elk hunting rifles

5 of the Best Elk Hunting Rifles Available Today


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Of all the pockets of wilderness America has to offer, elk hunting is arguably the most effective in creating the outdoorsman's paradise hunters and anglers romanticize and cherish. A bull elk's presence alone is enough to make any human stop in their tracks, and even the possibility of a hunting one someday sparks daydreams that last a lifetime if never seriously pursued. Unsurprisingly, elk hunting sits atop the bucket list of most outdoorsmen, as each of us longs for the unmatched event of an elk bugling across a Rocky Mountain draw.

Elk bestow an aura different than any other in the backcountry, and an incentive that's simply too sweet to not summon our hard-earned money. Beyond the experience of hunting such a communicative animal in such a beautiful setting, elk also present hunters multiple trophies, as their antlers are some of Mother Nature's best work and their massive bodies offer a haul of delicious wild game meat.

However, elk hunting isn't for the faint of heart, as the topography is as trying as elk are cunning. In order to realistically harvest a wild elk, you're going to need to be in tip-top shape, and you're going to need all the proper gear. There are select genres of hunting that afford us the occasional shortcut, but this certainly isn't one of them. And, if you're serious about chasing that ever-burning desire to lay hands on a bull, your top priority should be the purchase of an appropriate hunting rifle.

There are a variety of calibers that can effectively take an elk, but today we'll focus on rifles that offer plenty of options to meet your preference, and more importantly, features that will make or break a hunt. An easy-to-handle, short-range, compact rifle is great for carrying through thick brush, but less than ideal for a 300-yard shot across a mountain meadow. Similarly, a long-range precision rifle is going to be a nightmare to carry through western terrain. The key is to find a compromise that defends against natural elements, minimizes weight, and maximizes range.

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Winchester XPR Hunter

elk hunting rifles

When you're looking at elk rifles, the venerable Winchester brand name seems to be at the top of the list every time and for good reason: it's trusted and revered in elk country. The Winchester XPR Hunter in True Timber Strata camo has a Permacote FDE metal finish that stands up well to the abuse of the elk trail.

With a free floating, target-crowned barrel and if you go with the optics package, you'll get a factory-mounted and bore sighted Vortex Crossfire II 3-9x40mm scope. And, even with the scope, it remains on the lower end in terms of price, while still offering hunters a top-notch backcountry hunting rifle. The XPR Hunter also features a two-position safety, which is operated with the thumb and an MOA trigger system. Add up all of these features that come at a manageable price tag and you've got yourself an excellent entry-level elk hunting rifle you won't need to replace.

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Remington Model 700 American Wilderness

elk hunting rifles

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When we're considering the very "best" hunting rifles to take out west, you can't ignore a platform that has maintained traction since its inception. The Remington 700 is undeniably an American classic, and the American Wilderness package is built for the most rugged, challenging hunting environments North America has to offer. Chambered in the right caliber, the 700 AWR most definitely belongs on this list. 

With a free-floated barrel with 5R rifling, it only weighs 6 1/2 pounds without a scope, for which it's already drilled and tapped. Plus, the rifling allows for longer periods between cleanings and general maintenance, which is especially useful when you're roughing it on a 10-day hunt. There are plenty of hunters who firmly believe the 700 is the best bolt-action system ever built.

Weatherby Mark V Weathermark

elk hunting rifles

Sportsman's Warehouse

For those looking to spend a tad more for a top-shelf rifle, the Weatherby Mark V Weathermark is the top of the line. And, not only is it available in all of the more popular elk hunting rounds, including .270 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum, but you can also buy this particular rifle in newer 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum. Regardless of you choice of chambering, though, the Mark V centerfire is everything an elk hunter would ever want in a bolt-action rifle.

The name Weatherby itself has developed a reputation for both quality and longevity, but its products continue to improve, and the Mark V Weathermark definitely reinforces that. In addition to its proven ability to last a lifetime, it's also prepared for anything the hunt throws at you with a hand-laid fiberglass Monte Carlo stock with aluminum bedding blocks, a Cerakote finish, and a spiral fluted bold bod for full weather protection.

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Ruger American Rifle

elk hunting rifles

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With a wide variety of different configurations to appease any hunter in the market for a rifle, the Ruger American Rifle has undoubtedly earned its place within the elk hunting community. However, it really earns its stripes at the register, as it wildly affordable, without sacrificing too much in the ways of materials and performance. It features a strong synthetic stock that will last for generations, a shorter barrel length for hunters looking to take a more mobile approach, and the Marksman adjustable trigger, which is light and crisp for the most precise shots when everything is on the line.

Tikka T3X Superlite

elk hunting rifles

Bass Pro Shops

Another higher-priced firearms, the Tikka T3X Superlite can go toe to toe with any elk hunting rifle to ever hit the market. This firearm employs a fluted barrel, which cuts down on weight without sacrificing any accuracy, and the low-angled pistol grip combines with the recoil pad to enhance comfort.

The T3X uses a 2-lug bolt with a 75-degree lift that creates a silky-smooth action for cycling shells, while also offering a clean, stainless steel aesthetic. It also features a single-stage adjustable trigger and a dovetailed receiver that accepts Tikka rings, but there's also room for additional screw placements to attach a Picatinny rail.

Kimber Mountain Ascent

elk hunting rifles

Sportsman's Warehouse

Also on the pricey end of the spectrum, this is a controlled-feed bolt-action rifle that offers buyers plenty of caliber options, as well as the SITKA Optifade Subalpine camo pattern. With an adjustable trigger and a stainless steel barrel, the Mountain Ascent delivers hunters an extremely strong, well-balanced rifle. But maybe the most impressive feature is its weight, which comes in at a head-scratching 4 pounds, 13 ounces.

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Even though it costs a few extra dollars, the Kimber Mountain Ascent is the last elk hunting rifle you'd ever need to buy. Similar to Weatherby and Tikka, Kimber has earned its seat at the big-game hunting table, as it continues to produce rifles built for the backcountry and capable of offering a lifetime of hunting.

There are plenty of other manufacturers like Marlin, Henry, Browning, and Mossberg that all make accurate, weather-resistant rifles that will do the trick on elk, falling all over the place in terms of price. You don't always need the most expensive models to be successful, but money tends to go a long way when it comes to hunting firearms, particularly rifles. 

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READ MORE: NOSLER TROPHY GRADE LONG RANGE AMMO: HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

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