Why Register?Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.
Welcome to Field & Stream!
What's the most important factor when you're trying to put down that bruiser bull elk?
lightweight for easy carrying?
Bolt-action for a quick follow-up second shot?
The power to take him down?
What's your favorite model?
Elk are thin skinned, so you don't really need a huge caliber. A 270 will do the job, though I think I'd vote for a 30/06 or 7 mm bolt action, just to get a bit more power. Weight depends on whether you are going to be on a horse or ATV or if you're hiking.
I think accuracy is the most important factor and staying within your capabilities. the .270 and 7mm are great rounds for elk but I like the .30 calibers better; .30-06 is my favorite; .338 win mag if I feel like scrambling my brains.
300 Win Mag, 180 gr Tripple Shock. 700 Remington. Very Flat, hits with enough umph and if you happen to be in Grizzly country......no worries.
Anything in a 7 mm rem. mag bolt action would do great. It has the ballistics to reach out a good distance and still have enouth power to take down a good bull with good shot placement. I personally would like a good semi auto but there aren't many if any for the 7mm rem. mag so id go with the bolt action.
All good comments. The .270 is the starting point for an elk rifle. Any of the .30's faster than 2700 fps and 7mm Mags are great; however I prefer my .35 Whelen bolt action for accuracy and penetration. Anything larger is extra oomph, but not needed.
There are many calibers that will work fine for Elk. The key to me is a quality bullet. I use nothing but Barnes Triple Shock bullets. I have recently switched to their Tipped Triple Shocks. This bullet will make a marginal caliber an Elk stopper. My son uses a 25-06 with 115 grain TSX and it drops them immediately. I use a 8.5 Lb. M700 in 7mmSTW with 140 grain TTSX for hunts that may require a long shot and a 8 LB. Custom Mauser 98 in 338-06 Ackley with 225 grain TTSX for shorter mountain type hunts. Weight and handling is important for any hunting rifle. I bought a Weatherby Accumark 30-378 and I felt like I was carrying a telephone pole. Sold it after one hunt.
During my 4 year tour in Alaska, I’ve witnessed more on any given Saturday either out on the Tundra or on the Range than some of those in a lifetime. One of the questions I’ve been asked is, what is the best rifle? What are you planning to hunt and are you able to reliably able to hit a pie plate at the maximum range of you ability. I can hit a target just as good with my 338 Win Mag 225 grain as my 30-06 with a 165 grain. I don’t take offhand shots, all are either sitting or kneeling using a Military 1 ¼ sling NRA High Power style. The key question is, does the rifle fit you, is the length between the butt and trigger is correct and proper eye relief on the scope etc etc, is the cartridge suitable for the game and above all can you shoot “MOP” (Minute Of Pie plate) at the maximum range you plan to hunt. In my younger years and 60 pounds ago, I wouldn’t give a second thought using a 25-06 with a 120 grain Nosler. My choice now will be my Browning A-Bolt 338 Win Mag tried and proven.
Py the way, the best Moose kill I ever witnessed was a teenager with a 30-06 with an over the counter Remington 180 grain. Dropped that massive bull like a mountain of rocks! I’ve taken more deer with my 22-250 all with one shot than all my guns put together, go figure!
I prefer the the 300 ultra mag. The knock down power and the accuracy is ideal. Elk can cover a lot of ground in short amount of time and you never want to loose one. However, my friend has the 325 wsm in the a-bolt white gold medallion and that is a tack driver with ballistics similar to 300 win mag with out the kick.
I've killed 34 bull elk, don't know how many cow elk, and packed out with my horse string many for others. Additionally, being a gun nut, I've used lots of calibers, .270, 7mm Rem Mag, 30-06, 300 Win Mag, 338 Win Mag, 358 Norma Mag and 375 H & H. They all worked fine. Know your rifle's limitations and your own. Also use high quality bullets. Interestingly, two of three elk that took more than one bullet, I was using the 270 with 130 grain Nosler Partitions, O'Connor's mythical caliber and bullet. Both bulls were hit well with the first shot.
Most important factor putting an elk down? Plenty of practice position shooting and get in good physical shape. Preparation is key. Your first shot is your best shot, use it wisely.
Lightweight rifle? No you are steadier with substance between your hands.
Bolt action? Yes and yes.
Knock down power? Yes, but not too much to handle, fear of recoil is no good.
Favorite model? Elk show up when weather is bad, go synthetic and stainless.
Oh, favorite caliber? Hard to beat a 300 Win Mag. Uses to use 200 grain bullets. Barnes Triple Shock 180's changed that.
Amen Brother Happy Myles!
One thing, I had a 300 Win Mag and sold it for $150 and replaced it with a 25-06 and never looked back. For Elk? I'm spoiled on the 338 Win Mad 225 grain and it has the basic trajectory of a 30-06 165 grain
If push comes to shove and only one rifle for elk it would be a synthetic stocked .338 (pick your case size and length), Leupold Vari-X III, with 225 grain Barnes. There are others that are as good and maybe a few that are better for certain circumstances. But all considered I have found the above rifle to be more than adequate for over twenty years. I love 7 mm's and .300's but there is a great void between them and .338 when it comes to stopping elk, moose, or griz. 9 1/2 pounds gets heavy packing up mountains but certainly provides a steady shot when the time arrives for no screw ups. Besides the horse hauls the rifle most of the time and I am yet to hear one complain about rifle weight. If the hunter does then take some of that junk out of you back pack or leave it in camp. You can take what you really need in a fanny pack or maybe your pockets.
Clay Cooper - Thanks for the comment re elk rifles, especially nice coming from you. A friend, a predator officer since leaving the military after Vietnam swears by the 25-06 using it for everything, coyote, cat, and bear at work. Then fills his freezer for the winter with the same rifle. Uses a fixed 6 scope. He likes things uncomplicated, is an expert and picks his shots.
No complaints from me regarding the 338, I've killed several elk, and more African game than most can dream of with this great caliber. Too much gun for some folks though. I used the 250s as the 225s were harder to get hold of for me at the time.
I often tell people if I had stuck with a 22-250, a 30-06, and a 416 Rigby my 62 years of big game hunting would have been less complicated and I would have had a whole lot more money to spend on the trips. Rabbit to elephant. Of course, being a gun nut, that would have been impossible.
I wanted to add that we often hunt near the border of Yellowstone National Park. If you legally shoot an elk in the National Forest and it runs across the imaginary line you cannot retrieve it. Therefore I prefer the .338 due to my many observations of that round dropping elk or deer or whatever immediately whereas a smaller round MIGHT let the wounded animal escape to the Park to rot or be eaten by wolves and bears.
I do believe a 7mm mag will do the trick.
wow...i am surprised to see so many 300 and 338 mag votes. I was under the impression that a well placed 270 or .30-06 was more than enough to get the job done on such a thin skinned animal. Notwithstanding shooting elk on a border line, is the .338 really necessary? Why not just ramp it up to the 375hh or 416 rig and be done with it....
I use a 30-06. I see those guys out there with .300 RUM and .338 Win rifles and laugh. If you are a decent shot and know your limitations you'll have no problem taking down any size elk with a .270, 30-06, 25-06,or 7mm. As far as the range argument, if you cant get close enough to an elk to use a 30-06 or 7mm with ranges of over 700 yds, you should stick to watching the guys on TV. Also with all that recoil your flinching is going to hinder you more than a smaller cartridge. As far as my favorite model goes, I prefer a Ruger 77 or Remington 700, although th Ruger #1 is also an excellent rifle. If you work on your shot placement and reloading speed you can use a single shot rifle, but if you do have to use a follow up shot a bolt action is nice. The weight factor is up to you. Too heavy and you start to get tired of carrying it around, too light and it will be hard to steady and there will be more felt recoil.
Savage 111 in .30-06, it gets the job done. Mine is easy to carry, accurate and didn't cost an arm and a leg. You can go fancy and all of that but .30-06 ammo will always be available (unless the current administration outlaws it) and it can take just about any NA game animal.
Sure, you can kill an elk with a .270, but why play that game? I like to see bullets heavier than 150 for something as big as a bull elk. Look at an elk, and look at a .277" diameter bullet. Makes me nervous. Elk are really big, so go with .30 caliber and up so you can use those tougher, heavier bullets.
A .30/06 is great for versatility if you, like most people, can't afford a rifle for every hunt. You have 180 grain TSX's and 200 grain A-frames at your disposal. If the '06 doesn't provide enough range for you in those weights, then maybe you should reconsider your status as a hunter. But on the other hand, a .300 magnum or .338 is in no way too much gun for elk. Wouldn't even call the underrated but crushing little .350 magnum too big. Again, they are pretty durned big.
In the trees, use a Marlin lever gun in something that starts with a 4.
If 30-06 is plenty of gun to take down moose, then surely .270, and the 30-06 is plenty of gun to take down elk. An average elk weighs what...550lbs? The average legal bull moose up here weighs something like 1200lbs maybe? Now that's more then twice as much as an elk. Surely the moose must have thicker skin and heavier bone.
I own and hunted Elk with a Sako 338 win mag for years, successfully in the 80's and 90's. Put a muzzle break on it, and now hardly ever use the rifle due to th noise. I won a Browning X Bolt in 338 at an RMEF Banquet last year, took it to the range and it was very accurate and not near ae bad recoil as my old Sako Fiberclass.Lately, I have been using a 300 WSM in a Weatherby (howa)action with their sub moa barrel. A fine shooter, stout and heavy enough, along with a nice recoil pad, for practice in positions with out developing flinches. So that Weaterby 300WSM, sub moa rifle is my favorite round and rifle for Wapiti, though the new Browning is also making a stron case for my field time.
I still have to stick with my .270 Remington. I hunt Roosevelt's here in the Pacific Northwest. Shot's aren't typically that long, however a hard hitting round is still vital. I've used Grand Slams almost exclusively. Some say it's a dinosaur, but boy it does put the hurt on them. I had some extra boxes loaded for me while the round was still available.When their gone then I guess I'll have to look into the newer rounds on the market. This dicussion on the best caliber seems to go on for ever and ever. I've learned over the years to know my gun well and what it's capable of. Behind that is shot placement, hit the vitals. At least that works well for me.
Many good posts on this topic, and I agree with 268bull; Shot placement is vital. I also agree with many here that the minimum caliber for Elk is the .270 Winchester.
I Like a bolt gun, in general,but I have used my lever 45/70 when I know I will be working the close cover/brush patches.
My bolt action is a .270, but now I have added the .35 Whelen to my battery of weapons. I think the .35's larger bullet can deliver a harder punch when everything is said and done a bigger bullet gets it done better with Elk!
Well stated, sir. A .270 with 130 gr. bullet is not an ideal elk round. Neither is a .25-06. Can you kill elk with those lighter bullets? Sure, but I think sturdy 150 grain bullets is about the starting point.
Do you like to lose animals or chase them into the next zip code? Then use not enough rifle and take extreme range or iffy shots. The .338 Win mag, .300 magnums, or 7mm magnums with heavy bullets for caliber are the gold standard. However, for me, I'll stick to my .35 Whelen and .30-06 with Barnes TSX or Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullets and take shots that I know I can connect with the vitals!
