I have a 25/06 that is a very fine rifle for hunting small to medium game both back in Alabama and here in Colorado. However, I am giving this family (3 generations) rifle to my youngest son and will be replacing it with a Tikka T3 Lite Stainless in left hand. My question is this, do I want a 300WSM (165 - 180 grn Barnes-X) or a 338 Win Mag (180 - 225 grn Barnes-X or Nosler) for Elk, Mule, Bighorn, Bigfoot, Swamp monster...... You get the point. I have access to some GREAT land with plenty of game and expect to make shots up to and exceeding 350 yards. Pain is recoil is not a problem since I cut my teeth on 300 H&H mag from my Grandpa's Win pre-64 model 70 as a boy shooting bottles in a trash dump.
I really like the 300WSM with its 130 - 180 grn variety but, I am more confident in the 338's killing power for the big guys I am now able to hunt. I know that the 338 is overkill on Mule deer. Anyway, I need some good advise.
Here are some stats I need to consider. I hunt using Fed premium ammo. 300wsm 180 grn Barnes zero of 300 yards +- under 4" is 0-350 yards. At 350 yards Vel is 2562, Energy is 2624, Trajectory is -3.8 with a -3.0 at 100 at the other extreme. 338 win mag 180 grn zeroed at 300 yds is -2.9 at 100 yds and -3.8 at 350. At 350 Vel is 2494, Energy is 2487, Traj. is -3.8. 338Win Mag 225grn at 350 yards Vel is 2236, Energy is 2499, Traj is -4.8 with the other extreme being -3.9 at 100. What I am seeing tells me that the 300WSM delivers more than the 338 at 350 with noreal change in Traj. The B.C. is as follows: 300WSM 180 is .552, 338WM 180 is .372, and the 338WM 225 is .386. Oh, for a perfect world right about now. What is a guy to do??? I am also wondering about the rifle, given its barrel weight and stock design, will it performand stand up better using the 300WSMvs. the 338WM. I do not expect to fire the rifle that often outside of the initial sight in but, barrel burnout is a consideration. Does anyone know about this factor with these calibers?
I have also been told that the 165grn bullet in the 300WSM was the flagship of the caliber. Is that too light for ELK? I have been told that my 25/06 or a 270 is capable of dropping elk. However, I do not want to loose an animal due to lack of killing power at the 350+ yard ranges. Up to date, my longest shot on medium game has been under 200 yards (deer in Alabama and a Muley here last season). I do plan on a cow elk this year or next.
Either of those cartridges in a T3 lite is going to have some very quick recoil.Quite a bit more than the H&H out of that old and heavy model 70.Certainly manageable but it will be sharp and quick.
Having said that the dead elk will never know the difference between the two cartridges.
I would never sight a hunting rifle in to shoot zero at 300 yards. With that 180 grain out of the 300 it will put you 5 inches high at about 160 yards and that can cause some bad shots or misses. A better sight in would be to zero at about 240 yards. It will put you very close to being 3 inches high at the bullets highest point and about 3 inches low at about 290 yards...... give or take.
The 165 grain bullet is definetly not too light outof the 300 and would be my personal choice. The 180 grain bulletout of the 338 is too lightin my opinion because of the very low BC of that short and fat bullet.
Barrel burn out will never be a consideration with either of these two cartridges unless you are going to shoot several hundred rounds every year for a decade or more. If you plan on taking shots past 350 yards with the rifle I would strongly suggest that you do shoot the rifle quite a bit after the initial sight in......... That is unless you like tracking wounded animals. Hunting in the mountains is a WHOLE lot different than hunting in the thick woods and food plotsof Alabama. Trust me, I now live in Pensacola Florida having moved here from Denver Colorado.
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I kill elk with a 270 every year. Just like bow hunting it is all about shot placement. You get him in the heart, lungs, ???SPINE??? he is just as dead with a 270, 308, 300 win mag or 338. I have NO need for the mag rifles as I just make sure of my shot and drop him. I dont make the 300+ shots as there are far too many things that can happen that can effect the POI or another elk stepping out into your line of fire...
Recoil will be an issue in the Tikka rifle. It is light, and the stock design seems conducive to a sharper jolt than others. I've shot one in .270 Win that was noticeably heavier in the recoil department than the Weatherby Vanguard in .270 Wby Mag and Ruger M77 in 7mm Rem Mag we had on the same bench....and these are more powerful cartridges. I know I wouldn't want to shoot a Tikka in anything much bigger than .270.
You really don't need a big .338 Win Mag to kill elk. If you want one, that's fine. But getting a rifle that is more comfortable to shoot, such as a .270, .280, .308, .30-'06 or 7mm mag, means you'll shoot it more often. That alone will make these smaller rifles better elk killers for you at longer ranges than the big boomers that will only get a few rounds put through them every now & then.
You may give the 7mm Rem. Mag. some consideration if you're thinking of shooting 165gr bullets in your .300wsm...
Maybe the .300wsm case capacity is affected by the 180gr bullets vs. the 165, but after looking into bullets BC for my .300win mag, I saw no reason to shoot 165gr over 180grs, so my belief is why shoot 165 out of a .300 win mag, or any .300, but perhaps there are better reasons for other cartridges to shoot the 165.
Of the 2 you suggested, I think for your needs I'd pick the .300 WSM over the .338 win mag, and both would do the job on an elk.
A 338 in a light rifle is no slouch. The last guy at a range who told me the recoil from his 338 didn't bother him was visibly flinching and pulling back from the scope as he shot dinnerplate-sized groups at 100 yds.
I still no not understand the perception that you need battleship-worthy armament to take down an elk or even as a carry in bear country. I was hunting with a 300WM, which despite growing up shooting powerful 12-gauge slugs is as much rifle as I want to shoot in a HEAVY gun, in Montana last fall. NONE of the locals were shooting anything bigger -- most hunted with 270s and 7mms.