Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Top Five Rifle Calibers for Elk

In preparing for this article I talked with a lot of hunters about what they believed was the best calibers for elk and I got a variety of opinions. As one would expect there are as many opinions of proper calibers as there are calibers to choose from. Even Jack O'Connor who loved the .270 and believed it to be the best all around cartridge would argue about caliber choices.

To complicate things, nowadays we have a wide array of bullets to put inside the case that can make or break a choice of caliber. Knowing that this article will not please everyone and I will most likely leave off your favorite choice here are my top five calibers for Elk. In no particular order.

1. .30-06 Springfield is in my opinion (and many others) the best all around caliber for North American game animals. With bullet options from 90 grains to 240 grains, there is a bullet for whatever you are chasing. Available in any action made today, the .30-06 is perhaps the best choice available. When choosing the .30-06, make sure you sight in using the ammo you will use for your hunt.

2. .308 Winchester  Believed by many to be one of the best all around cartridges the .308 Winchester is an excellent round for elk. While some may believe it is on the light side, the .30 caliber bullet is more than capable of making clean humane kills on elk out to and beyond five hundred yards. The ballistic energy is fast fading beyond this but, let's face it, how many are going to take a 500 yard shot anyway? Most elk are killed inside of 200 yards therefore the .308 Win is an excellent choice for elk.

3 7 MM Rem. Mag. Perhaps the most popular cartridge for elk among locals. The 7 MM Rem. Mag. is capable of holding its performance for a very long way. Almost equivalent to the .30-06, the 7 MM Rem. mag. carries more energy down range making it a bit more solid at long ranges. Preferred by make plains game hunters, the 7 MM Rem. Mag. has a fairly flat trajectory and manageable recoil (read - it kicks like a mule but since you should only shoot it once at an animal it is manageable) that many western hunters prefer it over other options. Some modern authors have called the 7 MM Rem. Mag one of the best all around cartridges available today.

4. 300 Win. Mag. Another magnum round, the .300 Win mag is as heavy as I would go on an elk rifle. This is due not only to the overkill of the bullet, but also to the weight of the gun itself.  The .300 Win. mag is a great longer range gun for those who want to be able to reach out for the elk. Its heavy bullets will do significant damage and anchor the elk faster than other calibers mentioned with the same bullet placement. For those believing that bigger is better, the .300 Win. Mag is the best choice for them. The .300 Win Mag remains the most popular .30 caliber magnum with American hunters, despite being surpassed in performance by the more powerful .300 and .30-378 Weatherby Magnums and the newer .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. It is a popular selection for hunting elk, since it can deliver better long range performance with better bullet weight than most other .30 caliber cartridges. Military and law enforcement departments adopted the cartridge for long range sniping and marksmanship. As a testament to its accuracy, since its introduction it has gone on to win several 1,000-yard (910 m) competitions.

5. 6.5 Creedmoor On the lighter side, but fast becoming a favorite of all western hunters, the 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent choice for elk hunters. Developed by Hornady in 2007, the 6,5 Creedmoor is based on the .308 Win. Designed mostly for target shooting, the cartridge quickly became a favorite among hunters and shooters alike. Listed by one recognized long range shooter as "boringly accurate." The 6.5 Creedmoor is capable of holding sub MOA groups at 1,000 yards using factory ammo with relative consistency. Moreover the 6.5 Creedmoor compares directly with the .300 Win. Mag when it comes to down range energy with a smaller bullet. the 6.5 Creedmoor shooting the 140 grain bullet at 2690 fps (which compares to .300 Winchester magnum data of 2,930 fps for a 200 grain bullet and 2,665 fps for a 210 grain bullet)

The debate can go on and on for years, and there is good argument for many other cartridges. however when making lists like this, there are always a few things I take into consideration. One is the availability of ammunition. I want to be able to find ammunition easily and secondly, the ability to afford the ammunition. Those listed here are readily available in most areas and the cost is relatively manageable. All are capable or putting down an elk with proper bullet placement. Shoot straight and be confident in your gun.


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