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Old May 25, 2008, 03:07 PM   #1
Chuck Dye
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.243 Winchester and elk: FIRSTHAND experiences requested.

I may be hunting with an inexperienced friend this fall who will be hunting with a .243 Win. I would really appreciate comments from those who have hunted elk with the .243, especially guides who may have had customers shooting the .243.
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Old May 25, 2008, 04:16 PM   #2
taylorce1
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Chuck,

I've seen only one elk killed by a .243 and it was a 50 yard shot full broadside. The shot took out both lungs and the cow didn't go very far before giving it up. In fact it killed that cow about as fast as any round I've ever seen. The person using this caliber was a 13 year old cousin of mine and 100 grain factory loaded Winchester ammunition.

Elk are not bullet proof by and will go down hard with a properly placed bullet from a .243 Win. The .243 Win is not by any means an ideal elk caliber but it will work. The problem with the .243 and elk I feel is the lack of good bullet weights. I personally like to use a minimum of 150 grain out of a .270 Win, 180 out of a .30-06. Sure with bullets like Barnes TSX, Nosler Partitions, Swift A-Frame, and other premium bullets you could go lighter and get away with it but I don't see the need.

If that is the only caliber your friend has access too encourage him to spend a lot of time shooting from various field positions as well as extensively studying elk anatomy. Limit the range and the angle of their shots and they should come home with an elk. Your friend will just have to work a little harder to get their elk.

Last edited by taylorce1; May 25, 2008 at 11:13 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old May 25, 2008, 10:19 PM   #3
W. C. Quantrill
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Better check to see if it is even legal to use a .243 for elk. I would sure think that it wouldnt be. Even if it were legal, I would definitely consider it inadequate for humane kill. In a survival situation, if that were all I had, I'd take the chance to kill the elk for food and for the hide if all I had available was the .243. But I sure would not plan to go hunting with such an inadequate caliber. The parent cartridge of the .243 is the .308 and it is considered marginal on the low end for elk, especially in the hands of someone who doesnt know what they are up against.

I watched a 60 year old woman put the sneak on a big 7x7 bull last fall and she worked up to about 20 yards from him, by keeping a large blue spruce between him and her until the last moment and then she busted his butt with a Winchester M94 in .30-30. She knew what she was doing and busted him in the spine right in front of the front shoulder. Her gun went off, and he dropped straight down leaving nothing but a cloud of dust that her bullet drove out of his hide. The .30-30 with 170 grains even at the miserly 2250 fps is a bone breaker and a deep penetrator. The .243 is going to be cooking out at probably 3200 fps and needs all the weight you can get to have any effect. Even with 140 gr'ers, it is going to almost explode in entrance. I dont have experience with them because I consider myself smart enough not to use one for that purpose to begin with. I am fortunate enough to have another rifle that is adequate for such things. Check around and see if you can borrow a decent rifle for this person.
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Old May 25, 2008, 11:07 PM   #4
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I will back W C Q 100% on this one!
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Old May 25, 2008, 11:08 PM   #5
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Two Words

Bad idea.
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Old May 25, 2008, 11:09 PM   #6
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In Colorado the minimum caliber for all big game is the .243/6mm, There is a grain restriction for bullets on elk which IIRC is 90 grains. All rifle cartridges must have a minimum of 1000 ft-lbs of energy at 100 yards to be legal as well. Most States with elk have a similar caliber restrictions, but there are States out there Oregon and Montana again IIRC it is perfectly legal to hunt elk with .22 caliber center fire rifle.


Like I said the .243 isn't an ideal caliber but there is nothing reckless or irresponsible in using one as long as the hunter realizes and works within the calibers limitations. You can't rely on the .243 to break heavy bone or travel end to end on an elk. A properly constructed bullet it will penetrate and take out the lungs or spine as long as you choose your shot wisely and are patient and have a broad side or slightly quartering shot. Again the problem with the .243 is that there are no hunting bullets made heavier than 100 grains that are commercially available.


