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Top Guns: 4 Best Elk Hunting Rifles

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October 29, 2013
Top Guns: 4 Best Elk Hunting Rifles - 8


Photo by Donald M. Jones

Elk are big, rugged animals that deserve respect. Underestimate them at your peril. You need a rifle that is as tough and sturdy as they are, that launches a sufficiently large bullet, and that won’t let you down when the conditions go to hell—as often happens in the mountains.

1. The Speedster: Sauer 303
The German engineers who designed the Sauer 303 probably wouldn’t know a Rocky Mountain elk from a wolverine. They made the 303 with driven boar in mind, but that doesn’t prevent this slick semi-auto from being perfekt on dark-timber elk.

The bombproof gas system on the 303 makes it reliable and soft-shooting, even in heavy calibers, and you won’t find a big-game rifle that gets back on target faster. The accuracy of the rifle for longer shots is also excellent, which is not a given for semi-autos. It is now available with a tough synthetic stock.

MSRP: $3,352; sauer.de

2. The Tack Driver: Savage 111 Long Range Hunter
Getting closer than three football-field-lengths from a trophy bull isn’t always in the cards. Long shots demand excellent marksmanship, but you also need a rifle that’s up to the task. The beefy 8.5-pound Long Range Hunter, built on Savage’s accurate 111 action, can help you connect.

In .300 WSM, it comes with a 26-inch barrel to squeeze maximum velocity from the round. The cheekpiece adjusts to establish proper comb height, and the AccuTrigger ensures that the shot starts with a clean trigger break.

MSRP: $1,060; savagearms.com

3. The Feather: Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Backcountry
Elk country isn’t for the faint of heart. The mountains love nothing more than reducing a grown man to a mass of quivering jelly. Trimming your kit by even a few pounds can make a huge difference. The new Backcountry by Weatherby helps lighten the load without compromising accuracy. Unscoped, the rifle is about 6 ¾ pounds, making it handy and comfortable to carry. Built on the excellent Vanguard 2 action, it comes with a 3-shot-group sub-MOA guarantee.

MSRP: $1,399; weatherby.com

4. The Bargain: Tikka T3 Lite Stainless
The Tikka is the scrappy little brother in the Sako/Beretta family of rifles. It isn’t as refined as its siblings, but it can do everything they can at a fraction of the cost. In big-game calibers, it has a 3 + 1 capacity and is fed from a detachable box magazine. The rifle’s trim lines and moderate weight (6 pounds 3 ounces) make it easy to hump through elk country, and the stainless-steel metal helps resist corrosion. The synthetic stock, like the rest of the rifle, is basic and functional.

MSRP: $775; berettausa.com

 

See more of our picks for Best Elk Hunting Rifles here.

Comments (8)

Top Rated
All Comments
from James Grizzle wrote 9 weeks 4 days ago

Kimber 84L in 338 Winchester

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MOOSE wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

All are fine rifles. My top 4 in alphabetical order are: Browning, Ruger, Savage, Weatherby bolt-guns. In my opinion, these 4 are fine reliable choices. Each are mainstays due to quality and reliability similar to that of a good ole' dog. If I added 2 more it'd be Remington and Tikka bolt-guns. However, there isn't an auto alive that can match a bolt action in versatility and more specific in accuracy and certainly in reliability. If a body is set on going the way of a semi-auto then Browning's Bar and Remington's 740, 742, 7400 and newer 750 are far better choices. Each accounting for far more numerous game than Sauer and both have punched the reliability time-clock many times over than the Sauer. Leaving a Sauer 303 scenario shaky at best in my opinion and experiences with firearms. Not to mention the 303's hefty price tag. I could buy a brand new bolt-gun and scope then turn around and buy a brand new Remington 750 or Browning Bar and top it with a scope and come in way under cost. I have a Remington 742 carbine 18.5" barrel manufactured in the year of 1960 in 30-06. Nice little gun. I keep it clean and it's great on swamp edges and overlooking ravines with 180gr or 220gr pills. I can group five shots in 2 inches and less at 100 yards which I think is a testament to this rifle. It shoots all factory ammo well. I topped it with a Redfield Revolution 3x9 scope. However, it's not my first choice for an elk hunt but maybe as a backup. One shot is usually all we get and I appreciate the higher degree of accuracy in bolt rifles. Also, temperatures and weather can hamper functioning of a semi-auto firearm but my bolt action remains ready.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from elkcamp wrote 21 weeks 2 days ago

The best elk rifle is the one you can shoot well consistently AND is capable of delivering 1500 FT/LBS of KE upon impact. I've hunted elk with almost every imaginable brand/caliber combo and nothing will compensate for a poorly placed shot. OL...thanks for all you do for hunters and elk country.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Monson wrote 21 weeks 2 days ago

Good rifles all. I currently use a Ruger #1 in 7x57. Have used successfully: Ruger 77 RSI in 308 Win; Pre 64 Win Mod 70 in 338-06; Ruger #1 in 338 Win Mag; Ruger 77 in 338 Win Mag; Winchester Mod 71 in 348 Winchester. Different actions, different calibers, all have worked quite well for elk when I hit the sweet spot. Most favorite? Mod 71 Winchester.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Monson wrote 21 weeks 2 days ago

Good rifles all. I currently use a Ruger #1 in 7x57. Have used successfully: Ruger 77 RSI in 308 Win; Pre 64 Win Mod 70 in 338-06; Ruger #1 in 338 Win Mag; Ruger 77 in 338 Win Mag; Winchester Mod 71 in 348 Winchester. Different actions, different calibers, all have worked quite well for elk when I hit the sweet spot. Most favorite? Mod 71 Winchester.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 24 weeks 8 hours ago

I also have a Savage 116 but mine is in 300 Win Mag. I haven't shot an elk with it yet but I have no doubt it will be more than adequate. It's a very accurate rifle.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from William N Goodman wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

I prefer and purchased the Savage Model 116 Bear Hunter rifle in .338 Winchester Mag. It has the Accutrigger, Accustock, stainless barrel, and an intergral muzzle brake. I load Nosler 225 grain Partition bullets and get groups under one inch. I forget the exact size.

