.243 vs .308 Winchester: Hunting Cartridge Comparison (2024)

The 308 Winchester and 243 Winchester rifle cartridges are two that stand out above the others when it comes to hunting medium to big animals.

For varmint hunting, you may choose from a large selection of ammunition in these two rifle cartridges. The 243 Winchester a nd 308 Winchester are capable of taking down any varmint, including Pronghorn, prairie dogs, antelope, and Whitetail deer.

The.243 Win and.308 Win cartridges, which are both highly well-liked in the US and across the world, will be the subject of this essay. There is no reason why these rounds, which have been available on the market for more than 50 years, won’t remain a mainstay in small-arms ammunition.

Why Compare .243 Win and .308 Win?

Why are these two rounds competing against one another? They are, in essence, brothers. You see, the 7.62 NATO, which in turn was developed from the 30-06 Springfield, gave rise to the 308 Winchester. You can see that cartridges have a history. Simple to follow lineages

The first thing you’ll discover if you check into the history of the 243 Winchester is that it uses a 308 casing. This casing has been necked down to fit the 6mm bullet. The .243 Winchester was born only three years after the 308. Consequently, the 243 Winchester is the 308’s younger sibling.

Being constantly compared to your older brother wears you out, as a small brother I can attest. But if you want to establish your worth, it’s a necessary evil. More than just case size unites the 308 and 243. Both rounds have short action and are highly well-liked in American hunting circles. It’s typical to see both at the deer camp.

Since the 1950s, both rounds have maintained their popularity. It simply seems right that we examine each round’s capabilities and place it within the context of American guns.

Brief History

.308 Winchester

In 1952, Winchester unveiled the .308 Winchester. Even though it was the forerunner, this cartridge is the 7.6251 NATO round’s civilian equivalent, and although it was briefly used in Vietnam before being superseded, it still has a specialized usage in the military and other tactical communities.

In the hunting world, the .308 has developed a devoted and strong fan base. This is a bigger bullet with great stopping power and range. With a few exceptions, it is a superb medium to big game rifle that can be used to take just about any large game species on the planet.

The .308 round is excellent for recreational hunting, yet it also exhibits sufficient speed, power, and range to be used in police force sharpshooting units. That is a high recommendation for the usage of this cartridge.

You can tell that the .308 is quite popular by the sheer volume and variety of ammunition that is offered. The flight and power characteristics of a bullet can be affected by a variety of factors, including ammo weight, powder charge, and bullet design.

.243 Winchester

The second cartridge discussed in this article, the .308, is the parent case of the .243. The two contemporary situations differ significantly in a few significant ways. The .243 is a necked-down variant of the .308 that enables it to accept the .243 bullet, which has a lower diameter.

It’s vital not to let that comparison affect how these two cartridges function. The .308 is sometimes referred to as the smaller brother, a comparison that we’re sure it doesn’t enjoy. We’ll see that there may be some significant variances in the two brothers’ skill sets.

Regardless, we shall discover that the .243 is a variation of the .308, and that there are a number of parallels between these two rounds.

Given the variety of wildlife it may be used to effectively hunt, the.243 caliber makes for a rather adaptable firearm in the realm of hunting. Originally intended for varmint hunting, this cartridge was modified to fit bigger animals like deer after the introduction of bullets with a higher grain and more potent charges that provided additional velocity.

Regarding large game hunting, as we shall explore in this essay, deer are pretty much the only option. The.243 Win also has a long and illustrious history in the world of long range shooting. Even though there are newer, flashier rounds on the market, some of the best shooters in the world continue to use the.243 caliber and have success doing so.

Specifications Difference Between 243 vs 308

We may quickly start speculating about these two cartridges based on the case and bullet size. These cartridges have some similarities because the.243 Winchester’s parent case is the.308 Winchester, but as we shall see, there are also a number of variances.

The neck diameter of the.308 is significantly broader to accommodate the bigger caliber bullet, making it the most obvious change. We can also observe that the.308 can sustain more pressure than the.243 Win, allowing it to operate at a little higher temperature.

It will take a bit more effort to propel the.308’s larger rounds to the speed required for accurate terminal ballistics. The .243 is also longer than the.308 and is unable to withstand the same level of internal pressure.

243 vs. 308 Ballistics Comparison

The 7.62mm projectile is obviously bigger than the 6mm bullet found in the 243 Winchester. Due to its bigger and heavier bullet, the 308 has a greater ballistic coefficient.

