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The .243 Winchester

The .243 Winchester

This Enduring Cartridge Keeps Getting Better.

Hardly a month goes by without some magazine article or Internet chat room thumping the .243 Winchester for its inadequacies as a deer cartridge. Purists even nitpick the case’s short neck and sloping shoulder compared to the practically perfect 6mm Remington—a cartridge the .243 ran into the competitive dirt half a century ago. Yet out there in the real world, .243s just keep selling.

The .243 appeared in 1955, mostly thanks to Warren Page, the shooting columnist for Field & Stream and an avid wildcatter. Page convinced many American hunters that 6mm bullets were far superior to boring old .25-caliber bullets. Remington responded to the demand by chambering a necked-down .257 Roberts initially called the .244, while Winchester brought out a necked-down .308 they called the .243.

Anytime a rifle company answers public demand, it should heed the demand instead of thinking it knows better. Page promoted his 6mm wildcats as perfect “combination cartridges,” working great on both varmints and deer. Remington leaned toward the varmint side with the .244, fitting their Model 722 bolt action with a medium-heavy 26″ barrel with a 1:12″ rifling twist, and offering 75- and 90-grain factory loads. Winchester put the .243 in their new Model 70 Featherweight, a lighter version of the rifle many hunters considered the best bolt-action on earth, using a 1:10″ twist barrel and offering 80- and 100-grain loads.

Back then most hunters believed deer couldn’t be killed with bullets weighing less than 100 grains. As a result the .243 kicked the .244’s butt, even though the Model 70 Featherweight retailed for 35 percent more than Remington’s 722. Within a few years, even Remington had to start making .243 rifles and ammo.

Remington tried to revive the .244 in 1963 in their spiffy new Model 700 rifle, changing its name to 6mm Remington, with a 1:9″ twist and a 100-grain factory load. Interest revived, but not for long. These days Remington doesn’t chamber the 6mm in any regular-production 700.

I have a soft spot for the .243, since it cured me of a bad flinch caused by my 8th-grade purchase of a .308 Winchester Savage Model 99 with an aluminum buttplate. Before then I was a good shot with a .22 rimfire and my father’s Marlin .30-30, but weighed 112 pounds. The 99’s buttplate battered my skinny shoulder, and the resulting flinch wasn’t totally cured until several years later, after purchasing a slightly used Remington 700 .243.

A few months later I was hunting the edge of an eastern Montana plateau by tossing rocks in the brushy coulees. Eventually a 3×3 mule deer buck emerged from a patch of buffaloberry, stopping to look back over his shoulder at about 50 yards. The crosshairs of the scope rested steadily on his rib cage, and at the shot he flipped over on his side, instantly dead. Wow!

The .243 didn’t always electrocute deer (no cartridge does) but over the next few years 17 big-game animals fell to that rifle, the last a whitetail doe that ran off after a broadside rib shot. After searching for an hour without finding a trace, my older hunting companion convinced me the shot missed, and we headed home.
By John Barsness

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  1. I bought my first .243 bolt action in 1977, and second a bar in 1982, and they are prized possessions for a reason. They work very well for their intended purpose.All cal. have limitations, including a 50 Browning; We must know the limitations and puporse for whatever our pet cal. are. Those awaiting a “but” won’t find one here; the .243 win. works.

  2. D. Swann says:

    Although I bought my .243 to be a dual purpose rifle I’ve only used it for deer and target shooting. With the 95 gr Nosler Partition and H4831 it shoots sub .5″ groups and has always given me 1 shot = venison in the freezer. It shoots the Sierra 70 gr Matchking with Varget in .3″ groups. It’s easy and economical to reload and very easy on the shoulder during long range sessions. No complaints, would purchase again.

