243 vs 308 – 2022 Honest Comparison

Two venerable cartridges that were introduced on the market around the same time. While one went on to earn fame as a beginners cartridge and a whitetail-killer, the other earned a more prominent title of being the most versatile cartridge in existence, even to this day. 

Comparing the .243 Winchester to the .308 Winchester is like comparing a katana to a long sword. Both are perfect at what they do, and both of them can interchange roles to some extent. This detailed guide will elaborate more about that ‘extent’ and why you should choose any of these. 

TL;DR: .243 vs .308

A quick comparison of the pros and cons of these cartridges.

243

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

308

Photo credit: wikipedia.org

Pros

243

Rifles are very lightweight

Very accurate and quite versatile round

Perfect for deer and smaller sized game

Wide range of inexpensive ammo options

Flat trajectory within 500 yards and mild recoil

Very controllable and great for beginners and recoil-sensitive shooters

308

Suitable for ranges out to 1,000 yards

Equally useful for short or long range uses

.30 caliber hard hitting and flat shooting round

Civilian version of the venerable 7.62 NATO round

Wide range of rifle (bolt-action and semi-auto) and ammo options

Truly versatile round that can bring down any game in North America

Cons

243

Limited rifle options

Eats-up and heats-up barrel the barrel quickly

Not very flat beyond 500 yards, and retains too little energy

308

Comparably hard recoil and noisy

Overkill for some applications (like small game animals)

Best For

243

The .243 Winchester is perfect for hunting deer, and teaching beginners the basics. Great for use within 3-400 yards

308

A truly versatile round suitable for all hunting, tactical, and competition applications

.243 Overview

The .243 Winchester (.243 Win) is a rimless, bottlenecked, centerfire rifle cartridge introduced on the market in 1955. It is a versatile, short-action round that is extremely popular as a whitetail deer hunting cartridge among the civilian population. It is widely used for harvesting blacktail deer, pronghorns, and even mule deer with the heavier rounds. 

This round is also popular among young and female shooters for its exceptionally low recoil and easy controllability. In fact it is also the smallest legal caliber for hunting deer in at least 10 states of the USA. As far as the performance is concerned, the .243 Win is identical to the 6 mm Creedmoor in ballistics. 

Photo credit: reddit.com

The .243 Win was lucky upon its introduction on the market, because Remington introduced a similar .244 Remington round which fired the same bullets at higher muzzle velocity and energy, but was offered in the wrong twist rate (1:12) compared to the optimal twist rate of the .243 Win (1:10). 

The short design with high power makes the .243 Win a better choice among its counterparts. Plus, there is a wide range of ammo and rifle options available for this round. 

.308 Overview

The .308 Winchester is a rimless, bottlenecked, centerfire rifle cartridge that was introduced on the market in 1952 by Winchester. It is the civilian version of the venerable 7.62 NATO and mostly differs in chamber pressure.

After WWII, military researchers were looking to shorten the .30-06 Springfield cartridge while retaining its power and range. The research led to the development of the T65 series of cartridges, which later ended up to give the 7.62 NATO.  Winchester saw this as an opportunity and released this cartridge in a civilian version, just a couple of years before the military adopted it. 

Photo credit: reddit.com

The .308 Win is undoubtedly the most popular hunting cartridge in the United States and also around the world. It is a very versatile round that is not only popular among the hunting community, but also among the tactical departments of the law enforcement forces. 

This round is called versatile because of its capability to hunt down almost any game animal in North America. The .308 Win is available in a wide variety of load options and some of them are very suitable for hunting big game. 

.243 vs .308: Cartridge Specs

Here is a quick sneak peek into the cartridge specifications of these rounds:

.243.308
Bullet Diameter.243 in (6.2 mm)0.308 in (7.8 mm)
Neck Diameter.276 in (7.0 mm)0.3433 in (8.72 mm)
Base Diameter.471 in (12.0 mm)0.4709 in (11.96 mm)
Case Length2.045 in (51.9 mm)2.015 in (51.2 mm)
Overall Length2.7098 in (68.83 mm)2.800 in (71.1 mm)
Case Capacity53.7-54.8 grains56 grains
Max Pressure (SAAMI)60,000 psi62,000 psi
Typical Casing MaterialBrassBrass/Steel
Typical Bullet Weight (gr)60-100 grains150-180 grains

The .243 Winchester is a necked down .308 Winchester cartridge that uses a smaller .243 inch diameter bullet. The .308 Win was introduced in 1952, just a couple of years before the official adoption of the 7.62 NATO. The round became very popular among the masses, and wildcatters began experimenting with it to create new rounds. The .243 Win is a result of these wildcat experiments, and it was later adopted by Winchester for mass production. 

