Many people use the sweet shooting .243 Winchester for hunting deer, feral hogs, and even many predators and varmints with great results. Here are a few outstanding 243 ammo options that will serve you very well on your next hunt.
The cartridge we now know as the .243 Winchester hit the market just a few years after its parent: the .308 Winchester. Using a .308 Winchester case necked down to shoot 6mm/.243″ bullets, the .243 Winchester cartridge has long been a favorite of hunters who want a short action cartridge that offers a good balance of light recoil, a very flat trajectory, and plenty of killing power on small and medium sized game.
While the extremely similar 6mm Remington (6mm Rem) fell flat out of the gate around that same time, the .243 Winchester cartridge quickly caught on with North American hunters when Winchester standardized the the cartridge back in 1955 and it remains a favorite to this day.
For that reason, most of the big ammunition manufacturers like Barnes, Browning, Federal Premium, Hornady, HSM, Norma, Nosler, Prvi Partizan (PPU), Remington, Swift, and Winchester produces several different variants of .243 ammo for hunting deer, bear, elk, and many other big game animals.
While the .243 Winchester is an outstanding choice for use on deer sized game, it’s also a fairly popular varmint and predator hunting cartridge. The cartridge also has very mild recoil and is therefore quite popular with small framed and/or recoil shy hunters.
It’s important to realize that different hunting situations necessitate the use of different kinds of .243 ammo for best performance and using the wrong ammunition can lead to disastrous results.
For instance, a high velocity load firing very lightweight bullets that’s ideal for use on coyotes and prairie dogs would be a terrible choice for use on medium game like deer.
Some hunters use the .243 Winchester on bigger game like black bear and even elk. To be perfectly honest, I think the .243 Winchester cartridge is far too light side for game that size though. Proper bullet selection is critical for hunters who insist on using the .243 for elk hunting though.
Lightweight 55-58 grain bullets are great for predator and varmint hunting. Hunters who use those lighter bullets on larger game will very likely experience issues with poor penetration, especially on steeply quartering shots though.
For this reason, I strongly recommend using more robustly constructed and heavier bullets in the 80-100 grain range for hunting game like feral hogs or deer.
Like I said, I think the .243 Winchester is too underpowered for elk hunting. However, hunters who plan on using the .243 Winchester for hunting really big game like elk or black bear should use premium quality controlled expansion bullets that are 100 grains or heavier.
Keep all of this in mind when you select .243 ammo for an upcoming hunt.
Additionally, while they are very accurate and are certainly capable of killing big game animals, I don’t recommend using bullets designed for target shooting like the Sierra MatchKing or Hornady ELD Match for hunting.
This is because target or match bullets usually aren’t designed for optimum terminal performance on big game animals and you may run into issues with poor penetration.
Instead, it’s best to stick with .243 Winchester ammo specifically designed for hunting that uses soft point, jacketed hollow point, or similar hunting bullets.
Fortunately, there is a wide variety of .243 factory loads specifically designed for just almost any big game hunting situation. So, regardless of whether you’re using a bolt action a Remington Model 700, a Ruger Hawkeye, a Savage 110, a Winchester Model 70, or some other hunting rifle, there is pretty much guaranteed to be something for everyone on the list below of the best .243 ammunition for hunting.
In this article, I’m going to show you the best .243 ammo for hunting deer, feral hogs, pronghorn, and predators/varmints. I’ll also go over the strengths and weaknesses of each individual load and help you select the right ammunition for your specific needs.
Note: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase of rifle, handgun, rimfire, or shotgun ammunition through those links. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to create free content that’s useful to hunters like yourself. Thanks for your support.
Update July 2021: Ammo supplies finally look like they’re starting to recover. We still have a long way to go and selection is still nowhere near where it was back in 2019, but things are a lot better now than they were even 6 months ago.
Click the link below if you just want to quickly check what ammo is in-stock and ready to ship so you can hit the range and get ready for hunting season.
The .243 Winchester is one of the most popular cartridges used by deer hunters in the United States. Not surprisingly, Winchester offers a .243 load as part of Deer Season XP line of ammunition. The Extreme Point bullet this rifle ammo uses is similar to Winchester’s Power Point bullet, but the Extreme Point has a large diameter polymer tip that’s specifically designed to produce a gigantic wound channel along with massive impact trauma.
