.243 Winchester caliber hunting rifles are some of the easiest rifles to learn and master the skill of shooting at big game both accurately and effectively. Just make sure you top that rifle off with the best scope for a .243 that you can afford.
Surprisingly, and thankfully, that doesn’t have to be the most expensive scope out there.
What’s the best scope for .243 Win caliber rifles? The best scope for a .243 Winchester caliber rifle is a lightweight, 3-9X40mm rifle scope with BDC (bullet drop compensating) crosshairs. Rifle scopes under 16 ounces mesh well with the overall goal of a lightweight, low recoil, easy to carry and shoot .243 caliber hunting rifle.
No need for huge objective lenses or exposed dials to fiddle with. Your .243’s bullet is a high speed, flat-shooting round when used within its maximum point blank range of slightly less than 300 yards.
This is an article about hunting scopes, so I’m not talking about killing coyotes at 500 yards or clanging steel at 1,000 yards, both of which the .243 is great at. However, in this article, we’ll look at hunting scopes for small-medium-sized “big” game.
If you plan on shooting out past the .243’s maximum killing range on “big” game—400 yards—a 2-10x44mm or a 4-12x44mm are also good scopes for a .243, though a little on the heavy side in both magnification and weight.
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What Makes a Good Scope for a .243?
Let’s get this out of the way. Everyone has bias in pretty much everything. So I won’t pretend to be objective about this. I like scopes that get the job done and don’t cost more than the rifle I put them on.
I don’t want to cringe every time my scope gets bumped by a feather. Translation, I don’t put Ferrari scopes on Ford rifles. So the “best” scope for my .243s are good enough.
Here are a few criteria I use for choosing a good .243 rifle scope for my family’s growing inventory of .243 chambered hunting rifles. I want my girls and wife to enjoy shooting, so a scope’s got to:
- Be from a reputable, well-known brand
- Have a good factory warranty
- Have good customer support
- Be lightweight
- Have a simple design
- Be easy to operate
- Have a low-profile front objective lens
- Have a magnification dial that’s easy to turn
- Adjust via 1/4 click elevation and windage dials
- Be a .243 scope with BDC or duplex crosshairs
But who are we really kidding. I mean, come on, many of us, including me at one time or another, need to buy the best scope we can afford, regardless of features and fancy knobs. Or, more recently, we have SOS—shiny object syndrome—and simply love to futz and fidget, testing out new toys.
Most of all, I like budget friendly, because every time I have to buy a new .243 scope, I have to get 4 of them.
It drives my dad nuts, how many scopes and accessories I roll through. Yes, it can get expensive, but then again, this is hunting—it ain’t cheap.
We’ll get to the budget scopes below. For now…
Best Scope Magnification for a .243
This is a serious old school statement and I know I’ll get punished for it, but you could slap a straight 6x magnification scope on a .243, call it a day and hunt with it for 90% of the shots you’ll ever encounter.
At that distance, a 6x power magnification scope will get the job done.
That being said…
What’s the best scope magnification for a .243? A standard 3-9x40mm magnification, 1″ main tube rifle scope is about the best all around choice for a rifle whose outer limit should be around 400 yards. Dialed up to 9x magnification, a 3-9x scope’s FOV (field of view) is around 14 feet at 100 yards. Go in the brush and the 3x setting will do perfectly, and out at 400 yards, 9x magnification should be plenty.
A 3-9x40mm scope is widely available, in several price points from budget to ridiculous, and melds nicely with the .243’s ballistic capabilities. Not too big, not too small, just right for most situations—Goldilocks.
In fact, I have an instinctive habit that anything I see over 200 yards, I just crank my .243’s scope until it stops at 9x, then I get on target and go bang!
End of story … most of the time.
You’ll want to shoot for an under 16 ounce scope, and under 12 oz. if you can swing it.
There are a few scopes that you can get in sub 12 0z. weights. Combine that scope with a roughly 6.5 lb. rifle and that makes a little bolt action, scoped .243 a lightweight gem of a rifle to pack all day.
Most of the scopes that match well with a lightweight .243 caliber rifle have a 1″ main scope tube as opposed to a 30mm. At sub-400 yard ranges, a 1″ tube saves you money and weight.
Below 300-400 yards, keeping a scope’s crosshairs as close to the centerline of the barrel bore as possible means better maximum point blank range. And that’s a good thing. Because one of the big factors in calculating bullet drop is how far above the bore the scope’s crosshairs are.
A smaller objective—33mm to 40mm—means you can mount the scope closer to the receiver and barrel, thus decreasing the distance from the center of your crosshairs to the center of your rifle’s barrel bore.
On the down side, the purpose of a bigger objective lens is to get more light into the scope in that 30 minutes before and after sunrise/sunset that we all know and love.
