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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Comments (19)

  • Mark

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    I own a Ruger Hawkeye African M77 in the marginally more powerful .375 Ruger (built to meet or beat the H&H ballistics, in a shorter barrel, with the same bullet). My rifle is under 8 lbs., with the scope, and the stock recoil pad is pretty awful (red, thin, and hard rubber). Even with the light weight and lack of an adequate recoil pad working against it, this .375 (with 300-grain handloads on top of a max load of Win 296) is shootable. It’s easily carried in the field, short enough to maneuver through brush, and exceeds standard H&H loads by about 100-150 fps–not that any game animal would notice the difference–but with this handload, it will shoot as flat or flatter than any .30-06 180-gr load I know of. In fact, the reason that Peter Capstick, Jack O’Connor, and many other sang the praises of the .375 H&H, other than its versatility, is that it would throw a 270-grain pill on almost exactly the same trajectory as a 180-grain .30-06, making it easy to make long shots. I bought the .375 Ruger to replace my .338 win mag, on the off chance that I will ever make it to Africa. What the .338 WM can do with a 250-grain bullet (even with handloads), the .375 will do a 300-grainer. I agree that the .338 is adequate–or way more than adequate–for anything in the lower 48, and just about right for the big bears, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to hunt Cape Buffalo with one in a country where it were legal (MOST African countries do NOT have the .375 minimum on all dangerous game), but if I got to choose between the two, it would definitely be the .375 for me. Frankly, the recoil of the two calibers isn’t all that different, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    Reply

  • Dave

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    I have 1 up on the 375 H&H.I have the Ruger M-77 Hawkeye 416 Ruger. It is a 400 grin bullet that puts out 5000 ft.lbs. And it has taken 5 elephants since it was made in 2011.

    Reply

  • Bob G.

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    The 375 H&H is been with me for 50 years. It is an incredible cartridge for the handloader using 200 gr to 350 gr slugs. It will drop anything on this planet. I have used it from deer to the big bears with no problem. But as we all we all know, bullet placement is everything. I have turned down many shots that were not good. That is true with any cartridge. Some say it is “too much” for the lower 48, not true…just ask any true handloader…I personally know of one gent who shoots .375 round balls from his..!!!..and if I had not seen a 1″ group at 50 yds, I would not have believed it. True, other cartidges can do many things…the 375 H&H does just about everything well. And, yes I do know of more than one that shoot a light weight bullet at groundhogs…quite spectacular to say the least.!!!..something akin to using a 16″ navel gun on a 20 ft skiff loaded with dynamite….enjoy and have fun with the 375 H&H!…I do.!

    Reply

  • Cody

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    Unless of course, you’re looking for the king of all ballistics. .416 Barrett defeats this cartridge in every way. In fact, .375 H&H Magnum isn’t even the prince.

    Reply

  • Cody

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    Don’t get me wrong. Not trying to hate on this round, it’s a FANTASTIC round. It’s just simply NOT the king.

    Reply

  • Bob Goltare

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    It all comes down to just what do YOU want in a cartridge and what do you want it to do for you..is it long distance shooting..??/..perhaps just a 10 pointer at 100 yards….I do not believe that there is a “king” cartridge that will do all things well…yes, there are some incredibly accurate cartidges that are used in target competition but not really good for hunting since the rifle is a bit too cumbersome.
    But we also have the 700 by Holland and Holland…now that’s overkill, unless you have a T. Rex trampling your tulips…but then again…there is the .577 T Rex cartridge for that……sure would not hunt rabbits with that one…!!But be it the 30-30 or the 700..it comes down to personal preference, and the cartidges ability to get the job done that the shooter requires of it. I enjoy the 375 H&H because it fills MY bill, but it is not for everyone. I have owned over 60 different calibers in all my years..most all performed admirably, but I chose the 375 just out of my experience and use…..but then again, that’s ME not anyone else……..I would not expect that a Pennsylvania deer hunter to use the 375 but I would not want to use the 30-30 in Alaska or Africa…but then again, hey, maybe YOU could..and do it well..not me..But,no matter what it is…do enjoy shooting what you have, get used to it, understand it’s abilities and limitiations and have fun. ENJOY!

    Reply

  • Bob Goltare

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    There seems to be a good bit of controversy over the “best” caliber, bullet weight etc. Again, I do not believe that there is a “best” or “all around” cartridge. It comes down to the shooter and what he/she wants to do with it. Shot placement is the final determinant in the particular choice of claiber. We could discuss this all day and it still is a personal choice. Yes, the ’06 is incredibly well rounded…for many people. I owned one and loved it. However, MY choice ended up being the 375 H&H over many,many years of shooting…again it was MY choice….I believe that EVERY caliber and bullet selection comes down to “just what do YOU want it to do”?and many are well suited to the shooters particular choice….again…go pick YOUR favorite caliber, shoot and shoot some msore..get familiar with it and have fun.!

    Reply

  • Darin Miller

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    To me the .375 H&H is an astounding cartridge that is surpassed by none,not a Ruger 375 not a 416 Barret.Ruger is a copycat of a cartridge that has killed more African game than any other. Theres no improving perfection.Ive had two 458 Winchesters and they were fantastic rifles,but the .375 is king and will be forever, no larger caliber can perform like the 375 H&H.

    Reply

  • Bob Goltare

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    As you may know….. Sierra has a new 350 gr BTHP with a BC of .800+-..now that would be interesting to try….!!!!!..I have been shooting the 375 H&H for over 50 years…it has done everyting well…from deer to things that tried to hunt and eat me….I have total confidence in it that it will do everything I need of it if I do my part………no flies on this cartridge after 101 years…few cartridges can say that…many cartridges have come and gone over the years..few have the stamina of the 375H&H, true, many have tried to “improve” the 375 H&H but to no real avail….more velocity, more powder, more recoil..but to what end…?/..just to “outdo” the 375 H&H?? and yet it continues to stand on its merits and sucesses…….hard to argue that one.

    Reply

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