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Minimum cartridge for elk

jbohiojbohio Senior MemberPosts: 5,601 Senior Member
I know we've kicked this idea around a few times in other threads. The forum elk hunt, and a few other things have got me thinking. Specifically, I need to bring a back up rifle. I have my 6.5-284. I think it should be adequate, if it must be pressed into service.
But, it's not exactly a mountain rifle. 26" barrel, plus brake. HEAVY accustock, with adj. comb. It weighs a bit over 11lbs.
So, there are two ways I can go. Buy or build the .338 I've always wanted. Or, get a light rifle, in a minimum cartridge, that could also double as a hunting rifle for my wife. My wife is somewhat recoil sensitive. She does great with my heavy barreled .243, but I don't think her comfort threshold is much above that.

So, what do you think? 7-08? 260? 308? Another, lighter 6.5-284? .280? Other ideas?
What's the minimum cartridge that you would feel comfortable taking moderate distance, well aimed shots at elk with?
Of course, they would be powered with premium handloads.

I know people who've used .243, and 25-06, but I'm not comfortable with those.
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Replies

  • WeatherbyWeatherby Senior Member Posts: 4,953 Senior Member
    I'd get comfortable with that 25-06 option with some premium bullets
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,949 Senior Member
    I have used a cartridge with the performance level of a 7-08 and have taken 2 bulls and a good number of cows with it.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,949 Senior Member
    With your wife being a consideration getting a light-weight rig with a muzzle brake-Make SURE you both have hearing protection when shooting that critter.
    This will allow you to go above the 243 Win in caliber.
    Another option-It may or may not be a good one for you and your wife.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    ...7-08, .280 w/ the same bullet will do the same as a 7mm RM minus 100yds., you might squeeze a little more out of 'em w/ a high BC bullet, but not really enough under 400yds to amount to much. Any well-placed shot @ 300yds. should work just fine. A .338 WM is a great elk rifle, but performance comes w/ a price, mainly in recoil, but you can generally add a longer heavier rifle to that. I prefer the .325 WSM, since it doesn't give up much to the .338 inside 500yds., & does it w/ a shorter barrel, less felt recoil, less powder. I'd look @ rifles first, figure out what features you want/ need / require, match it to a suitable cartridge. "Shoot as big as you can shoot well" is my starting point, my .300 WSM Tikka T3 Lite weighs in @ 7lbs. 1oz w/ a 4.5X14 Leupold VX-3, & is quite manageable for both recoil & packing, my .325 WSM & 7mm weigh about a pound more. Three pounds might not sound like that much more weight, but it's 3# for every step you take. Add the barrel/ brake & adj. comb getting hung up in every other tree or bush you pass & it'll wear you out fair quick...

    ...a Kimber Montana or Weatherby Ultralite in .338 isn't pleasant to shoot, a 9.5lb .308 gets heavy fast. Pick the best rifle/ caliber combo that fits your needs/ constraints, accept the consequences, & shoot the hellouttait before you take it hunting...
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,949 Senior Member
    And let me add, once you get your load chosen and scope zeroed-Get off of the bench and shoot from a variety of field positions.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • mkk41mkk41 Banned Posts: 1,932 Senior Member
    Well , the 7mm-08 is an excellent choice , but just maybe the .260 Remington would be better. A bit faster than the 6.5x55 Swede , which when put in the hands of a good rifleman , will drop any elk , or caribou out to 400yds.
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,803 Senior Member
    Well, I would say that your wife should pick out her own damned hunting rifle, and that part of your arsenal selection shouldn't factor into what YOU are taking as a SECONDARY rifle on an elk hunt. If she's really a hunter, she won't let you borrow anyway. Build yourself a .338 and sort out her gear as a separate issue.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    I have used a cartridge with the performance level of a 7-08 and have taken 2 bulls and a good number of cows with it.

    That's what I was looking for. Thanks Ernie! Looking at that class of cartridges, using a 140 gr bullet as the common denominator, the 7-08 edges the 260 buy ~150 fps or so (my guess is too much capacity used up by the long 6.5 bullet). The 6.5-284 edges out the 7-08 by a bit. It would make sense to stick with one I already have all the supplies for. It adds a couple hundred bucks to the price tag to start with a new cartridge.

    I was also considering the brake option. I could maybe step up a good bit (7RM?) with a good brake.

