The .243 Winchester cartridge had already been on the market for over 20 years before I first used it as a young hunter in the mid to late 70’s. Developed as a versatile short action cartridge for hunting medium big game it immediately was put to use by deer hunters when introduced in 1955.
It also quickly became popular as a varmint hunting cartridge. Today it stands out as one of the most favored cartridges for both whitetail and mule deer alike. It is also commonly used for taking blacktail deer and pronghorn.
For varmint hinting the .243 is ideal when loaded with lighter the abundant choices of lighter bullets. The cartridge is based on a necked down .308 Winchester which came on the market only three years earlier in 1952.
Today with the advent of expanding monolithic copper bullets in 80 to 85 weight grain class or the continued availability of jacketed rounds of 90 to 105 grains there are ample choices for any medium big game hunting need.
The .243 Winchester is often considered an ideal first rifle for young hunters in part due to the varied action choices and milder recoil. Bolt action leads the pack, but offerings in semi auto, lever, break open and even pump actions give the hunter a broad spectrum to choose from. Henry Repeating Arms offers excellent rifles chambered in .243 of both the lever and break open actions.
As to performance and comparisons, the .243 Winchester is in the same category as the newer 6mm Creedmoor (developed in 2007) however, the .243 Win has more bullet and casing options, as well as more factory ammo offerings.
With very minimal recoil, even less than that of the ole 30-30 Winchester cartridge, the .243 gives higher chamber pressures and larger powder volumes. Added to that are bullets with sharp tips instead of rounded, and the end result is the .243 provides higher muzzle energy and far greater downrange energy than the .30-30 is able to achieve.
The .243 muzzle velocity comes in anywhere from about 2800 feet/second up to 3900 feet/second from factory-loaded expanding ammunition depending of course on bullet weight and barrel length.
The following article: 243 Winchester Ballistic Chart and Cartridge Guide provides even more specifics on this excellent and still very popular cartridge.
To be clear, I have personally hunted with the .243 Winchester and have taken everything from deer to pronghorn to hogs with this wonderful little cartridge, not to mention a few dozen coyotes. It has been around for almost 70 years and I am sure it will be around for decades to come.
If you have never owned a rifle in this caliber, you owe it to yourself and kids to give it a try!