what are you looking for in an elk rifle

Discussion in 'rifle related' started by grumpyvette, Nov 5, 2009.

  1. grumpyvette

    grumpyvette Administrator Staff Member

    theres always been a constant debate on what a good ELK rifle caliber is,
    theres a group that feels the 243win, 6mm rem,-257 Roberts , 25/06 ,257 wby,up to about the 270 win, are perfectly acceptable Elk rifles,
    hese lighter and smaller caliber rifles are in skilled and experienced hand's and when used with the correct quality bullets fully up to the job of killing elk,
    if the shooter realizes the limitations hes dealing with.

    and theres the group that thinks you'll be far better off with a 378/338 mag 375 H&H-416 Remington,404 , 458 win ETC,
    these calibers certainly develop the power and penetration required if the correct bullet is selected ,
    but the recoil levels and in a few cases the limited range, due to lower velocity and massive bullet weight, can make them a rifle & caliber choice best left to experienced hunters and best used in thicker timber where ranges will tend to be under 250 yards.
    but theres few guys that really debate the merits or lack of same of the 7mm and 300 magnums, 325 win 300wby-8mm rem,338 win 340 wby, etc.
    as those calibers having the necessary clout and range, too be used effectively on ELK, along with the flat trajectory with the better ammo.


    especially when we look at the ballistics, and pragmatically review the track record of those calibers in actual field use, keep in mind youll rarely get a second shot if you miss the first and youll probably only see one or two legal elk on any hunt, youll be lucky to have the time to make a decent shot, so you better learn to make accurate shots very quickly from field positions.
    so the debate, seems to really center around the recoil and noise levels, and cost of the rifle and ammo,and weight of the rifle your willing to accept or pay for, or the weight you'll carry,etc. and what someone is willing to accept , in recoil, rifle weight and cost to get the job done effectively.
    we are all forced too make compromises at some point.
    few guys want to carry a 9-10 lb rifle, or pay more than about $700-$1500 for a rifle,few guys want the rifle scope to give them eyebrow scars, if the don,t constantly keep the recoil levels in mind before firing,but
    most guys want a rifle that at least in theory reaches out to 350-500yards , even thought most ELK are shot at under 350 yards and most guys in my experience don,t want to shoot a harder recoiling caliber from the sitting ,kneeling or prone position, making the real hard kickers, not really an option, as a truly useful rifle under all conditions in the field.
    your choice always involves some compromises.
    so what are the factors you look for, what are YOU willing to give up and what factors are mandatory in your ELK rifle choice and WHY?

    ruger makes a darn accurate single shot in 270, 30/06, 338 win,35 whelen, 458 win, and 45/70 that all have excellent reputations in my elk camp.
    BROWNING BLR lever actions in 358 win, 308 win and 450 marlin have all been used very successfully,
    as have the remington 7600 slide action in both 30/06 and 35 whelen, and theres several guys using 338 win, and 375 H&H bolt actions

    now personally I've found the 30/06-to-35 whelen to be about as low in the power band as IM truly comfortable hunting ELK with as I have total confidence in that caliber range with 180 grain-250 grain bullets, and the combos ability to kill ELK, Ive used a 30/06 with 100% success, its 100& lethal, theres zero doubt there, but it does not seem to get an elks attention, on bullet impact nearly as well as the 250 grain 35 whelen has on the several occasions when ,I used the 35 whelen vs the 30/06 , Ive used both so I can compare, and almost all my shots were rather similar mid chest lung shots., usually from under 200 yards. and I feel that the 300-mags, 340 wby and 375 H&H to be about the max practical recoil levels, and rifle weight I'M willing to put up with.
    the 270 win loaded with a 150 grain speer over 54 grains of IMR 4831 with a fed 215 primer
    the 30/06 loaded with a 200 grain speer over 49 grains of ww760 with a fed 215 primer
    will kill any ELK effectively, keep in mind your whole hunts success may depend on your ability to make one well placed shot and your knowledge of elk anatomy and your field accuracy




    but my favorite calibers are the 338 win

    250 grain hornady over 60 grains of ww760 with a fed 215 primer
    35 whelen, loaded with a 250 speer over 54 grains of IMR 4895 with a fed 215 primer
    a 375 H&H