I feel sorry for them Elk! ;O)...
Henry, elk have thick skin, not thin. That being said I feel that the .270/.25-06 are a little on the light side. I've used the .30-06 with great success, moved up to .300 Win. Mag. for more range. The one you feel most comfortable with is the one you need to use, but weight can add up, up in the mountains.
Hey some guys take Elk with the .243win, and that's just crazy! I don't care how "perfect" the shot is that caliber is just too small for Elk killing!
Yep, the same guys who fish for big trout with 2 lb test leaders.
Bolt actions are not "quick" for follow up shots! Pumps and levers are fast.
Right you are, particularly pumps. Most lever guns are chambered in something that will make you need that followup shot! he he
carney-you're correct. but pumps and levers aren't my idea big game rifle. levers are okay, pumps-NO. they're fast, but like WA said, PUMPS AND LEVERS ARE CHAMBERED IN CALIBERS THAT YOU WILL NEED FOLLOW UP SHOT. bolt actions are a more reliable shot, better calibers, yeah. with a bolt, you shouldnt need a follow up shot if you've been practicing.
Marlin is changing the game of lever actions with their XLR series of lever calibers. Longer range lever evolution ammo will definately fit in Elk country applications, and you know how much us American hunters like our lever guns!
By the way, not ALL LEVERS ARE CHAMBERED IN CALIBERS THAT NEED A FOLLOW-UP SHOT. Just ask the ELK that fell to my 45/70! Oops, that's right he dropped on the spot!
you're perfectly correct ralph, i stand corrected. i'm forgetting about how marlin made the .308, thanks for correcting me. but generally speaking, a lever rifle is most commonly used in a 30-30 range caliber from my personal experience of gun studying.
Yes, the 30-30 is by far a very popular lever caliber but keep your eye on the up-coming Marlin calibers;.308,.338,and possibly a 7mm or .270 caliber in the near future for the Marlin lever?
Really? You'll need a follow up after you slam an elk with a Remington slide rifle in .35 Whelen? I should hope not. There are plenty of pump and even auto rifles in elkable calibers like the .300 magnums, .30/06, .308, and .35 Whelen.
Anybody hear anything about the .338 Federal for elk? I would imagine it could be pretty effective, and would be especially great for the recoil sensitive or those wishing to carry a very light rifle. It's suprisingly powerful from its little .308 platform.
On a side note, Armalite and DPMS are chambering AR's in .338 federal. It's not my cup of tea, but I'd kinda like to see someone hunt elk with a black rifle. One shot, but from a black rifle, just for kicks.
I'll bet if you took a survey of long time Montana and Idaho elk hunters, I mean the guys that LIVE there and not just us folks who hunt there, you would find that an overwhelming majority use rifles like the .308 Win, .270 Win.,.280 rem., 7mm Rem mag, .30-06, .300 Win Mag, and little else. Of the hunters I know and hunt with, only 1 shoots something outside that list. Very un-scientific data I concede.
It's been said the .30-30 has taken more animals in North America than any other round out there. So as for Elk(and ex guide)I'd say START in the .30 cal. range and move up as needed.
Worked for a guy in Colo. that took them(regular) with a .243 but would'nt let anybody hunt with anything smaller than .300 Win. Mag. The "Great Eraser" he called them.
I read an interesting article the other day about a modified Wildcat sort of cartridge loaded by Hill Country Rifles. The parent cartridge,.338 Win Mag, necked up to .358 caliber. This round is twin to the .375 H&H in ballistics with a slightly flatter flight path. Granted it probably kicks like a mule, but with a .35 cal bullet it can't kick as much as the H&H, and still remains a good choice for all North American game.
That would be a dead ringer for a .358 Norma Mag that was available in a 700 rem. Factory rounds a still available.
I've never had the opportunity to hunt elk and in seriousness have never had the desire. I have, however, been in on many moose hunts and have seen many 1000 lb. plus bulls taken as well as a great deal of lesser animals. The shots taken are typically not long (average app.100-170 yds.) You rarely see rifles much larger than 7mm mag. The 270, 30-06, 308 are the common calibers. I have to ask, is the elk that much tougher than a moose?
I have fired a .358 Norma Magnum with 250 grain bullets from a M-70 Winchester (formerly a .300 WM) rebarreled for that cartridge. It clearly identified all the potentially loose fillings in my teeth. An uncle who shot a .338 Win Mag for years refused to fire it again. The M70 was about an 8 pound rifle ....ouch. I'll stick to the .35 Whelen. Most rifles chambered for the .375 H&H seem to be on average much heavier.
I'm not sure that an elk is that much tougher than a moose, having never shot a moose. Elk have the tendency to run long distances in rough terrain if poorly hit. From the TV shows, it looks like a moose likes to find a deep pond or lake to die in. The cartridges listed by 'libertyfirst' will darn sure drop elk at the ranges he mentioned, no doubt.
The article does mention the .358 Norma round,as a comparative, but the .338 makes for a shorter OAL round.
I ain't given up my Whelen, for the record, and I have watched a number of Moose kills on video that show this beast can take serious shots with little reaction. And YES they like to walk in water after being shot! I even saw one Bull hit twice with a .416 Rem Mag, and NOT DROP! Granted the bullets may have struck a bone as such, but Geez 2 shots from a .416mag and still standing?!
According to Handloads.com recoil calculator, the .35 Whelen puts out 26.7 ft Lbs of recoil in an 8 lb gun. The .358 Norma has 37.4 ft lbs of recoil at a faster rate in the same weight rifle. No thanks. I'll let the manly men shoot that one.
OUCH! I'm taking an Advil as we speak!
Those rifles will keep the makers of 800 mg Motrin in business for years!
I was rummaging around my safe last night and came across 2 boxes of Remington .35 Whelen 250 grain soft points. Only 1 was missing from the one box. The price on them was $18.95, so they have been there a couple of years. As I recall, they will put an owee on you, too. I used them to hunt dark timber where shots would be less than 100 yards. Real effective on any beast at that range. I would never want to face a mad grizzly, but that load would be as adequate as anything else that is man-portable.
Oh Yea WA Mtn-
I have a box of the 250 grainers from Remington, as well. I would think you could feel safe against just about anything with that load. It may be a little "overkill"(if such a thing exists?)when hunting deer, but as they say,"When in bear country carry a BEAR GUN!"
Right you are! I don't know if the 250 grainer would be any more effective than the 225 grain load at the higher velocity. It just sounded better at the time and maybe it still is. I got those when the only other factory load was the 200 grain Core Lokt. I had the Whelen zero'ed for 200 yards with the 2oo gr and 100 yards for the 250 gr. Never shot a game animal with the 250 gr, only one unfortunate coyote. I shot one deer and two cow elk with the 200 gr and they didn't go far since shot placement was good and the range was fairly close.
Sounds like you are a .35 Whelen fan too!
Yep, I like my .35 Whelen for elk just because I'm too big a wimp to shoot the .338 mags and ultra mags. It works for me and I tend not to fix things that aren't broke! I never had the opportunity to take an elk with the 250 grain loads, either. Just one with a 200 grain Remington before the 225 gr TBBC came out. I also used some 225 gr A-Frame's from Superior Ammunition that worked fine, but were a little pricey. I handload now, so if I run out of 225 gr TBBC, I'll cook up something else.
ALL GOOD COMMENTS...WILL THROW IN MY 2 CENTS TOO...I USE A 30-06
MILITARY A-3..03..W/A SPORTER STOCK AND 26" BRL...HAVE A 3-15 SCOPE AND SHOOT A 180 GR NOSLER PART ON ELK...HAVENT HAD A ELK RUN AWAY IN ALL THE YEARS I BEEN HUNTING..WENT DOWN ON THE FIRST SHOT...BULLETT PLACEMENT IS THE KEY TO ANY BIG GAME OR ANY HUNTING...KNOW YOUR WEAPON AND USE IT WISELY....
thank you fishman. i like the statement about BULLET PLACEMENT IS THE KEY TO ANY BIG GAME OR ANY HUNTING. i agree 159% with you on that one.
159%? Do I hear 160%? OK just kidding RJ-You are righ, of course-- shot placement is very important indeed to take any animal cleanly!
A remington 700 in 30-06 with 180 grain nosler partition works great for me. or a savage 110 in 308 with 180 silver balistic tips. both have light enough recoil for inexperienced shooters and they dropped the elk right there
I believe the best medicine to take down a mature Elk would be the 7mm rem. mag with 175 gr. Nosler partition, or the Speer grand slam 180 gr. bullet. I would prefer not to by over the counter ammo. If you are a reloader so much the better, if not. I would try to find a very experienced hand loader and put together a load combination of cci large rifle mag. primer, 59 grs. of imr-4350. This is a flat shooting round and the imr-4350 powder provides a softer recoil. I have shot a 7 mag. Ruger m-77r since 1979. Iam a very precise hand loader, and have taken animals from 20 yards to 410 yards all with one shot kills. I have had guys that want to buy my rifle after they see it shoot. What most don't know is that it isn't the rifle but the hand loaded cartridge and the ability to know the balletic behavior of the load over the varied distances. Think about it and give it a try. Elk hunting for most is a expensive adventure and a good load can make or break the hunt. Good Luck. Al
Best medicine for elk on a hand load (correction)! the Speer grand slam bullet is 175 gr. not the 180 gr. as mentioned. This was a typo. error Speer does not make a 180 gr. grand slam in 7mm Rem. Mag. So both the Nosler partition and the Speer Grand Slam bullet are 175 gr.All the rest of the info is correct. pardon my error.
I agree with your post;I think that 175gr 7mm bullet is deadly on game over the 1000lbs mark. Elk and moose fall in this realm, and I would have no problems dropping one of those 175 grain 7mm-missles in a Bison Bull, either!
I don't know if you have read much of Craig Boddington's writing's, but he has said that the 7mm(Rem mag)is on the "light side" for elk! Now, I will not challenge Mr. B's opinion, cause he's dusted more then a few animals, but saying this about the 7mm mag on elk while also saying that the .270 is adequate for Moose just seems wrong!?
Basicly what Mr. Boddington is saying the .30 cal is a better starting point. Don't forget he was a sniper instructor and they(military) use the .308 in excess of 1000 yds on human targets.
7mm Rem Mag on the light side for elk? What a bozo! Anyone who makes that statement either is looney or not been around many elk camps. I guess if the sponsors are paying you to use the Uber mag of the day on guided canned hunt, anything is possible.
Boddington was a USMC reservist and an officer. I doubt he was ever a sniper instructor having read lots of his hot air.
He is a hot dog fer sure. I gave up reading 'Hunting' magazine because of his contradictory articles from year to year. Listen to some of the dumb things he says on Guns & Ammo TV.