This normally results in a very short tracking job and a very easy to follow blood trail. Additionally, Deer Season XP ammo is designed specifically to compete with other popular whitetail deer hunting ammo options like Federal Fusion, Federal Power-Shok, Hornady American Whitetail, Nosler Ballistic Tip, Winchester Super-X, and Winchester Ballistic Silvertip in terms of accuracy, reliability, and terminal performance.
The Winchester Deer Season XP line is also competitively priced and has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .243 Winchester ammo choices on this list.
So, not only does this ammo have a reputation for producing a giant wound channel and minimizing the distance deer run after being hit, but it’s also very reasonably priced .243 ammo. All things considered, this Winchester ammo is one of my top recommended brands of .243 ammo for whitetail deer hunting. The same goes for hunting game like feral hogs, mule deer, or pronghorn antelope.
- Bullet Type: Extreme Point
- Bullet Weight: 95 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .363
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,100 feet per second
Those who really like Barnes bullets are in luck because Barnes produces .243 ammo as part of their VOR-TX line. Featuring their legendary copper Tipped Triple Shock X (TTSX) bullets (which is just the Barnes TSX with a polymer tip), this ammunition is designed for rapid expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration. Specifically, Barnes manufactures a single load in .243 using 80 grain bullets.
This high velocity 80 grain load is great .243 ammo for deer, feral hog, black bear, and pronghorn hunting. Some hunters use this ammunition on bigger game like elk, but I think there are much better ammunition choices if you want to use your .243 for elk hunting. In particular, I think Federal’s loading with the 100 grain Nosler Partition is a better option for elk hunting with the .243 Winchester.
All things considered, this is outstanding all-around ammo and it’s tough to go wrong with the Barnes VOR-TX line.
This load is also 100% copper, which makes it an ideal choice of lead free .243 hunting ammunition for use in states like California that that don’t permit the use of lead bullets.
- Bullet Type: TTSX Boat Tail
- Bullet Weight: 80 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .331
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,350
Are you a “meat and potatoes” kind of hunter who just wants some reasonably priced and dependable 243 ammo for hunting deer or feral hogs? Well, Remington’s 100 grain Core Lokt soft point will probably work really well for you.
This ammo is not the latest and greatest stuff by any means. However, this .243 Winchester ammunition has been around for a long time and untold numbers hunters have successfully used Core Lokt ammo to take lots of big game in North America.
These are good bullets and a hit with one through the vitals of a deer, hog, or perhaps even a black bear will make for a very short tracking job. After all, there’s a reason why the Core-Lokt bullet is called the “deadliest mushroom in the woods.”
This ammunition is very reasonably priced and has one of the lowest costs per round out of all the .243 ammo on this list though. If you’re on a strict budget, then it’s tough to go wrong with 100 grain Core Lokts.
With all that in mind, I don’t recommend using Remington Core-Lokt ammo on bigger game like elk or moose though. I think the .243 Winchester is on the light side for that sort of hunting anyway, so you need the absolute best .243 ammo for elk or moose if you’re going that route. In my opinion, I think the 100 grain Nosler Partition is a much better choice for that work.
- Bullet Type: Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point (PSP)
- Bullet Weight: 100 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .356
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,960 feet per second
This .243 Winchester is a fantastic deer hunting cartridge and hunters have taken a lot of deer with it over the years. So, lots of companies design and market various ammunition lines specifically for whitetail deer hunting. Hornady’s American Whitetail line is a notable example.
Loaded with Hornady’s InterLock lead core bullet, this ammunition is extremely effective on deer-size game. The bullet features what Hornady calls an “InterLock ring” that mechanically attaches the jacket to the lead core. So, it’s not technically a bonded bullet, but this feature helps with weight retention and penetration while reducing the odds of core-jacket separation.
The end result is a bullet that’s more robustly constructed than other popular whitetail bullets (like the Hornady SST), but still expands very well, will deliver devastating results on impact, and is more likely to produce exit wounds, even on on bigger bodied deer (especially on a broadside shot).
Finally, Hornady American Whitetail ammunition is also very reasonably priced. With all that in mind, is arguably the best choice if you’re looking for great .243 deer hunting ammo, especially at ranges inside of 200 yards. There’s not a darn thing wrong with using these Hornady InterLock soft points on feral hogs either and they can also be extremely effective on hogs.