Quote:
The parent cartridge of the .243 is the .308 and it is considered marginal on the low end for elk, especially in the hands of someone who doesnt know what they are up against.
W.C., I don't know where you have heard that the .308 is marginal for elk. I think it is a great elk cartridge, loaded with a good 180 grain bullet the largest elk on the planet doesn't stand a chance to a well placed shot by the .308 Win. Where I think the true elk cartridges begin are with the .270 Win and up, I'm perfectly comfortable in using my .270 on any elk out to 300 yards. Plus if the .308 is marginal then so would be the proven elk killer the .30-06.

Plus I'd rather have a first time elk hunter show up with his/her favorite deer rifle in my camp than a new magnum rifle he/she thought they needed for elk. Sure elk are tough and as long as you don't shoot one that has already on the move and has the adrenalin flowing just about any deer caliber rifle will bring an elk down. Some favorites of people I know are the 7mm-08, .257 Roberts, and the .25-06 and they have success rates enough to prove they are not marginal on elk at all.

I'm afraid this will degrade into another "Is the .223 adequate for deer" post.
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Old May 25, 2008, 11:58 PM   #7
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I was born and raised in Oregon, and unless it's changed, the minimum for elk and sheep is .243, for deer, lions, and bear its .22 CF. I have never shot an elk with my 6mm(same caliber as .243), but I used it on deer with handloaded 95gr nosler partition and got excellent penetration and great results. I'm sure the 243 could and has worked countless times on elk, but I would suggest something with a heavier bullet. If recoil is a big factor, the 7x57 or 6.5x55 will give practically the same recoil as a 243 but with a much more appropriate bullet.

But hey, like someone's avatar says (I can't remember who to give credit to), this post was worth exactly what you paid for it.
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Old May 26, 2008, 12:36 AM   #8
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.24 caliber centerfire is the bare minimum requirement for hunting elk in Oregon. I don't have any first hand experience using the .243 for elk because I would not consider it - not that it can't be done but because I've killed a number of elk and they are very tough animals. Even a well shot animal can go a long ways before expiring, usually into the darkest timber or the steepest canyon and I want all the help I can get as far as bullet weight/penetration. The .243 just doesn't have it IMO. I am not criticizing the cartridge, I just honestly believe it is not an elk caliber with any available bullet weight.

Truly if he wants a positive first elk hunting experience, he should try to beg or borrow something in .270 or larger. Especially for the inexperienced hunter. Elk do not often offer an ideal shot with a lot of margin for error. As his guide and mentor it will be easier for you as well if you're not chasing a wounded animal all over tarnation, and it would really sour the hunt (and maybe your hunter) if you lost an animal.

If he can't come up with an alternative rifle, I might even consider helping him out. I'm stuck on the wet side too
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Old May 26, 2008, 01:10 AM   #9
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Three years ago, my rifle put a 105 grain .243" spitzer through the heart of a large cow at about 80 yards.

More than 45 minutes later, it took a shot to the brain to finish her. Even with ideal shot placement... I won't ever do it again. I suggest trying to find a loaner rifle for your friend if his skills are in question.

The same goes for 7.62x39. I watched a cow take 6 rounds of high quality hunting ammo, broad-side, through the chest, without dropping. 2 bullets hit bone and exploded. The rest did what they were supposed to... and it wasn't enough. A .300 Win Mag finished what the 7.62 started.

In conclusion-
The calibers often seen as being stretched for use on big game are looked at that way for a reason. There are many successful hunts with them, and many failures. It is better to use a cartridge considered appropriate for the game. I'd rather play a game where I have the advantage; than a game where the house has the odds.
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Old May 26, 2008, 09:24 AM   #10
Chuck Dye
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So "FIRSTHAND" just slipped by unnoticed?

