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Looking for an elk rifle

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Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Aggiejon » 10 10, 2017 •  [Post 1]

Planning an elk hunting trip coming up for 2018. I've been dreaming of going since I was 21. Now I'm 38 and have decided that I need to quit making excuses and just go. I have most of the gear assembled. Doing a DIY on public land in the Southwest corner. I have a Winchester 70 in .270 with a 3-9x40 leupold scope. I have read all the posts about "use this caliber", don't use this caliber, etc. I honestly want a larger caliber rifle so I don't have to worry about a longer shot having the punch to drop an elk. I have been shooting my whole life and am proficient with my ability. But being a first timer in the elk woods, I don't want to poke a bull and not be able to effectively drop him.

If I stay with my .270, what size bullet should I look for? How many FPS and grains?

I really want a .300WSM or .300 WinMag, but if I can effectively use a rifle I already have, that will be easier on making the trip. I plan to upgrade the scope to a 4-12x50 or similar. I plan to buy a stainless with synthetic stock so I don't have to worry as much about the harsh conditions I will likely encounter with the hunt. I tend to dedicate tools to certain jobs. If I buy a new rifle, it would be my elk rifle.

Thoughts/opinions?
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Dorobuta » 10 10, 2017 •  [Post 2]

Your .270 is going to have very good sectional density for penetration. I'd go with as heavy a bullet as possible, with a premium construction. Like a Barnes. I shoot Barnes in both my .338 and in my .280 both rifles have been extremely effective on elk. (Ultimately it comes down to shot placement)

.270 may be on the light end for some folks, but if you can shoot it well, shot placement trumps most everything else.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby RAMMONT » 10 10, 2017 •  [Post 3]

Shooting all your life doesn't necessarily make you ready to shoot an elk, if you've hunted other game then I'd expect that you wont have any surprises but if all you've done is shoot from a bench you might find that field shots on game aren't anything like shooting paper. One of the things that most people don't recognize is how angled shots effect your point of impact, study up on it and do some practice if you can. I don't know what you consider to be a longer shot but the farther away your target is the more important these things are.

All that being said, I think that the .270 is the bottom end of my preferred rifles for elk and I would pick a Barnes TTSX bullet in the 130 to 150 grain weight range. I wouldn't take a shot past 400 to 500 yards (although I don't recommend shots past 300 yards with any rifle) with that weight bullet though because the energy level drops pretty low past those ranges.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Fridaythe13th » 10 10, 2017 •  [Post 4]

Your 270 is fine. And yes on the heavy bullet. Hit the range and dont take a 500 yard shot.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Elkhntr08 » 10 10, 2017 •  [Post 5]

The .270 will work just fine if you choose a good bullet and do your part. If you looking for a reason to pick up another rifle, I would look for a Model 7 in the 300 wsm. I have a 673 in 300 saum and love that gun. Topped with a Leupold 3.5-10x40, I feel it's my perfect elk rifle.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Aggiejon » 10 10, 2017 •  [Post 6]

Rammont - I'll clarify, hunting all my life. Whitetail, hog, varmint. Our terrain is rolling to hilly, no steep inclines. Probably the area that I am going to have to adjust and rely heavily on my rangefinder. Bench shooting when I buy a new rifle or to make sure the scope is still zeroed in. But bench shooting was never too exciting to me. If I go to the range, its to shoot skeet or sporting clays. I can gauge distance around here, but the mountains are different.

Elkhntr08 - Could you tell I was looking for a reason for a new rifle?? Yes, I would prefer, but I think getting this trip through committee (wife) will be much easier if it doesn't require dropping $1500-$2000 on a new rifle/scope combo.

I have already started working at the range with the .270. Getting off the bench, getting on the ground, kneeling, off a stick. I have a lane along a cornfield at the farm and have t-posts marked out from 50 to 500 yards. Quartering away shots are tough until fall when the corn is harvested. But I've been doing that with lighter bullets.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Elkhntr08 » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 7]

Keep your scope. Load a premium bullet from Nosler, Swift or Barnes, I've never had much luck getting Barnes to group, 150 grains plus. Pick up a quality synthetic stock if you want. Go elk hunting and like I said, do your part. Spend the remaining money on good boots and a good pack.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby RAMMONT » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 8]

I'm not trying to lecture you on ethics but if you want to be successful then you need to be prepared for the truth rather than basing your hunting dream on commercial marketing or braggarts that tend to stretch the truth.

