Gun Review: .22-250 Tikka T3 Varmint and the Kahles KX Scope

For Varmint Hunting, This Gun And Scope Is One Deadly Duo

Hunting varmints requires a rifle and scope that can deliver unparalleled accuracy out to ranges that test the limits of both the equipment and the hunter. Whether hunting ground squirrels or coyotes, the target or kill zone is small — to say the least — particularly out to and beyond 300 or 400 yards. In some cases, an inch might well be the proverbial mile. Your rifle must be capable of delivering sub half-inch groups at 100 yards. It is even better if the rifle is capable of tightening those groups down to the 3/8- or ¼-inch mark.

Apply simple mathematics to that half-inch 100-yard group and you are looking at a minimum of a 1-½-inch group at 300 yards. That might be a tight group by hunting standards — but when applying this same formula to that ¼-inch, 100 yard group, it is now potentially still under an inch at 300 yards; making very precise long-range shots on a target as small as a ground squirrel a reality.

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However, while your rifle and ammunition may have the capability of sub ½-inch groups, if you don’t have the scope to deliver that accuracy to your intended target you might as well leave it at home in your gun safe. The scope must be of sufficient clarity, brightness, precision and magnification to provide the capability to make these shots. I believe I have found just such a duo at a price point that won’t necessitate a second mortgage on your home.

Tikka T3 Varmint

The Tikka T3 is a relatively a new kid on the block; debuting in 2003. The Varmint models followed a year later. In the four years since its introduction, the rifle has gained a solid reputation for being a high-quality unit at an affordable price. Despite it not being pushed here in Canada, Tikka USA guarantees one MOA (Minute Of Angle) accuracy right out of the box. If they can guarantee this level of accuracy for their hunting rifles, I wondered just what would their heavy barrel varmint rifle be capable of? So when it came time to select a new varmint rifle, I chose the T3 HB (Heavy Barrel) Varmint Stainless Steel model.

As with any accurate rifle, it all starts with the barrel and how it is bedded. Tikka not only uses high-grade stainless steel in their barrels but they are also cold-hammer forged and then totally free-floated and hand-crowned to provide that final touch for optimum accuracy. The action features a large, flat bedding surface and a large recoil lug against an accurately inlayed stock, all essential for achieving sub-one MOA accuracy. But collectively these features also rely on a trigger that can transfer this quality of craftsmanship into an accurately placed shot. The T3 certainly does not fall short here either. The trigger is fully adjustable between two and four pounds and when I set it at 2-½ pounds I found it to be very crisp with no travel and it broke precisely each time at that weight.

The bolt, with its lift of only 70 degrees, is without a doubt one of the smoothest on the market. It feels as if it is gliding on ball bearings. The only drawback to the action that I found was its five-shot clip. When I carried it on a sling across my back, it tended to protrude against my spine; although that can be easily remedied with a smaller clip. The stocks on the Varmint models are glass-fiber reinforced copolymer polypropylene that features a raised cheek piece that aided in quicker sight alignment through my scope and an extra-wide fore-end that also provided a very steady shooting platform

Kahles KX Scope

It is my view that a varmint scope must be a minimum of nine or 10 power to be effective in long-range precision shooting. In fact, I may even stretch that to 12 power. It must also be bright with the highest possible clarity. European optics are some of the finest in the world and Kahles is no exception. They were, in fact, pioneers in the design of riflescopes way back in 1898. In 1949 they developed one of the first variable powered scopes. In 1960 they were the first to use O-rings for waterproofing and in 1972 developed the first multi-coating process on optical lenses for enhanced light transmission. This year they have introduced the KX, a scope built with European quality optics but with the North American hunter in mind. It is rugged, lightweight, water- and shock-proof, and has a one-inch tube. It also offers an oversized ocular for an extreme wide field of view, AMV coating on all its lenses for outstanding light transmission in low light and lenses that provide outstanding edge-to-edge clarity. Better yet, while the KX contains all the high quality optics of the more expensive Kahles scopes, it is priced very competitively. I was one of the first to see this scope off the assembly line and I was not disappointed. It is truly an outstanding scope. It is available in three magnifications with four different reticles, but I chose the 4-12×50 with a Mil Dot reticle for its magnification, brightness and outstanding clarity.

Rifle Specs

Calibre: .22-250
Rate Of Twist: 14 inches
Barrel length: 23-¾ inches
Weight: Eight pounds
Length of pull: 13-3/4 inches
MSRP: Approx. $980
*22-250 available this year in left hand model

Scope Specs

Magnification: 4-12x
Objective lens diameter: 50 mm
Field of view: 4x 27 feet – 12x 12 feet at 100 yards
Adjustments: .25 inches per click at 100 yards
Eye relief: 3.6 inches
Length: 13.9 inches
Weight: 18.0 ounces
MSRP: Approx. $1,000

Test Results

Cartridge

Average Group @100 Yards (inches)

Velocity (feet per second)

Factory

Federal 40-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip .620 4,022
Federal 55-grain Sierra BTHP .500 3,495
Winchester 50-grain Ballistic Silvertip .680 3,665
Winchester 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip .360 3,451

Handloads

Berger 40-grain Varmint/Hodgdon Varget powder .620 3,932
Berger 52-grain Varmint/Hodgdon Varget powder .500 3,507
Berger 52-grain Varmint/Hodgdon Benchmark powder .500 3,607
Berger 52-grain Varmint/Hodgdon H414 powder .580 3,580
Berger 52-grain Match/Hodgdon Benchmark powder .340 3,587
Berger 52-grain Match/Hodgdon H414 powder .560 3,550

*Note: The only round to break the 4,000 feet-per-second barrier was the Federal 40-grain Nosler Ballistic tip. All rounds were chronographed with a Chrony Gamma Master chronograph.

After the initial sighting in process, it was immediately evident that this rifle/scope combo would exceed my standards for a varmint rifle and scope. The scope was as bright and sharp from edge to edge as its more expensive cousins and remained precise in every adjustment that I made during all my tests. The rifle was not only capable of sub-half-inch groups but numerous groups approached the magical ¼-inch mark. Two points of interest; first was that during my tests of the Lubalox coated Winchester ammunition I found that the groups understandably began to tighten proportionally with the number of rounds I fired through the barrel. In other words, the more coated rounds I put through the barrel the better it liked that particular ammunition. Second, the Berger 52-grain Match or Varmint bullets with Hodgdon Benchmark powder gave the most consistent results in accuracy and velocities with a standard deviation in velocities that was often less than 20 feet per second within a three-shot group. This is simply one fine varmint rifle and scope duo.

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