Best Round for Elk????


October 12, 2006, 10:42 AM
Not to start a caliber war, but I do enjoy listening to everyones opinions about what their favorite caliber for game is. I am thinking about an elk hunt in the next few years and I would like to buy a gun just for elk hunts, this wont need to be a multi purpose gun.

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October 12, 2006, 11:10 AM
Elmer Keith said the most common shot at elk he had seen was a quartering away shot which takes a good bit of penetration..That's why he liked the 35 Whelan, 338 Win . I think for an elk rifle I'd use a 338 W or even a 375 H&H.

October 12, 2006, 11:11 AM
Faaaaar too many good choices. Here's a partial list:

.270Win (okay, .27-06)
.280Rem (or 7mm-06)
.35 Whelen (.35-06)
Sense a theme? :evil:

Now on to the .308 based choices:
.260Rem (6.5mm08)
.338 Federal
.358 Winchester

And others, in no particular order:
.257 Roberts


The various WSMs

7mm RemMag
8mm RemMag

.45-70 (why not?)
.450 Marlin (if the .45-70 works...)


.300 Win Mag

The Weatherby Mags, starting with .257

The Rem Ultra Mags and SAUMs.

.303 Brit


And so on, and so forth.

There are tradeoffs, of course: recoil, cost, range, trajectory, power, size, historical value, availability at your local WallyWorld, and the guns chambered for them. Have fun. Buy one of each (that would be fun. Wish I could :D). Other folks will give you more specific opinions, of course.

Edited: Had a .7mm06 running around in the list. That would make one unusual wildcat.

October 12, 2006, 11:14 AM
Here is what I use depending on the type of hunt.

Under 250 woods gun: 358 Winchester (225gr Nosler Part) or 7mm-08 (140gr TSX)

Over 250 open country: 7mm Remington Magnum (160gr TSX)

Elk, at least where I live, seldom leave cover and most shots are around 100 yards. If you are hunting the woods, there is no reason to use a magnum other than because you want to. Open country, and long shots, would start to call for the 7 and 30 mag's.

IV Troop
October 12, 2006, 12:29 PM
I think I might rephrase the queston to ask those who have actually killed elk. Perhaps something along the lines of :

" Those of you who have killed at least a half dozen elk, what gun do you prefer?"

That would limit the amount of theorists offering advice on a subject with which they have no real experience.

I do not offer advice on what caliber to hunt hogs with since I have never hunted hogs. I have read about a lot of folks killing hogs but what happens in print and what happens in the field often differ considerably.

OK off my soapbox!

Being a lifelong elk hunter, from a family of elk hunters ( we actually were allowed to skip school for elk camp), the most common rifles we used were the 270 and 30-06. As I began to have enough $$ to buy numerous rifle I tried and used with success the 7mm rem mag and 300 win. Any of these calibers will work fine. I still like the 270 with 150 grain Noslers.

That being said, I generally would recommend the 30-06 with a good180 grain bullet. It is a fine balance of power and user shootability. If you can't drive tacks with it, a bigger gun is not going to be any better.

Steelhead made a good point about open country and long shots being a good place for the 7mm and 30 cal mags, ONLY if you are well practiced at those ranges and have the ability to precisely place your projectile.

October 12, 2006, 12:44 PM
My ex-father-in-law has killed lots and lots of elk (60+yrs of hunting) with his 270. That was going to my choice for an "elk rifle".

I've got 2 heavy competition / target rifles (13lbs plus) in 260 Remington. I shoot easily 2000rds/yr in bolt-action tactical and "hunting" type matches (and practice) at distances from 200yds - 750yds.

I've got a cow elk tag and deer tag for 2nd season. I'll be shooting a Remington 700 titanium in 260 Remington (6.6 lbs complete) and I'm not planning to shoot past 300yds.

130gr Swift Scirocco II @ ~2900fps.


Art Eatman
October 12, 2006, 01:01 PM
A lot of experienced elk hunters at TFL and here, these last several years, have agreed that anything with the performance level of a .30-'06 and a 180-grain bullet is just fine. There's certainly nothing wrong with using more gun if you can shoot it accurately.


October 12, 2006, 01:21 PM
My grandpa has always used an '06 with 180's. I have never hunted elk, but he has taken one every season for the last 30 years.

October 12, 2006, 01:36 PM
I am not a seasoned deer hunter by any means, but when I have had the oportunity to listen to old timers, I always do. Anyways my mainline deer rifle is a nice old savage 99 in 300 savage. Its best suited as a brush gun to mid ranged deer rifle.

Would a 300 winchester mag. be a good all around elk round with out being over kill?

Vern Humphrey
October 12, 2006, 02:20 PM
In my experience, the most commonly seen cartridges in the elk woods are the 7mm Remington Magnum, the .30-06, and the .300 Winchester Magnum. The .30-06 with a 180 grain Nosler Partition Jacket would be the benchmark -- every other rifle and cartridge is measured against it.

October 12, 2006, 02:31 PM
I like the well balanced, sensible replies I've seen here to this question. In reality, there are many, many good elk cartridges. I will offer that many tried and true elk hunters feel the 30-06 class cartridge with a good 180 gr. bullet is the "real" elk gun. Season after season, it performs supremely for those that know how to hunt elk. It gives the best combination of range, penetration and manageable recoil. The vast majority of elk I've tagged were with exactly that combination. My mental favorite as the perfect elk cartridge is the 35 Whelen, but in reality I've only taken one with it. I firmly believe the secret (if there is one), is to match the bullet to the cartridge for reliable expansion with reasonably high weight retention - and don't take shots that are beyond your capability.

So in my humble opinion, the 30-06 with a Nosler Partition 180 gr. bullet is just about ideal. If you feel more capable with something bigger, then by all means feel free. If you want something with a little less recoil and are willing to restrict yourself just a little, then even down to the 6.5 Swede is totally suitable.

Under some unusual circumstances, elk can be pretty tough, but they are not bulletproof and they won't go too far when hit in the right place.

Good hunting!

October 12, 2006, 02:53 PM

Yes, the 300 Win Mag with a 180 gr. bullet would be a very good choice. I don't think anyone would consider it overkill. The recoil will be somewhat stiffer than the 30-06, so practice enough to become proficient. Be careful to not develop the "half-a-mile syndrome" just because it has a belt. Elk are notoriously near-sighted and often fail to see the belt beyond 100 yrds.

October 12, 2006, 02:56 PM
Another vote for the .30-06 with 180 Nosler Partitions. I would like to try Elk Hunting someday with that round fired out of a T/C Encore handgun :).

Just my .02,

October 12, 2006, 03:10 PM
My favorite is .376 Steyr in a Dragoon but that's because I'm getting older and want a carbine with sights for old eyes. Hunting like whitetail kicking the animals out of the brush on the north faces.

I'd say elk cartridges start with the .270 at the lower margin, come into their own with the 7mm Express/.280 especially improved which is arguably the best all around cartridge for North America run through the .30-'06 to another great combination the .338 Win Mag in a relatively light 22" barrel and include a long barreled .340 Weatherby and up but for me only with a lot of weight or a muzzle brake.

I've liked a nice double in .30-'06 and 200 grain round nose Noslers for an easy to pack takedown rifle when it comes time to walk out.

October 12, 2006, 03:57 PM
I'm a .300 weatherby magnum guy myself.

There isn't anything on this continent that is too big for it, and very few things that are too small.

That is the beauty of a round like .300 weatherby mag... you can upload it for the big stuff, keep it down for the medium stuff (mulies and elk) and download it for the whitetails.

That is my 2 cents anyways. :)

October 12, 2006, 05:00 PM
Be careful to not develop the "half-a-mile syndrome" just because it has a belt. Elk are notoriously near-sighted and often fail to see the belt beyond 100 yrds.

Gotta give CowboyEngr props, here, for making me laugh out loud.

I'm goin' out my first time this year--but it'll be with a 30-06 & a bonded 180.