The .308 Winchester is a modified version of the .300 Savage cartridge and fires a .308 inch diameter bullet. The round has also inspired many other cartridges along its existence of more than seven decades. 

Both these rounds are almost identical in size as they have almost the same case capacity, overall length, case length, and base diameter. Even the chamber pressure does not differ too much between these rounds. This is why sometimes people refer to the .243 Win as the .308’s younger brother. 

The .243 Winchester shoots bullets weighing in the range of 60 to 100 grains, whereas the .308 generally uses bullets in the range of 150 to 180 grains. Take a look at what this difference translates to in the upcoming ‘ballistics’ section. 

Photo credit: sportsmans.com

.243 vs .308: Ballistics

The ballistics section here will cover the trajectory, velocity and energy characteristics of these cartridges. These cartridges fire different caliber bullets and have a wide gap in the bullet weights. Even though the dimensions, and chamber pressure values are almost the same for these rounds, the bullet weight, caliber and design plays an important role in deciding the ballistics. 

.243 vs .308: Trajectory

Here is a tabular representation of the trajectory data for these cartridges. The most optimal barrel lengths, and the most common ammo has been used to evaluate the data. The range of evaluation has been set to 1,000 yards because the .308 is considered suitable for long range, and there is no harm in understanding the performance of the .243 Win at that range. 

.243 

24”barrel/BC 0.234/75 gr
JHP
24” barrel/BC 0.376/90 gr
Nosler Accubond
24”barrel/BC 0.384/100 gr
Nosler Partition
100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 1.1 “ Drop
200 yds: 2.5 “ Drop200 yds: 2.8 “ Drop200 yds: 3.6 “ Drop
300 yds: 10.5 “ Drop300 yds: 10.8 “ Drop300 yds: 13.4 “ Drop
400 yds: 25.6 “ Drop400 yds: 25 “ Drop400 yds: 30.4 “ Drop
500 yds: 51.4 “ Drop500 yds: 46.6 “ Drop500 yds: 56.5 “ Drop
1,000 yds: 522.1 “ Drop1,000 yds: 350.8 “ Drop1,000 yds: 419.9 “ Drop

.308

24”barrel/BC 0.408/150 gr
FMJ Boat-tail
24”barrel/BC 0.489/168 gr
Berger Hybrid
24”barrel/BC 0.536/175 gr
Edge TLR
100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop100 yds: 0 “ Drop
200 yds: 3.6 “ Drop200 yds: 4 “ Drop200 yds: 4.4 “ Drop
300 yds: 13.5 “ Drop300 yds: 14.4 “ Drop300 yds: 15.5 “ Drop
400 yds: 30.6 “ Drop400 yds: 32 “ Drop400 yds: 34.2 “ Drop
500 yds: 56.3 “ Drop500 yds: 58 “ Drop500 yds: 61.5 “ Drop
1,000 yds: 405.5 “ Drop1,000 yds: 384.2 “ Drop1,000 yds: 392.5 “ Drop

The trajectory data for these rounds makes it very clear that the .243 Win has a flatter trajectory altogether. However, there is a slight catch here. While the .243 Win shoots very flat out to a distance of 500 yards, its advantage quickly starts declining after that range. Except for a few specific loads, like the 90 grain Nosler Accubond as seen in the above data, the .243 Win drops significantly at long ranges. 

To understand it with an example, the 75 grain .243 Win JHP drops 522.1 inches at 1,000 yards, but the heavier 150 grain .308 Win FMJ BT drops to only 405.5 inches. That is a difference of more than 100 inches and with two times the bullet weight. 

The advantage in drop isn’t also quite large at 500 yards, and it shrinks further as we get close to the muzzle. So to infer, the .243 Win is a flatter round within 400-500 yards and a better option if you want lesser recoil and a smaller caliber. However, as I already said, there are some exceptions like the 90 grain Nosler Accubond for the .243 Win that can perform better than the .308 in terms of drop.