I agree CB favors larger caliber/heavy bullets for caliber type of guns, so I really didn't give his comment about the 7mm much attention, it just sounds a bit weird to say the 7mm Rem mag is on the light side for Elk, but for the Moose the .270 is adequate. It does sound like contradiction to me, but as I said he has killed many a game animal and has a right to his opinion.
Personally, I think the 7mm bullet is the perfect blend of flat shooting, energy retention, and penetration to get the job done as the "all around" hunting bullet. This has been my experience.
CB should stick to something he knows, namely safari hunts. Zumbo has probably killed more elk than CB has ever seen. Z-man used a .30-06 and a 7mm Rem Mag for years until Remington got him using a .300 SAUM!
CB is initials for "Contradictory BullShite". He has his opinions and we have ours.....
Nicely said- WA....
Sounds like all is forgiven for ole' JZ
Don't think you can beat 8mm Magnum.
300 WSM Vanguard SS in EDGE stock with Timney trigger and GubKote, by Hil Country. Shoots everything less than an inch. it's light enough, and don't wail on me so use it for everything now, sheep, moose deer elk
I think your choice in rifle/cartrige depends on how you plan to hunt and how far you want to shoot. If you want to hike a lot and sneak throught the timber a short, light weight mountain rifle would probably be best and any cartrige based on the 30'06 case would be just fine with a premium bullet. If you want to shoot at long range a remington sendero is a good choice, any of their chamberings will do just fine in that for elk too. I use a custom .30'06 Remington 700ss action, MCMillian Stock, Hart Barrel(26" 1-11"), Jewell triger, Leupold VXIII 6.5-20X-40mm AO, W/ Talley scope mounts, and a harris Bipod, put together by Truman Wilson. Weighs 12.5 lbs, little heavier than a lot of guns but if your in shape it is not bad to pack in nasty canyons at all. I shoot handloads using 180gr. Accubonds and noslers max load of IMR4350 shooting under 1/2 MOA. Lots of choices for your rifle, jsut choose one, a remington 700 bolt would be my vote though.
Thin skinned or not, I believe it's essential for shot placement, hitting the vitals. My last bull was quartering away from me. I held a bit to forward and took him through the left shoulder. That just seemed to PO him. Next shot jelled his lungs and that put him down for keeps. I hunt with a 270 Rem., shoot 150 gr. handloaded grandslams. Last 5 buuls have been shot with that load and has worked well for me!
I have never hunted Elk, but would be very confident doing so with a 180gr Hornady lightmagnum load in my '06.
You would be fine with that 180 gr load in .30-06. Lots of elk have been killed with less and doubt that any of them have sprung back to life since the invention of big magnums.
I used to hunt with the Speer Nitrex brand Grand Slam's back when the only rifle I owned was a .308 Win. Nothing ever survived a hit with those either.
WMH, it's on my list of things to do. perhaps when the kids get a little older.
I've never been elk hunting but I do know that on any game it is far more important where the bullet goes than how big it is.
If you can handle a 300 or a 338 mag great, you can shoot from farther away than you could with a 270 or a 308.
If that big gun makes you flinch and miss it is of no help to you at all and a 270 would be better for you.
BE HONEST about what you can handle and practice with it until you find your max range you can accurately make a kill zone shot.
If I was going elk hunting I would not hesitate to take my 270 and I would keep my shots on elk like I do on deer to no more than 200 yards.
I couldn't agree with you more. HONESTY about your true self as a hunter is very important. A lot of guys want to buy the big magnums, just for "statement", but can't even hit a barn for their life. I live in the Pacific Northwest and have used my "06 and 300 Win Mags for elk.
In my humble opinion, penetration is the key. If the animal is standing broadside, a 243 may work fine. But on public lands, you never know what your gonna get, and you may only get one try. Will it be a 40 yard shot in the seat of the pants, or a 350 yard shot across a canyon? who knows? A 300 win mag with 220 grain Nosler works well for either.
Ralph the Rifleman,
Your making the statement about "those using a .243 is too small, not enough to kill elk". When you saw the hunters with the elk, and it had been shot with a .243, was the elk dead? Then I guess the .243 wasn't so small after all was it? LOL
The best elk rifle is the one that the hunter shoots accurately with the first shot.
OK. Well with a chance to go elk hunting for the first time in CO. in 2011 do I use grandpa's old Remington 721 in .270 Win. or buy a .300 or .338? I'm used to the recoil of a .12 ga. slug gun for deer, do .300's or .338's kick more than a .12 ga. pushing out an ounce and a half slug?
338 Win Mag what I read for Elk is the most ideal cartridge, not to big, not to small just right!
I have a new 338 Federal in a Tikka T 3 Lite. Extremely accurate with Hornady 200 grain interlock bullets. The speed is around 2575 FPS and the energy is around 3200 pounds. I have a Simms limb saver recoil pad on the rifle and it is a pleasure to shoot. Federal says it is a 300 yard elk gun. It is a pleasure to shoot. I would like to try it on elk.
Can anyone with experience with .338 Win Mag. tell me what the recoil is like relative to a 2 3/4" 12 Ga.pushing a 1.5 once slug? My understanding is that once yer used to a .12 Ga. slug gun's recoil you can handle any rifle recoil out there.
Otter62. I deer hunt in IL with a 12ga slug gun using 3" sabots. I also own a Weatherby chambered in .338 win mag. Recoil wise; they seem to be the same. The .338 is much louder than the 12ga; and I don't have a wussy muzzlebreak either (ha ha).
The 3" magnum turkey loads feel like twice the amount of recoil as either of the previous loads.
I don't find the .338 a terrible kicker and really don't find shooting it a big deal but I think thats because I've grown up having to shoot deer with a 12 guage slug.
