Precision rifles’ evolution has been somewhat astounding given almost three decades shooting them. Construction remains similar — detail and manufacturing tolerances aren’t even close. The comparison is laughable, the only similarity is they are both made of steel. Talking with a friend we lamented our early police sniper rifles, culled from the evidence room and pawnshops rudimentary would be overstated. Even ammunition came from evidence. There was no money for a “sniper” and the gear when most departments barely supported SWAT teams. Truth is we just didn’t know better. Those interested garnered their information as hunters with a trickle of knowledge coming from former military. I am constantly amazed at what was accomplished early on, as much luck and perseverance as skill, thankfully times have changed.
Short Is In
One of the earliest arguments during my deployment career was barrel length. It exists today on a smaller scale with less mythology. Military doctrine focused on ranges from 300-800 yards while law enforcement seldom deployed outside 100 yards. Since most training (if any) came from the military the focus was on using a 24-26″ barrel using heavy bullets. Coupled with dressing like a tree and crawling 300 yards my first law enforcement training left more questions than answers. The only useful portion was basic marksmanship.
It took 10 years before the community figured out a 26″ barrel was 10 inches too long, and anything a projectile did beyond 300 yards was meaningless. Interestingly the hunting community had figured all this out much sooner. Use a weapon designed and built for what you do, not what someone “thinks” you do, novel idea?
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Times have changed, short is in for anything outside long range. Most field the shortest barrel that gets the job done using the most effective projectile. Lighter expanding bullets, suppressors reducing recoil and enhancing communication, compact stocks that fold for storage or concealment are all considerations. Once considered “toys” by the “community”, barrels as short as 16″ with folding stocks and box magazines are becoming commonplace. Ammunition is moving towards faster 125-155 grain bullets that expand quickly minimizing over penetration with devastating effectiveness. It may be the perfect deployment rifle for most agencies, but it also a most useful bolt rifle for anyone in need of precision at realistic distances, and accuracy longer than most would think. Manufacturers are starting to figure it out offering factory models in this configuration. One of the best tested to date has been the Tikka T3x TAC A1 Compact.
Tikka T3x Tac A1
Tikka’s T3 and subsequent T3x have taken the precision rifle market by storm. It’s one of the most accurate and reliable bolt rifles available today, its affordability a huge bonus. Considering its quality and feature set it may be the best bolt rifle for the money on the market — hunting, tactical, or otherwise. The T3x TAC A1 Model uses a chassis system equally at home on duty or a precision rifle match. Initial testing of the 24″ barreled 6.5 Creedmoor was impressive. Accuracy rivals rifles at twice the cost without sacrificing strength, durability, or smooth operation. Feeding is smooth enough you wonder at times if it picked up a round. Using Federal’s Gold Medal Berger with 130-grain OTM’s it held 1 MOA out to 1,308 yards producing .5″ groups at 100 yards with boring consistency. Doing so with retail price just a tad less than my competition rifle’s action made it more impressive. So, when the chance to put their 16″ barreled 308 model came up I jumped on it.
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Tikka’s T3x TAC A1 compact model is imported by Beretta. Designed for LE use it is available to anyone. The only real difference, including price, is the heavy contour 16″ barrel. Cold Hammer forged it uses a 1:11 twist rate and is threaded 18×1 (standard SAKO) and capped with a thread protector. Chassis system is the same with its 10 round magazines and strong AR compatible folding stock. Adjustable for length of pull, cheek and stock pad height it locks solidly in place (open or closed). Push the button on top of the hinge to release. Handguard remains an AR compatible 13.5″ M-Lok equipped design — stronger and more rigid than most and it accepts accessories like night vision or aiming devices without bending. Both a sling adapter and rail for bi-pod use are provided. Pistol grip is comfortable, angled appropriately, and AR compatible. Trigger is two stage, adjustable and remains one of the best offered in a stock rifle. Action is steel with a two-position safety and 20MOA rail. Bolt handle uses a large knob with dual lug bolt and is glass smooth out of the box. Rifle comes with two proprietary metal magazines, you can send in for a third. Short of a sling, the T3x TAC A1 comes with everything you need outside a scope, rings, and ammunition to go to work, rare these days.
Steiner makes some of the highest quality scopes available, their M5Xi line is top tier with stunningly clear glass, state of the art construction, and proven reliability. Like all top end scopes, they come at a cost. Their latest T5Xi 5-25x 56mm provides similar quality saving almost two grand. Made in the USA this scope included their Never-Lost™ turrets and Special Competition Reticle (SCR™). Markings in the turret window roll over indicating elevation as you pass one revolution. You never lose where you are and the turrets stay flat and trim. Mounted in the first focal plane the lighted SCR has markings for wind and elevation holds. Designed for PRS comps it is about perfect for LE work. Available in Mils or MOA this scope uses mils with turrets graduated in .10 mils per click. Parallax adjustment is on the left along with lighted reticle intensity. Each level is bracketed by an off position eliminating the need to search for the perfect setting each time. It comes with spare batteries, scope covers, and a sunshade. It was mounted in a ZRODelta 34mm Cantilever M4 mount.