    300 grain hornady over 77 grains of ww760 with a fed 215 primer

    any of the five work fine PROVIDED you place your shots well, the three heavier calibers seem to get the job done a bit faster but a single hit in the right place with any of those results in a dead ELK
    Reply With Quote
    Ive used either a 35 whelen, 375 H&H, and 340wby on easily 75%-80% or more of MY ELK hunting trips . but thats only MY choice , whats YOURS??
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2017
  2. grumpyvette

    grumpyvette Administrator Staff Member

    the savage rifles like this,with the synthetic stock, stainless, barrel, in caliber 338 win makes a really nice ELK rifle thats not all that expensive and can usually be located at significantly under list price
    RON , one of my hunt camp friends has a blue steel/synthetic stock version he picked up USED for $370 years ago and its killed its share of game,it will shoot 3 shot 1" groups with the sierra 250 grain bullets and IMR 4350 any day, at 100 yards from the bench


    if your into hunting the thick timber LIKE I AM, the BROWNING BLR in 325 win mag, 300 mag,358 win or 450 marlin will make a nice choice, as will a MARLIN MXLR in caliber 450 marlin


    http://www.browning.com/products/catalo ... ype_id=006
    I still use my 35 whelen 7600 pump action,
    now a good second choice in my opinion is the REMINGTON 7600 rifles in caliber 30/06 and if you can find on, caliber 35 whelen.
    http://www.remington.com/products/firea ... l_7600.asp

    http://www.gricegunshop.com/specials/PD ... son_09.pdf

    http://www.remington.com/products/firea ... albers.asp

    keep in mind over the last 40 years Ive hunted ELK shots over 150 yards are RARE, shots over 250 yards, were exceedingly rare, to almost a non-issue
    these are rather typical pictures of ELK hunting terrain in my experience,
    and while you'll occasionally see elk at longer ranges,
    the vast majority will be found in reasonably good cover so shots over 250 yards have in my experience be very rare!


    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 1, 2017
  3. grumpyvette

    grumpyvette Administrator Staff Member

    I have hunted ELK and MULE DEER for 43 years in several western states,if you want to keep the cost at the minimum but still get good quality equipments heres a suggestion, the 30/06 with correct ammo will both do the job and be reasonably priced, the key is shot placement so practice a good deal from field positions not off the bench rest, its not power as much as correct shot placement that gets your deer or elk on the ground.

    If I was just starting out ID buy a weatherby VANGUARD SYNTHETIC rifle, a decent low cost 2x7x scope and a HARRIS swivel 27" bi pod that will help a great deal with accuracy from sitting shots
    Id doubt you can find a much better or more effective package for the price, and price, and reasonable recoil levels are important because you need to practice extensively.
    they also sell the same basic rifle in 300 weatherby mag caliber , but the ammo will cost 5 times as much and nearly double the recoil, and while it adds power and range its seldom needed in my experience so Id strongly suggest you stick with the 30/06 and a good 180-200 grain bullet, until your very comfortable hunting elk and probably even after if recoil bothers you.
    Ive killed a bunch of elk and deer with these bullets
    http://www.midsouthshooterssupply.com/i ... =000033085

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Leupold-Rifle ... 0697519907


    http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/store ... r=10218138
  4. bob

    bob Guest

    My uncle Jack , had always wanted to own and hunt with a 300 weatherby, rifle, his wife knew about it and eventually bought him one as a surprise birthday present, when the local gun-shop offered her one at a significant discount when some one ordered one, but failed to pick it up for over a year.(because they lost their job)
    He was THRILLED and hes talked of little else, last year except about buying a 3x 9x scope and reloading components etc.
    he went to the range and the rifle shot amazingly tight groups off the bench rest, with a caldwell bench rest

    http://www.midsouthshooterssupply.com/i ... 0094336647

    Then after he had it sighted in exactly right he tried his first shot standing, resulting in a nice little cut in his eyebrow from the scope, after that his lust for the new weatherby dimmed a bit, a few more shots and he was almost ready to sell the rifle.... until some guy at the range noticed his problem and took the time and showed him exactly how to use a sling and a PAST recoil shield
    those two accessories changed his whole perspective, on the rifle, it went from something that killed on one end and MAIMED on the other to something that was FAR more manageable, (once he bought and installed the sling and had his wife sew the recoil pad into his vest shoulder)
    http://www.midsouthshooterssupply.com/i ... 0094310010
    hes now back in LUST with the weatherby and hes talking about an ELK HUNT!
  5. grumpyvette