Folks, my Google scholarship is more than adequate to the task and my friend, whose internet connection is more than 100 times faster than mine, has ample search skills, too. I can spout the party line with the best of them. (I will carry a .30-06 and Light Magnums, others in our party will carry 7mm and 8mm Remington magnums.)


My purpose in posting here and at The High Road is to gather some FIRSTHAND (there's that word again, still all caps) stories to bolster my argument. So far, posts are running only two of eight in the FIRSTHAND category. I had hoped to do better.

(Thank you taylorce1 and Sidetracked!)
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Old May 26, 2008, 09:45 AM   #11
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Chuck,

What is your friends experience level exactly with hunting big game? Is he recoil shy? I know you stated inexperienced, but has he ever hunted anything before. Sounds like he is set on using this caliber for his elk for some reason or another. Most guides I've met will recommend the .270, .308, and .30-06 for the first time elk hunter as most people can handle the recoil of these rounds.

I apologize to the Oregon hunters out there, I'm on dial up this weekend and was working from memory on the hunting caliber restrictions. I'll do my research and see what other State that I can't remember at this time doesn't have any caliber restrictions for big game.
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Old May 26, 2008, 10:20 AM   #12
Chuck Dye
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I really am just looking for firsthand experiences shooting elk with the .243 Win. The idea was to get away from the professional writers, gunshop Nimrods and ballisticians, and Google scholars. I am especially trying to dodge the rabid "experts" who will pontificate without benefit of any firsthand experience.

IF my friend hunts with the .243, it will be because the rifle is his and not borrowed. Some of that is pride of ownership, but a large part of the decision is that the .243 Win that fits you, and that you have plenty of practice with, stands a good chance of being better than the poorly fit, borrowed thumper you have only shot a few times.

My input will be limited and peripheral, lest I come off as one of those I derided above. It would be (have been) nice to email a link to this thread, but it seems I will not be getting the firsthand input I hoped for.
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Old May 27, 2008, 08:13 PM   #13
LanceOregon
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I've hunted deer here in western Oregon with the .243, but never Elk. But I also own rifles in .270 Winchester and .30-06 that are available to me. So I can easily use a rifle of larger caliber that I am familiar with.

What I can give you some feedback on, though, is that I think that it is indeed a good idea for your friend to stick to using his own rifle that he is familiar with, instead of something brand new, or borrowed from someone else. It is easy for even the most experienced hunters to get "buck fever" at the crucial point of a hunt, when their quarry is in sight. So you want to be using a gun that you are totally comfortable with, and experienced in using.

I honestly think that few people do hunt elk with the .243, which probably accounts for the lack of responses to your post here. However, if you are a member of the Oregon Hunters Association, the photos section of their members magazine is regularly filled with hunters in western Oregon that have taken deer with the .243. You especially see all kinds of kids and women taking deer with the .243. But you also see quite a few men using them too. Hunting in the western part of our state is generally a shorter range scenario than in eastern Oregon. And out to 200 yards, the .243 does pack quite a good wallop.

If I somehow found myself only able to take my Remington 700 .243 on an Elk hunt in western Oregon, I would simply do two things:

First, use a full power load with a tough bullet. Something like Federal's 100 gr Nosler Partition load or Hornady's Light Magnum .243 load. And make sure that it is perfectly sighted in on my rifle.

Secondly, be selective in your shots. Pass on any shot where you are unable to get into a position where you are not fully confident on placing your bullet well on the animal. And keep your shots to under 200 yards. Again, most terrain here in Western Oregon is typically not going to offer a lot of long range shots, as it does in the eastern part of our state.

The most important assets to any hunter is their own skill level, and judgment. That is far more important to whether they will be successful than what caliber firearm they carry.

.
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Old May 27, 2008, 08:22 PM   #14
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I'm picking up my new .243 this week. Gotta looooooong wait for Elk season but if one wanders down here, he's table fare.
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Old May 27, 2008, 08:27 PM   #15
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How many times does the: Is a (insert rifle caliber here) enough for (insert game animal here)? question have to be asked?