    Don't worry about the practice part. We shot every weekend last summer, prepping for our Wyoming trip. Leading up to the hunt, we went to my buddies farm, and practiced from field positions out to 400 yards. Also, shooting up/down hill.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    BPsniper wrote: »
    :popcorn:

    You hit the nail on the head. The people I know who've used light calibers, were all CO residents. Elk hunting for them is no different than whitetail hunting for me. I've also heard a story about a 25-06 not working out too well, multiple shots, long tracking, elk ended up 2 miles from the initial shot.
    I'm thinking 308, 7-08, 6.5-284.
    Actually, I'm really thinking 338, deal with the wife rifle if/when I need to.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    wildgene wrote: »
    ...7-08, .280 w/ the same bullet will do the same as a 7mm RM minus 100yds., you might squeeze a little more out of 'em w/ a high BC bullet, but not really enough under 400yds to amount to much. Any well-placed shot @ 300yds. should work just fine. A .338 WM is a great elk rifle, but performance comes w/ a price, mainly in recoil, but you can generally add a longer heavier rifle to that. I prefer the .325 WSM, since it doesn't give up much to the .338 inside 500yds., & does it w/ a shorter barrel, less felt recoil, less powder. I'd look @ rifles first, figure out what features you want/ need / require, match it to a suitable cartridge. "Shoot as big as you can shoot well" is my starting point, my .300 WSM Tikka T3 Lite weighs in @ 7lbs. 1oz w/ a 4.5X14 Leupold VX-3, & is quite manageable for both recoil & packing, my .325 WSM & 7mm weigh about a pound more. Three pounds might not sound like that much more weight, but it's 3# for every step you take. Add the barrel/ brake & adj. comb getting hung up in every other tree or bush you pass & it'll wear you out fair quick...

    ...a Kimber Montana or Weatherby Ultralite in .338 isn't pleasant to shoot, a 9.5lb .308 gets heavy fast. Pick the best rifle/ caliber combo that fits your needs/ constraints, accept the consequences, & shoot the hellouttait before you take it hunting...

    Good stuff, Gene. Thanks. Recoil isn't an issue for me, my main elk rifle is a 300RUM.
    I had thought about just picking up one of the scads of used 7RM's I see around, putting a brake on it.
    I may be overthinking this whole thing (I tend to to that some times). We had a talk last night. My wife isn't interested in hunting elk, currently. Her dad just about begged her to go bowhunting with him this year, I offered to buy the tag. She declined. We offered to take her on this hunt, no dice. She basically told us that she at least wants to get a few whitetail under her belt, before she even considers elk.
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,949 Senior Member
    The 7mm SAUM is a great little cartridge that outperforms itself. Shorter than a 7mm WSM, with the same performance level especially with the lighter bullets under 150 grains when dealing with short actions.
    Still the 7-08 for a mountain rifle seems real comfortable to me.
    With the type of practicing you two do I would be comfortable with it. If you wanted more horsepower the 7SAUM or 300SAUM.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    Bigslug wrote: »
    Well, I would say that your wife should pick out her own damned hunting rifle, and that part of your arsenal selection shouldn't factor into what YOU are taking as a SECONDARY rifle on an elk hunt. If she's really a hunter, she won't let you borrow anyway. Build yourself a .338 and sort out her gear as a separate issue.

    I believe that's the answer.
    I might grab a 7mm for a back up.
    OR, which .338 to build?
    338WM? a true classic. Ammo everywhere. 340WBY? another classic. 338AX? I already have the brass...

    Whatever the cartridge choice may be, you can bet the rifle will have a barrel nut.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    The 7mm SAUM is a great little cartridge that outperforms itself. Shorter than a 7mm WSM, with the same performance level especially with the lighter bullets under 150 grains when dealing with short actions.
    Still the 7-08 for a mountain rifle seems real comfortable to me.
    With the type of practicing you two do I would be comfortable with it. If you wanted more horsepower the 7SAUM or 300SAUM.

    Interesting. I hadn't considered the 7SAUM. How hard is it to find brass for?
    I'm pretty sure I don't want another .30 cal, unless maybe it's a .308.
    I'd like to go either up or down from 300RUM, round out my collection a bit.
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,949 Senior Member
    I haven't had a hard time, but I have not looked recently.
    The SAUM case necked up to 338 would make a nice cartridge as well.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,429 Senior Member
    jbohio wrote: »
    Interesting. I hadn't considered the 7SAUM. How hard is it to find brass for?
    I'm pretty sure I don't want another .30 cal, unless maybe it's a .308.
    I'd like to go either up or down from 300RUM, round out my collection a bit.

