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Is the .243 enough gun for whitetail deer?

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I just bought a Tikka Stainless Synthetic in .243. (Yes, I am very happy):-D I plan on using it for deer and, someday, varmints.

I have always thought that the .243 is a little light on deer, but many people have told me differently.

What are your experiences with the .243 on deer? Is it enough gun?

Zachary
 

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I used a 6mm on my first deer. Hit in the boiler room it knocked it off its feet then ran maybe 30yds. 6mm isn't much different than .243 (deer won't notice difference). Buy quality bullet and you can't go wrong.
 

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I've used a .243 for several years and I'm very pleased with the performance. I load a Rem. Core-lokt 100gr bullet and have had great results. Dave
 

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As 'skandiaman' said use the right bullet, 100 gr. Nosler Partition comes to mind or any other good premium bullet, and you shouldn't have any problem. the .243 is light enough in the recoil department so that you should be able to put the bullet just where you want. And that's the key, putting the bullet where it belongs. I got two .243, a Savage M99 Deluxe and a Rem. M722, that the kids used as their first rifle for deer. The wife used the M722 for a long time until I built her a 6.5 Swede. A really good varmint cartridge and a good deer cartridge out to the 250 yards or so. Lawdog
 

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Sorry, folks, hate to break up the party, but I'm going to dissent (a little bit) on this one. I didn't vote because I don't want to skew the results: my real vote is maybe.

In the hands of hunters with experience under their belt and some degree of shooting skill, and loaded with a solid 100 grain bullet, the .243 will do a very nice job on whitetailed deer.

Unfortunately, everyone who picks up a rifle and heads to the woods doesn't fall into those two qualifying categories. Some are beginners and don't yet quite have the steadfast control to be an outstanding shooter. Others, sadly, don't take the time to become skilled enough at shooting to really become proficient. And then there are some who stop off at Joe's corner store the night before opening day to restock the depleted ammo supply, and are happy shooting whatever ammo Joe has in stock in .243.

Yeah, I know, I hear it coming already: everyone who hunts SHOULD become proficient with a rifle and learn enough about ammo and bullet performance to select quality ammo. I agree 100%. But the reality is that there will always be some who don't. They don't intend to do any harm, and often they just don't know any better, but nevertheless they do hunt. (I know there are not any hunters like that on this forum - ****, if they were on here they might accidentally learn something or get some good advice.) And when that Tom, Dick, or Harry ignorant shoulder their gun and head for the woods, I cringe when they carry a .243.

The problem lies with the fact that the .243 isn't very forgiving when it comes to stopping power IF YOU HAPPEN TO PLACE A SHOT BADLY or IF YOU USE MARGINAL BULLETS. There are dozens of reasons why this might happen that I won't get into here, but suffice it to say that responsible and well-trained hunters usually avoid shots and bullets they know are marginal (some of us have learned from experience, not always our own :), but the novice and untrained are much more likely to get a bad shot placement or shoot poor bullets. And when that happens, you can have a sad, frustrating, and generally poor all around hunting experience (and drag others into it also, trying to help find the lost game).

If you are expert enough to put shots consistently in the boiler room at whitetail hunting ranges and use those stauch bullets aforementioned, then you can have a lifetime of success. But I've also seen some inexperienced or careless hunters who were soured on the hunt by losing an animal, spending long hours trailing a not-quickly-fatal-enough shot deer, or worst of all not having anything to follow to find a hit deer. I've spent some time at this helping a few other hunters, and its not any fun for anyone.

My dad lost a B&C trophy animal on a hunt once when I was just a wee lad (before he or I knew anything about bullet performance or adequate stopping power) shooting marginal bullets in a .243. I know better now (Dad doesn't hunt anymore after that experience), but my point is that most hunters have at least some naivety in their beginning experiences. By the same token, I also have an uncle who has killed more whitetails with a .243 than I care to try and count at ranges from a dozen or so yards out to 300+ and I have never known him to lose a deer he has shot. He is also skilled enough to make neck/head shots on every deer he shoots at those ranges. Not everyone (myself included) can claim that level of skill.

Bottom line is, you won't find me walking into the woods with a .243, even though I am a very confident and relatively skilled shooter. I want more gun - just in case it is a trophy buck and by some odd fate I need a little help in the power department. There are plenty of other calibers that are not so demanding that are not kicking mules either, and they deliver a large and strong enough bullet to ensure adequate quick-killing power and a good blood trail even if my shot wavers a little.
 

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This is the second revision to my response to huntsman's reply. My first was getting a little on a soap box, so this will be short and sweet.

