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5 of the Best Elk Hunting Rifles Available Today

Here are some of the best things in elk hunting rifles you can find.

Elk hunting is one of the ways the United States has established itself as an outdoorsman's paradise. The big game species is among the most popular wish list hunts, and fittingly represents what's at the heart of American hunting.

They're a communicative animal, found in some of the country's most beautiful places, and can provide big game hunters multiple types of trophies: impressive antler racks, copious amounts of wild game meat, and an experience you're sure to remember.

But any good elk hunt deserves a good elk gun.

In an effort to recommend the best elk hunting rifle, we wanted to list some of the widely discussed rifles out there that are routinely viewed as top notch. As any good guide will tell you, a big bruising elk can fall to a wide variety of calibers and bullet types, but we'll leave that debate for another time. Instead, we made sure each of these rifles were available in most of, if not all the common elk hunting calibers.

An easy to handle, short-range, compact rifle great for carrying in the thick forest isn't ideal for a 300-yard precision shot across a mountain meadow. Also, a heavier, long-range shooting precision rifle with a 28-inch barrel isn't all that fun to carry though the dense woods or up steep slopes.

As usual, there are decision (and sometimes compromises) to be made.

Much as it is with anything in hunting, we all have a choice. We want something that gives us not only confidence, but helps promote and encourage the success that we're all looking for. That matters more than any type of gun or name brand. If it works for you as an integral part of your elk hunting style, plans, and experience, then that is still the name of the game in elk hunting.

Just remember, confidence in shot placement with a good quality rifle is where it really matters.

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Winchester XPR Hunter

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Posted by Winchester Repeating Arms on Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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.

The gun has 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. Even with the scope, it's still at the lower cost end of the list we're considering in these suggestions.

With a two-position safety operated with the thumb and an MOA trigger system, you've got a well-built rifle that won't cost you an arm and a leg.

Remington Model 700 American Wilderness

Sportsman's Warehouse

Since the "best" should also include the best looking and most well made, it stands to reason that the Remington Model 700 American Wilderness Rifle (AWR) should be on this list.

It's drilled and tapped for scope mounts and it easy to carry  at just 6-1/2 pounds. The free-floated barrel with 5R rifling enables you to go longer periods between cleanings. 

Some feel very strongly that the Remington 700 is the best (and bestselling) bolt action rifle ever designed in America.

Weatherby Mark V Weathermark

Sportsman's Warehouse

For those looking to buy a fine rifle for chasing elk, the Weatherby Mark V Weathermark is top of the line. It's available in all of the popular elk cartridges from the .270 and 6.5 Creedmoor, to the larger .308 and .30-06 Springfield, .300 Mag, not to mention the newer 6.5-.300 Weatherby Magnum. The Mark V centerfire, bolt-action rifle has enough special features for any elk hunter to find satisfaction.

The name Weatherby has come to stand for quality and longevity, but as with any hunting rifle, it can only do so much. After that, it's up to the hunter to find true success.

Ruger American Rifle

Bass Pro Shops

The Ruger American Rifle has earned its place among the elk hunting community since it has nearly 10 different configurations giving everyone a solid choice. It's lower in cost and smaller in barrel length than just about any other gun on this list.

The synthetic stock will last generations, and the Marksman adjustable trigger is light and crisp, allowing for precision shooting in the mountains and prairies of elk habitat.

Tikka T3X Superlite

Bass Pro Shops

As we step into the higher-priced firearms, the Tikka T3X Superlite is an obvious choice. The fluted barrel 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° lift that "cycles smooth as silk." It has 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

Sportsman's Warehouse

The Kimber Mountain Ascent may be alternately be one of the last elk hunting rifles that you ever purchase. Again, this is one of the more pricey rifles, but we've tried to show you both sides of the aisle.

The Mountain Ascent is a controlled feed bolt-action rifle, available in all the best calibers, and the popular SITKA Optifade Subalpine camo pattern. It has an adjustable trigger and comes with a stainless steel barrel.

It is an extremely strong, light and well-balanced rifle.

This bolt-action from the venerable Kimber company will offer an elk hunter with caliber options that not only take down big bulls, but provide a hunter with a lifetime of hunting.

The Last Word

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, some for more money and some for less. You don't always need the most expensive models to be successful, but there are reasons why some cost more, and it's always worth looking into why.

Many of these are meant to be lighter, more compact, short action models that are easier to carry into the backcountry, but elk hunting sometimes requires a long-range rifle. That's why in the past, many of us owned more than one rifle. These days, the line of separation is blurring. Shorter, compact models still provide accuracy, and special features make long range guns easier to transport.

Like with any bolt-action hunting rifle, each of these will provide a shooter with multiple options in the way of accessories. Ammo, optics, and other gear can be considered integral part of hunting. Not everything is going to be perfect for all big game hunters, especially when a big bull elk is bugling in the distance. Just like with firearms, it's worth it to do your research and know what's out there before committing.

Discussing the best rifle for any circumstance has to include durability, accuracy, and easy operation. Big game hunting rifles, especially those for elk, need to be versatile as well, considering all the varying situations you might find yourself in while pursuing the big ungulates.

We took all these things into consideration, and hopefully provided you with a list of things to think about.

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5 of the Best Elk Hunting Rifles Available Today