    grumpyvette Administrator Staff Member

    hes not the first weatherby owner to find out that a decent sling and recoil pad sewn into a shooting vest makes a HUGE difference in perceived recoil levels......or to get a case of "WEATHERBY EYEBROW" during the learning phase!
    I,d save him some more grief, and time in that "LEARNING CURVE" tell him to select the better quality bullets in the 180-200 grain weights if hes wanting to maximize the rifles performance because ,even though the ballistic charts show the 150-168 grain bullet velocities and trajectories, look impressive the impact velocities at shorter ranges,results tend to shred the projectiles, and result in a great deal of extra un-necessary blood shot meat wasted.


    in my experience you rarely get a perfect angle and your usually only going to get a single shot, ranges seldom exceed 350 yards ,in my 40 plus years of experience, now Id have no problem using a 30/06 or a 300 wby, I started out the first few years using a 30/06 and it killed with a single shot but it didn,t impress me, as most elk ran 40-60 yards, I feel much more confident with a heavier bullet,and a bit more oomph, and because youll rarely have the ideal angle or have a stationary target it helps to error on the side of better penetration

    these are my five favorite elk cartridges, in approximately the order I prefer them, all have proven very effective

    340 wby 250 grain hornady at 2875 fps
    375H&H, 300 grain hornady at 2600 fps
    338 win-250 grain hornady at 2600 fps
    35 whelen-250 grain speer at 2450 fps
    358 win-250 grain speer at 2300 fps
    450 marlin , 405 grain remington bullet at 1800 fps

    Ive seen many elk killed very effectively with a 270 win-30/06 I've even used a 30/06 on several, ive watched the results others in my group have had,and sure dressed out enough elk to know the difference in the damage and penetration I;ve seen,I just trust the heavier calibers more and have more near instant kills with them than I had with a 30/06, its not really that you need the extra power but I have 100% confidence in all those rifles after seeing the results in several peoples hand on elk.
    After 40 plus years hunting ELK I can tell your going to find out eventually that elk hunt success is really not so much about EQUIPMENT, its success is dependent on 90% in your selecting a good area where your chances of seeing a legal elk are reasonably high and your individual persistence, in spending as much time every day you can, out actually hunting the area you hunt and the skill level of the guy holding the rifle, not the type of action or caliber you select
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2017
  6. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

    Sure! I never ever stated that having a rifle with a flat trajectory was detrimental,
    only that the need for having that flat trajectory ,in the rifle you select was vastly over stated and prioritized,
    in most of the articles Ive read over the decades.
    a 270 win or 30/06 has a flat enough trajectory with carefully selected hand loads for easily 90% plus of the hunting Ive seen, in the last 45+ plus years,
    of field experience, simply because unlike on the T.V. shows Id bet 90% plus of the deer and elk I see killed are taken at ranges of 250 yard or at most 300 yards MAXIMUM,
    and Id bet serious money that well more than 70% of the larger game successfully killed in America is killed at well under 200 yards.
    now if you have the "HOTS" for a 300 weatherby mag and want to load a screaming fast 165 grain ,by all means have at it!

    you can get 3150 fps and have a .480 bc with that 300 wby and darn flat trajectory

    lets compare that to a 35 whelen chugging along at a mere 2500 fps with a slow 250 grain slug
    both rifles sighted in to hit 3.5" high at 100 yards
    theres a huge 31.5" more drop with the slower whelen at 500 yards, but from 0 out to 250 yards where 90% of games shot , its a negligible 2" difference, in the trajectory between the two, and I can assure you from field experience both are very lethal with well placed hits
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015
  7. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

