The .375 Holland & Holland Magnum: A Century of Excellence!
By Chuck Hawks
The .375 H&H has now been around for a century, as it was introduced in 1912. It is the cartridge that established and popularized the belted magnum concept and dozens of useful magnum rifle cartridges have been derived from its case, including the two best selling magnums of all time, the 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag.
When it was introduced, the .375 H&H was loaded with long stick Cordite powder, an early British form of smokeless, which accounts for its gentle 15-degree shoulder. The case also has generous body taper and this helps it to feed and extract reliably under severe conditions. The belted case was devised to allow positive headspacing and reliable feeding from magazine rifles, something to which modern cartridge designers should pay more attention.
The .375 H&H was almost immediately successful and today it is as popular as ever. It is a world-wide medium bore cartridge, seriously challenged in popularity only by the 9.3x62mm (in Africa and Europe) and the .338 Winchester Magnum (in North America). The .375 H&H has a long, proven record on the world's biggest and most dangerous game. In some African countries, .375 caliber (or larger) is required for hunting CXP4 game. These regulations are based on the successful historical performance of the .375 H&H on very large game and, although there are other .375 cartridges available, it was the H&H version that the legislators had in mind.
In addition to the familiar .375 H&H Belted Magnum, there is a .375 H&H Flanged (rimmed) Magnum. The latter is intended for use in single shot and double rifles, for which a rimmed case facilitates extraction and ejection. Similarly, the .375 H&H's primary African competitor, the rimless 9.3x62mm Mauser, is complemented by the rimmed 9.3x74R.
The .375 Flanged Magnum is loaded to somewhat lower pressure than the belted version and launches a 300 grain bullet at about 2400 fps muzzle velocity (MV), while the belted case achieves a typical MV slightly above 2500 fps. Either way, it is poison to 1000 pound animals, such as large Alaskan brown bear and African Cape buffalo. The .375 H&H is probably the premier buffalo and bison cartridge extant and it is adequate even for African elephant. As a hunting cartridge, it has the power to take the largest game and is less likely to kick the shooter out from under his hat than the more powerful .375's (RUM and Weatherby, for instance), or the larger .416's.
.375 H&H Belted Magnum cartridges are factory loaded by all major ammunition manufacturers and it is chambered by virtually all gun makers with an action long enough to accommodate it. (It requires a long, magnum length action.) The most popular bullet weights include 270 grains at 2690 fps and 300 grains at 2522 fps (Remington figures). The 270 grain bullet offers a trajectory virtually identical to the standard 180 grain at 2700 fps .30-06 load and this accounts for the .375's reputation as a plains game or "all-around" African safari cartridge. Indeed, while the .338 Win. Mag. certainly offers the ballistics to qualify as such, it is the .375 H&H (belted or flanged), 9.3x62mm and 9.3x74R that remain the traditional "all-around" African medium bores.
Jack O'Connor, the Dean of American Gun Writers, called the .375 H&H the "Queen of the Medium Bores" and used it extensively on his numerous African safaris and Indian shikaris, particularly for lion and tiger. Bradford O'Connor, Jack's son, told me how much he likes the .375 H&H and about using it on his safaris. In one instance, a .375 Belted was the only rifle he had available and he used it successfully on everything from small antelope to Cape buffalo. My friend the late Larry Brace, one of the founders of the Gunmaker's Guild, shot no end of Cape buffalo with his .375 Belted, using the 300 grain Barnes X-Bullet. Larry also harvested African elephant and Australian water buffalo with his trusty .375. The modern gun writer and African hunting expert, Craig Boddington, is another fan of the .375 H&H Magnum and has used it extensively. Actually, most experienced hunters of heavy and dangerous game are fans of Holland & Holland's most famous cartridge.
Starting with the .375 Weatherby in 1949, several magnum cartridges using .375" diameter bullets have been introduced in an attempt to steal market share from the .375 H&H. (It seems that people will never stop trying to reinvent the wheel.) In addition to the .375 Weatherby, relative newcomers include the .378 Weatherby, .375 Dakota, .375 Rem. Ultra Mag, .376 Steyr and .375 Ruger. The recently introduced .370 Sako Magnum, actually a 9.3mm (.366"), was intentionally misnamed to appeal to the American market. Some of these are more powerful than the .375 H&H and some about the same or somewhat less powerful. None are loaded by more than one major ammo manufacturer and none has ever approached the world-wide popularity of the original .375 H&H Belted Magnum.
For most people and purposes, the .375 H&H Magnum remains the best choice among the .375 caliber cartridges. Happy 100th birthday to the Queen of the Medium Bores!
Note: The .375 H&H Magnum is covered in detail in articles that can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.
Copyright 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.