Best Elk Hunting Rifles of 2021 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

| Last Updated December 21, 2021

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Elk have to be one of the favorite deer species for hunting enthusiasts. Elk hunting has become popular because of how fascinating the animal is and how thrilling the hunt is.

However, for a good elk hunting experience, it is important to make sure that you have the right equipment, setup, and the weapons.

One important question that arises in elk hunting is what is the best elk hunting rifle. The variety is diverse in the market and all have their own pros and cons to consider. Therefore, this article will help you find out more about the best elk hunting rifle for your use.

Comparison Chart of the Best Elk Hunting Rifles

  • Has a .45-70 caliber.
  • Features a 22-inch barrel.
  • Best overall action bolt rifle with high accuracy and precision.
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  • It weighs about 5.5 pounds.
  • Its stock material is polymer.
  • Runner up rifle that has a 3 round capacity.
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  • Features a 22-inch barrel.
  • .45-70 government cartridge
  • Best for the money that comes with versatile features.
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  • It features a recoil pad.
  • It has a stainless steel finish.
  • This lever-action rifle weighs about 7.5 pounds.
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  • It has forged style barrels.
  • It weighs about 8 pounds.
  • It features Pachmayr Decelerators recoil pads.
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  • Best Lightweight Elk Hunting Rifle
  • Constructed with a lightweight and durable composite stock
  • Stainless steel bore and finish offers corrosion resistance
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  • Best Long Range Elk Hunting Rifle
  • Three-level Feather Trigger system provides smooth trigger actions
  • Stock is made from carbon fiber and the barrel is finished with matt stainless steel
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Where to Shoot an Elk

If you want good hunting opportunities, you should definitely first know where you should hunt for elk. The best place for shooting an elk is mountainous landscapes. You will find a huge number of elks in such landscapes.

If you are in the U.S., you can also go elk hunting in national parks such as the Yellowstone National Park. Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, and California are some popular spots for elk hunting too. Colorado is also one of the prime spots for hunting.

Types of Elk Hunting Rifles

Before you can decide which elk hunting rifle you are going to buy, you must first understand the different types. Without knowing and fully understanding the types of elk hunting rifles, you will not be able to choose one wisely. There are two commonly found types. Let’s take a look.


Semi-automatic rifles for elk hunting are often considered to be the second-best. They are not a professional hunter’s first choice. However, these are not entirely disadvantageous. Semi-automatic rifles are known for being highly useful for continuous second and third shots.


Bolt-action rifles are popular in the military, as well as elk hunting. These are known for their high levels of accuracy and reliability. They are the first choice of all hunting enthusiasts. Moreover, we also recommend bolt-action rifles for beginners who want to stay safe and also want their shots to be accurate.

What Makes a Great Elk Hunting Rifle

The features that make a rifle great are the ones you should really be concerned about. Here are some features of a great one.

Stainless Barrel For Durability

The best elk hunting rifle will have a durable build. Other than the outer construction, the most important thing is barrel construction. Stainless-steel construction and any rust-resistant build material will ensure longevity. It will also make maintaining the rifle easier.


A good elk hunting rifle is compelled to have be good at long-ranges. Even if you do not really plan on hunting over long ranges, it should have this feature. Long-range means anything more than 600 yards and longer. This feature will allow you to use the rifle on multiple occasions and never cause you to miss a good hunting opportunity.

Price and Budget

This is, again, a very important factor. You need to aim for a budget-friendly rifle because we can assure you that an expensive one will not always ensure quality. Yes, higher-end rifles may have better features but that's not true for all of them. So, if you have a tight budget and want something easier on the pocket, look thoroughly through the market and you will find loads of budget-friendly, cheap rifles, all with great features of their own.

How to Choose an Elk Hunting Rifle

There are a few factors that you need to keep in mind before buying yourself an elk hunting rifle. These will ensure that you get the best and optimal hunting experience. Some of them are listed and elaborated as follows.

Caliber of Your Rifle

For elk hunting, the advised caliber is .270 by experienced individuals and experts. They believe that this caliber does a good and reliable job taking the elk down, while obviously considering that you aimed well.

