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Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

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Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby hungryrob » Sat Oct 18, 2008 11:07 pm

There are several factors in deciding what rifle to go for for a foxing gun. I'll try to outline those that apply to the choice between a .243 and .223 calibre rifle, given that the land is safe for both. There are other similar calibres and choices (Ackley improved etc) but for the purposes of this review, I'll stick to these two as the debate often compares these two different 'types' of calibre.

These factors are cost, availability of ammunition, ease for reloading, trajectory and windage, noise and recoil, effect, accuracy and versatility:

Costs and availability of both rifle and ammunition

In my opinion; the cost difference is irrelevant. Most shooters won't be shooting more than a hundred foxes a year and given a .223 factory load might be 10 - 20 pence cheaper than a .243 load, that will mean they have saved £20 in total. Even if they choose to reload, the difference is not significant. Costs do come into consideration when they are used more often than this, ie; for vermin shooting but this isn't under discussion here. We're talking about a foxing gun.

In terms of choice of rifle, in the UK at least, both calibres are very popular so cost for both should be similar, either new or second hand.

Ammunition availability is the same for both calibre with perhaps a slightly larger 'off the shelf' selection for the .243 but nothing really significant. Both calibres are easy to reload.

Trajectory and windage.

I have a .243 for foxing with NV because it gives a very very flat trajectory with 58 grain bullets. Using NV makes life difficult in terms of range estimation and a 'point and shoot' calibre is very useful. This applies equally when lamping. The 58 grain VMax is flat out to 250 yards and not bad out to 300. Stoke it up with an 80 grain bullet and you could comfortably shoot out to 500 but that clearly isn't what you're looking for. Needles to say, the flat trajectory of the .243 is the biggest advantage over the .223. Without the need to estimate range, you simply point and shoot.

Flat trajectory aside there is also the problem of wind. The longer, heavier bullets in the .243, even the 58 grain bullets will fly better than most .223 bullets. Yes you can load 70 + grain load in .223 (with the right twist rate) and they are extremely accurate but bugger all use for fox shooting as they're loopy as hell. I can get a .223 cal 36 grain Varmint Grenade at 4040 fps to fly as flat as the 58 Grain VMax in .243 but with even a little wind, it's poor beyond 100 yards. The ideal bullet in .243 for fox shooting is the 62 Grain Varmint Grenade (powdered Tin Copper composite) or a heavier standard lead bullet where there is a nice flat trajectory with very little wind deflection.

Noise and recoil

Noise is similar in both rifles and both can be effectively moderated, Recoil is heavier on the .243 but on a foxing gun, you can afford it to be heavy as you won't be stalking with it. The heavier it is, the less you have to worry about recoil.

Some folks say that the .223 will allow you to see the bullet strike better and I believe this is true of the .223 in day time. When shooting at night in the lamp you rarely see the impact anyway, as the flash and smoke can temporarily blind you and it's also dark so harder to see clearly ;)

Effect

Type of bullet is also a consideration for foxing. like I said, I have 2 .243's. One I use for woodland stalking with 100 grain soft points. These are useful for longer ranges but given that they don't fragment, they can often pass through a fox and it wont fall over instantly. The .243 58 grain VMax carries enough weight to avoid too much wind deflection but because it explodes on impact, you get very very few runners. It also reduces the risk of ricochets as it tends to break up on impact with anything. These fragmenting bullets are effective in .223 as well but given that they are at their best driven fast, they come into their own in a .243.

Most normal people won't be eating fox after shooting them so the fragmenting bullets are preferable in terms of humane kill. A fox in bits is normally a dead fox; one with a hole in it may not die instantly and if it runs you have the moral obligation to recover and humanely dispatch it. Far fewer foxes will run if shot by a fragmenting bullet travelling at high velocity.

Accuracy

The accuracy argument doesn't hold as this is bullet, load and rifle specific. What works in one rifle may not in others. I believe that to get accuracy, you need to try a good few different loads in whatever gun you have until you find the right round to suit. This applies equally to .223 and .243 or any other calibre for that matter. My .243 foxing rifle is very much as accurate as my .223 and will generally perform much better at longer range than the .223 (again dependant on the twist rate of the .223 and weight of bullet).

Versatility and usage

Outwith the UK, there is a debate regarding versatility as both rifles fill different purposes in terms of varmint control or serious hunting. the .223 in any guise or twist rate is a serious Varmint rifle. In many ways it is now old technology and has been well and truly trounced by the arrival of the new .20 cal rifles. It does however offer the vermin (varmint) shooter a useful medium range (300yard) varmint rifle with the added capability of taking small deer and larger predators (fox etc).

