I’ve been looking forward to writing this article for a while, for the simple reason that of all the guns I own if I was forced to choose only one above all the others it would be my .243. That one rifle I would keep above all others is a left-handed Tikka T3 with a laminated Boyd Stock and Schmidt & Bender Klassik 8x56 scope on it. I have had that rifle for over a decade now and never plan on replacing it, I see no reason that my children and grandchildren won’t be able to use it.
- Why The .243?
- The Origins of the .243
- The .243 for hunting
- TOP 10 Best Scope for .243 Winchester On The Market 2020
- TOP 10 Best Scope for .243 Winchester Reviews 2020
Why The .243?
The humble .243 Winchester is probably my favourite calibre of all time, and as well as my Tikka I have owned several rifles chambered in .243 over the years, in fact my very first centre fire rifle was a second hand Remington 700 in .243 and I tend to keep a second .243 around at all times so that I have a rifle to lend to hunting clients who I guide on deer hunts. I always tend to pick something fairly traditional looking to lend to clients and rifles by BSA, Parker-Hale and Ruger have featured amongst the rifles I have had for clients to use. As well as being my chosen calibre for lending to clients the .243 is the calibre I recommend to almost anyone who asks what they should get as their first deer rifle. Why the .243 though?
I have taken everything from hares and foxes all the way to red and fallow deer weighing several hundred pounds with the .243 cartridge. With the right loads the .243 has taken it all in its stride and can even be an effective varmint round at extended ranges with lighter bullets and has on rare occasions proven it ‘self as a functional cartridge for competitive shooting.
It’s the calibres versatility that is its most attractive feature, from small pest species all the way up to medium sized deer it offers the perfect solution. With light bullets it can shoot fairly flat out to about 300 yards and with heavier bullets up to a little over 100 grains (105 grain are about the heaviest factory loads you will find for the .243) it can take moderately large deer and even boar at sensible ranges.
The Origins of the .243
The round was developed in 1955 and uses the ever popular .308 cartridge as it’s parent case, necked down to .243 or 6mm in diameter. This gives a fast, relatively flat shooting round with manageable recoil and flat shooting characteristics but without the over penetration associated with the heavier .308. In fact, it is for that very reason that Major John Plaster described the .243 as a “magic bullet” in his book ‘The Ultimate Sniper’ and also the reason that some of the early SWAT teams adopted the .243 for marksmanship purposes. In urban environments there is always a danger that full power rifle cartridges such as the .308 and .300 Winchester Magnum are simply too powerful. While they might offer pinpoint precision and knock down power at extended ranges they also carry significant energy and can easily shoot through light walls and other barriers, even after passing through a body and can put bystanders in significant danger. The lighter bullets of the .243 carrying a muzzle energy around the 2000 ft/lb mark is far less likely to cause the collateral damage that the 4000 ft/lb potential of the .300 Win Mag while still offering precision and effective terminal ballistics at typical urban ranges.
So, while Winchesters rationale for releasing the .243 may have been to produce a cartridge for hunting and varmint shooting, they also produced a cartridge that is versatile enough to be used for precision marksmanship tasks.
The .243 for hunting
While the SWAT teams selection of the .243 speaks volumes about the capability of the round their use of it was limited and the real forte of the round is hunting and varmint shooting. Typical deer hunting differs from varmint shooting in a few subtle ways and your intentions will determine the scope you select for your .243.
For typical deer hunting shots taken over 300 yards are rare for ethical reasons as well as for practicality. While varmint shooting doesn’t necessarily have to be done at significantly longer ranges it does have to be slightly more precise. The ethical approach to shooting deer is to take a chest shot, the heart and lungs are a relatively large target, while the head is not only much smaller, but the vital part of it is actually tiny and very mobile. Anything forward of the eye socket would not be a fatal shot and a deer which takes a bullet through the nose or jaw can expect nothing but a long painful death from starvation or infection.