Although the ballistic coefficient of the 6mm projectile is better than that of the 308, it is still unable to equal the energy of the heavier, bigger projectile. Although the lesser bullet may equal the heavier one’s velocity, it cannot provide the same foot-pounds of energy.

A heavy 243 projectile is a 100-grain bullet with an impact energy of 1,945 foot-pounds that travels at 2,960 feet per second. A heavy 308 is a bullet weighing 175 grains that travels at a speed of 2,645 feet per second and has a 2,718 foot-pound energy hit.

How many foot-pounds of energy are required to take a deer, you ask? That’s a fantastic question, because at the majority of hunting ranges, both bullets are more than capable of dispatching a deer. Longer ranges and larger game are where the distinctions lay.

The 308 has a powerful punch at further distances and can still efficiently dispatch medium-sized wildlife at 500 yards. However, for most hunters, that is not a reasonable or humane range. The round’s capacity to kill larger wildlife at distances outside of what is practicable for deer hunting is its main strength.

At 200 yards, the 308 can quickly and humanely dispatch a bear. The 243 Winchester can kill a bear, but because to its lack of energy, it is not advised for such tasks. A barrier made of bones, fat, and fur needs some energy to get beyond.

The flat shooting 243 is an outstanding varmint cartridge at extended distances. Coyotes and even prairie dogs may be effectively shot from a distance of several hundred yards. The energy requirements of the little animals are lower than for other cartridges.

The 243 Winchester projectile often shoots flatter. It drops almost 10 inches less than the 308 at 500 yards. The bullet weight and powder loading may affect this, but it is unquestionably a flat shooting round. It drops little at all, and typically less than the 308 Winchester. Less holdover and simpler shots at varied ranges are the results of this.

Interestingly, there isn’t much of a difference between the two when we compare wind drift with a crosswind of 10 miles per hour. The heavier 308 naturally is less influenced by wind; however, the difference doesn’t really become apparent until 400 yards.

Velocity

As these cartridges can only store so much and withstand so much pressure, and as there is a narrow line you must walk with a hot round, it is not as easy as adding stronger burning powders. The bullet will be unstable in the air if the incorrect twist rate is used in conjunction with it. You frequently don’t need to bother about this idea for factory loads.

Looking at the bullet velocity as it travels downrange from the muzzle is important for a number of reasons. The trajectory, which in turn determines how many corrections are necessary while shooting at a distance, will be greatly influenced by the bullet’s velocity.

The terminal ballistics of a hunting round also depend on velocity since it determines the energy of the bullet and how it will expand upon impact. Up to 500 yards, the muzzle velocities of the.243 are greater. Although the.308 closes the gap as the bullets travel downrange, all statistics corroborate this.

One of the main causes of this is how rapidly the velocity of the 55gr.243 bullets bleeds out. They launch with a velocity of about 4,000 feet per second, and they have a significant edge until 500 yards, when all of the rounds start to group considerably more closely.

As the two cartridges approach and pass the 200-yard mark, there is some overlap in their velocities since it seems that the.243 rounds lose velocity more quickly than the.308 bullets do. All of these shots continue to travel at supersonic speeds after 500 rounds and very likely for several hundred more.

Recoil and Muzzle Rise Comparison

Even while the 243 Winchester may have the same case size and case capacity, the comparison doesn’t end there. The shooter has far less recoil than a shooter using a 308 Winchester because the lighter bullet moves with less force.

How different is it? When comparing similar-sized rifles, the recoil of the 243 Winchester is typically around half that of the 308 Winchester. Recoil may be calculated using internet calculators, and we can quantify it in foot-pounds. We may enter commercial deer hunting loads designed for deer and assess recoil using rifles of the same weight.

The recoil energy of the 243 Winchester is 11 foot pounds, whereas that of the 308 is 21 foot pounds. When she killed her first deer, my 10-year-old sister was using a 243 Winchester Remington model 700 rifle, and she was a whiz at shooting that weapon.

Having said that, the 308 Winchester is not a painful, shoulder-thumping round. For experienced shooters, recoil is minimal. If the cartridge had been fired with a sharp or excruciatingly painful recoil, it would never have gained the popularity it does today.

Between the two, muzzle rise resembles recoil. A lighter muzzle rise is also produced by the 243 Winchester. The 243 Winchester does allow for quicker follow-up shots and has more accurate sights than the 308. This can be reduced with contemporary muzzle devices, but when testing raw, the disparity is clear.

