Absolutely Torn: Savage and Tikka


Apr 4, 2008
Long time reader, first time poster here... I'm in the process of deciding on a new rifleto purchase. I finally decided on the .270 Win so now I'm just down to what platform I should choose. This rifle is going to be used primarily for pigs and deer, nothing outrageous. This is going to be almost solely used as a hunting rifle, possibly going to the range with me every now and then etc.

The two specific models I am debating between are the Savage 116FCSS and the Tikka T3 Lite Stainless. I was hoping that handling both of them would help make up my mind, but no such luck, I really liked them both. My main issue with the Tikka is that the stock looks and feels terrible. It fits me fine, but it just seems to be a low quality piece (regarding the material). My main debate is whether the Tikka or the Savage will be more accurate. It seems to be a toss up, but I was hoping to get a little insight from others here. I am clear on many advantages of the Savage as I already own one and really like it, but the bolt on the Tikka is silky smooth and I hear amazing things about the accuracy... After searching the internet a bit I haven't really found much to confirm one way or the other.

What it all boils down to is: which is likely to be more accurate out of the box?

On a side note, I have to say that I have probably learned more about the sport from reading on this site than on every other site combined.
Last edited:
I never shot a Tikka but have always had outstanding results from savages. I've owned 10 of them and they are all great shooters.
Here is an excerpt from chuck hawks website about the tikka:

A Critical Look at the Tikka T3
(And Other Economy Hunting Rifles)
By Chuck Hawks

Like many old geezers, I bemoan the loss, or lack, of standards in our modern world. And nowhere is this devaluation of quality more evident than in 21st Century hunting rifles. (Actually, the slide started in the 1960's and accelerated toward the end of the 20th Century).

We are, today, reaping the crop of sub-standard rifles previously sown. Most of the blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of the writers and publishers of the specialty outdoors print magazines. In the quest for advertising dollars they have turned a blind eye to the constant cheapening of our hunting guns. Often they have merely parroted the promotional flack handed to them by the manufacturer's ad agencies.

Thus flimsy, injection molded plastic stocks are praised as "lightweight" or "weather resistant" rather than criticized as the inferior bedding platforms that they actually are. Free floating barrels, introduced simply to minimize the labor cost of precisely bedding a barreled action in a gun stock, are now praised as an asset by those who know nothing else. A perfect example of an economy shortcut becoming the new standard.

The deficiencies of receivers that are simply drilled from bar stock and that substitute heavy washers for integral recoil lugs are never examined in modern rifle reviews. Often the loading/ejection port--merely a slot cut into the tubular receiver--is so small that it is difficult or impossible to load a cartridge directly into the chamber, or manually remove a fired case. But the implication of this drawback at the range and in the field is never mentioned in most rifle reviews.

In many cases, "short actions" are merely long actions with the bolt stop moved to limit bolt travel. The modern gun writers who review these creations likewise never mention that this defeats the fundamental purpose of the short action calibers for which these rifles are chambered.

The receiver holds the bolt, which brings up a salient question: does anyone really believe than a cheap multi-piece, assembled bolt has any possible advantage over a one-piece forged steel bolt except economy of manufacture?

The use of plastic, nearly disposable, detachable magazines and trigger guards is overlooked by the popular print press, or actually praised for their lightweight construction. Talk about spin, these guys could teach the Washington politicians some tricks!

In fact, "lightweight" and "accuracy" are the buzzwords most frequently used to "spin" hunting rifle reviews in a paying advertiser's favor. (Cheap substitute materials are usually lighter--but not stronger--than forged steel, and most production rifles will occasionally shoot a "braggin' group" that can be exploited in a review.) Whenever reviewers start touting either, watch out! There may not be a lot to tout in the critical areas of design, material quality, manufacture, or fit and finish.

A rifle's lines and finish are largely cosmetic, but why should we be condemned to hunt with ugly rifles? Matte finishes on barreled actions are sold as a benefit ("low glare"), but in reality they are simply faster and thus less expensive for the manufacturer to produce than a highly polished finish. And the flat black color touted as a stealth advantage of plastic stocks over walnut is patently absurd. Why would a rational person believe that such stocks are any less visible to animals in the woods than a wooden stock?

