Everyone has their favorite varmint pill, but the .243 Winchester stands in the “just right” gap
by Brad Fenson; photography by Brad Fenson and Therese Shaw
The .243 Winchester (6×52mm) was introduced to hunters and shooters in 1955. Since then, it has become a popular sporting rifle cartridge that has withstood the test of time. It is often used for pronghorn and smaller deer species like Coues, blacktail, and whitetail across their range. Hunting and shooting magazines often run the top five cartridges for deer, and the .243 is usually on the list. Designed for small and mid-sized game, is the .243 Winchester a good option for predators, too?
The .243 Winchester is one of those cartridges that teeters on the fence between too light or small for big game species and too heavy for most predators. This cartridge is the minimum size used for big game hunting in many jurisdictions.
Bullet options add to the cartridge’s versatility, ranging from 55 grains to 115 grains. The speed and energy are what make the cartridge so efficient. The lighter bullets travel close to 4,000 fps, and the 100-grain options are still traveling close to 3,000 fps. Several manufacturers offer quality bullets, including Federal Premium, with at least 17 options in the cartridge, and Winchester, with options loaded with 55- to 100-grain bullets. Hornady also has an impressive lineup with popular bullets for deer and predators, like the Superformance V-Max 58-grain.
The .243 was developed on a necked-down .308 Winchester, introduced in 1952. A wide range of bullets offers controlled expansion for hunting deer and medium-sized game. With full-metal jacket and lighter rounds, the cartridge should not be overlooked for hunting predators and may provide several advantages.
Looking at the trajectory of a predator bullet, it quickly becomes apparent that the cartridge is flat shooting. Using Hornady Superformance V-Max 58-grain bullets sighted in at 100 yards, the trajectory is -1.4 at 200 yards, -6.6 at 300 yards, and -16.6 at 400 yards. For those wanting to shoot 500 yards, the bullet drops 33.2 inches but still has 520 foot-pounds of energy. Using a scope with an MOA or MIL turret, shooting long-range is easy and accurate. The cartridge requires little calculation or holdover for any shot under 300 yards.
Other benefits of the .243 Winchester are low recoil. Low recoil means quick recovery for additional or follow-up shots. Sifting through data on the internet, some suggest the .243 with a 100-grain bullet will produce approximately 9 pounds of recoil when shot from a gun weighing 7.5 pounds.
Predator Control or Fur Harvest
The .243 Winchester’s popularity offers varmint and predator hunters plenty of options. The only decision is whether you want to control predators or harvest fur. With a wide range of expansion options, bullets can be used to stop predators in their tracks or to shoot clean and minimize damage to the hide.
With 66 years of history, there is an excellent selection of bullets to make the .243 Winchester a proven and effective predator stopper. Firearm manufacturers continue to embrace the cartridge, producing new guns in .243 Winchester dedicated to predator enthusiasts looking to capitalize on the benefits. A good example is the new offering from Rock River Arms.
Rock River Arms LAR-BT3 PREDATOR HP .243
Rock River Arms (RRA) produces AR-platform rifles for hunters. Predator enthusiasts will want to check out the new LAR-BT3 Predator HP for an advantage on the next hunt. This AR-platform rifle offers adjustment in the stock and versatility for attachments and add-ons. The rifle is compact with a total length of 37.2 inches and weighs in at 9.2 pounds.
RRA attains sub-MOA accuracy with a 20-inch fluted, cryogenically treated stainless steel barrel with a 1:10 twist. The barrel is threaded 5/8×24 and is equipped with an RRA Predator muzzle brake that pushes gases down and away. An RRA two-stage trigger helps shooters maintain consistency with a clean break. The rifle comes with a BT3 upper and lower billet.
The new predator piece sports a 17-inch free-floated handguard that is M-Lok compatible. The six-position CAR stock allows for quick length of pull adjustment in the field. The top rail can accommodate various optics, including thermals, and a Hogue rubber pistol grip makes for a comfortable, solid hold.
The rifle is designed for predator hunters but could become a go-to option on your next deer hunt. The Predator HP LAR-BT3 has an MSRP of $1,675.
Maven Riflescope CRS.2 – 4-16X44 SFP
The Maven CRS.2 4-16×44 riflescope features a second focal plane, side parallax adjustment, a compact tube base, and a 44mm objective lens. A predator hunting scope should gather light, provide a clear image, and offer adjustability for shooting long ranges.
The CRS.2 has a simplified reticle for holdover and fast target acquisition. Maven has built optics based on previous success and popularity. The RS Series reticle options led to the CRS Series with a unique version of the Simplified Holdover Reticle (SHR) to create the CSHR in 0.25 MOA/click units.
The CRS series is an economical line that started from the popularity of the C series binoculars. Customers have been drawn to the performance and price balance and wanted to see the same in riflescopes. CRS series riflescopes are second focal plane, helping to keep the price down.
The riflescope is 11.6 inches long, weighs 16.93 ounces, and is waterproof and fog-proof. Like all Maven optics, it comes with a lifetime warranty and is only sold directly to consumers. MSRP $550.
HuntStand The Hunting App
The HuntStand Hunting app provides moon phase and the major and minor wildlife movement times for any given hunting day. It is highly accurate, and hunting success soars when you start paying attention to the prime movement periods. To become a more successful predator hunter, try the HuntStand Hunting app and pay attention to the moon phase and major and minor time movements for game. Experiment with the mapping features to approach each hunt strategically. Log your successful hunt information to fine-tune your approach on future outings.