Bullet choice for a .308 Win. back-up elk rifle.

NYDAN

Handloader
Sep 17, 2013
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My young neighbor and friend, Caleb T., is going to Montana with me in 2023 to elk and mule deer hunt. His primary rifle will be a Sako A7, chambered in 300 Win. Mag., loaded with my 180 gr. AccuBond handloads. Since he is right-handed, and I am left-handed, it would be awkward to share a back-up rifle. I have decided to load some rounds for his .308 Win. in case he has a problem with the Sako 300 WM. I already load 150 gr. Ballistic tips for his 308 Win. with which he and his family have used with great success.

I guess my question concerns whether or not we need a bonded bullet at .308 Win. velocities?

Out reloading choices are limited in that we have to load to magazine length and the only powder I have suitable for the .308 Win. is Varget.

I have the enough of the following bullets on hand (or can get) to develop a load for him.
  • 165 gr. BT
  • 165 gr. AB
  • 165 gr. Hornady CX
  • 180 gr. BT
  • 180 gr. AB
  • 180 gr. Sierra Game King
  • 180 gr. Hornady SP flat base
Keeping in mind that the primary rifle is a 300 Win. Mag. and it would be great if the 308 Win. load could later be shot up hunting whitetail deer, which bullet would you pick as a back-up elk load for the .308 Win. and why?

Thanks for your thoughts. Dan
 
My young neighbor and friend, Caleb T., is going to Montana with me in 2023 to elk and mule deer hunt. His primary rifle will be a Sako A7, chambered in 300 Win. Mag., loaded with my 180 gr. AccuBond handloads. Since he is right-handed, and I am left-handed, it would be awkward to share a back-up rifle. I have decided to load some rounds for his .308 Win. in case he has a problem with the Sako 300 WM. I already load 150 gr. Ballistic tips for his 308 Win. with which he and his family have used with great success.

I guess my question concerns whether or not we need a bonded bullet at .308 Win. velocities?

Out reloading choices are limited in that we have to load to magazine length and the only powder I have suitable for the .308 Win. is Varget.

I have the enough of the following bullets on hand (or can get) to develop a load for him.
  • 165 gr. BT
  • 165 gr. AB
  • 165 gr. Hornady CX
  • 180 gr. BT
  • 180 gr. AB
  • 180 gr. Sierra Game King
  • 180 gr. Hornady SP flat base
Keeping in mind that the primary rifle is a 300 Win. Mag. and it would be great if the 308 Win. load could later be shot up hunting whitetail deer, which bullet would you pick as a back-up elk load for the .308 Win. and why?

Thanks for your thoughts. Dan
Hi Dan,
Not an elk hunter but I’d lean to the 165 gr. AccuBond as I’d prefer that to the 180 gr. for two reasons - you’ll get better velocity and trajectory with the 165 gr. weight and I think it’s a better weight for deer hunting. Nothing wrong with the 180 gr. just that there’s a big difference powder capacity wise from the 300 Win Mag vs 308 to push the 180 regards velocity. With the right powder you can get close to 2900 fps with 165 gr. AccuBond in 308 whereas with 180 your in the 2600 fps range. My thoughts FWIW
 
Dan,
I don't think you can go wrong with the 165 gr AB in the 308 Win. It would be a great all around load with good punch and reasonable reach for both elk and deer.
46.0 grs Varget and the 165 gr BT produced 2800 fps ES 18 SD 9 and sub MOA accuracy from my Nosler M21 308 Win and a 22" barrel.
SPS currently has 165 gr AB seconds in stock and would be perfect for load work and target shooting, not to mention hunting.

JD338
 
Get some Staball 6.5 or Ramshot Hunter to speed up the heavy bullet.

Re17 and 22 but they are unicorns right now.

Crap I was thinking 30/06 a .308 will use different powder. So Varget will likely be the better choice
 
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While recognizing that the middle weights would be sufficient for elk at moderate ranges, and better serve double duty for deer hunting if not used for elk...I am going to recommend the heavier weights for purely elk back up. The 180 gr bullets mentioned (of which my favourite is the AB. (I have also used SGKs on elk with great results).

While the 150 gr BT in a 308 Win is a great bullet suitable for many big game animals...it is not the bullet that I would choose for this hunt including elk (great for the mule deer...but who wants two different bullets on a single hunt....unless they have the same poi at all distances!)

Elk are much bigger than deer and require more energy to efficiently and effectively kill. This is due to their tenacity of life, their heavier hides and larger denser bone. Elk have the densest bone of any animal in North America. And a bull elk that is high on adrenaline during the rut, can be even more of a challenge, as many soak up the energy without the merest hint that they were hit in the vitals from an adequate cartridge with the velocity and energy to reliably make it into the vitals, and expanding properly to maximize tissue damage (let alone break the dense bone to get there, should the bullet encounter that on impact).
There is a reason why the old recommended energy levels for elk was at 2,000 ft.lbs as compared to 1,000 ft. lbs for deer. (Many now say 1,500 ft.lbs of energy, and I think that this is due to the bonded/monolithic bullets being commonly used today, compared to the cup and core most commonly used previously).

I took to heart, the recommendation of a respected gun writer years ago on the bullet testing performed on bull elk bone with bullet s of various calibers, from various cartridges at various velocity and energy levels. The conclusion at the end of the testing was that to reliably break the shoulder bone at its heaviest part, every single time, and still retain enough bullet weight and energy to get to the vitals, and provide sufficient tissue damage to reliably kill that bull elk, was a 250 gr bullet fired from a 338 Win Mag!

