The .375 H&H Magnum is Still King

By CTD Rob published on in Firearms, Hunting, Rifles

Imagine a cartridge that delivers more than a truckload of kinetic energy. Squeeze the trigger on this monster and you have a projectile that will drop any land animal on the planet dead in its tracks. The unbelievable power of this cartridge stems from a simple marriage of weight and velocity. A very heavy projectile coupled with a lot of powder spells disaster for whatever you are aiming at. In the case of the .375 H&H Magnum, that statement couldn’t be any more accurate.

Browning X-Bolt in .375 H&H

Browning X-Bolt in .375 H&H

In 1910, some British gunmakers were concerned over the growing popularity of the 9.5mm Mannlicher-Shoenauer in the African big game market. In response, Holland & Holland introduced the .400/.375, also known as the .375 Velopex. The cartridge proved underpowered compared to other dangerous game cartridges and quickly fell out of favor. To improve their original design, Holland & Holland followed up with the .375 belted Rimless Nitro-Express, now called the .375 H&H Magnum. The popularity of the cartridge quickly grew as it evolved into one of the most versatile cartridges in the world. It initially used cordite propellant, which came in long strands—hence the tapered shape of the cartridge. The shape also ensured smooth chambering and extraction from a rifle’s breech.

.375 vs .338 Lapua

.375 vs .338 Lapua

Some cite the .375 as one of the most useful all-around calibers. Hunters can employ lighter 253-to 270-grain loads for shooting medium sized game at greater distances, or punch out larger 300-grain loads for dangerous game at shorter distances. Some claim the round is too powerful for North American game, but that is a misconception. At ranges inside 300 yards and with modern loads, the .375 makes a fine gun for white tail all the way up to bear, elk or moose. However, it is traditionally an African large game round for hunting the Big Five, which consist of Cape buffalo, elephant, black rhinoceros, lion and leopard. This versatility is why hunters kept the .375 in use for so long.

The cartridge employs a rimless, belted design. For those military readers, belted cartridges have nothing to do with the familiar belt-fed weapons. The belt refers to a raised strip around the circumference of the base of the casing for the purpose of headspacing powerful cartridges. Without the belt, the shooter could accidentally push the cartridge too far into the chamber and cause a catastrophic failure. In plain English, the cartridge got fatter at the bottom so you didn’t shove the thing too far in and blow yourself up. The design of the cartridge allowed for use in either breech loaders or bolt-action rifles.

Bullet Weight/Type Velocity Energy
200 gr JFP 3,195 ft/s 4,534 ft-lb
235 gr JFP 2,964 ft/s 4,585 ft-lb
250 gr JFP 2,835 ft/s 4,463 ft-lb
270 gr JFP 2,694 ft/s 4,352 ft-lb
300 gr JFP 2,645 ft/s 4,661 ft-lb

Ballistically, it performs quite well. While it doesn’t shoot anywhere near the flat trajectory of a 30-06 Springfield, it still manages to deliver far more energy into the target. Doing the math, you get over 4,000 foot pounds of force at the muzzle! Not too bad when you also consider the size hole it makes in your target. While I would not go so far as to call it the best cartridge for every task, I would say that .375 H&H Magnum is capable of handling just about any hunting you throw at it. Just remember to ice your shoulder afterwards—that thing packs a punch!

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