Thursday, July 07, 2016

The .243 Winchester

Yesterday afternoon, after loading a bunch of .38 Special, I was taking stock of my ammo supply and realized that I was just about out of .243 Winchester.  That, simply, will not do.  So, I dropped a double-handful of brass into the tumbler and let it tumble for a couple of hours.

In the years after WWII, a handloader, cartridge designer, and writer named Warren Page started tinkering with a case that later became the .308 Winchester.  He necked it down to 6mm and called it the .240 Page Pooper.  Being a writer, he wrote about it, and Winchester saw the potential of the round.  They standardized it in 1955, and it took off like a rocket.

Touted as a multi-purpose caliber, it suffered for a while simply because of bullet design at the time.  It's hard to make a bullet that will go 3000 fps and hang together when it hits meat and bone.  It took the bullet designers a while to catch up, but over the past 30 years they've made some dramatic strides in bullet design.  Folks like Hornady, Speer, Nosler and the like have spent a lot of time and effort making sure that their bullets hold up to the speed and impact that the modern powders put those bullets into.

I bought my first .243 rifle in 2004.  I picked it up on a whim, literally at Wal-Mart on a year end clearance.  The price was too good to walk past.  It's a Savage Model 10 with the tupperware stock, and picked it up, actually to hunt with for a couple of years, and keep in my battery to give to a grandkid when he got old enough to hunt.

I played with the rifle a bit, and shot a variety of factory ammo through it.  What I liked about it was the moderate recoil and the inherent accuracy of the caliber.  I've got a target in my files, a composite target where I plotted the groups from several factory loads, several handloads, and several bullet weights.  At a hundred yards, they all fell in to under four inches.  It didn't matter what I put in that rifle, I knew that it was going to fall into that four inch circle.Now, a four inch group isn't anything to brag about, but this group has about 100 shots with a variety of ammo, factory and home-rolled.

Late in 2008, I was surfing about, looking for information and came upon a reference that said I should try Alliant'sReloder 22 with a 100 grain bullet.  So, I loaded a few, using Hornady's 100 grain flat based softpoint bullet.  (Note, I don't see it in the catalog this morning.  They must have quit making it.)  When I took that particular load to the range and set up a target, I was surprised later when I looked through the spotting scope.

I knew then that I'd found the load for that rifle.  A month or so later, I was back at the range, with my chronograph and put that load across the screens.  When I first looked at the display, I thought i had an error, so I reset and tried again.  Great Jumping Jehosephat!  I'm getting better than 3100 fps from that load.  With small SDs and ES.  That load is everything a rifleman could want.  Fast, accurate, flat shooting, what else could you want?

The next year, I took that rifle to the deer stand, late in December.  I wanted to make meat with it and just about 9:00 in the morning, a nice little meat buck presented himself at what I later measured as 150 yards.  He was across a creek from my deer stand, standing in on a clear pipeline, in three-quarter profile.  I put the crosshairs on the point of his shoulder, and let fly.  He hit the ground, so I watched him for a minute, finished my cup of coffee, then climbed down out of the stand.

He must have heard me as I crossed the creek, because when I got to the spot where I had shot him, he wasn't there.  I could see blood, lots of it, and as I looked toward the tree line, I saw that he's piled up at the edge of the woods.  Well, okay.  Thirty steps later, I had collected him.  Later, at the camp, I autopsied him.  The bullet had entered at the point of the shoulder, gotten into the chest cavity, and absolutely destroyed both lungs.  Fair enough.  I didn't recover the bullet, although I found bits of jacket in the lungs.

In 2014, I gave that rifle to a grandkid, as I've done to each of my grandkids when the time was right. He was old enough then to handle a centerfire rifle, and I thought that the .243 would serve him well.

It's enough rifle, in a caliber that should take him into adulthood and beyond.  The .243 Winchester isn't a kid's caliber, it's probably one of the best all around calibers for game in the continental US.  With the right bullet (and today, the bullet manufacturers are making much better bullets than even the Hornady's I used to take that deer eight years ago), it's perfectly suitable for any medium game in the US.  The rifles are light, the recoil is moderate, the caliber is accurate, and the ammo is better than anything available 20 years ago.  The .243 Winchester is a great choice for just about anyone.


Joe Mama said...

Every cartridge based on the .308 Winchester parent case is awesome.

Those guys did a superb job back in the early 1950's with the .308 Win. They dotted every "i" and crossed every "T". Their attention to detail cast a very long shadow.

They have my admiration.

Gerry N. said...

some few years ago I encountered a m1908 Brazilian Mauser long rifle, a M98 Mauser long rifle with gorgeous machining and finish and a 30 1/2" barrel in 7x57mm. Since 7mm mauser ammo is hard to come by as surplus and when found is hard on barrels due to corrosive priming. about the time I had corraled some 7mm brass and a bullet mold or two, midway had some short chambered chambered .243 barrels for 98 Mauser receivers for less than $50. That rifle will not feed .243 Win from the magazine but will handle 'em very nicely if I just lay 'em on the follower and slide the bolt closed One of these days I'll figger out how to shape things in that rifle to feed those rounds or find someone who can. Then I'll have a really sweet coyote or plains deer rifle. a little light for elk, but hey, ya can't expect miracles from a 5 1/2 pound $175 rifle, can ya'? It already shoots 100 yd. 1.125" 5 shot groups.