Additionally, .308 Win bullets will also be more stable against wind with their better ballistics coefficient. 

Photo credit: snipercountry.com

.243 vs .308: Velocity & Kinetic Energy

Here is the velocity and kinetic energy data for the loads mentioned above. This will help us understand the effective range and suitability of these rounds against different targets. 

.243 

24”barrel/BC 0.234/75 gr
JHP
24” barrel/BC 0.376/90 gr
Nosler Accubond
24”barrel/BC 0.384/100 gr
Nosler Partition
100 yds: 2,943 ft/s, 1,443 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,843 ft/s, 1,615 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,612 ft/s, 1,515 ft.lbs
200 yds: 2,551 ft/s, 1,084 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,600 ft/s, 1,351 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,386 ft/s, 1,264 ft.lbs
300 yds: 2,191 ft/s, 800 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,370 ft/s, 1,122 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,171 ft/s, 1,047 ft.lbs
400 yds: 1,861 ft/s, 577 ft.lbs400 yds: 2,152 ft/s, 925 ft.lbs400 yds: 1,968 ft/s, 860 ft.lbs
500 yds: 1,579 ft/s, 410 ft.lbs500 yds: 1,945 ft/s, 756 ft.lbs500 yds: 1,776 ft/s, 701 ft.lbs
1,000 yds: 876 ft/s, 128 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1159 ft/s, 268 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,091 ft/s, 264 ft.lbs

.308

24”barrel/BC 0.408/150 gr
FMJ Boat-tail
24”barrel/BC 0.489/168 gr
Berger Hybrid
24”barrel/BC 0.536/175 gr
Edge TLR
100 yds: 2,597 ft/s, 2,246 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,518 ft/s, 2,365 ft.lbs100 yds: 2,437 ft/s, 2,308 ft.lbs
200 yds: 2,385 ft/s, 1894 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,343 ft/s, 2,048 ft.lbs200 yds: 2,280 ft/s, 2,021 ft.lbs
300 yds: 2,183 ft/s, 1,586 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,176 ft/s, 1,766 ft.lbs300 yds: 2,130 ft/s, 1,762 ft.lbs
400 yds: 1,990 ft/s, 1,319 ft.lbs400 yds: 2,015 ft/s, 1,514 ft.lbs400 yds: 1,984 ft/s, 1,530 ft.lbs
500 yds: 1,808 ft/s, 1,089 ft.lbs500 yds: 1,860 ft/s, 1,291 ft.lbs500 yds: 1,845 ft/s, 1,322 ft.lbs
1,000 yds: 1,130 ft/s, 425 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,239 ft/s, 573 ft.lbs1,000 yds: 1,271 ft/s, 628 ft.lbs

The .243 Win swooshes out of the muzzle at a whooping 3,000 fps on average. That is three times over the supersonic limit, and pretty much explains the flat trajectory of these rounds until the lightweight bullets start losing inertia and slow down significantly due to their weight. 

The data again established the 500 yards mark as the optimal effective range threshold for the .243 Win round. As you can clearly observe, the .243 Win does stay supersonic at 1,000 yards, but the energy characteristics are terrible, even when compared to a handgun. In fact the lightweight 75 grain bullet doesn’t even stay supersonic at 1,000 yards. 

The .308 Win is a more potent round in terms of velocity and retains its supersonic speeds out to 1,200 yards, making it more predictable and accurate out to that range. As far as energy is concerned, the .308 retains almost twice as energy as the .243 Win at 1,000 yards. 

The .243 Win is an effective round against medium sized game like deer within a range of 300 yards with the right loads. I would not bet on its power beyond that range and absolutely stop at 500 yards even if it is a coyote. 

The .308 Win proves itself to be a very capable round against deer sized game out to a range of 700 yards with the right loads. Plus, it can take down even bigger game like elk within a range of 400 yards with its 1,500 fpe. 

Photo credit: ammo.com

.243 vs .308: Stopping Power

This section here will compare the stopping power of these cartridges to understand which of these is more deadly. To understand it in layman terms, the stopping power describes the effectiveness of a round against a live target. It tells how quickly a round can incapacitate or kill a target, and with the minimal number of rounds. 