October 12, 2006, 06:22 PM
Back in the 1960's a sheepherder worked a couple big alpine basins in the Bighorns every summer. My Grandad always checked in on him when he brought grain pellets for his cattle on a different lease. I rode along countless times. This man trapped all winter in the foothills. He spent a lot of time outdoors. His only rifle was an 8mm German Mauser. You've probably seen this type; straight bolt sticking out and a barrel of 24 inches or so. Germany nearly conquored Europe in 1940's with this rifle!

Back to Pedro. He killed many game animals for their tasty meat. To my knowledge none got away. Factory 8mm ammo compares to 32 Special. A 170 grain soft tip at about 2200 fps. Certainly not impressive by 2006 standards but the elk didn't know anything about ballisitics and they toppled over.

My Dad nearly always hunted elk with his 300 Savage lever action. I've had equally good luck with my .308. My wife has shot some impressive animals with her 6.5mm Swede custom Browning BLR.

What's the point? Get close like an archer but shoot like a sniper and you'll do well with just about any rifle. Elk are not armor-plated!

Desk Jockey
October 12, 2006, 07:19 PM
Sounds like you just need an excuse to buy a new rifle. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :D

Where you plan to hunt elk might make a difference. Do you need the ability to take the 300-yard shot with confidence, or is 150 likely to be the maximum range? The answer to that will narrow things down a bit.

I use a .300 WSM. It does the job just fine. Most importantly, it was availabe at a very reasonable price when I went shopping for an elk rifle. Several other calibers would have been equally acceptable to me.

IV Troop
October 12, 2006, 10:21 PM
This has been one of the most sensible hunting posts I have ever read on the internet!

Michael aos,

I too just recently had a heavy bbl 260 built as a LR comp/hunting gun. The 6.5mm is quite the caliber. I ended up having to go on a "buisness trip" to the sandbox before I even got a chance to put glass on it or break in the barrel. I think it will make an ideal antelope gun and a fine gun for the wife for mulies, although since it is a heavy barrel, I am sure I will be the one who will end up as the gun bearer for her.

My Dad just recently bought a 6.5 Swede, I am sure some elk will fall to it soon. My family does not buy meat from a store and has always relied on venison throughout the year.

October 12, 2006, 11:07 PM

October 12, 2006, 11:33 PM
I have killed 4 elk using a 30-06 with 165 grain Barnes XBT bullets. the first 3were with a savage 110 with a redfield 4x and the last 1 was with a browning 1895 with iron sights. I have also killed one antelope, one black bear, 6 mulies and a few piggies with that round.

October 14, 2006, 07:45 PM
Bottom line, any caliber with a good heavy, tough bullet you can shoot well will do the job. Personally I would NOT concider any round delivering less than 1000 Ft Pounds of energy at the target. Elk are BIG animals, use enough power to do the job. 30-06 class and up are very good choices with the proper bullets. My 2 favorite elk guns are (1) Ruger MKII in 338 Win Mag, shooting a 225gr Hornady handload. (2) a Marlin 1895CB in 45-70, pushing a hardcast 405gr lead flatnose at 1700fps.....Trust me when I say when either one connects, its steaks in the freezer.

October 15, 2006, 04:13 AM
I won't claim it to be the best, but my personal elk rifle is a 7mm RemMag. My backup is a .270. Personally, I am completely satisfied with the performance of both, and have no intention of changing. If I were to go and buy a new elk rifle though, I would seriously consider a .30-06. Mainly, that would be because my Springfield 03 is in that caliber, and I could consolidate my calibers a little bit, but also because it has been proven time and time again to be an excellent and versatile cartridge.

It's a tough question to ask though, because there are a few answers, most based on personal opinion, and frankly, most being correct. If one guy tells you a 300 WinMag is best, and another says a .338 is best, both are right. It really just boils down to what you care for the best. When I got my elk rifle in high school, my dad gave me a choice between three rifles/calibers: 7mmRemMag, 300 H&H, and I think a .300 WinMag. Of the three, I just liked the 7mm the best, and so thats what I chose. It worked out, because I kilt me a wapiti with it shortly after.

October 15, 2006, 08:34 PM
Thanks for all the posts, got a lot out of this thread.

Has anyone read the Hunters guide to Ballistics ??? I have and it pretty much echos what everyone here has posted. I just always liked to do a little more research.

October 15, 2006, 09:27 PM
Well if you can hit the target you dont need a massive caliber, but .270 and 300 weatherby magnum work very very well.:)

October 15, 2006, 11:05 PM
All of the replies here are spot on. A .30-06 level of power with a well constructed bullet is about perfect for elk. Bigger or smaller isn't a bad choice if the operator uses the equipment properly.

My favorite .308 diameter elk bullet is a 180gr Barnes now the TSX. NPT, Swift A-Frame, North Fork, TB, and others are all good elk bullets.

My all time favorite "git er done." elk rifle is a carbine M-70 in .375H&H it makes one hell of a good dark timber any angle elk thumper and a pretty fair cross canyon poker as well.

Now don't get me wrong I am NOT saying that you need to run out and buy a .375H&H for elk. But if you've got one it is a fine choice, it does minimal meat damage, and it hit like a 20LB hammer. Power and trajectory wise it is real close the more common , and more often used for elk, .338 win.

I guess I am admitting that I'm a bit eccentric when I tell people that I've killed the majority of my elk with my little .375H&H. but me and that rifle have a very special relationship. I point it and stuff dies.

I’ve also killed elk with a .30-06, 270 win, .300 Weatherby, a .223 (winter cull hunt) ,a .270 weather by. I’ve seen them killed with all sorts of stuff . It all works good if the shooter does their part.

The most wounded non recovered elk that I’ve seen get away were with a 7MM by a wide margin. And this is not because the 7MM is a bad round. Not at all. Rather the reason is that the 7MM for all practical purposes is nothing more than a 30-06 with a belt. The rounds are so close in capability as to have darn near identical ballistics.

The problem being that a fair number of 7MM shooters are afflicted by the “magnum” title on their chosen round and are stricken a severe case of “Milermore” syndrome. You know, it’s a “magnum” and I ain’t even going to shoot unless it’s a milermore away.

I saw it happen again two seasons ago in Co. I helped the guy blood trail his elk for a couple of miles until my horse threw a shoe in the snow and I gave up on it.

October 16, 2006, 09:36 AM
Have you ever seen many people shoot elk with a 300 savage? I guess its really not that far off from a 308, but I was thinking about using it as a back up gun.

October 16, 2006, 12:19 PM
Remington Express 30-06 165gr.... kills elk dead for me.

October 16, 2006, 05:57 PM

As a matter of fact I have seen several elk killed with a .300 Savage. A friend of mine has an old svage bolt gun in .300 Savage. The elk I've seen killed with it died quickly. Both were shot through the lungs.

He used 150 gr power points to with very good effect.

October 16, 2006, 07:50 PM
Barness had a pretty good article in Handloader about "regular" rifles and magnums. Talked about all the guys that had to get the latest super magnum...

Do you think the elk really knows if the bullet is 165 or 180 grains?? If it came from a 30-06 or a .300 WM??

Just remember, the plains hunters wiped out the buffalo with .45-70's at 1,300 fps

Smoke Rizen
October 16, 2006, 10:19 PM
Lots of good info. lots of it accurate too. MTC is a .270 130gr. moving at 2900-3000 fps. It has dropped Elk out as far as I care to shoot(longest only 150yrds.). I also carry a lever gun on the horse for times I'm in the dark timber. In the past it was a .32 spc. but this year I came into a Sav. Mod.99 in .300 Sav. I'm confident it will do the job.

October 16, 2006, 11:25 PM
I think that rugged bullet construction is important when choosing what to shoot for Elk, maybe more than the peticular cartrigde. I would rather shoot an Elk with a 160 Grain bullet from a 6.5x55 Swede than say a light 140 grain bullet from a 7mm remington Mag.

If I had to pick on rifle to hunt Elk with? I think that a .338-06, would probably be and ideal rifle. Not exactaly a long range affair but enought range and engery with good bullets for Elk, and not the Magnum recoil.

I know a couple old timers back along the Oregon Coast that will use 30-30's and .257 roberts with hand loaded Nosler Partions for Elk. Granted they are not taking long range shots either. They always brought home 2 bulls every year between the two of them.

I would think that the 338-06 would make a great elk rilfe though.

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