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Rifle recommendations for an Elk hunt...

6846 Views 79 Replies 60 Participants Last post by  sourdough44
OK, I figure that I'll ask this on a few different forums and take the nuggets of info I get and throw them in the mix with my thoughts on what I'll need...

I got a sniff of the chance to go on an Elk hunt next year; I'm going to outfit one of my Dr's for his trip, and he said that one of the party is talking about backing out, freeing up a slot for me. First things first, he's looking at getting a .270 for the trip. I think thats a little on the small side, and recommended the .30-06 as the smallest I'd go. Am I accurate in that recommendation? What are ya'lls thoughts on best cartridge for elk under 200yds? Initially, I thought that a .300WSM was the way to go, but the more I've read says that the venerable '06 should be fine, throwing 165gr deep penetrating rounds (partitions or the like) or larger. Of course, if 165gr is enough, what about some stout .308Win loads? I like the shorter action stuff...

Next, I'm thinking that this will be a great opportunity to build a Mauser-based piece for myself, especially if its going to be an '06. Could I do a Mauser in a short mag? Can the actions stand the extra pressure that those stubby little cartridges produce? If they can, how about feeding those fireplugs from the Mauser magazine? Tons of questions...

Anyway, heres my plan (based on an '06 chambering)...Large ring Mauser (we've got an Argentine Mauser at work that has been butchered and is an '06, IIRC), 20" Wilson barrel (makes it a little handier, and there isn't alot of oomph lost in the 2", is there?), laminate stock from Boyd's (with a Hogue pillar bedded as an alternative), and a decent aftermarket trigger with side safety. I'll replace the bolt shroud with a commercial piece to clean it up a little, and I've got to figure out an iron sighting system that will work for me. I really like one I've seen that was done on a Rem 700 that looks like an AR rear, but don't know the best way to make that work; need to do a little more research on that one.

Also, I'm not sure on the optic; do I want a scout system (I have a Savage Scout with a Leupold Scout Scope in .308 and LOVE it), or something more conventional like a low-power Leupold or Trijicon 'dangerous game' type setup? Thoughts?

Thanks!
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A 30-06 will do the job just fine - the Boone & Crockett largest elk for many years ( based on rack size) was taken west of Crested Butte, Colorado - with a Winchester 95 in 30-40 Krag - ballistically close to 30-06.

Here's mine in 30-06 -





Good luck and good shooting !!!
Sweet!!!

Who did the engraving?
 

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.300 mag at least for the wide open western states.

I've seen elk "taken" by other hunters with .270s. It wasn't pretty. 6 shots (includes a partial reload), and then they finally broke it's shoulder to get her down (that's right, it was a cow, and not a bull). More akin to a mafia shootout, IMHO. Some folks might say he was a bad marksman, and I'd agree, but then again, elk hunting is arduous, to say the least. You rarely get the perfect shot.

I use a .338 Win mag with 250 gr Nosler partitions. When it hits, it's an immediate knockdown. I know from experience that the combination is sufficient to humanely take the animal.

Sorry, I think people who use smaller calibers when they don't have to are A-holes who don't deserve to hunt.

As to calibers, choose a magnum, as the 30.06 with a 180 gr bullet just doesn't have the gas for a hard hit at 400 yds, unless you're shooting downhill. Magnums will put it on target with a flat trajectory and push a bullet through a crosswind or rain. Plus, it's usually pretty cold on an elk hunt, which depletes your bullet's velocity out the barrel.
I'd venture a bet most "hunters" carrying a magnum caliber rifle, probably have no buisness shooting 400 yards.
 

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.300 mag at least for the wide open western states.

.....

Sorry, I think people who use smaller calibers when they don't have to are A-holes who don't deserve to hunt.

As to calibers, choose a magnum, as the 30.06 with a 180 gr bullet just doesn't have the gas for a hard hit at 400 yds, unless you're shooting downhill. Magnums will put it on target with a flat trajectory and push a bullet through a crosswind or rain. Plus, it's usually pretty cold on an elk hunt, which depletes your bullet's velocity out the barrel.
First off, I believe the OP wrote: "What are ya'lls thoughts on best cartridge for elk under 200yds?"

Now I have been hunting in elk country for years and taken a few elk with a 25-06. Never had a problem. Actually took a friend hunting with a .338 years ago. Guess who put the elk down with 1 shot?

I looked up 1 ballistics chart and got the comparisons below. I know you can load up differently or choose different factory ammo, but this gives you some base comparisons to look at your statement.

The 25-06 has (1644 ft pounds) or exceeds the energy of a .270 or 30-06 at 200 yards. I would say with a decent POI, 1600 foot pounds is more than enough to put down an elk. So, where do you get off cussing those that choose to use something like a 25 at 200 yards or less? I can tell you when I hunted with the 25, it was because it was the only rifle I owned. And I could really shoot that rifle. Took an antelope right at 500 yards. It was 1 shot as well. This is a great, flat-shooting comfortable rifle to shoot and I have taken everything from fox to elk with it.

In recent years if I were going to hunt elk, I would take a 270 Wby Mag. Gives me more range to take an elk or deer if the need arises. Awesome rifle with a screaming velocity and great energy at 200 yards. The ballistics chart shows the 270 Wby Mag is only 160 foot pounds less than your beloved .338 at 200 yards.

Your .300 Win, as a bare minimum, has similar energy as my .270 Wby yet the .270 has 60% the recoil.

I have friends who hunt a lot and are very successful. One family, 4 of them, take to the field with .300 Win Mags so when they are hunting, there's always extra ammo and if someone needs to borrow a rifle, it's an easy transition. Another guy I know that hunts all over uses a .375 to hunt deer and his collection goes UP from that. These are guys that shoot a lot and hunt a lot and are very comfortable with the recoil. Not many people can say that though.

I like to shoot and used to shoot a lot. Hope to return to that as summer winds down. But I would venture a bet that someone not used to shooting a bigger rifle, especially a magnum, is going to be far ahead to pick a caliber that they are able and willing to practice with a fair amount before taking to the field. To me, that screams for a rifle like a .270 Wby or a 7mm Mag which approaches 1/2 recoil of a .338 Win based on Chuck Hawks' recoil chart.

Just my 2% of a buck. Take it for what it's worth.
 

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I've never hunted Elk. But both my dad and brother have.

Both used .30-06 and it killed the elk just fine.

My dad has used the .30-06 on deer, elk, caribou, and moose. It's the only high power rifle he uses.

While I would use my .30-06 for Elk, I think the .270 would kill them just as well.
 

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I've never even seen an elk. But I do like to read.

Surprised no one mentioned that the most recent American Hunter (the sister mag of American Rifleman) has an article about this very question. September 2010 issue.

The expert (can't remember his name, and don't know his qualifications) says that .30-06 should be the minimum. And then he quickly goes up from there to a few magnums.

He doesn't like the .308, or at least purposely draws the line between the .308 and the .30-06.

He points out that people who suggest using less than .30-06 by saying that .270 or the like are enough if you can shoot accurately, are just trying to brag that they can shoot accurately.

He says of course everyone should shoot accurately, but you got the whole universe of calibers to choose from, and don't start small and limit your chances of success if something should go wrong.

Again, I'm just paraphrasing based on my memory from reading the article. It was interesting and seemed plausible. He pointed out that elk are about 2 to 5 times the size of deer (something like that).

He also favored good bullet selection. He gave some examples that I can't remember.
 

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Sweet!!!

Who did the engraving?
Miroku did it at the factory - they made some 8000 Winchester 95 rifles as "century" commemoratives in 1995 - about half (I think) were in Hi Grade - as this one is - and the other half in Grade 1.

My wife gave this one to me for our 25th anniversary five years ago. Well. OK, so I did "help" her find it on GA - seems likely it was in an estate and was priced by someone not acquainted with collectible guns as I got it for $15.00 less than the MSRP listed in my 1996 Gun Digest - lucked out.