You made MANY great points about hunting ability and shot placement.

BIGGER does not mean better. A smart hunter who knows his quary, his rifle's ability and his skill will make a great .243 hunter.

To me, he has already shown concern, so there is something there that's more than Tom/dick and or harry has shown. That tells me that he knows this caliber won't "do it all". Which is a down-fall to Tom/dick and harry. A person who knows limitations WILL ALWAYS pick the right shot. That right shot will be different for everyone, depending on skills. It's knowing those skills.

I would give Zack the benefit here. He has picked a low recoil rifle that will probably not produce the "flinch" that infects many shooters. That in itself is the makings to a great shooter. He has also chosen a rifle that will serve as a dual purpose rifle. Which means he will become proficent with ONE rifle, not 2, 3 or 4 rifles that most of us shoot (this one is deer, this is for elk, this one is varmint, this one is for brush, this one is for bla bla bla).

Go for it Zack, learn everything about this rifle, find the right load that will produce the best results, shoot the piss out of it at the range. Do some research on the anatomy of your quary and hit the bush... Placement, that's what counts...

ps... great rifle too, Tikka.... mmmmmmmm


Single hunter
 

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The .243 may be ok on small whitetails such as in the southwest, but it's very limited in its usefulness on larger deer, especially at long ranges, in my experience wathcing other hunters use it.

Also, such writers as John Wooters (Guns & Ammo), the late Finn Agaard (American Rifleman) and Claire Rees (Barnes Reloading Manual #2) have commented on the marginal capabilities of the .243 on deer. Wooters and Agaard have seen hundreds of animals killed and both opined that the .243 was just not enough gun for reliable deer hunting except under ideal conditions.

I had an long time hunting friend who went through his .243 phase and we spent a lot of time chasing wounded deer. When he switched back to other rounds ( i.e. .270, 30-06, .300 Win Mag) they started dropping again. I hunted with this guy for 25 or so years (before his death from a heart attack). He had eagle eyes and was an accomplished shot and handloader who competed in metallic silhouette shooting and was a proven game shot. He later tried a .257 Roberts and it wasn't much better. We were hunting large mule deer in Colorado and Utah. Not the tiny little whitetails that are harvested in the southwest. My weapon of choice is a .270 WCF handloaded with 130 grain Nosler Partitions.

Everyone loves the .243 because it doesn't kick much. This is not much of a recommendation frankly. There are other light kicking rounds that are much better killers, to wit, the .260 Rem ( a .243 necked up to .264), 6.5x55 mauser and the 7x57, just to name a few.
 

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Of all of the horror stories about the .243/6mm cartridges I'd like to see the break down on bullet weights used. I'll bet most were under 100grs and or poor shot placement. A poor hit is just that. I agree shot placement is important, in fact more important than bullet selection. If somone can't shoot well with a .243 I don't think they will do better with a 270 or a 30-06.
 

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Hi guys,

I took a Michigan buck 13 years in a row with a little .243 Ruger RL. In 1998 I hit a big boy that was running at about 150 yds right in the lungs. He still ran 250 yds with no blood the last 150 yds.I found him just by sight. I sold the rifle to a guy for his son. His son dropped an 8 pt.in the neck that year. I'm still glad I now use a .260 . It is more accurate on the bench and drops deer alot quicker on chest shots with little noticeable increase in recoil.
:)
 

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I voted no for all of the above reasons mentioned. In my neck of the woods it's on the light side. Some times it would be fine, but for most I'd like to have just a little more power. I think the .260 and the 7mm-08 would both be much better choices. In Washington the bucks can be pretty good size. That might explain why those that use it like it. Most might be from down south where the deer are smaller. I thinks it's more of an "experts" caliber.
 

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I voted yes, it's the gun I used to drop my first whitetail, first antelope, and first mule deer, and 220 lb. dressed out 4x5 and the doe that he was courting. Here's the catch, my father does understand bullets and their limitations, and the only thing that has ever been launched at a big game animal are 100 gr. Nosler Partition bullets, and until something better comes along, that's the way it will stay. We've never had to track deer with it, but we're careful shots and very choosy.
Selmer
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yea, I would similarly think that the Partition would be a great choice in the .243. In addition, though, Remington has made their bonded core-lokt ultra bullet (also 100 grain) available in the .243. This should make for one heck of a round. With 85%+ weight retention and almost 2x expansion, it's almost like shooting a .260 with plan jane 120 grain bullets.

