Perceived Elk cartridges - Choices are in the eyes of the beholder


Trying to be the man my dog thinks I am.
Mar 8, 2011
San Diego, Ca.
I always find it interesting to be around new people in elk camp to get their perspective on what they use regarding cartridges used to dispatch elk. Most people use what works for them or what someone else has recommended to them.

I always have my opinion but do appreciate the reasoning behind other choices.

This year we had 5 different calibers for six hunters in our elk camp:

.260 Remington
7mm Remington Magnum
300 WSM (two of us carried this cartridge)
300 Winchester Magnum
.338 Winchester Magnum

Last year we also had 5 different calibers for six hunters in our elk camp:
.260 Remington
7mm Remington Magnum
300 WSM (two of us carried this cartridge)
.338/06 Wildcat
.338 RUM (Remington Ultra Mag)

I have been shooting the 300 WSM lately with outstanding results. I have hunted elk with the 300 WSM, the .308 Winchester, the .338 Winchester Magnum, and the wildcat 30-.338 Winchester Magnum. I have harvest elk with all of these calibers for the exception of the 30-.338; the opportunity just never came to fruition.

What is your opinion on the cartridges I have mentioned for elk? What would you carry or what have you used to bring these large beasts down?
Obviously all the cartridges that you mentioned work.So It's hard to argue that the smaller caliber is to small for elk.
For myself I think an elk cartridge starts with the 7mm Mag with the 160 gr.
Not sure you can find a better all around elk cartridge than the 338 Win Mag with the 210 gr.
I've had the good fortune to watch a lot of elk tip over. I have some friends that have had their kids use a 243 for their first elk and they were just as dead as one shot with a large caliber IF the bullet is put in the right place. I've shot them with a 25-06 and had no problem. That being said I think its best to choose a caliber that can give you a kill at any angle they present themselves, not that I like to shoot them in the butt and try and penetrate the vitals but because even the best hunters sometimes wound an animal and when this happens and the animal is leaving town and you are left with a less than optimal shot it's nice to have a caliber and bullet that penetrate the vitals no matter what angle and shot they give you. I had this happen a few years ago when a buddy of mine broke the front leg on a cow elk (elk can run just fine with one front leg) I was able to shoot the elk with a 338 in the hind quarter (at his request) as it was running away and down hill' the bullet (225 Barnes) went out the chest after it penetrated the vitals. The cow made it another 100 yards before expiring. p.s. this is where the Barnes x bullets really excel with their penetration abilities. I don't use a 338 often as I prefer a 7 mag stoked with Barnes 150's for elk.

Something else to consider is meat damage the faster the bullet the more blood shot meat you get, the cleanest least bloodshot elk I've seen was shot with a 260. The bloodshot meat was only a small area about six inches in diameter. If you choose to user a small caliber it is important to place your shots surgically to insure a clean kill.
All good points. Damn hard to come up with a better cartridge than the 7mm Remington Magnum. Well done Snake Charmer.
Never even thought of questioning it SC. I know you are as honest as the day is long...and I remember you telling the story.
Totally agree about the slower bullets having less bloodshot meat.
What I have found is the well built bullets traveling @ 2700 fps and slower will allow you to eat right up to the bullet hole.
That's one of the reasons I like the big heavy bullets for the critters that taste good.
What do you use on the critters that don't taste good? ;D
Ok now can anyone suggest a catridge for cow elk for my sons .243? Hoping to draw the jr cow elk tags. My 12 yr old will shoot the .243 and my 15 yr old will shoot my 30-06.

If you are going to use a 243 I would suggest you choose a load that utilizes either the Barnes x or the Nosler partition in either 95 or 100 grain weight. You should try to get a close as you can (no 300 yard shots) as the energy of a 243 is pretty low. It will be important to take broad side shots only and put them in the boiler room. My opinion is that the 243 is not a good choice but it is possible. You would be better served with a 257 Roberts, 260 Remington, 7-08 or 308 if you are looking for something with low recoil.
Code -

Very sound advise regarding SC's post above...

What I will say is (as far as I know) there is only one factory round available that will possibly do the job and is also 100 grains. That is the Federal Premium® .243 Winchester Rifle Ammunition with 100 grain partitions. The Barnes TTSX, Hornady GMX, Federal Fusion, Swift Scirocco, etc do not produce 100 grain bullets in the mentions styles.

My opinion is that the .243 is far to light for any gender elk. Yes it can be done but like Fred said above, the shot needs to be surgically placed through the heart and or lungs and done so at very close range. Elk are big animals and can take a beating. Also keep in mind that with a 100 grain bullet the .243 generates less than 1 ton of energy at the muzzle and it drops off almost in half at 300 yards. Not particularly what I would consider a stopper for large heavy boned game.
I agree the 243 is not on my elk killer list. It would be best to find a larger caliber if you can, but if not.
Find the heaviest premium bullet around 100-90 gr that will shoot less than 1 MOA. Then don't take any chances on an elk that's not a perfect broadside and standing still.
I'm not saying the 243 wont work,it would just be better if you can find your son something with a little more weight and larger diameter bullet.
Good luck on your draw.
Thanks guys I understand the .243 is light for elk but I think it might be my only option at this point. My 15 yr old will carry the 30-06 but depending on how we work the hunt with the two boys maybe they can share the 30-06? My 12 yr old has fired it before but we will definatly hit the shooting range. As far as the 30-06, what grain bullet do you suggest? Right now its sighted in for 150 gr copper. I dont know if I should move up to 180 grain?
Snake Charmer said:
The 150 copper will do just fine in the 06

Great thanks. But I was thinking too of shooting 150gr lead but might stay with copper. Dont even know if we drew yet but just getting a little excited. Its more fun for me having my kids shoot something than me anymore. Thats my excuse anyway.
Awesome...did you put in for the hunt yet. If not, keep in mind the application deadline is Feb. 14, 2012.

I hope you guys draw!
Yes we already put it for it. My buddy put my two kids in with his two kids on one application and his son has one point so he thinks we may draw. I dont know how Arizona allocates non resident tags?

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