Accurate shooting is still important when deer hunting but there is a much larger margin for error when taking a chest shot at a deer compared to shooting a rabbit or ground squirrel, these small varmints entire bodies are much smaller than the chest area of a medium sized deer. The drop of an average .243 round suitable for deer might be three inches between 100 and 200 yards when it’s zeroed at 100 meters and this variation is relatively easy to compensate for and in fact even if you don’t compensate for it a central chest shot will still kill your quarry humanely. That same variation is the difference between a hit and a miss on a much smaller varmint.
For deer hunting a simple duplex or No.4 reticle is often the best option, offering no unnecessary function or complication and being bold and visible in the low light of dusk and dawn which are so productive for deer hunting. For varmint shooting where your quarry are so much smaller reticles offering more functionality such as mil-dots or other subtensions for range estimation and for aiming adjustments. Varmint scopes can also benefit from tactical adjustment turrets while these are really a waste on a more general-purpose hunting scope.
TOP 10 Best Scope for .243 Winchester On The Market 2020
Varmint or Deer hunting
Dependent on model
Dependent on model
Deer hunting or varmint shooting.
TOP 10 Best Scope for .243 Winchester Reviews 2020
1 Bushnell Nitro
This 5-20x44mm scope offers a range of suitable magnifications for shooting from close to medium ranges. The 44mm objective lens offers a little more light gathering ability than some other options but not quite as much as some of the other options of this list. It will be perfectly adequate for any day time shooting application and even into the hours of dusk and dawn. It’s robust construction makes it suitable for high velocity centrefire cartridges such as the .243 and it would easily be strong enough for much more powerful cartridges too.
2 Carl Zeiss HD5
Carl Zeiss optics represent the pinnacle of optical perfection, and they are particularly well known for their sporting scopes. This is a premium product and will cost more than most other scopes in this list but it is built to a far higher standard than your average optic which might be available for a couple of hundred dollars. This model gives you a large range of magnification for precise shooting over longer ranges but it also features a reticle that includes features for range estimation and adjustments as well as tactical turrets for dialling in corrections.
It will be very hard to beat the quality and clarity of Zeiss optics but you do pay a premium for them.
3 TASCO Varmint 6-24x42mm
Well the name says it all when it comes to this TASCO scope. It is specifically designed for varmint shooting and offers great magnification as well as a mil dot reticle which will help with accurate shooting over range and allows you to adjust for windage.
Mil-dot reticules feature dot’s at milliradian intervals along both axis of the crosshair which can be used to assist in ranging and making adjustments when considering distance and windage while aiming.
A milliradian is a measurement of angle equal to 3.6 minutes of angle. A minute of angle is equal to one inch at 100 meters so a one inch group at 100 meters is known as a minute of angle group. Scopes also come with MOA subtensions but many, including me, prefer miliradian scopes.
Whether your scope is divided into mil dot or MOA subtensions though this style of reticle is incredibly useful for very precise shooting at range.
4 Nikon Pro Staff
The prostaff range from Nikon features a host of products from binoculars to scopes in a variety of magnification ranges, objective lens sizes and finishes. Including this model featuring bdc reticle, parallax adjustment and zero reset turrets allowing you to quickly and easily return your scope to it’s zero setting once you have made one off range and windage adjustments.
The silver finish of this particular model might not be to everyones taste and may be out of place on a hunting rifle but for varminting at range or target shooting it won’t offer any disadvantages. It may also particularly suit a gun with a stainless steel barrel and action.
5 Leupold VX-3I
I had a Leupold scope on my Tikka T3 for over ten years, although that particular scope has now been transferred to my .17 HMR rifle to be replaced with a Schmidt and Bender Klassik which gave me a little more magnification than my fixed 6 power leupold and a full 16mm more objective than the 40mm leupold. I am more than convinced by the quality of leupold scopes though and have used a lot of their products on everything from small rim fire rifles all the way up to powerful .300 win mag and .375 rifles. They have never let me down.