One of the things that I hear from eastern hunters is that they expect to make long range shots - maybe (most people think that long range is anything over 300 yards even though technically it's not). On antelope yes, you'll always have an opportunity for shots that can range out pretty far (even then most hunters like to stay under 300 yards because antelopes aren't all that big so it's hard to hit them well) but on elk you'd better be willing to get in to the trees or you wont get very many chances at harvesting one. I've lived out west all my life (over 60 years now) and I've never had a shot over 200 yards on any big game animal. I've seen game beyond that range but I've never taken the shot because I knew that even if I hit the animal it would take me so long to get to it that either the meat wouldn't be worth eating, the animal would be miles away if I wounded it, or I wasn't willing to carry the meat out through the country that I was in. While the western states give you wide open spaces to look at, the animals are still holding out in the trees, especially elk. If you get lucky then the first thing in the morning you might get an elk to stand in the open long enough to get a long range shot but after the first 30 minutes of shooting light most often you'll never see another elk unless it's the last 15 minutes of shooting light or you work your way in to the trees. Contrary to all the TV shows and YouTube videos, western hunting isn't 1000 yard shots and 450 B&C elk. Look at the pictures that people post of their successful western hunts and pay attention to the background, I think you'll notice that most often it's a small open area surrounded by trees or that the animal is within heavy timber. All those exotic videos are made to sell equipment and get viewership, they don't reflect reality very well.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Aggiejon » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 9]

RAMMONT wrote:I'm not trying to lecture you on ethics but if you want to be successful then you need to be prepared for the truth rather than basing your hunting dream on commercial marketing or braggarts that tend to stretch the truth.

One of the things that I hear from eastern hunters is that they expect to make long range shots - maybe (most people think that long range is anything over 300 yards even though technically it's not). On antelope yes, you'll always have an opportunity for shots that can range out pretty far (even then most hunters like to stay under 300 yards because antelopes aren't all that big so it's hard to hit them well) but on elk you'd better be willing to get in to the trees or you wont get very many chances at harvesting one. I've lived out west all my life (over 60 years now) and I've never had a shot over 200 yards on any big game animal. I've seen game beyond that range but I've never taken the shot because I knew that even if I hit the animal it would take me so long to get to it that either the meat wouldn't be worth eating, the animal would be miles away if I wounded it, or I wasn't willing to carry the meat out through the country that I was in. While the western states give you wide open spaces to look at, the animals are still holding out in the trees, especially elk. If you get lucky then the first thing in the morning you might get an elk to stand in the open long enough to get a long range shot but after the first 30 minutes of shooting light most often you'll never see another elk unless it's the last 15 minutes of shooting light or you work your way in to the trees. Contrary to all the TV shows and YouTube videos, western hunting isn't 1000 yard shots and 450 B&C elk. Look at the pictures that people post of their successful western hunts and pay attention to the background, I think you'll notice that most often it's a small open area surrounded by trees or that the animal is within heavy timber. All those exotic videos are made to sell equipment and get viewership, they don't reflect reality very well.


Rammont, thank you. I appreciate your candid response. I've just always had in my mind long distance shots. I suppose there was a part of me that wanted to make sure that "if" i had to take a long shot, it would have enough punch to cleanly dispatch. Yes, I may have bought into the mystique of glassing a bowl from a ridgeline and seeing a huge herd down below and picking out the biggest bull and dropping it at 800 yards.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby RAMMONT » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 10]

I wont say that taking an elk at long range has never been done, clearly we all know that it has, but for the average guy there isn't much of a chance of that happening unless you've gotten hooked up with some private hunting outfit. The nice part is that it's your hunt, make it what you want, if you want to shoot long range then find the best spot for that possibility and practice a lot between now and then. But I will say that it's far more likely that you'll have a better chance at getting an elk by working hard in those heavily treed places than waiting for that long range shot. Your .270 will work well inside of 300 yards as long as you make a good shot.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Indian Summer » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 11]

Time out! First of all your question is like asking what kind of clothes should I wear hiking over the weekend and you are getting answers from people in 49 different states!!!!

You need to think about the area you are hunting. But there's no way to know if you will continue to hunt there or not. Realistically my guess is that since it's your first elk hunt at some point you'll try somewhere else. So maybe a better idea is to think about the kind of hunting you prefer. I see elk at distances of 500 to 1000 yards all the time. I've shot many over 300 yards and I've passed on shots further away only because I hadn't done my homework.... but I damn sure wish I had!!! If a hunter hasn't shot an elk at over 200 yards it's because he hasn't tried to and probably doesn't want to so he doesn't look for them at distances like that. He's a timber hunter. Nothing wrong with that and I live by the words to each his own.

