The .243 Winchester is one of the most popular hunting cartridges in the United States. This mild-recoiling cartridge is capable of dropping small to medium game at impressive distances, especially when paired with a quality riflescope.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of scopes on the market today. While variety may be the spice of life, it can make finding the best scope for .243 Win feel like an impossible job.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the options, don’t worry. We’re going to walk you through exactly what type of riflescope will complement this cartridge’s impressive capabilities. We’ll even share a few of our favorite models before we wrap things up.
If you don’t have time for the details, check out the list below for the best rated scopes for .243 Winchester:
- Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X40
- Bushnell Nitro 5-20×44
- Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32
- Bushnell Trophy 3-9×40
- Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12×40
- Burris Fullfield II 3-9×40
- Steiner Optics GS3 2-10×42
- Swarovski Z3 3-10×42
Table of Contents
- What Makes the .243 Win Special
- Choosing the Best Scope for .243 Win
- Best Scopes for 243 Winchester on the Market Reviews
- Final Thoughts
What Makes the .243 Win Special
The .243 Winchester (6.2×52mm) cartridge was developed in 1955 specifically for the new Winchester Model 70 bolt-action and Model 88 lever-action rifles. The idea was to produce a cartridge (and a rifle) capable of pulling double duty on varmints and whitetails. While it does a fine job on both, .243 WIn definitely blew up the world of whitetails. It remains one of the most popular deer hunting cartridges of all time.
A short-action, 24-caliber cartridge, the .243 Win is based on a necked down .308 Winchester case. The case is extra roomy and holds nearly twice as much powder as the .223 Remington cartridge.
With space for plenty of powder, the .243 Win pushes .24 caliber projectiles at pretty impressive speeds. With a better-than-average ballistic coefficient and plenty of velocity, the .243 Win achieves an impressively flat trajectory, delivers effective terminal energy, and provides serious long-range accuracy. Because this cartridge does all that without massive recoil, .243 Win is especially popular for novice and youth hunters.
Aside from being a capable cartridge for whitetails, antelope, coyotes, and varmints, .243 Win also makes regular appearances on the competition field. John Widden has won the NRA High Power Long Range National Championship using his .243 rifle several times.
Choosing the Best Scope for .243 Win
The right scope will help you squeeze every ounce of long range precision out of this awesome cartridge. While there is no single “best” scope, there are certain things you should look for in an optic to pair with your .243 rifle. Here are a few key things to keep in mind.
Because .243 Win is capable of humanely harvesting deer-sized game out to 400 yards, some shooters think they need a high magnification scope. However, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to scope magnification. The higher the magnification, the more distortion you can expect in your sight picture.
A high power scope also magnifies more than just your target. The higher the scope’s magnification, the more likely even the tiniest movements, including your breathing and heartbeat, will shake your reticle off target.
High magnification also shrinks your field of view, which can make tracking moving game almost impossible.
For most .243 shooting applications, a scope in the 3-9x magnification range will work best.
If you’ll be using your rifle to pop small varmints at extended ranges, you can stretch the magnification up to 14x. Just be sure to choose a scope with high-quality, fully multi-coated lenses to minimize image distortion.
For long-range target shooting, you can get away with even more magnification, especially if you’ll be shooting from a benchrest.
Modern riflescopes come in a nearly endless array of reticle shapes and designs. Many hunters prefer simple, uncomplicated patterns like the traditional crosshair or duplex reticle.
However, the .243 Win can accurately reach targets at impressive distances, especially in the hands of a talented shooter. To milk the most out of the cartridge’s long-range abilities, a BDC (bullet drop compensation), MOA, or mil-dot reticle will help shooters compensate for wind and bullet drop over distance.
Light and Clarity
Because it is hard to hit what you can’t see, the light and clarity of the scope’s sight picture is incredibly important.
Effective light transmission will ensure your sight picture is bright, even when light conditions are less than optimal. For most shooting applications, a scope with a 40mm objective lens will provide a bright image. Fully multi-coated lenses will also help reduce reflection and enhance image brightness and clarity.
Traditionally, hunters opted for capped turrets because the design prevented accidental adjustments while traveling through the woods. However, target-style turrets are gaining popularity among long-range hunters. Tall target turrets allow shooters to make fine adjustments for bullet drop and windage, which can be an asset when targeting game across wide open areas.
Whether you plan to shoot targets or whitetails, the construction of your scope is important. Look for an optic that is filled with argon or nitrogen and then o-ring sealed. This design helps improve clarity and also prevents internal fogging due to external changes in temperature and humidity.
Best Scopes for 243 Winchester on the Market Reviews
1 Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X40
The Leupold VX-Freedom riflescope is a popular choice among serious deer hunters. It works particularly well with rifles chambered in .243 Win. Weighing just over a pound, the VX-Freedom is relatively lightweight.
The VX-Freedom features an illuminated SFP reticle. Shooters can choose from several reticle designs, including Duplex, Ultimate Slam, and CDS Tri MOA.
The scope also features high-quality, fingertip adjustable turrets, scratch resistant lenses, and an easy-focus eyepiece.
Hunters will particularly appreciate Leupold’s Twilight Light Management System which maximizes brightness, especially in low light settings. The system adds up to 10 extra minutes of shooting time at the start and end of every day, when game animals are most active.
