I am going to *try* to go on an elk trip in '14 at the earliest...I spoke to a guide in NM who was pushing me away from anything below a 300 mag / SAUM / WSM. Most shots would be 350 to 400 max. Have never hunted elk so only know what I read online, and of course you never know who to trust online.
I had my mind made up on a 280 or 280AI custom rifle
and am in the process of ordering one, but this made me rethink that since I am spending a few $k on a gun. I mostly deer hunt so if I do buy an elk gun it would not get used a ton. Elk and maybe one day moose would be the exceptions to my normal game needs, but don't want to get there and wound a trophy, especially if the trip cost a pretty penny. This would be a trophy trip to the Gila so chance of a big 340" or better is a possibility.
Another option is to get 2 guns...the nice thing about guns is that they can last forever if taken good care of, so while I may not use a 300 every year, it would last for a good long while.
Would a 280 or 280ai be ok in your opinion, as long as loaded with a good 175 partition or other quality bullet (don't think I would need a LR bullet for that range).
I know shot placment is key, but also know not every shot ends up where planned and some room for error can be helpful. I also know everyone has a different opinion, and that this guide's opinion is not gospel, though he is very informed.
So, wanted to get thoughts from folks on the above.