Introduced by Winchester in 1955 for use in the Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifle, the .243 Winchester cartridge uses the .308 Winchester case as its parent case but is necked down to accept .243 caliber bullets. Nonetheless, this cartridge quickly gained popularity among hunters worldwide and consequently, just about every major firearms manufacturer now offers rifles chambered for the .243 Winchester.
However, it is a rather interesting cartridge in that although it was initially designed to be a match target and, long range varmint hunters round, due to the fact that its bullet diameter fits squarely between the smaller .22 caliber centerfire cartridges and the larger .26 caliber cartridges combined with its wide range of bullet weights, it has also been widely adopted as a medium sized game hunter’s cartridge.
In fact, it can be loaded with bullets weighing from as light as 55 grains to as heavy 105 grains which can be fired at velocities ranging from just over 3,000 fps to just over 4,000 fps and thus, it is an excellent choice for both long rang varmint hunters and hunters of medium sized game species.
Yet, even so, the .243 Winchester cartridge is still somewhat of a bastard since, although it was originally designed for target shooting and hunting larger varmint species such as Ground Hogs and Coyotes, its muzzle blast and report are significantly greater than all but the most powerful of the .22 caliber centerfire cartridges such as the .22-250 or the .220 Swift and thus, it is less popular among avid varmint hunters than such cartridges as the .223 Remington.
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On the other hand, it’s on the extreme small end of the scale for hunting medium sized game species such as Whitetail Deer, Blacktail Deer, Antelope, Mountain Goats, Dall Sheep and, Mule Deer and consequently, it is often overlooked by both groups of hunters.
But, the fact is that medium weight bullets in this caliber easily retain enough kinetic energy to instantly dispatch varmint species such as coyotes at ranges out to 500 yards while, the heaviest weight bullets in this caliber will humanely dispatch small deer Species such as Whitetail Deer and, medium sized deer species such as Mule Deer out to 300 yards.
Thus, the .243 Winchester cartridge is actually an excellent choice for long range varmint hunters as well as long range deer hunters and, due to its relatively low recoil compared to some of the .30 caliber deer hunting cartridges, it is an excellent choice for hunters who prefer rifles with reduced recoil as well as being the perfect deer hunting cartridge for young hunters!
So, below you will find a list of the best .243 rifles for hunting both varmints and the various medium sized deer species.
Well known as a manufacture of very high end 1911 handguns, Kimber also provides the same level of detail and craftsmanship to each rifle that they build. Thus, the Kimber Classic Select Grade bolt action rifle is exactly what the name implies in that it is a classic style bolt action rifle chambered for the .243 Winchester cartridge.
But, that is only a bare description of this beautiful firearm since it features an A grade French Walnut stock with a hand-rubbed oil finish and an Ebony forend tip combined with Kimber’s 8400 Magnum bolt action with both glass bedding and pillar bedding and an integral, 4 round, box magazine with a hinged floor plate.
Plus it also has a 26 inch, blued steel, barrel with a Sporter contour and a match grade chamber combined with an adjustable, match grade, trigger for superior accuracy. Thus, the Kimber Classis Select Grade rifle definitely belongs in our pick of the best .243 rifles.
Combining Browning’s reputation for fine craftsmanship and reliability with a somewhat more affordable MSRP, the Browning X-Bolt Hunter is an excellent choice for those dedicated hunters who appreciate a finely crafted, hard working, rifle.
Yet, it is still one of the best .243 rifles available and it features a Grade 1 Black Walnut stock with fine checkering and a satin finish combined with Browning’s X-Bolt action and a 22 inch, blued, Sporter contour, steel barrel with a recessed muzzle crown for increased accuracy.
Plus, it also features Browning’s Feather Light trigger mechanism which has highly polished bearing surfaces to create a light, crisp, trigger pull to help prevent flyers combined with an integral box magazine and a hinged floor plate and, of course, the receiver is drilled and tapped for ease of mounting of a scope of your choice.
Although Savage bolt action rifles commonly have a reputation as being the most accurate bolt action rifles out-of-the-box due to their unique barrel attachment system combined with their unique two-piece bolt, the Remington model 700 actually proclaims that title in its advertising and, that claim is backed up by the fact that the U.S. military uses Remington 700 bolt actions as the basis for their proprietary M24 Sniper Weapon System.