The .243 rifle, with its heavier bullet capability can floor any species of deer alongside it's extreme capability against predators such as fox using lighter bullets. It is questionable however that the user will shoot small vermin with this calibre. Once the numbers of rounds fired begin to mount the difference between these two calibre in terms of cost become significant, with the .243 running at approximately 30% more than the .223. It does however have a better range capability than the .223's (depending upon the twist rate of the .223). In my experience, there is little need other than bragging rights to be shooting vermin at ranges beyond 300 yards anyway and there is a strong moral argument against this.

For foxing in the UK, both are adequate and recognised by the Home Office as effective tools for the job. Given that many foxes are shot at night using a lamp in the UK, there is no question that the .243 is a better choice. It has the flattest trajectory of the two, giving the shooter a 'point and shoot' option for a longer range. Shooting beyond 300 yards at night requires a great deal of skill and several operators (driver / rangefinder, lamper and shooter) to allow for accurate identification of a fox so I am discounting shooting beyond this range.

The advantage within the UK of the .223 however is that in many areas, the Licensing Authority (police) may authorise the .223 for use as a vermin control rifle. this gives the .223 calibre an advantage where the shooter has no intention of shooting larger deer species. The .243 is rarely issued as a vermin control tool.

Conclusion:

Check with your licensing authority if they will consider licensing the .223 for vermin. If they do and you have such a use for it, the .223 may be a better choice. If however you only intend to shoot fox, then consider the .243 as a better option (also 22/250, 220 swift, 25-06 or .204 Ruger to name abut a few other options with similar performance). If you also shoot deer regularly, there is no question whatsoever; the .243 wins every time.


Here are the actual trajectories for my rifles for the 58 Grain VMax in .243 and the 36 Grain Varmint Grenade in .223. They are very similar out to 250 yards, except the 58 grain .243 bullet will deflect much less in wind.

Note: A 55 grain VMax in .223 cal will not give such a flat trajectory as the 36 grain bullet so is not worthy of comparison.

Varmint Grenade in .223:
varmint grenade trajectory copy.jpg


58 Grain VMax in .243:
.243 win with n140 and 58 grain vmax.jpg


As an aside; here is the trajectory for my .243 with 100 grain Nosler partitions:
243 win with 100 grain nosler partition and 39 grain n150.jpg
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby varminter » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:25 pm

Thanks for this interesting stuff, all too rare to come across such these days. I no longer read the UK shooting press, given my interest in varmint hunting and my general lack of interest in shotgunning or traditional stalking (all that Edwardian fancy dress...) though I used to write for it quite a lot...
Anyway, much to comment on, but couple of points only.
1. In my part of the Westcountry I come across hardly anyone using .243 for foxes deliberately, though stalkers might sometimes pot a fox as a target of opportunity. I'm aware of the ballistic advantages - but despite the 6mm bullet's distinctly better performance in the wind (I mean 70 - 80gr jobs not your super-light ones) I reckon most riflemen will not be shooting foxes at long enough range for it to matter, and most guys I know use .222, .223 and 22-250. I've used all three, handloading for each calibre as a matter of principle, and have never had a fox get away after any sort of solid hit anywhere in the torso, using Ballistic Tip 50 & 55gr, and V-Max 55 & 40gr. I've always been more of a "varmint hunter" (smaller pests) than a foxer as such, though, so next:
2. "In my experience, there is little need other than bragging rights to be shooting vermin at ranges beyond 300 yards anyway and there is a strong moral argument against this."
Can't agree with this. But maybe you're thinking specifically of foxes? You could have a point: the chance of a wounded fox getting away with (say) a leg blown off increases if one starts taking very long shots. But with smaller varmints - rabbits mostly, plus crows, pigeons and in Canada (few years ago, with a further trip to come in 2009) groundhogs - the massive shock & tissue damage from a hit just about anywhere, using these modern wonder-bullets, means such small beasts are unlikely to get away wounded. And long range is what it's all about, though my own accomplishments are modest, like a crow and a rabbit at 350, my furthest groundhog at 340. Pushing out one's personal limit is a constant challenge. My buddy in Canada has shot something over 15,000 groundhogs in his varminting career, and since the laser rangefinder came in he's been able to push his own best out to 637 yards - with a custom Sako heavy-barrel in .243 Ackley...
More on varminting, please!
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby hungryrob » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:32 pm

