Friday, July 10, 2009

.308, 7mm-08, .243

Not Quite An Elk Rifle

In previous posts you may have read that the 7mm Remington Magnum and the .300 Weatherby Magnum have caused more wounded elk than any other cartridges I know. Number three and four are the .308 Winchester and the 7-08 Remington. Since very few hunters take .308s or 7-08s and many take 7mm Remington Magnums and .300 Weatherbys on elk hunts, percentage wise the order would be reversed.

The .308, 7mm-08 and .243 are based on the same case, the 7.62 NATO. On paper the 7.62 nearly approximates the cartridge it was designed to replace—the 30-06 Springfield, but experience shows it to be a distant second. The .308 and 7-08 are marginal elk cartridges. The .243 is NOT an elk cartridge. Granted they will all kill an elk, but the margin of overkill is low. For more information on what it takes to kill an elk read Bullet Energy Variable.

On perfect shots all three of these will kill an elk, but they do not have the power to smash through heavy bone and portions of muscle when taking the “raking shots” Elmer Keith describes.

If a person wants an elk cartridge with the length dimensions of the .308-class of cartridges, but with the power of the 30-06-class of cartridges, use either the .284 Winchester or a 30-284. Case capacity is that of the 30-06. In fact, in most situations 30-06 loading data can be used for the 30-284. Check YOUR loading data—don’t rely on my post, please.

7mm-08 Remington, 30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum (l to r)

.308 Winchester for Elk

Using Ackley’s figures (also found here) the .308 loaded with a 180-grain spitzer boattail bullet at 2600 feet per second has the minimum amount of energy to kill an elk out to 600 yards, adequate out to 400, and preferred out to 50 yards. With a 165-grain SBT at 2700 fps those figures work to 600 yards, 350 yards and 100 yards, respectively. .308, The Highpower Isuzu

7mm-08 Remington for Elk

The 7-08 loaded with a 175-grain SBT at 2600 fps has the minimum energy for elk out to 450 yards, adequate to 200 yards, and preferred at the muzzle.

It’s important to remember what the main use of the 7—08 is—rifle silhouette competition. Not that many years ago, the .308 was the standard silhouette cartridge. Shooters found that the 7-08 was as accurate as the .308, had enough energy to topple the rams at 500 meters, but had less recoil, which caused scores to climb. Silhouette is all shot offhand. Any rifle that kicks less—and gets the job done—will win matches. 7-08, Elk Rifle Wannabe

.243 Winchester for Elk

The .243 loaded with 100-grain SBT at 2900 fps has the minimum energy to kill an elk out to 150 yards.

When David Tubb switched from the 7-08 to the .243 for silhouette competition, his scores went up, and many others followed his lead. Rifles with a faster twist than found on factory rifles can shoot heavier bullet. Although the .243 will not always topple rams at 500 meters, the loss there is made up by fewer jerks, flinches and missed shots caused by heavier recoiling cartridges.

The .243 is a good deer rifle. It is also available on most varmint versions of factory rifles. You won't find many 30-06 or 300 Magnums in varmint models.


In the late 1800s Rainbow Dam was built on part of the Great Falls of the Missouri referred to by explorers Lewis and Clark. The original dam was a wooden crib filled with gravel from a nearby hillside. Men (mostly Chinese) filled the crib by wheelbarrow. The job was completed with much time and sweat. Today the job would be done with front-end loaders, scrapers and concrete.

If you go elk hunting, use the rifleman’s version of the front-end loader, scraper and concrete—an elk rifle, not something designed to replace The Elk Hunter's Rifle.


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Anonymous said...

More game (including Elk) has been killed with a 3030 in Western US than any other rifle. In the good old days before every hunter was told they needed a magnum to hunt Elk, hunters would get close enough to get a clean shot. I am willing to bet more Elk have been wounded and ran off to die due to a great white hunter taking a 500 yard shot with a marginally accurate magnum.

Anonymous said...

Lack of Marksmanship is one of the major factors in any hunting arena. We are turning into a mass of group-shooters who only shoot from the bench with sandbags or leadsleds. How often do you see people at the range shooting off-hand or from hunting positions? How much practice do you get with reduced velocity loads that won't stomp you when you shoot it? How much can you shoot when the ammo is $65.00 a box? Mikeg

Dennis A Carroll said...

MIkeg, I agree. Thank you for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I gotta ask, would a .308 not be adequate or ideal in brush country such as in North Idaho. A .308 in such a difficult area to hunt (I.E. brushy, hills, steep, limited visibility, potential to spook bear / wolves, etc.) seems ideal and the obligation for a clean kill at short ranges could easily be met, 150 yards or less seems highly likely with a decent hunter / shooter with such a caliber and a short distance. A semi-auto like an AR would also allow for faster follow up shots in case a second shot is necessary. I am a younger hunter and a combat veteran and feel more comfortable with the AR platform that bolt rifles. Any input would be greatly appreciated as well as suggestions for ammo.