Best 3-9x40mm Magnification Scope for .243
This is a tossup between several really great “hunting” scopes, because like I said, this magnification is everywhere and available from many different well-known brand scope makers.
My favorite .243 scope in this magnification is the Leupold VX-Freedom 3-9X40mm. It weighs in at 12.2 oz., has a 1 inch main tube and is 12.39 inches long.
But the reality is, you could mount any one of the following scopes to a .243 whose purpose is to be a sub-400 yard workhorse game getter, and then never look back. And you can find all these scopes on Amazon.
- Burris Fullfield II 3×9 Scope – The Ballistic Plex Reticle on Burris is similar to BDC-bullet drop compensator reticle. We currently have this scope on my daughter’s Savage Axis Muddy Girl .243 and it’s deadly! It weighs 13 oz., has a 1 inch main tube, and is 12.2 inches long.
- Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm – Currently, Savage Arms Axis II XP Rifle comes with this scope mounted on it. That’s a testament right there. It weighs in at 13 oz., has a 1 inch main tube, and is 12 inches long.
- Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm – It’s hard to go wrong with a Vortex scope. It weighs in at 14.4 oz., has a 1 inch main tube and is 11.7 inches long.
Best 2-7x33mm Magnification Scope for .243
Why would you want to put a 2-7×33 magnification scope on your .243?
2-7x scopes are great for brushy hunts, deer drives, still hunting in timber, and carrying around all day. And the 7x setting is more than adequate magnification out to roughly 300 yards. (There’s that 300 yard number again)
Here are some 2-7x scopes I really like for the .243 Winchester round:
- Leupold VX-Freedom 2-7x33mm – This scope’s 11.1 ounces, has a 1 inch main tube, and is 11.04 inches long. It’s lightweight and compact and is made by the parent company of the Redfield above.
- Vortex Optics Crossfire II 2-7x 32mm – The Vortex weighs a little more than the scopes above—14.3 oz.—it has a 1 inch main tube and is 11.52 inches long. It’s a great scope, but that extra 3 ounces of weight pushed it down on my list. Chances are, you’d never notice it and this is a great scope!
Best 3.5-10x50mm Magnification Scope for .243
Okay, I’ll admit it—I’m getting old (er). And my eyes aren’t what they used to be. And a little extra magnification isn’t such a bad thing, right? So when I say that a 3-9x is an optimal .243 scope, it is. But sometimes you could use just a little more.
A little more magnification, a little more light into your scope, and a little more range. For those occasions where you could use a little bit of all of those things, a Vortex Optics Diamondback 3.5-10x50mm on your .243 Win might be just what the eye doctor ordered.
This scope is equal parts great glass, a little extra light in the dawn and dusk hours, one more magnification, and it’s not a budget buster.
This Vortex scope weighs in at just over 16.2 oz., has a 1 inch main tube and is 12.5 inches long. Which makes it only slightly heavier and not much larger than our 3-9x scope above. However, it will mount a bit higher above the barrel than the 40mm and 32m objective lens scopes above.
So if you’re going to push your .243 out to that 400 yard range and maybe a little beyond it—say on a Wyoming antelope hunt—you may want a bit more magnification to help you with more precise shot placement at that distance.
And if that little extra light and magnification are what you’re looking for, the Vortex Diamondback 3.5-10x50mm fits the bill.
5 Best Budget Scopes for .243
Many … many years ago, my dad put a signature-for-the-era, high gloss Leupold 3-9x compact scope on his Remington 700 BDL .243 and I don’t think it’s been off since. Downed mule deer and whitetails are a testament to his pragmatic, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy.
That being said, the ever-increasing ocean of high quality, inexpensive, and widely-available scope options out there is staggering and confusing to navigate.
There’s literally a minute variance of scope to serve every impulse and whimsey you might have. And for those of us with low shooting supplies impulse control… Ahem… Let’s just say that I rotate scopes like a swimsuit model at a photoshoot.
And here’s what I like to mesh with my family’s growing posse of inexpensive .243 rifles. At one time or another, several of these scopes came as the “kit” scope on Savage Axis rifles:
- Burris Fullfield II 3-9×40
- Bushnell Banner 3-9×40
- Redfield Revolution 4-12×40
- Weaver Kaspa 3-9X40
- Vortex Crossfire II 3-9X40
.243 Scope Summary
There you have it—all the information you need to select a great hunting scope for your .243. Yes, it’s all opinion. However, it’s based on years of actual hunting experience not Internet research and regurgitation.
Keep in mind, these scopes were purposefully chosen because they’re budget friendly, widely available, and have great manufacturers behind them. And for a working .243 rifle that’s out of your safe more than in it, these scopes won’t make you cringe every time someone looks at them or a branch brushes up against them in the timber.