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Holland's .375 the world's greatest big bore.

* For the last 32 years I have been a keen and happy user of rifles chambered for the .375 Holland & holland Magnum cartridge in my work as a professional hunter in Africa. After such a long time I cannot remeber exactly the quantity of game shot with it, but certainly it included several hundreds of elephant and buffalo, some dozens of lions and rhino and about 2,000 other non-dangerous heads of game.

I mention these figures just to explain that my experience with this caliber is based on a 98 percent practical use in the field and only two percent on theoretical facts. I shall try to write about the .375 in hunter's terms, avoiding designations that could be difficult to understand. Articles with many ballistic datums in the form of mathematic figures, with formulas, etc., look very impressive and lend credence to the author as a "real export", but do not help much to clarify things to the people who want a simple and easy answer to their problem.

This fantastic cartridge, father of the magnum clan, is an old and glorious veteran of 72 years and is still going stong--so much so that without any doubt' it is the most popular and appreciated big-game bore all over the world today. introduced at the turn of the century by Holland & Holland, the new .375 Magnum, as opposed to the .275 Express, was designed between 1910 and 1911, and placed on the market in 1912.

Lost with the passage of time is the name of the very brilliant cartridge designer who created his unrivaled caliber. Whoever he was, his cartridge was far ahead of its time.

Shortly after the introduction of the .375 Magnum, holland & Holland also created a flanged version, without the belt, to be used only in single shot or double-barrel rifles. After WWII, fewer and fewer .375 flanged magnums were manufactured up to the point the ammunition became obsolete. Today, when somebody wants a double barreled rifle chambered for the .375 Magnum, it is manufactured to use the normal rimless cartridges employed in the bolt-action rifles, but fitted with special extractors based on the original system introduced by Westley Richards many years ago, working perfectly and without any problem.

The .375 belted Magnum, mated with the magnum Mauser, was the nearly ideal "all around rifle" that was used on all kinds of game, including the biggest animals of Africa, Malaya and India. The unknown holland & Holland engineer must have had a very clear view of the hunting future to develop a magnum caliber totally different from the .400 or .500 caliber class of cartridges so much in vogue at the time. He chose a .37 caliber housed in a long case with a novel belt to reinforce the shell and avoid extraction problems. In rimless form it was used in bolt-action rifles which, by the way, were not as popular as massive double-barrel big-game rifles in those days. Today, the .375 H&H Magnum is still a "modern" cartridge a strong competitor to the theoretical rivals that were introduced by other firms to compete with it--the .350 Rigby Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, .358 Norma Magnum and the 93x64 (.366). Brenneke, which have all claimed to be the ideal "all around rifle."

Originally, Three different weights of bullets were designed to cover every species of game all over the world. The light 235-grain bullet was intended for the lighter varieties of soft skinned game generally shot at long range. The 270-grain bullet took on the heavier varieties of soft skinned game shot a medium ranges, including the big cats like lion and tiger, all the different bears, and plains game. The 300-grain bullet provided smashing power at close quarters and was, and is, used against such big and dangerous game animals as elephant, buffalo and rhino.

Modern improvements in the ballistics of the 270-grain bullet are such that the 235-grain bullet has become less and less popular. Factory cartridges loaded with this bullet weight have not been manufactured since 1945. Today we can shoot with the 270-grain at ranges originally reserved for the 235-grain bullet, with the extra advantages of more bullet weight and killing power. the factory loaded 235-grain load had a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,800 feet with a muzzle energy (ME) or 4,100 foot pounds. The 200-yard drop was just 2.6 inches. Today, the modern factory loaded 270-grain .375 bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2,740 feet per second (fps) with an energy, also at the muzzle, of 4,500 foot pounds and a 200-yard drop just . inches more than the 235-grain load, 2.9 inches.

The killing power of the .375 Magnum can only be properly appreciated after one has shot a large variety of game and seen its terrific paralyzing effect. Its ballistics make it almost perfect for all types of game, with only a few minor limitations. There hunters who were overly enthusiastic and believed in the most blind way that the .375 Magnum could be used--for instance--against elephant under any conditions and in any terrain. In heavy forest with its attendant poor visibility, hunting elephant with a .375 just reached the minimum safety standard required and the hunter must place his relatively light 300-grain solid bullet very carefully in order to get the maximum advantage of its superb pentration. The .375 Magnum just does not have the stopping power of heavier rifles in the .400 and .500 caliaber class at close range. When used with common sense it can be employed with the greatest satisfaction and confidence, as there is no animal in Africa, Asia or the Americas that cannot be killed cleanly with this caliber when shooting with the proper bullet. Whenever a hunter fails to kill his trophy successfully, it is quite common for therifle to be blamed; that's human nature. But it should not be forgotten that the rifle can do nothing on its own, and at any given moment success or failure depends on the skill of the hunter.

