INTRODUCTION - .243 vs .308 CALIBER
243 vs 308: Which is better for deer hunting? This is a question that many hunters have asked, and the answer can be tricky. There are benefits to both calibers, but in this blog post we will explore 243 vs 308 and see which one will work best for you! We will go over things like stopping power, accuracy, recoil as well as some other factors so keep reading!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 243 AND 308?
243 vs 308: 243 caliber rifle fires a .243 inch diameter bullet with a bullet weight typically between 55 - 120 grains. While the 308 caliber rifle fires an 0.308-inch diameter bullet with a weight between 100 and 200 grains (commonly 150, 165 & 180 grains). This is the main difference, now this difference has a knock on affect on several other attributes of both calibers. Where you will see the biggest affects is in the bullets "knock down power", trajectory & rifle behavior.
HOW DO THEY COMPARE IN TERMS OF POWER, RECOIL & ACCURACY
Both of these rifles are among the most common calibers in the world. And for good reason, they have been tested by time and still stand strong! Although they are considerably different when it comes to power, recoil and accuracy....
It is not the rifle that dictates the power but the ammunition you are choosing. Although the bore diameter of the rifle greatly affects the attributes of the ammunition. Generally the larger the bore diameter the greater the power. And the difference between the power of 243 ammunition and 308 ammunition is considerable! For example: Hornady ammunition, which is extremely popular worldwide factory ammunition supply both 308 and 243 caliber bullets. The 243 95 grain SST has a muzzle energy of 2139 ft/lbs. While the 308 150 grain SST has a muzzle energy of 2648 ft/lbs!
I find this difference like many others massively noticeable in terms of "knock down power". I have had very few deer run after they have been shot with the 308, but with the 243 I have had plenty of deer run! However, many hunters say its all about "shot placement" and that if put in the correct place there are no issues. I agree and disagree with this statement, in dense woodlands often your deer will still run off with a direct shot to the heart from a 243. This means you will have to track the deer down with your well trained dog which often takes time and doesn't always end in success!
Shot placement is a controversial subject in its self, do you go for a chest shot or head shot? But in the correct situation either is acceptable in my opinion. It comes down to the experience of the hunter and his/hers common sense. For example a head shot in 20 mph winds at 200 yards away isn't the best move! But a head shot on a still day out to around 150 metres is perfectly acceptable when done correctly.
308 rifles produce more recoil than your 243 rifles. I find that recoil is more of a personnel thing! Some individuals do not like it where as others it doesn't bother at all. I notice a substantial difference in the recoil when I am target shooting, but it doesn't really bother me at all. At no point has a 308 rifle made me feel uncomfortable. However, when shooting at an animal you do tend to lose the animal in the scope with a 308 rifle due to "muzzle flick". Again this isn't a big enough factor to ever upset me but with others it can be. A 243 would be a much smoother shooting rifle, especially if you intend on shooting targets all day long!
I haven't noticed much of a difference in accuracy when it comes to these calibers. It's other factors that will affect the accuracy such as rifle manufacturer, ammunition & the shooter himself/herself! Also, wind will play a factor, here you will see a difference in accuracy. As the 308 is a much heavier bullet it is more stable in the air. A 243 being the lighter bullet is affected more, which can throw the bullet off. You will see significant affects in winds of 20 mph and above shooting at long ranges.
308 & 243 AMMUNITION
Being extremely common worldwide calibers the choices of ammunition is plentiful. I consider this a major benefit. There are several other calibers similar to both the 243 and 308 but they don't have anywhere near as much choice in ammunition. Even the .270 which is another popular choice of caliber is not as well stocked. You can turn up to almost any gun shop no matter where you are in the country and feel confident they will have 308 or 243 ammunition. The same cannot be said for the less popular rifles.
Another thing to consider is the upcoming lead ban. Non-toxic bullets will be made for these calibers first I would imagine and thoroughly tested. In terms of selecting ammunition for you rifle, its best to try an array of different brands! Each rifle can vary. For example in my .308 I find that the Hornady SST 150 grain bullets shoot fantastically well! Where as in my .243 Remington ammunition suits better. Also, bullet accuracy will vary considerably depending on what company has manufactured your rifle.
WHY DOES IT MATTER WHAT CALIBERS YOU CHOOSE & WHAT CALIBER SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
It matters because each caliber has different capabilities. The 243 has a slightly flatter trajectory, but the 308 will hold its power over a greater distance because it's heavier. The main concern when choosing a rifle to shoot animals is its power, because you need to be humane when doing so. And that all depends on what sort of animal you are hunting. Most people with these calibers will be hunting foxes, coyotes, wolves and a wide range of deer species!
Having used both of these calibers extensively you do notice the difference in power when shooting at live quarry. Both calibers will kill the animal humanely, although you get a lot more deer running with the .243. An animal can be hit lethally and cleanly with the .243 but will still run. This is due to a surge of adrenaline in the animal and even though the animal is dead it can still run on adrenaline for up to about 100 metres! As mentioned before the .308 stops a lot of this because it has serious "knock down power".
For this reason I prefer the .308 for deer shooting. The .308 has you covered in all situations for all deer. Where as the .243 can be a bit dodgy in certain scenarios, for example chest shooting a sika stag. The probability of this animal running is high and they are often found in dense woodland. However, if you are an experienced, patient and mature hunter who has common sense then the .243 can be used on all deer species here in the UK as well. Also, the .243 is the best foxing round you can get in my opinion.
243 VS 308 - WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES OF EACH
As you can see from my basic table above, there seems to be more clear advantages towards the .243 than the .308. Although I haven't gone into heavy detail and there will be more advantages and disadvantages to list! However, the advantage of increased power when hunting after deer is enough to outweigh the argument for many. And that's what the .308 offers you.
MY TOP 3 RIFLE MANUFACTURER RECCOMENDATIONS
There are several brilliant rifle manufacturers this day and age. And most will offer a rifle that is suitable for your budget. Here's a list of my top three rifle manufacturers that I would recommend you start looking at: