You would think, being an avid hunter and given the number kids as I’ve introduced to hunting and shooting, I would have discovered the .243 Winchester a lot sooner than I did. My path was rather long and circuitous. I was close a couple of times, but never realized what I was missing until a change in the hunting regulations forced me to shoot the .243.
The closest I came to the .243, before turning 37, was the rifle I used to shoot my first deer. It was the same diameter bullet, but it was chambered in 6mm Remington. For reasons unknown, and what some consider several marketing “hiccups,” the 6mm never came to much prominence.
Back to the .243
Necking down the case of the .308 Winchester made the .243 Winchester to a diameter of .243. By doing this, you gain a great deal of speed while at the same time producing less recoil. First introduced in 1955, it was chambered in Winchester’s Model 70 and Model 88 lever action. This peppy little caliber can be found or hand loaded with bullets in the 52- to 110-grain range with velocities from 2,900 to over 4,000 fps.
That’s a screaming-fast bullet. Thanks to the advancements in bullet manufacturing and materials, today’s .243 a darned-nice caliber for any and everything up to the largest deer. With the right shot placement, even an elk or two may be taken with the .243.
I received my first .243 by accident. I worked a weekend event for some clients and, knowing that I had young children and that I produced multiple youth events, they offered me a Weatherby Vanguard .243 youth model that came with two stocks—one shortened and one full size—to grow with the youth and a Leupold 3-9x scope that they had used that season as a demo gun.
I took the rifle to the range with my daughter, shot it a few times, and essentially designated it for the kid. Then, a change in Wisconsin’s hunting rules dictated that I “share a gun” with any youth I took hunting.
We shot three deer with the rifle that year. Since then, we have harvested another 6 more deer with it, including the two biggest-antlered and biggest-bodied deer any of our family members have shot, a dozen coyotes, a few woodchucks, and hundreds of holes in paper. Where the .243 really shines for me, however, is at the range.
I like to think that since I’ve grown older, I have learned from my errors and mistakes along the way. I would also like to believe I have become a little wiser in the process, and have finally overcome the “manly” notion that you need to shoot a big caliber to effectively kill big game. I can take my .243s to the range, easily fire 50 to 60 rounds at targets at varying distances and have exactly the same emotional impact (without as much of the recoil impact) as shooting any of my “big” rifles.
.243 Number Two
Until last year, the Weatherby Vanguard was my only .243. Due to my recently acquired fondness for the .243, that had to change. The opportunity presented itself, so I jumped at the chance to pick up a Savage Axis in .243. The Axis has a laminated, thumbhole stock. The cost? That may be the best part. I was able to trade some field and floater goose decoys I would no longer be needing since I now live in a desert for the rifle after a the proper paperwork was completed.
The previous owner had only fired a box or two of ammo through it and I don’t think he ever cleaned the bore. He just wiped it off after shooting. As a result, he was not getting the accuracy he wanted. After almost an hour of work, the bore shone like new and was ready to go.
The optics on the gun were not very good—a $50 3-9x of some non endemic manufacturer, but I took it to the range and fired about a box of ammo through it at 50 then 100 yards. I averaged about a 2-inch group. Fast-forward one year; I acquired a trial optic from a relative newcomer to the optics world, a Mod 5, 4-16x50mm, Wide angle scope from Riton Optics out of Tucson, Arizona and some UTG 30mm rings from the fine folks at Leapers, Inc. I immediately thought of the Savage and wondered what the scope would be like on it. The only challenge I had was that the scope was a bit short for the 2-piece mount on the gun. I solved that with a solid Picatinny rail mount, mounted the scope, and was off to the range.
A Pleasant Surprise
I received a pleasant surprise when shooting my Savage with that scope and something that I’ve never experienced before. Four different loads, all from different manufacturers with different bullet weights, printed within 1.5 inches of one another. The best 3-shot group printed just under .75 inch.
Yes, the .243 is an excellent hunting, varmint, and shooter’s rifle. I recommend you get your own. If you don’t have one already, you can’t have mine. The Savage and Riton optic combo, though… I’ll be relying on that combo for quite awhile.
Are you a .243 Winchester fan? Have you ever underestimated a caliber’s effectiveness? Which one? Share your answers in the comment section.
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