Featuring a high-gloss American walnut Monte Carlo stock with a distinctive fore-end cap and a raised cheek piece combined with Remington’s famous model 700 bolt action and a 22 inch, Sporter contour, barrel with a polished blue finish and a four round integral box magazine with a hinged floor plate, the Remington Model 700 is immediately identifiable by any avid gun enthusiast due to its stunning appearance.
In addition, not only is the receiver drilled and tapped for easy mounting of a scope, the model 700 also includes both an adjustable front sight and a ramped, hooded, front sight for those hunters who prefer open sights over scopes.
Winchester Model 70 Super Grade
Although the Remington Model 700 is arguably the most popular American made bolt action rifle on the market today, the Winchester Model 70 is arguably the most iconic!
A true piece of American history, the Winchester Model 70’s claim to fame started with the introduction of the first model 70 commonly known as a pre ’64 model (those rifles made prior to 1964), the original model 70 was widely known as a “rifleman’s rifle” because it featured a simple walnut stock combined with a sturdy bolt action and a simple but reliable trigger mechanism.
But, in 1964, Winchester made significant “upgrades” to the rifle’s action which made the new model 70 significantly easier to mass produce but, many shooters felt that these changes were actually a degrade rather than an upgrade and thus, the pre ’64 model 70 now has somewhat of a cult following.
Nonetheless, today’s Winchester Model 70 is a highly respected bolt action rifle with a reputation for reliability and is available in several different models such as the Super Grade which is Winchester’s answer to the Remington Model 700 BDL.
Featuring a grade IV/V fancy walnut stock with a shadow cheek piece combined with a forged steel receiver and an integral recoil lug and glass bedded bolt action and a free floated, 22 inch, cold hammer forged, Sporter contour barrel with a recessed target crown and a polished blue finish, along with a M.O.A. trigger system, the Winchester Model 70 is designed to deliver both superior appearance and performance.
Ruger Hawkeye Standard
Last but not least, we have the Ruger Hawkeye Standard rifle. Somewhat reminiscent of the pre ’64 Winchester Model 70, the Hawkeye Standard follows Bill Ruger’s original vision of producing highly reliable “working guns” that hunters would not mind carrying into rough terrain.
Thus, the Hawkeye Standard model features an American walnut stock with fine line cut checkering combined with Ruger’s proprietary bolt action and a 22 inch, cold hammer forged, Sporter contour barrel with a deep blue finish.
Plus, it also includes Ruger’s LC6 trigger mechanism and an integral, 4 round, box magazine with a hinged floor plate and, the receiver has integral scope mounts machined directly into the top of the receiver for easy scope mounting.
So, although the Ruger Hawkeye may not be quite as pretty as some of the rifles listed above, it is nonetheless a reliable companion that you will not be afraid to carry into the thickest woods or the steepest terrain.
So, if you are a long range varmint hunter or an avid hunter of medium sized deer species, then the .243 Winchester cartridge is an excellent choice for both purposes since it offers long range varmint hunters a very flat trajectory with plenty of downrange kinetic energy and, for medium sized Deer, Antelope, Mounting Goat, and Dall Sheep hunters, it provides the ability to humanely dispatch such game species out to 300 yards without having to endure the pounding recoil of some the more powerful rifle cartridges based on the same parent case such as the 7mm-08 Remington or the .308 Winchester.
In addition, the five rifles listed above are some the finest examples of modern production rifles available today that chamber this fine cartridge and, they range from finely finished functional works of art to hard working “rifleman’s rifles” that any hunter would be proud to own but, would also not hesitate to carry into rough terrain as a staunch companion and a reliable friend. However, it should also be noted that many of these rifles are available in several different models ranging from general purpose models with synthetic stocks to highly specialized models with heavy barrels and target stocks. Thus, if none of the rifles listed above meet your needs, then you are sure to find one from the manufactures listed above that does.
Written by Bill Bernhardt
Bill Bernhardt is a professional outdoor/wildlife writer and is a professional fly fishing instructor and guide as well as a professional hunting guide. He is an avid outdoorsman with expertise in fly fishing, hunting, firearms, archery, cutlery, outdoor survival, camping, and kayak touring.