I've also been recoil acclimated by the slug only Illinois deer seasons. Glad to hear the .338 is about the same. With the majority of what I read about .338 recoil, they almost scared me away from it...
Felt recoil is a situational thing. If you get a magnum caliber in a light rifle with a poorly designed stock, you are in for a beating. I got rid of a .338 Win Mag years ago because it just plain kicked too hard. It was a Winchester M-70 with a straight comb tupperware stock. My only magnum caliber is a 7mm Weatherby Magnum that weighs 9 1/4 pounds loaded with sling and is actually quite pleasant to shoot. Less felt recoil than my 6 1/2 pound .30-06. But guess which one I take hunting in steep timber?
30-06! right WAM :)
It really depends on your shoulder structure, ability to shoot, ability to handle recoil and type of terrain to name a few. I have a Browning A-Bolt 338 Win Mag that I'm just as accurate as my 06's and my 30-06 would be backup.
I wouldn't give it a second thought of using a 308 180 grain!
Best elk rifle- the one I killed the elk with, a Remington 700 ADL in, you guessed it, .30-'06.
Backup rifle- Model 70 in .338 Winchester Magnum. Both left handed, of course.
One that you don't mind sending a half a box of shells at coyotes/wolves while your on the Mountain.
I shoot the 7x57 and kill elk cleanly, but not many people would recommend it. I keep shots well inside 300 yards and shoot 175 gr. hand loaded nosler partitions.
The 338 win mag gets my vote. However a 7mm with a good 160 or 175 grainer will definitely get the job done. If for instance, a 7mm it is the only rifle a person owns or is able to handle in terms of recoil, then proper loads and bullet placement will take care of business. I own a couple of Big 7's and have shot them for more almost thirty-years and I know their limitations on Elk. They simply are unable to deliver the type of killing effect that my 338 win mags offer. Would I hesitate to shoot an elk with a 7mm magnum? Not at all. I just know that my 338 will most assuredly drop them with much more more authority than my 7mm.
Browning BLR Mod 81 in 30-06!! Super fast lever action, box mag handles spitzer bullets so you're not stuck with flat tips, rotating hammer for redundant safety, ought six caliber has widest array of bullet weights, BLR action is accurate as any of my several bolt action guns, its light and easy to carry, nice looking but also built to last.
Second fav is my Rem 700 .300 ultra, its a tack driver and has point blank aim further than I am willing to shoot. Slow follow up but with that gun who'll ever need a second shot?
Third fav is my REM 760 pump, its even faster than the Browning lever but not quite as accurate.
My all time Alaska favorite Browning A-Bolt 338 Win Mag with my trusty never let me down tack driving 03-A3 30-06!
My favorite caliber is the .338 win mag and my Browning A-Bolt Stainless Stalker (first generation without a sissy BOSS) with a Leupold VX-III 3.5x10.x40 gets the job done nicely and is very accurate. My Ruger Stainless laminated-stock MK-II with the LC trigger with a Leupold VX-III 2.5x8x36 is my other Elk hammer! .338 Win Mag . . . plenty of power . . . easy to shoot . . . inherently accurate . . . never let's me down.
Alot depends on the shooter. I watched my brothers landlord blow a columbia blacktail apart with poorly placed ronds from a .338 while I have seen clean, one shot kills on deer with .218 Bee to bear taken with .243. My preference; my Remington Model 721 in .270 or my Remington Model 788 in .308 using 165 Nosler Partions. I have carried both rifels for twenty five years and harvested alot of game. I am confident in the rifle, the round and my abilitiy to place the shot.
My last trip to British Columbia with my 7MM Mag with 160 Trophy Bonded Bear Claws was fine until the big bears moved in on us after the elk kill. At that time I wished I had my Tikka T 3 Lite in 300 WSM with 180 Hornady Interbonds. The outfitter frowned when we showed up with something smaller than a 300 Mag. because he has trouble with the bears on about every hunt. My 300 WSM will be with me on the next hunt.
Last year was my first hunt. I asked the same question at our local shooting range last year, and four of the five guys there said a 30-06 would be good for hunting any animal in Montana/Idaho/Wyoming. The fifth guy preferred a 308.
A lot of good information here (90% of it anyways lol). My 3 cents would be what was mentioned above, placement shots are crucial, do you really feel like tracking that beast, or knocking it down where it stands? At 10,000 feet ASL I'd rather not track anything especially when 9 times out of 10 it's going to run down hill further away from the truck. 30-06, 300 WIN MAG, 338, with proper placement on vitals, hopefully you won't be walking far or at all. Spend the extra bucks on ammo as well, ensure you shoot often before heading out. Know your equipment's limits and the area you are going. I carry a Ruger .338 and honestly, I don't care what it weighs, as long as I'm not tracking a wounded animal all over creation. Most of all enjoy, have fun, be safe... good luck... All the way!
marlin 1895 45 70 any thing in the us down
Eric, 45/70, fine "put em down gun". I would have some concerns at long range elk shots and would opt for a flatter shooting cartridge with still some good knock down.
Almost any gun will do for elk, you could use a big thundergun if you want to really put em' down (Mr. Petzal is guilty for this, but who could blame him), or a gun as "small" as a 270. The point is shoot whatever you shoot best and what fits all your needs.
Your experience is showing... Almost any gun will do for elk? Give us a break. The .270 Win on up to the big mags is not "almost any gun". Lots of mouseguns out there smaller than that.
all i can say is browning stainless stalker x bolt 325wsm 200 grain winchester accubond ct bullets 22 in bbl rotory mag 3300 ft lbs at 100 yards great to carry all day goes through elk like papper PERFECT ELK GUN
I sold my .338 Federal so I would use my 300WSM with 180 grain Hornady Interbonds. I have a load that shoots great. The last time I was elk hunting we had trouble with grizzlies. I had a 7MM Mag then but I don't have it anymore. With the trouble we had with the bears and it was a good bit I just would feel better with a .30 caliber with at least a 180 grain well constructed bullet. I may not need it for the elk but I may need it for what comes calling after the elk shot. The old outfitter who had been in the business for over 50 years wanted everyone to have at least a .30 cal. mag. , after the hunt I knew why.
I think it all depends on where you hunt. I live in Oregon. I put my last bull elk down with a Remington 700 in .270 winchester using a Hornday 150 grain interlock sp. It went down with 1 shot. With a range finder it was 255 yards. I also use a 7mm remington mag. We don't have any big bears to worry about here. If I was hunting in big bear country I would probably carry something bigger. Any of the .30 mags or bigger. The .35 whelen and .358 winchester would also be a good choice. If I'm not hunting clear cuts and I'm hiking in the dark timber here in Western Oregon, I like to carry my .45-70 handgun.
.270 winchester with 150 grain bullets is the absolute lightest i would go. you can say their light skinned, but remember your talking about a very big animal that can be difficult to bring down. i personally would not go on an elk hunt with anything less than a .30 caliber magnum, i wouldnt go west of the mississippi with anything less than a .30 caliber magnum unless the game was whitetail or antelope. mule deer and above, something around .300 winchester with 165's and up is where i want to be.
Scratch, you really stirred the pot with that question. Good job. Has the snow melted in Mich. yet? Turkeys are beginning to gobble fair down here but still in bachelor groups.
I am a shot placement guy first and for most. But I have heard nothing from anyone here about Sectional Density (SD). SD is one of the most important factors to determine bullet penetration and thus killing power. Clearly a bigger bullet makes a bigger hole, but that is not the only factor that matters. A long wound channel destroys more tissue and give greater killing power. Let compare some popular bullets from popular catridges for elk. A 180 grain 0.308 calibur bullet from an 06 or 300 win mag seem to be the consensus bullet for elk here. A 180 gr. 30-06 bullet has a SD of 0.271. For comparison, a 150 gr. bullet out of a .270 win has a SD of 0.279, which is higher than a 30-06 180 gr bullet. This means that other factors being equal, a 0.270 win 150 gr. bullet would penetrate slightly deeper than a 180 gr. 30-06 and IMO is a more than adequete bullet for elk. Not saying .270 is better but that it is comparable. Likewise, a 7mm mag 160 gr. bullet has a SD of 0.283 and would penetrate better than either. To get similar penetration from a 0.338 you would have to go to a 225 gr. bullet with an SD of 0.281, which increases your recoil. Now consider this a 0.264 cal (6.5mm), 140 g. bullet has a SD of 0.287 and if you went to a 160 g. bullet from that calibur, it would be 0.328 which is off the chart! The 0.264 has the reputation of being used on elephants because of its deep penetration. I don't agree that a 0.270 is a minimum elk rifle. I shot a cow elk with a 140 gr barnes TSX out of a 270 wsm. I hit her shoulder, spine and other shoulder with complete pass though and left a puff of dirt on the other side. I also shot a 6x6 bull through the vitals with the same bullet and had a complete pass through and massive destruction of tissue. The biggest danger to using smaller cal is lack of penetration. I would not hesitate to use a 6.5 swed or 260 remington on elk. In fact I would use several other smaller caliburs if the SD was high enough.
SD is important, but all the SD in the world is meaningless if a bullet is not driven fast enough for proper expansion and penetration. Given that most hunting bullets won't expand under 1,800 fps, some of your 6.5's get to 1,800 fps in a real hurry.
What you say is true, just don't forget about terminal velocity.
@Kevinitis: SD is a sound principle for theoretically predicting penetration depth. In your post, however, you stated that your bullet of choice was the Barnes TSX. I am of the mindset that bullet construction trumps SD, and the TSX is one tough son of a gun. It's a copper solid that won't lose much of anything while expanding and delivering straight-line penetration.
Your results back your statement, but it's hard to ignore bullet construction.
Have a good one!
WA Mtnhunter the velocity of the bullet has a much smaller effect on penetration than sectional density. As an example check this ballistics test out http://www.brassfetcher.com/300%20WSM%20Nosler%20AccuBond%20150gr%20bare.... They show that penetration of a 150 gr. Nosler accubond fired at 2891 ft/sec penetrated between 19.5-19.6 inches (almost no difference) from 0-200 yards despite the change in velocity over those distances. Many ballistics tests confirm that bullet SD is the most important factor for penetration over a range of velocities and bullet calibers. A 260 Remington shoots a 140 gr. bullet at 2750 ft/sec which is plenty fast and because of high BC it retains adequate velocity for a long distance, longer than most hunters can ethically shoot accurately. As long as you have enough velocity to expand the bullet then you have enough oomph to make a clean kill if your bullet is place well. For a Barnes TSX you need 1800 ft/sec to expand the bullet. So shot out of a 260 Remington a 140 gr. Barnes tsx would still expand out to 500 yards at a velocity of 1849 ft/sec. And you would still have 1063 foot pound of energy. Compare that to a 30-30 win at 100 yards you have 1895 ft/second and 1355 foot lbs energy. These numbers are fairly comparable. Time has proven that a 30-30 win is adequate for elk at reasonable ranges as elk were nearly eradicated from the continent with that rifle in the late 1800's. A 30-30 at 100 yrds or less is plenty to kill elk cleanly if the bullet is placed well. Not saying that would be my choice, but it is enough.