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. I've killed elk still hunting in timber. But it is definitely NOT my preferred method. I don't think anyone here can honestly say they've shot more elk than they've spooked doing that. I'm a spot and stalk hunter. I get as close as I can. But sometimes I can't get close enough.... for my abilities.

The other thing I'd like to hear about are your thoughts on recoil. Also have you considered buying an elk killing machine and adding a muzzle brake to reduce recoil? I'm just going to quit beating around the bush here. Why guys buy short mags is beyond me. If you don't like recoil either add a brake or buy a smaller caliber. Those guns remind me of Chevy Camaros with 4 cylinder motors in them. What's the point? My advice would be buy that .300 Win Mag. or one of the other guns known to drop bulls in their tracks at whatever distance you are capable of shooting them at.

Scope choice is the same. Leupold makes a 4.5-14 which is an awesome choice. Even if you are a timber hunter there will come a day where you see elk in the open at further distances or across a canyon. Zooming in means less margin of error. If the crosshairs block out 12 inches of your target then that's the best possible group you can expect to maintain and that's not small enough to be ethical. A scope is as much or more important than the gun it's mounted on. I shoot a 6.5 to 20 by 50. I've killed a couple bulls under 100 yards but not many and the scope was fine. Sit down at a bench at 100 yards and you'll quickly decide that 20 power isn't overkill. At 300 yards it sure the hell isn't! By the way I use a Caldwell Deadshot Fieldpod for a rest. Can you tell I don't like missing or wounding elk? I don't care for letting them walk away either! Opportunities at elk, especially mature 6 point bulls are too valuable to not BE PREPARED for. Can you tell I was a Boy Scout too! :D
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Elkduds » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 12]

After 20 years of hunting elk w a 7mm Rem mag (shots from 60-225 yards, 9 one-shot kills, 1 total miss, many shots not taken), I got a 270 because w mono bullets it is ballistically equivalent to the 7 mag with a bullet 20 grains heavier. Meaning 270 sends a 140 grain bullet as fast & has same drop @ all ranges to past 400 yards, as a 160 grain bullet from the 7 mag. These 2 rifles are about equal in recoil, since the 270 is 3# lighter than the 7 mag. The one elk I shot w the 270 (so far) dropped when shot @ 150 yds, which is rare even w the 7 mag. IMO knockdown power is a myth when shooting elk, unless you hit the central nervous system. They are so large that a broadside shot through ribs or shoulder is unlikely to knock one down, even w a 300 mag. So you might as well shoot what you shoot most accurately, and get within range. A gutshot or leg shot elk will go miles before dying, and may not bleed enough to track. Like Indian Summer wrote, I want no part of that.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Indian Summer » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 13]

Elkduds your words are always wise. But 140 seems light to me. For the record I use the words "knock down an elk" loosely. I guess that just means making sure his steps are limited to the point where I know I can find him for sure. I shoot 200 grainers from a .300 Rem Ultra Mag and they still don't drop in their tracks although some have which backs up your bullet placement theory. I'll stick with that 7mm Rem Mag though. That's all I owned before I decided I needed a stainless gun with a synthetic stock and went with the cannon and I still love it. I have "dropped " both elk and caribou with it very effectively using 160 grain missiles.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Indian Summer » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 14]

Aggiejon wrote:Rammont, thank you. I appreciate your candid response. I've just always had in my mind long distance shots. I suppose there was a part of me that wanted to make sure that "if" i had to take a long shot, it would have enough punch to cleanly dispatch. Yes, I may have bought into the mystique of glassing a bowl from a ridgeline and seeing a huge herd down below and picking out the biggest bull and dropping it at 800 yards.


That's not mystique or even far fetched. There are guys who shoot elk at 1000 yards plus CONSISTENTLY every year. 500 yards isn't that far really if you have the right tool for the job and take a minute to learn how to use it.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby RAMMONT » 10 11, 2017 •  [Post 15]

...500 yards isn't that far really if you have the right tool for the job and take a minute to learn how to use it...


I disagree, 500 yards may not seem like a long shot to you because you've done it for a long time but it is pretty far for the average shooter. I ran a range for several years and I've seen what the average shooter can typically do, they aren't very good at ranges past 200 yards on a target range let alone on game animals in the field. I know that you're trying to say that it doesn't take a superman to shoot at long range, and I agree, but it does take a little more than a minute to learn how to use the kind of equipment that 500+ yard hits require, more like several months be at least reasonably proficient. We both know that you're talking about high end rifle optics, range finders, high end rifles, and lots of practice setting up the shot.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Dorobuta » 10 12, 2017 •  [Post 16]

