By Pete Rogers
Whenever a sporting writer attempts to make a list of firearms, it opens themselves up to all sorts of ridicule and insults. Occasionally the blind hog finds an acorn and a few readers agree with a portion of what you wrote. Hopefully the latter will be the case and not the former.
In today’s sporting world, there are a host of guns, gun manufacturers and configurations to choose from when selecting the perfect elk rifle, if it even exists. While this specific story will not get into calibers, it does mention some for future reference. (To read about the best caliber choices, follow my blog where a story about calibers will be coming soon at www.peterogersoutdoors.com) No, this story is about which specific guns are best for most elk hunters. Your gun may appear on this list, it may not, either way it is not an all-inclusive list. To make the choices I considered a few items. First consideration was the effectiveness of the gun. Is it readily available and can it be bought in common calibers? Second was budget, we are leaving off the guns that exceed most mortgages. Lastly, was fit and function. So without further ado here is my list of the top five elk rifles – in no particular order.
The Remington 700 is the bestselling bolt action rifle ever designed in America. Entering production in 1962, the 700 was designed for mass production and has stood the test of time. Its solid bolt action design is based on dual opposing lugs that fully enclose the cartridge. The standard version is configured with built in clips, some with a fold down floor plate and some with removable clips depending on the specific rifle. Its dependability is second to none in its price point.
The popularity of the Remington 700 spawned different versions that are being made to appeal to different shooters and hunters. To date there are twenty eight versions of the 700 available with different configurations but all carrying the same dependability that has made the Remington 700 the number one selling bolt action rifle of all time. It is available in a wide variety of calibers and actions designed for the specific caliber. Short actions and long actions are just as dependable. The Remington 700 is one of the best choices any hunter can make when choosing a rifle for elk.
The Browning automatic rifle is arguably the finest semi-auto rifle ever designed. The Browning BAR is a gas operated semi-automatic rifle. First re-introduced in 1966, the BAR has accounted for tens of thousands of trophies and kills of North American game animals. All BAR rifles made before 1976 are referred to as Type I rifles based on the original design. Those made between 1976 and 1992 are classified as Type II. The major redesign change involved the trigger mechanism. The complex yet dependable trigger assembly was redone to make disassembly, maintenance and cleaning more efficient. At the same time the gas system was upgraded to allow for more dependability. Today it is one of the few auto loading rifles available in magnum calibers.
There is still a considerable segment of hunters who just prefer a semi-automatic. Even though many hard core shooters and hunters will argue that a semi-auto is not as accurate as a bolt gun, it is hard to argue with the success the BAR has had through the years. Sure it may not win a long range bench match, but as a friend of mine said who carried a BAR in Alaska: “When I need that follow up shot, I have it immediately.” And for many hunters, the peace of mind in having a fast follow up shot makes the trade an easy choice. When the semi-auto is your gun of choice, there is no better choice than the Browning BAR.
Weatherby Mark V
The Weatherby Mark V is the flagship rifle of the Weatherby line of rifles. First introduced in 1957, the rifle was designed to safely handle the high pressures associated with the Weatherby line of ammunition. These super high performance cartridges were beyond the capabilities of most firearms of the day. So Weatherby designed a rifle that could handle the ammunition they were designing.
For many, the Weatherby is considered a prestigious firearm. This is largely due to the marketing of Roy Weatherby who would build custom rifles and present them to heads of state and celebrities to market the reliability and dependability of his rifles. On a personal note, as a young hunter in the late 1970’s I dreamed of one day being able to own a Weatherby Mark V. The prestige of the Weatherby is not just in its dependability but also in its beauty. The classic look of the Weatherby in the wood versions are some of the most beautiful American made guns available. Even the stainless and synthetic versions carry a certain beauty only found in Weatherby Guns.
A key feature on Weatherby rifles is their 54 degree throw on the bolt action. This reduced movement allows for faster follow up shots and reduces the concern about optics being interfered with during the chambering of rounds.
Weatherby Mark V are still made with care by hand in California. When you hold a Mark V, you hold not only a well-designed functioning rifle, you hold a piece of art and beauty. The lines, fit of the components and the reliability are second to none in the price point of the Weatherby line of rifles. For those looking to buy a fine rifle for chasing elk through the Rockies, the Weatherby Mark V is top of the line. Available in all of the popular calibers for elk from the smaller .270, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308, .30-06, 7MM Mag, .300 Mag and the new 6.5-.300 Weatherby Magnum. The Mark V is definitely a gun you cannot go wrong with.
Ruger American Rifle
The Ruger American rifle is one of the greatest rifles to come out of manufacturing in a long time. Available in eight different configurations, the American Rifle has something for everyone. A personal favorite is the all-weather compact. But this is not available in some of the bigger calibers many hunters prefer for elk. Perhaps a better choice is the all-weather version that offers more caliber choices and for those of you who really like to use big guns, the magnum versions offer three more popular magnum calibers. The American rifle by Ruger is dependable and rugged. Designed to be used, hunted with and handled in the harshest conditions. It is available with an adjustable trigger and one piece three lug bolt with a 70 degree throw. It has a tang safety and a rotary magazine that is dependable and low profile. The American Rifle by Ruger is one of the better choices for elk hunters, and its price point makes this not only a good elk rifle, it makes a great heirloom as well.
Tikka T3 Lite Stainless
I included the Tikka T3 because of its weight and its heritage. Tikka is the little brother to the SAKO/Beretta line of rifles. Manufactured in Finland under the watchful eye of Sako engineers, it is not quite as refined as the Sako, but the Tikka is an excellent gun. It is basically a Sako at a lower price point. Elk hunters should consider the all-weather stainless version when looking for a gun to pack into the west. Coming in at an even six pounds, it is one of the lightest rifles available. When topped with all of the optics and ammo, you are still at a weight comparable to other naked guns. For hunters getting up in age, weight of their gun is paramount when climbing high elevation mountains in the west.
Not only is it a light rifle, it carries with it the dependability of the Sako brand in a lighter compact model. Available in any caliber one could imagine, the Tikka T3 is an excellent choice for elk hunters.
There are many other fine rifles that could be included in this list. Trying to select the top five is like picking a watermelon from a field of watermelons. After a while there are so many similarities it’s hard to distinguish one from the other. Some of these choices are based on personal experience, and others on conversations with others who have used these specific guns. Either way, I am sure your list will include some fine guns I did not include. This opens the door for better campfire conversations and opportunities to learn. Either way, you cannot go wrong with any of those listed here for your next elk rifle.