Have you noticed how the checkered areas on wood stocked Tikka T3 rifles are divided into several small patches? That is done because it is easier (and therefore cheaper) to cut a small patch of checkering than a larger one. The shorter the individual checkering lines, the easier it is to keep them straight. Once again, manufacturing economy triumphs over aesthetics and function.

The Tikka T3 is certainly not the only modern hunting rifle to adopt some or most of these production shortcuts. I have not chosen it for the lead in this article just to pick on Tikka. I have chosen it as the poster child for cheap rifles because it is one of the few models to incorporate all of these cost and quality reducing shortcuts. If there is a production shortcut out there, the T3 has probably already incorporated it.

Then there is the Tikka 1" 100-yard test. I have yet to see, or even read about, a T3 hunting rifle that will consistently meet Tikka's 3-shots into 1" at 100 yards accuracy claim.

Now, unlike many gun writers today, I try not to over emphasize the importance of accuracy in big game hunting rifles. Big game animals are large and hair-splitting accuracy is almost never required. A rifle that will shoot into 2" at 100 yards (2 MOA) is accurate enough for most purposes. A hunting rifle that will average 1.5 MOA groups is a good one, and most T3 rifles fall into that category.

But the Beretta/Sako/Tikka conglomerate heavily advertises their accuracy guarantee. They market their rifles on that basis. And, in my experience, most Tikka T3 rifles simply will not consistently meet their own accuracy guarantee. If a average T3 will shoot an occasional 1" group with any load it is doing well. (Want a real MOA hunting rifle? Read our review of the Weatherby Vanguard SUB-MOA on the Product Review Page.) Why do none of my fellow gun writers in the popular press call Beretta on its misleading advertising?

That is, of course, a rhetorical question. The answer is simple: Beretta Corp. is a big bucks advertiser in the popular print magazines. But what about the writers' and editors' obligation to their readers, who pay their hard earned dollars to read those reviews? Obviously, the word "integrity" has been deleted from the print mag publishers' spelling checkers.

To add insult to injury, the Tikka T3 is a cheap rifle, but not an inexpensive one. These things cost as much or more than some higher quality, better designed, and better turned-out hunting rifles.

None of this means that a person cannot hunt successfully with a Tikka T3 rifle, or that Tikka owners are a particularly dissatisfied lot. There are many T3 owners who have no complaints, and many who are pleased with the performance of their T3 rifles and satisfied with their purchase. In truth, they are safe, functional rifles and perfectly capable of killing game in the hands of an adequate shot. The same could be said about most other economy models, including the Stevens 200, Remington 710, and NEF rifles.

But I suspect that most satisfied T3 customers are not experienced rifle buyers. A person who has never owned a fine rifle is much more likely to be tolerant (or ignorant) of an economy rifle's shortcomings than an experienced shooter and hunter. The relative newcomer simply has inadequate personal experience upon which to formulate an informed opinion.

To make a crude analogy, all acoustic guitars may feel pretty much alike in the hands of a person who doesn't play, but not to a virtuoso. Similarly, I'll bet that most hunters who use economy rifles don't realize that their rifle's cheap plastic stock is too thick through the wrist and forearm. This is something that comes into play every time they pick up their rifle, yet they don't even know that it is deficient! They have never owned a rifle equipped with a well-designed stock, so they have no frame of reference and simply don't understand how much better a good rifle feels in the hands.

Still, I find it hard to understand how Tikka stays in business offering less rifle for more money. The T3's success is a tribute to the ignorance of the modern American sportsman--and the connivance of the sporting press upon which they rely for information.

Posted from A Critical Look at Modern Hunting Rifles
I've read that article, and while he does bring up a few good points, his extreme bias turns me off. He makes note of things like free floated barrels being solely a method to reduce costs. While possibly true, if it did not enhance accuracy it would not have caught on like wild fire with so many precision shooters. Also, many of his points regarding the Tikka could be made regarding the Savage (multi piece bolt, composite stock, etc).

