243 WSSM and the 243 Win.

243 WSSM and 243 Win Bullets
243 WSSM & 243 Win. (Left-Right)

I have often heard the question "What's so special about a 243 WSSM compared to the 243 Win?"  The simple answer is that the 243 Win. is an excellent caliber and so is the 243 WSSM. They each offer a little different flavor to our hunting and shooting experiences. Here are some of the pros and cons and why I like the 243 WSSM.

Some Positives

  • The 243 WSSM can fit into a shorter action rifle with a shorter bolt, magazine and receiver. This means you get a lighter, smaller rifle that produces a shorter, faster bolt throw. It also means you get a stiffer action that can improve accuracy.
  • The 243 WSSM shoots bullets a little faster. Roughly 100-200 feet per second.
  • In theory shorter fatter cases have the characteristics to burn the powder more evenly and consistently resulting in improved accuracy.
  • The cartridge is short enough to work in the AR-15 platform. Where the 243 Win. requires the longer action AR-10 which in heavier and more expensive.

Some negatives

  • Loaded ammunition is expensive.
  • Loaded ammunition can be harder to find.
  • Some people have reported difficulty with shells feeding. This makes perfect sense, the case is really short and really fat, requiring a little more finesse to make the transition from magazine to chamber than a longer traditional shell. My A-Bolt's magazines required a slight adjustment to get shells to feed smoothly. (see my 243 WSSM Feeding Issues - Solved article)
  • Because the shells are fatter you will get one less shell in the magazine in a Browning A-Bolt or Winchester Model 70.
  • Production rifles are hard to find now days (See list below.)

Some myths

  • The 243 WSSM burns barrels out really fast.
    Wrong! I have not seen nor heard of any evidence that they burn barrels out any faster than any other "magnum" like cartridge. Browning and Winchester also chrome lined their barrels. Chrome lining can greatly extend barrel life. I personally like how easy it is to clean chrome lined barrels. I suspect that they were chrome line as a precaution before real extensive testing was done on the barrel life.  Whatever the case production rifles from Browning A-Bolts and Winchester Model 70s are chrome lined. One of these barrels with proper care should last well beyond the amount of rounds most people ever shoot in their lives.
  • You better stock up on brass because they aren't going to make it any more.
    Common sense will tell you that there are far too many rifles out there for Winchester to stop making brass. And more rifles are continuing to hit the market with the AR-15 rifles that continue to get more popular in the 243 WSSM offerings. Now common sense will also tell you that Winchester would only make runs of brass to meet the demand. If demand goes up or down they would obviously adjust accordingly.

Where can I find a 243 WSSM rifle? Currently only AR-15 rifles are in production. Here are the AR-15 rifles that I am aware of.

If you're one who likes to tinker at the reloading bench with different bullets, powder and the like, the 243 WSSM might be for you. If you are looking for a rifle that's a little faster shooting and lighter to carry, the 243 WSSM might be for you. If you spend a good deal of time hunting and hiking in rugged tough country, a little lighter rifle might be for you. Now on the other hand if you like to grab a box of ammo at Walmart as you're heading out of town to your hunting lease the 243 WSSM probably isn't for you.

I think the 243 Win. is an excellent cartridge and I have always been fond of it. My father's deer rifle is a Sako Forester chambered in 243 Win.  In my youth I watched my father shoot mule deer with it and I'd hear the stories from the guys in his hunting party talking about how they would all miss at long range with their 30-06's and my dad with his little 243 would get them every time. Boy, how I thought that rifle was the best rifle in the world. Some day I hope to own my father's rifle but we'll have to see as I have two brothers that have their eyes on it also.

I don't think you can go wrong with either cartridge as long as you understand what might be an advantage and what might be a disadvantage for your individual hunting and shooting style. The 243 Win. is an outstanding caliber and for the gear head that I am the 243 WSSM is just as outstanding. Many a deer has fallen to a .243/6mm diameter bullet throughout the years. And the latest cartridge to push this 6mm bullet does the job quite well.

The 243 WSSM has also been deadly on elk. In 2009 my son made a 205 yard one shot kill on his first elk bull elk with a 243 WSSM and a 272 yard one shot kill cow elk with a 243 WSSM, and again in 2010 Dallen took a cow elk with a single shot at 110 yards with a 243 WSSM.

To view my favorite handloads for the 243 WSSM check out my 243 WSSM Handloads and Ballistics page.

Additional information