don,t over scope an elk rifle


Staff member
I've hunted elk for 45 years now, and while I have surely made up some mental preferences,
or formed opinions based on experience, based on how and where I hunt!
you may or may not agree with in what equipment is desirable, or even useful,
I can't help but notice a trend to larger and longer scopes on elk rifles, and in many cases I think that's a mistake..
why? mostly because longer and heavier scopes add weight complexity and are much more prone to being damaged, through rough usage ( NOT INTENDED OR JUST BY MISTAKE)
I've noticed a related trend and its that guys with the really large scopes,
tend to have noticeably more frequent durability issues

Its been my experience you'll need a rifle that allows you to make a accurate shot at under 350 yards most of the time,
and clarity in low light , cold, snow, rain, and having a scope and mount designed for decent impact and weather resistance ,
is far more critical than being able to read the local news paper fine print thru it at 500 yards.
I would suggest you buy a 30mm tube scope from a higher quality brand name
the 3x9 and 3.5x 10 power scopes ,versions generally work really well.

once you get over 12 power , scopes are generally designed for target use not the rougher hunting durability required
and in the vast majority of the elk hunts I've been on, shots over about 150 yards are exceedingly rare, simply because
outside of national parks, ELK know they are safer in aspen & conifer and oak brush,
not wondering out in ankle deep grass, like you see in many calendars

My favorite long range big game hunting scope is a Leupold VX3 3.5x10x40 CDS.
I find it is the best trade off with weight, target acquisition, detail resolution, color resolution, reliability, range compensation, and cost.
At $550 I think the scope is more useful than scopes I have hunted with that cost much more.
now if you want to carry a 6x18x scope thats about 15" long on your elk rifle all I can say is its your choice, enjoy! , but in my experience a 2x7x or even a decent 4x12x is going to be as much as most guys can use and certainly long and heavy enough that its length extending past the scope mount rings gives it the physical leverage, that it can exert a good deal of force on the mounts and rings, that its more likely to get damaged when you fall, and if your seriously covering ground in most elk country its just a mater of time before you slip and drop that rifle. the Leopold 3.5x10x is a great compromise I've found the one piece weaver style bases with rings are the most durable (made by several manufacturers)in my experience
but like everything else you need to know what to ask for exactly





a 150/400 watt gun makes soldering much easier, but if you hold it on a screw thats used red loc-tite it melts the adhesive if you hold the solder gun on the screw head for 1-2 minutes


BTW red loc-tite is a thermally sensitive bonding agent,
if you need to remove scope mount screws, or any screw locked in place with this thread binding agent, that were locked in place with red loc-tite simply hold a high wattage soldering iron firmly against the screw head for at least 2 minutes before you try to remove it, this allows heat to travel through the screw and melt the bonding plastic based locking agent

HERES A NICE ELK (no not one I shot but still nice)
all Im suggesting is think thru your mounts and scope choice to find a reasonably compact quality scope and mounts and a good 2x7x , or 3x9x will certainly allow you to function well in most areas, the longer and heavier the scope the more prone it will be to loss of zero if its dropped or spends time (even in a rifle case) bouncing around on dirt roads in a truck

RELATED INFO ... _2011.html
don,t get hung up on velocity just get the most accurate load



while this is NOT my 375 H&H sako carbine, in the picture posted above, My SAKO CARBINE is almost an exact clone except, that my stocks about 5 shades darker, so its about as dark as walnut gets.
I found this picture posted on the internet, it could be a clone of the sako carbine Ive used for decades, if the stock color was about 6 shades darker walnut ,
mines about the color of a semi sweet dark chocolate

I was asked how critical it is to have a second fast shot available, short answer ! as I got more experience I learned to not shoot as often and pick my shots better, so the number made tended to get lower until recently I rarely make a second shot!
Before I went On my first elk hunt I listened intently to the advice the guys that invited me to join them on my first out of state elk hunt told me to follow.
I practiced extensively shooting from field positions, off hand, and sitting, to become both fast and accurate enough to rapidly place several shots on a 6" paper plate at 100 yards using my first elk rifle (a 760 Remington slide action in 30/06 )which is what most of my mentors had strongly suggested I purchase as that was what they had found worked the best.
the first two elk I shot ran on bullet impact but dropped after 20-40 yards.
I was convinced I needed a bigger caliber, but as I gained experience I realized it was mostly shot placement not power that matered.
I tried both times but was not able to hit a vital spot on the second shot.
I swapped to a bolt action 340 wby, the first couple elk I shot with it either dropped or staggered around obviously mortally hit, then fell.
So while Ive occasionally taken a second shot I found its both seldom required or as well placed as a carefully placed first shot. Ive occasionally shot twice at a elk that appeared to run after bullet impact , and with practice and experience I got rather good at rapid second shots with that 340 wby bolt actions 60 degree bolt lift and have made a very few second shots, but over the last 20 plus years I can,t remember shooting at over 250 yards or needing a second shot to anchor an elk, but Id also say the average range was about 130 yards, most shots were closer and made frequently using a bi-pod and sling precise shots were not difficult
a short sturdy combo like this (above) tends to be more durable in the thick timber and steep canyons,than this combo (BELOW)
if you roughly handle any rifle its prone to damage, and you sure don,t want to have your rifle change its carefully adjusted zero on a hunt.
but the longer scopes give the scope and mount more, or a larger mechanical leverage , and that tends to aggravate the problem.
Rifles do get bumped and dropped, during a hunt, its just a fact of life, and cheap scopes and mounts don,t hold up well.
Ive found the weaver style rings and mounts to be more durable, and the smaller scopes seem to have less issues, Ive yet to see a leopold 4x or 2x7x in weaver style mounts have problems
but Ive seen several longer scopes of various brands, with scope mounts like these pictured below,
get bent or damaged

Ive got three,rifles that I use for several specific types of hunting, I found these pictures posted, but they are virtual clones to my rifles a browning 78 with a 26" length barrel similar to this picture, that I had re-barreled by shillen in the 1970s, and chambered in 300wby,

the quality of scope optics has improved 300x-400x in the last 30 years
yet its still a good idea, to spend a bit more and get a higher quality scope with a 30mm or larger tube and 40mm or larger diam. front lenses
you'll seldom have the need for more than 14x max power and 3x-4x -to-9x-10x variables, fits almost all requirements
find a name brand with a lifetime warranty

MY BROWNING BLR in 450 marlin, is very handy in the thicker aspen and conifer elk live in much of the time.

Ive seen and shot almost all the elk I ever shot in areas like these where a 150 yard shot is both very rare and unlikely
shots at 50-80 yards are far more common


Last edited by a moderator:


The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer.
Staff member

Ive found the one piece weaver style bases with rings are the most durable (made by several manufacturers)in my experience
but like everything else you need to know what to ask for exactly



Last edited:


The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer.
Staff member

some good options
as always there's always a few compromises, with every choice made,
keep in mind 75% or more shots at game will be made at under 250 yards


if you can't clearly see the target in dim light your at a huge disadvantage


rings that look like this are extremely durable


weaver bases either two or single piece properly installed tend to be very durable


Last edited: