Ruger Aims for Africa: The .375 Ruger

By Chuck Hawks

.375 Ruger
Illustration courtesy of Hornady Mfg. Co.

Here is Hornady's introduction for the new .375 Ruger cartridge, which they developed in cooperation with and are loading for Ruger:

"When a new cartridge bears the names of two American shooting sports legends, it had better be something special. Hornady's new .375 Ruger is just that!"

"This newly designed powerhouse is slightly larger in diameter than the .30-06, but shares the same case overall length, which means it can be chambered in ANY standard length action. All this and it still out performs the .375 H&H, but with a 20" barrel."

What they don't mention is why anyone would want a .375 Magnum rifle with a 20" barrel. Can you say "muzzle blast"? Oh, my goodness! In addition, the assertion that the .375 Ruger outperforms the .375 H&H is misleading. While it is true that Hornady's new .375 Ruger factory loads slightly outperform some .375 H&H factory loads, the reverse is also true, as can be seen by perusing Hornady's own ammunition catalog. As hunting cartridges, there is no practical difference between the two. What one will do, the other will do.

Hornady is initially offering three loads for the .375 Ruger, as follows.

  • 270 grain SP-RP - A spire point Interlock expanding bullet intended for longer range shooting. (This is the only pointed bullet offered.)
  • 300 grain RN - An InterBond round nose expanding bullet that transfers energy quickly and creates a large wound cavity while delivering excellent penetration.
  • 300 grain FMJ-RN - Fully jacketed ("solid") round nose bullet designed for maximum, straight line penetration without expansion.

Below are the published Hornady factory load ballistics (velocity fps / energy ft. lbs.) that justify the hype.

  • 270 grain SP-RP: 2840/4835 at muzzle; 2600/4052 at 100 yds.; 2372/3373 at 200 yards; 2156/2786 at 300 yards.
  • 300 grain RN: 2660/4713 at muzzle; 2344/3660 at 100 yards; 2050/2800 at 200 yards; 1780/2110 at 300 yards.
  • 300 grain FMJ-RN: 2660/4713 at muzzle; 2344/3660 at 100 yards; 2050/2800 at 200 yards; 1780/2110 at 300 yards.

Here are Hornady's trajectory figures for their .375 Ruger factory loads.

  • 270 grain SP-RP: -1.5" at muzzle; +1.8" at 100 yds.; 0 at 200 yards; -8" at 300 yards.
  • 300 grain RN: 2660/4713 at muzzle; +2.4" at 100 yards; 0 at 200 yards; -10.8" at 300 yards.
  • 300 grain FMJ-RN: 2660/4713 at muzzle; +2.4" at 100 yards; 0 at 200 yards; -10.8" at 300 yards.

These ballistics are very similar to the ballistics of the .375 H&H Magnum, depending on whose factory loads you compare. Recoil, of course, will also be virtually identical to that of the .375 H&H when fired in rifles of the same weight using bullets of the same weight at the same velocity. If fired from lighter rifles, the .375 Ruger will kick even harder than the .375 H&H, which is a scary thought for most shooters.

If you want (and can stand!) greater performance than the .375 H&H or the .375 Ruger, there is always the .375 Weatherby, .375 Dakota, .375 A-Square, .375 Ultra Mag, .378 Weatherby and some others. Not far behind is the .376 Steyr, introduced by Hornady a few years ago to a collective yawn from the shooting world.

The main player in .375 land remains the venerable .375 H&H Magnum. That is the cartridge to which all new .375's, including the .375 Ruger, are compared. The real differences between the two are in the rifle action required to handle the cartridges and the worldwide availability of ammunition. Forget the hype, those are the two key factors that anyone looking at a new .375 rifle needs to consider when choosing between these two cartridges.

The .375 Ruger works in a standard (.30-06) length action, an advantage and the primary justification for its existence, while the .375 H&H requires a long (magnum) length action. At one time .375 H&H length actions were scarce and expensive. Had the .375 Ruger been introduced in, say, 1935 it would have blown the socks off of the shooting world. However, that is no longer the case. Since 1937, when Winchester introduced the Model 70 in long action form, such actions have been steadily increasing in availability in North America. From memory and a quick perusal of the 98th (2007) edition of the Gun Digest I can report that Blaser, Ed Brown, Browning, CZ, Dakota, FN, H-S Precision, Holland & Holland, Kreighoff, Mannlicher, Merkel, Remington, Purdy, Rifles Inc., Ruger, Sako, Sauer, Szecsei & Fuchs, Weatherby, Winchester and Zastava (plus others) all offer or have offered rifles chambered for the .375 H&H. You can choose among single shot, double barrel and bolt action models, new or used.

As I write these words, only Ruger chambers rifles for the .375 Ruger, but it is a new cartridge and hopefully others will pick it up. Savage and Kimber, for example, do not make actions long enough to accommodate the .375 H&H, but they do make actions for standard length magnum cartridges like the .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Win. Mag. that, presumably, could accomodate the .375 Ruger.

The .375 Ruger would seem to be a natural for them, since it has the same .532" rim diameter as standard belted magnum cartridges. It lacks a belt, however, headspacing on its shoulder in the old fashioned way that has become the new fashion in magnum rifle cartridges. (What goes around comes around.)

That is unfortunate for reloaders, because it means that .375 Ruger brass cannot be formed from common belted magnum cases. Overall case length is 2.5". It has very little body taper, a sharp shoulder and a short neck in order to make up for its .30" shorter case length than the .375 H&H. Net powder capacity is reported to actually be slightly greater than the .375 H&H.

Ruger is initially offering the .375 Ruger in two versions of their Model 77 Hawkeye bolt action rifle, the "Alaskan" and the "African." The Ruger M77 Alaskan rifle comes with a plastic stock and a 20" (!) barrel. The Ruger M77 African rifle comes with a walnut stock and a far more sensible 23" barrel. Hopefully, before too long, Ruger will see fit to add the cartridge to their fine No. 1H Tropical single shot rifle, but as of this writing they have not done so.

.375 Ruger factory loaded ammunition is available in North America from Hornady ammunition dealers. At the present time only Hornady loads cartridges in .375 Ruger. So far, except for the .17 HMR rimfire, Federal, Remington and Winchester--the "Big Three" U.S. centerfire ammunition manufacturers--have shown little inclination (and European manufacturers even less) to adopt calibers pioneered by Hornady, but that may change in the future if there is sufficient demand.

The .375 H&H, however, has been around since 1912 and is loaded by all major ammunition manufacturers around the world. It is widely distributed and is available virtually everywhere heavy or dangerous game is hunted, from Alaska to Africa. If an airline loses the bag containing your ammo, you can buy more .375 H&H cartridges in, say, Johannesburg. The same is unlikely to be true anytime soon for the .375 Ruger. (See the article, "Good Advice for the Traveling Hunter: Pick a common caliber!" on the Rifle Information Page.)

If you are traveling by privately owned aircraft, yacht or vehicle that will not be a problem. Ditto if you are hunting from your home or only planning to shoot your .375 at a local rifle range. In such circumstances, the .375 Ruger is a viable option. If it someday approaches the popularity and distribution at present enjoyed by the .375 H&H, it will become an even more viable option.

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Copyright 2007, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.