OK - so I did "help" her - we husbands should help our wives any way we can always - :whistling:
 

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.300 mag at least for the wide open western states.

I've seen elk "taken" by other hunters with .270s. It wasn't pretty. 6 shots (includes a partial reload), and then they finally broke it's shoulder to get her down (that's right, it was a cow, and not a bull). More akin to a mafia shootout, IMHO. Some folks might say he was a bad marksman, and I'd agree, but then again, elk hunting is arduous, to say the least. You rarely get the perfect shot.

I use a .338 Win mag with 250 gr Nosler partitions. When it hits, it's an immediate knockdown. I know from experience that the combination is sufficient to humanely take the animal.

Sorry, I think people who use smaller calibers when they don't have to are A-holes who don't deserve to hunt.

As to calibers, choose a magnum, as the 30.06 with a 180 gr bullet just doesn't have the gas for a hard hit at 400 yds, unless you're shooting downhill. Magnums will put it on target with a flat trajectory and push a bullet through a crosswind or rain. Plus, it's usually pretty cold on an elk hunt, which depletes your bullet's velocity out the barrel.
This "A hole" thinks you're an "A hole" for taking shots out to 400 yds.
 

· Decap Pin Killa
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Well, I use a .30-06 with 180 gr handloads...

That said, a lot of folks around here use a 7mm mag or a .300 mag or wsm. The big reason a lot of people pick these is range. There can be some really loong shots out here.... It gives you a little more ooomph to reach out a little easier. I've heard the .300 mag described as a .30-06 100 yards farther out.


One chambering I've considered seriously is the .338 Federal. It's a necked up .308 case, and supposedly shoots flatter. 7mm mag-like ballistics in something that isn't a shoulder buster. Food for thought.
 

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First off, lets not get into name calling. Its childish, and there's no room here for it. I have my opinions on those that use inadequate calibers for a job, but I don't usually make blanket statements about that kind of thing. I'm pretty sure we're all above 3rd grade, so lets not sink to that level, mmkay?

Having said that, I think the smallest I'll recommend to my buddy will be a .30-06; that said, I'll still probably lean towards one of the WSMs, or maybe one of the full-size magnums, depending on his criteria. In the mags, I'll probably recommend a .300, with a fallback plan in the 7mm if he's a little recoil shy. I think the .270 is a fine cartridge, but I feel that the limited availability of 150gr+ bullets hurts it regarding penetration, especially for something as big and strong-boned as an elk.

As for me, the Mauser that I was planning on using is gone, so I guess I'll have to just find me an action to start working with. I'm still planning on .30-06 as the caliber of choice, and I'll be using 180 grain pills, most likely either a Barnes TTSX or Nosler Accubond.

I've seen it before where 'the experts' recommend 1000fpe as the lowest threshold of energy for a whitetail for a clean kill. Any numbers like that for elk?

thx-
Byrdman
 

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That American Hunter article on elk (the sister mag of American Rifleman), Sept 2010, I think says 2000fpe.
So the author of the article doesn't think that a .45-70 firing a 405 gr bullet that makes only 1,600 ft lbs of muzzle energy (and only 1,000 ft lbs at 200 yards) won't kill an elk?

I know it's only a number that someone picked out of the air, I've seen similar numbers for white tailed deer, they aren't a bad guideline, but they aren't an absolute either.

Oh and a .30-06 180 gr bullet is making about 2,000 fpe at 200 yards so it should be just fine for elk.
 

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So the author of the article doesn't think that a .45-70 firing a 405 gr bullet that makes only 1,600 ft lbs of muzzle energy (and only 1,000 ft lbs at 200 yards) won't kill an elk?

I know it's only a number that someone picked out of the air, I've seen similar numbers for white tailed deer, they aren't a bad guideline, but they aren't an absolute either.

Oh and a .30-06 180 gr bullet is making about 2,000 fpe at 200 yards so it should be just fine for elk.
Correct. He says a .45-70 cannot kill an elk. He says it is strictly a matter of physics than any gun under 2000fpe wouldn't be able to penetrate the fur.