2 Bushnell Nitro 5-20×44
The Bushnell Nitro is a near perfect pairing for a bolt action Remington 700 or Savage Axis, especially if your main goal is varmint hunting. The 5-20x magnification is ideal if you need to extend a shot on a groundhog with your .243 Win across a bean field or open prairie.
The scope features fully multi-coated optics and an EXO Barrier coating that repels water, dirt, oil, and debris. Coatings are designed to provide up to 94 percent light transmission for a bright, clear sight picture, even in wet or low light conditions.
With an IPX7 waterproof rating, the Nitro can survive immersion in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without damaging the internal optics.
3 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7×32
An awesome all-around scope for budget-conscious shooters, the Vortex Crossfire II has plenty to offer. Don’t be fooled by this optic’s economical price tag. It performs well above its price point.
With fully multi-coated lenses, you’ll enjoy bright, crisp image resolution. The scope is also incredibly sturdy. The main housing is crafted from a single piece of aircraft grade aluminum. It is nitrogen purged and o-ring sealed, making it reliably fogproof and waterproof.
This version of the Crossfire II features a Dead-Hold BDC reticle that is perfect for deer hunting at ranges where estimating holdover is necessary. The Crossfire II also features a fast focus eyepiece, an ultra-forgiving eye box, and plenty of eye relief. This allows you to get on target quickly and get the perfect sight picture for accurate shots at a variety of ranges.
4 Bushnell Trophy 3-9×40
Designed specifically for hunters, the Bushnell Trophy riflescope features a practical 3-9x magnification range and a functional 40mm objective lens. The optics are fully multi-coated and treated with Rain Guard HD to provide up to 91 percent light transmission, even in wet weather. The optics also provide crisp, edge-to-edge clarity through the entire magnification range.
The simple Multi X reticle is versatile and easy to use. It works just as well for coyote hunting as it does tactical maneuvers. One of the scope’s best features is the short, one-piece tube that makes for a compact, sturdy design. The compact design helps keep the scope from getting banged around when you’re walking through the woods. However, the scope is rugged enough to handle bumps, bangs, and thumps when they do happen.
The Bushnell Trophy also features a fast focus eyepiece and side parallax adjustment for long range shooting.
5 Vortex Optics Diamondback 4-12×40
Another budget-friendly offering from Vortex Optics, the Diamondback riflescope weighs less than a pound, yet has an ample one-inch tube. Made from a solid piece of aircraft grade aluminum, the main tube is argon purged, o-ring sealed, and has a hard anodized exterior finish. Shockproof, fogproof, and waterproof, this is one of the toughest traditional riflescopes on the market today.
The scope features a fast focus eyepiece, fully multi-coated optics, and high-quality turrets. The Diamondback has an SFP Deadhold BDC MOA reticle. Simple and uncluttered, the Deadhold reticle takes the guesswork out of both holdover and windage corrections, making this scope ideal for engaging targets at longer ranges.
6 Burris Fullfield II 3-9×40
This popular hunting scope comes in at a price well under $200, making it a smart option for budget-minded shooters. The Burris Fullfield II proves you don’t have to drop a ton of cash to get bright, clear optics. Featuring large, precision-ground lenses and index-matched, Hi-Lume multi coatings, the Fullfield’s optics are designed to minimize glare and increase low light performance.
The Fullfield II has a generous eye box to reduce eye strain and fatigue. It weighs only 13 ounces and is plenty durable, even for tough hunting environments.
7 Steiner Optics GS3 2-10×42
Steiner Optics makes some of the finest scopes available to modern shooters. Their GS3 definitely lives up to the Steiner name.
The GS3 features the company’s exclusive “game sensing” technology. Using CAT (color adjusted transmission) lens coatings, the GS3 enhances color contrast in the eye’s peak sensitivity range. The amplified contrast makes your target stand out like a sore thumb against leafy or shadowed backgrounds. Add in the GS3’s 5x zoom range, and this scope is perfect for hunting eastern whitetails or western big game.
The GS3 also features Steiner’s Plex S1 reticle. Located on the second focal plane, the reticle has cascading dots and easy-to-read lines that help shooters compensate for wind and establish holdover for distance.
Super sturdy, the Steiner GS3 is o-ring sealed and nitrogen-filled to provide reliable, moisture-free performance. It is even submersible to 33 feet!
8 Swarovski Z3 3-10×42
Well-suited to a variety of hunting applications, the Swarovski Z3 has a slim, lightweight construction that works well with most .243 Win rifles. Despite its compact design, the Z3 provides a large field of view and has high-quality target turrets.
Offering incredible clarity and performance in both bright and low light, the Z3 features anti-reflective lens coatings. It also has internal ribbing that reduces residual reflections inside the tube for better clarity in bright conditions.
The .243 Win is an excellent cartridge for hunting varmints, whitetails, antelope, and coyotes. It is also a classic long-range target round. The best scope for 243 Win will help increase your shooting accuracy with this zippy little cartridge.
While there is no one-size-fits-all optic for .243 Win rifles, each of the scopes on our list are quality options that fit a wide range of applications and budgets.
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