.243 vs .308: Momentum & Sectional Density

The two most accurate values to evaluate the stopping power of a bullet are momentum and sectional density. 

.243

24”barrel/BC 0.234/75 gr
JHP
Sectional Density: 0.181
24” barrel/BC 0.376/90 gr
Nosler Accubond
Sectional Density: 0.218
24”barrel/BC 0.384/100 gr
Nosler Partition
Sectional Density: 0.242
100 yds: 31 ft.lb-s100 yds: 36 ft.lb-s100 yds: 37 ft.lb-s
200 yds: 27 ft.lb-s200 yds: 33 ft.lb-s200 yds: 34 ft.lb-s
300 yds: 23 ft.lb-s300 yds: 30 ft.lb-s300 yds: 31 ft.lb-s
400 yds: 19 ft.lb-s400 yds: 27 ft.lb-s400 yds: 28 ft.lb-s
500 yds: 17 ft.lb-s500 yds: 25 ft.lb-s500 yds: 25 ft.lb-s
1,000 yds: 9 ft.lb-s1,000 yds: 14 ft.lb-s1,000 yds: 15 ft.lb-s

.308

24”barrel/BC 0.408/150 gr
FMJ Boat-tail
Sectional Density: 0.266
24”barrel/BC 0.489/168 gr
Berger Hybrid
Sectional Density: 0.253
24”barrel/BC 0.536/175 gr
Edge TLR
Sectional Density: 0.264
100 yds: 55 lb.ft-s100 yds: 60 lb.ft-s100 yds: 60 lb.ft-s
200 yds: 51 lb.ft-s200 yds: 56lb.ft-s200 yds: 57 lb.ft-s
300 yds: 46 lb.ft-s300 yds: 52 lb.ft-s300 yds: 53 lb.ft-s
400 yds: 42 lb.ft-s400 yds: 48 lb.ft-s400 yds: 49 lb.ft-s
500 yds: 38 lb.ft-s500 yds: 44 lb.ft-s500 yds: 46 lb.ft-s
1,000 yds: 24 lb.ft-s1,000 yds: 26 lb.ft-s1,000 yds: 27 lb.ft-s

The sectional density (SD) of an object is the ratio between its mass and cross-sectional area. The higher this value, the more penetration will be done by a bullet. An SD of less than 0.220 is considered good for small game, an SD under 0.260 is considered good for medium sized game (deer, pronghorn, etc), and an SD higher and up to 0.300 is good for big game. Anything above that is pretty much an ‘anti-anything’ round. 

The .308 Win has an advantage in terms of SD even with its larger diameter because it has almost double the mass of a .243 Win bullet. In fact, .243 Win bullets are notorious for less penetration and ‘keyholing’ at an inappropriately long range. So in terms of penetration, a 0.308 Win will always have an edge. 

Moving on the momentum, it defines the degree of energy transfer and how hard a bullet will punch. It is also indicative of the size of the wound cavity, which means more damage to the target. Since momentum is a product of the mass and velocity, the .308 Win is again the winner with its heavier bullets, and comparable velocities against the .243 Win. 

.243 vs .308: Use Cases & Effective Range

After traversing through all the data for ballistics and stopping power, it is now time to determine the best real-life uses of these cartridges. 

Long Range Competitions

Let’s turn back to the trajectory and velocity data mentioned previously in this guide. We evaluated that the .243 Win shoots flat, but only within 500 yards, and also not as good as the .308 Win beyond that range. 

There is absolutely no argument here as the data says it all. The .308 Win has long been used as a long range competition round by many shooters and has a reputation for long range engagements. The .243 Win is not a long range competition cartridge against the .308 Win, and also not otherwise. 

Hunting

The .243 Win is undoubtedly the most famous whitetail deer hunting cartridge in North America. However, mostly inside a range of 250 yards, and with the right bullets. This round does not have enough energy to take down a wide variety of games, and you have to be very specific with your load selections. However, for varminting, small game, and deer, the .243 Win is the right medicine. 

Photo credit: 6mmbr.com

The .308 Win is an excellent hunting cartridge and is blindly trusted by hunters. It is a versatile round that is capable of taking down any game in North America, and also some big African game. If you were to ask me, I’d suggest you bet on the .308 Win if you have a wide range of quarry to pick from. 