    Just get one of those "Women's Rifles" everyone keeps telling me about. From what I hear they have been killing elk with regularity for nearly 90 years.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    snake284 wrote: »
    Just get one of those "Women's Rifles" everyone keeps telling me about. From what I hear they have been killing elk with regularity for nearly 90 years.
    :roll2::roll2::roll2::roll2::roll2::roll2: You're funny.
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 16,205 Senior Member
    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
    -Thomas Paine
  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 16,205 Senior Member
    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
    -Thomas Paine
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 22,395 Senior Member
    Joe, put some sturdy, streamlined, 180 class bullets in you RUM and go forth and slay Elk. That should work at any distance you have any business shooting at them. I'm talking Accu-Bonds, Scirocco, InterBond sturdy, You could even go with 165 Tipped Triple Shock X if you want faster and sturdier.

    Never killed an Elk, but I can't see one of the above mentioned bullets not being able to handle the job on one from your 300 RUM as long as the shooter does theirs.

    If you don't want the weight of the RUM (or just looking for an excuse for a new rifle) I'd go with a short action, minimum of .264" bullet moving at least of 2800 fps or so at the muzzle. For shorter ranges ( <300 yards) a 338 Fed might make a nice Elk gun :uhm:
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • JermanatorJermanator Senior Member Posts: 16,205 Senior Member
    knitepoet wrote: »
    Joe, put some sturdy, streamlined, 180 class bullets in you RUM and go forth and slay Elk. That should work at any distance you have any business shooting at them. I'm talking Accu-Bonds, Scirocco, InterBond sturdy, You could even go with 165 Tipped Triple Shock X if you want faster and sturdier.
    ...For shorter ranges ( <300 yards) a 338 Fed might make a nice Elk gun :uhm:

    I believe that his 300 RUM is the primary rifle to begin with. He is looking for a backup. On the .338 Fed--- Depending on the timing of the seasons (I will be using it for fall bear if everything goes right) I know where there is one that is already dialed in and has some wicked accurate loads that you might be able to borrow. I hope to show you soon. I must have angered the shooting gods because I haven't been able to pull away for range time yet and a certain shrub is getting anxious.
    Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
    -Thomas Paine
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 22,395 Senior Member
    Sounds like a plan Jerm :up:
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,227 Senior Member
    My personal minimum for elk is a .270 Winchester. With the right bullet, it will take elk to 300 yards or further.

    My personal favorite is something in the 338-06, 338x284 class. It doesn't have the hustle that the larger 33 caliber magnums have, but it doesn't have the recoil, either, and you don't need a heavy rifle to tame the recoil.

    I also think that we over-emphasize the notion of 400 yard shots. With the exception of a few members of this forum, that's a LOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG distance to shoot. If you're going to take a shot past 300 yards, you had better know the exact distance, how to read the wind, plus know the trajectory of the bullet. It also helps to practice, from field positions, at that distance with whatever rifle you choose.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,536 Senior Member
    I use a .270 Win loaded with 160 grain Partitions. I've killed exactly one elk with it, and though it certainly wasn't the biggest elk on the mountain, I guarantee the same shot on the biggest one would have dropped it dead as a brick. I've also fired five of these into two bison. Followups were necessary for a quick, humane kill, but both dropped to the first shot, and given a bit more time, the story would have ended there. Four of the five shots were complete pass-throughs, and the one that wasn't traversed ~2/3rds of a lengthwise bison and stopped below the hide in the "armpit" on the far side.

    While I certainly wouldn't pick a .243 Win or 6mm Rem as my first choice, stoked with the proper projectile, I'd not feel terribly undergunned for your normal shot at normal elk. Caveat....if you're hunting really nasty terrain (where a 50 yard run means the beast winds up a thousand feet below you in the bottom of a steep canyon), or if you're on a "hunt of a lifetime", I'm with Jerry. .270 minimum, but you don't have to go bigger if you don't have the desire or resources.

