There was an email I got recently from a reader that stood out. The question was a great topic to cover and I thought I could use it as column.
The question came from a grandfather who is taking his granddaughter deer hunting. According to the email, she has hunted with him on several occasions and used his .243 rifle. She apparently shoots the rifle well!
The email went on to say that he wants to buy her a rifle for an upcoming birthday and wondered if a .243 would be a good choice for a young lady. I think it would be an excellent choice, not only for his granddaughter, but for most shooters.
I think a bolt-action .243 may be one of the best all-around rifles for a Nebraska hunter. I’ll go one step further and say that if I had to go through life with only one rifle (God forbid!); the .243 would probably be it!
The .243 cartridge was first introduced in 1955 for Winchester's Model 70 bolt-action sporting rifle and quickly gained popularity among sportsmen worldwide. Today, almost every major manufacturer offers rifles chambered in .243. The cartridge is based on a necked down .308 case and it is known for its accuracy, flat trajectory, and relatively mild recoil. Mild recoil is why so many shooters like it.
In a testament to the round’s accuracy and lethality, the .243 has even gained a role in some non-sporting, non-civilian applications. Bolt-action rifles chambered for the .243 have been used by Los Angeles Police Department SWAT teams, but the .308 has pretty well become the standard for law-enforcement.
Originally, the .243 was designed as a varmint round. Shooters recognized the round’s potential and began using it on medium to large game such as turkey, whitetail deer, mule deer and pronghorn. The .243 has even performed well on wild hogs, black bear and caribou. However, due to the smaller caliber bullet used and basic physics of mass and energy, I believe bigger game should be better left to bigger bullets.
I have hunting partners who have used the .243 for years and have been very happy with the cartridge. Most of them have had bolt-action rifles, but there were a couple single shot rifles in the mix. Regardless of the rifle’s action, the .243 did its intended job.
If you look at the specifications on this cartridge you’ll see that a variety of bullet weights are available. Commercially loaded .243 ammunition is available in bullet weights ranging from 55 grains to 105 grains.
My favorite load for deer hunting is the Federal 100 grain, Sierra Soft-Point Boattail bullets. The muzzle velocity for a round like this is about 3,000 feet per second from a 24-inch barrel. I’ve made shots out to 569 yards (verified by a laser range finder) on deer with a .243 and it is like they are struck by lightning! I am amazed at the energy still left in a .243 at these kinds of distances!
I think the .243 would make an excellent first rifle for a young hunter…boy or girl. I will recommend that you look at the Savage Model 110 or Axis rifles. They may be the best value on the market and they are very accurate! I sure like mine! My Savage 110 .243 is what I have with me in deer camp this week.