Tikka T3 CTR 6.5 Creedmoor + Swarovski Z8i = One Fine Hunting Rig

As a gun writer with many years under my belt, I have looked through a lot of scopes and it still amazes me how bright and clear the Swarovski...
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    Tikka T3 CTR 6.5 Creedmoor + Swarovski Z8i = One Fine Hunting Rig

    By John Johnston

    My day started off as I sat down at my shooting bench inside my reloading room. There beside me was a rifle rack with three scoped rifles ready to be test fired for groups. The target is 116 yards down range. I do have a bench at 100 yards. The testing went well. The weather was a little cool even for Texas but I limited each rifle to five rounds before it was returned to the rack to cool off. The third rifle to be shot that morning was a new Tikka T3 CTR in 6.5 Creedmoor. It was topped with the Swarovski Z8I.


    As I settled down behind the rifle and lined up the target I mumbled to myself, “WOW.” As a gun writer with many years under my belt, I have looked through a lot of scopes and it still amazes me how bright and clear the Swarovski optics are in any light conditions. I know there are a few scopes being made today that are just as clear but I do not know of any that surpass Swarovski. But we will get to the scope in a minute.

    The test today was really of the Tikka T3 CTR which was new when I started this project. Thanks to Jason at Eurooptic.com I received this rifle from their second shipment. At first look it appears to be like the old Tikka T3, but I looked closer. The action is still very slick, like butter. The stock has been altered some with a changeable pistol grip, better recoil pad and foam in the stock to aid in reducing felt recoil. The action, which is slightly wider than the older T3, has an enlarged ejection port which also aids when you want to load single shots. The bolt shroud is now metal. It was previously made of plastic and I personally have changed a few out after the plastic one split. The action is fed with a detachable clip, which I prefer in my rifles.

    The 300 yard group.

    The CTR I chose is stainless steel, weighs in at 7.5 pounds and has a light 20” varmint contour barrel which is turned (5/8 x 24) at the muzzle for a brake or suppressor and comes with a thread protector. The trigger broke at just less than three pounds, which is good for me and I am particular about the triggers on my rifles. You can purchase an aftermarket spring for a few dollars that will lower the trigger pull to about two and one half pounds. Overall Tikka guarantees the rifle to shoot sub moa. That was to be tested soon.

    "You can purchase the Swarovski Z8i Rifle Scope HERE at the Long Range Hunting Store."
    -Len Backus, Publisher

    Tikka T3 CTR 6.5 Creedmoor + Swarovski Z8i = One Fine Hunting Rig

    I sighted the rifle in with Hornady 140 Amax rounds. The end result was one ragged hole with one slight flyer. This test and evaluation was turning out to be very interesting. I cleaned the barrel well to prepare for more shooting.

    The stack of ammunition used in this test.

    The next day I pulled together all my 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition as seen in the photo. Each brand and type was given a chance to shoot the best five shot group. Each group was allowed one flyer which would not be measured in overall size of the group, after all I can occasionally pull one. If I felt I was not shooting my best, I re-shot a couple of groups. This Tikka rifle was a real shooter. There were no groups over one inch and most groups were around three fourths of an inch. The best group was using the Nosler 140grain match ammunition, .338 of an inch. The best hunting round was the 143 grain ELDX by Hornady. So it only made sense to order the custom turret from Swarovski for this round.

    Changing out the turret was easy as pushing a button on top to the turret, lifting the cap off and removing the MOA ring. I just slipped the new ring onto the turret and set it at 100, put the cap back in place and I was ready to go. I checked the 100 yard zero and it was right on the mark. It was time to bang some steel at distance.

    Set up to shoot at 400 yards

    The way I do this is by pulling a custom made trailer which has a shooting bench attached and is able to be leveled. The steel plates are set at the bottom of the back of a pond dam. My first stop was at 300 yards.

    My first three shots with the Hornady 143 ELDX were dead center and a little less the ½ MOA. Next I moved the rig out to just less than 400 yards. The group remained about ½ MOA with one flyer which I called.

    I have found that the Hornady ELD bullets quite often are more accurate at the longer distances. Hornady claims that they are more stable at the longer distances. The accuracy difference is not much and may not be even noticed by the average shooter.

