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When it comes to deer hunting, there are literally hundreds of different rifle calibers that you can choose from. Some are extremely powerful with plenty of recoil, while others are on the lower end and much easier to shoot. Among all the popular choices, the .243 remains one of the most influential and comfortable deer rifle calibers out there.
So whether you’re looking for a specific caliber that has ammo commonly available or a new deer rifle that your significant other or kids can shoot, the .243 might be just what you are looking for. Here’s everything that you need to know!
The .243 has plenty of history to prove its worth. First introduced by Winchester in 1955, it was designed on the concept of necking down the casing of the popular .308 Winchester. But, unlike the .308, this caliber ended up having much milder recoil while still having a flat trajectory and excellent accuracy.
Through the years, the .243 hasn’t seen many changes. You’re easily able to find just about any brand or model of a rifle chambered in this caliber, and ammunition is even easier to find. The .243 typically shoots bullets that range from 55 to 105 grains depending on what you’re hunting and your preferences. I love using smaller-grain bullets (like 55 grains) for predator hunting while sizing up to 95 or 105-grain bullets for larger game like deer.
With plenty of versatility and mild recoil, the .243 has been one of the most popular deer hunting calibers out there. Opponents of this caliber argue that it is not powerful enough, has limited stopping power, and is too susceptible to wind drift. While it’s true the .243 is not as big or powerful as other popular deer calibers like the .308, .30-06, or even the 6.5 Creedmoor, it’s still plenty to kill a deer as long as you’re using the right ammo!
As I mentioned earlier, the .243 functions perfectly as both a coyote rifle and a deer hunting rifle. But ammunition selection is everything. Coyotes can be killed with just about anything, although I’ve found the smaller bullets do less damage to the pelts. That being said, I wouldn’t want to take any chances on deer and would size up for a deer hunt.
95-grain bullets are often the most popular, with 100 or 105 right behind. But just as important as size is the type of bullet you’re shooting. I’ve had great success with both soft points and ballistic tips, although any high-quality bullet from a reputable manufacturer is sure to quickly and effectively put down a deer.
Because the .243 isn’t quite as powerful as other calibers, shot placement can be crucial during a hunt. As with any rifle or weapon, you should be patient and wait for a clean, broadside shot within a reasonable distance that you feel confident at. With this in mind, there’s no reason to doubt the .243 in putting the venison in the freezer. If you do your part, this caliber will definitely do its part when needed.
Now let’s get to the question everyone has been wondering. We know the .243 is a little on the lighter side, but has an excellent trajectory and is a very flat shooter. So how far can it shoot and what’s the maximum range a hunter should expect? Well, it depends.
Standard ammo out of the .243 will give you somewhere around 2900 to 3100 feet per second of speed depending on the load and bullet weight. These faster speeds are what give the .243 its flat trajectory and less bullet drop compared to other calibers. But just how far should you be shooting at a deer?
To best answer that question, it will come down to the specific bullet and load that a person is using. Everything from the bullet weight, construction, and ballistic characteristics will play a part in the max range of a gun. For example, a lighter bullet will be faster and shoot flatter, but heavier bullets will provide better penetration and energy to put down an animal.
With that in mind, most hunters would agree that the max effective range of a .243 for deer hunting will be anywhere from 200 to 400 yards.
Other external factors will also come into play, from the wind, weather, and shooting position. You also have to consider the skill level of the shooter, so really the maximum effective range will vary from person to person and situation to situation. In my experience, the .243 excels as a rifle for new shooters, women, or children thanks to its mild recoil and shots shouldn’t be taken too far anyways.
So is the .243 the perfect deer caliber? Honestly, I don’t think it is. But there are so many things that it does right that I think it deserves a place in every hunter’s gun safe. From the mild recoil and versatility of a deer/coyote rifle to its decades of proven history, there’s really no denying how influential this caliber has been (and continues to be).
What it lacks in power and penetration (similar to the 223 caliber), it makes up for with everything else. While my old .243 isn’t my first pick when headed out on a deer hunt these days, it’s almost always my go-to when my wife or kids have a deer hunt lined up. And to this day, it has yet to let us down.
For more than half a century, deer hunters everywhere have often leaned towards their reliable .243 when heading out to the woods. So whether you’re a veteran hunter or a complete beginner, the .243 can be the perfect choice for a successful deer hunt. Just don’t forget to get plenty of practice, understand the rifle’s limitations, and prioritize safe shooting practices and you will not be disappointed with your .243 deer hunting rifle!
Additionally, we have a great blog about the Best Hunting Clothing Brands!