Even pitted against modern cartridges, the .300 H&H still offers excellent performance.
Every now and then I get an email from a reader of one of my articles in the sporting press, requesting a review on a rifle or a particular article. One of the most memorable came from a Mr Wheeler, enquiring if I could take a look at the .300 Holland and Holland. From his mail it was clear he was a massive fan of British-designed calibres, so I decided to delve into the calibre, also one of my favoured cartridges of old.
The origins of the .300 H&H may be surprising to some, starting life in 1925 as a .375 H&H case. Already enjoying the runaway success of its .375 belted magnum, Holland and Holland necked its own cartridge down to .30 cal, producing the .300 H&H. During the development there was a lot of secrecy, with the design patented by the company. As a proprietary cartridge, no other gun manufacturer was allowed to chamber a rifle in the calibre without permission from H&H. Indeed, there were even restrictions on the manufacturer of the ammunition without consent.
Initially this stunted the success of the calibre, with only those able to afford the princely sum for an H&H custom rifle able to take advantage of the new calibre. At the time ammunition was loaded by Kynoch, but the performance was a little lacklustre compared to its potential, equalling that offered by the .30-06 Springfield. Today Kynoch still loads ammunition, but with modern powders.
In the late 1920s Holland and Holland decided to release the patent rights, allowing all rifle manufacturers to chamber the calibre. Even then it took another decade before any interest was shown beyond the upper class. It took a 1,000-yard win at the Wimbledon cup by an American shooter for people to take notice.
Within a few years Winchester had jumped on the success of the calibre, offering its famous model 70 in .300 H&H and .375 H&H. The cartridge was now at the fingertips of the general hunting public. Powder development helped get more out of the casing, and soon the calibre was seen to have an advantage over other market offerings. It was ideal for bigger game and long-distance targets.
Holland and Holland’s .30 cal continued to gain an increased following in America and at home, with many hunters destined for Africa opting to make use of the British-designed cartridge. Soon other ammo manufacturers developed their own cartridges to muscle in on the success, with the .300 Weatherby Magnum launched in 1944. By the 1960s the now-famous .300 Winchester Magnum was launched, pretty much spelling an end for the .300 H&H over the pond. As is inevitable with the marketing power and weight of American brands, within a decade the Winchester Magnum had reduced the H&H’s reach to a shadow of its former levels.
Today it still sees some use, but it is rare to find a rifle chambered in the calibre. Mostly it is used by those nostalgic about the old cartridges and British design. That said, even pitted against modern cartridges it still offers excellent performance. Compared to a .30-06, a 180-grain bullet drops over 2in less at 400 yards with a 100-yard zero. Muzzle energy is also substantially more, with an extra 400ft/lb. Compared to the .300 Win Mag it’s a bit of a reverse story, although the gap is much smaller. In truth there isn’t a great deal between them, but ammo and rifle availability of the .300 Win Mag makes it the more popular choice.
The .300 H&H was a pioneer, pre-empting what modern cartridges could offer. For America’s large game, and antelope in Africa, it is still an excellent choice. Featuring in books from Capstick to Hemingway, it reminds me of what made Britain great. If I have the chance to get my hands on a nice rifle chambered in 300 H&H, I will need a good reason not to buy it. BP