    Tikka T3 CTR 6.5 Creedmoor + Swarovski Z8i = One Fine Hunting Rig

    The Swarovski X8i is quite a piece of engineering. It appears to be more for the hunter as compared to the X5i, which is larger with more elevation capability. The scope can be shot right out of the box with the MOA turret. If the shooter wants faster elevation adjustment, numbered index rings can be added to the turret to correspond to the distances being shot. There are four numbered rings 2 through 5 plus some non-numbered rings that could be used for marking fifty yard marks. It has 8x zoom factor. The scope I was using was 2.3-18x56 with a BRX-1 reticle. Once your load or ammo is decided on, you can go on line and print out a diagram listing the distance for each mark on the reticle. This would be handy for those folks who hunt across the nation or shoot several types of ammunition.

    The adjustable distance rings on the turret

    The function of the adjustment rings was very smooth. I hate it when I have to really apply some torque to a power or parallax ring to make adjustments, but at the same time you do not want them so loose that they rotate when you are not aware. The illumination is something I normally do not use on a scope. This one had a three way switch for day, off and night. I found by using the day mode I could get a better sight picture of animals that were back in the shadows of the cedars, which are common on my ranch. The Z8i has great light transmission at 93% and a generous eye relief. There is no edge distortion at full power. There is an extra battery in the turret cap.

    The custom turret set at just under 400 yards

    This scope is a little heavy at close to 27 ounces but I expect that from the Swarovski scopes. The tube walls are a little thicker than most competitors and the internal parts are all stainless steel. Have you ever noticed how most scope manufacturers never say what they use to make the internal parts of their scopes? For those of us that continually turn their turrets, this of great consideration. This scope was made for the rigors of everyday hunting.

    To try this rig out in the field on an actual hunting trip, I carried it along as a backup rifle on a late spring Axis deer hunt. Even though I did not take an Axis with the rifle, it did quite a number on a 50 pound feral hog. The ELDX bullet performed as expected with the pig only taking a few steps after being shot.

    The Tikka T3X Compact Tactical Rifle is a fine rifle for the price. The action is so smooth, the trigger is just light enough and the new improvements in design make it more comfortable to shoot, especially off the bench. I did not see any reason to screw on a muzzle brake but you can if you wish.

    The Swarovski X8i is, in my opinion, one of the most versatile hunting scopes on the market today. The shooter has several choices on how he or she wants to set it up. Plus all the adjustments can be changed easily and without the use of any tools.

    After twenty-five years with a major law enforcement agency, John Johnston retired to the hill country of central Texas. His law enforcement career was diverse with assignments with the tactical/motorcycle unit, patrol, and criminal investigation. After retiring, writing became his calling. He started with a newspaper column, which he still writes, and then moved up to major magazines in the area of shooting and hunting. He is known for his unbiased product testing and evaluations. Having a full size range from 25-450 yards next to his home was his dream come true. 2010 marks his fiftieth anniversary in the hunting, shooting and reloading sports. You will notice his writing style is quite relaxed and he prefers to write like he is speaking to you around a camp fire. John welcomes questions and comments whether good or bad. You can reach John at olsingleshot@gmail.com.

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  1. the_ace41
    I would just like to add some of my experiences with the CTR. I have an older version the T3 that is chambered in 260. In case this helps someone, I put a boyds pro varmint stock on mine and I modified it to take the CTR bottom metal, which I recommend just switching to an aftermarket bottom metal that accepts the AI mags. however my setup works well. I pillar bedded the stock. I hand load and I have found so far that my favorite load is a 120 grain Hornady eld-m with 39 grains of varget powder, also using Hornady brass. I resize with a Forster sizer die and I use a regular RCBS seater die. I use CCI primers. I have found with this load at 100 yards my smallest groups are one hole groups to the largest being about .6 MOA. For hunting I can switch to a Barnes Triple X. I get my best groups before the barrel gets too fouled up and dirty ofcourse. I clean with a boresnake and butch's bore shine. I run it after every 30 rounds or so. At 200 yards I am droping 3 inches or less with sub MOA groups. I really like this rifle and the load that I have settled on. As far as factory ammo goes I have tried the Federal premiums with good results. When handloading I have found that sizing the brass right makes a huge difference aswell as trimming well. I do not turn brass. I do anneal occassionally. You do not want the cartridge to be too tight in the chamber. I like the hornady one shot lube but you really have to make sure you get it wet enough. Love my Forster sizer die, very coencentric. Thanks for reading and great luck to you!
    1. olsingleshot
      Thanks for your experience and observations. It sounds like what works with your rifle. I have three custom T3's that are extremely accurate including one built by GA Precision.
  2. olsingleshot
    I left the "X" off the rifle description. It should have been "Tikka T3X" all through the article. I guess I have too many T3's.