Among the most popular centerfire cartridges to-date, the .243 Win. has, since its inception in 1955, faithfully fulfilled its intended purpose as a dual-purpose round. Given the plethora of 0.243”-diameter bullets, though, how do you know which one is right for your gun, quarry and circumstance? Below is a listing of seven standouts. Some are available in factory loads, while others require handloading. All are top tier.
Lehigh Defense 60-grain Controlled Chaos
Created to fulfill a game agency’s need for a lead-free, .24-caliber bullet with minimal pass-through energy, the CNC-machined, all-brass, boattail-base, hollow-point bullet offers violent expansion. Energy transfer is both hasty and tremendous. After entry, hydraulic pressure forces the nose to shard and radiate outward, causing numerous smaller wound channels while the caliber-diameter base provides straight-line penetration. Perfect for animal culling, the 60-grain Controlled Chaos bullet also is well suited for varmint/predator hunting. Component bullets and loaded ammunition are available from Lehigh Defense.
Hornady 75-grain V-Max
Holding to the belief of the .243 Win as a dual-purpose cartridge, Hornady manufacturers four, .24-caliber V-Max varmint bullets. Ranging in weight from 58 to 87 grains, the 75-grain variant is the standout. Like its brethren, the 75-grain V-Max features a thin, fragile jacket and swaged lead core for dramatic fragmentation, while the polymer tip, ogive, and boattail base boost the ballistic coefficient (BC) for flatter trajectories and less wind deflection. Boasting a BC of .330, the 75-grain V-Max is more aerodynamic than its lightweight counterparts, and yet it can be propelled much faster than the 87-grain variant. It’s just right. Although suitable for animal culling with perfect shot placement, the 75-grain V-Max is best relegated to varmints and predators. It’s available as a component and loaded in Hornady Superformance Varmint ammunition.
Sierra 85-grain HPBT GameKing
As a “do-it-all” bullet, Sierra’s 85-grain HPBT GameKing is tough to top. Originally designed for long-range varminting, the boattail-base, hollow-point, cup-and-core projectile nicely pulls double-duty for hunting deer-size game. And work it does! Having shot more than a dozen deer with it from a .243 Win., 6 mm Rem., and 6 mm Int’l, seldom do deer travel far—if at all. Most drop at the shot. It’s also extremely accurate; in fact, seldom have I had any .24-cal. projectile top the accuracy attainable with this bullet. Despite such impressive performance, the 85-grain BTHP GameKing is available only as a component; therefore, you must handload it. It’s well worth the effort.
Hornady 95-grain SST
Super Shock Tip (SST) bullets are purpose-built for big-game hunting, and the 95-grain, .24-caliber variant is no different. The bullet has a tapered, gilding metal jacket that’s mechanically locked (i.e. InterLock ring) to the lead-alloy core, thereby minimizing jacket-core separation during expansion and penetration. Coupled with the secant ogive, the red, polymer tip improves ballistic efficiency and initiates expansion. By using a flat base rather than a boattail, the 1.107”-long projectile can be stabilized from most “standard” rifling twist rates in .243 Win.-chambered rifles. It’s also a wonderfully accurate projectile; in fact, when working up loads for American Rifleman, the average of five consecutive, five-shot groups at 100 yards from a $269 Savage was 0.98”. Three-shot groups halved that. In addition to handloading, 95-gr. SSTs are factory loaded by Hornady and Black Hills Ammunition.
Berger 95-grain Classic Hunter
Containing a hybrid nose design and long, Berger VLD-style boattail, the match-grade 95-grain Classic Hunter has the best BC of any .24-caliber bullet that’ll work within SAAMI parameters for overall length (and thus fit into standard rifle magazines). Less sensitive to seating depth too, the Classic Hunter nonetheless shares the terminal performance of the company’s VLD Hunter in the same weight; that is, the bullet will penetrate several inches before shedding upward of 85 percent of its weight. Washed off material serves to enhance damage to vital organs. Recovery distances are generally short. Like the Sierra 85-grain BTHP GameKing, this particular variant is currently available only as a component. Its sibling, the 95-grain VLD Hunting, is loaded by HSM.
Speer 100-grain Grand Slam
Unlike most lead-core projectiles, in which the hardened lead core is inserted into the jacket, that of the Grand Slam is poured directly into the tapered, gilding metal jacket featuring heel folds; therefore, the Grand Slam combines a friction and mechanical grip between the two materials. Eighty- to 85-percent weight retention is typical. Internal fluting makes upset possible at a range of velocities. Despite its protected-point profile, flat base, and wide meplat, the 100-grain, .24-caliber Grand Slam still has a respectable BC of .327. When hunting deer (especially mule deer), feral hogs and smaller black bear, the Grand Slam is a great choice. This projectile is available only as a component.
Norma 100-grain Oryx
What the flat-base, semi-spitzer, 100-grain Oryx lacks in aesthetics it certainly makes up for in durability. The projectile has a heavy, tapered, gilding metal jacket that’s bonded to the lead core. The result is a bullet that has rapid, yet controlled, expansion with weight retention averaging 90 percent or more. Penetration is deep; in fact, when hunting Montana antelope with a Montana Rifle Co. rifle in 6XC, the Oryx completed penetrated the animal from 330 yds. away. Internal damage was significant but not excessive, and tracking was unnecessary. Thanks to its profile, the 0.98”-long Oryx will often stabilize in barrels with slower rifling twist rates that struggle with more aerodynamic bullets. For the largest, toughest species within the .243 Winchester’s capabilities, the Norma Oryx is an excellent choice. It’s available as a component and factory loaded by Norma.
When loaded with the proper bullet, the .243 Win. is simply ideal for varmints, predators, and medium-size game. Try these bullets and you won’t be disappointed.