It is even better if your rifle has a wide caliber range so you can adjust and improvise based on the distance. Also, it’s not ideal to go hunting for big animals without having the right gun power.

Design Features and Options

It is important to consider the design features and various options available since they all add up and define the performance of your rifle and the experience you can get from it. Some important features include barrel profiles of your rifle and stock.

Weather Resistance

Depending on the material your gun uses, its resistance against dust, weather, etc. is defined. Synthetic stocks in such cases are better off. They are usually also efficient against moisture.

Review of the Best Elk Hunting Rifles

To help you choose, here are some great models you can get your hands on. Each is reviewed in detail, so you know what to expect before you make your final purchase.

Best Overall:
Henry .45-70 Government Octagon Barrel Lever-Action Rifle


  • Good for all kinds of weather conditions
  • Appealing design featuring a steel finish
  • Lever-action rifle, ensuring high accuracy
  • Dark color tones ensure better camouflaging
  • Traditional design and style make it stand out


  • Pricier than others
  • Shots have a slower velocity
  • Might not be the best for longer ranges

What Recent Buyers Report 

Recent buyers have highly appreciated its design. They, most importantly, have said it is very traditional and old-school. Moreover, accuracy and precision are some of the best remarks it has received. However, users who wanted a rifle for use at longer ranges have not found it very functional.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We love this rifle and have added it to our list for many reasons. Firstly, the design and style are very impressive. Moreover, it is a lever-action rifle, which ensures reliability and safety, along with accuracy. Therefore, this rifle stood out from other, less accurate models on the market.

Who Will Use This Most

This is highly recommended for big-game and professional hunters. We also recommend this classic Henry model for rifle-enthusiasts looking for something stylish and unique. However, we do not recommend this for use by hunters at longer ranges, since it produces a steep trajectory at ranges longer than 250 yards.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is the best rifle from our list for the features and reasons mentioned above. We recommend it be used by big-game and professional hunters. With this classic design and outstanding performance, you will not be disappointed.

Ruger American Ranch 16" Blued .450 Bushmaster, Go Wild IM Brush Camo


  • Cheaper than Henry models
  • Weighs less than most models
  • Rubber butt pad for recoil reduction
  • Action bolt features allow greater accuracy
  • Features an ergonomic design for ease of use
  • Great for quick and accurate second and third shots


  • .450 Bushmaster caliber is not a pro’s first choice

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers of this Ruger bolt-action rifle have loved the value this product adds to their money. It’s more affordable than most models and still provides great grip, accuracy, and durability, as well. Users have highly appreciated it for its build quality, lightweight design, and have also found it useful at longer ranges. Many users have also reported high precision and impressive kills in the wild!

Why it Stands Out to Us

The most distinctive feature that stood out to us was its lightweight and ergonomic design. You will find very few models on the market that have the same ergonomic design that fits perfectly in your hand. Therefore, this model stood out to us for that.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great rifle for everyone. We especially recommend this be used by hunters who frequently go into the wild. It has a great camouflaging design appropriate for hunting in the wild, along with a three-round capacity for better hunting opportunities. Therefore, it’s great for professional hunters.

Bottom Line

To sum it up, this rifle by Ruger is the perfect package of affordability, performance, durability, and quality. It is recommended for everyone.

Best for the Money:
Marlin® Model 1895 Big Bore Lever-Action Rifles


  • Lighter than most models
  • Compact and easy to carry and store
  • Features a hammer-block safety feature
  • More affordable than most models
  • Has a sleek design, with a walnut finish for better camouflage


  • Produces lower velocity bullets
  • Shooting with a lever-action can be difficult for some beginners
  • The .45-70 cartridge may require extra effort for ranges longer than 250 yards

What Recent Buyers Report

There were a few complaints about the finish of the rifle. However, the complaints regarding the finish and setup were overpowered by the positive remarks that oozed appreciation for the accuracy and affordability of this model. Other than a dull finish, users have reported the rifle to function smoothly.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rifle stands out to us for its versatile features that come at an affordable price. The affordability of this model has to be its most distinctive characteristic. Therefore, we have added this lever-action rifle to our list.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great, reliable, and safe rifle for beginners. It is very safe to use and is also accurate, ensuring optimal performance. However, we do not recommend this for use by hunters who want to shoot at long ranges. Plus, it’s a great choice for anyone with a tight budget!

