Columnist Rod Carpenter’s son poses with a deer shot with a .243.

Introduced to the world in 1955, the .243 Winchester was quickly recognized as a little cartridge with amazing versatility.

Nothing more than the .308 Winchester necked down to .243 caliber. It was billed as the ideal combination varmint-deer rifle, and it turned out to be just that. With a wide variety of bullet weights from 50 all the way up to 115 grains, it can be tailored to suit many applications. A 55-grain bullet at 3,800 feet per second makes a very impressive general varmint round. Jump to a 75- or 80-grain for coyotes or if the wind is blowing, and 90- to 100-grain bullets are great for deer and antelope as far as most of us should be shooting. If you want to go long range, spin on a 7.5- or 8-twist barrel and go with one of the high ballistic coefficient bullets at 105-115 grains.

The .243 may not look as sexy as the new 6 Creedmoor or 6 XC, but it is a ballistic twin and components are less expensive and much easier to find.

What really makes the .243 shine is it’s “shootability.” Just about every rifle that I have shot has shown fine accuracy. As well, the recoil is mild enough for just about everyone. I don’t care who you are, everyone shoots a low-recoiling rifle better than a hard kicker. As we all know, bullet placement trumps everything else in cleanly taking game. Not velocity, bullet weight or energy can make up for a bullet in the wrong place, and the mild little .243 helps you put it where it needs to go.

In the old days, some suggested that the .243 was marginal for big deer. Today, however, we are blessed with some exceptional bullet designs like the Barnes Triple Shock and the Nosler Accubond that perform very well in the .243, making a solid choice for any deer hunting.

There are even a few that recommend it for elk. While elk have been taken with the .243, I feel that there are better tools for that job.

If you are looking for a go everywhere, do anything, everyday carry rifle that will handle everything from mice to mule deer, the .243 Winchester just might be exactly what you are looking for.

What is your favorite general purpose rifle? Let us know at

Rod Carpenter is

a husband, father

and hunting fool.

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