I'm honestly leaning towards the Savage, but am really looking for something to totally turn me around or seal the deal.
I know what you mean about the article.

I have a buddy who has a tikka with a walnut stock and it is a pretty good shooter but his savage and mine beat it in the accuracy department.

I've been thinking of trying a Howa or a Vanguard and putting it in a Bell and Carlson Medalist tactical stock.

The Howa barreled actions are inexpensive and I've read alot of good things about them reguarding their accuracy. You can also get a new firing pin spring for about $8.00 to improve the lock time.
May be off base a little so bear with me. With the Tikka, you get what you get. Meaning there aren't a whole lot of aftermarket parts out there for the Tikka. Many more parts are available for the Savage. This may or may not be important to you. I've been looking at buying a Tikka for a few years but have just ended up building a custom instead. I've never been a fan of the Savage, but I decided that I'd like to have a 6.5-284. Decided to order in all the parts and build it myself and ended up with a rifle that will shoot under a half inch. Contrary to what Chuck Hawks says (I've never put much stock in what he says anyhow), I've heard very few complaints about Tikkas and their accuracy. I'm probably not being much help in your decision. If I thought that I was ever going to want to do something different with my rifle like a trigger, stock etc. I would by the Savage. If I was going to just buy a rifle and hunt with it, it would probably be a Tikka.
1+ for savage for both out of the box accuracy and ability to make it what you might want down the road. The Tikkas I have shot have done fairly well but not as well as the savages out of the box.
I find Chuck Hawks article to be completely inaccurate and bogus. He gives no factual reasons why a 2pc bolt would be inferior or why a free floated barrel would a bad thing. The things like 2pc bolt and small ejection port are things I prefer. His article is basically saying I do not like the color red so the color red does not work well and is inferior.
I wonder how many of his pre 60s production rifles were shooting sub 3/4 moa like many today are. I will admit the finish work may not be as good on the wood ect. but in the accuracy department I do not think there is a comparison. His article reminds me of a gun geek that holds his rifle and wants to feel good about it instead of actually using it as a tool.
Last edited:
here's the thing about the tikka. Aftermarket parts are hard to find. Why? Because there's not much they need.

Smooth Adjustable Trigger 2-4 Lbs? Check.

Removable magazine system? Check.

Sako style large extractor? Check.

Buttery smooth action? Check.

I've got a T3 .243 that shoots as good as anything I own. What have I done to it? Nothing but put a scope and sling on it. For a calling rifle, in and out of the truck, its about perfect.

As far as the stock, its a basic synthetic stock, not unlike all major rifle manufacturers offer. If you want something nicer, get the laminate or walnut stock. If you want a tactical stock, get a manners.

As far as the scope rings, there is a set included. If you get a magnum, buy a set of dednutz or other rings.

Lets face it folks, this is a $479 rifle that has the most popular options we want, and shoots great. What else is there to say?



p.s. these groups were measured outside to outside not center to center...
here's the thing about the tikka. Aftermarket parts are hard to find. Why? Because there's not much they need.

Smooth Adjustable Trigger 2-4 Lbs? Check.

Removable magazine system? Check.

Sako style large extractor? Check.

Buttery smooth action? Check.

I've got a T3 .243 that shoots as good as anything I own. What have I done to it? Nothing but put a scope and sling on it. For a calling rifle, in and out of the truck, its about perfect.

As far as the stock, its a basic synthetic stock, not unlike all major rifle manufacturers offer. If you want something nicer, get the laminate or walnut stock. If you want a tactical stock, get a manners.

As far as the scope rings, there is a set included. If you get a magnum, buy a set of dednutz or other rings.

Lets face it folks, this is a $479 rifle that has the most popular options we want, and shoots great. What else is there to say?

p.s. these groups were measured outside to outside not center to center...

