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Tale of two .243's....

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    Tale of two .243's....

    Decided to add a .243 (or two) to my stable for long range varmint shooting. My main intention for .243 is for my prairie dog trip to have a round that is ballistically superior to .223 for shots from 300-500 yards but with lower recoil than my 6.5CM to make spotting the hits / misses a bit easier and for a little less shooter fatigue. Hornady Custom Lite .243 87gr SST is kinda perfect for this.

    So, I was really wanting the CZ 557 American (new 2019 model) but CZ-USA couldn't give me any timeframe when they would be available in the US, so being impatient, I went ahead and bought a Tikka T3x Hunter in .243. Literally, the day the Tikka arrived, I got a notification that the 557 was now available, which of course meant, I needed to buy it immediately. So, now I have these two beauties and finally got them out to Brookhaven this morning to check them out. Both are topped with Vortex Diamondback Tactical 6-24x50 FFP MOA scopes. Both rifles have sporter barrels, 1:10 twist, the CZ has a 24" barrel, the Tikka has a 22.5" barrel. The fit and finish on both guns is superb. The CZ weighs about a 0.5 lb. more than the Tikka. Here's how they compare on aesthetics, ergonomics and function.

    - Bluing on both guns is excellent, I'd give the edge to the Tikka for a more even finish. The Tikka has a recessed crown, the CZ does not.
    - The wood stock on the Tikka is nice but feels a little thin, the CZ stock is much more solid; the pistol grip has a nice palm swell that makes the grip on the rifle feel more stable. Really like the stock on the CZ over the Tikka.
    - Both rifles are push feed, which is a change for CZ as they used to be controlled-round-feed; this is much better for being able to feed single rounds. Both guns cycle flawlessly but the edge has to go to the Tikka; their bolts cycle like they are on rails.... so smooth.....
    - Trigger: Out of the box, the Tikka has one of the best single-stage triggers there is. I have adjusted it down to about 2 lbs and it is fantastically crisp. The CZ also has an adjustable trigger, but I haven't touched it as it has just a TINY bit of take-up that makes it almost feel like a two-stage trigger.... I really like that.

    How do they shoot?

    I tested both rifles with Hornady Custom 87gr VMAX and Hornady Custom Lite (reduced recoil) 87gr SST. I plan to test other factory loads but this is all I had time for today. I like these loads because they have the same B/C and even though the velocity on the reduced recoil is lower, they zero at 100 yards with the same POI. Nice to be able to go back and forth between the two with the same zero and just calculate different trajectory. I was shooting at 100 yards with little to no wind. Here's what I got.

    Tikka: Cold bore 5 shot group with the 87gr VMAX was 0.57" at 100 yards; as the gun heated up, the groups opened up to about 1.25"... still pretty respectable with a hot barrel. The 87gr SST with a "warm" bore produced a 4-shot 0.42" group with a one-shot flyer that made it 1.13", but three of the four shots were touching holes.... my worst group with this rifle was 1.34".... very impressive.

    CZ: Cold bore 5 shot group with the 87gr VMAX was 0.65" at 100 yards; The 87gr SST with a "warm" bore produced a 5-shot 0.90" group. My worse group with this rifle was 1.27"... also very impressive.

    Both guns shot MOA or better but the CZ tended to shoot tighter clusters with fewer fliers. More testing with to be done with other factory loads (I don't reload), but so far I am very pleased with these two guns....

    CZ 557 American on left, Tikka T3x Hunter on right.

    Last edited by HyFiveGuns; 03-20-2019, 02:14 PM.

    Kind of a long story, but I ended up with a third .243, a Savage 11-VT. Yesterday, I got back to the range and did some extensive ammo testing with all three rifles. All three rifles were sighted in with Hornady Custom 87gr VMAX. I tested the following loads.

    - Hornady Custom 87gr VMAX
    - Hornady Custom Lite 87gr SST reduced recoil
    - Hornady Superformance 75gr VMAX
    - Hornady Superformance 95gr SST
    - Federal 85gr Trophy Copper
    - Federal 70gr Nosler Ballistic Tip
    - Federal 95gr Nosler Ballistic Tip

    All shooting was done at 100 yards with a very light wind. For each load, I shot a five shot group with each rifle and then moved onto the next rifle; this allowed each rifle to cool off sufficiently before shooting the next group with the next load.

