Is .243 Winchester a Good Deer Rifle for Kids?

Why .243 Winchester? A few technical reasons for the 243 win cartridge, and an emotional one. Oh, and this post came about as a result of purchasing a Remington 738 […]

Is .243 Winchester the best deer cartridge for kids?Why .243 Winchester?

A few technical reasons for the 243 win cartridge, and an emotional one.
Oh, and this post came about as a result of purchasing a Remington 738 Scoped rifle in .243 Win. Read the Remington 738 review HERE.

First the Emotional reason… other hunters keep telling me that they have had great results hunting whitetail deer with the .243 Win. … so, I’ve wanted to try it. I tend to be a rather data drive guy, but anecdotal reports from a variety of hunters that I trust have had a cumulative effect of swaying me to want to try the .243 winchester myself. And more than a few have told me it is a great deer rifle for youth and smaller framed folks.

History and usage:

Launched in 1955 by Winchester for their Model 70 rifle, the .243 Win was initially sold as a varmint cartridge. The necked-down .308 Win. case was seated with a 70-85 grain 6.2mm bullets designed for longer range. It was later adapted with heavier bullets for medium to large game, with 100 gr bullets pushing nearly 3,000 fps out a 24″ barrel. 55 gr bullets are flat out smoking out of the barrel at around 4,000 fps.

*Find a .243 Win rifle from our friends at Blueridge Firearms

Technical:

I have read that the .243 Win cartridge is a flat, fast round that delivers good energy retention at moderate ranges with a relatively light kick. With 3 mini-gear heads in the 10-13 range I have been looking for a suitable deer with low-moderate. Balancing the stats below, It looks like the .243 win might be the best deer rifle for kids.
Some numbers…

Felt Recoil

My kids, like me, aren’t big fans of recoil. Recoil Energy and Recoil Velocity from the whitetail deer hunting cartridges represented in the Gear Report safe, as listed at http://www.chuckhawks.com/recoil_table.htm

Cartridge Recoil Energy Recoil Velocity
.223 Rem 55gr * 3.2 ft/lb 5.1 ft/sec
.223 Rem 62gr 3.9 ft/lb 6.0 ft/sec
.300 BLK 125gr 5.1 ft/lb 7.8 ft/sec
7.62×39 Soviet 125gr 6.9 ft/lb 8.0 ft/sec
.243 Win 100gr 8.8 ft/lb 8.7 ft/sec
.30-30 Win 150gr 10.5 ft/lb 9.5 ft/sec
.303 Brit 150gr 14.2 ft/lb 11.0 ft/sec
7.62x54R 174gr 15.0 ft/lb 10.4 ft/sec
.308 Win 150gr 15.8 ft/lb 11.7 ft/sec
.270 Win 130gr 16.5 ft/lb 11.7 ft/sec
8mm Mauser 150gr 17.1 ft/lb 11.7 ft/sec

* 55gr .223 for comparison only. I prefer heavier 62 or 70 grain hunting bullets for hunting medium game with .223 Rem

Remington_783_243Win (2)So, you can see that the only listed cartridges that deliver less Recoil Energy than the .243 Winchester are the .223 Remington, .300 AAC Blackout and 7.62×39 Soviet. However, Recoil Energy is not the only consideration. Recoil Velocity tells us how abruptly that energy is delivered to the shooter’s shoulder. At the same Recoil Energy a higher Recoil Velocity will feel like a heavier blow to the shooter’s shoulder since the force is concentrated in a shorter period of time. Think of it as similar to a push (low velocity) vs a punch (high velocity). When combining these factors it is easy to see why the .243 Win delivers a bit more than twice the kick vs .223 Rem.

Is that too much recoil?

Depends on the shooter.

In my case, my 10 year old mini-gear head wasn’t comfortable with the recoil of the .243 Win. She opted to shoot an AR-15 with a muzzle brake and loaded with custom loaded 70gr Barnes TSX rounds when deer hunting. I expect to move her up to a .300 BLK based rifle as soon as I can get an optic on it and get it sighted. .300 BLK roughly splits the difference in felt recoil between .223 and .243. I also favor .300 BLK for suppressed shooting.

Why not stick with .223?

I love the light recoil of the .223 Rem,  but wanted a round that delivers more energy to the target than the diminutive .223. The 7.62×39 has merits as well, but is known to have rather stout bullet drop over moderate distances. Same for similar weight .300 BLK loads.

Retained Energy

The .243 Winchester is reported to deliver about 1000 ft/lb of Energy at 300 yards, while the .223 Rem and 7.62×39 are reported to deliver around 650 ft/lb of energy at the same 300 yards. (data from http://www.chuckhawks.com/rifle_ballistics_table.htm)

At 200 yards the .223 Rem round should have peaked and fallen back to level with the muzzle, .243 Win should be around 1.6″ above the muzzle, and the 7.62×39 about 0.5″ below the muzzle. So, the .243 Win has a longer range without big vertical hold corrections needed. This is important to me, as marksmanship is a complex art/science and my mini-gear heads aren’t quite up for the complex equations that snipers use to calculate proper hold for longer shots. (data from http://www.chuckhawks.com/rifle_trajectory_table.htm) These give the .243 Win a big advantage in range and ability to make clean, ethical kill shots at moderate ranges.


About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.