WHile I am a big fan of the .338 caliber, the standard 7mm mag is fully capable of long range elk killing. A friend of mine used one to kill a cow elk this year at 755 yards. He used the 160 grain Nosler Accubond at a mv of 3000 fps. If you can get the 168 grain berger to shoot, it will even outdo the Accubond at long range.
As for barrel life, I agree with your approach. Practice is what makes a shooter into a precision shooter by natural evolution of the sport. A caliber that roasts barrels quickly is more of a pain nowadays than ever with the rising costs of brass, bullets, powder, and gasoline to and from the range. Once you get things figured out, it is nice to keep it that way for awhile before the next barrel is needed. A 7mm mag is really close to the same life as a 300 win mag so if you want to step up to the 300, don't worry about that.
Look into the Hollands QD muzzle brake
. It has no holes on the bottom and won't blow sand into your eyes. Plus they look good too.
The HS guns are ok but where you already have an action, I would build a semi-custom off of it and use a good smith to do the work. All gunsmiths are not created equal. Also ask your smith what he recommends for stocks and barrels as he will be able to point you the right direction and will know what companies are being punctual with their order filling at the time of your build.
Whether you're hunting together with your family or not doesn't really matter if you said this with intent to swap ammo. When you get a load dialed in for a gun, you probably won't want to shoot it in any other gun. One load, one gun. No substitute ammo for long range!
Hope this helps.