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The .243: by Bill McLeod

21/12/2020 9:08 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

I wouldn’t trust a 243 on a big red stag in the bush. I can still recall these words of wisdom offered by a club member, a national champion rifle shooter and a self confessed experienced deer hunter. This was the prevailing attitude toward this cartridge within the club. I don’t recall anyone I knew as a kid using one apart from Murray. I avoided using the cartridge on deer although I had good results with it in competition shooting. 

Being a little bit curious, I decided to try the 243 on deer while I was working in the Waikare, a tributary of the Whakatane. The first opportunity came when I saw a hind some 70 metres away up a small slip. At the shot the deer walked away as if nothing had happened. I was dumbfounded. Maybe Bob was right. I climbed to the slip and scrambled to where I’d seen the deer disappear. Not five metres from where I’d hit her I found the deer, behind a bush, dead as. Huge relief. The next victim, a seriously big boar,  was just around the next bend in the creek. It fell to the shot. We were not credited with pigs as part of our tally but sometimes the temptation is too much. We did shoot the odd handy one for a bit of pork. The next animal was a hind spotted as I was crossing the main watershed to return home down a different creek. She fell to the shot. As I had used a conventional shoulder shot, I decided to autopsy the carcass to see what the bullet had done. The bullet had penetrated meat and bone to reach the thoracic cavity and the damage to the lung area was impressive. I used the rifle, a Sako Forester, for the rest of my stay on that block.

Eventually I found that the lighter weight of my 308 was more to my liking for this type of hunting so went back to using that. Used the rifle on fallow and japs with excellent results. I try to relate only first hand experiences but I should mention the results Murray Potter got with his 243s. He hunted the Urewera for years eventually becoming a field officer. He used and liked the 243. I personally don’t know how he carried that heavy Browning semiautomatic around, it would have killed me. Discussing his choice some years later he said that he handloaded his ammo with very light varmint bullets and was careful to place his shots. It worked for him. I was happy with the bullets I had available, they were Sako 90 grain. Just as happy with other 100 grain bullets.

I sold the rifle many years later, mainly because I felt that the accuracy was, while acceptable, not of the best quality. It was not for some years that I discovered the probable cause. I bought an ammunition alignment gauge. When I checked the ammunition I had loaded for that rifle I found that the cartridges were as crooked as a dogs hind leg. Traced that back to a reloading die that produced crooked rounds. I’d sold what was probably a good accurate rifle because of lack of knowledge on my part. I did not wear the barrel out on that particular rifle.

On a recent trip I borrowed my nephews Remington 700 243 to shoot my deer, he’d already got two. Three shots, three deer, no dramas.

I reflect on Bob's advice and would say that I’ve shot heaps of big red stags in the bush with my 243

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