If you have to ask. Then it's probably not big enough to consistently make humane ethical kills on than animal.
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Old May 27, 2008, 09:06 PM   #16
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The .243 will work as long as you place a good shot. I would try a neck shot but if close maybe through the side but i gurante it will go down with a neck shot
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Old May 27, 2008, 09:40 PM   #17
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Chuck;
In my post I said a loaner would probably be best. But... if the rest of the party will be carrying the rifles you noted; I don't think it's an issue.

Like you said - There is a lot of pride in a hunt when the game is taken with your own rifle.
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Old May 28, 2008, 06:09 AM   #18
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Quote:
Three years ago, my rifle put a 105 grain .243" spitzer through the heart of a large cow at about 80 yards.

More than 45 minutes later, it took a shot to the brain to finish her.

That's hard to believe.
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Old May 28, 2008, 06:53 AM   #19
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neck shot

a close second hand experience. with 243 100gr. rem corelock, my buddy killed a young bull with neck shot DRT. following year hunting with 270 130 grn remington corelock he tracked cow across ravine with lung shot.
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Old May 29, 2008, 12:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
That's hard to believe.
Zerojunk:

You hopefully realize here that you are making an assumption that one needs a functioning heart in order to stay alive.

Are you absolutely sure of this??
.
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Old May 29, 2008, 01:04 PM   #21
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I have to wonder about the heart shot elk story too.

So you shot an elk "through the heart", as in bullet entered the heart, went through it and then out the other side, with a .243 and it took 45 minutes and a shot to the brain to kill it? How is that even possible?

The 6 broadside 7.62x39 shots before being killed by a 300 mag sounds fishy to me too. Especially the part about how the "high quality hunting ammo"..."hit bone and exploded" Is it just me or is that a little contadictory? Do you remember exactly what brand and model the ammo was?
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Old May 29, 2008, 01:43 PM   #22
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ok, two words "BAD IDEA"!!!!


if you are hunting with a seasoned hunter, then maybe because they might have good shot placement and an idea of where to shoot given the postion they are in, but with an inexpereinced hunter I would say .308 with 150 or 160's is more up their alley and is a lot more foregiving if shot placement is not ideal. I would recommend 30/06 in a 180gr, but with a 30/06 you have much more recoil (unless with the managed recoil remington stuff of light handloads) and only a little improvement in bullet weight.

Personally I love the .243 for everything from large mulie's on down and I load accordingly. But for Elk sized critters I won't go with anything smaller than a .270 and prefer a 7mm Rem or Weatherby mag or my 30/06. If in bear country I might consider my .300 weatherby mag, but 30/06 with 180 gr's is enough to discourage an unruly bear.

Oh and my first elk was shot with an old surplus enfield no4 mk1 in the big and slow .303 british using factory remington soft points. The bull just looked at me and then fell over. the broad side shot right behind the shoulder left his vitals as mush and the bullet never exited and maintained almost it's entire weight and performed a perfect mushroom expanding dramatically. Of course this is the only round with the remington soft points that I can say this for, most of the faster caliers (.243, 270, etc..) don't expand that well in my expereince.

go get that inexperienced hunter a .308 or 7mm-08 or 270 or 280 or maybe even a .257 weatherby or roberts
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Old May 29, 2008, 02:53 PM   #23
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The good news is your friend has some time to save and a perfect excuse for a new rifle! Even a couple hundred dollar K31 Swiss (which are very cool rifles) in 7.5x55 would probably be better than the .243.
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Old May 30, 2008, 09:29 AM   #24
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The .243 was designed for taking small game. Use the cartridge for what it was designed for. True, you might be able to bring down a bear with one given the right circumstances (size, distance, and most important...shot placement). However, the odds of that occuring are very slim if not nill.
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Old May 30, 2008, 04:39 PM   #25
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Lots of opinions but the gentleman asked for FIRSTHAND results..

all others need not apply.
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