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The .375 H&H Magnum: When Everything Is on the Menu, Including You

LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.

Introducing the do-it-all hunting caliber: the .375 H&H.

Introducing the do-it-all hunting caliber: the .375 H&H.

Up Close and Personal With Animals That Can Kill You

“Why do you drag that heavy African safari gun around the Rocky Mountains?” my hunting partners asked, incredulous anyone would bring such a powerful caliber on a mule deer and elk hunt.

Why indeed? My memory flashed back to the previous season.

I had stood on an abandoned logging road two hundred feet below a pine dotted ridgeline for over an hour. I waited for the deer I knew would filter down through the timber in the late afternoon. Something dark caught my eye in a Douglas fir stand. I turned. Out walked a moose calf, unconcerned I was there.

“Not good,” I thought. Then the calf’s mother appeared – all seven hundred pounds – fifty yards away. She fixed me with an icy glare. I was not welcome. We eyed each other for ten, long minutes while she pondered whether to stomp me into the grass and knap weed with sharp, frying pan sized hooves.

I dialed the Leupold scope to its lowest magnification and slipped off the Winchester Model 70’s safety. I would get only one chance to live if momma moose charged. Fortunately for all, she gave a derisive snort and escorted baby back into the timber the way they had come. It took a good while for my heart to stop pounding in my ears. The big Nosler bullet in the .375 Holland & Holland’s chamber had been all that stood between me and serious injury or death.

The moose could just as easily have been a grizzly bear or mountain lion, both common in those parts, and my faith in Holland & Holland’s hundred-year-old angry animal stopper had been re-affirmed.

L-R: .375 H&H, .338 Win Mag

L-R: .375 H&H, .338 Win Mag

The .375 H&H Story

The .375 H&H magnum was born in 1912. African big game hunting’s golden age was underway. English aristocrats had been joined by Americans—flush with new money from an energetic economy—and European colonial farmers. The newcomers were armed with Mauser designed bolt action rifles. More affordable than the nobility’s custom built double rifles which had been the norm. The bolt actions carried more rounds but lacked cartridges powerful enough for Africa’s largest game animals. Also, a hunter needed several doubles on hand to deal with both the Big Five plus plains animals such as impala and zebra.

The new adventurers and farmers wanted a cartridge for their magazine fed rifles versatile enough for everything they encountered. English gun maker Holland and Holland saw this need and designed a revolutionary cartridge to satisfy their new customers. It had a long case for the cordite gunpowder then in use, and almost no shoulder to eliminate jams in a bolt action. This sleek case presented a problem; the narrow shoulder would not head space reliably in the firing chamber. They solved this with the raised belt from their .400/375 Belted Nitro round introduced in 1905. The belt wrapped around the case head just in front of the extractor groove, and provided enough bearing surface to position the cartridge secure in the chamber. This case went on to father dozens more magnum cartridges throughout the twentieth century.


What Makes the .375 H&H So Special?

What makes the .375 H&H so special? Versatility. When first introduced, the .375 used three bullet weights: 235, 270, and 300 grains for light, medium, and large game. Unlike most cartridges, the .375 will generally shoot any bullet weight to the same point of impact. This allows the hunter to carry loads for all anticipated situations and not re-sight for each one. Also, the recoil is much less than other dangerous game calibers such as the .416 Rigby or classic Nitro-Express loads.

The 235 grain load was not popular and it disappeared soon after introduction. American and European ammunition makers embraced the cartridge and it has been produced ever since. Today’s factory loads usually offer either a 270 or 300 grain bullet. The 270 is ideal for light, medium, and large, non-dangerous game. The 300 grain is intended for large and or dangerous game. Both loads can be used on lighter or heavier game than intended in a pinch.

Hand loaders can choose bullets from 200 grains up to 350. This covers every game species that walks the earth from antelope to elephant. Loaded with 250 to 270 grain bullets, the .375 has a trajectory similar to the .30-06, the most common game cartridge in the world, so it can reliably drop even moose sized animals out to four hundred yards, and beyond.

The 300 and 350 grain loads are the choice for a one rifle dangerous game hunt, either in Africa or North America, and can still take deer/elk sized game to three hundred yards if needed.

The .375 H&H magnum: versatile, powerful, accurate, and manageable. Recommended by African Professional Hunters and Alaskan guides alike. The do it all, gold standard big game cartridge.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.