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Classic African Cartridges Part X:
The .375 H&H Magnum - Ganyana

The growth of recreational and sport hunting in America though, brought the .375 into the limelight. Men wanted a cartridge that was safe for use on the largest bears, and rich Americans were beginning to follow Teddy Roosevelt on safari to Africa. A suitable dangerous game cartridge was needed. Following the first world war, Holland & Holland had released their .375 to the trade, and several manufacturers were now producing rifles in that calibre. As it was the best of the large medium bores and more than adequate for even the largest bear, it was naturally the one chosen by the American gun trade, and the 375’s ascendancy was assured.

World War II put paid to the budget priced yet high quality rifles from Mauser, FN, Bruno, Schultz & Larsen etc. Reasonable quality working rifles now emanated from Winchester and Remington in the USA. The 9,3 began to fade, and the .375 H&H took off in leaps and bounds. Soon American sportsmen made up the majority of hunters coming to Africa, and the .375 was the most common rifle of choice. By the early 1950’s the British authorities were fed up with sending home the remains of men who had tried to hunt large dangerous game with inadequate rifles. In quick succession all the colonies passed legislation making either the 9,3x62 or the .375 H&H the legal minimum calibre that could be used on thick skinned game. The small bore fans were forced to buy something bigger, and the logical choice was the .375. By the late 1950’s, the .375 enjoyed all the advantages of the 9,3 prior to the war. Ammunition was available everywhere, in the most remote trading stations from French Equatorial to Portuguese East Africa. It was the one calibre that a hunter could be reasonably sure of finding a re-supply for, wherever he was.

For the ‘one rifle’ hunter the .375 still makes an awful lot of sense. With a sensible (low powered, long eye relief) scope a .375 rifle is an excellent choice for all the larger plains game, particularly tough animals like giraffe, sable, wildebeest, and eland. It is also a very practical choice for lion and leopard, although for a follow-up, the scope would have to come off. For elephant, buff and hippo its a great choice (with or without the scope), in reasonably open country. In jesse or other thick bush the .375 is definitely on the light side. In the hands of an expert marksman it's adequate, and indeed, several famous professional hunters have used the .375 exclusively for their entire hunting careers (See Vol 5 No 2). For a beginner or an amateur, something heavier is indicated for use in the jesse. Of course, for a visiting sportsman, who is being professionally guided, this doesn’t matter. Accurate, first shot placement with an adequate bullet is what matters. Dealing with malevolent beasties at close quarters is the pro’s job.

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The modern trend towards premium bullets had further enhanced the .375’s performance. Some of the old batches of Kynoch ammo were notorious for their thin jackets and fishtailing badly on elephant (although they always seemed to get the job done). The only solids that were certifiably useless were a batch of unusual flat nosed Winchester ammo that arrived in the late 70’s. The jacket was guaranteed to split open on impact and they mushroomed like a premium soft point: great for buffalo, but a definite no-no on elephant. The current crop of Speer African Grand Slam tungsten cored solids, Woodleigh Solids and the various better monolithics, make the .375 better than it has ever been for elephant, whilst the incredible range of soft points available truly make the .375 suitable for everything from dick dick to hippo. With modern powders and stronger rifle actions (which allow pressures up to 55,000 psi), the .375 H&H can be loaded to well above the original specifications if so desired, although what this achieves I’m not actually sure (apart from more recoil).

Hollands .375’s versatility and its success on dangerous game, makes it the first choice as THE ‘all round cartridge’, and far and away the most popular choice with visiting sportsmen. ‘Pondoro’ Taylor, back in the 1930’s and 40’s gave the .375 H&H rave reviews in all his books, and time has served only to make the great ‘all rounder’ even better.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.6 December 1999
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