The .243 Winchester is a great multi-purpose hunting round.
Ask any hunter to name five popular deer hunting centerfire rifle calibers and odds are the .243 Winchester will be among the ones they name. Introduced back in 1955, countless hunters have used this round to put game on the table season after season. This round uses a .308 Winchester as a parent case and is necked down.
Shot placement is key, but the .243 Winchester is ideal for whitetails, mule deer and pronghorn antelope as well as varmints like coyotes. Bullet weights are generally light. Most hunters prefer 90 to 100-grain bullets for optimal performance, but this round is capable of muzzle velocities of over 3,300 feet per second, giving it excellent long-range capabilities.
Ammo for the .243 is also cheap and plentiful almost anywhere in the country. The low recoil of this rifle cartridge makes this an ideal starter gun for newer hunters or shooters with smaller frames that struggle with a more powerful caliber. Here are some top picks of .243 Winchester rifles to consider for the upcoming hunting seasons.
Winchester bolt action rifle Model 70
Some hunters may argue you can start and end the list here with the Winchester Model 70. After all, this was one of the two guns introduced with this round along with the lever action Model 88. This Win bolt action rifle has gone on to be a staple of deer camps across the country in the decades since. Not ones to rest on their laurels, Winchester has continually updated the design over the years. There is something for everyone here. Some, like the Model 70 Featherweight, come in at a trim 6.75 pounds and offer a classic satin walnut stock and blued steel finish. The company also offers variants like the "Extreme weather SS" with a stainless steel barrel and composite stock and the "Extreme Tungsten" with a synthetic stock and tungsten Cerakote finish. These guns generally have a 22-inch barrel length with a 1:10 rate of twist. The capacity is 5+1 rounds. This is a hunting rifle that will last a lifetime.
Remington Model 700 SPS
Another proven gun, the Model 700 is probably responsible for as many deer harvests as the Model 70. This is an updated version of the classic design. This gun features a 24-inch carbon steel barrel, a matte blued finish and a black synthetic stock. Remington gave the rifle better ergonomics by adding overmold grip panels. This rifle has a capacity of 4+1 rounds through the hinged floor plate magazine. It should be more than adequate for for most deer, antelope and varmint hunting applications here in the United States. This rifle is already drilled and tapped for mounting the optics of your choice. The Remington 700 gets high marks from users for their accuracy and reliability. This is a solid mid-priced option at about $500 if you can catch a sale at the right time.
Mossberg Patriot Synthetic Vortex Combo
For hunters looking to save a little time and money, the Mossberg is a solid rifle package to consider. This is simplicity and functionality at a great price point of under $500. The Patriot features a 22-inch, fluted barrel with a 1:10 rate of twist. It has a simple synthetic stock and matte blued steel finish. This rifle features Mossberg's adjustable LBA trigger system so you can lighten or increase the pull depending on your preferences. The whole package weighs about 7.5 pounds. One nice thing about this package is that it includes the solid, Vortex Crossfire II 3-9x40mm scope package that has become so popular for most deer hunting purposes. Once again, this rifle gets great online reviews for being durable, light and most importantly, accurate.
Savage Axis II XP
The good folks at Savage Arms have been coming out with tons of great rifle packages and variants to fit a variety of styles, needs and budgets. They offer a few different variants of the Savage Axis XP package and all fall in the $350 to $450 range for models chambered in .243 Winchester. These rifles feature the company's signature AccTrigger system that allows you to adjust the rifle's trigger pull with just a screwdriver and a few minutes of your time. For a few hundred dollars more, they also offer a variant with a stainless steel barrel and receiver that will stand up to the elements better. There is also a "compact" variant that offers a slightly shorter 20-inch barrel instead of 22. Different finishes like flat desert earth (FED) and a Mossy Oak Overwatch camo pattern are also available. These rifles are mounted with bore-sighted Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm scopes to help deer hunters get to the range quicker and sighted in faster. Now you can be in the woods and pursuing your favorite big game animals in no time.
Browning X-Bolt Hunter
The Browning name is synonymous with high grade firearms and we decided the elegant-looking X-Bolt Hunter was a must for this list. This rifle is slightly more expensive at around $800, but it has the classic look of an older hunting rifle combined with modern features that make it a joy to shoot. This rifle has a 22-inch barrel with a 10-inch twist rate. The barrel and receiver have a nice matte blued finish while the stock is Grade I satin black walnut. This is a look that will stand the test of time. This rifle is also light, coming in at just 6.5 pounds, making it ideal for a long spot and stalk hunt. The trigger is gold plated and the gun has a four round ammo capacity. It is also drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Winchester also makes left handed versions for all the southpaws out there who may find difficulty finding a quality rifle built for them.
It is hard to argue with a proven performance rifle name like Weatherby. Vanguard rifles chambered in .243 Winchester start at around $500 and go up from there depending on features. Weatherby says they guarantee sub-MOA groups while using factory loads. Something to consider for hunters who believe accuracy is everything. These guns feature a three-position safety so you can work the action with the safety engaged. An integral recoil lug is machined from one piece of metal and helps offer strength. These rifles use forend and pistol inserts made of synthetic material for a better grip in bad weather conditions. Speaking of the weather, Weatherby offers this in stainless variations for a little more durability. The .243 Winchester round already has a soft recoil due to the use of less powder and lighter bullets, but Weatherby's generous, low density recoil pads help soak up what little there is, making things easier for smaller framed shooters. Most users praise this gun for being incredibly flat shooting and for not being too picky on ammo choices.
Ruger American Rifle
There is no doubt Ruger has a huge hit with their American Rifle line. These things fly off gun store shelves everywhere for their reliability and accuracy at an incredible price point. Today we are recommending the standard model. This gun comes in a trim and light 6.2 pounds, which makes it a true joy to haul afield. This rifle comes with a picatinny scope rail for optics already installed. The cold hammer-forged, free-floating, 22-inch barrel has a 1:9 rate of twist. Ruger has built this gun with their "Marksman" adjustable trigger system that allows you to quickly adjust the trigger pull between three and five pounds. This rifle has a capacity of four rounds and the bolt's 70-degree throw is often praised by users for helping make the gun even easier to operate. At just $399, you are getting a lot for your money with Ruger.
Thompson Center Compass Rifle
While the T/C name is often associated with mid to high-end firearms, especially muzzleloaders, they have released some nice items for hunters on a budget. Notable here is the Compass rifle. At just $369, it is a gun that is sure to fit into any hunter's budget. This rifle using an aluminum pillar bedding system that allows the company to free-float the 22-inch barrel. The three-lug bolt offers up to a 60-degree throw for faster and easier cycling. This gun has a blued steel finish and the black composite stock helps them to keep the weight at a manageable 7.25 pounds. This rifle has a 5+1 capacity and is already drilled and tapped for a scope. This one gets great reviews for being a solid hunting rifle that will consistently put meat in the freezer without breaking your bank this season.