.223 vs .243 Recoil Comparison

While out shooting or hunting a common question you hear asked before shooting a new gun is “How’s the recoil”? It’s such a common question because you want to know what to expect when you pull the trigger. One of my good friends is buying a rifle for his son. It will mainly be used for predator and varmint hunting. So naturally, he asked me what is the difference between the recoil of a .223 and a .243. I have my own opinion on this but also did some research on it as well.

So here it is! When it comes down to .223 vs. .243: recoil a .223 has much less recoil. A .223’s recoil energy ranges from 2.6 ft./lbs. to 3.9 ft./lbs. and a .243’s ranges from 7.2 ft/lbs. to 11.0 ft./lbs of energy. These numbers are given in a range because the recoil will depend on the type and weight of bullet you use in your rifle. Clearly, the .243 has a stronger recoil and you will feel this gun more after a long day of shooting. The .223 has much less recoil energy and won’t give you as much of a kick into your shoulder. Does the difference really matter though? Read on and find out!

What is recoil?

Recoil is the kick you feel when you’re shooting a gun. Whether its a handgun or a rifle every gun you shoot will have some type of recoil. The recoil of an individual gun is correlated with the size of the bullet you’re shooting and the weight of the gun. Obviously a .50 caliber is going to have much more recoil than a .22. This, of course, coincides with Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The first action being the firing pin hitting the bullet and causing the powder inside to ignite which creates explosive energy and fires the bullet out of the gun. The ‘reaction’ is the force of that explosion forcing the gun back into your shoulder. This is where the weight comes in as mentioned earlier. Competiton shooters use heavy .22’s for their competitions because they can make the gun heavy enough in comparison to the recoil energy to the point recoil is basically nonexistent because the recoil energy has a hard enough time pushing the weight of the gun back and has no energy left to kick them in the shoulder.

Why does the recoil of a .223 vs. a .243 matter?

Are you more of a target shooter? Or a hunter?

There’s a few different reasons recoil might matter when we’re discussing these two calibers. Lets, first of all, think about my friend who is buying a gun for his son. His son is pretty scared about recoil because like most of us he has had a gun jump back and bruise him in the eye. For a beginner or a youngster, a gun with less recoil can help them feel more comfortable while shooting. This will definitely improve the shooter’s accuracy and will help get rid of shooters’ flinch.

The purpose of your shooting will also need to be taken into consideration. Are you using the gun mainly for hunting or for target shooting? This question needs to be answered before you make a purchase. If you’re a target shooter then you will most likely be shooting for long periods of time and shooting a lot of rounds. A .223 is perfect for you because you can shoot all day long and not feel like your shoulder has been punched a hundred times. This will also improve your accuracy as you won’t try to make minor adjustments to avoid feeling any pain. The .243 with its higher recoil energy will wear you out after a few hours of shooting if not earlier.

Now if your main purpose is to hunt its a different story. You’re most likely not going to be shooting dozens and dozens of rounds in one go. If you are, then you’re either prairie dog hunting or need to work on your accuracy! Don’t get me wrong-a .223 is great for varmint hunting but as soon as you start getting bigger than a coyote a .243 is a much better gun. A .243 can be a great deer hunting gun. Since you don’t shoot as many rounds while hunting recoil energy doesn’t play as much of a role. Not to mention the adrenaline rush you get while hunting very often allows you not to feel any recoil at all.

How else can you reduce recoil?

The first way to help mitigate the feel of recoil is to make sure your gun properly fits you. Not only do you want the gun to fit snugly in your shoulder and not your upper arm you also want to be able to rest your cheek on the stock and have a clear view through your scope. If you don’t, this may lead you to have to inch your cheek closer to the scope thus moving your eye closer as well. Typically resulting in a nice shiner around your eye.

Muzzle brakes also can help reduce recoil. Muzzle brakes work by allowing the gases released by the combustion of a bullet to escape before the bullet through slits or holes in the muzzle brake. However, there are a couple of caveats to a muzzle brake. The first is it makes the rifle much louder. This could a negative for you if you’re shooting near other people often. It also adds to the length of your rifle which will make it more cumbersome to store and transport.


If you’re looking for the gun with less recoil out of these two calibers then the .223 is the obvious choice. The recoil will, of course, depend on the grain and type of bullet you’re shooting as well. If you’re a target shooter and plan on shooting for an extended period of time then the .223 will not wear you out as fast as the .243 will. However, if you’re a hunter who will be shooting more at animals then at targets the .243 would be a better pick despite it having more recoil. It’s important for new shooters to build up confidence in their shots and to learn how to not flinch while shooting. That’s why starting with a .223 would be a great choice for a beginner or child so they can gain confidence instead of being frightened by the recoil.