Ok, now switch your boltface and barrel to shoot 223, then go ahead and swap in a 338Edge barrel, while you're at it go ahead and slap it in your benchrest stock.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Tikka hater. In fact, I've heard many good things about them, and I'm sure they're good guns.

I prefer Savage because of the design features that allow them to easily change it to fit my needs. 5 years ago it thought I'd never want anything besides my trusty 30-06.

Times change, needs change, and desires change. I'm happy my Savage lets me build it any way I want.

I can have it my way. Just like at Burger King:D
I felt up a Tikka T3 the other day and found it completely horrible, the action was not as smooth as my Savage Model 12, the stock was just as cheesy as most other plastic stocks but you can not compare the pad to the one on a Savage. I really hated the ejection port on the Tikka, there is barely enough room for the casing. If you wanted to toss the stock what could you do with it? I have heard that it does shoot but I have heard the same for the Savage.
I have shot both the Savage and and the Tikka T-3. I own a Tikka T-3 in 270 wsm stainless with that "Plastic" stock. The bolt is smooth and rounds load smooth when hunting. I can't say the same for Savage. I have had extraction problems with a Savage and the bolt felt like I needed a jack to turn it. Unless you get a Savage with the new accutrigger, the first thing you will have to do with the Savage is get a new tirgger. The Tikka's trigger is adjustable from 7 to 2 pounds. This adjustment you can do yourself. If your are talking ugly, there is nothing pretty about that big nut between the barrel and action of a Savage. But here is what you really want to know. I have fed a multitude of different factory rounds thorugh my T-3 270 wsm and a large number of hand loads. I can't speak for other guns, but I have yet to have my gun shoot anything over an inch group that was not my fault. i save all my targets and I could upload a bunch of photos of five round groups that range from 1/2 inch to one inch. If you get the Tikka T-3 You will appriceate that aluminum pillar bedded plastic stock for its ability to withstand all kinds of weather and rough treatment. I would recommend the 270 wsm over the 270 though as this round is about 400 fps faster on average than the 270. I have found that for terminal ballistics for both pigs and deer the Hornady 130 grain SST (BC .460) is very hard to beat and performs better than the Nozler Ballistic tips. They are 1/2 the price have a better BC and when they get to the target, kill better in my humble opinion. Incredable hydrostatic shock and penetration. Most animals just drop in thier tracks. Of course I don't shoot prarrie dogs or shoot it in fancy tournaments with this gun where others will say it looks cheap and ugly. I just kill lots of deer and pigs with it. Oh, and you save money on targets as you can use them over and over again because you waste so little paper when you don't have to deal with scattered bullet holes.
Alright, you all have helped quite a bit. After reading through all of this I have just about made up my mind on the Savage. While there is definitely a case to be made for the Tikka, I definitely tend to have a case of tinkeritis! When I purchased my first center fire rifle I decided I wanted a super basic (OLD) Savage long action with a .223 barrel so that I could modify it into nearly anything in the future. I did a few mods like free floating the barrel and a trigger job, now I can't help but love the little guy. Why not just keep going with what I know works.

Now all I have to do is get all my ducks in a row and figure out what optic I want to go with Haha.
If you want or need the most aftermarket support... go Remington. If not, then the other brands offer good alternatives.

I'm using a Stevens action for my 243 with a Lothar walther barrel, but I did shoot the factory barrel. It seemed like it took about 30-40 rounds to break-in the barrel. I didn't borescope the barrel, but I suspect it was rough as other people have claimed. It seems that many people that talk down regarding the T3 have never owned one. I'm now a Savage convert due to the barrel nut, but the Tikka has much better fit and finish compared to any Savage I've seen. Its not even close. Same for the smooth action, but I think the tolerance on the Tikka might be looser to make it seem smoother.

My T3 in 300WSM was literally accurate from the very first group (after sighting in the scope). It was easily 1 MOA accurate. And not only did it group well, it was precise. My practice targets have grids on them. My zero was 3" high at 100 yards. That T3 would place bullets exactly 3" high, and on the center line. Literally on the line, not some pretty group off to the side somewhere. Tight groups are one thing, but that rifle amazed me in that it put bullets exactly where they were sent.

