7mm PRC: The Best Caliber for Elk Hunting
What is the best caliber for elk hunting? Though this might be contentious, we are going to make a bold claim. We believe the new top-dog caliber for elk is the 7mm PRC from Hornady. This new loading from Hornady does a lot of things really well. We’ll get into this, and why we believe this is the premier elk cartridge, but first let’s take a step back and clarify why cartridge selection is so important.
Selecting the right cartridge to match both the game and the environment (distance, angle, and potential windage) is important. Your bullet has to be able to reach the target, accurately enough to hit a vital area, and with sufficient energy remaining to cleanly take the animal. Accuracy out to a couple hundred yards is a pretty easy task and one that just about any big-game cartridge should be capable of. Accuracy beyond that – indeed out to several times that distance – and at common elk hunting ranges becomes more difficult, and caliber can make a huge difference.
The bullet must also arrive with enough energy left over to punch through hide, bone, and muscle and reach vital organs ensure a clean, humane kill. It must be able to penetrate deeply enough and do enough damage, killing the animal as quickly and as painlessly as possible. On larger animals like elk, a larger, more powerful cartridge is needed than the calibers use to take smaller game like whitetail.
The brand new 7mm PRC brings a lot to the table. It boasts plenty of power, is incredibly flat-shooting, and is all but impervious to the wind making it an ideal long-range elk cartridge. Let’s take a look at this heavy-hitter.
Hornady 7mm PRC
The 7mm PRC (PRC stands for Precision Rifle Cartridge) is definitely the new kid on the block, having just been released on October 26, 2022. Touted by Hornady as “a 21st Century 7mm Magnum,” the 7mm PRC boasts magnum ballistics without some of the downsides of true, belted-magnum cartridges. Notably, the lack of a belt makes this cartridge much easier for reloaders to work with. It fits into a standard long-action gun, and it splits the difference pretty neatly between the 6.5 PRC and the 300 PRC.
In continuing the comparison with the 7mm Remington Magnum, the 7mm PRC has a shorter case, but the same overall length. This means that the bullets are much longer. As a result, they have heavier, have more energy to expend on target, and have a higher ballistic coefficient. Though the case is shorter, it also much fatter, allowing more case capacity, which lets the shorter case bat in the same weight class as 7mm RemMag and .300 WinMag.
The 7mm PRC comes in three factory loads from Hornady. They consist of a 180-grain ELD-Match, a match load with an eye-popping BC of .816. The next bullet, a 175-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter is probably going to get all the attention from hunters, and leaves the muzzle at an advertised 3,000 fps. The 160-grain CX Outfitter load is tipped with a copper alloy bullet. All of Hornady’s 7mm PRC ammo is loaded with Hornady’s temperature-stable, magnum-speed propellants which should ensure maximum consistency, shot to shot.
And that consistency is rewarded by this inherently accurate cartridge. Add this with the extremely tight chamber tolerances of the 7mm PRC and you have a seriously accurate rifle/cartridge combination that is insanely efficient and brings the power.
Hornady 7mm PRC Specs
The 7mm PRC has a case length of 2.28 inches and an overall cartridge length of 3.34 inches. This fits within a standard, long-action receiver using a .540 magnum bolt face. The 7mm uses long, skinny bullets and requires a relatively fast twist rate to stabilize them: the standard twist rate for 7mm PRC is 1:8. With a SAAMI max pressure of 65,000 psi, the 7mm PRC pushes bullets out of the muzzle at 2,900 to 3,000 feet per second.
The older 7mm RemMag headspaces off the belt at the base of the cartridge. The newer PRC cartridge conspicuously lacks a belt, so it headspaces off the shoulder. This should yield better concentricity, resulting in overall better accuracy. The lack of a belt should result in longer case life, too.
7mm PRC: Pros and Cons
Let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of this cartridge, starting with the benefits. The first, most obvious benefit is that the 7mm PRCO delivers high performance at long range. – this round is a powerhouse. It maintains over 2,000 ft-lbs of energy out to around 700 yards with any of the three bullets currently loaded for it. It should also maintain 1,000 ft-lbs out past 1,000 yards. That’s plenty of power to cleanly take elk at significant ranges. Smaller long-range game like Dall sheep and pronghorn should beware, too.
The 7mm PRC also boasts excellent accuracy. The long, heavy-for-caliber bullets (in 160, 175, and 180-grains) offer Magnum ballistics out the non-belted cartridge. This creates a very flat shooting round, with bullet drop of less than 20 inches at 400 yards. 7mm PRC bullet shrugs off wind deflection easily. The long, skinny bullets have an incredibly high ballistic coefficients of up to .796 with 180-grain pills.
Now let’s get into the cons of the 7mm PRC. First, it’s not best choice for recoil-sensitive shooters – recoil with the 7mm PRC is stout. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of what you’d get with a .300 WinMag. Recoil can be tamed to a large degree with a muzzle brake or suppressor, but it’s definitely something to be aware of. This is despite the fact that it goes into a long action, which adds a few ounces to the rifle, another potential downside – if you’re looking for an ultralight hunting rifle it’s probably not going to be chambered in 7mm PRC.
Next, ammo is expensive. At the time of this writing a box of cartridges retails for around $60, or about $3 per cartridge. That’s not massively more expensive than 7mm Remington Magnum, but it’s certainly not cheap. And that’s if you can find ammo in the first place. Ammo for the 7mm PRC is practically non-existent right now. Of course, that will change as it gains widespread adoption, which we believe it will, but that may take some time. The 300 PRC had a four-year head start on the 7mm PRC and ammo for it is still about as scarce as hen’s teeth.
Countering that last con, the 7mm PRC should be a favorite of handloaders. The accuracy potential should be enticing in its own right. In conjunction with the cartridge and factory ammunition, Hornady has also released a line of reloading supplies including shell plates, dies, gauges, and cases.
Shop Red Hawk Rifles for Quality Rifle Parts and Accessories
If you’re thinking about getting into a rifle chambered in 7mm PRC (and we think you should be), you can buy a complete rifle chambered in 7mm PRC. The Proof Research Elevation Hunter and Mountain Tactical rifles will both soon be available in the hot, new, 7mm PRC, directly from Red Hawk Rifles. Alternatively, you can save some serious cash and re-barrel your existing 7mm RemMag or .300 WinMag. Red Hawk Rifles carries Bartlein barrels, in both full stainless and carbon-fiber, and the appropriate twist of 1:8. Both will squeeze the maximum possible accuracy out of this amazing new elk round.
Of course you can also build a rifle from the ground up. Red Hawk Rifles not only carries barrels, but also receivers and receiver parts, stocks and chassis systems, bottom metal and magazines, trigger assemblies, optics, and more. Red Hawk Rifles is your one-stop-shop for precision rifles and precision rifle parts, and we are wholeheartedly embracing Hornady’s new 7mm PRC!