Re: ONE GUN
I just went through this process again, and I think about everybody does from time to time. I do not, however, have just one gun and I think there is no "perfect" choice for just one gun.
That said, I chose the .338 Win. Mag. The main reason is that I may be required to shoot across a clearcut for moose, maybe three- or four-hundred yards. I also hunt black bear and want to be able to take an opportunity for elk or big bears if I get a chance.
I also hunt deer in tight brush, and the .338 is not the best choice, but it works. I always take along a Marlin lever-action 30/30, but it always stays on the rack at camp, because I worry about getting a long shot at a trophy and being under-gunned.
A .338 bullet is pretty expensive for prairie dogs, but if you use it for that the little buggers will find themselves sitting around the card table in prairie dog heaven not knowing how they got there.
Your bullet choices range from 160 gr. to 300 gr., with speeds available around the 3,000 fps mark for even the heaviest.
Hard-hitting, flat-shooting, accurate, easy to find ammunition, enough gun for anything in North America.
The only drawback I hear people talk about is recoil. For me, it's not an issue. I can easily shoot 40 rounds in a session without punishing my shoulder. I don't know if it's me, the gun or the pad or the load. In fairness, I let a friend shoot it once, and he doesn't care to again.
I shoot a Browning A-bolt Stalker II with a Pachmyer recoil pad, usually 250 gr. Sierras with 65 gr. of IMR 4350. 65 grains is low, but it's what my gun likes on the target range.