  3. I would not call it a “women and kids” rifle either, although I got mine when I was 12 to start hunting in Montana. Using good bullets was always paramount, whether I used it for Prarie Dogs in the summer, to Coyotes, to hunting in the fall. Mine was a Mossberg, and it is still going strong. I took many a Mule Deer, Whitetail (islands in the Missouri outside Townsend), Antelope, and yes, even several Elk (up Deep Creek Canyon). Currently it is working duty on a neighbor girl that could not handle the .270 her father got her. Her first season she got her Elk, Deer, and Antelope with that rifle. Her father was amazed at the shooting she could do with it. I will have to do some experimenting when I get it back as we have always used IMR 4064 in it. Maybe I can find a better powder. :D

  4. mike dean says:

    I purchased u used Remington 788 in 243 caliber for $45.00 in 1980
    I myself have killed over 35 deer over the years and this rifle has accounted for at least that many moore with my three sons all starting with this rifle.A couple of years back it became unsafe but with the addition of a timne trigger and a boyd’s stock, I used it to anchor four deer, during the last season both whitetail and mule deer. With 95 grain Federal Fusion I had complete penitration even at a mule deer at over 400 measured yards.

  5. i have a 243 bolt action win, 26 in. barrel, 4-12 power scope. i have outshot many a rifle with this gun.i took a deer in the white patch of the neck useing 80 grain barnes at 1860 yards just 2 years ago. and many deer kills at just over 1500 yards. but i know my gun very well and pride myslf in long range shots, many that have taken me up to 45 minutes to take waiting for the perfect conditions. they are just one great gun!!

    • 1860 yards? 420 feet over a mile. That’s a long shot

    • The ballistic coefficient of that bullet is .331,with a muzzle velocity of 3500 FPS, and a zero of 300 yards the bullet drop would be 257″ below point of aim @ 1000 yds. The bullets energy 242 ft lbs. @1000 yds. My ballistic calculator would not go past that range. I’m very impressed with your marksmanship. You should seriously consider a long range shooting career.

      • I smell bull dust here!!! I own a .243 win. I also shot professionally for 6 1/2 years. At 500 metre fly competition you cannot see the fly with that power scope. You would need to be hitting something consistently that you cannot physically see. This mans judgement of distance is 1000 yards out.

  6. Mike Collins says:

    I’ve used a Model 88 Winchester 243 for over 40 years. I’ve never walked as much as five steps from any game I’ve shot. Most deer just fold over. Moreover, it literally is a one shot kill. 20 bullets gets me 20 deer. I used to hunt Texas and needed the long range, but now hunt in forests that rarely allow a shot of over 150 yards. I feel you can either buy to impress friends or put meat in the freezer and a trophy on the wall. A .243 does exactly that!

  7. kennedy says:

    hi, i am a woman, i hunted with the 270 win for years killed my first whitetail buck with it. but i never liked the recoil or the weight of the gun. i went through many rifles after that one, always shying away from the .243win, was always told even from childhood it was to small for deer etc. well this past christmas i finally broke down and got a mossburg maverik with the black synthetic stock. first day out i downed 2 large does with it, both one shot kills. last day of season i took a large bodied 7 point also a 1 shot kill. I am in love with the .243win its light, dosnt hurt my shoulder, and it lays the smack down on deer.I am extremly impressed with it.

  8. Johan Ackron says:

    For over 30 years I have successfully used the .243 Win (100gr 4@ bullets) as a meat rifle on thin skinned African game in the springbok to impala/bushbuck class, with a few selected opportunity shots on kudu thrown in. A great cartridge for responsible, competent hunters that understand its limitations and work with its undeniable strengths. It will still be around a very long time I hope!

  9. A good quality 100gr Sp 6mm bullet at 2850-3000fps is proven medium size game getter , results compareable to the 270 win..or the 6.5×55

    • I have owned a Remington Mountain Rifle in .243 for 15 years. I bought it to hunt feral goats in SA, then I moved to Qld. Now I use 100gr Remington ammo and have taken dozens of large boars with it, I always aim to hit em right on the shoulder or anywhere in the head, neck area, with a devastating effect, they go down instantly. I have also shot a handful of scrub bulls too, again one shot kills, but I shoot them square in the head or neck. I am under no illusion that the 243 is not the ideal gun for dangerous game like scrub bulls, but with careful stalking and aiming, not too many animals could stand up to a heavily constructed 100 gr bullet straight into the head

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