After seven decades nof extensive use in game fields throughout the world, the .375 has proven itself and is becoming more and more popular due to its great versatility and the fact that it can cover perfectly all the needs or requirements of modern hunters. Despite the fact that thino hunting is virtually a thing of the past and, in the whole of Africa, the elephant are also in a difficult position due to indiscriminate poaching; at best, the hunter will be able to shoot one animal per season, something he will do perfectly with his .375 Magnum. So, it is not necessary to buy a more potent rifle just to fire two or three cartridges occasionally, if he is lucky. The only really big and dangerous game still found in abundance is the Cape buffalo, but the 300-grain solid bullet from the .375 Magnum will do the job as well as any other bigger caliber, due to its great penetration. For soft skinned game the .375 Magnum is still ideal as its 200-yard trajectory rivals that of the popular light calibers, but it uses a much heavier projectile. This is why, under present and future conditions in Africa or elsewhere, the .375 Magnum is the right answer for the sporting hunter who is planning his dream safari.

As far as the professional hunter goes, the .375 Magnum is an extremely useful gun which can cover normally up to 85 percent of the situations arising in the hunting business. I have used the .375 as the regular working tool with the greatest satisfaction for so long, backing it with my old .416 Rigby or the potent .505 Gibbs or .577 Nitro--for very particular occasions--such as hunting elephant in very thick brush or rain forest, where a heavier bullet with greater stopping power is required.

I am the happy owner of two fine .375 Magnum rifles, one with open sights and another fitted with a scope sight, and double set triggers. The first one, with its open back sight, is made by Holland and Holland of London, with the long Mauser-magnum action, which is 3/8-inch longer than standard, with a square bridge and four-round magazine. This stock is my favorite as it is made of seasoned Spanish walnut. This gun fits me like a glove and I employ it for general work, where visibility is more or less limited. For open spaces and difficult shots I use the second .375 Magnum, made to order for me 25 years go by the Belgian gun maker Mahillon of Brussels. This rifle is very light and handy and is extremely accurate. It is topped with a Kahles 3-9X power variable scope. This gun is also made from an original Mauser action--like all my bolt-action rifles--with a five-round magazine. In my opinion--based on 32 years of experience--the old and pure sporting Mauser actions are by far the best ever made to withstand the rigors of hard and constant use with high powered cartridges under the worst tropical conditions.

Why did I choose a .375 fitted with double set triggers (hair triggers) and a variable scope? Simply because I have concentrated on elephant hunting all my life and many times it was practically impossible to approach to shooting range a particular bull standing in the middle of the herd surrounded by females and younger animals. On these particular occasions I took my .375 with the scope, a good tripod and went to the herd side, against the wind, to wait and wait until the moment the animals permitted me a sight of the bull's shoulder. Then I placed a bullet through his heart in the most careful way using the hair trigger and the proper scope power according to the range and the light. This system also works very well to pick up a fine buffalo head from a big herd.

For general use on soft skinned game I carry the scope set at 3 or 4 power, but other hunters prefer to have their .375 Magnum rifles fitted with a 2.5 power scope. As far as my experience goes this caliber is so versatile that it can be used perfectly with variable power scopes especially when mounted, like mine, with the German mount system which permits removal of the scope in a second and use of the open iron sights when close-range shooting at dangerous game. I never will recommend a gun to be employed against dangerous game to be fitted with a fixed scope as I do not agree with the theory that when following a wounded animal a low-powered scope is as fast as any iron sight.

For a charging dangerous animal--or a running beast--it is just common sense to understand that an open, iron sight will be faster to bring the target to the hunter's eye, and he will be able to fire more rounds much quicker than the scope. This is especially true in places where branches and leaves can confuse the vision through the scope. The detachale scope mount, with a claw or other system is my choice for rifles that may be used against dangerous game.