    Much to my happiness, all three rifles shot the reduced recoil 87gr SST very well, Tikka: 0.525", CZ: 0.800", Savage: 0.688". All three guns were capable of sub-MOA performance with the Tikka shooting the smallest group, however the CZ 557 was more consistent overall and shot the smallest groups across all loads with only one group larger than 1".

    The Tikka shot the 87 VMAX, 87 SST and 95 NBT the best. The CZ shot 87 VMAX, 87 SST, 70 NBT and 95 SST all under 1 inch. The CZ with 95 NBT also shot a very tight group but had a large POI shift up and left. All other loads stayed close to the zero. The Savage shot the 87 SST and 95 SST the best. The 85gr Trophy Copper was terrible in all three rifles and keyholed in the CZ. The Tikka did not like the 75gr VMAX which really surprised me with a 2.10" group.

    Now, this took over three hours and admittedly, I think I started losing some concentration as the session wore on and that could easily be the reason why some of my groups started opening up. I took a little break and when I came back, I shot the best groups as I indicated above.

    There was no load that really stood out above the rest and I believe the reduced recoil load will shoot well in all three rifles and that will work well for the prairie dog trip which is the goal. My next step is I want to stretch these out at 200 and I want to try one more load, the Hornady 90gr ELD-X but I'm really hoping those aren't that much better because they are much more expensive.

    Overall, I was a bit surprised by the results. Average group size for the Tikka, CZ and Savage was 1.36", 0.839", and 1.07", respectively. I really expected the Tikka to shoot better than it did as my other Tikka's are amazing shooters. The Tikka is also the lightest of the three rifles and I do believe that has something to do with it. I'm toying with the idea of putting it in a heavier stock.

    Stay tuned for results from 200.


      I've recently acquired a savage model 10 in 243 but it's only been to Mitchell Field . Been reloading small batches from 85 gr to 105gr but haven't been to the range yet to try them out. Last night reloaded 85 gr Sierra HPBT using 40 gr of IMR 4350.


        Really nice write up. Thanks for taking the time to do it. .243 is one of my favorite calibers.


          Have a Winchester 100 in .243, as well as a Savage 99 and several variants of the Rem 700. All shoot sub MOA
          Take a young person shooting.... Take 2 or more if you can...


            Back to the range today for some more testing. Temps in the low 50's, humidity around 80% and winds about 5-7 mph.

            First was some additional ammo testing at 100 yards with Hornady 90gr ELD-X and Federal 100gr Sierra Game Kings. The 90gr ELD-X were terrible in the Tikka and the CZ, but the Savage seemed to like them a lot with a 0.656" group. I shot a few more groups with the ELD-X's in the Savage and they were pretty consistent, but so are the 87gr SST and those are $0.30 / round cheaper and they are reduced recoil. My wallet is happy that the ELD-X's were not good in the other rifles. The 100gr Sierra Game Kings were all over the place in all three rifles. Couldn't even figure out a group; they were scattered everywhere. Needless to say, those are out.

            Next test was 87 VMAX (full power) and 87 SST (reduced recoil) at 200 yards out of all three rifles. Once again, the 87 SST grouped tighter than the 87 VMAX. Groups from the Tikka and the Savage averaged around 2.25 - 2.50" while the CZ averaged 2.5 - 3.0". The Tikka is the lightest of all three and I've noticed that my groups improve significantly with a tighter hold on the rifle to stop it from jumping around. I am seriously considering getting a heavier stock for it.

            At this point, I have about 150-200 rounds through each gun. I think all three rifles are great and I've enjoyed my experimentation immensely. Here is my conclusion:

            - Most accurate: Savage 11-VT
            - Best looking: CZ 557 American
            - Best operation: Tikka T3x Hunter
            - Best ergonomics: CZ 557 American

            For my prairie dog trip this summer, I think I will be taking the Savage and the Tikka.


              I've always had good luck with the Hornady SSTs bullets in reloads of different calibers . The only problem is the 3 deer I took with them the bullet didn't go though so there was very little blood trail if any . Luckily they where good shots and did a lot of internal damage and the furthest one went was about 30 yards . For groundhogs that's not a problem and you'll probably blow them in half . Using 50 gr vmax out of my 22-225 Rem 700 I can cover my groups with a dime at 100 yards


                A little update on the Tikka. Picked up a Boyds Pro Varmint stock. I've heard mixed things about Boyd's, but the inletting was perfect; the action fit perfectly and the barrel appears to be free-floating. Gun now weighs about a pound more but that was kind of the point. I have this same stock on my CZ 455 and it has a great feel when shooting off the bench. Anxious to see how it shoots now....