have to go north and always straight ahead to use this bolt-action rifle properly.

Being a neatly finished, well shooting and robustly designed repeater, it should also be very suitable as an all-rounder for use in Central European latitudes. Okay, hunting traditionalists may frown upon the eye-catching colors, but they did the same when the signal Blaze Orange appeared a good 15 or 20 years ago. And today it is well established as the second and quasi official hunting color besides loden green.

So, the choice of color à la Indian Summer gives the gun its typical look. That's debatable. But that the Tikka T3x Arctic does exactly what it's supposed to do, is a fact.

Further information about the Tikka T3x Arctic may be found on the manufacturer's website.

Here you can find out more about the tactical Tikka T3x TAC A1 long range precision rifle

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