Can you kill an Elk with a .270? Yes, you can under certain conditions. If the Elk was standing 50-yards away from you, perfectly broadside without it knowing you were there. But that is an unlikely or rather uncommon scenario.
Is the .270 the ideal caliber for hunting Elk? That question will need to be answered in depth in order to obtain the correct answer.
Parameters For Success
The rule of thumb for the minimum amount of kinetic energy needed to kill a mature elk is 1500 ft-lbs. The size of the “kill zone” on a bull elk ranges from 16 to 18 inches. Essentially then, any caliber and bullet capable of producing the required kinetic energy with a minimum drop of around 12 inches at specific distances should be enough to kill an elk.
What does the .270 need to achieve for it to be deemed “suitable for elk”? These requirements are listed below and will be used as the basis for determining the effectiveness of the .270 caliber on elk.
- Achieve deep penetration through both lungs
- The bullet needs to travel fast and flat enough to minimize trajectory, holding a kinetic energy above 1500 ft-lbs.
- Balance both internal and external ballistics for minimal recoil that does not affect the hunter’s ability
- Must hold accuracy to within an 8-inch radius of center out to 300-yards
- The bullet must achieve sufficient expansion upon impact, which is done at a velocity above 2000 fps
.270 Winchester’s Capabilities
With the requirements laid out, we can therefore further analyze the capabilities and ballistics of the .270 to produce a reasonable conclusion.
- Bullet Diameter: 0.277 in (7.0 mm)
- Neck Diameter: 0.308 in (7.8 mm)
- Shoulder Diameter: 0.441 in (11.2 mm)
- Base Diameter: 0.470 in (11.9 mm)
- Case Length: 2.540 in (64.5 mm)
- Overall Length: 3.340 in (84.8 mm)
- Maximum Pressure (C.I.P): 65000 psi
Ballistics – From Three Recommended Hunting Brands
Velocity (Feet Per Second)
Energy (Ft. Pounds)
Trajectory (Bullet Drop in Inches)
.270 vs .308 For Elk
Both calibers are proven performers in the hunting field and trusted the world over by outdoorsman. What needs to be determined here though, is if the choice lay before you of a .308 or a .270 and you were heading out on an elk hunt, which one should you pick up.
Right away the most obvious difference between the two calibers is the size of the bullet cartridges. Although both have the same rim diameter of .473”, the .270 has a significantly longer case length of 2.54” versus the 2.015” of the .308 and an overall length of 3.34” against the 2.81” of the .308 cartridge. But cartridge length doesn’t kill animals, the ballistics do.
The .270 is in essence a necked down .30-06 case designed to shoot smaller diameter bullets with a higher velocity, flatter trajectory, and less recoil than the .30-06 Springfield. Remember the .308 is a scaled down .30-06 so the .270 has the same advantages over the .308 as it does over the .30-06.
The smaller diameter of the .270 makes for a lighter bullet and hence produces more velocity when compared to the .308 with a similar weighted bullet. This means a higher ballistic coefficient for the .270 but the .308 can use heavier bullets.
Because both calibers can fire 150-grain bullets a good comparison on energy and trajectory can be made. The difference in energy between the two calibers, both firing 150-grain bullets of Federal factory ammo, was 144 ft-lbs. The .270 producing a greater kinetic energy.
The trajectory was almost equal out to 300-yards but the .308 dropped only 1.4” at 400-yards and 3.6” at 500-yards more. Which is not that great of a difference, but the difference between a 130-grain .270 cartridge and 180-grain .308 cartridge was much greater, with the .308 dropping 16” more at 500-yards.
A bigger bullet, with all other things being equal, will make a bigger hole, cause more tissue damage, result in more blood loss and ultimately penetrate deeper. The .308 has this advantage over the .270 in that it can be loaded with heavier bullets.
Both calibers are extremely popular amongst hunters and because of this there are several well-respected gun manufacturers that produce rifles in these calibers. Remington, Browning, Kimber, Mossberg, Nosler, Ruger, Savage, Thompson Center, Tikka and Weatherby Vanguard are available in both calibers.
Although barrel lengths do vary with each manufacturer and model, generally the rifles chambered in .270 Winchester tend to be longer and heavier than the .308. Having a shorter, lighter rifle is an important factor to consider on some hunts.
If the hunter is looking for a flat shooting caliber with good energy and speed of distances around 400-yards, then the .270 would be the obvious choice. If going after larger game is the preference and the hunter is looking for real stopping power within 300-yards, then the .308 would be the go-to caliber.
Best .270 Rounds
The ideal .270 round for hunting elk would be one that meets all the criteria listed in the parameters for success as well as the minimum recommended kinetic energy for hunting elk.
From the ballistics tables mentioned above, the ideal round would be the 140-grain Federal Premium Vital Shok, purely because of its strong kinetic energy values at greater distances.
The only concern would be the trajectory of the round at distances greater than 300-yards. It is important that the hunter be efficient and competent in compensating for these large drops when taking a shot on an elk that is further than 300-yards.
Is the .270 an ideal caliber for elk? The ideal caliber certainly not, but is the .270 ok for elk? Yes, it is.
All .270 rounds mentioned are in fact suitable for hunting elk but under various situations and that is what should be considered by the hunter when deciding on a round for their rifle.
If they intend on restricting their hunting shots to within 200-yards, then most .270 rounds would be ok for elk, and it merely comes down to practice and working on being accurate with their shot placement. The further out the hunter is intending to take the shot, then need to pay special attention to what that round can do at distances further than 300-yards.