.243 vs .308
Ballistics Performance Comparison of .243 vs .308 Cartridges
The .308 Winchester is one of the most popular centerfire hunting rounds on the market, especially for bringing down big game. The .243 Winchester is essentially a necked down .308 – so even though the .243 is considerably smaller, these two calibers have quite a bit in common. Think of the .243 as a descendent of the .308: a similar round, but better suited for small to medium game hunting with a more moderate recoil.
The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the .243 Winchester vs the .308 Winchester calibers based on bullet weight and various performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.
.243 Win 100 gr vs .308 Win 125 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.
|Bullet Velocity (Muzzle)||2,960 ft/s||2,675 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds||2,729 ft/s||2,389 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds||2,509 ft/s||2,121 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds||2,300 ft/s||1,871 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds||2,101 ft/s||1,642 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds||1,912 ft/s||1,437 ft/s|
|Bullet Energy (Muzzle)||1,945 ft-lb||1,986 ft-lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 100 yds||1,653 ft-lb||1,584 ft-lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 200 yds||1,398 ft-lb||1,248 ft-lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 300 yds||1,175 ft-lb||971 ft-lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 400 yds||980 ft-lb||748 ft-lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 500 yds||812 ft-lb||573 ft-lb|
|Hunting Usage @ 0 yds||Large Game||Large Game|
|Hunting Hunting Usage @ 100 yds||Large Game||Large Game|
|Hunting Usage @ 200 yds||Medium Game||Medium Game|
|Hunting Usage @ 300 yds||Medium Game||Medium Game|
|Hunting Usage @ 400 yds||Medium Game||Small Game|
|Hunting Usage @ 500 yds||Small Game||Small Game|
|*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures takend from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.|
Velocity is one of the most important factors in choosing a caliber, as this directly correlates to stopping power and a hunter’s ability to ensure a clean, ethical kill. At all distances, the .243 is flying faster than the .308. This is partially due to its smaller size and weight: we are comparing a 100-grain 243 to a 125-grain 308.
The difference in speed only increases across distances: the .243 is 340 ft/s faster than the 308 at 100 yards, and 475 ft/s faster than the .308 at 500 yards. The farther you shoot, the greater advantage goes to the .243 in terms of velocity.
The bullet energy of these two rounds starts off fairly comparable. While the .243 has a slight advantage at 1,653 ft-lb at 100 yards, that’s only a 69 ft-lb improvement over the .308’s 1,584 ft-lbs at the same distance. However, once again, the difference only increases as we get to longer distances. At 500 yards, the .243 maintains 812 ft-lbs of energy, which is a full 239 ft-lbs over the .308’s performance of 573 ft-lbs at the same distance.
However, remember that we are comparing a 100 grain .243 Winchester against a 125 grain .308 Winchester. The bullet energy is comparable, but the weight makes a difference in stopping power when it eventually does reach its target. This is why the .308 Winchester can be used for larger game than the .243 Winchester, despite having less energy in this chart.
The .243 Winchester has a slightly flatter trajectory than the .308, though they are quite comparable. There is only an inch difference out to 350 yards between the two. The .308 has more weight to contend with, but it also shoots with more powder, which helps the trajectory stay flatter.
Both of these are very popular cartridges for whitetail deer, which is often done within 300 yards. It’s worth noting that this is the range where these two calibers have very similar trajectories, so trajectory is likely not a factor for whitetail deer hunters.
.308 and .243 rifles are best used for specific purposes: rifles chambered in .308 are made for taking down larger game. The .308 cartridge is considered overkill for game smaller than a deer. It’s an excellent deer cartridge, and bullets around 165 grains can take out deer even at 500 yards. The .243 is ideal for hunting small to medium game, and should not be used for anything larger than a deer.
For tactical applications, the .308 is more popular, and is widely used by military, police, and snipers. However, target shooters or those looking for practice may not appreciate the greater recoil that the .308 offers.
The prices of these rounds are quite similar, but even a small difference can add up if you are shooting many rounds. Both can usually be found for under a dollar per round, but the .308 Winchester has a small advantage in price. Both calibers have strong options in factory offerings, though these options usually have higher ballistic coefficients for the .308, which means they are less affected by things like crosswinds in flight.
Bullet diameter makes a big difference in how these two calibers can be used. The .243 Winchester has a 6mm diameter, while the .308 as part of the 30 caliber family, is 7.8mm in diameter. The 6mm offers a sleek option often used in long-range rifles, while the 30 caliber is often used for big game hunting, precision shooting, and more. Still, the .243 does have the energy needed for deer and similar sized game within 200-300 yards.
The .308 Winchester certainly does not have an unmanageable recoil for most shooters, but the .243 Winchester has a well-earned reputation for having a relatively mild recoil. Felt recoil can vary from shooter to shooter, but most shooters report the .243 has a substantially lower perceived recoil than the .308. While both calibers have similar recoil scores at lower bullet grains, at higher grains the .308 generates nearly twice the recoil energy as the .243. (See rifle recoil chart.) This can make a big difference if you are shooting long days of target practice or varmint hunting, or if you are a new shooter learning how to manage recoil without impacting accuracy.
Both of these calibers can be fired in short-action rifles. The .308 Winchester has long been a favorite in short-action rifles, which makes sense as it is the parent cartridge for the .243. Short action rifles might be appealing to backcountry hunters, as this means you can travel over many miles with a lighter, leaner gun. This may not be important for stationary shooting like target practice, but can certainly add up on day- or weekend-long hunting expeditions.
Which Caliber is Best?
There’s a pretty simple distinction here: if it’s bigger than a deer, you need a .308 Winchester. If it’s smaller than a deer, you need a .243 Winchester. Many hunters use both calibers for deer – and this is where your preferences come into play.
If you’ll be shooting deer at unusually long distances, you’ll want to choose the .308 Winchester for its increased stopping power over longer ranges. If you’ll be at regular deer distances and/or if you are concerned about maintaining accuracy through recoil, the .243 Winchester is likely the right fit for you.
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