First introduced by Winchester in 1955 as a varmint cartridge the .243 Winchester has gone on to be a highly successful calibre for both vermin and light skinned deer.
In simplest terms the .243 is a necked down .308 case which can be loaded with bullet weights that range anywhere from 55 grains to 115 grains. The lighter bullets typically being used for vermin and fox with bullets of 90grains and upward being typically used for deer.
(Left: Back row in order from left to right, .308 ballistic tip, .308 Soft point, .243 Soft point. The .243 Winchester is simply a necked down .308 case)
In the UK the .243 calibre has gained an excellent reputation which was compounded in 1963 with the Deer Act which required at least a .240 calibre rifle for use on deer. This legislation has meant that in order to be able to shoot all species of deer in the UK the .243 calibre is seen as the entry level calibre for deer stalking.
Producing around 1950 ft lbs of energy at the muzzle with 100 grain bullets the .243 goes on to deliver 1600 ft lbs at 100 yards and around 1350 ft lbs of energy at 200 yards.
The bullet trajectory whilst being inferior to the .308 parent cartridge at longer ranges is in fact flatter shooting than the .308 out to at least 300yards due to its higher velocity. Typical drop for a 100grain bullet with a 100 yard zero is 3.3 inches at 200 yards and 12.5 inches at 300 yards.
For many this is a popular calibre with which to start deer stalking, added to which Home Office Guidelines for the police mean that for the beginner this is considered to be the most acceptable calibre for those first requesting a deer calibre on their Firearm Certificate.
Famously having been used by the LAPD SWAT teams this calibre benefits from mild recoil and muzzle blast and is extremely accurate. It is also very well suited to lighter framed shooters and in countries outside the UK where there are restrictions on the use of military calibres the .243 also fits the bill.
All things considered for deer stalking in the UK the .243 Winchester is a great calibre. Some will argue that it doesn't quite pack enough of a punch for the largest of our Uk deer species however for Roe and Muntjac it is certainly one of the best calibres available.
At County Deer Stalking we use this calibre loaded with 100 grain ammunition in a Sauer 202 as one of our Estate rifles.
Typical .243 Ballistics (100 grain bullet)
Muzzle Energy: 1950 ft/lbs Muzzle Velocity: 2960 fps