.243 Winchester
Lord Mountbatten, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Why the .243 Winchester is the Best Deer Caliber of All Time

As hunting season approaches, we look toward our gun cabinets and wonder if we're using the best deer rifle. All the old favorites are usually there, like the classic Weatherby, Remington, and Ruger rifles. We go back and forth on what's better between a .270 Winchester, a .308 Winchester, and a .30-06 Springfield. However, one bolt-action seems to find its way into more hunters' hands than any other caliber. This hunting rifle may be smaller than most, but it packs a punch on whitetail. If you haven't already figured it out, I'm referring to the .243 Winchester. As far as deer hunting calibers go, the .243 rifle is light, small, and perfect for beginner deer hunters. However, this rifle caliber doesn't just stop there.

Big-game hunters in the western states use this rifle round on mule deer and even bears. It is considered one of the most accurate rifles at under 200 yards. However, that statistic sometimes overshadows that this caliber can still reach and hit targets at long distances, given its velocity and low recoil. Some hunters feel that the .243 rifle simple isn't big enough for an ethical shot. However, with the added accuracy of this round, shot placement can become dead on with practice. Taking a heart shot at 200 yards is common for those who know what they're doing.

 Bolt or Lever Action?

hunter loading his gun to shoot

.243 Winchester

There are many advantages to both types of rifle action. However, bolt-action has always held the standard as being the most accurate and practical gun. The Remington 783 is widely known as one of the most reliable and durable guns and is offered in a .243 caliber. There are also fewer moving parts with a bolt-action, making them easier to repair and less prone to failure in the field, which is always a plus. I had a chance to try out the Savage Axis II XP in .243 caliber, and I can say without a doubt that it impressed me with how accurate and shootable it was. The power and precision paired with the .243 are more than enough for whitetail.

There's no hiding that using a lever-action adds a level of vintage and coolness that you aren't getting with a bolt-action. Despite being less accurate, you can still be very effective with them and have a blast while you're doing so. Not to mention you might feel like Clint Eastwood as you're hunting.

Henry has long been one of the most trusted gun manufacturers of lever-action rifles, and their .243 Long Ranger is no exception. Priced around $700, it isn't the cheapest rifle you can find, but it shoots better than most.

For whitetail hunters, the .243 Winchester offers everything you need on your next hunt and will quickly become one of your favorite calibers. While it might be a gun you leave home for an elk or moose hunt, its power on a minor big game is incredible. With the speed and accuracy combined with its more diminutive stature and low recoil, it's easy to see why this is one of the best rifles for whitetail deer.