Ever wondered why the six-time national champion John Whidden stuck with his .243 rifle for all long-range competitions? The answer is because he knows that the cartridge was designed specifically for this type of sport. Along with the .243 Win comes a flatter trajectory than other cartridges and can reach out to 500 yards with accuracy.
The bullet energy of the cartridge is also higher than many other rounds, so it offers more power at longer distances. One of the best features about the .243 Win is that it’s not too expensive while still being accurate and powerful enough for long-distance shots!
This blog will explain why lots of people proudly say: “my first rifle was a .243 rifle” and the crucial features that make the .243 Winchester long-range shooter’s favorite.
.243 Winchester history
The .243 Winchester cartridge was first introduced in 1955. While it is not one of the most popular cartridges today, it has a long history that makes for an exciting story.
What caliber is a .243? A .243 Win (or the family of cartridges it’s a part of) is a highly effective caliber for long-range shooting. Many shooters use this caliber for hunting purposes, as well as target practice at 300+ yards.
The .243 Winchester cartridge comes from necking down the .308 Winchester to take a small-caliber bullet instead of using a rifle round as many other calibers do. The original idea behind this design choice was commercial requirements due to ammunition companies needing more efficient ways of packaging smaller rounds. Still, hunters were quick to notice its benefits as well and began buying rifles chambered for this new standard quickly once manufacturers started producing them.
Today, the .243 Win is extremely popular and used by hunters worldwide on a variety of game, from prairie dogs to large elk and moose with ease. This is due to its flat shooting nature and high velocities. It continues to be one of Winchester’s most successful calibers even decades after it was produced as their first necked-down cartridge of this style.
.243 Win specs
The .243 Winchester cartridge features a case and overall length of 2.045 inches (51.9 mm) and 2.7098 inches (68.83 mm), respectively. It shares the same diameter bullet and shoulder angle as the 222 Remington Magnum but differs from it in that it has a shorter neck and longer overall length.
It can hold upwards of 43 grains of powder, generating an average muzzle velocity of 2,960 feet per second with 100-grain bullets.
Since its introduction, it has remained one of the more valuable varmints and target shooting cartridges available. Other important .243 Win specs include:
- Bullet diameter .243 in (6.2 mm)
- Rim diameter .473 in (12.0 mm)
- Shoulder diameter .454 in (11.5 mm)
- Base diameter .471 in (12.0 mm)
- Case capacity 53.7 to 54.8gr H2O
- Rifling twist 1-10 to 1-8
- Neck diameter .276 in (7.0 mm)
What is the .243 Win Good for?
The .243 Win has been adopted by benchrest and high-precision target shooters and became very popular among survivalists, long-range shooters, and hunters because of its versatility. It generally outperforms the famous .308 Winchester while using less powder, propelling bullets faster with less recoil; this makes it suitable for use on mid-sized game animals up to about 300 pounds at short ranges.
In benchrest shooting, where the goal is to wring out every bit of accuracy from a rifle, .243 Winchester is usually the cartridge of choice. .243 bullets typically weigh between 80 and 120 grains (5.8 and 8.4 g) with a 1:10 or 1:9 rifling twist rate.
While the .243 WSSM has a short, fat case and powder column that can be loaded to produce pinpoint accuracy at velocities up to about 3,740 feet per second (1,140 m/s), bullets for it are limited to around 90 grains (6 g) because of the pressure curve on the shoulder of the cartridge case.
The .243 has less drop at long range than larger cartridges such as the 6mm Remington or .26 Nosler but falls short of the .243 WSSM in velocity and energy by about 100 to 150 feet per second (30 to 45 m/s) and 25-50 foot-pounds (35-65 N·m), respectively. This limits the long-range performance of the cartridge in some rifles, but it’s still quite popular with shooters looking for a flat shooting round with good accuracy potential from an AR platform rifle.
It’s so versatile that more than one hunting bullet weight is available from major manufacturers. In factory ammunition, ballistic coefficients vary from around 0.240 to above 0.395. Most weights are popular or common construction, such as bonded core soft point or homogenous copper alloy hollow point designs.
Can .243 Win Be Used for Long-Range Shooting?
The .243 Win cartridge is an excellent option for hunters and shooters who want to make long-range shots. The round came as a match cartridge, but it has been used successfully in hunting since the early 1960s. It features low recoil and muzzle blast, making it an excellent choice for those just starting out with shooting at long distances.
Though initially developed as a match cartridge, the .243 Winchester has found its place in hunters’ hearts across the U.S. Its ability to make fast, accurate shots at long-range appeals to both target shooters and hunters alike. However, the small caliber belies its capabilities, which are similar to that of many larger calibers.
With relatively less expensive rounds and rifles that are easy to handle, it is an ideal choice for any level shooter who wants to take their abilities out past 300 yards (0.27 km). When paired with the right bullets, you can extend your effective shooting distances even further than this if you have the skill.
A well-placed shot will take down most game animals available in North America within 500 yards (0.46 km). Still, this round shines for its ability to efficiently take down the game at further distances, especially when coupled with the best scope for .243.
The .243 Win is a tried and true cartridge that hunters have used for decades. It offers higher velocity than most previous rifle models and enough guns to stop most big-game animals in their tracks. So if you’re looking for a rifle that can shoot accurately at long ranges without scaring away your prey, then this might be the perfect rifle for you!