Over the years the debate has raged over what is the best elk rifle.
For a time, the 220 Swift was heralded as the best rifle known. Its most famous proponent was probably P.O. Ackley. He never said it was the best “elk” rifle, but he devoted pages to the uses of the Swift’s velocity.
When Jack O’Connor promoted the .270 Winchester some flocked, while others ran for the exits.
There probably isn’t a “best” elk rifle.
I have made about equal one-shot kills on elk with the .270 and the 30-06, shooting 130 grain Core-Lokt, Bronze Points and Silvertips in the .270 and 180 grain Core-Lokt and Silvertips in the ’06. In third and fourth place are a 30-30 and a .300 Winchester Magnum with almost equal successes between those two.
In other hunter/writer/expert’s opinions larger calibers are needed. The .338 Winchester Magnum and the 7mm Remington Magnum seem to get a lot of press. Some even declare that the 30-06 is the bare minimum for elk.
I sometimes wonder what the minimum caliber for elk was before 1906, and if the minimum for elk today is an ’06, then what is the minimum for an elephant?
According to Ackley and O’Connor, renowned elephant hunter W. D. M. “Karamojo” Bell, who killed over 800 elephant, used a rather small cartridge for most of his kills. In Ackley’s Handbook for Shooters and Reloaders, Volume I, he says, “For this task did he use the .416 Ridgy? The .450/500? The 600 Nitro Express? Certainly not. He used the 7mm Mauser. [ . . . ] Mr Bell found that the 7mm rifle killed elephants dead—and nothing will kill deader than dead.”
It must be a coincidence that O’Connor’s wife, Eleanor, used the same 7 X 57 Mauser to kill African game, deer and elk.
Using that caliber to make kills on so many different types of game means that Eleanor O’Connor must have been a good marksman . . . um, markswoman . . . hmmm, marksperson . . . Here it is, “Eleanor O’Connor must have been a good hunter.”
A good hunter knows that elk hunting is an individual sport, in some ways like wrestling, and good wrestlers don’t get the edge by buying the best leotard available—THEY PRACTICE.
And, with practice ANY RIFLE is the best rifle for elk.
Instead of commercialized Magnum de jour or Rifle de jour maybe it should be:
Practice de jour.
An elk hunter will never go wrong with a .270/.280/30-06-class rifle.