- Bullet Type: Hornady InterLock Boat Tail Soft Point (BTSP)
- Bullet Weight: 100 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .405
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,960 feet per second
I don’t recommend using the .243 for elk hunting. However, a premium quality 100 grain bullet (or heavier) is an absolute must for for hunters who insist on using the cartridge on bigger game like elk or black bear. With that in mind, I’d recommend Federal Premium’s line featuring the legendary Nosler Partition bullet for those applications. Loaded with a 100 grain Nosler Partition bullet, this load is one of the best options available for hunting really big game where it’s really important to use a heavy, well constructed bullet.
By the same token, the .243 Winchester isn’t usually considered a great cartridge for hunting Africa. However, this is the ammunition I’d recommend if you wanted to take your .243 deer rifle to Africa to hunt plains game, especially if really large or tough game like eland, blue wildebeest, or kudu are on the menu.
This ammunition is not limited to really big, tough game either. Indeed, it’s also great for game like whitetail and mule deer, even if they don’t necessarily require that sort of performance.
Unfortunately, this load doesn’t have the flattest trajectory out there, but it still retains energy fairly well and is deadly on all manner of big game at reasonable hunting ranges. So this is some outstanding .243 ammo for shots out to a couple hundred yards.
The Nosler Partition is a very old bullet design. Even so, it’s still one of the most widely used premium bullets in use today and has a proven track record over the course of many decades and won’t let you down at the moment of truth. There’s a reason why it’s so darn popular with those who prefer to use handloads as well as factory ammo.
With proper shot placement, this ammunition will deliver excellent performance if it hits bone or soft tissue at short range as well as at several hundred yards. Just aim for the vitals, do your part as a shooter, and the Nosler Partition bullet will do the rest.
- Bullet Type: Nosler Partition
- Bullet Weight: 100 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .384
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,850 feet per second
Also Available at: Brownells
The .243 Winchester is an extremely popular cartridge for new, small framed, and or recoil shy hunters. In particular, it’s a common choice for children to hunt with. In fact, I think it’s one of the best cartridges for new hunters to cut their teeth on.
With this in mind, Hornady offers a reduced recoil .243 Winchester load as part of their Custom Lite line of ammunition. This is a reduced power load that uses a lighter bullet fired at a slower than usual velocity. This results in an exceptionally mild recoiling .243 load that’s still deadly on deer sized game at short to moderate range.
This ammunition is loaded with an 87 grain Hornady SST bullet, which has a reputation for great accuracy. The SST bullet tends to expand fairly quickly though. This is especially true with relatively high velocity cartridges like the .243 Winchester.
In this particular case, even the reduced power .243 load is still pushing those bullets at 2,800 feet per second. With all that in mind, it will deliver good terminal performance, but don’t expect a complete pass through (even on a broadside shot), especially on bigger bodied animals.
With all that in mind, this is great .243 deer hunting ammo for recoil shy hunters. So if you need an accurate, low recoil .243 ammo option for your child to deer hunt with, then Hornady’s Custom Lite .243 Winchester ammo is an excellent choice.
- Bullet Type: SST
- Bullet Weight: 87 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .400
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 feet per second
Federal’s 95gr Fusion Soft Point load is another excellent option to consider if you’re planning on taking your .243 Winchester deer hunting.
The Federal Fusion Soft Points have a jacket that’s molecularly bonded to the core to prevent component separation. This helps ensure high weight retention and deep penetration. Though Federal designed the Fusion line of ammunition specifically for deer hunting, it will also work really well for just about any other species of thin-skinned game.
So, regardless of whether you want to take your .243 Winchester deer or feral hog hunting, you can count on this load to get the job done.
Finally, this particular load is one of the least expensive .243 ammo choices out there that’s appropriate for hunting. Fortunately, just because the ammo is reasonably priced doesn’t mean that it’s low quality.
This ammunition is designed for the same sort of applications as Hornady’s American Whitetail ammo. While it uses a slightly lighter 95gr bullet (instead of the 100gr bullet used in the Hornady ammo), it’s a little bit more robustly constructed.
Either one will work great for deer, feral hogs, and maybe even black bear though. I’d recommend buying a box of each one and see which performs better in your rifle.