  8. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

  9. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

    My neighbor Bill just stopped over to discuss an issue hes having with his automatic transmission shifter and while he was over he showed me his latest toy.
    frankly I'm a bit jealous its a stainless ruger #1 in 458 lott
    now theres no way on this earth that you need to use that rifles full potential power, but for some reason,the vast majority of hand loaders, and hunters I know, don,t seem to understand that its perfectly normal and permissible to under-load a more powerful cartridge!
    You can hand-load any powerful rifle cartridge too push a projectile too the lower velocity and power level you may need without any problems,
    a fully loaded 458 lott rifle can push a 500 grain bullet to over 2370 fps,
    (just over 6200 ft lbs at the muzzle)
    a well proven combo for cape buffalo and elephant...
    Ive found a 405 grain bullet pushed to only 1800-fps-to -2000 fps
    (about 3600 ft lbs at the muzzle) or about 40% less power, but still more than enough power retained and with a flat enough trajectory,to knock the hell out of an elk at even 300 yards, and thus the down loaded ammo, provides an elk hunter with all the power and a flat enough trajectory for over 90% of the elk hunts I've ever been on, so you can use it very effectively.!
    while reducing the recoil and wear on the rifle (and the hunters shoulder) significantly.
    bill knows this also and its why he purchased the rifle after shooting my bolt action 458 Lott.
    (that and he knew it would make me envious) because he knows I've been looking for one at a decent price for 15 years
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  10. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member


    while its not everyones idea of ideal, a winchester high wall 375 H&H is a very effective choice and at $900-$1100 its certainly in the mid range of cost, for a high quality fire arm, and while some of you might think a 375 H&H cartridges recoil level is too high, I can personally assure you that ,a good shoulder pad and proper use of a rifle sling significantly reduces felt recoil levels, and its a very effective elk hunting caliber choice!
    but its going to have very good reach and accuracy, and with practice the fact its a single shot is not a problem for a skilled elk hunter, I know I would have no hesitation at all to use it!
    keep in mind youll rarely if ever need a quick second shot if you place the first 270-300 grain 375 caliber bullet into the elks vitals , and with practice you can get a second shot off in 3-5 seconds with a single shot falling block.
    and a butt stock cartridge holder helps

  11. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

    heres a video, of what it looks like when a 375 H&H hits an ELK in the vitals,
    a similar reaction is common in my experience when a 250 grain bullet from a 340 wby,
    or 338 win is used, if the shooter has a good grasp on elk anatomy ,
    and can place his shot accurately.
    While even a 25 caliber bullet from a 257 roberts can deliver a mortal wound the instant reaction is seldom nearly as obvious or dramatic or easily initially apparent

    Last edited: May 17, 2017
  12. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

    If your a "rifle nut" (I've been accused of that failing)
    you can spend a hour reading the links, or if you want the short version,
    its that anything from a 270 win up to a 375 H&H with the correct bullets ,
    and used in skilled and experienced hands will get the job done!
    obviously where you hunt, the ranges you expect to need to shoot over,
    will effect your choices and factors like weight, cost, recoil and your ability to handle the rifle,
    the size and type of scope, you'll need, should affect your choices.
    a 270 win and 30/06 will work, but I prefer the 338-375 calibers and a 225-270 grain bullet,
    probably doe to a long and very successful use of rifles in that class.
    I can tell you Ive hunted big game in at least 8 different states and that shots at decent elk at over 250 yards are rather rare, and youll seldom see elk standing out in the open, during hunting season on public lands, like the magazine pictures that were frequently taken in PARKS
    still the links provide some insight!










    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  13. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey Staff Member

    youll have a damn hard time beating, the value for cost, on this laminated marine coat bolt action rifle in 375 ruger for under $500 for a good elk rifle, in fact I'm rather seriously tempted to buy one and I really don,t even need a new elk rifle, as I have two that are top quality and well proven.
    but ,considering that most similar 375 ruger caliber rifles will cost 2-to 4 times that amount this is a darn bargain,
    yes youll notice the recoil but it only takes one well placed shot to drop any elk and this will easily allow shots to at least 450 yards in skilled hands.
    obviously selecting the perfect elk rifle is a personal choice , and like selecting a wife, each of us has a different set of characteristics we are looking for, but the basics remain the same, you'll want something that you feel comfortable with and something you'll be 100% sure can be dependable, and it certainly won,t hurt if it looks good, and handles well.
    and similar to a wife, a great deal of how it functions and does its job is almost 100% dependent on how well you work with, maintain and take care of ,the selected choice you made, and understand the limitations your choice may place, on your options , working along with that choice.







    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017

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