.375 H&H

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The calibre was warmly embraced in Africa. The great writer and hunter John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor rated it the best medium bore for hunting in Africa, but it is not restricted to the land of lions and leopards – it has been widely used in North America too. 

For anyone on the verge of a trip back to Africa, I think it only appropriate to take a look at possibly the most iconic and widely-used calibre in Africa: the venerable .375 H&H. As the legal minimum for dangerous game in many countries, it is often the default choice. The H&H will happily tame an elephant with a well-placed brain shot, but stops short of being overgunned if you intend to hunt antelope with the same rifle. Most manufacturers today chamber the .375 H&H, and ammunition is readily available. Importantly, you won’t have any trouble getting your hands on it in Africa. There are, however, other .375 contenders, so how do they stack up?

The .375 H&H started out in 1912, making it a century this year since Holland & Holland breathed life into this belted, rimless magnum. The case itself has since been used in numerous wildcat incarnations, as well as some of the famous Weatherby Magnums.

The calibre was warmly embraced in Africa. The great writer and hunter John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor rated it the best medium bore for hunting in Africa, but it is not restricted to the land of lions and leopards – it has been widely used in North America too.

One of the most notable cartridge developments comes from Weatherby. Like most of the cartridges from Weatherby, everything is bigger and faster than the original. It does mean more recoil, and, in their smaller calibre magnums, considerably less barrel life.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

The case was a blown-out and improved version of the H&H, delivering around 200fps more muzzle velocity. This allowed increased potential in the lower bullet weights, with the 270-grain soft nose replicating .30-06 trajectories. Conveniently, it is possible to shoot standard H&H ammo in a rifle built for the Weatherby cartridge, providing a safeguard should you run out of ammunition in the depths of the bush – you will always get your hands on the old-timer.

In this century, the .375 saw a radical reinvention as far as commercially available cartridges are concerned. Hornady got together with Ruger in 2006 to develop the .375 Ruger, designed specifically to shoot in standard length actions. They did this by removing the long tapered body in favour of a shorter, fatter case with a sharper shoulder, allowing it to be fired from .30-06 size actions. Though the case is shorter, its case capacity is greater, providing a performance edge on the old man of the .375 line-up. Having said that, this is only true when shooting the 270-grain bullet, and even then the difference is marginal.

The H&H 270-grain bullet’s 400-yard bullet drop is -24.3in – just 0.9in more than the Ruger. When it comes to the 300-grain bullet, the difference between the two is all but non-existent, though if you want to split hairs the H&H is actually marginally superior. The Weatherby Magnum, by contrast, wipes the floor with the competition, pushing a 300-grain bullet out with the same trajectory as the other two calibres shooting the 270-grain. You don’t get this performance for nothing though, so expect another 10ft/lb of recoil.

Despite the greater performance of the Weatherby, and shorter action option of the Ruger, I think I would probably follow in the footsteps of the great African hunters; after all, the H&H was good enough for them.  BP

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