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Old December 16, 2019, 07:03 PM   #1
Nathan
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Smallest reliable cartridge for Elk sized game to 400 yards

That’s pretty much it. In your opinion, what is the smallest reliable elk killing round?

Smallest means lowest recoil. Reliable means I do my part and hit spine, heart, lungs, liver, etc....might need to go through both shoulders. The bullet has to do its part and penetrate through and leave a bleeding hole. It has to have enough shock to basically DRT the animal.....maybe move 25-50 yds.
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Old December 16, 2019, 07:06 PM   #2
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6.5 Swede with a 160 grain bullet.
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Old December 16, 2019, 07:14 PM   #3
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7-08 with a 150 gr nosler partition, 270 with a 150 gr nosler partition.
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Old December 16, 2019, 07:23 PM   #4
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Any of the 6.5's shooting a quality 140 gr or heavier bullet. A 243 will do it, but is a little lighter than I'm comfortable with. A 6.5/140 will match a 30 caliber/180 for penetration assuming equal bullet construction.
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Old December 16, 2019, 07:30 PM   #5
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How good is your aim to precisely hit a vital organ?
Most 6.5 rounds will drop anything on the North & South American continents if you can place the shot.

Conversely a .50 BMG round won’t stop many animals With a poorly placed.
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Old December 16, 2019, 07:35 PM   #6
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The smallest caliber I've got that will carry over 1,500 ft-lbs energy to 400 yards

is a 270 Winchester with 150 grain BT.
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Old December 16, 2019, 09:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan View Post
That’s pretty much it. In your opinion, what is the smallest reliable elk killing round?

Smallest means lowest recoil. Reliable means I do my part and hit spine, heart, lungs, liver, etc....might need to go through both shoulders. The bullet has to do its part and penetrate through and leave a bleeding hole. It has to have enough shock to basically DRT the animal.....maybe move 25-50 yds.
There is a huge difference between hitting the liver and the heart.
I personally wouldnt use anything smaller than 150 gr 7mm. I prefer it at WSM velocities, but you would probably be fine with 284 win.
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Old December 16, 2019, 10:19 PM   #8
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I was given my first .257 Roberts by an older friend who swore it was exactly that - good for elk out to 400 yard.
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Old December 17, 2019, 01:14 AM   #9
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270 Win or most of the 7mm will be the smallest one should reasonably use. 400 yards is too far for at least 90% of hunters, myself included, to ethically shoot.

I have hunted elk for 20 years and done pretty well. I use 30/06 180 grs, year in, year out. Elk are big and tough.
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Old December 17, 2019, 03:14 AM   #10
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"Through both shoulders, DRT" would be a 50 BMG.
For mere mortals, 6.5X55, 6.5-284, 257 Roberts, 25-06, 257 Weatherby Mag, 270 Win, 7mm-08, 284 Win, 280 Rem, 280AI, 7mm Rem Mag, 308, 30-06.
And a lot more that i have missed.
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Old December 17, 2019, 03:38 AM   #11
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I've used a 257 AI on deer/pronghorn size animals for many years. I've never taken an elk with one.
I have a lot of confidence in that rifle,but if I had to hunt elk with it,I'd do it at maybe 200 yds or less.I'd want to be able to do surgery with it.

To the OP's question,I don't think I'd recommend a .25

Sure,plenty of other cartridges overlap,but the cartridges that come to mind are the .270 and 30-06.

Of the two,the .270 will be milder to shoot.

UPDATE : While I support having a cartridge adequate for 400 yds,Wyosmith is right.
Shot placement with a proper bullet are key factors.
The shooter and conditions must be able to place the shot for the cartridge to be effective.
I don't know the OP's capabilities....but that's not the question I'm answering.
I'll agree,for most folks,myself included,the business of shooting elk is best done at closer ranges than 400 yds. In support of the OP's idea,there is nothing wrong with the < 300 yd hunter who has the reserve of a 400 yd cartridge. That's good thinking.IMO.

Of course there are other good cartridge choices,but,IMO, a 270 is a good compromise for being relatively mild to shoot ,which contributes to the shooter shooting well. It offers a very good trajectory, and will make adequate rrauma.

Last edited by HiBC; December 18, 2019 at 01:11 AM.
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Old December 17, 2019, 09:56 AM   #12
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IME, 400 yards is stretching it more than I am comfortble with.

For 300, my limit, .270, .30-06, 7X57, 6.5X55 etc. I'm personally not comfortable with 6mm or .25 for elk.

I use a .30-06 with 150 Speer BTSP bullets. Never lost one.
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Old December 17, 2019, 11:21 AM   #13
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A 270 with 150s will do the job but 99% of us won't be able to make a clean shot at 400 yards. It ain't like shooting off a bench at known distance. You're looking at about 30" drop at 400.
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Old December 17, 2019, 11:33 AM   #14
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400 yd elk

Good topic.

