- Published: Tuesday, 30 June 2015 00:00
So much ink has been spilled singing the praises of the .375 H&H since it was introduced in 1912, anything now seems redundant. It is certainly the greatest all-around big-game cartridge ever produced, and can lay fair claim to being simply the greatest cartridge of all time, period.
A product of the great London firm of Holland & Holland, it was introduced early in the era of bolt-action hunting rifles. It is a rimless, belted case with a long, tapered body. Its modest shoulder presents no problem, since the cartridge headspaces on the belt. Original loadings were 235-, 270-, and 300-grain bullets, intended for different sizes of game, but designed to shoot to the same point of impact at normal hunting ranges.
The bullet that made it famous is the 300-grain, in both soft and solid. It became renowned for penetration and killing power beyond what mere numbers would suggest. The traditional ballistic performance is a 300-grain bullet at 2,550 fps, and a 270-gr. at 2,740.
John “Pondoro” Taylor, no fan of bolt-action rifles generally, was enthusiastic about the .375 H&H, calling it the best all-around cartridge available. He even endorsed its use in double rifles, for which it was not intended – H&H had a flanged (rimmed) version for that purpose – but which it adapted to happily. Today, double rifles are routinely chambered for it.
Since Taylor wrote his praise in 1948, many new cartridges have come along, including dozens that purport to be better than the .375 H&H. These have included any number of so-called “improved” versions, such as the .375 Weatherby Magnum. It is merely a .375 H&H with its case blown out to give greater powder capacity and, hence, greater velocity.
Although some have enjoyed some success, none has succeeded in dethroning the .375 H&H. There are a number of reasons. One is that its tapered case feeds smoothly and easily, and extracts with absolute reliability. This is no small matter in hot climates, where a high-pressure case with near-parallel sides can freeze the bolt. Taylor hunted 12 months a year, often in conditions where his rifles were baking in the sun, and never reported any function problems whatsoever with the .375 H&H.
Blown-out cases may offer higher velocities, but that has never been sufficient to outweigh the other advantages of the .375 H&H. Not the least of these is the fact that you can find ammunition anywhere in the world where big game is hunted. Is it widely distributed because it is popular, or popular because it is widely distributed? That can be debated endlessly, but it always comes back to the same point: It’s really good, and you can get it anywhere.
At the same time, virtually every serious maker of big-game rifles offers the chambering, giving the prospective buyer a wide choice. If you can’t find a rifle you like in .375 H&H, you are being too picky!
François Edmond-Blanc, a famous Frenchman who hunted all over the world and was awarded the Weatherby Trophy in 1965, used a .375 H&H exclusively on animals large and small, near and far. It obviously served him well. Jack O’Connor, another admirer of the cartridge, reported encountering, while he was in Chad, two tough-looking Frenchmen heading off on a one-month safari; their armament consisted of two .375 H&H bolt-actions.
For many years, the .375 H&H was the favorite cartridge of Alaska guides who might encounter Alaska brown bears in the dense coastal alders. In fact, it was reported that there were more .375 H&H rifles per capita in Alaska than anywhere else in the world.
If the .375 H&H shines on any one type of animal, however, it is the lion. Professional hunters who insist on nothing smaller than a big .450 for dangerous game still describe the .375 H&H as the best lion cartridge ever made.
Not the least of its virtues is its inherent accuracy, and its ability to shoot comfortably a wide range of bullets and bullet weights. Anything from 250 to 350 grains works well in it. Norma, in its African PH line, pioneered the use of 350-grain bullets, and offers two types of 350-grain Woodleigh softs. The American PH line includes the 300-grain Oryx, one of the finest premium hunting bullets available today, and there is a 300-grain Norma solid as well.
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