I also have and like a Robert Hart customized 7 mm STW on a Remington Model 700 action with a 24" Hart stainless barrel and 2" muzzle brake. I have not shot an elk with it yet, but Hart used 150 grain Noslet Ballistic Tip bullets to shoot elk and deer on his identical gun. I loaded the same bullets, and I get one hole groups of 4 shots at 100 yards with 79.8 grains of IMR 7828 powder. I want to try the Nosler 160 grain Accubond bullets next.

I have used my Ruger Model 77 in .30-06 with Hornady Interbond 180 bullets.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josey wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

Can you say, "Mosin Nagant," boys and girls. I knew you could.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from DSMbirddog wrote 24 weeks 8 hours ago

I also have a Savage 116 but mine is in 300 Win Mag. I haven't shot an elk with it yet but I have no doubt it will be more than adequate. It's a very accurate rifle.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from William N Goodman wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

I prefer and purchased the Savage Model 116 Bear Hunter rifle in .338 Winchester Mag. It has the Accutrigger, Accustock, stainless barrel, and an intergral muzzle brake. I load Nosler 225 grain Partition bullets and get groups under one inch. I forget the exact size.

I also have and like a Robert Hart customized 7 mm STW on a Remington Model 700 action with a 24" Hart stainless barrel and 2" muzzle brake. I have not shot an elk with it yet, but Hart used 150 grain Noslet Ballistic Tip bullets to shoot elk and deer on his identical gun. I loaded the same bullets, and I get one hole groups of 4 shots at 100 yards with 79.8 grains of IMR 7828 powder. I want to try the Nosler 160 grain Accubond bullets next.

I have used my Ruger Model 77 in .30-06 with Hornady Interbond 180 bullets.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from elkcamp wrote 21 weeks 2 days ago

The best elk rifle is the one you can shoot well consistently AND is capable of delivering 1500 FT/LBS of KE upon impact. I've hunted elk with almost every imaginable brand/caliber combo and nothing will compensate for a poorly placed shot. OL...thanks for all you do for hunters and elk country.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Monson wrote 21 weeks 2 days ago

Good rifles all. I currently use a Ruger #1 in 7x57. Have used successfully: Ruger 77 RSI in 308 Win; Pre 64 Win Mod 70 in 338-06; Ruger #1 in 338 Win Mag; Ruger 77 in 338 Win Mag; Winchester Mod 71 in 348 Winchester. Different actions, different calibers, all have worked quite well for elk when I hit the sweet spot. Most favorite? Mod 71 Winchester.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Monson wrote 21 weeks 2 days ago

Good rifles all. I currently use a Ruger #1 in 7x57. Have used successfully: Ruger 77 RSI in 308 Win; Pre 64 Win Mod 70 in 338-06; Ruger #1 in 338 Win Mag; Ruger 77 in 338 Win Mag; Winchester Mod 71 in 348 Winchester. Different actions, different calibers, all have worked quite well for elk when I hit the sweet spot. Most favorite? Mod 71 Winchester.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MOOSE wrote 11 weeks 2 days ago

All are fine rifles. My top 4 in alphabetical order are: Browning, Ruger, Savage, Weatherby bolt-guns. In my opinion, these 4 are fine reliable choices. Each are mainstays due to quality and reliability similar to that of a good ole' dog. If I added 2 more it'd be Remington and Tikka bolt-guns. However, there isn't an auto alive that can match a bolt action in versatility and more specific in accuracy and certainly in reliability. If a body is set on going the way of a semi-auto then Browning's Bar and Remington's 740, 742, 7400 and newer 750 are far better choices. Each accounting for far more numerous game than Sauer and both have punched the reliability time-clock many times over than the Sauer. Leaving a Sauer 303 scenario shaky at best in my opinion and experiences with firearms. Not to mention the 303's hefty price tag. I could buy a brand new bolt-gun and scope then turn around and buy a brand new Remington 750 or Browning Bar and top it with a scope and come in way under cost. I have a Remington 742 carbine 18.5" barrel manufactured in the year of 1960 in 30-06. Nice little gun. I keep it clean and it's great on swamp edges and overlooking ravines with 180gr or 220gr pills. I can group five shots in 2 inches and less at 100 yards which I think is a testament to this rifle. It shoots all factory ammo well. I topped it with a Redfield Revolution 3x9 scope. However, it's not my first choice for an elk hunt but maybe as a backup. One shot is usually all we get and I appreciate the higher degree of accuracy in bolt rifles. Also, temperatures and weather can hamper functioning of a semi-auto firearm but my bolt action remains ready.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from James Grizzle wrote 9 weeks 4 days ago

Kimber 84L in 338 Winchester

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Josey wrote 24 weeks 1 day ago

Can you say, "Mosin Nagant," boys and girls. I knew you could.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)