I've been using a 7x30 Waters with 139gr Hornady bullet. This is my deer/boar calibre that gives one shot kills within 100yds.

If I was presented with a potential kill shot and had a secure rest, I would take the shot.
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Old December 17, 2019, 12:04 PM   #15
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I have done well at 400 with a 270. But I have seen it done with 25-06s and several 6.5s too. However I also see some of the elk stay up and on their feet longer than I'd like at those ranges. From larger guns too, but at least if you shoot a larger cal and a good bullet, one that holds together well enough to exit 100% of the time, the blood trail is very good so you will seldom loose one. My 270 with 150 and 160 grain Partitions exit them. So will a 308 with the correct bullet as will a 7X57 again with the correct bullet. I have seen one bull shot at about 375 yards with a 338 Win that ran over a mile. The issue was the bullet, which was one of the old Nosler Ballistic Tip Solid Base bullet, which were one of the very worst game bullets ever made. Clearly a 338 is more then enough for killing elk, but that bullet was a glaring failure.


So ethics get involved, but what is ethical is subjective, not objective. Many other hunters may disagree with me, but in my 50+ years of killing elk, and seeing elk killed, I would say that at 400 yards the hot 6.5s with 156 or 160 bullets are the bottom of the list. In the hands of a good marksman, they will do, but that's is where my list would start, and go up from there. Most elk are killed inside 400 yards and so I am not someone who thinks you need a huge rifle to kill elk most times. But as range increases you loose power due to shedding velocity and the marksmanship to hit a target exactly where you want to is a compounding problem as range increases. that is why the issue of ethics is important, and a marksman who can hit a 6" plate 100% of the time at 600 yards doesn't face the same ethical problem as one that can only hit a 15 inch plate 20% of the time. So the issue is #1 the marksman using the rifle, #2 the bullet used and last, in #3 place would be the cartridge used.

The man is the issue about 96% of time. Then the hardware.
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Old December 17, 2019, 12:43 PM   #16
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Wyosmith,

Good post.

One thing that I have noticed over many years of hunting is that, in most cases, the MORE SKILLED the rifleman, the less likely he is to take long shots.

Several of my hunting companions over the years held master class or even distinguished master ratings. But they were not only good marksmen, they were excellent hunters and could easily stalk an animal to within shorter ranges.

I agree that ethics is a personal thing. As is "fun." To me, half of the "fun" of hunting is getting as close as possible to my quarry. Most of the antelope I've taken were shot at under 100 yards,
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Old December 17, 2019, 01:25 PM   #17
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Quote:
pete2 wrote:
A 270 with 150s will do the job but 99% of us won't be able to make a clean shot at 400 yards. It ain't like shooting off a bench at known distance. You're looking at about 30" drop at 400.
LOL - Yeah your right:

99% of time if you tried a 30" hold over at 400 yards with my 270,
you wouldn't make a clean shot !!!

LOL - you would miss your aim point by 10" high.
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Old December 17, 2019, 01:50 PM   #18
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Ben Dover, you and I think exactly the same way.

I shoot to 1200 yards for fun in the open sage prairies not far from my home and overall I am fairly good at it. However HUNTING is not just shooting.
I do not take pride in long shots. In fact I feel exactly the opposite. HUNTING is what I like to do

I killed 7 head of game in the last 3 months. Of the 7, 5 were taken with guns with iron sights. One antelope buck was taken at 40 yards with my M95 lever action in 270, and one other doe antelope was taken by me at about 20 yards with my 6.5X54 Mannlicher, also with irons. I killed another antelope with a savage M99 in 300 Savage with a peep sight at about 160 yards and both of my white tails were killed with a Remington M81 300 Savage with the issue irons.

That is what makes it all fun for me. If I need to I can and I have made killed waaaay out there, but that is not really hunting, to me at least. It's shooting. Good shooting.....yes, but not actually hunting.
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Old December 17, 2019, 01:55 PM   #19
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Last years buck. About 165 yards
2018 #1 Ant. Buck by Steve Zihn, on Flickr

This years buck. About 40 yards.
IMG_20190918_192827625 by Steve Zihn, on Flickr

Of the others I have no pictures because I didn't have a camera. I did for last years buck, but even this years buck was photographed by a friend. I never seem to remember a camera. I didn't own one for about 45 years and I am not used to having one with me.
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Old December 17, 2019, 02:55 PM   #20
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1,920px × 1,440px is waaaaaaay to big. Please reduce the size of your pictures.
Your local hunting regs may tell you what is the smallest legal calibre. Not all places do that. So where you are matters.
"...go through both shoulders...." No it doesn't. A through and through means the bullet's energy was not expended in the animal. The bullet needs to have controlled expansion for penetration and not exit.
"...lowest recoil..." That's about the bullet weight and the rifle weight.
For example, a 140 grain 6.5 x 55 Swede at 2650 FPS, out of a 9 pound rifle, has 10.6 ft-lbs of recoil energy. A 95 grain .243(The .243 is far too light for elk) at 3100 FPS out of a 7.25 pound rifle has 11.0 ft-lbs. A 140 grain .260 Remington at 2360 FPS out of an 8 pound rifle has a measly 9.5 ft-lbs.
Elk tend to live in places with a great deal of 'up'. The rifles marketed for elk tend to be light weight for that reason. IE a Ruger American in any chambering weighs about 6 pounds. Any elk suitable bullet is going to have a fair bit of felt recoil. However, you're not going into combat. And recoil can be tamed using assorted devices.
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Old December 18, 2019, 12:20 AM   #21
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I agree with Wyosmith and pete2, the rifle's capability is only part of the equation, being able to put the round on target is the key component of the equation. Many people I see just can't. I've watched shooters hit the 200 yds 8" gong from the bench, and when I shoot offhand and hit it they say it's easy. Oh yeah? Stand up and show me. I watched hunters in NV and ID bang away at antelope and deer that were 700-800 yds away, and they said they were "in range". I watched hunters shoot at standing deer 200ish yds away and miss. I have watched hunters break legs, gut-shoot deer, and totally miss animals walking at 100ish yds. If you haven't done it, you don't know if you can. Looking at the ballistics table won't tell you if you can, it just tells how much energy you have at what distance. Picking a bigger rifle doesn't make it easier, quite the opposite.

So, to answer the original question, the minimum cartridge to kill an elk isn't all that impressive. 257 Roberts, 6.5 Swede, 300 Savage, anything that can get there with enough oomph to matter. I saw elk killed with 30-30s when I lived in ID. I shoot a 7X57, it will do it. I know, I have killed big mule deer at 400ish yds. But much like Wyosmith, I prefer to get closer. Hunting is about matching your skills against the animal's skills and seeing who's better.
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Old December 18, 2019, 07:26 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Scorch View Post
I agree with Wyosmith and pete2, the rifle's capability is only part of the equation, being able to put the round on target is the key component of the equation. Many people I see just can't. I've watched shooters hit the 200 yds 8" gong from the bench, and when I shoot offhand and hit it they say it's easy. Oh yeah? Stand up and show me. I watched hunters in NV and ID bang away at antelope and deer that were 700-800 yds away, and they said they were "in range". I watched hunters shoot at standing deer 200ish yds away and miss. I have watched hunters break legs, gut-shoot deer, and totally miss animals walking at 100ish yds. If you haven't done it, you don't know if you can. Looking at the ballistics table won't tell you if you can, it just tells how much energy you have at what distance. Picking a bigger rifle doesn't make it easier, quite the opposite.

So, to answer the original question, the minimum cartridge to kill an elk isn't all that impressive. 257 Roberts, 6.5 Swede, 300 Savage, anything that can get there with enough oomph to matter. I saw elk killed with 30-30s when I lived in ID. I shoot a 7X57, it will do it. I know, I have killed big mule deer at 400ish yds. But much like Wyosmith, I prefer to get closer. Hunting is about matching your skills against the animal's skills and seeing who's better.
I guess what hunting is varies from person to person. To many, if you are not shooting a long bow with wooden arrows, you are not hunting.
Its a combination of shooter and rifle. The system has two major factors "arrow" and "indian". The more accurate the rifle, the less accurate the shooter has to be. The more accurate the shooter, the less accurate the rifle has to be. Ideally, both are accurate. Despite years of practice, I am not a great standing offhand shooter. I can reliably kill deer at 200 yds, but thats the limit of my confidence. Past that, I sit, go prone, grab a tree, grab shooting sticks or something.
In the field, I can shoot a 7 Rum as accurate as I can shoot a 243 Win. On the bench is different story. Accumulative abuse of the RUM adds up, but one or two shots does not matter in the least.
My 8 year old hunted with a .223. He snatched up my 257 Roy and shot a deer. He never knew he shot the wrong rifle till I told him. Recoil in the woods should not be a factor unless it physically harms you.(338-378 Wby with no brake, thats a brutal beast)

Last edited by reynolds357; December 18, 2019 at 07:34 PM.
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Old December 19, 2019, 12:33 AM   #23
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BenSendero,

30" of drop and 30" of holdover are two different things. A buck mule deer goes about 22", chest to shoulder. If the bullet drips 30" at 400 yds, you only need to hold 18" of holdover to hit it just low of center. Visually this will look like a scant body-height over his back.
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Old December 19, 2019, 12:44 AM   #24
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Per the OP, "shoot through both shoulders and leave a hole", or words to that effect.

I know intellectually that a 6.5/140 or .270/150 will do the job, especially with Nosler Partitions and the like. I also know that shot placement is key. I would rather hit the vitals with a .223, than the guts with a .338...

But somehow a good '06 just seems right-er. But then again my pet '06 weighs in at 9lbs even, and as such it kicks like a .243!
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Old December 19, 2019, 09:57 AM   #25
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More elephants were hunted/killed with the 6.5 MS sized cartridge than any other caliber.
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