Personally, one thing I have never done is to load my own ammunition because--apart from the normal prohibitions against this in many African countries--I used to expend eight months per year in the bush without too much free time for this interesting activity. Thus I always used standard factory ammunition. During the many years I have fired and experimented with all kinds of .375 Magnum ammunition found on the market. In the early days I used Kynoch ammunition, practically the only one available in Africa at the time. In general this ammunition was very good and with the 300-grain solid bullet I shot many elephants and buffalo without any problem, the round giving great penetration. The only possible criticism of this Kynoch ammo, made in England by Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I.), was the corrosive primers used which darkened the rifle bores if they were not properly cleaned every time it was used. However, I considered it a minor problem because of the excellent results obtained. To compete with Kynock, other international firms have also manufactured .375 Magnum ammunition. Winchester, Remington, DWM (later replaced by RWS) and Norma all offer ammunition of excellent quality.

According to my experience I found only two particular bullets I dislike, referring in the first place to the one introduced years ago by Winchester with the little flat point, which pretended to be a solid but, on the practical side, was the most unreliable bullet I have seen in my life. It acted in the most unexpected or unwanted way, often deforming and not keeping a direct course or sometimes even fragmenting. Fortunately, Winchester, who is a very responsible firm, stopped production of this aberration and now it is only a bad memory on which to comment as an anecdote.

I am not going to discuss all the existing bullets for the .375 Magnum because many of them are only available for handloading, such as Sierra's Spitzer Boat Tail, the Speer Grand Slam and several Hornady bullets. I shall refer only to the standard factory ammunition, that which is available over the counter, all over the world.

After long experience in the field my favorite solid bullet for big, heavy and dangerous game in manufactured by Remington in the United States and RWS in Germany. Both feature magnificent reinforced full metal jacket bullets. These two particular bullets are extremely strong and on broad shots to the elephant heads quite often go from one side of the skull to the other. When after cape buffalo, the hunter must avoid shooting at an animal with another behind it to prevent wounding both of them, as the bullet will often go clean through one animal broadside shots and wound a second.

Years ago, when RWS absorbed DWM and placed on the market their new solid 300-grain bullet. I was asked by a well-known gunsmith to try them both for accuracy and practical results. Luckily at the time I was shooting some marauding elephants so I had the ideal chance to test them. Using my Holland & Holland rifle with open sights I started my double work--to eliminate the marauders from the local plantations and see how well the new RWS solid bullets worked. Backed by my .416 Rigby, "just in case," I shot elephants, taking them from different angles and positions, in the most careful way. After shooting a total of six, I found to my surprise and great satisfaction that all of them were killed with one bullet each. I recovered some of the bullets and all of them were in perfect shape, virtually looking like they were unfired. Later on I had a similar experience with Remington solid ammunition. Both of them employ non-corrosive caps and the rifle bores do not suffer from their prolonged use. My two .375 Magnum rifles, after so many years in the African bush, have bores shining like mirrors--but I must confess that I am extremely fond of my guns and, every day, as soon as I return to the camp the first thing I do is to clean the rifles with great enthusiasm, before I have a shower and change clothes for the evening time.

For soft skinned game there are two weights of bullets, 270 and 300-grain, but according to my experience I found the best, by far, the fantastic 270-grain Winchester Power Point. This is the one I prefer to any other for both dangerous game or not. At close range, with a muzzle energy of 4,500 foot pounds, it can be used perfectly for any emergency against the big cats and the largest bears. In the last two years I have shot four charging lions previously wounded by clients, and all of them fell in their tracks after receiving the 270-grain Power Point bullet. Personally I have shot 118 lions, some very easy and some under quite difficult conditions, using for my work all kinds of calibers from the .30-06 up to the giant .577 Nitro. I can assure you, without any passion, that the .375 Magnum loaded with the 270-grain Power Point is a fantastic lion gun. The killing power of this bullet is really amazing, as it has great versatility, and can be used safely at close range shooting at dangerous game, as well as taking soft skinned game at long range. It has extreme accuracy and a flat trajectory. Only some few months ago a client of mine wounded a large eland bull with his .300 Magnum rifle, employing the 180-grain bullet; the animal was hit a little to the middle of the body and started galloping like mad toward thick bush, maybe 400 yards away.