varminter wrote:2. "In my experience, there is little need other than bragging rights to be shooting vermin at ranges beyond 300 yards anyway and there is a strong moral argument against this."
Can't agree with this. But maybe you're thinking specifically of foxes? You could have a point: the chance of a wounded fox getting away with (say) a leg blown off increases if one starts taking very long shots. But with smaller varmints - rabbits mostly, plus crows, pigeons and in Canada (few years ago, with a further trip to come in 2009) groundhogs - the massive shock & tissue damage from a hit just about anywhere, using these modern wonder-bullets, means such small beasts are unlikely to get away wounded. And long range is what it's all about, though my own accomplishments are modest, like a crow and a rabbit at 350, my furthest groundhog at 340. Pushing out one's personal limit is a constant challenge. My buddy in Canada has shot something over 15,000 groundhogs in his varminting career, and since the laser rangefinder came in he's been able to push his own best out to 637 yards - with a custom Sako heavy-barrel in .243 Ackley...
More on varminting, please!


True and those who know me will be aware that I have done and will continue to shoot vermin at long ranges from time to time but..... If you can't get closer to rabbits at least than 300 yards, then you have to be very very clumsy ;) My longest crow is 410 yards with a 55 grain VMax .223 bullet and I was very pleased with this. I have shot rabbits further out than this but like I said, I no longer see the need and I am beginning to question the moral need for it.

Thanks for the comments :thup: :thup:
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby hungryrob » Sat Dec 13, 2008 11:38 pm

The .243 in Scotland is a very popular calibre with Gamekeepers as many of them only use a couple of rifles. It's legal for all UK deer which is why so many folks have them.

As an occasional stalker and regular fox hunter, if I could only have one rifle apart from my .22lr it would be the .243.
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby varminter » Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:02 pm

hungryrob wrote:If you can't get closer to rabbits at least than 300 yards, then you have to be very very clumsy ;) My longest crow is 410 yards with a 55 grain VMax .223 bullet and I was very pleased with this. I have shot rabbits further out than this but like I said, I no longer see the need and I am beginning to question the moral need for it.

Fair enough, and we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I'd just say I don't understand how there could be a moral objection to shooting pest species at as long a range as possible; that long range is what varmint hunting is all about, that my chums find my own interest in it eccentric but not immoral, especially since they shoot rabbits with rimfire and would consider 100 yards a very long shot... It's not a "moral need" on my part, just sport - and we don't go out shooting pests just for altruism or to please a landowner, do we, but for the sporting pleasure. Otherwise we'd use nets, traps, ferrets or poison...
410 yards is a very long shot for a crow! I consider them the wariest prey of the lot, though they usually feel safe at over 300 yards. And they're small inside all those feathers, plus they hop around a lot. I don't shoot at these ranges since my Rem 22-250 throat started to wear and I replaced it with the lightweight .223, but I hope to do some longer range stuff next year on those Ontario groundhogs - chestnut brown, and bigger than rabbits, they stick out against the green summer alfalfa crop....
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby Phil2174 » Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:12 pm

Guys an interesting and somewhat informative article, sorry to lower the tone but can someone explain the graphs. I've grasped the range :lol: not too sure about the rest though.
Cheers Phil2174 :thup:
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby humperdingle » Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:22 pm

Phil2174 wrote:Guys an interesting and somewhat informative article, sorry to lower the tone but can someone explain the graphs. I've grasped the range :lol: not too sure about the rest though.
Cheers Phil2174 :thup:


Any info in particular?
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby hungryrob » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:01 pm

Phil2174 wrote:Guys an interesting and somewhat informative article, sorry to lower the tone but can someone explain the graphs. I've grasped the range :lol: not too sure about the rest though.
Cheers Phil2174 :thup:

The 0 line running horizontally across the top is the centre of the crosshairs (line of sight). The bendy bit is the bullet flight relative to it ;)
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby Phil2174 » Sat Oct 17, 2009 11:03 pm

Cheers guys, think i've got it now. It starts with a -ve number because as the bullet exits the barrel it's 1.5 inches (approx) below where your looking with the scope and at 130-135 yards (243 ammo) the flight path is 1.5ish inches above where you are looking. Does that sound about right. :hmm:
Did you put the graphs together yourself from evidence you had collated, or is it from a manufacturers database
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby hungryrob » Sun Oct 18, 2009 9:33 am

Phil2174 wrote:Cheers guys, think i've got it now. It starts with a -ve number because as the bullet exits the barrel it's 1.5 inches (approx) below where your looking with the scope and at 130-135 yards (243 ammo) the flight path is 1.5ish inches above where you are looking. Does that sound about right. :hmm:
Did you put the graphs together yourself from evidence you had collated, or is it from a manufacturers database

You got it Phil.