BTW, I also own, among other calibers, a .260, .260 Win Mag, and 7mm-08. I agree that the .260 makes for a better round, but I always wanted a .243. :mrgreen:

Zachary
 

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I have seen alot of deer killed with a 243 u put the bullet in the heart or lungs yes he will run some times and i have seen them drop in there tracks i seen a nice Mule deer buck kill in Kan with a 243 and the 243 will always be a good deer gun 8)
 

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I've killed a few deer and seen several deer killed with a .243. I've also seen some deer get away after what appeared to be a good hit. In my experience, the .243 just doesn't seem to leave that much of a blood trail on deer, especially at ranges past 150 yards. Now, put it to use on coyotes and you've got yourself a deadly tool.
 

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"Some are beginners and don't yet quite have the steadfast control to be an outstanding shooter. Others, sadly, don't take the time to become skilled enough at shooting to really become proficient"

Huntsman, that is true of a .270,7mm Rem mag,30-06 or 300 mag meat grinder. But don't you think that beginners will become proficient with a 243/6mm faster than with a gun that has great recoil and muzzel blast?

The 243/6mm both have the power with a 100 round nose to kill deer out past 200 yds. The 100gr round nose I use goes through the deer and a heart lund shot hardly drops a deer in it track with any caliber. But it does kill them before they leave the county. If how far they run after being shot with a 243 is a problem, bow hunters should give it up.

Bottom line: there are a lot of deer killed with 243s. Here in he eastern hardwoods where most shots are under 100yds, 243s and 30-30s kill a lot of deer in the 200lbs+ class.

Are there better caliber to kill deer. I am sure there are. Is the 243 a good deer rifle? You bet it is. :money: OO
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
OOBuckshot said:
"Some are beginners and don't yet quite have the steadfast control to be an outstanding shooter. Others, sadly, don't take the time to become skilled enough at shooting to really become proficient"
The following is an excerpt that I posted on the hog hunting forum. 00's comment, in my opinion, highlight's my thoughts as follows:

As some of you know, I own several rifles in several cartridges. As a young teenager, I started with the then big fast go-go bullets (my first gun was a 7mm Rem Mag. ) Needless to say, I quickly discovered that it was just WAY too much gun for whitetail within 100 yards. I once use it with 150 grain Federal Premium Sierra Boat-tails to shoot a doe at about 50 yards away. I shot her in the shoulder and, upon impact, the poor thing almost made a 360 degree turn IN THE AIR!! Then I got a .270 Winchester and found it more "reasonable" for my kind of shooting. Since that time, I have bought 13 or 14 more rifles, both big and small.

Anyway, I always considered the .243 to be too much of a peep-squeek After a few years, I started hearing, and seeing, quite a few deer taken with a .243.


What I'm really trying to say is that I know the limitations of the .243. Yes, it is a great cartridge for younger children and women, but then again it can be the worst cartridge for them because it gives you little margine for error. Then again, since proper bullet placement is critical, the low recoil will allow them to shoot better.

You see, my thinking is that , I'm not the best shot in the world, but I'm better-than-average (I better be after shooting for over 20 years ).
As a result, I will "hone in" my shooting skills with the .243 and learn to RE-EMPHASIZE the importance of placing a bullet exactly where I want it to go. This exercise, first on paper and then on game, should assist me in my shooting all of my other rifles.

No matter how good we are, we can always be better, and I think that shooting a .243 could provide me with an additional insight and perspective with regard to my overall shooting.

Do any of you guys agree with me? [/color]

Zachary
 

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:D :toast: Hey Zachary, I guess the bottom line is every one has their own opinion of what suits them best. Body mass, length of arms, strength play a large part in what suits a shooter. In my opinion that is why a lot of people think the 243 is for women and children and the "big" toys are for big burly he men. Testosterone plays a big part in what rifle we select and what type of car we drive.
My shooting partner and I have the rifle market covered for the most part. After doing our bench work, out comes the 243 his and 6mm mine and we shoot them for fun. My six is set up for varmint hunting and his for bench shooting. At 100 yds we are shooting groups around a 1/4 inch. At 300yds under an inch. With accuracy like that, we can kill deer all day long. However as has been noted, a lot of people don't have the facilities or time to shoot like that. Point is that my six is such a pleasure to shoot, it has become the rifle equilivant of my S &W mod 41 target pistol. I love to shoot them and do shoot them much better than the big stuff.

Bottom line: shoot what ever you have as often as possible to make it a better deer rifle. If it ain't fun, find a caliber that is. Here's to you:toast: OO
 
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