A series of introductory articles conceived to teach beginners specs, features and history of the most popular rifle ammunition calibers
The .243 Winchester caliber was first launched around 1955, and was conceived simply by narrowing the neck of the then brand-new .308 Winchester ammunition to adapt its case to the use of 6mm caliber bullets.
The paternity and the origins of the design of the .243 Winchester round are disputed; some historians credit Warren Page, a well-known shooter back in the day, for the creation of this round, but most experts credit the Winchester development team, who may or may not have been heavily influenced by a 6mm caliber developed by Page himself, dubbed the .240 Page.
Either way, it was a brilliant idea and its result was a powerful, accurate and versatile round with a minimum recoiul level; the 1:10" rifling pitch turned out to be perfect to stabilize .243 Winchester rounds ranging between 70 and 110 grains in weight, and this factor contributed significantly to its commercial success.
That marked the birth of a great round, perfectly fit to be used on short-action guns and capable to propel bullets of a higher diameter than most, if not all, of the .22s used back in the day more or less at the same velocity levels.
It was initially offered as a varmint cartridge on the U.S. market, but hunters soon found out that it was perfectly capable to bring down mid-sized ungulates such as the whitetail deer − a benchmark performance by which all big game hunting rounds are judged.
As we said previously, the .243 Winchester round is based on a case that is very similar to that of the .308 Winchester caliber − only slightly longer and with a shorter neck, which boosts its propellant capacity and makes it fit for 6mm bullets. 60 grains should be considered the optimal ball weight for this caliber; heavier bullets will take too much room and require a reduction of the propellant quantity contained in the case, but despite this the .243 Winchester round still provides good performance with 100-grains bullets.
The .243 Winchester cartridge is chambered mostly by bolt-action hunting rifles, but its intrinsic potential led gunmakers worldwide to manufacture many other rifle designs, such as Kipplauf and other single-shot platforms, chambered for it. Basically all manufacturers of ammunition offer .243 Winchester loads, with a wide array of bullet types and weights available.
The most popular loads use 80-grains and 100-grains bullets. When loaded with 80-grain billets, the .243 Winchester round can develop muzzle energy levels higher than 1000 metres-per-second (3280.8 feet per second), while 100-grains bullets can travel faster than 900 metres-per-second (2952.75 feet per second), with pressure levels ranging around the 4200 Bar threshold: a very high performance level that makes the .243 Winchester caliber excellent for a wide variety of hunting specialties.
Fields of use
In the United States, the .243 Winchester round is extremely popular for varmint, small-game and mid-size ungulates hunting.
In Europe it is the post popular and commonly available alternative for roe deer hunting, and would also be more than apt for bigger and more challenging game − such as the chamois − if it wasn't for several local and national laws and regulations imposing the use of calibers larger than 6mm for most mid-sized and big game.
An extremely accurate caliber, the .243 Winchester is a pleasure to shoot, offering a very low recoil level and even lower muzzle climb − meaning that the typical reactions to the shot won't make the shooter loose eye contact with the target, enabling him/her to respond quickly to any reaction, which is paramount when hunting rare or highly sought-after game.
Warren Page, the shooter believed by many to be the father of the .243 Winchester, was also an expert in ammunition who contributed to the development of other popular hunting and sport shooting calibers such as the .222 Remington and the 7mm Remington Magnum.
The .243 Winchester is a relatively hot caliber; hand-reloaders should thus settle for a good compromise between power and accuracy rather than try and reach the highest power levels. Propellants offering a mid-to-high progressive factor should be preferred when reloading the .243 Winchester.
.243 Wichester cases could be easily obtained from .308 Winchester brass, but this practice is highly discouraged as the tightening may cause a variation of the inner shoulder angle, which would not be visible from the outside but could nonetheless cause violent and dangerous surges in pressure.
An example of reloading specs for the .243 Winchester cartridge
|Gun: Ruger N.1||Barrel lenght: 54 centimeters|
80 grains Sierra SPBT
80 grains Speer FMJ
80 grains Barnes TSX
|.243 Winchester||Norma MRP||46 grains||100 grains Hornady SP||Remington Magnum|
Our readers should be advised that ammunition handloading requires skill and attention. All provided handloading data should be considered as purely indicatory; even the slightest variations could cause dangerous pressure surges, which could in turn result into bodily harm or property damage. In no case will the author of this article or all4shooters.com accept any responsibility for any injury or damage caused by the improper use of these data.