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  • Writer's pictureKev Thomas Writes

A Case For The .375 H&H Being the Ideal Caliber for a One-Gun Safari

Above: When using a .300gr solid, the .375H&H produces sufficient penetration on a side or frontal brain shot to instantly kill even the largest elephant bull.

Obviously the first hunt related issue a visiting hunter should consider is what’s on their ‘Bucket List’ trophy wise? Does it involve a mix of non-dangerous plains game trophies up to the size of eland only, or are any dangerous game species included? And if so, are they heavy-boned dangerous game, like buffalo, elephant, and perhaps, a hippo? If dangerous game is included with plains game up to eland, my caliber recommendation would automatically be the .375 H&H. I used a .375 H&H for decades for sport hunting, problem animal control, and culling, and I’m a firm disciple of this all-time great bullet.

For elephant one obviously only uses solid bullets and nothing else. Mike LaGrange an ex-Rhodesian National Parks warden and highly experienced elephant hunter wrote in his superb treatise Ballistics in Perspective (Professional Hunter Supplies Publishing Division 1990). ‘When using the 300gr Hornady solid the .375 H&H produces sufficient penetration to kill even the largest elephant instantly using the brain shot’. He also points out the 270gr bullet is sufficiently fast enough to obviate sight adjustment out to 300yds.

LaGrange goes on to point out how throughout the history of the .375 H&H opinions have continued to promote its cause. Back in 1979 the respected South African outdoor and hunting magazine S.A. Magnum ran an article titled ‘Sporting Rifle Cartridge’ and put the .375 H&H as the worlds (my italics)all round hunting cartridge/caliber. Again, in S.A. Magnum1980/81 a similar article puts the .375 H&H as the world all round peer. In the 1982 March edition of the S.A. Man magazine well-known gun writer, the late, Tudor Howard-Davies, wrote a lengthy article on the .375 where he too puts forward arguments for the all-round title.

The late Wally Johnson, surely the doyen of Southern African PHs whose life was written up by Capstick in his book The Last Ivory Hunter was a dyed in the wool .375 H&H disciple throughout his ivory and safari hunting career. In Capstick’s book Wally had this to say about the .375 H&H and I quote, ‘I still consider and always will consider the .375 Holland & Holland Magnum as ‘the only gun’. In fact, I shot many hundreds of buffalo with the 9.3mm Mauser to save .375 ammo. I had no problems, but I would have preferred the .375 if I could have spared the ammo.’ Wally Johnson’s ivory hunting career spanned half a century, certainly enough time to form an opinion of a particular caliber’s field performance.

Another professional ivory hunter from that era who believed in the .375 H&H was Wally Johnson’s friend and one-time ivory hunting partner, the late Harry Manners author of Kambaku. In 1945 Manners acquired his first .375 H&H Magnum, a Winchester Model 70, and he wrote, ‘I had tried various calibers and makes of firearms throughout the first few years of hunting – American, British and German but, as time passed, my favourite became the .375 H&H Magnum, using

In many African countries the .375 H&H is by law the minimum caliber for use on dangerous game, with the exception of leopard. With this in mind, and if a visiting hunter only wants to bring one rifle to Africa, I’d suggest he seriously consider the .375 H&H. I honestly don’t believe it’d be the wrong choice because it has too much of a respected and proven pedigree since 1912, for that to be the case. Dressing it with a good quality detachable variable scope, mounted over British Express type iron sites, or a ghost ring, so the scope can be removed when hunting in the very thick stuff, would also be wise.

Having been a PH of long standing, although now retired, I obviously concur fully with the logic of bullets of not less than 400 grains being used in thick bush for the hunting of elephant and buffalo. However, if a visitor to Africa brings his .375 H&H on safari as his only rifle, and he only intends ever shooting one elephant or buffalo in his life, the 400-grain limitation need not worry him too much because his PH will ensure he is in the correct position to make a killing shot. If things do inadvertently go ‘pear-shaped’ the PH will be carrying a heavier caliber than the .375 H&H, and it is part of his job to rectify the situation.

Thus, my recommendation of the .375 H&H as the ideal and most suitable caliber for a ‘one-gun safari’ is hinged around a suitable single rifle for a ‘mixed bag’ safari which includes dangerous game, but with the bulk of the trophies comprising non-dangerous plains game. Over the years and when using a .375 H&H I’ve shot many buffalo and a number of crop raiding elephant and hippo. When correctly hit by a 300gr H&H solid they have invariably gone down without fuss. During 1979 I shot a large number of hippos as part of a cull, and I only used a .375 H&H for the entire cull. At no time did it fail me.

Gregor Woods, respected South African editor, outdoor writer, and author, once wrote although he has owned the gamut of rifles from .22 to .458. Through hard learned field experience, he’s settled on the .375 H&H. When he arrives at a kudu or gemsbok hunt carrying his .375 H&H if other hunters scoff at him and ask why he’s bringing a rifle more suited to buffalo and elephant on an antelope hunt. His stock reply is, ‘Because everything I shoot with it falls down’. I fully concur. My good friend Mike Fynn, another retired veteran Rhodesian and Zimbabwean game warden turned PH once quipped to a potential client who asked what caliber to bring on safari, ‘Bring anything you want as long as it is a .375 H&H Magnum’.

Above: During the late 1970s I culled a large number of hippo as part of an official reduction exercise, and for crop raiding. Throughout, I only used a .375 H&H with 300gr solids which never let me down. A number of them were shot away from the water while resting up in thick riverine bush.

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