Compared: .375 Ruger and .375 H&H Magnum
By Chuck Hawks
The .375 Ruger was designed to offer .375 H&H ballistics in a cartridge that works in standard length magnum actions, meaning actions intended for cartridges such as the .338 Winchester Magnum. The .375 H&H requires a long magnum action. Ballistically, as we shall see, the .375 H&H Magnum and the newer .375 Ruger are very similar if similar loads are chosen for comparison.
This is one of the newest medium bore magnums. It was introduced in 2007 and is advertised as delivering .375 H&H performance from a case that will work in standard (.30-06) length rifle actions. Trying to achieve long magnum performance from .30-06 length cartridges is a hoary old idea that is still popular today. Roy Weatherby pioneered his .257, .270 and 7mm Magnums for .30-06 length actions back in the 1940's and cartridge designers are still at it today.
Hornady designed the .375 cartridge for Ruger and loads factory ammunition in the caliber. It is based on a new rimless case that is akin to a shortened and blown-out .375 H&H Mag. case with its belt removed. The only spitzer bullet offered is a 270 grain Spire Point at a MV of 2840 fps. Note that this load is based on non-canister powders and cannot be duplicated by reloaders. The other two Hornady factory loads use 300 grain round nose expanding (DGX) and solid (DGS) bullets at a MV of 2660 fps. These 300 grain Hornady bullets are identical in ballistic coefficient. A 300 grain bullet has traditionally been the most popular weight in all of the .375 Magnums and is the bullet weight generally recommended for dangerous (CXP4) game. We will use the Hornady 270 and 300 grain factory loads for comparison in this article.
.375 Holland & Holland Magnum
The late Jack O'Connor, Dean of American Gun Writers, described the .375 as the "Queen of the medium bores." It was one of his favorite cartridges, because it combined the power to harvest any land animal on earth with the relatively flat trajectory of the common .30-06/180 grain load and recoil that an expert like O'Connor could tolerate. These same attributes have endeared it to succeeding generations of hunters.
Holland & Holland introduced their .375 in 1912 on a long, belted case with a rim diameter of .532" and that has remained the standard rim diameter for magnum cartridges to this day. Holland's 2.85" long .375 belted case became the starting point for virtually all subsequent belted magnum cartridges, from the standard length .257 Weatherby to the short action .350 Rem. Mag. and the full length .458 Lott.
.375 H&H ammunition is offered by most of the world's big ammunition manufacturers. The most enduring .375 loads have used 270 and 300 grain bullets. Hornady offers a Heavy Magnum factory load for the .375 H&H that launches a 270 grain Spire Point bullet at a MV of 2870 fps and both standard and Heavy Magnum 300 grain factory loads. The standard loads drive 300 grain DGX and DGS bullets at a MV of 2530 fps, while the heavy Magnum load takes the DGS bullet to 2705 fps. Since the Hornady Heavy Magnum .375 H&H loads are the most similar to their .375 Ruger counterparts, we will use them for this comparison.
These are both .375 caliber cartridges and use the same Hornady bullets in the factory loads we are comparing. Therefore, the bullet cross-sectional areas, sectional densities and ballistic coefficients are identical for each bullet weight and no comparison of those factors is necessary. We will focus on the factors of velocity, energy, trajectory, killing power, recoil and the availability of rifles and ammunition in these two calibers. At the end we will summarize what we have learned and see if any conclusions can be reached.
Higher velocity means flatter trajectory, given bullets of equal ballistic coefficient (BC). Velocity is also the most important component in the formula used to compute kinetic energy. Here are the velocity figures for our factory loads (in feet per second) from the muzzle (MV) to 300 yards.
While the velocities of these loads differ slightly, with the .375 H&H holding a 30-45 fps advantage, the differences are not significant in real world hunting situations.
Kinetic energy is defined as the ability to do work. The "work" in this case is powering bullet expansion and penetration to create the largest and deadliest wound cavity.
Energy is an important factor in killing power and it is commonly used to compare the power of rifle cartridges. Practically all factory ballistics tables show both velocity and energy figures. Here are the energy figures (in foot pounds) for our selected loads from the muzzle (ME) to 300 yards.
These cartridges produce plenty of energy with both bullet weights at all ranges. That is a product of decent velocity and heavy bullets. Due to its slight velocity advantage, the .375 H&H maintains a slight advantage in kinetic energy.
Trajectory is important because the flatter a bullet shoots the easier it is to place it accurately downrange and bullet placement is the most important factor in achieving quick, clean kills with any hunting cartridge. Here are the published trajectory figures for our selected loads predicated on a 200 yard zero when fired from rifles with a scope mounted 1.5" over the line of bore. Trajectory is given in inches above or below the line of sight at 100, 200 and 300 yards.