This model has a duplex reticle, making it an excellent choice for deer hunting. The duplex reticle is what most people would imagine if you asked them to think of what a sight picture through a telescopic sight looks like.
A duplex reticle is a cross hair which is thicker at the edges, these ticker portions are the ‘duplex’, and reduces to a fine cross hair in the centre. This style of cross hair is popular for hunting and allows for slightly faster target acquisitions than a standard cross hair. For varmint shooting you may want a few extra features to your reticle for judging range and making corrections and you may also want finger adjustable turrets but this no frills design is perfect for deer hunting.
6 Schmidt & Bender Klassik
Schmidt & Bender scopes represent the very pinnacle of hunting and tactical optics, they can be very pricey and their tactical scopes have been an important tool of many military marksmen for years now, their PM II range leads the market in terms of tactical optics. They also produce their ‘Klassik’ range at a slightly more affordable price.
7 Vortex Optics Crossfire II
Vortex optics are a relative newcomer to the optics market but have rapidly gained a reputation for supreme quality as well as affordability. Their crossfire range comes in a variety of magnifications, objective sizes and reticle styles. But the 3-9x40 or 3-9x50 would be the best option for deer hunting the v-plex or v-brite (illuminated) reticle would be the best choice for deer hunting while for varmint shooting the deadhold reticle offering a couple of extra aim points for adjustment might be more suitable.
8 Nikkon Buckmaster
Another Nikon product like the Prostaff earlier in this list that is a very versatile scope. This particular model, as you can tell by the name, is designed with deer hunting in mind. It offers a slightly unusual reticle for typical deer hunting; it’s ‘BDC’ reticle might more typically be found on a sight designed for combat such as the Trijicon ACOG. These ‘BDC’ or ballistic drop compensating reticles allow you to quickly adjust your aim at longer ranges but they are generally calibrated to a specific calibre and bullet weight. You will need to get used to exactly where each of the aim points put your rounds when you mount this on your .243 and get some practice with it beyond just a bit of simple zeroing.
9 Meopta MeoStar R7
Meopta are an optics powerhouse and offer a range of very high quality scopes suitable for hunting and target shooting. This particular model would be a great choice for your .243 if you plan to use it for deer hunting. They offer the rugged dependability that would be at home on larger rifles with harsh recoil so will easily cope with the relatively gentle kick of the .243. The clarity of the Meopta glass is incredible and will transfer all available light and improve your shooting at dusk and dawn.
10 Simmons Whitetail
The Simmons Whitetail is a range of scopes for the generations, a budget friendly option available for around $100 this would be the perfect compliment to a relatively cheap rifle such as the Remington 783, Howa 1500 or ruger American. It will still do everything you need it to on a typical hunt and could be pressed to varmint work with hotter cartridges with practice.
The whitetail range offers a variety of magnification ranges and objective lens sizes and the latest versions have a stylish matt finish that should help reduce the glare from their older high gloss scope tubes. A scope that wont let you down and one that just like the .243 calibre would be the perfect choice for your first deer rifle.
While scopes without subtensions can be used for varmint shooting with practice they will make getting the most out of your .243 easier when you use it in the varminting role. The lighter bullets available for the .243, in the region of 55 grains make for a very flat shooting round and on small soft skinned varmints you can stretch your range a little and the pinpint precision and aiming aids offered by higher tech scopes will be very useful.
If you are using your .243 for more typical deer hunting though these extra features aren’t really necessary and just add clutter to your sight picture. If I had to choose just one of these products to mount on my own .243 it would be one of the Schmidt & Bender Klassik’s, in fact that is what is on there now and it has taken many deer and foxes. If I had the luxury of switching between scopes to make the most of those lighter loads for long range varminting the Zeiss would be my pick for that second scope. Zeiss scopes are of exceptionally high quality and this particular model while pricey does offer some exceptional aiming aids and it would be an excellent choice.
Either way whatever scope you put on your .243 you won’t be unhappy with anything from this list or the calibre.