I waited for the second shot of the client, a clean miss, and then he called for me to shoot and give him a hand. Normally I try not to shoot when on safari, leaving the whole question in the hands of the sporting hunter so as to have hime savor the last drop of his hunt. Normally I have an active part only when a dangerous animal charges--for obvious reasons. On this occasion, I acquiesced to the hunter's request, raising my rifle and aiming with the .375 Magnum at the back of the eland. I fired my first cartridge, with the good luck that the bullet broke his rear right leg. The eland still continued his way, albeit more slowly, a little to the right, giving us a good sight of his body.

The client fired again without any apparent effect and told me to shoot again, to prevent the animal from entering the bush. By now I had the rifle perfectly rested on a branch with the scope at 6 power, so touching the hair trigger of my Mahillon .375 Magnum I sent another 270-grain Power Point bullet against the eland's shoulder. At the same time I felt the recoil of the gun I saw the animal collapsing as if hit by lightning. We paced off the distance which measured about 144 yards up to the point of the client's first shot. My first shot was 209 yards and the final killing shot was taken at 267 yards, more or less. Of course this is not a record range, but shows the great versatility of this 270-grain Power Point bullet which worked as well as any one of the lighter .30 caliber magnums, a clan famous for their flat trajectory. The .375 Magnum derives more power because of its extra bullet weight and diameter.

In Africa, with the exception of desert and mountain hunting, the normal shooting range is between 75 and 200 yards, very seldom up to 300 and exceptional beyond this. Those shots referred to by some authors, normally killing game at 400 and 500 yards is, I am afraid to say, just pure fantasy. They are trying to impress readers who believe anything they see in print. The super-long shots are the remarkable exception and not the rule as some pretend.

Many famous and experienced hunters have been extremely fond of the .375 Magnum, first on that list is that great elephant hunter from Uganda, Pete Pearson, who used nothing else for elephant in the open right from the day the .375 Magnum was placed into the market. He also used his big .577 Nitro double barreled Express rifle when hunting in heavy forest. In more recent times we have the case of my good friend Harry Manners, who killed around 1,000 elephants in Mozambique with his .375 Magnum, a Winchester Model 70, which was his all around rifle. Another friend of mine, George Rushby, who was an ivory hunter in the old Belgian Congo and French Equatorial Africa up to 1929 and recently an Elephant Control officer in Tanganyika, was a great lover of the .375 Magnum for his particular job. He bagged over 800 elephants with the .375 H&H.

In Mozambique, meat hunters, shooting buffalo for big companies to feed their African workers, used the .375 Magnum with the greatest success. Many of these particular hunters shot, individually, from 4,000 to 5,000 buff with a few shooting well over these figures. The well known professional hunter, the late Syd Downey, one of the top "white hunters" from Kenya, always advised his clients to use the .375 Magnum for heavy and dangerous animals, together with something in the .300 class for the rest of the game. Just to put an end to these names I shall say that my old friend John "Pondoro" Taylor, author of many books about rifles hunting, was extremely keen on the .375 Magnum and he told me that fired more .375 cartridges than the rest of the calibers put together--well over 5,000 rounds--including all kinds of game in the bag.

the best recommendation we can say today about the .375 Magnum is the fact that since 1912, with generation after generation of hunters, it has been the most popular big game cartridge the hunting world has ever seen. There has been a continuous demand for this particular round for over seven decades from the tyro to the most experienced nimrod.

If we always keep in mind its particular limitations when hunting elephant in very thick bush or rain forest with poor visibility, where a heavier bullet of great stopping power is required--for obvious reasons--then it can be stated that the .375 Magnum has the "green light" to be used in the most generous and general way with maximum safety and satisfaction. Do not forget that the happy days of Pete Pearson, John Taylor, Rushby, Manners or even myself are virtually over--unfortunately--and the elephants, due to increasing poaching and tremendous pressure on them, are becoming extremely aggressive and in a permament state of irritation.

Thus elephant, in places with very dense vegetation where you can see only up to the muzzle of your rifle, can be a serious business difficult to handle. This is why I insist so much on not being over-confident when using the .375 Magnum, in this unique situation.

However, with this one limitation the .375 Holland & Holland will continue to be the world's best all around cartridge, just as it has been for the last 72 years.
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Title Annotation:evaluation; includes biographical information about the author
Author:Sanchez-Arino, Tony
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Oct 1, 1984
Words:3735
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