Why not try my pen at a subject that has gotten almost as much press as any American president? For me there are three simple factors to picking an effective elk rifle: the action, the caliber and the shooter.
The action should be mechanical and reliable. This means a bolt action rifle, however the pump and lever action qualify in spades and although largely forgotten the pump action delivers fast, sure performance without taking the rifle off target. Great once the action starts. The reliable bolt gets my nod for consistency, accuracy and because of the larger pressures it can handle without skipping a beat. The single shot rifle, while absolutely capable, skips a beat on the reload which is all important once the first shot is fired.
The .270 by consensus is the low end size for a reliable elk rifle. Loaded with good bullets and great for smaller framed shooters, it does the job well. Elk however aren’t low end on toughness. I’d look bigger. To me the best elk rifles start with the 7mm Remington Magnum and up through the .338 magnum. This includes the venerable 30-06 and .300 Winchester magnum and it’s .300 variations. I include these veterans as standards and all of the similarly classed newer short magnums as a group. While the short magnums are fun and new, their performance is not different enough to displace the veterans. My assumption in neglecting to discuss the custom bullets and African game rifles is that anything more powerful is overkill although competent to perform.
The final factor and by no means the least important is personal preference. I have read and spoken with many people who deer hunt with a .338 magnum and agree that it’s omnipotent in all deer hunting situations. Will the rifle be used for other purposes such as deer, caribou or moose? .338 would sure make a good start for an Alaska bush rifle! If the shooter is of smaller frame size, the .30-06 would get my full approval. My son and wife both handle the 06 with no problems. My rifle is a M77 7mm Remington Magnum. It kicks enough that I don’t shoot it just for fun often, but sighting in is no problem. Downrange the results are satisfying and consistent which is what I would also expect from the .300s and the .338.
Pick your rifle and shoot it until you have the confidence to hit a milk jug at 350 yards every time. Then it’s time to head for the ridges and deep canyons with an expectation of success.