Yes these charts are based upon actual data from my rifle (measured MV) and the BC given by the bullet manufacturers. The BC bit isn't perfect but for my needs, the data is as accurate as it needs to be.

In the real world, I also measure the actual fall of shot against the data generated projection and it is surprisingly accurate!
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby Phil2174 » Sun Oct 18, 2009 7:43 pm

Cheers Rob, more to this shooting lark than first meets the eye. :thup:
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby nickhornet » Mon Nov 02, 2009 9:22 pm

I have the .22lr for bunny bashing and lamping.. the .22 Hornet for lamping Fox and a few bunnies.. nice & light to use too..

These are the only rifles that i use for lamping as the terain that i live in in south shropshire rarely has flat ground where you can see beyond 200m at night safely..

I have recently done a lot of google-ing etc as i wanted a good daytime fox / deer rifle.. either the .223 v .243.....

The conclusion was the .243 as it has the best versatility for what i needed, flat, daytime, 1 rifle fits all (Fox & Deer), single shot killing capability..

I am very very please with the results :thup:
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby Charlie Hunter » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:28 pm

Good write up Rob, I have a 223 and 243 and I think the 243 is a great all rounder. Although they can be a bugger to find a round that suites the rifle I spend ages working up loads to find something that wouls shoot well, and now I have it I will stick with it as I am shooting .235 of an inch at 100m And I have shoot this on more than one occasion so I know it wasn't a fluke. But I still like to take my 223 out even though i know I am not able to shoot past the 300 yd mark it's the rifle I reach for most of the time.

As for the wounding at ranges that Varminter was on about, well just the other week a mate of mine withhis 22-250 hit a rabbit with a 40gn V Max bullet at 153 yds and this poor sod crawled in the hedge before he could get off another shot. So wounding does happen with these wonder bullets, and it will continue to happen, we can do our bit and make sure the rifle is on target and learn about the wind and bullet drop etc. and when we put it all together we can drill a gnats whats it at 200 or more yds but the one thing we have no control over is the animal itself. And they can move at anytime as this one did.

I myself had a fox one night at 70 yds right in the chest with a 223 50gn V Max and it ran off I followd it and give it another one at about 80 - 90 yds into the chest and still this fox kept going eventually I had shot it 3 times in the chest with the 223 and it's complete back end was just a tangled mess, hell I couldn't even tell what sex it was, and still this fox was trying to drag itself across the field and it was then finished off with my mates shot gun.

The sad fact is we all will all have ones that get away, but we must do our best everytime we sqeeze the trigger to make a clean kill, and if as it does at times, it goes wrong we must try to finish it off asap.

Damn good thread :thup: :thup:
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby redfella hunter » Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:12 am

great threat lads.

I have been lamping foxes for 12years. Been using a .223 for last three, what can i say... this is an amazing tool.

I think alot of you are missing the point about range. At night even with a very powerful lamp and good optics your are all doing well to take a safe shot even 200yds. My longest recorded fox kill (with range finder) is 168yds. He was struck in the lower neck area and dropped like a stone, but I really wouldnt feel comfortable shooting at night out to 200yds.

also one of the more enjoyable and satisfying elements i find about foxing is being able to call them in. Why dont you guys practice your calling techniques and aim to take all your foxes under 150yds.

Recently I been experiencing some inconsistency in my shooting. I use a T8 silencer, CZ527 .223, 6-18x42 scope and 50grain remingtons. but recently I have been struggling to put close range foxes down instantly, even with a frontal brisket shot. any shot past 100yds seem to be bang on. Any body give me any advice, is my silencer playing havoc with my shooting?
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Re: Choosing a rifle: .243 versus .223 for foxing

Postby 247sniper » Fri Nov 18, 2011 11:20 am

Interesting and enjoyable read this one, well done ns thanks Robbie for putting that together ;) even though it was a while ago :thup:
20 cal info > http://www.6mmbr.com/20Caliber.html read it and enjoy the facts.
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