Trajectory

What you use a hunting rifle for and the ammo you use are irrelevant. One of the ballistic components that is frequently discussed and closely examined is the bullet’s trajectory. Bullets follow a parabolic flight pattern as they travel downrange.

Bullets lose altitude when they slow down and are affected by external factors. In a .243 vs. .308 cartridge comparison, prospective buyers want to know which cartridge has a flat trajectory, which means it exhibits less bullet drop.

We want to take a step back and just look at two rounds, one from each cartridge type, that are similar in bullet weight, BC, and bullet shape before we look at particular ranges using the short and long-range shooting trajectories.

There is a discrepancy in the bullet weights of these two rounds that is solely due to the design of these two cartridges over which we have no control.

The difference in bullet drop between these two rounds out to 350 yards is less than an inch, as can be seen. The difference does begin to expand from this point on, with the.243 round continuing to exhibit a little less significant trajectory dip than the.308 round. Even yet, the largest deviation in trajectory doesn’t occur until 500 yards, and even then, we’re only talking about a maximum deviation of five inches.

Even though the.308 uses significantly heavier bullets than the .243, it also uses more powder to send them farther downrange. Therefore, despite the fact that the light .243 rounds have a slightly flatter trajectory than the .308, this difference is not as noticeable as one might anticipate.

Short Range Trajectory

In these situations, the bulk of shots are fired from distances up to 300 yards, and both of these cartridges are particularly popular for use on medium-sized game, including whitetails.

We do notice several cartridge type patterns with the short-range trajectory. With 55 and 58gr bullets, the .243 rounds offer the flattest performance. With the exception of those two rounds, every .243 bullet has a flatter trajectory than the.308 rounds, while the difference is negligible at 200 yards.

At this point, the average differences between the two cartridges are less than two inches apart, and if we disregard the two light.243 rounds, the difference would be less than one inch. No of the variance, every round has a bullet drop at 200 yards of less than 5 inches.

At 300 yards, the pattern stays the same. The rounds do appear to be growing somewhat further apart from one another. The lighter bullet of .243 rounds are about five inches flatter than the next closest round, just like at 200 yards.

Even the .243 rounds, which have a greater angle of descent, are 2-3 inches flatter than all but one of the.308 rounds. The averages for both cartridges are currently 9.72 inches for the .243 caliber and 14.68 inches for the .308.

Long Range Trajectory

Although none of these rounds is regarded as the best long-range ammo in the shooting world today, they are still alternatives, and many people use them. We will examine these rounds’ long-range trajectories as a result.

Overall, we observe a pattern that is comparable to that of the short-range trajectory. At the 300 and 400 yard markers, we observe tight groups of all the other rounds save the two light .243 bullets.

We definitely see a definite edge in trajectory for the .243 bullets when the shots approach the 500-yard line. Although some.308 bullets do seem to cluster closer with the steeper.243 rounds, overall, the difference in averages is rather obvious. The.308 has an average bullet drop at 500 yards of 50 inches, compared to 38 inches for the .243.

Is The 243 More Accurate Than The 308?

Both the 243 Win and 308 Win rifle cartridges are incredibly accurate. For for than 60 years, both military and police enforcement sharpshooters preferred the 308 Winchester model round (though some departments are switching to t he 6.5 Creedmoor or the 300 Win Mag).

Due to its flatter trajectory and lesser felt recoil, I will award the 243 Win a minor accuracy advantage in this situation. This is frequently the reason why most shooters claim that they “shoot their 243 better.” However, there should be no appreciable difference in accuracy between the 243 and the 308 when using good shooting technique and trigger control..

.243 vs .308 Ballistics Coefficient

The ballistic coefficient may like reading Greek to some shooters, but it is actually rather simple to comprehend. In essence, a bullet’s ballistic coefficient represents its ability to withstand wind and air resistance. A high BC is preferable since the bullet will be able to resist the wind more readily. It is a numerical indication of how aerodynamic a bullet is.

A heavier bullet will often have a greater BC. Generally speaking, 243 Win will have a lower BC (average: 0.434) than 308 Winchester (average: .343). However, this does not imply that the .243 Winchester model is a subpar round. On the other hand, the .243 can successfully take down deer at distances of up to 300 yards.

Stopping Power

We will frame our discussion regarding stopping power in the context of stopping that trophy deer from eluding you because neither of these cartridges is normally employed for self-defense.

The precise amount of power needed to morally take down a deer with a single shot is a topic of significant scholarly disagreement among hunters. There is currently agreement that about 1000 ft-lb of kinetic energy is needed.

