Posted by William Maxwell on 2022 May 5th
Building a 308 Tikka Rifle
I've realized in life that most things come full circle. What's old is new again; everyone pops for nostalgia. The new hotness comes out, and somehow everyone runs back to Old Faithful. I'm no exception.
Ever since I got into the bottomless rabbit hole that is precision rifle shooting, I've been chasing the dragon of a faster, flatter, lower recoil, high B.C. cartridge and load. As I've written about in the past, I've landed on the 6GT. You can read more about that here. While I love that round, something unexplainable drags us back to our roots, which for me is the .308 Winchester.
More: 6mm GT Load Development
My first bolt action rifle was a Remington 700 Police model chambered in .308 win. That's the first rifle I shot past 400 yards with let alone make hits at 1000. I decided to have another .308 built by Bill Marr from rifleshooter.com and 782 Custom Gunworks.
Typically speaking, there's a purpose behind building a rifle. Whether it's for competition, hunting, plinking, self-defense, hunting, mounting on the wall, or collecting dust in the safe. I wanted this to be able to compete in PRS Tactical class if I wanted to, but mostly just a range gun to practice with a less pleasant shooting experience. Yes, that sounds strange, and I'm going to be writing a whole article doing a deep-dive into the .308 win in the modern-day.
More: Building a Training Rifle Part 1 and Part 2
Normally this is where I'd give a little breakdown about the .308 Winchester cartridge with a brief history lesson. However, the .308 win has been one of, if not the most popular cartridges of the past 50 years, for pretty much everything. I think it's safe to say that I can jump straight into the build.
I wanted a chassis rifle chambered in .308 win. Pretty simple, right? Right. The action didn't need to be a custom grade action, but I also didn't want to build on something like a Savage or Ruger. Coincidentally, Bill had a 6mm BR built on a Tikka T3 in an MDT ESS with a full rail forend. For me, it was the perfect base to build on, and we pulled the 6mm BR for a future project.
We chose a Shilen #7 .30 cal barrel with a 1:10 twist barrel. It was chambered with a .308 National Match reamer. The main difference between the NM reamer and a SAAMI spec reamer is that the throat is a little shorter, designed specifically to be used with the 168 grain Sierra Match King. Basically, it allows less jump when feeding from an AICS magazine. It even allows you to jam the bullet if you're into that sort of thing.
Usually, I would have cut it to something shorter, like 18" -22", but yet again, the wise man's advice came into play: you can always make it shorter, but you can't make it longer. We settled on 24" and threaded the muzzle end for an Area 419 Hellfire.
I played around with a couple of different grips, but I settled on an MDT Vertical Grip Premier. To me, they are the perfect grip for a precision rifle. The Elite has improved on the Premier, but that's what I had at home in the drawer and it worked great. Since the forend has the full rail, the scope base has to be the MDT high scope base to match up. For glass, I started with a Leupold Mark 6 3-18x, but that was eventually swapped out for the Arken Optics SH4 6-24x with Arken rings.
Side note about Arken: in terms of value, I think Arken Optics is second to none. I've owned or used scopes 2-3 times more expensive that didn't perform well. They're direct-to-consumer and have recently released the EP5 5-25x, upgraded construction, and Japanese glass. Definitely worth checking out. As I mentioned before, I chose an Area 419 Hellfire brake. I use them on everything. And lastly, a Harris bipod was attached to the sling swivel.
From my experience, if your .308 rifle can't shoot Federal Gold Medal Match, it won't be able to shoot anything. Yeah, that's an anecdote, but I believe it to be true. So it wasn't a surprise that both 168, and 175-grain SMKs shot well.
It also loved GGG 175 gr SMKs. But again, I haven't had a .308 that didn't shoot that ammo well. I also had a couple of boxes of 185 grain Berger Juggernaut's that I liked, but I didn't shoot much paper with that. It had no problem shooting out to 700 yards.
Most of my shooting done with this rifle was done with hand loads. I primarily loaded 175 gr SMKs in front of Vihtavuori N140 and Shooters World Precision, both Varget alternatives. Varget is always the powder of choice with a .308 win with heavier bullets.
For starters, I want to point out that the Tikka action is by far my favorite factory action. There's no slop; every movement of the bolt is smooth and crisp. There are a few things I don't love. Namely, the recoil lug. I do not like how it's not attached to the action or integrated. It sits in the chassis or stock and is used to index the action. I found the factory trigger to be excellent, and while it's not a Trigger Tech or Timney, it is very crisp and adjustable.
The rifle as a whole shoots phenomenally. Relatively speaking to .308s, it's a smooth shooter and as accurate and precise as you could ask for. I put a friend who has never shot past 85 yards behind it, and he was ringing steel at 650 yards with no problem. The MDT ESS Chassis System is fantastic and very comfortable. It's a shooter.
Keep a lookout for my next article discussing the relevance of .308 Winchester in the modern-day. Thanks for reading!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
William Maxwell currently serves in the United States Army. After returning from his first deployment in 2015, he started building firearms and focused heavily on pistol and carbine training. In 2018 he fell into the rabbit hole of precision rifle shooting. He spends his free time competing, reloading, editing digital content and writing. He can be reached via Instagram @maddmaxxguns.