Yes, I have cleanly taken elk (24 to date, including 4 mature cows, and most bulls mature) with smaller calibers and less bullet weight and energy than a 338 Win Mag with 250 gr bullets...but I have purposely stayed away from that shoulder bone, and patiently waited for the proper shot presentation before taking that shot, to ensure penetration to the vitals for quick, clean kills. I have found that the quickest, cleanest kills, with the shortest follow up blood trails to date, have been the double lung shots, regardless of caliber and velocity/energy. And I have used the following to date: 270 Wby, 6.5x55, 35 Whelen, 7mm Rem Mag, 338 Win Mag, 7MM STW, 358 Win, 300 WSM, 376 Steyr, and 280 Rem. Bullet weights of 140 to 260 grains. Distances of 5 yards to 475 yards.

Follow up shots, when required, were taken when best shot opportunities presented, and I can admit that there were hits to that shoulder bone on some of these shots due to the animals movement and angle. While they did further damage and helped slow the animal down for more follow up shots, I can say that these bullets broke bone and did tissue damage, but never made it to the vitals. Keep in mind that follow up shots will mostly be given with less than ideal opportunities such as the broadside or slightly quarterly away presentation, and quite often on moving animals.

This is where that heavier bullet is going to make a difference on elk, as it has the higher Sectional Density and will penetrate better. With the bonded bullet holding up better if it encounters bone, as compared to the cup and core bullet.
As there is less case capacity, there will be less velocity and retained energy in the 308 as compared to the 300 WIn Mag, keep in mind the distances for shot opportunities will be shorter to ensure the retained energy at the animal.

Hope for the best, but be mentally and physically prepared for the worst!
Best of luck to both of you on your adventure! Should be a great hunt!
 
A 165gr Partition, AccuBond, or Grand Slam will serve very well. Of the three of those I’d lean towards the Partition. I think it would give best expansion and penetrate. The 308 doesn’t require a hard core bonded bullet to perform.

I can get 2975 fps from a 150gr E-Tip as well In my 308’s. Varget may give 2900. The E-Tip wont drop below 2279 fps until past 400 yards. Same with a Barnes for that matter. I could help with a box of the E-Tips for the young man if needed.
 
Well, my pet load for the .308 uses the 165 gr. Speer Hot Core at a speed of 2550 FPS from the 18.5" barrel of a Ruger M77 RSI. For the record, that is the only load that rifle will shoot that at least gives hunting accuracy. With that rifle that's it or nothing. I've shot deer with it at distances from about 30 feet to 250 yards and the deer all died. That same load in a 22" barreled rifle does 2610 FPS. Load is a max load using W760.

While I am inclined to agree with using the 165 gr. AccuBond I wonder if possibly the 180 gr. AB just might be better. I know the 165 AB will kill an elk. I used it a couple of years ago in a 30-06 at 2880 FPS on a large cow for a one shot kill. Bullet didn't exit and we never found it. Shot was just about 100 yards, give or take 10 yards. That 06 was the back up for my .35 Whelen when the scope had the reticle turned toes up.
PJ
 
Well, my pet load for the .308 uses the 165 gr. Speer Hot Core at a speed of 2550 FPS from the 18.5" barrel of a Ruger M77 RSI. For the record, that is the only load that rifle will shoot that at least gives hunting accuracy. With that rifle that's it or nothing. I've shot deer with it at distances from about 30 feet to 250 yards and the deer all died. That same load in a 22" barreled rifle does 2610 FPS. Load is a max load using W760.

While I am inclined to agree with using the 165 gr. AccuBond I wonder if possibly the 180 gr. AB just might be better. I know the 165 AB will kill an elk. I used it a couple of years ago in a 30-06 at 2880 FPS on a large cow for a one shot kill. Bullet didn't exit and we never found it. Shot was just about 100 yards, give or take 10 yards. That 06 was the back up for my .35 Whelen when the scope had the reticle turned toes up.
PJ
Nothing at all wrong with a Hot Cor. They perform well above their price point. In my opinion they are among the toughest non-bonded bullets available. I wouldn’t hesitate to send a 165gr HC through an elks boiler room.
 
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Thank you to everyone. I appreciate, and thoroughly read, each and every response. I can see that some thought and effort went into making these recommendations. Thanks to all and I will let you know what we come up with. Dan
 
I am with the 165 gr AB, too.
180 gr take too much power space in the 308.
With monos, I would go even lower and keep distance shorter
 
The 308 is famously easy on bullets, and any of those you list will work well. The 308 is my favorite round, and here in Montana I've taken quite a few elk with it. I've never used anything heavier than a 165 gr. Energy doesn't kill animals, a bullet in the right spot does. I've cleanly taken elk with the 165 NAB, 165 Hornady BTSP, 165 Speer Hotcore and 165 Sierra Game King. It just doesn't seem to matter what bullet you use with the 308 - they all work well at 2,700 fps. And aside, I'd always rather carry a light 308 on the mountain than any 300 Mag.
 
I have the enough of the following bullets on hand (or can get) to develop a load for him.
  • 165 gr. BT
  • 165 gr. AB
  • 165 gr. Hornady CX
  • 180 gr. BT
  • 180 gr. AB
  • 180 gr. Sierra Game King
  • 180 gr. Hornady SP flat base
I realized I only indirectly answered your question - as lefty315 said, of those you have, I'd use whichever of the 165 BT or AB shoots best. I've used different caliber Ballistic Tips on elk, and they've worked great, and I'd be content to use the 165 NBT for the rest of my life for all my hunting.
 
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Here's a big bodied buck I took opening day last year with the 308 Win and a 165 gr BT. This combination worked well.

JD338
 

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