Indian Summer wrote:Elkduds your words are always wise. But 140 seems light to me. For the record I use the words "knock down an elk" loosely. I guess that just means making sure his steps are limited to the point where I know I can find him for sure. I shoot 200 grainers from a .300 Rem Ultra Mag and they still don't drop in their tracks although some have which backs up your bullet placement theory. I'll stick with that 7mm Rem Mag though. That's all I owned before I decided I needed a stainless gun with a synthetic stock and went with the cannon and I still love it. I have "dropped " both elk and caribou with it very effectively using 160 grain missiles.


while my .280 has been effective, I switched to a .338 for elk sized critters. A 225gr monolithic bullet penetrates and seems to anchor them. Bullet placement is still key, but it is a lot more forgiving if it encounters a rib or shoulder on the way in or out. I wouldn't hesitate to use my .280, but I love using my .338
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Indian Summer » 10 13, 2017 •  [Post 17]

Rammont 6 or 700 yards is getting far but 500 isn't. Those people at the range are shooting small calibers more often than not preparing for deer season and their scopes rarely go above 10 power, 12 at the most. In my opinion the scopes alone limit their capabilities.

I will say that another limiting factor in out of the box guns is weight. The guys I know who are killing game at 1000 yards use heavy barreled guns with big flat bottomed stocks. And yes as you mentioned a range finder is an essential tool for long distances. That far out trajectory is like an arrow so just as with archery it's critical to know the exact distance to your target.

But I also know guys with regular 26 inch barrels and standard synthetic stocks shooting 1000 yards. A friend puts his 12 year old kids on mulies at that range and they obviously aren't seasoned vets. I have another friend shooting a 300 Ultra Mag that has put 2 different ladies on 1 shot kills on mountain goats at 900 and 990 yards. He sets everything up and they just peeked through the scope and touched the super sensitive Timney trigger. It's the right tool for the job and once you have it you're set. 500 yards can easily become a slam dunk for anyone if they want it to be. Most people never even think about it.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby redtop » 10 14, 2017 •  [Post 18]

Your 270 will get it done if you do your part. Hunt more shoot less.
I shot my first elk when I was 19. I'm 63 now and I've taken an elk every year since that first cow. Probably half or more of those were with an old 270. Never lost an elk. I only shoot when I know i will kill it.
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Indian Summer » 10 14, 2017 •  [Post 19]

Red Top where have you been buddy? I have a friend interested in a knife. We'll be in your area for 2 weeks starting today. Maybe we can stop by?

I agree with you too. We got off topic a bit but there's nothing wrong with a .270 especially if you reload. Jack Oconnor killed everything on several continents with one right!
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Lefty » 10 14, 2017 •  [Post 20]

Dorobuta wrote:,... I switched to a .338 for elk sized critters. A 225gr monolithic bullet penetrates and seems to anchor them. Bullet placement is still key, but it is a lot more forgiving if it encounters a rib or shoulder on the way in or out. I wouldn't hesitate to use my .280, but I love using my .338

Lots of good advise.
If I wanted a dedicated gun I too would go with a .338.
If I wanted an all around bigger game gun, one of the .30 mostly because of bullet selection.
I shoot mostly my 7mm. on coyotes deer elk bear and antelope and moose 120-160 gn.

Bullet placement is still key,
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Roosiebull » 10 14, 2017 •  [Post 21]

Make sure your 270 shoots heavy bullets well before anything, some don't, my 270 liked 130 grain bullets, didn't shoot any 150's well that I tried.

Know your limitations and don't exceed them, both in cartridge, distance, and personal ability.

I wouldn't hesitate sending a 130 grain partition at a broadside bull inside 300 yds...but that's me
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Re: Looking for an elk rifle

Postby Aggiejon » 10 23, 2017 •  [Post 22]

Great conversation guys. I appreciate it greatly. I'll chime in on a couple of things I have gleaned: Obviously, proper shot placement is key. A gut or leg shot may never be recovered. I get that. I know these are big tough animals and won't simply "drop in their tracks". But poking a hole through both lungs ensures they won't take too many more steps. I will not take a shot that I don't feel confident that I can access/recover, or cleanly kill. These animals are too majestic to wound and hope you can find them. If I pull the trigger, I want to make sure that he will be able to come home with me.

I also want to ensure that I can get bullets easily. I have a good friend who owns the local gun store, and I know can get me anything that I need, but just in case, I want to carry a caliber that I can pick up in a local town without too much trouble. Again, not ideal, but worst case scenario. I will stick to rounds I can obtain quality loads off the shelf.

I think I will focus on using the .270 and if funds allow, may step up to the .300 if I can get it early enough to put enough rounds through it to become proficient. And likely improve my scope.
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