Bottom Line

To sum it up, this is one of the very few high-quality and outperforming models on the market that come at a reasonable price. The distinctive features will surely add value to your money and enhance your overall hunting experience.

4. Marlin® XLR Model Lever-Action Rifles


  • Produces high-velocity bullets
  • Recoil pad ensures reduction in recoil
  • Stock has a pistol grip for ease of use
  • Stainless-steel finish ensures durability
  • .30-30 Winchester caliber is highly preferred


  • Some customers had a hard time with the lever
  • Some complained about the finish and setup

What Recent Buyers Report

Even though we have come across some impressive customer reports, there were still some disappointing complaints. Firstly, many customers complained about the finish and the setup. Many said that the barrel was not properly cut. However, there were also some great positive reports that said the rifle is durable, functions well at longer ranges, and also works really smoothly.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We really like how it is intelligently designed. It has a superb grip design with a stainless-steel finish that perfectly complements the brown parts of the rifle. The appearance of the gun is exceptional. Therefore, other than the technical features and outstanding .30-30 caliber, the appearance is why it stands out the most.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a big-gaming rifle that we highly suggest be used by professionals. It is also a reliable and safe rifle to use, so we also think beginners can benefit from it too. 

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this is great for anyone with a decent budget. The only thing that we don't appreciate about the gun is its lack of camouflage. It has a very high-profile design for use in the wild.

5. Winchester® Model 70 Super-Grade Centerfire Rifles


  • Classic, traditional design
  • Easy unloading with the fixed extractor
  • Well-designed and well-proportioned for ease of use
  • Easy unloading of the cartridge with the hinged magazine
  • Very safe and reliable with its three position safety selector


  • Higher price point

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers have loved its accurate and highly precise performance. Moreover, customers have also positively commented on the build quality and finish. It is loved by all elk hunters for its versatility and smooth functionality.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us for its highly safe and reliable features. It has made unloading a piece of cake with its hinged magazine. We love how accurate it is and how it functions smoothly at long ranges too! Other than the price, we think it is a rifle that’s worth it!

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great choice for hunting enthusiasts. We also recommend this for use by beginners because of the easy unloading and all the safety features.

Bottom Line

To sum it up, we think that the price is a little too much. You can easily find similar features in other, more affordable models. However, if you have a good budget and want to invest in something high-end, this one is a perfect choice!

Best Lightweight Elk Hunting Rifle:
Kimber 84M Montana


  • Features an ultra-lightweight design
  • Can work with a range of calibers
  • Ideal for elk and big game hunting
  • Has a lightweight and compact build
  • 22-inch barrel has a sturdy steel exterior


  • Not the best for long-range shooting

What Recent Buyers Report

It is very lightweight and easy to carry around. Its aim is also very accurate, and you can count on it to get you your target. In addition, it uses a 3 position safety that prevents any accidents from happening. It is also nice to be able to use multiple calibers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The product’s versatility makes it a truly unique elk hunting rifle. It can work with a comprehensive range of calibers. A few options are 7mm Rem and .308 Win. You can use multiple kinds of ammunition based on your requirements on a certain day.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for an elk hunting rifle that is as light as a feather, then this unit will be ideal for you. It is a versatile gun that can accommodate various calibers. Furthermore, it has a sturdy build.

Best Long Range Elk Hunting Rifle:
Browning X-Bolt Long Range Hunter


  • Sturdy and rugged rifle
  • Safety is easy to switch on and off
  • Very accurate for long-range shooting
  • Built from durable matte stainless steel
  • You can cycle the rifle with the safety lock enabled


  • Few caliber options available
  • Scope not included in the package

What Recent Buyers Report

It is a very high performing rifle that has a very efficient and effective adjustable cheekpiece which will support your face when needed. It is also very easy to set up and use. In addition, its safety lock is also very easy to use and can be easily abled and disabled.