Sniping / Tactical Applications

The .308 Win has been widely used as a sniping cartridge by many police forces globally. Since it is the civilian cousin of the 7.62 NATO, which is a famous military round for sniping, you can always rely upon the .308 Win for tactical applications. There are a lot of ammo and rifle options to choose from, and the round is also battle-tested. 

The .243 Win is not an amazing round for tactical use, but if the range in question is below 400 yards, you can give it a shot due to its flat trajectory. However, armor and obstacle penetration will still present a problem. 

Training and Range Use

The .243 is an amazing plinker and practice round that is widely used to train newbies with the basics of a hunting rifle. The recoil is very light and the rifles are very lightweight and easy to handle. The .308 Win has almost double the recoil and can prove difficult for beginners. In fact, this is a reason why the U.S Military shifted from its AR-10 rifles chambered for 7.62 NATO to M16/M4 rifles chambered for 5.56 NATO. 

Home Defense

Using any of these rounds is absolutely a no-go. This is definitely out of the question due to the power and overpenetration capabilities of these rounds. I just included this point because some tinkering minds would be wondering about that. 

.243 vs .308: Costs, Availability, & Compatibility

Before you decide about which of these cartridges you should pick, please have a look at the pricing and options associated with owning them.

Photo credit: accurateshooter.com

Abundant and Economical

Both these rounds have been around for a long time now, and you will rarely find any gun shop that does not carry them. The price for .243 Win ammo starts from $1.5 and goes as high as $4 per round. Whereas the price for .308 Win ammo starts from $1 and goes up to $4 per round. Both these rounds are identical in terms of cost. 

As the hunting season approaches, more and more hunters begin shopping for ammo, and it can cause the prices to surge. That is because the .308 Win is the most popular overall hunting cartridge and the .243 is the most popular for deer. Popular rounds like these can quickly go out of stock or get overpriced in situations like the Covid-19 pandemic buying. So either stock up some ammo, or have some handloading supplies. 

Wide Range of Options

The .243 Win is mostly available in bolt-action rifles, with only a few semi-auto models available on the market. Whereas the 0.308 Win has tons of rifle options ranging from the AR-10 and all the way up to match grade Sako rifles. Additionally, .308 Win rifles will offer you a wide range of adaptability and customization options. Additionally, the ammo options for both these cartridges are quite abundant.

Bottom Line

The .243 Winchester has been a famous and effective deer cartridge for many years now. The mild-recoil, lightweight rifles and a flat trajectory make it perfect for game animals like Whitetail deer. In comparison, the .308 Win does have a teeny bit more recoil, but it also has a larger bullet and higher punching power, which makes it capable of bringing down any game animal roaming this planet. 

If we compare these two, the .243 Win shoots flatter but only out to 300 yards, after which the .308 Win picks up a significant advantage. In terms of power, the .308 Win carries almost 1.5 times the power, and also stays supersonic for longer. 

Conclusively, the .243 Win is ideal for beginners and only deer hunting, whereas, the .308 Win is a versatile round that can be used for almost anything.

People Also Ask

Here’s a quick and concise FAQ section to clear some doubts and sprinkle some facts.

Is A 243 A Necked Down 308?

Yes, a .243 Winchester is a necked down .308 Winchester case that accepts a smaller diameter bullet. It was originally developed as a wildcat cartridge and later picked up by Winchester for mass production. 

How Much More Does A 308 Kick Than A 243?

In terms of recoil, the 0.308 Win has almost twice the recoil of a .243 Winchester rifle. A .308 rifle has about 25 foot-pounds of kick on average, and a .243 Win rifle delivers a recoil of about 11 foot-pounds on average.  

Is 243 A Good Sniper Round?

The .243 Win is not a good sniper round because sniper ranges generally fall between 600 to 1200 meters. These rounds do not carry enough energy or even a very flat trajectory at that range, and there are many better alternatives, like the .308 Win.

Is A 243 Good For Elk?

Technically, it takes 1,500 foot-pounds of energy to down an elk, and a .243 Win round carries that much energy within 100 yards. However, the diameter of the bullet and its penetration characteristics will require skilled hands to achieve that. 

What Is The Effective Range Of A 243 For Deer?

The effective range of a .243 Winchester for deer is under 300 yards. Preferably under 250 yards for better effect and accuracy.


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