Once again the .375 H&H has a minuscule advantage over the .375 Ruger. In reality, all of these loads shoot commendably flat, even with the heavy 300 grain bullets. Their trajectories are comparable to that of standard .30-06/180 grain factory loads. That cartridge shows a drop of about -8.6" at 300 yards.
OGW Killing Power
Killing power is the hardest of all factors to quantify and the attempts to do so are only approximations. We know that energy, penetration and bullet frontal area (among others) are important factors in killing power, but not exactly what is the best blend of these factors.
Optimum Game Weight (OGW) is a system intended to express the killing power of rifle cartridges in terms of an animal's live weight and the optimum distance at which it should be taken with a given cartridge and load. Thus, it compares the killing power of different cartridges and loads in a way that is relevant in the field. Gun writer Edward A. Matunas devised the formula used to determine OGW. This system assumes bullets designed for adequate penetration and expansion for their intended application, which the Hornady bullets used in this comparison are.
The OGW formula is not perfect, but when used to compare similar rifle cartridges, as we are doing, it seems to have a positive correlation with reality. Here are the OGW figures (in pounds) for our selected loads at the muzzle, 100, 200, and 300 yards.
The average adult lion weighs about 350 pounds, average Rocky Mt. bull elk about 500 pounds, North American bull moose about 600-1000 pounds, adult male grizzly/brown bear about 700 pounds, polar bear about 900 pounds, Cape buffalo about 1000 pounds and the average adult male American bison or Asian water buffalo about 1600 pounds. The .375/270 grain SP-RP bullets are suitable for all of the thin-skinned species out at 300 yards, which is beyond the MPBR of either cartridge.
Dangerous game is rarely shot at distances greater than 100 yards and the OGW of the 300 grain loads is sufficient for the big bovines at that distance. I think it is fair to say that both of these .375 medium bore cartridges have excellent killing power. The .375 H&H has been around for a long time and has proven reliable (with proper bullet placement) on all of the animals mentioned in the paragraph above. The .375/300 grain loads have even proven reliable on rhino and African elephant.
When you are talking about cartridges capable of blasting huge beasts into oblivion, there is a price to be paid beyond the monetary cost of rifles and ammunition. That price is recoil, the arch enemy of accurate bullet placement. Always consider recoil when planning the purchase of a new hunting rifle, particularly a .375 Magnum rifle.
Heavy recoil promotes flinching, which is the leading cause of those embarrassing missed shots at big game animals. Here are some approximate recoil energy (in foot pounds) and velocity (in feet-per-second) figures for our selected loads when fired in nine pound rifles.
Those are punishing recoil numbers! Remember that some rifles chambered for these calibers, especially in .375 Ruger, will weigh less than nine pounds with a scope and lower weight will significantly increase recoil. Consider that approximately 20 ft. lbs. of recoil energy is the maximum that most experienced shooters can endure without developing a flinch and you see the drawback to the .375 Magnums.
Availability of Rifles and Ammunition
The .375 H&H Magnum is available around the world and is particularly popular in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is often the minimum legal cartridge for hunting Cape buffalo, rhino and elephant. Most major ammo companies offer factory loads with 270 and 300 grain bullets for the .375 H&H and there is a reasonable selection of bolt action rifles for hunters.
The .375 Ruger is very limited in terms of available rifles (Ruger) and ammo (Hornady). These are both fine companies and major players on the North American firearms scene, but should either falter, the .375 Ruger may become an endangered species. This situation would alter for the better if the cartridge is picked-up by other rifle and ammunition manufacturers, but so far that has not happened.
Summary and Conclusion
The .375 Ruger is nearly a ballistic twin of the .375 H&H in a shorter, .30-06 length format. The fact that it could be adapted to almost any rifle that can handle other standard length magnums, such as the 7mm Rem. Mag. and .338 Win. Mag., is a potential plus, but only if the manufacturers of those rifles choose to chamber for the cartridge. It compares well to the .375 H&H in every category except availability. The latter will improve in the future if the cartridge catches on, but at the time of this writing it is too soon to know what the future holds for the .375 Ruger.
The .375 H&H, due to its impressively long case, appears to be more powerful than the .375 Ruger. However, as we have seen, it is not. The two are essentially equal and what one can do the other can do. The most significant advantage enjoyed by the .375 H&H is its availability in more brands of rifles and ammo, as well as its acceptance as a heavy and dangerous game cartridge around the world. It remains the most popular, and probably the best, medium bore cartridge for African hunting.
Copyright 2009, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.