Hunting with the .375 WCF

By Dave Thornblom

1979 was a memorable year for me as this was the year I acquired my first 94 Big Bore rifle in .375 WCF. I forget the price I paid for this rifle but I bought it from my long time friend and gun shop owner, Mr. Winston Burnham of the Burnham Brothers Sporting Goods shop in Marble Falls, Texas. Along with the rifle I bought four boxes of the 250 grain factory loaded ammunition, and set about sighting-in for the up-coming deer season in the Texas Hill Country.

I was quite a bit younger then. Young eyes have a lot to do with shooting good groups, especially with open sights. Three shot groups of 1 1/2" to 2" at 100 yards was the norm if I did my part. I seldom bother with five shot groups in testing hunting ammo for I believe that if it takes that many rounds to anchor your game, the fault does not lie with the rifle or the ammo. Check the nut behind the butt. Shot placement is crucial, no matter what the caliber.

At that particular time in my life I was hunting on Mr. Harry Freeman's 8500 acre ranch near San Marcos, Texas. There were only five other people that hunted on that ranch, so deer were plentiful. The buck to doe ratio was very high and, with the low hunting pressure, good bucks abounded.

The first buck that fell to the 94 Big Bore .375 was a fork horn (4 point Eastern count) that field dressed at about 90 pounds. The shot was broadside through the shoulders at a distance of about 60 yards. At the shot the deer hit the ground, made a weak attempt to regain his feet, and expired. That 250 grain factory load at 1900 feet per second went completely through both shoulders and ruined very little meat. This loading was evidently designed for larger game than Texas Hill Country white tail as the wound channel was narrow and the exit hole was smaller than a quarter. This smallish deer didn't offer enough resistance to cause much expansion.

As old Elmer Keith used to say, "You could'a ate the bullet hole." I had expected more expansion, but after field dressing that deer I decided that this load made an excellent meat load because the meat loss was minimal with hardly any bloodshot meat surrounding the wound channel.

As an aside, remember that the 1900 ft/sec muzzle velocity of the factory loaded 250 grain bullet was measured in a 24" pressure test barrel. The actual velocity in the 20" barrel of a 94 Big Bore will be more on the order of 1800 to1825 fps.

That rifle harvested its second buck a couple of weekends later. I was sitting on a limestone cliff overlooking a sizeable clearing in the mesquite/cedar/oak flora when I spotted a nice 7 point cactus buck (Texas slang for a non-typical). The range was about 115 yards as the crow flies. This buck was quartering towards me from left to right. At the shot, the buck went down, regained his footing and walked some 10 or 12 yards before expiring.

The bullet had entered on the buck's right side at the junction of his neck and shoulder, passed diagonally through his body, exited his flank on his left side, entered his left hind leg half way between knee and hip, broke the big leg bone and exited at the back side of that ham, hit a rock and ricocheted off into the distance with a whine. That equates to a penetration of about 36" of deer, and still very little meat loss.

Up until this point, I had always thought that if you wanted more penetration on game, you needed more velocity. Not true. A heavy, slow moving bullet will get it done every time. Extreme high velocity only serves to flatten trajectory and destroy more meat. If you don't believe this, just field dress deer that have been killed with a .270, .30-06 or 7mm Magnum. These will show massive amounts of ruined meat, especially with the 7mm Magnum. I have killed many deer with all of these calibers and know of what I speak.

On the other hand, inspect deer killed with .38-55 / 255 grain bullet, .45-70 / 405 grain bullet, or .303 Savage / 190 grain bullet and you will notice the same thing: very little meat loss.

Over the next three years I harvested several more deer on this ranch with the 94 Big Bore from 35 to 125 yards, all with the same effect. Little meat damage no matter the range, complete penetration, no lost animals and, sadly enough, no recovered bullets. I would love to have seen what that .375" 250 grain bullet looked like after passing through a deer.

After Thanksgiving of 1981 I moved to Springerville, Arizona, and took the .375 WCF with me. This move started a whole new chapter in my hunting career and is the basis for several more stories. Until then, may your aim and your stories both be true.

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Copyright 2003, 2016 by Dave Thornblom. All rights reserved.