- Bullet Type: Fusion Soft Point
- Bullet Weight: 95 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .376
- Muzzle Velocity: 2,980 feet per second
The .243 Winchester is not commonly thought of as a long range hunting cartridge. However, it actually has better extended range performance than many people think. The .243 is a high velocity centerfire rifle cartridge to start out with and using a more aerodynamic bullet helps with energy retention, resistance to wind drift, and to minimize bullet drop at longer range.
Well, Hornady’s Precision Hunter line does include the .243 Winchester, which is a very good .243 ammo option for hunters looking to squeeze every bit of long range performance out of the cartridge. Loaded with the extremely aerodynamic Extremely Low Drag eXpanding (ELD-X) bullet and fired at a higher velocity, this ammo is perfect for western hunters going after game like mule deer or pronghorn antelope who need the very best .243 ammo for a long range hunting situation.
Hornady advertises that the ELD-X bullet has the best-in-class ballistic coefficients over their entire trajectory. In fact, this particular load uses one of the most aerodynamic bullets available as a factory load for the .243 Winchester. They also advertise that their Precision Hunter ammunition also offers match grade accuracy (usually sub-MOA).
Though the ELD-X does not have a bonded core like the Hornady InterBond, the ELD-X does feature a thicker jacket and an InterLock ring to help control expansion, increase weight retention, and minimize the chances of core-jacket separation. For this reason, the ELD-X is still devastating on deer and pronghorn sized game.
Don’t get carried away and try to stretch ranges out too much with this ammunition. As good as this stuff is, there are simply limits to what the .243 Winchester is capable of. That said, this Hornady Precision Hunter offering is still some good .243 ammunition that’s capable of delivering great terminal performance on game like deer and antelope for shots at 300+ yards.
- Bullet Type: Extremely Low Drag Expanding
- Bullet Weight: 90 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .409
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,150 feet per second
While the .243 Winchester is a great deer hunting cartridge, it’s also extremely effective on predators and varmints as well. In fact, the .243 bridges the gap between the smaller bore predator cartridges and many of the more popular big game hunting cartridges. For this reason, there are some very effective predator and varmint factor loads for the .243 Winchester.
In particular, Hornady offers a load for the .243 Winchester as part of their Superformance Varmint line. This load pushes a 58 grain V-Max bullet at a screaming fast velocity of 3,925 fps.
This is a flat base bullet that doesn’t have as aerodynamic of a profile as a boat-tailed bullet. However, flat based bullets in generals are known for outstanding accuracy at shorter range and the V-Max is no exception.
This is one of the lighter bullet weights combined with one of the highest velocity .243 loads in current production. Those blazing fast velocities combined with the very lightweight, thin-jacked bullet result in a very flat trajectory combined with rapid expansion upon impact. So, this .243 ammo is great for use on smaller animals like coyotes, bobcats, prairie dogs, groundhogs, etc.
Don’t be fooled by how much muzzle energy this ammunition has: kinetic energy is strongly influenced by very high velocities.
This is definitely not a good choice for use on bigger game because the rapid, almost explosive expansion of those lightweight, high velocity bullets comes at the expense of very poor penetration. This ammo has more than enough penetration for use on smaller game and varmints, but it likely won’t penetrate deep enough to reach the vitals of a deer or hog.
In all fairness though, that’s not what Hornady Superformance Varmint ammo is designed for. You’ll very likely have good results if you use this ammo on predators and varmints though.
- Bullet Type: Hornady V-Max
- Bullet Weight: 58 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .259
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,925 feet per second
Winchester’s Varmint X line is another good choice of .243 ammo for those who want to hunt varmints and predators with the cartridge.
It also shoots rapidly expanding 58 grain bullets at a blazing fast velocity in excess of 3,800 fps. Like the V-Max, this load uses bullets with a flat base that are known for great accuracy.
All things considered, this Winchester ammunition will likely deliver similar performance on predators and varmints to the Hornady Superformance ammo.
My advice is to buy a box or two of the Hornady and Winchester ammunition and see which one functions best in your particular .243 rifle. Then, just hunt with the stuff that works best for you.
- Bullet Type: Polymer Tip Rapid Expansion
- Bullet Weight: 58 grains
- Ballistic Coefficient (G1): .250
- Muzzle Velocity: 3,850 feet per second