It always makes me cringe a little when folks start talking about .243 WIN. Mind you, there is nothing wrong about .243 WIN. It's one of the cartridges that's on my short list. It's just that. . . well, see if you can follow this.
I've been on hunting forums for about ten years now. There always some guy who is:
1) Passionately in love with the .243 WIN
2) Loves to take shoulder shots
3) Passionately against a whole slew of bullets.
One bullet blew up on him. Another pencilled through. This one works. This one doesn't-- vast experience with a number of bullets and he can write volumes on the relative properties of most premium bullets manufactured for the .243 WIN.
Does anyone else see this? Again, I'm not knocking 243 WIN or .243 hunters or .243 rifles. I'm not making sideways dings at 6mm or 25-06 either. It just goes back to what I was saying about there being just a small performance window in which to operate before you either A) exceed the operating limits of the lead and guilding metal of the bullet or B) exceed the operating limits of the deer and pass through the opposite side.
Now you come to the .243 WIN. Here is a rifle with lots of velocity and considerably less mass to deliver than its 308 WIN progenitor. The window between A and B has become somewhat compressed. Now a direct hit on a rib can cause perfect mushrooming , but a glancing deflection at short range can produce incredible forces on a bullet that rips it apart. How do you deal with that? A stronger bullet? A poly-carbonate tip? This is where the argument ensues. One guy swears by TSX, another thinks Inter-whatsitz work better. Then the Partition guys sounds off. Meanwhile, I'm sitting back with my low-budget .308 diameter Corelokts and Interlocks scratching my head. I don't have strong opinions about the bullets I choose. I've never needed them.
I saw a discussion a while back on the subject of elk. Thankfully it did not include the .243 WIN, but the bigger animal and bigger rifle ( I think it was 300 WIN MAG) just made the problem bigger. The fellow was trying to find a single bullet that would kill an elk equally well at short range and long range, but he required that both be accomplished with shoulder shots. His experience was that his bullet of choice was over-expanding at short range. Somebody asked why not save the shoulder shots for 200 yards and out and keep the close-in shots at the chest and be done with it. It was the classic example of what I'm driving at:
Bullet(x) + Distance(y) + Density(Z) = Perfect DRT shot
Bullet(x) + (1/2 X Distance(y)) + Density(Z) = Grenade
Bullet(x) + (2 X Distance(y)) + Density(Z) = Pencil
It doesn't even have to be a 2 stuck in there. It could be a 4 or an 8; you can put in any value you see fit. You can play with density instead of distance or change bullets or whatever. The problem is that as you get a smaller lighter bullet and drive it faster, the equation gets tighter.
. . . and I'm not saying .243 WIN is actually the culprit or that there is something wrong with hunting with a .243 WIN or anything like that. If somebody handed me a ..243 WIN Ruger International on my birthday like say. . . this one:
. . .I'd be leaving puddles (somebody can slip a hint to KYHillChick; my birthday's coming up). It just seems that when there IS trouble with bullet not performing well, it is usually coming from a small, fast bullet. .243 WIN is probably the most popular round in the small fast category, and this is why I see so many arguments over it. It is also right at the bottom of what a lot of states require as a minimum caliber.
What started this thread was the idea of putting something up for guys thinking about a new deer rifle. Normally folks don't think of me as being a source of advanced knowledge of rifle ballistics, so if you're looking here for advice you probably need something pretty basic. Here's my bottom line: keep to the middle way until you know enough about deer rifles to get adventurous. .243 WIN is not the middle of the road.