One would contend that shot location is the most crucial factor in stopping power, and I would agree. But for the sake of this comparison, we’ll focus on the energy of the bullet in a vacuum.

One category where the 308 just destroys the 243 Win is kinetic energy. Our 168 grain 308 bullet is striking with a skull-crushing 2650 ft-lb of energy at the muzzle. With a total muzzle energy of 1900 ft-lb, the 243 is over 700 ft-lb behind. The difference in kinetic energy between the two is over 40%!

As the bullet moves more downrange, things don’t go well for the 243 Win. The 243 crosses the 1000 ft-lb mark at 400 yards, but the 308 continues to rip along and is well over 1000 ft-lb at 500 yards and beyond. Although the 243 has a faster muzzle velocity than the 308, the 308 has better stopping power at a distance due to its enormous amount of kinetic energy.

Applications Comparison Between 243 vs 308

When it comes to hunting deer, the .243 works well in a variety of applications. The .243 caliber is one of the finest for varmint and predator hunting since it is lightweight and fast. By raising the bullet weight, you may also create a fantastic whitetail cartridge with great velocity and penetration that, in our opinion, is equally as effective as the .308 round.

Although it doesn’t have nearly as much bullet momentum as the .308, for the purposes this cartridge is often employed for, it is not necessary. Whitetails don’t have the thick hide or bone structure that would make it difficult to strike through neatly without a lot more force.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these rounds for long-range shooting. Once more, we are solely discussing factory loads and not handloading. We will discuss recoil in greater detail momentarily, but for now we want to concentrate on ballistics.

The velocity variations between each of these rounds vary depending on the round. The.243 offers choices for some hot shots, but the hot bullets soon lose velocity, so there is little difference by the time you reach 500 yards.

The lighter .308 rounds, which also have somewhat superior overall BCs and occasionally a significant advantage, will be more influenced by wind than the lighter .243 rounds despite having a better trajectory.

Rifle Selection

This area is completely dominated by the 308 Winchester. I’m sorry to tell you, but bolt action rifles are the primary use for the 243 Winchester. Single-shot rifles, the occasional magazine-fed lever action, yes, even AR designs, can be found, but they are frequently pricey and scarce.

One of the most widely used and dominant cartridges worldwide is the 308 Winchester. You can quite easily find a 308 rifle in about any action type you choose. This comprises tactical rifles as well as conventional hunting rifles with bolt action, lever action, and single-shot mechanisms.

The military heritage of the 7.62 NATO and its compatibility with the 308 Winchester widen the range of rifle options. Included in this include the well-known AR 10, as well as M14 knockoffs, G3s, FN FALs, and even AK-type rifles that have been found to be chambered in 308 Winchester.

You may obtain it in 308 if you so want. The weapon choice has an impact on the 243 Winchester round, which has traditionally been a big game hunting round. The accessibility of youth-sized rifles is one advantage of employing a 243 Winchester. Youthful 308s are uncommon to see. Additionally, 243 Winchester rifles may be lighter, and every pound matters when tracking a deer over difficult terrain.

Price

Premium hunting loads are about equally priced. If you want an expanded round made for gently killing big game animals, the cost is often $1 or more each round. That appears to apply to all popular hunting cartridges.

The 7.62 NATO angle makes a significant impact. Full metal jacket loads for 7.62 NATO are common. These are far less expensive, frequently 50 cents each round. The 308 option can be a better alternative if you wish to shoot your rifle frequently for a reasonable price.

Conclusion: Between The 243 vs 308, Which is Better?

Both rounds are superb illustrations of contemporary rifle cartridges. They both offer shooters something unique, and in all honesty, you could make a strong case for buying both of them and calling it quits.

If you choose to go that path, the 308 Winchester gives you additional alternatives for tactical rifles. It also provides you with more affordable ammunition alternatives overall and is more frequently utilized for precision rifle contests. Practically speaking, you can hunt medium and large animals at varied practical hunting ranges with the 308 Winchester.

The 308 gives you a thousand-yard cartridge if you desire one. The 308 is a dependable option if you wish to hunt wildlife like deer and bear. The 243 is a fantastic choice if you want to hunt everything from deer up to prairie dogs, gophers, and coyotes.

The 243 Winchester is a powerful rifle option that young hunters won’t outgrow any time soon when choosing their hunting gear.

.243 vs .308 Winchester: Hunting Cartridge Comparison (2024)
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