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The T3x TAC A1 factory trigger is excellent, but Timney’s new two-stage trigger remains my preference. Used in most all my precision rifles its wider and less curved trigger shoe encourages a straight pull. The wall between stages is predictable and perfect for precision accuracy. Adjustable for pull weight at both stages and sear engagement it can be configured to meet most needs. Mine was sent with a 3.5 lbs. total pull weight (1 lbs. first stage, 2.5 lbs.). That meets most duty standards and provides for excellent precision without compromising safety in very cold weather or use with gloved hands.
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Dead Air’s Sandman S and K, along with the Gemtech ONE QD and Dagger direct thread suppressors were used. Each provides varying levels of sound reduction and lengths measuring from just under 6″ to over 8″. Given the 18×1 thread, an adapter was used for some of these. Gemtech was the only QD flash hider located; some brakes were available but did not make it here in time for my deadline.
Short 308 barrels tend to jump a bit so the sturdiest and strongest bi-pod in inventory was used, the Elite Iron Revolution. Made of steel it is incredibly strong providing solid stability. Cradling the barrel rather than sitting underneath it eliminates “flopping” when rotated. Metal feet dig into any surface locking it in place. Folding both forward and rearward it uniquely folds up over the handguard for storage or unsupported positions. Rotating 360 degrees the legs can be used as a support protecting the barrel and handguard. The large serrated ring on the front locks into obstacles or other barriers. It’s heavy by comparison, but little out there matches its strength, stability, and versatility.
Sako and Tikka barrels are legendary for accuracy and consistency across a broad range of ammunition — the T3x TAC A1 was no exception. Groups at 100 yards with both Hornady’s 155-grain AMAX Black and Federals 185-grain Gold Medal Berger were right at ½”. Doubletap’s 125-grain BT load was only slightly larger. Nothing grouped outside .75″ at 100 yards most hovered between .5 and .6″. Accuracy at 300 yards was equally impressive with the 155-grain TMK from Doubletap, Hornady 155-grain AMAX Black, and 185-grain Berger each measuring under 1.5″. Moving to 800 and 1000 yards the Federal Gold Medal Berger using the 185-grain Juggernaut OTM ruled. My best group at 1,000 yards measured right at 8″ inches on a 12″ x 16″ steel. Six shots out of ten centered on the steel should dispel any mythology about short barrels and range. Even at 2,460 FPS the 185-grain Berger hit with some authority out there. It also bucked the wind nicely requiring from 30-50 percent less hold at 800 and 1,000 yards compared to the lighter loads.
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Shorter barrels are handy, and the T3x TAC A1 rifle proved perfect for an urban tactical and most hunting environments. It’s heavy, especially using a big scope and steel bipod, but it maneuvers around cars like an entry rifle. Using the care muzzle or just the Gemtech flash hider it works well on obstacles, barricades, or during unsupported shooting. Elite Irons bipod ring digs into wood, concrete other materials locking you in place. Fold the legs up and your handguard is unobstructed, down and it acts as a rest. Add some offset Irons and you could run this thing up close with ease. Working in and out of trees it is just as handy for hunting if needed. Want a .308 bolt rifle you can work in close quarters or an urban environment, the T3x TAC A1 is excellent. It may have been designed with the LE world in mind, but it is just a solid all around rifle.
Using the thread adapter to accommodate 5/8 x 24 devices did not work well for me. Things mounted up fine, but it was just another “thing” to come loose making a true cold shot almost impossible. Accuracy was adversely affected across the board no matter what I did. While Gemtech was the only QD flash hider located several companies make muzzle brakes including Dead Air Silencers, Gemtech, Surefire and a few others threaded 18×1. Pick one of those or It works fine with nothing attached it’s just really loud with a significant ball of flame present.
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Gemtech’s Dagger was the quietest but caused excessive bolt lift after one round, typical of quiet and back pressure intensive cans. Less an issue on long barrels — workable for sure, but something to be aware of. Their ONE is shorter, lighter, and mated to the Quick Mount flash hider perfectly. It is louder with no increased bolt lift. The shortest is the Sandman K, loud, but even with the adapter it stayed very short, want quiet use the S model. It adds a couple inches but it much quieter. All of them fit inside the ring of the Elite Iron Bi-pod. Gemtech’s Flash hider was excellent at reducing or eliminating flash and didn’t have the concussive effect of a brake. Normally brakes are a serious no go for me on any duty rifle, but given the choices, I would run one if it facilitates a suppressor.
The T3x TAC A1 rifle is about the perfect .308 bolt gun for me. Much better tools exist for use at longer ranges that are lighter with less recoil, longer range, and better accuracy. Used within its practical limitations a 20″ .308 will do nothing this rifle won’t its just longer and heavier. Nothing you shoot with it will tell the difference from 0-800 yards. Tikka T3 does this with a retail of $1.899.00, street price can be a couple hundred less making it an incredible buy. You can pay more, just not sure why you would. If you want a solid and handy .308 that will do most anything you need put this Tikka T3x TAC A1 Compact at the top of your list.
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- Caliber/Gauge: .308 Win / 7.62x 51mm
- Barrel: 16″
- OA Length: 39″ extended
- Weight: 17 lbs.
- Sights: Flat Top Rail
- Stocks/Grips: Tikka Aluminum Stock (accepts AR style) AR pistol grip
- Action: Tikka T3x
- Finish: Black Anodized
- Capacity: Tikka 10 Round Steel
- Price: $1,899.00
For more information, visit:
Timney Triggers: www.timneytriggers.com
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