Why it Stands Out to Us

When it comes to long-range precision and accuracy, there is no match for this hunting rifle. It will be sure to aid your aim well and help you take down your target. It also reduces the recoil towards your face thanks to its recoil pads.

Bottom Line

All in all, this model is the dream of every hunter who prefers long-range hunting. It has a very sturdy and rugged build. In addition, it has an easy to enable and disable safety lock. All of these make for a great investment. 

8. Browning® BLR Lightweight '81 Lever-Action Rifles


  • Pads to reduce recoil
  • Lightweight yet strong build
  • Durable and sturdy 
  • Good checkered and straight patterned grip
  • It is known for its consistent accuracy with the adjustable sights


  • Lesser power cartridge
  • .223 Rem not recommended for big game

What Recent Buyers Report

This is one of the lightest models you will find on the market. And because of this feature, many hunters and users have loved it for how easy it is to carry. It’s very easy to maneuver with its lightweight yet durable design. Customers have also commented on its high-velocity bullets that cover long ranges. Also, they love the build quality and how it can be used in all conditions.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The feature that we find most impressive is its build quality. It has a sturdy, durable, and strong aircraft-grade build that is bound to last you a long time.

Who Will Use This Most 

This is a great rifle for professional hunters. Plus, we highly recommend this for use with more than just elk hunting. Moreover, it is also very easy to carry, so we think that hunters who are always on-the-go would find this very useful.

Bottom Line

To sum it up, this rifle stands out as the most versatile, yet durable, rifle out on the market. It is surely a go-to choice for beginners, as well as professionals. It also has a stainless steel barrel and stainless steel finish that just add to its greatness!

Can You Really Find a Quality Elk Hunting Rifle That’s Affordable?

Hunting is an expensive hobby to have in general, and you must spend a fortune on expensive gear and weapons. However, if you want to have this hobby on a budget, then don’t worry. It is possible. You can find some good elk hunting rifles on the market. These are rare, but still, they exist. All you must do is know how to look and what features and characteristics to focus on.

It is also amazing how these days we have some low budget rifles available that can shoot more accurately than most expensive rifles. They also offer reliable quality.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

The factors discussed in this section are immensely important. You must consider these factors before buying a rifle for elk hunting.


Make sure the rifle you are choosing is lightweight. A heavyweight unit will only become a hindrance for you. It will not only make hunting difficult but will also be difficult to carry and store.


The caliber is definitely the most important factor to consider. Firstly, the caliber of the rifle you are buying should be in accordance with the laws of your state. Second of all, the caliber will also impact your precision, accuracy, and overall performance. The caliber is basically the diameter of the gun barrel and can be inquired about from the seller. It also determines the power of your rifle, so choose wisely!


The range is basically how far you can shoot with it. The range you need will depend greatly on how you plan on using the rifle. For longer ranges and a more versatile rifle, we recommend rifles with ranges of at least 600 yards.


Price, range, and caliber are some of the most important factors to consider when buying the best elk hunting rifle. A versatile product will be suitable for various hunting occasions. A good hunting rifle is necessary to not only ensure safety but also to enhance your hunting experience! Therefore, before making an investment as important as this, these reviews of the best ones on the market will surely help you out!

People Also Ask

It is only natural to have questions regarding something that you are going to invest in, especially when your life might depend on it at some point. Hence, we have answered some top frequently asked questions. 

What Caliber Rifle For Elk Hunting?

Elk is a big animal, and it’s not easy to take one down without having the right caliber in your gun. Hence, for hunting elks, most experts and experienced individuals recommend .270 caliber rifles. They think that such a gun can efficiently and effectively take down an elk.

Do I Need a Sling on my Rifle?

Normally, it is advised that you have a sling on your rifle since it will provide you support. It is not necessary; however, in certain situations, like when you are firing around cover or extreme angles, a sling almost becomes essential. Hence, it is good to have it on your rifle.

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.