I've researched so much my head hurts. Looking for your thoughts on a longrange rig for elk, deer, and black bear. I've got a good idea of the drop and drift of the common longrange rounds, but want some feedback on rifle weight and cartridges. I apologize in advance for the long post, but I'll try to give you as much info about me in hopes that it will make it easier for you to provide advice.
Shooting: I'm an avid target shooter (in the coast mountains, not a member at a range). I have reloading equipment, but haven't started to use it yet. I have a Swaro LRF, spotting scope, etc. I am not wealthy but can save money to buy better equipment if necessary.
Current Rifles: I am assembling a 243 for target shooting. Its a Stevens action, SSS trigger, 28" Lothar LW-50 barrel, 1-in-7 twist. Stock is the new Choate tactical. I have 105gr AMAX bullets. Scope is a Bushnell 6-24x Tactical with 20MOA EGW rail. This will be my high volume target, varmint, etc. rifle. It is not finished yet.
I also have a CZ 453 22lr with 20MOA rail and 20x Super Sniper. I shoot this for cheap practice at 200-300 yards. Its actually a lot of fun, cheap, and allows me to work on wind drift at closer ranges. I previously owned a T3 in 300WSM. It weighed 8-1/2 lbs and it was ok to carry. I never killed an animal with it, but found it easy to hit milk jugs at 400+ yards. I sold this rifle.
I primarily hunt with a bow. What I'd like to have is a rifle for an occasional deer tag. This could be mule deer in Eastern Oregon, or blacktail across canyons into clearcuts on the coast. I see this being more longrange hunting (up to 1000 yards or more) as opposed to beating the brush. I will still need to hike many miles though for mulies.
I will also apply for draw-only elk tags. These would be some of the better elk hunts
in Oregon so I might need to beat a little more brush than when hunting with the deer tags. But, I still want to be able to make those cross canyon shots. If I get one of these primo elk tags, I'll need to hunt hard in whatever way necessary to fill it. If the elk are in the timber, I will need to chase them. If they are 800-1200 yards across a canyon, I will want to shoot one.
A lesser consideration is antelope, sheep, and goats. I'm less worried about those since I could use my 243 for antelope. Sheep and goats are once in a lifetime here so its not a major factor until I actually get one of these tags.
Get a 300 Win that weighs about 7-1/2 to 9lbs, put a 5-15x on it, shoot the 200gr Accubond, and be done with it. This would either be a Savage with sporter barrel, or their fluted tactical barrel. I could assemble a rifle like am doing with my 243, but am leaning towards getting the Accustock and Accutrigger for simplicity. I could get an XCR or Sendero, but would prefer to stick with Savage. I'm thinking that this 300 Win would allow me to beat some brush, be light enough to carry in Eastern Oregon, and allow me to shoot across canyons.
I am really interested in a 338 RUM due to the high BC and mass of the bullets. But packing one in the canyons would be a chore. Plus it wouldn't be great for the limited bushwacking I might have to do with a primo elk tag. Then there is the brake. Not a problem for longrange, but if something jumps up in front of me I wouldn't have time for hearing protection. I think that if I could afford 2 rifles, I would get a lightweight 300 Win plus a big 338. But since I can only afford one rifle, I'm thinking the 300 Win would be more versatile.
What would you guys do if you were me? Just get a big 338 and suck it up, or get a mid-weight 300 Win? I can only afford one right now. Go with the versatile 300 Win, or just skip it and get the heavy hitting 338? With a 2 year old son, and probably more on the way, this will be my last scoped rifle for awhile. My heart says 338, but my brain says 300. Maybe an XCR in 338 RUM, no brake, and just take the beating while practicing? Would a sporter barrel be a bad idea for any of these rifles?
I'd like to keep the rifle and scope costs reasonable (under $1k for each, preferably less) since this would not be my main shooting stick. Reloading cost doesn't bother me too much. I will shoot it enough to be proficient, but the 243 will be my high volume shooter. An added bonus to using the 200gr Accubond is that I could use the 115gr DTAC in my 243 and basically have the same BC and velocity from the two cartridges. Or should I not even bother with this thought?
I value the collective wisdom here more than any other source. If I'm headed down the wrong path, let me know.