    Good bullets and sticking them in the right place is the key. Though I use Partitions (they shoot very well in my rifle), IMO the premium elk bullet out there is a Swift A-Frame.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,429 Senior Member
    Jermanator wrote: »

    Not only a great price, a great rifle in a fantastic long range cartridge. Should knock elk or anything else you wish down like lightning!
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,429 Senior Member
    Linefinder wrote: »
    I use a .270 Win loaded with 160 grain Partitions. I've killed exactly one elk with it, and though it certainly wasn't the biggest elk on the mountain, I guarantee the same shot on the biggest one would have dropped it dead as a brick. I've also fired five of these into two bison. Followups were necessary for a quick, humane kill, but both dropped to the first shot, and given a bit more time, the story would have ended there. Four of the five shots were complete pass-throughs, and the one that wasn't traversed ~2/3rds of a lengthwise bison and stopped below the hide in the "armpit" on the far side.

    While I certainly wouldn't pick a .243 Win or 6mm Rem as my first choice, stoked with the proper projectile, I'd not feel terribly undergunned for your normal shot at normal elk. Caveat....if you're hunting really nasty terrain (where a 50 yard run means the beast winds up a thousand feet below you in the bottom of a steep canyon), or if you're on a "hunt of a lifetime", I'm with Jerry. .270 minimum, but you don't have to go bigger if you don't have the desire or resources.

    Good bullets and sticking them in the right place is the key. Though I use Partitions (they shoot very well in my rifle), IMO the premium elk bullet out there is a Swift A-Frame.

    Mike

    At risk of repercussion, I agree that a .270 is pretty well what I would say is minimum, except maybe a 6.5-06 with a 140-160 grain bullet. The 160 would take a bit tighter twist barrel though.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    Points well taken, Paul, Jerm, Jerry, Mike, Mike, Gene.

    To clarify. Jerm's right, my 300RUM is my elk rifle. I'm working up a load with 200gr Accubonds. 3000+fps is the goal. If they don't shoot, (they should, 200 gr partitions do very well) I'll go with 180 gr Accubonds or Scirocco's at 3250+.
    The thing is, I'm not gonna travel 2000 miles, and spend a few thousand dollars, and take one rifle. Not gonna happen. So, either I take my .450 Marlin Guide gun, or my 11+ pound 6.5-284 for backup, OR get another rifle. Other than those two, every other rifle I have are poodle calibers.

    I was thinking I could kill two birds with one stone, add another rifle that might be something my wife could handle. That's probably a pipe dream.

    I'll probably just buy or build something. There's a Steven's 200 in 7mmRM for sale locally for $270 I've been eyening.

    Either way, good discussion. Everyone pretty much universally agreed that a 6.5-7mm projectile, launched from a .308 to -06 platform, is the minimum for elk.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,889 Senior Member
    Bring the 450. It'll do nicely in close cover ;)

    I've carried a 270 in elk woods before, but I will be honest I just didn't feel as confident as carrying something a with a belt on it and .MAG on the case head. Personal opinion, and nothing more.

    The 7-08 would do fine to a certain distance. Nothing wrong with smaller calibers for elk, but you have to be DANG sure about your ability, your distance, and your shot. A 243 in the neck at 100 yards is just as good as a 300 mag at 350 yards in the shoulder, but frankly, I just don't have the time, patience, or opportunity to be that picky, knowing where I hunt. Its brown and legal, its going down, be darned if its quartering to, quartering away, or head on. I choose my cartridge choice on worst case scenario's, not best case, because best case is a very rare beast.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,601 Senior Member
    Bring the 450. It'll do nicely in close cover ;)

    That is one thought, for sure. I've gotta wait for my scouts to come back with a scouting report, before I know if a close cover rifle is needed.
    It's currently iron sighted, and I'm inclined to leave it that way. Maybe a peep sight of some sort.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,889 Senior Member
    Its a mix of long shots and close cover, you can literally walk 100 yards and have a 20 yard shot or a 500 yard shot lol. This was probably the biggest reason I started shooting mags when I started buying my own rifles.

    My cousin is going up in a few days to check on the cabin, I'll ask him how the melt and runoff are doing. There wasn't a lot of snow pack last year, so it shouldn't be a long time before people can get out for scouting. Lakes and rivers won't be as full, grass won't be as green as last season...but at the same time, I'll take an easy winter over LOTS of forage ANY DAY! Winters up where we will be hunting are brutal and can nearly wipe out animal herds. The winter of 07/08 damn near eliminated all the work the DOW had put in on growing the trophy deer population, upwards of 70% winter kill in some areas.


    After reading through this some more and pondering it a bit....I think my official opinion stands as such...it is the BULLET that kills, not the cartridge. Within reasonable distance related to performance, the best bullet you can put into the vitals will do the job, regardless of whether or not the caliber starts with 2, 3, 4 or even 5.
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