Cbass, Agreed a bullet that is highly frangible will not penetrate no matter the SD. That is because as the bullet breaks apart the SD decreases. My post above was under the assumption that bullet construction is adequate.
My set up is a lightweight (7 pounds) bolt action 7x57 mauser with a fixed 4x scope firing 175 grain nosler partitions flying at a whopping 2400 fps. I keep my shots inside 200 yards. For the past ten years I generally get one or two elk a fall, I lost a wounded elk in 08 and still dont know what went wrong, other than that one all of them have gone down within 50 yards. I have two indentical 7x57 mausers and fire them alot in the offseason. Last fall I shot a friends 300 win mag at the range, what a miserable weapon compared to my rifles.
You might be able to inexpensively deal with recoil and take on more power if desired. My personal search for a recoil solution began a few years back with a factory ported Marlin 45-70 and Garrett's loads (both the lesser and stronger hard cast ones). Shooting from a bench with a famous recoil reducing butt pad installed did a number on my shoulder. I was confirming sighting and wore a cotton shirt. That mistake will not be repeated. I now routinely use an inexpensive "gummy" slip-on butt pad ("shooter's friend" brand) and wear an L.L. Bean waxed cotton vest (the model with some down incorporated in it's lining). The combination seems to squish away recoil. Even face slap is sufficiently moderated. The same setup works (for me) when shooting a Contender G2 carbine with 16.25" factory ported 45-70 barrel and Garrett's "lesser" hard cast lead load. I go 160#. Somewhere along these lines there is likely to be found a solution for many others. Ongoing improvements in propellants and bullets will help keep many older chamberings close on the heels of newer ones at lowest cost and with an abundance of offerings.
I'd use a 30-06. It's gets the job done and you can use it for smaller game as well without it looking like you ran it over with Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile.
Sorry pcrage but elk are NOT thin skinned and they are very tough animals to put down. I've hunted moose once and I killed that bull moose with one shot from my 7mm rem mag. It went bout 30yrds before it dropped. I've killed 4 bull elk 5 spikes and 2 cows. I had a hell of a time packing out my spike last season after double lung hitting it with my 308 with 150gr barnes ttsx. It ran for days/half a mile! I do believe shot placement and proper types of bullets are key but I also believe not all animals are the same because I have taken a 5x5 bull weighing about 700 lbs with a 25-06 and it ran only 15-20yards.
Them sasquamaches can get pretty frisky, 20mm like the germans used. Gargle
I personally use a .338 06 It is a wildcatter but does the job verry well. Living in wyoming has taught me shot placement as well as needing a great bullet to succeed. for elk I use a 225 nossler. I do have to say that I have many friends and family members who use a .270 on elk and they almost never drop with one shot. Sure if your forty yards and a hell of a shot you can kill any elk with a smaller cartridge. But at 0 degrees and hiking for hours that almost never happens. To those who think a .338 is overkill I have to say that my .338 06 recoils less than most.30'06's and takes down game with a better flight pattern and less drop. Obviously everyone has a different opinion and experience but don't decide someone elses rifle is not up to snuff just becasue you don't like it.
I have shot over 30 elk, used 7mm Rem Magnum, 270 Win, 280 Rem,
30-06. Most important is to be able to shoot acurately, use
a solid rest if over 250 yards (always), keep your eye on the
elk and if it shows any significant sign of life, shoot again.
All of these calibers work well and all have knocked elk down
quickly and all have had elk run off to be tracked, I lost
3 elk. I prefer 30-06 these days because of bullet selection
and own 13 rifles, I use a different rifle each hunting season,
but only use those that are very accurate and use the best
bullet ammo combination I can find for it. Will use 30-06 Heym
model 2000 a 1/2 moa with Speer 200 grain Boatails.......
I know people who kill elk every year with 243 winchesters. Its a little light if you ask me but it shows elk arent bullet proof mutants. Any reasonable caliber (I dont think a 243 is an adequate elk caliber and wouldnt personally use one if I was hunting for elk) with a well place, well constructed bullet can kill an elk. On the other hand elk are relatively tough animals with more muscle and thicker bones than whitetail or muledeer. Therefore I opt for a rifle with a bit more punch. I have had good luck with my 7mm rem mag and 160 gr accubonds, My rifle seem to like them and they penetrate well. The 2 bullets ive recovered were shot from within 250 yards and they both retained 95% of their original weight.
Native Alaskans used Dirty-30's with nerves of steel!
I have read with a little laugh at times,about how easy Elk are to put down with calibers more suitable for coyotes and antelope.Fine,fine I am sure somewhere, someone has killed a bull elk by hitting it in the head with a 2x4 and swears by that particular method,but let's be honest the 7mm's 300's and 338's are preferred.I hear the complaints now, recoil, flinch, weight!I can't tell you the number of duck hunters use to shooting 3in mag 12ga rounds that never fired a rifle before then pick up a 300 RUM, shoot it and say OK wheres that "BIG" rifle you wanted me to try? turkey hunters are even less recoil sensitive.They just haven't read all the bull about Magnums being such unmanageable hell benders. Practice is all thats required to be proficient and that is true of any caliber for me REM 700 BDL leupold VXIII 4.5x14 Swift Scirocco 180gr
Amen, duckdog07! Most of the elk killing advice comes from those who have never hunted elk very much.
Fieldandstream.com is part of the Field & Stream Network, a division of Bonnier Corporation.
Copyright © 2012 Bonnier Corp. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.