Practical Reloading – Making the .243 Perform on Big Game

My friend Ken Harding bought a Kimber Model 84M Classic Select in .243 for his partner recently and it brought back memories of the good old days over 50 years ago when I used the .243 on all manner of game with great success. It also set me to thinking about how the handloader could go about inreasing the little sixes effectiveness. The .243 Winchester is often suggested as a great little cartridge for a woman or a youthful shooter. Hunters buy .243s for wives and kids for one very good reason – it doesn’t kick much and its mild recoil prevents flinching, making the gun pleasant to shoot.

The calibre may be small, but the .243 has won quite a reputation for being a flat-shooting long-range dual-purpose cartridge, a good performer not only on varmints and ferals but also deer. The .243’s relatively mild report and recoil make it easier for a new shooter to place his shots well and thus be more effective at taking medium game out to 300 metres.

When it was introduced in 1955, the .243 took off like a bush fire in a gale force wind. It was less than a year old when I obtained a BSA Featherweight from the late Bruce Hill who was running Hillver and took it afield. The first week I bagged a number of chunky Tablelands billy goats with it shooting from hillside to hillside across the Macquarie river. All were quick one-shot kills at distances ranging from 150 to 300 yards, using handloaded 75gn Hornady bullets. A couple of years later I was amazed to see a huge brumby stallion drop on the spot when I planted one of those tiny bullets into his rib cage. After being hit, he just stood there shaking for a full minute before he fell down. Any doubts I may have had about the potency of the .243 were definitely dispelled after that!

Later I took the .243 up to Mungindi and shot a raft of pigs with the 90gn Speer bullet. This was followed by a hunt for red stag in Qld. I remember hitting a big 10-pointer with a 105gn Speer. I’d spooked him into running, and when I fired he stumbled but kept on going for another 50 yards before his forelegs folded and he ploughed his nose into the ground. On the way home I stopped at a property in the Granite Belt north of Wallangarra and put a fallow buck down even more quickly. What the .243 taught me was that, as with most cartridges, a well-placed bullet produces clean kills and a poorly placed shot is likely to result in a long trailing job.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.