Opps. Or, maybe he only said that while guns under 2000fpe can kill, he thinks it is a good threshold for avoiding some potentially underpowered cartridges at various distances.

He did state that the .30-06 limit for elk should be 200 yards, so his math agrees with yours :rofl:
 

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One of the key components that has come along fairly recently is the "premium" bullet. When 'Ole Elmer was out there shooting cup and core bullets he naturally liked the margin for error given by heavy calibers. Even if a big and fast bullet "underperformed" it could still get the job done. That just isn't the case anymore. Pills like the Barnes X line, Swift's A-Frame, Winchester Fail Safe and the grandaddy of them all, the Partition really give you more for less. IMHO the smaller you go the more vital it is to use a premium bullet.

I'm not a fan of .243's and such for elk. Does it mean they won't work? Don't be silly, of course they can. A person can use a .32 ACP for self defense too but that doesn't mean I consider it the best choice. For both range and penetration I think serious elk cartridges start at .270 with premium bullets. If you can accurately hit what you aim at bigger and faster can only be better though the argument about how much better will outlast all of us. (the hit what you aim at caveat trumps pretty much all else)

Since recoil isn't an issue with me I just take the best of both worlds. My elk gun is a .340 Wby with Barnes TSX bullets. Still, instead of the 250gr bullets I'm plenty happy with the performance afforded with these in 210gr. This allows me to push them fast enough to be every bit as flat as my 7mm RM's favorite 150gr load.

Something to consider; you will spend a LOT more time carrying your rifle than shooting it. As I get older the issue I'm going to develop with my .340 isn't shooting it but hauling a 9lb rifle around. Standard calibers tend to come in lighter/handier platforms. I'm pretty sure my little Tikka T3 Lite stainless in .308 with something like Barnes' TTSX's is going to start catching my eye more and more over the next few years.
 

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.30-06, 180gr premium (Nosler, Barnes, etc.) bullet, 3x9 scope. I carry a .300 Weatherby, and I don't think it can be beat for the combination of power/trajectory/shootability. But that's just my opinion. Many posters on here seem to talk the magnums down, saying that they are overhyped/unneeded. I ask you this: a .380 is considered a perfectly acceptable SD cartridge by many, would you carry a .380 instead of a larger caliber for SD (assuming gun sizes/weights being equal)? If not, why would you hunt with the bare minimum caliber that works fine under ideal circumstances? Use enough gun. Don't forgo a more powerful cartridge for fear of being seen as if you are compensating for something and assume you will get a perfect shot.
 

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Correct. He says a .45-70 cannot kill an elk. He says it is strictly a matter of physics than any gun under 2000fpe wouldn't be able to penetrate the fur.

Opps. Or, maybe he only said that while guns under 2000fpe can kill, he thinks it is a good threshold for avoiding some potentially underpowered cartridges at various distances.

He did state that the .30-06 limit for elk should be 200 yards, so his math agrees with yours :rofl:
I found another article that recommended 2,000 fpe at the muzzle and 1,500 fpe at the target for an Elk rifle. They also recomnded 1,000 fpe muzzle, 750 fpe at the target for a deer rifle.

Like I said 2,000 fpe is an arbitrary number. It's not bad advice, if you follow it the gun you chose will kill an elk if you hit it properly. But I don't think it is an absolute threshold and many people successfully kill elk with lesser cartridges.
 

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One of my friends from Wyoming (who claimed that he was 18 before he found out that you could eat cows) used a Mauser 98 in 6mm Remington. Not your usual recommendation, but it worked for him for elk, deer, antelope and prairie dogs.

If I were in your shoes I would take my Springfield .30-06 with the 3x9 it has on it. If I were outfitting it again I would step up in quality and down in power to a Leupold 2-7x scope.

Buy Cooper's "The Book of the Rifle" and follow his thoughts on realistic practice and you will impress the outfitter and probably fill the freezer.
 
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