And I don't think my rifle was all that unique. I've never really heard many people complain about their Tikkas. I have heard/read a lot of people rag on them that don't own them, though. Some people, and this is just my speculation, don't seem to like them because they shoot so darn well, have a very nice trigger, and a smooth action for a good price. I compared my T3 to comparably priced 700, 77, etc. rifles (in the store and at the range) and the difference just in the triggers was night and day. The others felt crude in comparison. The guys that had the other rifles seemed bitter that they spent the same amount or more and seemed to need to find something to complain about. I'm not saying that is what is happening here, but if you frequent some other shooting forums you'll see what I mean.

I don't get the complaints about the T3 Lite stock. I think its actually pretty good for a budget rifle. In my opinion its much better than the comparable versions from anyone else. The plastic on the budget Stevens and Savages are more like a toy rifle. I know, I have one sitting in my closet and its an absolute joke for a rifle stock. Its about the flimsiest stock going, but nobody seems to rag on it like the T3 Lite. I like the T3 Lite stock better than the cheap Hogue as well. But stocks are a personal thing. we just can't expect a Manners, AICS, or McM on a cheap factory rifle.

As for Chuck Hawks... I think he's very biased. Not just regarding Tikkas, but in a lot of other things. If we all listened to him, we'd be shooting low recoil, medium velocity cartridges at close range.

Sorry for the rant, just wanted say there's merit in both brands. If it weren't for the barrel nut on the Savages I would happily own another Tikka. But that nut makes a big difference to me since I like to tinker with my rifles.
Last edited:
Sorry to hear that, I too have had the tinkering bug. I've had a Ruger 280 that had a sendero barrel cuctom trigger job, ported and all. I have used a buddys winchester 30-06 that was his sniper rifle in Korea tha had been tiricke out by the best gun smiths Quantico produced and I have shot national match shoots while in the Navy and on and on. So I guess that I must fall into Chuck Hawks deffinition of someone who doesn't know much about guns or the difference between a pre 64 Martin 6 string and a WalMart $50.00 guitar. You know what I bet Eric Clapton could make the WalMart guitar sound good and I know some writhers that would make a dog howl if they plucked the Martin (metiphorically speaking of course).
But you originally asked about a gun that would shoot right out of the box and not one to build on. If you want a gun to build on an older Savage would give you something to work with. You could put a new trigger in it, Get a barrel chambered for 6.5 284 (my dream round) get a new stock or a laminated stock that you could install aluminimum pillars in and bed yourself (Midway has good kits for this) Put on a pictanny rail so you could change out scopes or add night vision for pigs in the dark. But now your are talking more than $500 in the rifle. Which is OK it that is what you want. With all things and especially guns, do what makes you happy and gives you confidence. I truly wish you luck and that what ever you do you get a gun that puts em where you want em to go.

PS if I seem a little cranky, I apologize, I just had some *** break into my car and steal my Ruger P-98 in .40 SW and my Pre 1964 Remington 1100 shotgun that I had a new barrel put on with a set of choke tubes, fiber optic front bead and custom cheek piece on the stock. I was getting that gun just about the way I wanted it.
I really appreciate the help. Every time I turn around I'm changing my mind again. It's most likely going to come down to whatever my preferred shop has in stock when I go in.

I keep going back and forth, and the more I think about it the more I realize that I'm most likely going to keep this rifle stock. I was hoping for something to greatly sway me in one direction or another, and I keep going back and forth. What this really makes me see is that I can't make an awful choice, they're both great rifles for my situation.

Bruce, sorry to hear about the loss. I have to say that the 1100 is one of my absolute favorite shotguns. Every time I pick one up it just seems right! Also, the more I read Chuck Hawkes the less I pay attention to him...
Warning! This thread is more than 13 years ago old.
It's likely that no further discussion is required, in which case we recommend starting a new thread. If however you feel your response is required you can still do so.